Meditation, Mindfulness, and Mental Health: Opportunities, Issues, and Challenges

Meditation, Mindfulness, and Mental Health: Opportunities, Issues, and Challenges

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8682-2.ch001
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In the last six decades, the concept of mindfulness has been widely studied, researched, and practiced in mainstream psychology, mental health, and health disciplines. Over a period of time, clinical practitioners have integrated meditation and mindfulness practices or techniques in the mainstream psychological interventions for emotional and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorder. This chapter highlights the application of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in various clinical and non-clinical samples. It also covers the importance of mindfulness practices for the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, discusses integrating technology into mindfulness training, and presents various issues and challenges related to mindfulness practices.
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Meditation is thousands of years old practice in the eastern part of the world and particularly in India. The term 'meditation' is an English translation of the Sanskrit word dhyāna. It came from the Sanskrit word dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. Dhyāna is a commonly used term in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures. Perez-de-Albeniz and Holmes (2000) defined meditation as “an act of spiritual contemplation” (p. 49). Research evidence has suggested that meditation practices enhance psychological well-being (Bach & Guse, 2015; Van Gordon et al., 2014) and also serve as therapeutic adjuncts (Kutz et al., 1985) both in re-educative and reconstructive therapies, besides serving as supportive therapy techniques (Kumar, 2002). The essence of meditation is the consistent attempt to achieve a specific attentional set (Goleman,1976).

The term ‘mindfulness’ is a buzzword. Practitioners are talking about the health benefit of it and promoting it. This trend is evident as people sign up for Mindfulness Meditation (MM) classes or courses and participate in online and on-site retreat programs. Germer (2005, p. 5) explained that the term mindfulness is an English translation of the 'Pali' word 'Sati'. Pali was the language of Buddhist Psychology 2,500 years ago, and mindfulness is the core teaching of this tradition, whereas the word sati connotes awareness, attention, and remembering (Germer, 2005, p.5). Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). Goleman (1977, p. 4) defined mindfulness “as an attitude of paying sensory stimuli only the barest attention”. Many practitioners and professionals (Germer, 2005; Goleman, 1977; Kabat-Zinn, 2003) have defined the term ‘mindfulness’, but the essence remains the same. In psychotherapy, mindfulness can be defined as an awareness of present experience with acceptance (Germer, 2005). Goleman (1977) explained that in mindfulness, control of the senses comes gradually through cultivating the habit of simply observing sensory perceptions; it means not allowing them to stimulate the mind into thought chains of reaction. He has also explained that in mindfulness practice, the focus can be on the body, feelings, mind, and mind-objects (Goleman, 1977). When systematically and regularly developed, the practice of vipassana, which means seeing things as they are, mindfulness becomes the avenue to the nirvanic state (Goleman, 1977).

Sometimes the terms meditation and mindfulness are used interchangeably though both have subtle differences. Meditation can be defined as a set of specific techniques and self-focus skills intended to augment a self-induced state of psychophysical relaxation (Cardoso et al., 2004). In contrast, mindfulness can be defined as a nonjudgemental observation of the present moment or present internal or external stimuli (Baer, 2003). Formal meditative practices include compassion meditation, loving kindness-focused meditation, mindful breathing, use of phrases or mantras as the focus for meditation, amongst many others (Behan, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Evidence-Based Practice: It is the integration of empirical research evidence with clinical expertise and patient value.

Mindfulness: It is the nonjudgmental observation of the present moment or present internal or external stimuli.

Meditation: It is an ancient practice that focuses on training awareness and concentration to achieve a clear, calm and relaxed mind.

Clinical Practice: This refers to a set of techniques or methods that involve assessing, diagnosing, and treating the patient’s psychological or physical conditions.

Mental Health: It refers to a person’s psychological well-being.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions: It is a psychological intervention based on mindfulness meditation.

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