Bringing 'Mindfulness' Back to Its Roots
A clearer understanding of life coupled with the power of mindfulness has again shown to be an effective means to help people deal with stress and suffering.
Google the word "mindfulness" and tens of millions of entries pop up, as everyone from corporate executives to elite athletes to school teachers and their students are seeking to benefit from its stress-reducing, focus-enhancing benefits.
But amidst many of the mindfulness websites, apps and programmes, something has been missing, said Ven. Sik Hin Hung, Director of the Centre of Buddhist Studies – a well-structured theoretic foundation. His centre has developed a programme, initially aimed at secondary school students, to bring this element back into mindfulness practices. It has also shown in a quasi-experimental trial that a well-structured programme using the Buddhist pedagogy of Three Kinds of Knowing can improve students’ ability to handle stress.
"The practice of mindfulness has somehow moved out of the context of Buddhist teachings, so I thought, why not put together an intervention that incorporates the whole package of Buddhist teachings to help people cope with stress," he said.
The "Orientation to Life" Enhancement Project provides students with knowledge about Buddhism and how to develop their ability to comprehend the world. "You can teach them more than just mindful breathing," he said. "If you're looking to make a significant difference in helping them, you must also help them understand the world and find meaning in life. Only with all of that can mindfulness practice become more effective."
The project was tested on 614 students who were divided into three groups – one group received both Buddhist teachings and experiential workshops including mindfulness practice, one received only Buddhist teachings, and one received neither. Before and after questionnaires showed students in the first group developed a greater "sense of coherence", indicating that their sense of comprehensibility, sense of manageability and sense of meaningfulness of life were enhanced.
The outcome of that project led to the development and distribution of a curriculum and textbooks to 13 Buddhist high schools and 8 elementary schools, as well as new meditation programmes for high schools which will soon be launched.
The Centre has also developed a meditation training programme for adults, the Awareness Training Programme. Similar to the "Orientation to Life" Enhancement Project, this programme helps illustrate that the full benefits of mindfulness are best realised with an approach that goes beyond treating it as essentially a physical activity. A clearer understanding of life coupled with the power of mindfulness has again shown to be an effective means to help people deal with stress and suffering.