Contemporary Issues In Modern Mindfulness

Introduction

The existing scholarly literature is at the consensus that there is not a unanimously agreed definition for mindfulness. However, Jon Kabat-Zim who founded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), provided a Western clinically based definition of mindfulness as “The awareness that emerges through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). Based on the contemporary contexts, there is a distinctive discrepancy showing the gap between the traditional and modern perspectives of mindfulness. Modern mindfulness perspectives are built from the threshold of Buddhism from which the concept emanates. This paper intends to critically unravel the contemporary issues in modern mindfulness and its application in professional contexts.

According to Hahn (1998), mindfulness is crucial and at the centre of Buddha’s precepts and is indeed an intervention for the alleviation of human suffering. In the realm of Buddhists, Western scholars and scientists, there is a shared proposition in the manner in which mindfulness is interpreted and described. All schools agree those elements of attention and the complex interplays of various aspects such as cognition, social, ethics and emotions are essential subsets of mindfulness. Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson, (2011), take into cognisance of the premise that western psychology is constructed on the foundations of a Buddhist.

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When efforts are seeking to incorporate the aspects of mindfulness’s traditional roots, with the contemporary models of consciousness and psychological function; it becomes encouraged in the West as modern tenets inscribed in the transitional pathway from the usual way of functioning (Grossman 2010). This transitional pathway seeks to influence the cognitive, behavioural, affective, social and ethical dimensions of humanity, which thus gives an impression that mindfulness contributes into the basketry of wellbeing, and alleviation of suffering from the planet. Mindfulness in this perspective is entwined with the fabrics of the transitional path which makes disintegration difficult.

Christopher and Gilbert (2007) commented, based on the sentiments of the Thai monk and teacher Buddhada ̄sa Bhikkhu (1988) and wrote: “Western psychology mandates that constructs must be illustrated and operationalized to be accurately assessed. However, most Buddhist traditions dictate that mindfulness cannot be easily extracted and analysed in isolation from inherently interrelated concepts.” If these sentiments are valid, then scientists and subject enthusiasts ought to inspire new approaches for the study of mindfulness.

Contemporary mindfulness has risen to become a responsive aspect especially in the secular dimension of healthcare and wellness. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) in the modern context are integrated into a wide span of fields including psychology, mental and body wellbeing and education. There has been scientific proof exemplifying the real significances mindfulness play primarily in the domain of concentration, affective stability and human wellbeing. For mindfulness to achieve its educative functionality, it ought to be generically connected with its spiritual foundations.

Structure and Function of Contemporary Mindfulness

The current fit of mindfulness, while it is set on the Buddhist doctrines; seek for explorations of its fundamental fabrics and applications. For the past three decades, mindfulness has enjoyed various definitions, in her philosophy and approaches (Baer et al., 2009). Most precisely, contemporary mindfulness has borrowed the subtle concepts of meditation practices from the traditional outfit to suit in the western approaches of impacting change and dealing with dissatisfaction and stress. Garmer et al., (2013) present forth three approaches by which psycho-therapists can infuse mindfulness into their operations, which collectively they term as mindfulness-oriented psychotherapies.

The first approach exemplifies psychotherapeutic models in which the psychotherapist is the intent and mindfulness practitioner. The second model presents and structure therapy on the precepts and principles of Buddhism, while the third model focuses on psychotherapies which utilize particular components of mindfulness; for instance, meditation (mindfulness-based psychotherapies). According to Shapira and Carlson (2009), Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR and Segal et al., 2008’s Mindfulness-Based Relapse Therapy are the commonly identified modalities. Additionally, the scholars argue that Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT), and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), are emerging treatment modalities. Contemporary developments in the domain of military training, such as Mindfulness-Based Mind Fit Training (MMFT) can also be integrated amongst the emerging forms of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (Jha et al., 2010).

Besides the diversity of Mindfulness-Based Interventions, they can be perceived as an agglomeration of three fundamental approaches which inspires the concept of wellbeing (Monteiro 2012). The first component of these three approaches constitutes of meditative practices that are rooted in spirituality and religion. These practices seek to centre the mindfulness practitioners while bringing them away from mental wander and orient them with their present encounters and experiences. Demonstrated through the avenues of religious beliefs and secular rites; they also form part of daily practices which motivates the inculcation of attentiveness virtue.

The other component seeks to comprehend the experiences following the flow of events in both our mind and body. Based on the Buddhist philosophy, our scattered mental concentrations and stances to our experiences such as confusion and anger are the core fundamentals causative agents for human suffering (Rahula 19724). MBSR borrows the Buddhist-based teachings in the quest to alleviate pain by investing in experiential awareness in therapies.

The third component explores the intent of the treatment process which is a shift from experiential avoidance. According to Cayoun (2011), the theories of Western psychology of dysfunction or ill health are built on the premise of the operant process of evading adverse experiences. It is the nature of human to emancipate himself from the wants that induce discomfort. By so doing, one seeks to regulate his/her emotional, physiological or behavioural systems while re-orienting them to that which inspires general wellbeing in the cognitive, affective and psycho motive domains. Mindfulness-Based Interventions in the contemporary arena seeks to encourage avoidance of mental dispersal, for one to achieve direct contacts with unfolding experiences. Through a reduced spiritual dispersal process, we tend to cultivate responsibility for our doings; and wisdom to manage the art.

Traditional and Contemporary Mindfulness and their Point of Convergence

Both traditional and modern mindfulness share mutual grains of knowledge and practice that have been scholarly acknowledged. Both concepts are determined to bring down forms of human sufferings by dismantling mental dispersal. The two scholars; Bodhi (2010) and Olendzki (2011) have demonstrated the path of mindfulness as inscribed in and inalienable from the Buddhist Eight-Fold tenets of liberation and purification of mind. Contemporarily, the practice of traditional mindfulness is linked with two central teachings namely the Satipaṭṭhana-suttaSutras and Anapanasati. The two teachings provide for a framework which guides meditation, awareness and the experiences in the human mind (Olendzki, 2011).

In the domains of medicine, psychology and research, mindfulness-based interventions have been accommodated as a radical shift that grants new insights to professionals struggling to inculcate into mental wellbeing in social-cultural fabrics. By the induction of mindfulness principles into the contemporary therapies, the intent is to suppress the mental sufferings or distresses that are initiated by unpredictable ordeals of life; and indeed a variety of mindfulness models have benefited by borrowing from mindfulness views. An intervention such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has become a success in mitigating mental illnesses and sufferings thus contributing to therapeutic benefits (Bieling et al., 2012).

The approaches and models utilised by contemporary mindfulness practitioners are anchored on Western psychological frameworks of inducing change, but again the same methods and models retain the authentic traditional forms in areas such as meditative rituals and the contents therein. Additionally, conventional models to mindfulness have attained a platform which is more psychologically-motivated and applicable to the contemporary ethos of life and work.

Amidst the close relationships between contemporary and traditional mindfulness, the former has been subjected to severe but yet helpful criticisms. There are those critics who infer from the definition of mindfulness and instead use different terminologies such as bare attention, present-centred perspective, non-judgmental awareness and non-dual conceptualisations. Besides, other criticisms are embedded on the proposition that mindfulness lacks a sense of ethics in Mindfulness-based Interventions curriculum and thus such a critical omission can inspire wide ranges of negative stances from passivity to self-indulgence.

Issues in Contemporary Mindfulness

Contemporary mindfulness plays a fundamental role in the jurisdictions of clinical practice. In the modern pedestal, mindfulness is less structured on a Buddhist extraction and is indeed considered as a skill. Modern mindfulness takes cognisance of the fact that it is a critical promoter of mental wellbeing and alleviated human suffering along the social, cultural and psychological parameters of an individual.

Over recent years, there is an increased need in scientific utilisation of mindfulness in the docket of clinical utility, alongside other Buddhist meditative models. There is an increasing integration of mindfulness approaches in the treatment regimen for patients in the modern days, especially in mental illnesses and significant addictions (Shonnin et al., 2014). Due to increasing empirical studies evaluating the effectiveness of mindfulness in clinical practice; the understanding is brought forth re-affirming its suitability, applications and capacity to halt major psychological, behavioural distress in clinical administration.

Another contemporary issue unfolding in the context of Mindfulness-based Interventions refers to efforts geared to reduce groups of people living operating under depression, cancer patients, obese and those in military training. The integration of mindfulness concepts in the mentioned areas provides an opportunity for empathy, bonding and supports which all foster social relationships. In these training as mentioned above, modules are often applied which directly address challenges faced by the particular class of trainees (Brown, Ryan, and Creswell, 2007).

Additionally, another trend refers to the increasing number of literature and books exploring the subject of Mindfulness-based interventions theme. These books fall not only in the limelight of the public audience but also in educational and academic texts. The scholars in the field of mindfulness have exploited the potentials of the art and used their first-hand experiences in contemplative training, secular application and professional expertise to present the possibilities of mindfulness. The researchers in this particular field present mindfulness as a tool which bears positive implications to individuals in military training, clinical and psychology careers (Bush, and Goleman, 2013).

Besides administering various somatic (physiological illnesses), mindfulness has historically provided the capacity for one to exploit his/her full potentials as a human being. As a result, there is there is an increasing concern in the Buddhist teachers and western scholars; that the spiritual essence of mindfulness has been dramatically undermined in its clinical applications. Successive westernised approaches of mindfulness have failed to recognise other related Buddhist contemplative principles and practices in various lines of life. Consequently, there is a probability that western clinicians and academicians are applying the doctrines of mindfulness which in their most exceptional nature do not precisely constitute of mindfulness as extracted from a Buddhist fabric.

Applications of Mindfulness in Professional Contexts

Empirical studies have demonstrated that mindfulness is a critical contributor in the treatment of psychological disorders in a more prosperous and distinctive manner. This section intends to explore the empirically-supported rationales and advantages that are contained in the concept of mindfulness (McWilliams, 2011). The real significances and applications of mindfulness ascend the affective, interpersonal, and intrapersonal parameters surrounding an individual. Owing to the mindfulness-based interventions in the alleviation of stress and its functionality in dialectical behavioural control, mindfulness has ascended from the discourse of Buddhism to psychotherapy construct.

As there is an aroused scientific interest in the study of mindfulness, it thus means that its benefits and applications are plenty in recorded accounts. The benefits induced forth by this original concept can be classified into various groupings; including affective, intrapersonal and interpersonal significances. Notably, empathy as a derivative from mindfulness is deemed as of vitality as far as the practice of mindfulness is concerned (De Silva, 2005).

Affective Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness plays a crucial role in the regulation of individual emotions. Evidence exemplifies that mindfulness contributes to the development and effective control of emotions in the brain (Corcoran et al., 2010). According to Corcoran et al., (2010), mindfulness cogitation inspires meta-cognitive sensitivity, lowers rumination through dismantling perseverative cognitive processes and motivates attention capabilities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains consequently rekindle effective emotion control capacities. The views of Corcoran et al., (2010) are supported by other scholars such as Chambers, Lo, and Allen, (2008); McKim, (2008); Ramel, Goldin, Carmona, and McQuaid, (2004), who maintain that mindfulness meditation has direct linkages to effective emotion regulation.

Additionally, studies conducted by Hoffman, Sawyer, Witt, and Oh (2010), supports the contributions of mindfulness-based interventions in the reduction of anxiety and depression signs and symptoms. In the research, the scientists reaffirmed that mindfulness-based therapy has potentials in influencing both cognitive and affective domains underlying clinical practices. Hoffman et al., findings provide vivid evidence that mindfulness meditation induces increased affective prowess while suppressing anxiety and related effects.

Mindfulness meditation through research has demonstrated the ability that it can lead to increased response flexibility and decreased reactivity. Mindfulness meditation capacitates individuals to become less responsive to situations (Cahn and Polich, 2009). Through research, the individuals indulging in the practice of meditation teach the skill of self-examination which neurologically misaligns independent pathways that were developed from prior experiences and triggered the present input be incorporated in a new mannerism. Additionally, meditation activates the brain domains which are lined with adaptive responding stressful or negative energies. Besides, the activation of these mental domains results in quicker recovery to baseline after a provocative experience (Davidson 2000).

Cahn and Polich (2009) experimented on the reactions of mindfulness enthusiasts to a distracting stimulus and found out that while one is in a profound meditative circumstance, the practitioners showcased little cognitive and emotional responses to such distracting stimuli. These empirical findings confirm the familiar premise that mindfulness meditation instigates decreased responsiveness and reactivity.

Interpersonal Benefits of Mindfulness and its Applications

The role of mindfulness and its impact on interpersonal is no longer a bare subject, but an area which has obtained recent attention by contemporary scholars who explored areas especially mindful relating (Wachs and Cordova, 2007), mindfulness-based relationship enhancement and mindfulness response amongst couples. As per the research findings, trait mindfulness insinuates various links between relationship satisfaction, skill for communicating emotions, the capacities to react to relationship stresses, the number of conflicts in a relationship empathy and negativity.

According to Barner et al., (2007), individuals with high trait mindfulness are subject to fewer cases of psychological stress in reaction to relationship quarrel-some relationship demands; and often tend not to suffer from anger or anxiety in times of conflict discussions. Moreover, evidence has demonstrated that mindfulness is indirectly related to distress and directly related to the capacity to behave responsibly with full awareness in social circumstances. Thus first-hand studies have confirmed that mindfulness safeguards the practitioners from the stressful affective impacts which are invoked by relationships. Additionally, mindfulness thus assists one to be able to react decently over the competitive and conflicting situations at hand. In the contexts of applications, trait mindfulness can thus be harnessed based on its ability to cultivate and sustain a relationship with practitioners (Chiesa, 2013).

Intrapersonal Benefits of Mindfulness and its Applications

Apart from affective and interpersonal domains, mindfulness also plays pivotal roles in intrapersonal developments. It has been studied and provided that mindfulness inspires self-examination, morality, fear modulation and intuition. There is proof too that mindfulness meditation encompasses a plethora of real significances in immunity roles. Mindfulness has times without number proved the co-relationship with mental wellbeing and art which significantly lowers psychological stresses.

Neuroplasticity which is the rewriting that happens in the brain tissue due to experience exemplifies how periodic mindfulness orients the brain’s functioning and physical structure. Changes in the physical parameters of the mind include thicker brain parts that are specialised in paying attention, sensitivity to stimuli, sensory interpretation, grey matter concentrations, and thicker brain parts. Research further insinuates that the conditions which the mind experience during the times of meditative mindfulness become effortless against the spinning wheel of time, thus becoming more instrumental from the associated impacts (Hanson, 2009).

Other advantages of mindfulness encompass increased rates by which the brain can process information. Mindfulness is said to help therapists in their line of duties; to be able to be more present to their client’s statuses and get to accommodate them professionally. Through mindfulness, the health practitioners are also able to master abilities on how to tackle their clients and communicate with them in a concerned attitude over their impending tragedies and circumstances. Eventually, Wang (2007) in his passive design concluded that therapists who practised mindfulness meditation scored higher in the ability to showcase feelings of empathy that therapists who indeed could not meditate.

Conclusion

Both traditional and modern mindfulness are founded on ordinary diligence, intentions, and aspirations geared to alleviate human suffering among communities of the world. As exemplified in this work, and as extraction from Buddhist doctrines, mindfulness has influenced the clinical, and especially psychotherapy, thus contributing in clinical administration of proper treatment regimen to patients constricted by mental distresses and general mental illnesses. It is indeed tempting to maintain that contemporary mindfulness has developed beyond her authentic Buddhist intrigues, or even that Buddhist beliefs do not constitute the foundation mindfulness. As discussed above, mindfulness is the source of self-awareness, wisdom and therapeutic and its applications in professional contexts as reflected herein ought not to be taken for granted.

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