Item ID : 1641

Batchelor, M. (2011). Meditation and mindfulness, Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 157-164.

Item ID : 1641

Batchelor describes her rigorous 10 year practice of Korean Zen meditation. The practice was based on 10-12 hours a day of questioning “what is this?” silently inside herself. This was not intended as a means for finding an answer, but rather for developing a “sensation of questioning”. She has then practiced in the vipassana tradition, and conducted research that sought to explore the mutuality of these different traditions. Eventually her conclusion was that “for any authentic Buddhist practice, you need to cultivate concentration and experiential enquiry together, while recognizing that they can be cultivated in various ways according to the different traditions” (p. 158). In the Korean Zen tradition concentration is based on coming back to the question “what is this?”. Experiential enquiry (vipassana) “is developed by posing the question with your whole body and mind, which, over time, develops a deep sensation of questioning. You do not just repeat the question like a mantra, but you use it as a means to intensify your enquiry” (ibid.). Batchelor’s experience is that this intentful questioning brought forth the central Buddhist teachings of impermanence, suffering and conditionality, which yielded “active and wise mindfulness”.

Bachelor then explore the cultivation of the four great efforts which she analyzes based on the Digha Nikaya, 22, as follows:

1. To cultivate conditions so that negative states that have not arisen do not arise.

2. To let go of negative states once they have arisen.

3. To cultivate the conditions that enable positive states to arise.

4. To sustain positive states once they have arisen. (pp. 158-159)

She found that this was the structure of Teasdale, Williams and Segal’s (2001) 8-week course establishing Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. The focus of this course laid “particular emphasis on awareness of the body as a means to take the focus and energy away from negative mental ruminations, which, when combined with low moods, could trigger depressive states. People were encouraged to explore, accept and let go of their negative feelings and thoughts, and recognize and build on good feelings, such as their capacity for joy and the ability they have to accomplish something of value and meaning” (p. 159). Batchelor describes the eight week course as it follows the four great efforts.

She then explores the Vitakkasanthana sutta or Discourse on the forms of thoughts of the middle length discourses in the Pali cannon. This is a good place to explore the Buddha’s instructions on how to counteract harmful thoughts. The Buddha offers five different strategies the Bachelor analyzes. They are all based on acknowledging a negative thought followed by: thinking a positive thought instead, distracting oneself from the negative thought, conquering the negative thought by shear will, contemplating the negative effects of the thought, and analyzing what has brought one to think this thought. All these strategies are very much in tune with cognitive therapy.

The following is Bathcelor’s conclusion: “Samatha (concentration) stabilizes our attention, while vipassana (experiential inquiry) helps us to see things more clearly. The cultivation of the two together enables us to develop a mindfulness that is characterized by calmness and clarity. As we continue with the meditation, it grants the mindfulness two powerful aspects: acceptance and transformation. For we can only accept something that we can see clearly without rejection or desire. And when we can see both inner states of mind and outer situations with clarity and acceptance, then we may find the strength and capacity to transform them. Whether one is

practising Buddhist meditation, mindfulness based stress reduction, or mindfulness

based cognitive therapy for depression, it seems that it is such a process

that serves as the foundation for effective change.” (pp. 163-164).

Teasdale, J., Williams, M., and SEGAL, Z. (2001). Mindfulness-based cognitive

therapy  for depression: A new approach. New York: The Guilford Press.

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