Psychology from the Margins


Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have entered mainstream psychology practice and research over the last few decades. However, academic literature on MBIs reveals a focus on the European-American populations, and customization of mindfulness to the needs and values of mainstream western mental health. There has been an exclusion of the spiritual and cultural roots of mindfulness; mindfulness has been secularized in ways that undermine indigenous forms of mindfulness that originate from Asian countries such as India and China. While MBIs have been working well for their targeted audience, there need to be avenues for Asian and Asian American communities that follow Buddhist (of which Zen is a form) and/or Hindu principles to benefit from the mindfulness practice as they were originally intended. This paper will highlight the discrepancies between mindfulness-based practices described in Buddhist teachings, and Westernized mindfulness practices. We also review how westernized mindfulness has been recruited to advance colonial-capitalist values, to the exclusion of the liberatory potential of mindfulness as articulated in its spiritual foundations. In response, we propose a movement we call Integrative Mindfulness (IM) to call upon the field of mental health to address the tension between cultural humility and cultural appropriation. The authors define IM as, “the recognition and implementation of spiritual and cultural wisdom, including (but not limited to) Buddhist and Hindu principles in the Euro-American context to promote culturally humble contemplative practices with the central intention to understand and transcend suffering”. Even as mindfulness may be adapted to address contemporary issues, it is essential that mindfulness practice be inclusive of its roots and overarching liberatory goals so that mindfulness does not become an instrument to advance colonial-capitalist ideologies.



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