To the Editor:
In the early 1990s, mindfulness, as a secular practice, was introduced into the field of psychotherapy as a method for treating people suffering from chronic pain and borderline personality disorder. Prior to this, no method of treatment effectively provided relief from these debilitating conditions.
At that time, I was working in a government funded agency, serving traumatized clientele from several countries with diverse spiritual practices. Mindfulness proved to be an effective therapeutic tool that was respectful, inclusive and easily integrated into treatment, regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs. There was then no body of research to support its effectiveness. However, evaluations at the end of treatment stated very clearly that this skill had made the largest difference in their lives.
Since then, over 40,000 studies have been conducted, showing this practice to effectively lower stress, improve immune system functioning and concentration, increase creativity, and much, much more. Research by neuroscientists show that with the practice of mindfulness, many brain injuries, previously believed to be irreversible, show increased neuronal densities in the affected areas of the brain, often with a return to, or an almost return to, pre-injury functioning.
Mindfulness, or contemplation practices, are found in spiritual practices throughout the world, as well as in the practice of psychotherapy. It is the practice of slowing down, paying attention with gentle acceptance and making good choices for ourselves and others. As one six-year-old girl answered when asked if she knew what mindfulness was, “That’s when I stop, breathe and don’t punch my brother.” May we all be so wise.