2017 Annual Edgar & Dorothy Davidson Lecture
The Goals of Mindfulness: Life-cultivation and Mind-body Practices in Asia and the West
The Mindfulness Movement began in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program, a secular adaptation of Buddhist meditation. Their main sources within Buddhism were recently-developed lay meditation techniques from Burma, Thailand, and East Asia, which had been brought to North America a few years earlier by a variety of Western and Asian teachers.
Initially intended as clinical interventions, the new mindfulness practices were rapidly adopted within schools, prisons, business corporations and by the general public. While secular in form, they have provided access to a simplified and systematised form of Buddhist practice to hundreds of thousands of people. In contrast with the earlier popularisation of Transcendental Meditation and a variety of Hindu and Daoist techniques from the 1960s onwards, the mindfulness techniques were taken relatively seriously by Western scientists, and a substantial research program has developed into their effectiveness and utility.
Thirty-five or so years on, the Mindfulness Movement has diversified, with the introduction and popularization of further meditation techniques from Tibetan and SE Asian sources. Meanwhile, developments in Western science, including the growth of neuroscience, have opened up new possibilities for productive encounters with traditional Asian life-cultivation and mind-body practices. This lecture looks at the Mindfulness Movement today, both as an increasingly widespread (and implicitly religious?) social practice in its own right, and as part of a wider transformation of Western and global society.
Dr. Geoffrey Samuel is Emeritus Professor in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University, Director of the Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR) Research Group, and an Honorary Associate of the Department of Indian Sub-Continental Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Reception to follow.