History of Mindfulness

mindfulness and peaceEven though many people consider mindfulness as something that is connected with the practice of the Buddhist religion it has become a technology that has actually been applied by humans for thousands of years by all religions from Hindus to Christians. It’s been practiced and is continued to be practiced in India, Europe, America and Europe.

Mindfulness of the Hindu – 1500 BC

When it comes to contemplative types of traditions in Asia Hinduism is the birthplace for this. The word yoga means discipline is a word that applies to a variety of practices that are contemplative and are specifically designed to try and unite the soul with the brahman which means roughly “God” or “Godhead”. There are four major types of yoga that have been around for awhile that incorporates mindfulness:

  • Jnana yoga which is a knowing discipline that has a contemplative and reflective approach to a brahman that is impersonal.
  • Bhakti yoga which is a devotion discipline that has an approach of trying to cultivate love and devotion to a more personal brahman that includes meditation.
  • Karma yoga which is a labor discipline that has the approach that involves work that is performed with a form of devotion.
  • Raja yoga is a royal discipline that is an approach with a psychophysical type of science that includes moving the meditations that we know now in the Western world as “yoga”.

Mindfulness of Daoist – 6th Century BC

From the very beginning, Daoism has been concerned with having a harmonious relationship between people and the world itself. This harmony with the world has given contributions like energy work and martial art exercises that are moving meditations to mindfulness.

Mindfulness of Buddhism – 535 BC

This kind of mindfulness uses techniques centers on a seated type of meditation and breathing techniques. One of the Buddhists oldest types of meditation practices is called viapassan or discernment type of meditation. This involves a very intellectual system of trying to perceive the full truth of the body, feelings, and consciousness of the mind. The most familiar type of meditation connected with the Buddhist system is Zen that includes both sitting and walking meditations as a tool to find insight into a persons nature of their reality and conscious experiences.

Mindfulness of Christianity – 530 CE

The contemplative Christian form of mindfulness began to flower during the Middle Ages when they introduced it around 530 as a communal exercise done in monasteries. One of the greatest proponents for this type of contemplative exercises was St. John of the Cross. Another saint to have used it was St. Teresa de Avila who called it a seven stage journey of vision to reach the throne of God. Also St. Hildegard also wrote many songs and chants about the experiences she had when she performed this type of contemplative exercise.

There were a few centuries after Protestantism rose, this contemplative type of tradition did fall out of favor but it still was kept alive by Quakers and then with Pentecostal Christians in the 1800’s. Now, mainstream Christians are rediscovering this medieval practice and encouraging their parishioners’ to try it.

Mindfulness of Muslims – 610 CE

Muslims took a clue from Christians and about a hundred years later decided to develop their own search for a journey to the Divine and called their style of mindfulness Sufism. Their version includes a variety of different techniques including moving meditations of what is called “whirling dervishes” where people whirls for hours, for some even for days. They whirl steadily counterclockwise on their left food with their right arm held high with their palm turned toward the sky. Their left arm is down with their palm pointed toward the earth.

Jewish People and Mindfulness – 10th Century

During the Middle Ages, the Jewish people saw their own style of contemplative practices come into being. Probably the most famous technique is called Qabbala or “receive”. This is a practice that focuses on the reading of Jewish scriptures that have references to numerological relationships. One enters into deep contemplation of different relationships that are found between different words, verses, letters, and the numerologial equals. This creates a web of associational meanings among all of them and an understanding of God.

Modern Mindfulness Technologies Used in Therapy

Today, modern mindfulness is used in research and freedom and mindfulnesspractice in the psychotherapeutic world. It is now used to help with physical pain, a variety of personality disorders and depression. There are three main mindfulness programs in existence that are used most often.

  • MBSR – This was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This type of mindfulness is used for those who are suffering from pain that can’t seem to be treated with regular medicine. For well over 20 years this style has been teaching eight-week programs that combine both walking and sitting meditation along with body awareness that’s guided and yoga. One technique is called a body scan. This teaches people to learn how to re-establish contact with their own bodies. They do this by focusing on their bodies in meditation. It’s guided while the person lies down and are taken on a verbal tour of their body. It helps them to focus on being aware of every body part. This helps them become more aware of where their pain is located and where it’s not located.
  • DBT – This type of mindfulness trains people on a bigger therapeutic style that’s designed for those who have suicidal and/or self-harming tendencies. The major goals of DBT are to help reduce suicidal tendencies and self-harming actions. It hopes to help reduce behavior that interferes with their therapy. It tries to help reduce any behavior that can decrease one’s quality of life. Finally, it teaches different behavior skills that include techniques of interpersonal effectiveness, core mindfulness, distress tolerance, self-management, and emotional regulation.

And the Third Style of Mindfulness

  • MBCT – This style of mindfulness is one that takes a careful exploration of the different mechanisms. Mechanisms that influence negative thinking that often is activated by responding to negative experiences. This type of training helps patients gain of a level of major cognitive awareness. This awareness helps to increase the awareness of when they are in an autopilot mode. It also teaches them to step outside of this mode. Enabling them to observe what their negative thoughts are doing to them. It helps them to control their reactions to negative events and learn how to respond instead of reacting.