What is mindfulness?

What is mindfulness?

This is an interesting question, because recently mindfulness has become confused with eastern psychology. In this confusion there have been claims and counter claims from various areas of western psychology about which areas are supported by the eastern models.

This article does not seek to detract from the various great articles out there looking at elements of mindfulness; it seeks to instead give an observer a holistic view!

Eastern psychology has a varied and beautiful history dating back to at least 4500 BCE, and has elements that we in the west might call humanistic, analytic and cognitive behavioural, but since the eastern psychology route had a different scientific method evolution, they do not quite match.

Is mindfulness a form of CBT?

No! Absolutely not. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has used mindfulness-methods to augment CBT in what is known as the "third wave" of CBT. Mindfulness based-methods were transplanted into CBT to make it more comprehensive and effective, which is one of the criticisms of CBT - it needed change! If you consider DBT (Dialectic Behavioural Therapy), MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy), MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), and the other variations - all are CBT PLUS elements of eastern psychology.

Is mindfulness different to acceptance and compassion based-therapy?

Unfortunately in the west these things have been artificially chopped up and presented as different things. In its original form these were all melded together very naturally. Some western practitioners are trained in just part of the overall tradition, others are more holistically-minded.

Is mindfulness about meditation?

Partly, but that is passive mindfulness. There are also psychoanalytic, practice and behavioural elements of mindfulness and much more. It is a complete psychology. Unfortunately only "bits" get presented in the west.

Is mindfulness Buddhism?

No! Mindfulness is a substitute term for eastern psychology, which includes elements of Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Indian "Ayurveda" medicine and other less referenced sources including shamanism. Really, we should be talking about eastern psychologies, but "mindfulness" has stuck as a term in marketing.

Eastern psychology as a complete solution

There are a range of eastern psychology based methods, including:

  • Morita: Zen Buddhism-based life coaching.
  • Satori: Zen Buddhism-based meditation.
  • Naikan: Zen Buddhism based interpersonal psychotherapy.
  • Active mindfulness: physical processes: behavioural psychology.
  • Analytic mindfulness: self-analysis, similar to psychoanalysis.
  • Meditation mindfulness.
  • Meditation body scan mindfulness: mind-body psychology.
  • Philosophical mindfulness: similar to humanistic western psychology.
  • Ethical mindfulness: as in Gestalt it recognises the relationship between individual and the wider environment / community. This is a vital part of original eastern psychology.
  • Related physical therapy methods including: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Acupressure, Chi Gung, Martial Arts including Tai Chi, Expressive eastern dance.

This is NOT supposed to be a comprehensive list.

Ways of experiencing mindfulness

Methods are varied and the NHS are adopting mindfulness as third wave CBT in a cut-down manner which may colour people's idea of what it is. It does not have to be very spiritual, it can be quite practical. How you choose to use it should reflect you and your needs. You might want to be quite meditation-based, CBT-based, or you might want to enquire deeper. The choice is, of course, yours.

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