Who brought mindfulness to the west? Mindfulness springs from a Buddhist concept. Thich Nhat Hanh introduced the concept of mindfulness to the west in the 1960s. He is known by some as the father of mindfulness and dedicated his life to inner transformation, benefitting individuals and communities from all over the world. According to Thích Nhất Hạnh, mindfulness practice should be effortless and peaceful. It’s not something that should have to be forced but a practice that can bring you joy and inner peace.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and introduced mindfulness to the field of psychology in 1979, making it more mainstream in western society and bringing the tools into prisons, hospitals and schools. He taught of 3 strands that encompass mindfulness practice, that can be applied in the workplace and in every aspect of our lives.

1. Awareness – observing self and thoughts 

2. Non-judgement – accepting things as they are not attaching judgement 

3. Living in the present – monkey mind/butterfly mind relaying past narratives and imagining the future bringing worry and stress.

Buddhism and Mindfulness 

Buddhism focuses on a mindful approach and is where the concept of observing one’s thoughts and actions first originates. Buddhism has adopted a system that works on developing wisdom, good conduct & mental development, with a view to achieving inner peace and acceptance. Buddhism is not a religion but a practise. Adopting the concepts and ideas of Buddha using inner reflection is used to gain a deeper understanding. 

“Mindfulness as defined by the Buddha is to be aware of incessant change or arising and vanishing inside of your own body which is the ultimate reality of your own life”

Paul Fleischman

To do this we are encouraged to focus on breathing and the body which helps us to come into the present moment. Noticing what feelings arise, subside and then vanish. 

Buddhism follows the Eightfold Path –

  1. Right View –  The belief that nothing is permanent, we are all in a constant state of change
  1. Right Intention – Developing the intention to let go of causes of suffering. Including attachment to outcomes, trying to control things or meaning harm to others. Not trying to push suffering away or cling on to it but simply observing and letting it go.
  1. Right Speech – Developing kind and honest speech – letting go of any controlling, abusive or malicious language and listening carefully to what others say.
  1. Right Action – No harm to any living being – similar to Ahimsa 1 of the 5 Yamas in the Yoga Sutras.
  1. Right Livelihood – refraining from any kinds of dishonest or immoral forms of work that may cause suffering to others or oneself.
  1. Right Effort – Cultivating an interest in all that is wholesome, physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
  1. Right Remembering – cultivating a clear-minded awareness – not clinging to our emotions or material objects, while noticing how we experience our emotions, thoughts and body sensations. Having awareness of oneself and others and living in the present moment.
  1.  Right Belief – Bringing all the above into your daily experience with clear attention and intention to follow these wholesome beliefs. Keeping a clear and consistent mindset.

The Buddhist belief system strongly hinges on the concept of staying present in the current moment, not following the mind’s habit of constantly reflecting on the past or projecting about the future. This also forms one of the main focuses of mindfulness practice… Awareness of the present moment.

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