More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Lotus Therapy
May 27, 2008

The patient sat with his eyes closed, submerged in the rhythm of his own breathing, and after a while noticed that he was thinking about his troubled relationship with his father.

?I was able to be there, present for the pain,? he said, when the meditation session ended. ?To just let it be what it was, without thinking it through.?

The therapist nodded.

?Acceptance is what it was,? he continued. ?Just letting it be. Not trying to change anything.?

?That?s it,? the therapist said. ?That?s it, and that?s big.?

This exercise in focused awareness and mental catch-and-release of emotions has become perhaps the most popular new psychotherapy technique of the past decade. Mindfulness meditation, as it is called, is rooted in the teachings of a fifth-century B.C. Indian prince, Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. It is catching the attention of talk therapists of all stripes, including academic researchers, Freudian analysts in private practice and skeptics who see all the hallmarks of another fad.

For years, psychotherapists have worked to relieve suffering by reframing the content of patients? thoughts, directly altering behavior or helping people gain insight into the subconscious sources of their despair and anxiety. The promise of mindfulness meditation is that it can help patients endure flash floods of emotion during the therapeutic process ? and ultimately alter reactions to daily experience at a level that words cannot reach. ?The interest in this has just taken off,? said Zindel Segal, a psychologist at the Center of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where the above group therapy session was taped. ?And I think a big part of it is that more and more therapists are practicing some form of contemplation themselves and want to bring that into therapy.?

At workshops and conferences across the country, students, counselors and psychologists in private practice throng lectures on mindfulness. The National Institutes of Health is financing more than 50 studies testing mindfulness techniques, up from 3 in 2000, to help relieve stress, soothe addictive cravings, improve attention, lift despair and reduce hot flashes.

Some proponents say Buddha?s arrival in psychotherapy signals a broader opening in the culture at large ? a way to access deeper healing, a hidden path revealed.

Yet so far, the evidence that mindfulness meditation helps relieve psychiatric symptoms is thin, and in some cases, it may make people worse, some studies suggest. Many researchers now worry that the enthusiasm for Buddhist practice will run so far ahead of the science that this promising psychological tool could turn into another fad.

?I?m very open to the possibility that this approach could be effective, and it certainly should be studied,? said Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory. ?What concerns me is the hype, the talk about changing the world, this allure of the guru that the field of psychotherapy has a tendency to cultivate.?

Buddhist meditation came to psychotherapy from mainstream academic medicine. In the 1970s, a graduate student in molecular biology, Jon Kabat-Zinn, intrigued by Buddhist ideas, adapted a version of its meditative practice that could be easily learned and studied. It was by design a secular version, extracted like a gemstone from the many-layered foundation of Buddhist teaching, which has sprouted a wide variety of sects and spiritual practices and attracted 350 million adherents worldwide.

In transcendental meditation and other types of meditation, practitioners seek to transcend or ?lose? themselves. The goal of mindfulness meditation was different, to foster an awareness of every sensation as it unfolds in the moment.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn taught the practice to people suffering from chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts medical school. In the 1980s he published a series of studies demonstrating that two-hour courses, given once a week for eight weeks, reduced chronic pain more effectively than treatment as usual.

Word spread, discreetly at first. ?I think that back then, other researchers had to be very careful when they talked about this, because they didn?t want to be seen as New Age weirdos,? Dr. Kabat-Zinn, now a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, said in an interview. ?So they didn?t call it mindfulness or meditation. ?After a while, we put enough studies out there that people became more comfortable with it.?

One person who noticed early on was Marsha Linehan, a psychologist at the University of Washington who was trying to treat deeply troubled patients with histories of suicidal behavior. ?Trying to treat these patients with some change-based behavior therapy just made them worse, not better,? Dr. Linehan said in an interview. ?With the really hard stuff, you need something else, something that allows people to tolerate these very strong emotions.?

In the 1990s, Dr. Linehan published a series of studies finding that a therapy that incorporated Zen Buddhist mindfulness, ?radical acceptance,? practiced by therapist and patient significantly cut the risk of hospitalization and suicide attempts in the high-risk patients.

Finally, in 2000, a group of researchers including Dr. Segal in Toronto, J. Mark G. Williams at the University of Wales and John D. Teasdale at the Medical Research Council in England published a study that found that eight weekly sessions of mindfulness halved the rate of relapse in people with three or more episodes of depression.

With Dr. Kabat-Zinn, they wrote a popular book, The Mindful Way Through Depression. Psychotherapists? curiosity about mindfulness, once tentative, turned into ?this feeding frenzy, of sorts, that we have going on now,? Dr. Kabat-Zinn said.

Mindfulness meditation is easy to describe. Sit in a comfortable position, eyes closed, preferably with the back upright and unsupported. Relax and take note of body sensations, sounds and moods. Notice them without judgment. Let the mind settle into the rhythm of breathing. If it wanders (and it will), gently redirect attention to the breath. Stay with it for at least 10 minutes.

After mastering control of attention, some therapists say, a person can turn, mentally, to face a threatening or troubling thought ? about, say, a strained relationship with a parent ? and learn simply to endure the anger or sadness and let it pass, without lapsing into rumination or trying to change the feeling, a move that often backfires.

One woman, a doctor who had been in therapy for years to manage bouts of disabling anxiety, recently began seeing Gaea Logan, a therapist in Austin, Tex., who incorporates mindfulness meditation into her practice. This patient had plenty to worry about, including a mentally ill child, a divorce and what she described as a ?harsh internal voice,? Ms. Logan said.

After practicing mindfulness meditation, she continued to feel anxious at times but told Ms. Logan, ?I can stop and observe my feelings and thoughts and have compassion for myself.?

Steven Hayes, a psychologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, has developed a talk therapy called Acceptance Commitment Therapy, or ACT, based on a similar, Buddha-like effort to move beyond language to change fundamental psychological processes.

?It?s a shift from having our mental health defined by the content of our thoughts,? Dr. Hayes said, ?to having it defined by our relationship to that content ? and changing that relationship by sitting with, noticing and becoming disentangled from our definition of ourselves.?

For all these hopeful signs, the science behind mindfulness is in its infancy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which researches health practices, last year published a comprehensive review of meditation studies, including T.M., Zen and mindfulness practice, for a wide variety of physical and mental problems. The study found that over all, the research was too sketchy to draw conclusions.

A recent review by Canadian researchers, focusing specifically on mindfulness meditation, concluded that it did ?not have a reliable effect on depression and anxiety.?

Therapists who incorporate mindfulness practices do not agree when the meditation is most useful, either. Some say Buddhist meditation is most useful for patients with moderate emotional problems. Others, like Dr. Linehan, insist that patients in severe mental distress are the best candidates for mindfulness.

A case in point is mindfulness-based therapy to prevent a relapse into depression. The treatment significantly reduced the risk of relapse in people who have had three or more episodes of depression. But it may have had the opposite effect on people who had one or two previous episodes, two studies suggest.

The mindfulness treatment ?may be contraindicated for this group of patients,? S. Helen Ma and Dr. Teasdale of the Medical Research Council concluded in a 2004 study of the therapy.

Since mindfulness meditation may have different effects on different mental struggles, the challenge for its proponents will be to specify where it is most effective ? and soon, given how popular the practice is becoming.

The question, said Linda Barnes, an associate professor of family medicine and pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, is not whether mindfulness meditation will become a sophisticated therapeutic technique or lapse into self-help clich?.

?The answer to that question is yes to both,? Dr. Barnes said.

The real issue, most researchers agree, is whether the science will keep pace and help people distinguish the mindful variety from the mindless.

A variety of meditative practices have been studied by Western researchers for their effects on mental and physical health.

Tai Chi
An active exercise, sometimes called moving meditation, involving extremely slow, continuous movement and extreme concentration. The movements are to balance the vital energy of the body but have no religious significance.

Studies are mixed, some finding it can reduce blood pressure in patients, and others finding no effect. There is some evidence that it can help elderly people improve balance.

Transcendental Meditation
Meditators sit comfortably, eyes closed, and breathe naturally. They repeat and concentrate on the mantra, a word or sound chosen by the instructor to achieve state of deep, transcendent absorption. Practitioners ?lose? themselves, untouched by day-to-day concerns. Studies suggest it can reduce blood pressure in some patients.

Mindfulness Meditation
Practitioners find a comfortable position, close the eyes and focus first on breathing, passively observing it. If a stray thought or emotion enters the mind, they allow it to pass and return attention to the breath. The aim is to achieve focused awareness on what is happening moment to moment.

Studies find that it can help manage chronic pain. The findings are mixed on substance abuse. Two trials suggest that it can cut the rate of relapse in people who have had three or more bouts of depression.

Enhanced awareness through breathing techniques and specific postures. Schools vary widely, aiming to achieve total absorption in the present and a release from ordinary thoughts. Studies are mixed, but evidence shows it can reduce stress.


Sounds good, but its too , its hard to say without it sounding like a negative, but to me that kind of meditation feels dissociative, floaty, floating away from the world, stillness, using only one part of myself one part of my being, my mind. Having used dissociation all my life I need to feel the engaged, active not floating above in transendance just my thought power alone. That kind of meditation has done little for me. There are many kinds of meditation, why therapy is only pushing one kind or one a westernized (cognative) mixture of eastern philosophy and new ageism, I dont know.

Mindfulness is big business in todays healthcare, a catchword, experts and pundits popping up all over the place and charging poor folk a lot to learn the secret of "meditation". Like there is only one kind. Well I have come to the realization that I learnt to meditate quite some time ago only I didnt realize it as such. I didnt have to read no book or go to any therapist to teach it to me. My meditation is not just navel gazing, its active, kinetic has practical use in the world and is NOT a mindful type of meditation. It actually has its roots in the far east and as such holds up the state of no-mind rather than mind, feeling, sensation rather than thought and cognition which is seen only as a hinderance to the natural flow of universal energy within.

The meditation I use grew from the samuri fighting arts and uses a mixture of tai chi and jujitsu, the philosophical base grew from Taoist ideas. It is non violent and the name Aikido means "way of unifying spirit". Aikido is not just system of combat but rather a means of self cultivation and self improvment, the goal is not to defeat others but to defeat the negative characteristics that inhabit ones own mind and impede its functioning. The well being of the attacker is very important. Its been practised as a way of re-training of the negative aspects of instinct. (PTSD). Traditionally classes were practised without any verbal comunication, in silence. Even today little is spoken but a lot is shared and understood in an atmosphere of caring, companionship and learning together. To me every training is like a shared kinetic form of meditation that also has the additional gift of real self defense as well. Its been the one only way that broke thru my life long defense of freezing that I developed in childhood to long and repeated abuse. I learnt a new reponse. I learnt there was another option. No amount of talk therapy got through to me at a deep core sense level as when my sensei stepped toward me as I was floundering and with one singular zen like word muttered "move'", it all connected on so many levels.

I belive it may of not happend if I had been inactive. It needed my mind body and spirit working together unified in movement for the message to be understood on all the levels that effected this breakthrough for me. Trauma based therapies should include non competative martial arts like Aikido because they address the need for personal safety with the opportunity to retrain out dated and defenses with more useful mature ones and achiveing a real sense of security and peace of mind

Daniel E.
There are many kinds of meditation...
Yes, and, as Joseph Campbell pointed out, even reading can be one way to be meditative.

I belive it may of not happend if I had been inactive.
Another example may be walking meditation or "zen and the art of ____" (tennis/cooking/dancing/running/etc).

I'm curious to know: what does mindfulness meditation constitutes in this context of theapy (MBCT)? The meditation the article described seems to be breath meditation or mindfulness of breath (anapanasati). This is where my doubts arise. The steps mentioned in breath meditation have a different goal than what is understood as mindfulness meditation in buddhism. The goal of that kind of breath meditation is to attain concentration and stillness of mind, while mindfulness meditation has the goal of gaining insight and it's done in every position. In the words of the Buddha:

"Furthermore, when walking, the monk discerns that he is walking. When standing, he discerns that he is standing. When sitting, he discerns that he is sitting. When lying down, he discerns that he is lying down. Or however his body is disposed, that is how he discerns it.

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in & of itself, or focused externally... unsustained by anything in the world. This is how a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself.

"Furthermore, when going forward & returning, he makes himself fully alert; when looking toward & looking away... when bending & extending his limbs... when carrying his outer cloak, his upper robe & his bowl... when eating, drinking, chewing, & savoring... when urinating & defecating... when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, & remaining silent, he makes himself fully alert..

If these two kinds of meditation are not distinguished harmful effects can arise. I'm pretty sure breath meditation has more contraindications than mindfulness meditation. In mindfulness meditation we learn to deal with our thoughts and emotions, while in breath meditation we simply try to not pay attention to them. When breath meditation is done by someone who has serious troubles with his thoughts or emotions they can get worse, while in mindfulness meditation you deal with those thoughts and emotions directly.

Daniel E.
what does mindfulness meditation constitutes in this context of theapy (MBCT)?
I think one doesn't need to "meditate" in MCBT (nor in similar therapies like DBT and ACT), though mindfulness per se is required, e.g.

In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (called ACT, spoken as in one word act), we call this process "cognitive defusion." By defusion, we mean that we no longer take our thoughts and feelings as literal "truth." When we no longer believe in our thoughts, we are free to pursue our lives in ways that our important to us now, not according to unhelpful thoughts that have been stuck in our heads for years.


Daniel, thank you for your post,

how are you able to discert what a client needs to find in therapy that will 'cure' them?. By definition is curing, 'taking away their pain'? You cannot dictate to a client 'this is what is required for your problems and thats all., How are you able to say that you have an understanding of the goals of the client, they may not be the same as yours. This is clearly not client centered but rather from authourity to a client subject. Someone comes to you with painful thoughts. Your prefered therapy would be a thought blocking techique like mindfull cognative stratergies. Your directive would be, "You can get rid of the pain, You must get rid of the painful thoughts and feelings, they are not real, then you will be free from this influence for ever. But is this what the client wants or needs, is it right for them, who does your approche serve?, you, family, society, yes, but maybe not the individual.

Therapy should be about the individual, not the status quo of society. Firstly, not everyone wants to disociate the pain in their lives , it may not be what the client wants or needs. Pain is very important, its one of our major senses. Cognative diffusion is just a mind techniuqe for dulling the senses, a very effective self blinding technique. A person is like a tree, their roots may have come from deep pain, to instruct them to belive their thoughts and feelings are not "literaly true', when they may be quite true and an accurate account of the past, is like cutting the roots from the tree, it can no longer grow.

Our world can be very violent and unjust, many children grow up in war zones, pain is what they grew up in, its a reality, deal with it. We can help a person to invalidate their past so as to start a new fresh future, yes its possible. This may serve families, communities and society as a whole but in the long run is very bad for the individual. I suspect this is why most goverments put more support in these types of therapies over others because this pressure helps maintain status quo in a population. Pain, if faced and understood and helped to bear (not put aside) is a great transformer of the soul, the individual. Through it, the spirit hungers for real actual change that is fully conciouse, change in the self, that comes from the self, and not another, and a disire to make real changes to injustices in society in the face of resitance. When one has been made strong and absorbed the "actual truth' of their personal pain, faced it and polished it and grown through it, its then possible to have the courage and self validation to accomplish these things.

However I feel this is not a path many choose, its a lonely track. Most would is prefer to say, give me a pill to take away the pain, give me a mind technique to take away the pain, not in itself bad when pain is overwhelming but I feel that this is a limited way and does not lead to lasting change. In his writings "the way of the warrior" the founder aikido, a peaceful martial art stated," fear that blocks out our ability to reason and disolves the higher conciousness into panic must be faced again and again and we must learn there is no escape", This is seen as Misogi, a way of purification a refinement of pain, fear and panic. Misogi a Japanese word also means reflection and refinement, "only through the study of the past and and an appreciation of its experience can we understand the present and refine our spirit. Misogi was also a way of attaining Tai-a, a spiritual sword that gives life to all things, both self and other, protagonist and antagonist, friend and foe according to the 15 century master swordsman Yagyu Munenori. Aikido founder, said to be one of Japanes finest warriors, Morihei Ueshiba said: 'foster and polish the warrior spirit" and also, 'The penetrating brilliance of the sword, wiedled by followers of the way, strikes at the evil ememy, lurking deep within, their own souls and minds.

There it is, my two cents, just putting forward another though not as well know eastern philosophy.

Daniel E.
I usually cite my sources, but I didn't yesterday :) What I was referring to was not what is correct but what the founders of these therapies are saying, specifically Marsha Linehan who started the third wave/movement of behavior therapy (DBT, which influenced ACT & MCBT), which is based on CBT (the second wave of behavior therapy) and some parts of zen.

Marsha Linehan does encourage meditation, but she says that's just one way to be mindful.

Daniel E.
Your directive would be...You must get rid of the painful thoughts and feelings...
No one is advocating for thought suppression:

Some info on what I am referring to: This One Moment: Skills for Everyday Mindfulness -

And one goal of DBT/ACT/MCBT is to decrease emotional avoidance/numbing:

[SIZE=-1] DBT attempts to help individuals understand that emotional avoidance is often the root of their difficulties...

[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]Metaphorically, running from emotional experience is like being a bus driver who suddenly realizes she has monsters on her bus. She decides that she must escape from these monsters, and so she drives faster and faster. The problem, of course, is that the monsters are on the bus. No matter how fast she drives she will still have monsters on the bus, and driving fast creates all kinds of other problems in her life and the lives of others (e.g., crashes, tension, speeding tickets, etc.). DBT encourages the patient to slow down the bus - stop, and go back to greet the monsters. The monsters (her feared emotions) look and sound very scary, but in actuality are like holographic pictures. When you reach out to touch them your hand goes right through them. This is because emotional experience is just that, a part of who we are and, by itself, unable to harm us. DBT encourages patients to begin the process of emotional acceptance. By learning to no longer fear emotions the patient begins to experience herself as a whole person, not a compartmentalized self, made up of good and bad parts.[/SIZE]



the beautiful and graceful Zen Meditation as movement,
just thought I would share

---------- Post added at 03:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:52 PM ----------

Here is also a discription of the No Mind Conciousness.

Mushin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kanji for the word Mushin. "Sword and Zen are same." quoted from Tsuji Gettan Sukemochi:[1]Mushin (無心; Chinese w?xīn; English translation "no-mindedness") is a mental state into which very highly trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. They also practice this mental state during everyday activities. The term is shortened from mushin no shin (無心の心), a Zen expression meaning mind of no mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything. For the origin of the mushin concept, see Muga-mushin. It is somewhat analogues to flow experienced by artists deeply in a creative process.

Mushin is achieved when a person's mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is their trained natural reaction or what is felt intuitively. It is not a state of relaxed, near-sleepfulness, however. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intentions, plans or direction. In analogy a clear mind is compared to a still pond, which is able to clearly reflect the moon and trees. But just as waves in the pond will distort the picture of reality, so will the thoughts we hold onto disrupt the true perception of reality.

A martial artist would likely have to train for many years to be capable of maintained mushin. This allows time for combinations of movements and exchanges of techniques to be practised repetitively many thousands of times, until they can be performed spontaneously, without conscious thought, thus changing your natural reactions to be more effective in combat or whatever else you may be doing. If he is capable of truly listening to his teacher, however, he could attain this level in only a few years.

Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, that person will no longer even consider themselves as "fighters" but merely living beings moving through space.

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō said:[2]

The mind must always be in the state of 'flowing,' for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy's sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man's subconscious that strikes.

However, mushin is not just a state of mind that can be achieved during combat. Many martial artists, particularly those practising Japanese martial arts such as karate or iaijutsu, train to achieve this state of mind during kata so that a flawless execution of moves is accomplished ? that they may be achieved during combat or at any other time. Once mushin is attained through the practicing or studying of martial arts (although it can be accomplished through other arts or practices that refine the mind and body), the objective is to then attain this same level of complete awareness in other aspects of the practitioner's life.

Mushin is very closely related to another state of mind known as heijoshin,[3], wherein a complete balance and harmony is attained in one's life through mental discipline. Musashi Miyamoto, the great swordsman, alluded to these mental states briefly,[citation needed] and his conversations with Jattaro were often repeated in Japanese folklore as lessons to be learned for the practice of one's life. Mushin and heijoshin are closely related to the teachings of Buddhism, specifically Zen teachings, and indeed the more mental aspects and attributes draw heavily from these philosophies.

After more thought it would seem the a good disipline and knowledge of both types of coniouseness , Mindfulness and No Mind conciousness is most useful for the whole developnent of a person. One cannot live 24 hours in Mindfulness or No Mind but in a balance of the two at different times


Daniel E.
To add to your point:

Participants who had practised meditation regularly for eight weeks showed a more dramatic change in brain activity when asked to move from the narrative to the experiential focus — they shifted away from the midline brain regions to areas that regulate more primitive functions such as touch, pain and temperature sensation.

“This ability to alter brain activity may explain why so many studies show mood improvements with meditation. It turns out taking a break from the middle regions of the brain, which we tend to overuse, might be just what’s needed to help you feel better,” Anderson said.
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