Spirituality and Mindfulness in Mental Health

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“To the Dalai Lama, suffering and adversity are the necessary conditions for developing patience and tolerance. These qualities are vital if we want to reduce negative emotions like hatred or anger. When things go well, we have less need to be patient and forgiving. It’s only when we come across problems, when we suffer, that we truly learn these virtues. Once we internalise them, compassion flows naturally.”

― Victor Chan, The Wisdom of Forgiveness

Buddhism is an eastern perspective and the inception of this faith started with Shakyamuni or Siddhartha, the Buddha who received enlightenment. The premise of Buddhist existential thought is Dukkha which means suffering. Buddhism is a vast subject but there are a few tenets which sum up most of its extensive teachings.

Being existential in nature, the different techniques that have evolved through Buddhism are psychological aspects such as Concentration Training and more recently Mindfulness. Another very well-known practice under Buddhism is Insight training which is also better known as Prajna. This insight training is provided and facilitated through Vipassana Meditation. During the Buddha’s time, large numbers of people in northern India were freed from the bonds of suffering by practising Vipassana, allowing them to attain high levels of achievement in all spheres of life. The practice of concentration training is deemed to be an effective treatment for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These techniques of Buddhism also help in stress reduction and situation awareness.

My Journey with Mindfulness

One can read about mindfulness but unless we practice it, we will be devoid of the experience it entails.

I experienced mindfulness while eating a raisin. I noticed that the raisin was shrivelled. I was reminded of the fact that it could exist in another form too ie. as a fresh grape. However, the texture of it intrigued me as I had never before taken the time to feel the texture of the raisin. It felt smooth and coarse. It smelled good though vintage would be the right word. Different thoughts started coming into my mind about the raisin, but I tried to ignore these thoughts and concentrate on the raisin. The raisin lacked moisture when I felt it with my fingers. I held it in the palm of my hand but didn’t experience much sensory feeling. After I put it in my mouth, I kept chewing it till the raisin was drained and when I bit into it, it gave me a sweet taste. I had never experienced anything like this before. The exercise really helped me as it instilled in me a self-awareness through which I was able to enjoy eating the raisin.

As I continued to practice mindfulness, I noticed that a lot of my fears, anxieties, and negative thoughts faded away into the background. A lot of what mindfulness teaches us has to do with noticing things in the moment rather than pushing them away, ignoring them, or flat out resisting them. So instead of hiding from the fear and anxiety, I decided to notice it and notice where it was coming from. Instead of ignoring the sad or negative thoughts, I decided once again to notice them as they floated through my brain. For whatever reason, it worked, and helped me regain my footing and embrace a more mindful, positive attitude.

Would you want to try mindfulness too?

References:

Aich, T. K. (2015). Existential Psychology & Buddha Philosophy: Its Relevance in Nurturing a Healthy Mind. Journal of Psychiatrists’ Association of Nepal Psychiatric Association Nepal, 3(3).

Chatterjee S, Datta D. The Buddha philosophy. In: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 8th ed. Calcutta: Calcutta University Press; 1980.

Prarthana Pai is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

Featured image: Patrick Fore

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