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Is Mindfulness Uniquely Buddhist?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

questionWhile the approach of cultivating mindfulness in relation to our experience is enjoying a lot of excitement and interest in western culture, the experience of being more present to our lives is something that has been introduced in every spiritual teaching that you can think of. In August 2011, a book called Here I Am was written by a psychologist in Los Angeles, Leonard Felder, PhD.

The title implies being present to one’s life, but not from the Buddhist lineage which is most of what is taught in health and medicine today.

Dr. Felder brings Jewish teachings to help us drop into greater states of presence; transform our relationship to difficulties and open up to the wonders of life.

For example, the book’s title is a practice all by itself. When the mind is off running its usual stories about how “Nothings ever going to change ”or“ No one can help me,” or just planning and worrying about the future, he suggests bringing the phrase “Here I am” into our lives to drop us back into the present moment.

“Here I am” is a classic Jewish phrase.

However, I can look to the other wisdom traditions of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, among others and find similar phrases or practices that are about invoking presence.

If you feel connected to a certain form of spirituality or religion, you likely don’t need to look much further than your own faith to find practices in presence.

However, with that said, mindfulness in the form of breathing practices, body scans, or wider awareness practices are extremely simple to convey and practical to our everyday lives. That doesn’t mean they’re easy, it’s harder than we think to remain present. Our brains have a very strong inclination to wander.

Whatever you faith or path, what’s more important than learning how to be more present and intimate with our lives? As we start to practice we recognize a sense of being able to trust ourselves, our intuition, and our ability to remain balanced even during the storms of life.

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