Issue 9: Spring

Mindfulness in Healthcare

by Ji Den Dai U (Compassion Field, Vast Rain)

This edition focuses on the topic of Mindfulness. This is a hot topic in today’s world with many interpretations of the word. Working within the NHS and teaching mindfulness-based approaches in healthcare, I bear witness to many interpretations which demonstrate an incomplete understanding of the term ‘mindfulness.’ There exists an incomplete understanding, often based on the developments within mainstream medicine and psychological services over the past 30 years.

To illustrate, one individual who is studying a PhD in Clinical Psychology told me a while ago that mindfulness all started 30 years ago in America. Just in case you didn’t know that, I thought it might be a useful addition here within this dharma mag to clear that up once and for all! Those individuals who introduced mindfulness to medicine in USA, Dr. John Kabat Zinn, and many other colleagues, have diligently recognised the roots of dharma within the mindfulness-based stress reduction [MBSR] programme. Mostly dharma practitioners, they point clearly to the roots of Buddhist teachings and skilfully shape them in a way that people who have never been exposed to the teachings may begin to receive dharma. More that 250 US hospitals now offer this 8 week programme to patients attending medical services.

John Teasdale, Mark Williams and Zindel Segal, the three professors of clinical psychology, adapted this 8 week programme slightly to include cognitive behaviour therapy in the attempt to create a solution to relapsing depressive illness. This model is known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy [MBCT] which also recognises the teachings of the Buddha at its heart. There is currently a lobby headed by the Mental Health Foundation in UK to roll out mindfulness training within the NHS. I have heard it said by many dharma teachers and senior students that the dharma survives because of its capacity to evolve. Within the Zen tradition, this is no problem since everything is Buddha.

Never, has the ground been more fertile for seeds of dharma. Never has there been more need for dharma students to be creative and generous, integrating the practice of the bodhisattva vows into modern services for health, education and social reform in the service of liberation.

Training in these mindfulness–based traditions are headed in UK by Oxford, Bangor and Exeter Universities.

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