Mindfulness, Kindfulness: What’s in a Name?


By Melissa O’Shea- Yoga Alliance Australia RYT 500 hour Gold Designation


There is nothing new about mindfulness: 2500 years ago Buddha taught people how to meditate sitting, lying, standing and walking, and then how to bring this focused attention to the rest of life. Mindfulness has become the preferred modern term thanks to the popularity of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MinYoga Cow Posedfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Some people prefer the term mindfulness as they believe it to be connected to clear physical and psychological benefits while distancing itself from the religious and spiritual aspects of meditation. Enlightenment and Nirvana aside, whether we call it mindfulness or meditation, the goal of sitting meditation is to get up and live mindfully.

Mindfulness is simple. It is doing one thing at a time with focused attention. It could be as simple as eating breakfast slowly, tasting every bite. It could be walking the dog, feeling every step beneath your feet, inhaling the scents of nature (be selective with this one). It could be showering, or gardening, or even washing dishes, stopping the car at a stoplight and taking three deep breaths. Mindfulness is the antithesis of multi-tasking: it is not texting while driving, walking while eating, or cleaning the kitchen, supervising homework and clocking up kms on the pedometer while you talk on the phone. Which begs the question, who has time for mindfulness, let alone meditation?

Apparently, about 300 people do on a Friday night in suburban Perth. Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre features a 3 metre tall golden Buddha and a monk in brown robes: Ajahn Brahn. Recently back from retreat and in full humorous form, Ajahn Brahn leads a 30 minute meditation followed by a 45 minute talk. Referring to the recent Time Magazine cover article, ‘The Mindful Revolution’ Brahn says, “If you want to know about mindfulness, you’ve come to the source.”. The audience laugh but then sit at attention as Ajahn Brahn explains what is missing from mindfulness as taught by psychologists and corporate gurus, and the term he would like to replace it with.

Meditation in western culture began as a spiritual practice but popular culture has now unhooked it from religious tradition and embraced as a way to reduce stress, promote health and sharpen the mind. Happiness is often touted as one of the outcomes of mindfulness/meditation. “Living in the moment” and “Be here now” is a prescription for how to live well. But what happens when the moment doesn’t feel particularly liveable? When we’re in pain physically or emotionally, or someone else is? When we have too much to do, our job is boring or underpaid or we work for the boss from hell? This is where compassion, or as Ajahn Brahn suggests, “kindfulness” comes in. Through compassion for our self and others we can infuse any moment with kindness, making the tough times more bearable and the pleasures more exquisite.

There is a story in the Buddhist tradition about a monk who went on retreat in a cave for 7 years. Upon finishing his retreat and heading to town for sustenance the monk tripped over a dog, kicked the dog and swore. Making meditation a separate pursuit is a good way to practice and hone the skill, but without compassion for yourself and those around you it can become just one more thing to do in your busy schedule, one more pressure to feel stressed about. What good is seven years (or ten days, or an hour, or even 20 minutes) of meditation if you yell at your kids or your partner when you emerge?

Practicing compassion can in itself be a form of mindfulness. Be kindful when your child tracks dirt onto the newly vacuumed carpet and gently help him to clean it up. Wait kindfully when you are stuck in traffic, focusing on some music or the blue of the sky. Listen kindfully to your colleague’s account of her latest illness. You could even kindfully take out the rubbish or scrub the toilet or make the coffee (especially when it’s not your turn).

With practice and a little effort, living mindfully and kindly can become a regular part of your day. At first, think of it like tea breaks or bathroom breaks, something you will do every few hours. Over time you will find favorite mindful activities, and you can experiment with more challenging situations (lunch with a prospective client, reading The Cat in the Hat to your child for the 40th time). Mindfulness with kindness is the whole package: it can promote good health, reduce stress, and make you a happier person, all at the same time. Through kindness you might even find yourself improving someone else’s life and, with each small act, potentially changing the world. How’s that for multi-tasking?


Vibrational Healing





In this article we will explore some of the various aspects of healing that correspond to the teaching of the east and the metaphysical ideology of the west. Both these approaches rest on the foundation that all of material creation is ruled by an invisible substance that animates the physical level. This is the Prana of the yogis, the Chi of traditional Chinese medicine and the vital force of the metaphysicians.

In one of his modern-day fables, The Little Prince, the French philosopher Antoine De St. Exupery states that “what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

At the subatomic level of reality, material nature loses all its solid reality to reveal a constant dance of particles and waves that fluctuates in a swirling field of light and Electro-magnetic energy. Most spiritual seers of different traditions, from the druids to African shamans, pranic healers to twenty-first century Reiki practitioners have attested to this other dimension where they can feel, manipulate and work with the light and energy. Today this level is being acknowledged as vibrational medicine.

The quantum theory teaches us to respect the non-material aspect of nature and the dynamic quality of the invisible realm, which has been considered as empty space. According to quantum physicists, this is an invisible matrix of interaction between elements that are so small, we need very powerful microscopes to see. In fact, some of these particles, with fancy new names like quarks, bosons, leptons etc are so small that we cannot even see them.However, they leave a trail of light which is characteristic of their presence. How amazing is such a concept, that at the microcosmic level of reality we appear as fairy dust.

Indeed, research into the properties of natural remedies brings a new dynamic to the forefront of our perception. Many of these modalities deal with this substratum of reality, where matter takes a back seat to the vibrational level, where all the changes in body and mind really happen. Let us take homoeopathy as an example, in which the remedies used are so diluted that the active chemical elements can be considered inoperative, yet this is when the remedy becomes effective. The homoeopathic principle claims that the more the physical component gets reduced, the more the energetic aspect becomes potent. In the past there has been confusion and downright cynicism, but today the evidence of quantum physics helps us understand the dynamic nature of the invisible force field that underlies, interacts and sometimes overrules the material realm.

Healing modalities like homoeopathy are therefore using the vibrational level, which is fast becoming the new frontier of scientific exploration. It is indeed a great leap forward in medicine that science is now able to interpret this concept in a way that our modern, rational intellect can understand. The whole folklore, mythology and mystical teachings of humanity throughout the ages have been about such a non-material level, and light and vibration have been the characteristics described by seers, healers and prophets. These new scientific paradigms will enable us to validate and feel confident in using therapies that were perceived as useless superstitious relics from the past.

It is also this subatomic, quantum level of reality that is the whole basis for the teaching of meditation. The main teaching of esoteric, mystical circles is that the essence of the material world is non-material. Therefore to know the real nature of reality we have to look deeper than the surface appearances. Indeed, most meditation techniques help us distance and detach from the external environment, then, when we start to move inwards, to focus and face our inner being. Those who have taken that inner journey have left mountains of descriptions and explanations, yet such things can only be perceived by oneself.

This is because the whole experience is subjective and personal. The poet Kahlihl Gibran puts it this way:


Paramahansa Satyananda, the leader of the modern yogic renaissance explains, “there is nothing to be understood, everything has to felt and experienced”. Therefore we go back to the motto for this course, “an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory”, which by now is permanently imprinted on your brain tissue and mind circuits – well at least that’s our intention.

Most natural therapies have up to now been rather misunderstood because they often mention the aspect of synergy of their potions and lotions. This is based on the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. For example, we all know that the body is so much more than a mass of flesh, blood, bones and chemicals. This understanding was a very real foundation in the making of remedies, being very much apart from the chemical constituents of the actual herbs, oils, metals or other medicinal agents that were used.

So, apart from these there was also an inherent acknowledging of the inner, mystical or magical properties, imparted by the healer’s own intuitive awareness, which led to the knowledge of achieving the right balance and combination of formulas, blends and concoctions. Many healers and wise men considered their role as a sacred duty; they spent time in quiet contemplation, during which their power to heal and help was enhanced.

Tibetan priests bless the herbal preparations to impart added energetic potency, Pranic healers chant healing mantras on and for the people that ask for their help, Ayurvedic medicines were revealed to sages in states of deep meditation, and metaphysical healers such as Edgar Cayce placed themselves into trance states before giving healing sessions to many patients who attest to his cures.

Underlying this unknown or X-factor in healing is the energy, or Prana, or Chi that is imparted by the healer to the remedy and the person. Of course this would have been dismissed as pure superstition, but in the twenty-first century the research and study in quantum physics have revealed the amazing fact that the observer interacts with the observed at a subliminal, subconscious level.

This has overthrown the whole idea of scientific objectivity and has made us more aware of the powerful invisible forces that form the substratum of reality. As a modern race relying on technology, we accept the existence of electro-magnetic rays, cosmic rays, x-rays, gamma rays, infra and ultra-violet rays, which we cannot perceive with the human eye. Before the age of microscopes and other gadgets that helped us peep into the inner levels of matter and space, only seers gifted with insight and inner wisdom interpreted what our outer senses could not detect, and in the light of modern discoveries their accuracy in some fields of knowledge is quite amazing.

Vibrational medicine today comprises those modalities that are far from purely physical in their effect. It is the premise of such therapies that the person needs to heal on an inner level as well for the benefits to be long lasting. Many of these remedies also act on the psycho-emotional nature. These therapies are based on the fact that the vital energy in the body can be accessed in many different ways, and therefore we can tonify, pacify or balance, according to how the energetic system presents itself. Some of these modalities that act on the subtle vibrational level of the body are:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Kinesiology
  • Homoeopathy
  • Reiki
  • Herbalism
  • N.L.P.
  • Yoga
  • Tai-chi
  • Chi-gung
  • Bach flower remedies
  • Crystal Healing
  • Colour therapy

There are of course many more that we may not have mentioned here. Indeed, our aim is not to get into any details on these subjects. We only want to point out their relevance in the field of healing, especially on an inner and subtle level.

Meditation is one of the most precious tools in vibrational medicine, and is at the forefront of mind/body medicine today because it puts us in touch with our own self-healing mechanisms.

Psycho neuro immunology, or mind/body medicine, tells us that our body produces all the chemicals it needs to balance and heal itself under ideal conditions. The research into transcendental meditation shows that the perfect operating conditions for body and mind are the meditative, contemplative states. The physiological changes that happen during meditation are indicative of optimum health. The body is always performing thousands of chemical reactions, involving complex inter-reaction between hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters to achieve homeostasis (the condition in which the body’s internal environment remains relatively constant, within physiological limits).

Doctor HIROSHI MOTOYAMA, a Shinto priest and healer, explains in his book Karma and Reincarnation that the evolution of man is being limited by spiritual ignorance, and meditation is a way of awakening the deeper layers of consciousness. One very simple method, which is recommended for daily routine to keep the mind calm and clear, the emotions stable and the spirit attuned to higher wisdom, is the practice of observing the breath. When our whole attention is on the breathing process, the constant restless wanderings of the conscious mind or beta level gradually settle down, and this silence and stillness brings the mind inwards.

This type of meditative exercise has been taught in many disciplines. In yogic Pranayama, there is this typical breathing routine:

The practice consists of deep, slow, breaths, inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of eight and exhaling for a count of four. During the breathing process the centre of attention is on the abdomen. Abdominal breathing calms both the body and the mind. It also increases the Prana or vital energy, its circulation within the meridian pathways and its storage. Such energy is needed for the intense state of inner concentration as conscious awareness is turned within. The ancient Taoist teaching also recommends abdominal breathing to its adepts to still the fragmented manifestations of the mind. Some Christian texts, such as the “method of holy prayer and attention”, describe a similar Pranayama concept of focusing attention on the belly and the flowing of breath. Meditators in all times and conditions have found this an invaluable practice to get in touch with the source of peace, joy and equanimity.

Meditation has been used for centuries to find inner clarity and peace of mind. Druids often use it to achieve greater heights of focus and concentration, and to correct inner unbalances. For the best effect, one should meditate regularly in order to get the mind set to a proper level, after long years of practice, the meditative state can be reached without effort.

Mind can recollect past experiences, keeps thinking about the future and experiences the present with all its might and we do not have any control over our minds journey.
‘Dhyan'(meditation) is the study of deep concentration, calmness and tranquility of the mind. It is the study of attaining complete control over ones mind. Meditation takes the consciousness beyond conscious, sub conscious & unconscious states to super consciousness.

So, always keep this simple practice as a regular meditation exercise, whatever else you are exploring with. By itself or as a way to prepare you for more intense and longer practice sessions, abdominal breathing can be an easy way to get into a meditative state of mind.