I read a fascinating article recently in the Wall Street Journal's Health and Wellness section. The title was “Conquering Fear” (01/04/2011) by Melinda Beck. The article discussed how the concept of mindfulness is becoming a popular tool used in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. While the word meditation was never mentioned in the article, anyone who does meditate will immediately recognize how some of the principles of meditation are being borrowed by these therapists.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program and renowned teacher of mindfulness meditation, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” The Wild Mind Buddhist Meditation group expounds on that further saying:
“Mindfulness involves paying attention 'on purpose.' Mindfulness involves a conscious direction of our awareness. We sometimes…talk about 'mindfulness' and 'awareness' as if they were interchangeable terms, but that’s not a good habit to get into. I may be aware I’m irritable, but that wouldn’t mean I was being mindful of my irritability. In order to be mindful I have to be purposefully aware of myself, not just vaguely and habitually aware. Knowing that you are eating is not the same as eating mindfully.”
The founder of this new mindfulness-based therapy, Dr. Steven Hayes of the University of Nevada—Reno, says that his new psychology movement asks patients to focus their attention on the present. He adds that one of the key tenets of his mindfulness approach is not to say, “Stop thinking negative thoughts.” Instead, his approach asks people to simply observe negative thoughts as one would passing clouds, which as meditators know diffuses the power of the negative thoughts.
Mindfulness is not just popping up in psychology treatments, but it is now being used in schools to help children with ADHD. It is appearing in hospitals to help with anxiety and panic attacks. While some may disagree with the westernization of this deeply Eastern concept, it is clear to see that mindfulness can play a very important role for improving many people's lives.
The Wall Street Journal article also stressed the importance of acceptance rather than resistance. For example, Dr. Katherine Muller of the Center for Integrative Psychotherapy in Allentown, PA, who uses the mindfulness concept in her practice, says, “The idea is, 'These [negative] feelings are going to come. What are you going to do about them?' You don't have to react to them at all. Just allowing them to exist takes away their power.”
Although the Wall Street Journal article didn't dive too deeply into the “art and science” behind mindfulness, an in-depth article in The Psychotherapy Networker from the movement's founder Dr. Steven Hayes explains, in my opinion, how his technique has essentially overlapped the ideas and concepts of meditation with therapy…without the actual practice of it. One wonders how truly effective this can be. For example, Dr. Hayes says in the article that one of the three basic premises in his treatment is “acquiring a transcendent sense of self.” The exercises described sound like guided meditations, yet, as I said, the word “meditation” (perhaps to hokey for the Wall Street Journal and scientific journals) is excluded from anything associated with this new therapy.
~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com