A response to ‘The Mindfulness Conspiracy’ from Roberta Pughe Clinical Director at The Center for Relationship, LLC.
I have been teaching mindfulness and contemplative practice since 1996 integrating techniques from psychology, theology, shamanism and mindfulness. Let me begin by stating first that mindfulness is designed to create awareness that actually mobilizes activism and offers a basis for “talking back” to socio/cultural norms that are not serving the evolutionary advancement of a just society. My education is rooted in both Theology and Psychology and interestingly enough, all cultures, cross culturally, have a mindfulness and contemplative practice fundamentally rooted in their understanding of the world.
Mindfulness is absolutely not rooted in Buddhism alone. That belief is a western misnomer. Most cultures agree that mindfulness and contemplative practice support the emergence of the Soul and thereby elevates and inspires humans to embody “soulful characteristics” which are ironically both generically and cross-culturally similar. According to Sri Aurobindo & The Mother’s teachings these characteristics are specifically named as: Sincerity. Humility. Gratitude. Perseverance. Aspiration. Receptivity. Progress. Courage. Goodness. Generosity. Equality. Peace.
An individual mindful/contemplative practice supports the emergence of these characteristics within the individual which according to psychology’s Systems Theory has the potential to foster and nurture the actualization of these characteristics within the local community and the larger world – one person at a time. This is not magical thinking. This is, in fact, how psychology’s Systems Theory and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (and its subset, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) describe a cognitive shift of paradigm which effects constructive behavioral change. American Psychiatrist Murray Bowen and others, within the field of Marriage and Family Therapy’s contribution to Psychology, focused on the interdependence of individuals within the larger system to help understand, actualize and optimize the larger group as a whole. This model suggests that improving relationships and working more efficiently toward a common goal, such as peace, harmony, morality, health, etc., are possible results. The Huichol Shamans teach their practice through the “3 legged drum” to remind us that we do this work for ourselves, for the community (both local and global) and for Mother Earth, hence the three legs.
This conceptualization is rooted foundationally in the philosophical notion of Soul Loss, this is not something as the author states that “is in our heads”. For most humans, soul loss is a real experience. Individualization and neo-liberalization of personhood is a symptom of soul loss which mindful/contemplative practice seeks to talk back to, thereby, fostering soul retrieval which includes above stated characteristics that can help to foster a soulful society. The retrieval of soul characteristics and the cultivation of an open heart (my training/teaching comes through the traditions of Thomas Merton/Christian Mysticism, Sri Aurobindo & The Mother, Kundalini Yogic Philosophy, the Sufis, the Huichol Shamans & Celtic Shamanism) can actually interrupt destructive cognition/affect/behaviors rooted in thinking “only about the self as the priority”. The phenomenology of subjective experience is essential in this case, supporting a daily devotional practice, having the potential to alter perception as to the meaning and understanding of this practice of mindfulness — from the inside-out.
Humbly and respectfully submitted,
Roberta Pughe (PhD student in Higher Education), EdS, MA, LMFT
Founder: The School of Embodied Enlightenment
Clinical Director: The Center for Relationship, LLC, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
One thought on “Nurturing change through mindfulness ‘one person at a time’”
Yes, I believe that mindfulness ultimately promotes right-action, too. It’s my own experience that detaching from our conditioning and ego (which is what mindful awareness works towards) gives us the potential to act naturally from our ‘true’ selves rather than ‘react’ via our egoic selves. Buddhism and other ‘woke’ philosophies keep explaining that we don’t need to ‘try to be better’. That’s just the ego speaking, and is counterproductive. A tiny example from my own experience: whenever angry I had been saying ‘I’m nothing – I want nothing, know nothing, I am nothing’ to myself, to burst my own ego, and feel the release. Often, for example, I’d see litter in the verge, feel angry, and would look at it and disgust and pass on (brewing about it for some minutes!) But one day, I recognized my judgmental ego, told myself ‘I’m nothing’, felt an immediate relaxation and spontaneously picked it up (because why not? What did it matter that I wasn’t the ‘culprit’?) and carried it to the bin, which I often do nowadays. It’s a tiny altruism, I know. But it’s the neurological process that’s relevant. On acknowledging a negative thought and feeling, embracing it and embodying it and thereby allowing a release, I can often immediately see the situation that’s causing the anger in a new light, and suddenly think of a more practical and better way of doing things – accompanied by empathy. This is nothing to do with ‘trying to be nicer’ or ‘doing the right thing’. There’s no ego (or even conscious analysis) involved. Interestingly, I have some lovely long-term Zen practitioner friends who also fear that the mindfulness movement doesn’t do enough to promote compassion and ethics – I think they feel that without these teachings that mindfulness will end up ‘in the wrong hands’ or will make things even worse. I think they needn’t worry. It’s not being mindful that causes all the problems (as Ellen Langer would say). Using mindfulness so that things ‘don’t get on top of us’ doesn’t lead to apathy. Quite the opposite is true.