Mindfulness – Buddhism and Psychotherapy – I and II

Mindfulness – Buddhism and Psychotherapy
Part I
The discovery of mindfulness by the psi world - Psyche in the Light of Buddhist thought .
of Buddhist thought

In recent years the word “mindfulness” has been getting its own space in the psi world, meaning “to be in the Here and Now”.

Literally translated it is to have the mind (cognitive, emotional, and sensory) – mind – focused completely – full – on the Here and Now.

Some therapists therefore reduce the concept of “mindfulness” to becoming self-aware of oneself: “When you feel (irritable/sad/anxious/….) without understanding why, I want you to stop, close your eyes and concentrate about the emotions you’re are feeling at that moment, the thoughts that are coming to you and the physical sensations you’re are experiencing” – Mindfulness is thus limited to a patient procedure or technique for increasing insight (cognitive, emotional and sensory).

However, “mindfulness” is much more than that and wasn’t even discovered or “invented” by a psy professional.

Before it was used as a new resource in psychotherapy, “mindfulness” was already popular in spiritual circles of spirituality as a form of meditation or even as a revolutionary attitude towards the mind, with a much broader and more inclusive meaning than that of becoming aware of Oneself.

The concept of “mindfulness” originated in Buddhism and was transplanted and adapted from this spiritual discipline into psychotherapy.

But before we analyse what “mindfulness” means in the Buddhist tradition, it’s useful to understand the structuring of the Psyche in the light of Buddhist understanding.

First, for Buddhism, the Mind is just an instrument, a cognitive, emotional and sensory instrument through which the Self knows the world and knows itself, but most importantly, the Mind is not the Self.

The Being uses Mind in its existential incursion into this world, just as a driver uses his car to go for a journey.

The suffering of the human being, according to Buddhism, comes, among other causes, from the total identification of the Being with his existential instrumentAccording to Buddhism, man’s suffering stems, among other things, from the being’s total identification with his instrument of existence, as if the driver of the car forgets his own nature and identifies completely with his car. He begins to believe that his existence is limited to knowing the world and himself through his experience as a driver, to relate to other cars and confuse their drivers with their cars, and to believe that his life and the lives of others will end when the respective cars all end up in the junkyard.

This total identification prevents you from being free,from recognising your true nature,if only for a brief moment, opening the car door, getting out and allowing yourself to think, “I’m more than this piece of junk, limber and seemingly perfect. I’m the One driving this machine, but I’m far from being this car.”

According to Buddhism, people live their lives in identification with their minds, believing ARE the thoughts they have, the emotions they feel, and/or the multitude of sensations they experience.

Pain results from this identification, from the fundamental ignorance of their true nature – one day, when people manage to realise that they’re masters of their mind and not its victims – when they can dispose of their mind like any other instrument, they’ll be free.

Meditation based on “mindfulness” is more than just a technique for becoming self-aware. It’s a valuable tool of self-knowledge through which the practitioner seeks to understand “what the I isn’t” in an experiential and not merely theoretical way, by separating himself from the objects (material, emotional and cognitive) with which he identifies.

Thoughts, feelings and sensations are the products that the ego uses to interpret, signify and interact with the world and itself – but they aren’t the ego.

These products in their totality form the ego – the persona – but that is only the vehicle that the self uses on its existential journey.

Once this journey is over, the ego perishes, but the self continues, like an actor who gives up the role of a play and can embody different characters throughout his professional life without ever identifying with them, without ever losing the ability to criticise, and without becoming captivated by any of them.

In this disidentification – in the discovery of what isn’t – the aspirant moves towards the discovery of the Being, the I – the Unknowing, the Omniscient, the Source – that underlies all manifestation.

When we read the steps of Bodhisavta on the path to enlightenment or awakening, the last of his steps consisted of a long meditation in which he had a titanic struggle with Mara (the symbol of his ego), and this would have been his final step of complete detachment from the ego, in which he finally achieved and realised spiritual freedom.The discovery of

Mindfulness – Buddhism and Psychotherapy – Psiworks – Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Lisbon

Mindfulness – Buddhism and Psychotherapy
Part II
The discovery of mindfulness by the "psi" world - Return to the newborn state

Detachment and disidentification are thus two of the cornerstones of Buddhist thought. The practise of mindfulness is more than a goal for the Buddhist, it’s the final step in the process of detachment and disidentification.

Detached from the desires common to most people, the aspirant no longer lives his daily life in an endless array of projects and activities designed to satisfy them – he no longer craves pleasure, power, status and material possessions, no longer obsesses over the idea of suffering if he cannot satisfy the object of his desire, and finally lives detached from life and the fear of dying.

The most difficult step, however, is that of disidentifying one’s emotions and thoughts, because even for those who have Buddhist training, it’s not so obvious that thoughts, emotions and sensations are nothing more than instruments used by the Being, like the clothes you wear or the food you eat.

In mindfulness practise, the aspirant allows thoughts, emotions and sensations to flow with the pre-attitude of letting them go, experiencing them without holding them back, letting them flow like the images of a film unfolding before one’s eyes, without engaging in the construction of a narrative or interpretation.

It’s not a matter of stopping thinking or feeling, because that is simply impossible in the initial phase.

A Buddhist image depicts the mind as an excited monkey that spends all its available time jumping from branch to branch in free association, without any discipline, and the overwhelming majority of people spend most of their lives entertained and asleep, following every monkey jump and identifying with all their movements.

In mindfulness, the aspirant knows that the monkey won’t stop jumping – it’s the nature of the mind not to stand still – the monkey will continue to jump from branch to branch, thought to thought, emotion to emotion for a period of time – the difference is that the aspirant chooses to stop paying attention to the monkey’s jumps and to evaluate them as if thoughts were the only possible psychic life.

The aspirant won’t be able to ignore the thoughts, emotions and sensations, but neither will he dwell on them. Knowing that all psychic events are transient, he’ll stop paying attention to them.

Gradually – according to the experience of practitioners – the mind begins to calm down, thoughts become less frequent and gaps appear between thoughts – as if the usual fog of psychic noise began to dissipate.

This is where the question usually arises: what then remains when we stop thinking? A void?

For a mind addicted to compulsive cognitive, emotional and sensory activity, the idea of a void without thought, emotion or sensation is a horror, as if mindfulness were a mere exercise in psychic nihilism.

What remains when the fog lifts is certainly not just the absence of fog.

Those who make it experience the first moments of mindfulness with an unprecedented clarity and an equally unprecedented inner peace.

In mindfulness, there is no longer a void, but the pure awareness that underlies not only all psychic events, but also self-awareness itself.

Mindfulness is awareness of oneself, unaffected by the compulsive activity of the mind.

Mindfulness is the awareness experiencing itself.

For the first time, the aspirant can have a clear and distinct idea of the pure consciousness that he carries within himself, without any conditioning, without any value judgement, without any past history and without any fear of the future.

You don’t even have to pay attention to anything, because pure awareness is attentive by nature.

Hard to understand?

One day, allow yourself to observe a baby who cannot yet speak a single word.

Observe it at a time when it’s not hungry, thirsty, tired or otherwise physically uncomfortable.

Look and observe.

You’ll find that he’s very alert and at the same time experiences an immense peace, an unspeakable stillness.

Where is he?

Where we should all be: in the Here and Now.

We have no choice but to live in the here and now.

The only choice we are allowed is to try to do it consciously or not.

Therefore, it’s not possible to be other than in the Here and Now.

No fog if possible.

So is that mindfulness?

Back to the state of mind of a newborn?

Take your mind out of the equation.

Now try it…

Mindfulness is the experience of the Self experiencing pure consciousness.



Mindfulness – Buddhism and Psychotherapy – Psiworks – Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Lisbon

Médico Psiquiatra e Psicoterapeuta

Faça uma pergunta ao autor.

Dr. João Parente - Médico Psiquiatra e Psicoterapeuta - Director Clínico da Psiworks | Lisboa
Dr. Joao Parente
Website | + posts

Se gosta deste artigo Partilhe

Deixe-nos o seu número de telefone e nós iremos contactá-lo!

Mais artigos para explorar