Posts Tagged ‘Mindfulness-based stress reduction’

English: Mindfulness Activities

English: Mindfulness Activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the difference between mindfulness as it’s used in secular mindfulness-based courses and as it’s used in a Buddhist context? Not so much, I think. Most Buddhists will feel familiar with the practice of cultivating awareness through a regular meditation practice—sitting, walking, lying down—and working with mindfulness in everyday activities like eating, working, relating with others and so on. And this is also what’s practiced on a secular mindfulness course (at least in the MBSR model). So, the practices themselves are likely to be quite similar. What may be different is the context and framework—whereas mindfulness in Buddhism is one aspect of the eightfold path, it is the primary explicit teaching in a secular mindfulness course. Having said that, the attitudes towards practice that people learn on a mindfulness course are generally very consistent with what is taught in most Buddhist contexts—gentleness, openness, loving-kindness, a certain kind of effort and a certain kind of letting go—as is the shared notion that people are basically good and that our practice is a means to uncover an innate wisdom that we can use to work skillfully with our life situations. Many mindfulness teachers (at least up till now) have a Buddhist background and work to embody these qualities in themselves, and in so far as they’ve managed this, they will naturally transmit these qualities to their course participants, implicitly if not explicitly. It will be interesting to see if this changes as more people come to practice and teach mindfulness who don’t have a Buddhist background.

Excerpt from a great article.. The Mindfulness Manifesto.


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Soren, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Jack Kornfield: The...

Soren, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Jack Kornfield: The Power and Practice of Mindfulness (Photo credit: elizaIO)


Great interview…. here is a sample:

JKZ:  First of all you’ll have so much more time, and second of all real life still unfolds. You will still have a full life. And if you’re unemployed and you have to find a job then maybe you won’t be so bummed out that all the possibilities seem against you. You can tap into what’s possible, independent of what all the experts are saying is possible. That’s a hugely powerful way to work with things.

So one way is to just cut it out for a period of time and see how addicted we are to it and what the affect of it is. I had that experience once when I went on retreat right after 9/11. I was on retreat for six weeks, no newspaper, no radio, no nothing. I was just meditating and sitting and walking all the time for six weeks. . .

Check out more in the article.  And there is a link to a meditation.

Related articles

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Frank Ostaseski said that forgiveness is “the most useful tool in dealing with my pain, but there is no mandate for forgiveness”.

For the human kind of being, (Dasein, as the existential phenomenologists call us), pain can be experienced on so many levels… mental, physical, affective, emotional, psychological, spiritual, existential, and social.

Not only can we have tremendous pain on all of those levels but we can have suffering at each level as well.

Forgiveness practices can be powerful at helping us to free ourselves from the grips of suffering and ease the pain we have.

When we practice soft attention to our pain and just allow it to be, right there, without a story line, we free ourselves up from its clutches.  Does that mean the pain goes away?  Not always but for most of us, is it the pain from suffering that is most unbearable for us.

On a mental level, we run tapes in our head constantly… I’m no good.  I’ve done it again.  What’s wrong with me.  And concentration practices such as using a mala and/or a mantra can be quite helpful.

So can mindfulness, as we acknowledge the constant flow of thoughts and see how illusory they are, coming and going, like branches floating down a river.  We learn to realize that there are gaps in the stories and we learn to cultivate living in those gaps.

MBSR, Mindfully Based Stress Reduction Program, create by Jon Kabat-Zinn at UMASS is a powerful tool when one experiences somatic pain (ie, physical pain), stress, anxiety.  Not everyone can get out to UMASS or any of the several institutions that it is taught and practiced (like the University of WI).

And of course, Jon has books and MP3s, youtube clips, etc that one can use by themselves.  We learn to have mercy for ourselves by experiencing the pain, not pushing it away, not running from it and free so much of our energy by being fully present to it.

Affective, emotional, and psychological, several forms of meditation can be powerful, simple, and life changing over time.  The practice of tonglen, giving and receiving, is one way.

In this practice, we take in difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations that the “other” (the object of our meditation) may be experiencing and we send them things such as comfort, deep compassion, light, etc.

So if I am distraught by being a bereft sister or lover, I can do this practice for all others who may be experiencing this in this moment.  I breathe in the deep sorrow of having lost a partner, knowing that another person (someone I know or all beings who have experienced this) maybe I breathe out a sense of unity, of interbeing, of affection, of unconditional positive regard.

We move from the pain that the “I” experiences (ie, my grief) to the experience of all beings, “the shared grief” of existence.

Ahhhh, and now for the spiritual and existential forms of pain — what I most think of as suffering… our disconnection with everyone and everything, our free-floating anxiety, fear, and discomfort that may arise just out of our existence…

We can forget that part of the brain (and the rest of the nervous system) is there to keep us alive and out of harm’s way.  It is how humankind has survived for so long.

We are constantly scanning for danger, in our environment, in our relationships, in our own experience of self.

But when we can be a different way… we can practice… we can sit on our cushions or our chairs, lay on our mats or beds, and practice love in its deepest form. . . lovingkindness meditation. . . metta

For the best resource for metta meditation, check out Sharon Salzberg’s book Lovingkindness Meditation.  In short form, the meditation is:

May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2000/07/Opening-The-Heart.aspx#ixzz1spNsgmJi

We sit on those cushions, in the early hours of the morning, in dark places, so that we can take the lessons out into the world.  We practice forgiveness for ourselves, for those in our immediate world, those we pass on the street, and every other sentient being.

But we start with ourselves, we start with some of the hardest forgiveness to give… but we give it, so that we may heal all beings.

There is no mandate for forgiveness.  We cannot force it.  But we cannot live in peace without it either.

So, start with yourself.  Start here and now.  Do not wait because there is no guarantee that our next breath will come, let alone our next tomorrow.

Start with yourself.

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fifth generation iPod

Image via Wikipedia

Journey with me and share. . .

I’ve downloaded Mindfuless:  An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams, Danny Penman, and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I will be going to New Mexico for a retreat on Buddhism and Dying in April.  I have been waiting for this retreat opportunity for a lifetime.  I won’t be blogging in real time but plan to have my posts ready and scheduled ahead of time.

When I get back and I am back to blogging, I am going to to start this 8-week plan and blog about it, starting at the end of April (actual dates TBA).

I’d love for you to do this with me.  We already teach each other so much.  Mindfulness also comes in book form as well if you’d rather read along and practice.

Can you commit for 8-weeks to sitting?

What could be more important for you?

What could be more important for family, your community, and our world?

I am also thinking that maybe setting aside a Blog Talk Radio Show where we could actually “talk” and share our experiences would be great.

I really love the idea of creating a greater sangha, even a cyber-sangha for those of us who are so far away from actual groups.

If you would like to participate, reply here and I will make sure that I add the dates to come.

Join me on the journey of being present, welcoming the breath and whatever else is there, “here and now” as we go through the 8 weeks.



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“You change your relationship to the pain by opening up to it and paying attention to it.  You ‘put out the welcome mat.’ Not because you’re masochistic, but because the pain is there.  So you need to understand the nature of the experience and the possibilities for, as the doctors might put it, ‘learning to live with it,’ or, as the Buddhists might put it, ‘liberation from the suffering.’ If you distinguish between pain and suffering, change is possible.”

~~Jon Kabat-Zinn, “At Home in Our Bodies”

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Blue question mark

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight’s post is our first Meditation Q & A:

Marty wrote, telling us about an uncomfortable experience at a Zen Center where it doesn’t seem like he felt heard.  He also asked about introducing mindfulness to someone who is struggling with PTSD.  I thought this was a great post because mindfulness is being used quite often for people living with chronic illness such as PTSD, migraines, stress-related illnesses, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, etc.

Here is my answer to his question:

First off, I am so sorry that you had the experience that you did at the Zen Center.  I tried to sit with one when I lived out west for a short time and did not find that it was a good fit for me.

When I moved to the Midwest, I found a lovely sangha in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and they were incredibly welcoming.  I think each center/group/sangha will have a different feel and you just have to find the right one.

I think that your post raises some interesting ideas for me… there is a difference, at least for me, between mindfulness as way of life or spiritual practice and the use of mindfulness as a tool for relaxation, helping with mental health issues, etc.

Some would I am sure beg to differ with me.  But as teachers like Jon Kabat-Zinn have shown, you don’t have to have Buddhism in your mindfulness, only mindfulness.

That being said, to answer your question about introducing mindfulness to someone who hasn’t practiced. . . my comment is this, share resources with them.  Share your experience and how it has helped you.  After that, it’s up to that person.  I don’t think everyone has to live a Zen life to practice mindfulness.

If that was the case, there would be a lot of Cognitive Behavioral therapists that would not have practices because they are teaching the technique of mindfulness and not the spiritual practice. . . some people might not practice insight meditation but could benefit from something like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs (see UMASS).

Our good friends at Wikipedia mention this:  “Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction”.  Notice that they say inherited from rather than the actual practice. . .

There are a lot of books out there on using mindfulness solely for relaxation or helping with things like depression, OCD, anxiety, etc.  Even Jon Kabat-Zinn helped to co-author a book called The Mindful Way through Depression:  Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness with Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal.

I guess my suggestion to you would be to share resources like this with the person whom you have in mind.  If they are interested, they will pursue it and know that you are a resource person for them.  We can’t make a person find a spiritual way of life.

Look at AA, they have suggested for decades that people seek a higher power but they don’t define what that is and I think if they had insisted on what that might be, the program would have been as successful.

Also, my suggestion would be that this is a good time to practice letting go of outcomes.  Share with your friend and wish the situation well, maybe sending some lovingkindness into the situation.  Let this person find his/her way as it will most likely mean more.  Be patient and remember that we can’t walk another’s path for them.

I hope that helps Marty.  I appreciate your openness and your desire to help others as you share wonderful information about PTSD and how to live with the diagnosis.

Take gentle care,


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Jon Kabat-Zinn

Image via Wikipedia

This is Jon Kabat-Zinn. . .  His name is synonymous with mindfulness in this country, especially when you are looking at mindfulness as a tool for healing and a way of healing the world.

Check out Jon at Google


Practice along with him and feel free to jot a note of how it was for you.


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