Mindfulness meditation is increasingly used as a therapy; it has become mainstream. The origin of mindfulness therapy is in Buddhist practices, yet there is a growing awareness that mindfulness as it is conceived within psychological therapy diverges from mindfulness as it is conceived traditionally in Buddhism. This is perhaps for good reason, as most of the people who seek out mindfulness as therapy are not about to become Buddhists. However, I wonder if something more is being lost than just the religious context.
I would like to begin a discussion of this issue. I am going to call it "opening to insight." The idea is to look at some of the ways in which mindfulness is conceived in Buddhism and some of the related concepts that are central to Buddhism with the purpose of enlivening and enriching the practice of those who might have originally approached mindfulness meditation as a therapeutic modality, as a way of relaxing, quieting the mind or dealing with mental suffering.
In order to pursue this discussion, I need to provide some very basic information about Buddhist doctrine. The idea is not to indoctrinate but to educate those who may not be familiar with these doctrines in order to provide a context for understanding the points I wish to make. Since I am most familiar with Theravada Buddhism, I will focus on it.
revised-- March 15, 2013