Examined Lives: Mindfulness (Session 42)

March 21st, 2024 12-1pm ET
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We explore the concept of what is known in the West as "mindfulness", its evolutionary background, current scientific understanding, and practical use

In this Examined Lives session, we will discuss the concept of what is known in the West as "mindfulness", its evolutionary background, current scientific understanding, medical and other uses. We will examine a psychological model that was originally formulated in a religious context in the East, especially Buddhism, the Advaita Vedanta sect of Hinduism and somewhat in the Sunni sect of Islam.  Beginning perhaps 50 years ago academics in the West began to extract and apply this model as neuroscientists began studying it.  Today this understanding and application in psychiatry and in normal daily life is growing rapidly.

Essentially, our brains do not work to make us happy or to give us a clear picture of the world.   As all the other organs of our bodies, our brains evolved to protect and replicate our genes.  In doing so they drive us in a way that creates constant dissatisfaction and aggravates our interpersonal relationships.   Thankfully, one can practice at altering our relationship with that brain function so that such suffering is dramatically decreased.  This first reading is a concise presentation of the underlying model of mindfulness and its actual and potential applications: "Mindfulness in Plain English.pdf"

The next reading is a brief extraction from a Guardian article that details the work of the man who was most instrumental in westernizing this knowledge, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.  His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) was the first major application of secular mindfulness in the medical arena.   This model is now the basis of MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy by Mark Williams of Oxford U., et alia), ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a blend of Relational Frame Theory and the Zen model of human behavior), and others.

It is my hope that this discussion will move towards the application of mindfulness techniques to transcend the coalitionary cognition and impetus with which we have evolved, continues to be the source of immense conflict in the world, and Prosocial World is committed to evolving.