About Mindfulness

The Origin of our System of Spiritual Discipline

 

The focus on understanding mindfulness in recent years has been to see it as a creative way of responding to the difficult conditions that we can sometimes find ourselves in. Mindfulness has for instance been used to target conditions such as chronic pain, everyday stress, depression and anorexia. But mindfulness did not begin in the early 1980s when Jon Kabat-Zinn first began introducing it to people who were suffering from chronic pain at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, as he describes in his book, Full Catastrophe Living. It began two and a half millenia ago with a young man called Siddhartha Gautama who struggled to understand the age-old problem of how to cope with old age, sickness and death.

What Gautama did was to work out a way of approaching his life, based on evaluating what led in his own experience to happiness and what led to suffering, which he called mindfulness. In explaining mindfulness to King Menander of Greece, the Buddhist monk Nagasena likened it to how the King’s treasurer always knows the things that are of value in the realm and those that are worthless. A mindful perspective therefore sees what leads to happiness and what leads to suffering. And by applying mindfulness to his experience, Gautama turned every source of suffering in his life into a source of happiness, and so attained Nirvana – which we can think of as a state in which we are happy under all circumstances. In attaining Nirvana he became the Buddha, the ‘one who is awake.’

Mahabodhi has been researching and writing full-time on the topics of mindfulness, compassion and Buddhist ritual for more than ten years and he is coming up to the point where his book on mindfulness, provisionally entitled Mindfulness: its origin, theory and practice in the Buddhist tradition, may be completed and published later in the year, after which he intends to complete and publish his book on ritual. With these two projects coming to a conclusion he is looking ways to share his perspective more widely, which is why he is offering Continuing Professional Development courses for mindfulness professionals on the origin, theory and practice of mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, under the auspices of Mindfulness Origins.

About Mindfulness Origins

Mindfulness Origins was founded in 2014 by Mahabodhi (Glenn Burton.) It has grown out of Mahabodhi’s curiosity into how best to understand mindfulness in the Buddhist tradition, a project lasting over ten years. Mahabodhi is well known as an original thinker within the Triratna Buddhist context and Mindfulness Origins has grown out of his commitment to bring the knowledge and experience of the Buddhist tradition to bear on the modern world, and to improve the quality of mindfulness and meditation teaching in the secular and Buddhist contexts today.

Mahabodhi has practised mindfulness for over twenty five years and has taught meditation and Buddhism at the Manchester Buddhist Centre for more than fifteen, bringing many innovations to that teaching. He has known and worked closely for a number of years with leading innovators from the mindfulness movement in Manchester. He taught stress management in three London boroughs in the 1990s and is currently engaged in designing staff training in mindfulness for people working with autism across the North West.

Since 2008 he has contributed at mindfulness conferences in the UK and internationally, and his theoretical work has been published in the online journal Psychomed. In 2010 he participated in a colloquium on ‘Buddhism and Science’ at Oxford University. His book, Mindfulness: its origin, theory and practice in the Buddhist tradition is close to publication. He has an honours degree in Physics from Manchester University and lives in Manchester.

What we offer

We offer a range of options to suit your individual training requirements.

One-to-one

Mahabodhi offers individual professional development coaching for mindfulness trainers at £55 per hour. These sessions take place in the comfortable environment of Bodywise, a natural health centre situated within the calm environment of the Manchester Buddhist Centre. Included in these sessions will be coaching on how best to lead a range of mindfulness and compassion-based  meditations, a coaching that will enhance whatever Mindfulness-based approaches that you are teaching. This coaching draws on Mahabodhi’s experience as a senior and innovative meditation teacher at the Manchester Buddhist Centre.

Mindfulness masterclass

Lecture / group presentation

Mahabodhi offers a one hour lecture on mindfulness as a suitable introduction for students and health professionals with no experience of the subject. Included in his presentation will be an outline of how mindfulness-based approaches – the so-called ‘Third Wave’ of behavioural psychotherapy – differ from previous approaches to dealing with suffering. He will demonstrate the way that they grow out of the Buddhist theory of mind. The session will include an experience of guided meditation with time for questions at the end.

Price on application.

Mindfulness taster class

Mahabodhi also offers a one hour introductory taster class in mindfulness as a suitable introduction for students and health professionals with no experience of the subject.

Cost: £7 per person. Minimum ten people.

Continuing Professional Development day

Option 1

‘The Roots of Mindfulness’

This day presents the history of how mindfulness came about in the Buddhist tradition, as Mahabodhi explores in his forthcoming book Mindfulness: its origin, theory and practice in the Buddhist tradition. We will find out how the historical Buddha discovered mindfulness for the very first time; how Buddhism later developed the idea; and how to understand the secular mindfulness that we see today. The day will be interspersed with relaxation sessions, opportunities to discuss and share experience, and guided meditations.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

Option 2

‘Teaching mindfulness’

This day draws on Mahabodhi’s practical experience of teaching mindfulness over a number of years. It is aimed at those who wish to teach meditation to groups. It includes guidance on how to set up a class; what to say about the body and meditation posture; and how to use guided imagery. The day will be interspersed with relaxation sessions, opportunities to discuss and share experience, and guided meditations.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

Option 3

‘Teaching compassion’

This day is similar to option 2 but it focuses on teaching compassion.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

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Events

Continuing Professional Development day

Option 1

‘The Roots of Mindfulness’

This day presents the history of how mindfulness came about in the Buddhist tradition, as Mahabodhi explores in his forthcoming book Mindfulness: its origin, theory and practice in the Buddhist tradition. We will find out how the historical Buddha discovered mindfulness for the very first time; how Buddhism later developed the idea; and how to understand the secular mindfulness that we see today. The day will be interspersed with relaxation sessions, opportunities to discuss and share experience, and guided meditations.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

Option 2

‘Teaching mindfulness’

This day draws on Mahabodhi’s practical experience of teaching mindfulness over a number of years. It is aimed at those who wish to teach meditation to groups. It includes guidance on how to set up a class; what to say about the body and meditation posture; and how to use guided imagery. The day will be interspersed with relaxation sessions, opportunities to discuss and share experience, and guided meditations.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

Option 3

‘Teaching compassion’

This day is similar to option 2 but it focuses on teaching compassion.

£160 – £120 concessionary rate if in full-time education.

 

Proposed date: June /July 2014.

Venues  in London, Manchester and Bristol to be confirmed.

Follow us Twitter icon @MindfulOrigins

Meditation teacher training

Mahabodhi’s model is simple, rational yet authentically Buddhist. It explains how mindfulness and compassion are envisioned within the Buddhist conception of mind. He has tested his material on mindfulness on introductory meditation courses at the Manchester Buddhist Centre – which he co-leads, and his material has provided the theoretical basis for those courses over the last two years.

As Mahabodhi’s material has developed it has become very simple. He argues that the bottom line for all living beings is that they all want happiness. But to bring happiness into the world we need two things: we first need to want it for ourselves and others, which comes in the form of the metta bhavana meditation: the cultivation of loving kindness. Secondly, we need to know how to bring it about, which comes in the form of mindfulness. While the common definition used, that mindfulness is: “being aware on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” gives a sense of how we practice mindfulness, what the Buddha adds to that is he says exactly what we should bring mindfulness to: namely the four foundations of mindfulness, which are body, feelings, mind and views. The four foundations of mindfulness can be seen in the following diagram: we can think of them as like Russians dolls nesting one inside the other, and within the overall context of time and space:

 

Fig 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These four areas are what makes up a human being, so if we can bring mindfulness to them and turn them from being sources of suffering to being sources of happiness, we can attain Nirvana. This is why the four foundations of mindfulness are called the direct path to Nirvana.

We can think of meditation as the process of withdrawing from our normal activities, usually to a quiet place where we will not be disturbed, in order to become aware of our situation. That situation includes becoming aware of what our experience is, as well as becoming aware of how we are responding to that experience, as each of these has a bearing on whether we are bringing happiness into the world.

Time and space, body and feelings constitute our experience; and mind and views constitute our response to our experience. So for instance if we bring awareness to our body to see if it is a source of happiness or suffering, if it is relaxed it is a source of happiness and if it is tense it is a source of suffering. So by stopping and bringing mindfulness to the state of our body and seeing where it is tense and then relaxing that tension, we turn the body from being a source of suffering to being a source of happiness.

Likewise with feelings. If we bring mindfulness to our feelings we can tell what our feelings are, including whether we are happy or not; and we can also try to be aware about whether acting on certain feelings is a good idea or not. If we chase sensual pleasures we end up in the mire of addiction, and the suffering that brings; but to bring happiness we may also need to work on our sensibility. Can we feel what others are feeling and therefore are able to empathize with them? These are some of the issues in terms of mindfulness of feelings and future happiness. With our mind we can ask ourselves if the way we are responding to events in terms of how we attend to them, whether we think about them and the emotions that we have in relation to them – yes, Buddhism puts emotion in a different category to feeling, seeing it as an aspect of ‘mind’ – are productive of happiness or suffering. And likewise with our views.

These four areas not only are sources of happiness or suffering in themselves, they also indirectly support happiness or suffering in each other, under the Buddhist Law of the Conditionality.

 

Fig 1

 

To clarify feelings and emotions: feelings are aspects of experience which exist in the moment and which we cannot change. They are the experience of pleasure, pain or neutrality. Emotions though are responses to experience and are seen as aspects of the mind as conceived in Buddhism. When we experience a pain, that is a feeling; but when we try and get away from that pain that response is the emotion of aversion. Emotion then is something we always have a choice over:  we might choose for instance to not run away from the pain but to hold it instead within awareness, but feeling is just presented to us in the moment and as such we do not have a choice in the matter. Body too is an aspect of our experience in any moment. In that moment it represents the form our experience takes.

 

Fig 4

 

A way that the body influences the mind and emotions to be a better condition for happiness is called meditation posture in Buddhism. When we are able to allow our body to support our mind through adopting a stable yet comfortable position, then that ‘posture’ has a positive effect on the mind’s ability to be aware, and awareness is a source of happiness.  Also, our views can influence our mind and emotions to be a better condition for happiness. If we can change our view of a person from seeing them as an object in our way to seeing them as a human being full of hopes and aspirations then our emotional response towards them will change from indifference or hostility to a more caring response. This is the basis for the metta bhavana meditation: the cultivation of loving kindness.

In using the four foundations of mindfulness as his basis Mahabodhi makes this way of teaching mindfulness overtly Buddhist, but because the model is such a rational model it is also easily acceptable to non-Buddhists. Non-Buddhists attending the introductory meditation course at the Manchester Buddhist Centre accept the material quite readily.

If you are coming from a background in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) you may have a question about the above model, saying that ‘body’ is something we can control and that it has an important effect on our mood (feeling.) This is true. In this model though we are looking at a snapshot of experience. In any moment the body will be in a particular state, say of vitality or lethargy and it is this state that has an effect on our mood. The area of agency that can change that bodily state is the mind. What we choose to do with our mind will always manifest in our body and exercise may be one choice we make.

If you are coming from a background in Mindfulness-based Approaches (MBAs) this model can easily explain familiar concepts such as acceptance and cognitive defusion.

Mahabodhi

Mahabodhi introducing Mindfulness Origins theory at the Manchester Buddhist Centre, focusing on the cultivation of loving kindness – 18 minutes

 

One-to-one tuition

‘Mindfulness Origins’ traces the origins of mindfulness and compassion in the Buddhist tradition under the brand name: Mindfulness-based Buddhist Origins (MBBO.)

Mindfulness Origins is an organisation offering training in the origin, theory and practice of mindfulness and compassion in the Buddhist tradition, based upon some very recent research undertaken by Mahabodhi, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order and author of the book Mindfulness: its origin, theory and practice in the Buddhist tradition, currently in the process of production. While there has been a very strong wellspring of interest in learning mindfulness and in delivering widespread training to organisations, there is a question at the highest level within the mindfulness profession as to whether sufficient experience exists to train the trainers effectively. Mindfulness Origins helps meet this need in the UK.

Mindfulness first entered the mainstream of Western medicine when Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced patients suffering from chronic pain to practices he had learned from Zen Buddhism. He looked at what mindfulness seemed to be in his experience and came up with a definition that has defined the field ever since, that mindfulness is: ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.’ Other innovators later added further qualities that they thought were aspects of mindfulness in their own experience to their own definitions, including qualities such as acceptance. For a number of years there has been a cry for a single all-embracing definition and theory of mindfulness, but despite the many hours of thought that has been put into this question around the globe no single definition or theory has been forthcoming.

Western scholars of mindfulness therefore turned back to the source and asked the Buddhist scholars what they thought. Their reply was twofold. They said that the central teaching in Buddhism is that life inevitably contains suffering – the first ‘truth’ in the Buddhist formula called the four Noble Truths, but that that suffering could be overcome through practices which included mindfulness. This statement resonated with health professionals busy applying mindfulness to various states of suffering. Secondly, the Buddhists pointed out that the place to look for where the Buddha taught mindfulness was a scripture called the Satipatthana Sutta. In that scripture he exhorts the practitioner of mindfulness to pay attention to four domains, called the four foundations of mindfulness. But even the Buddhists could not come up with the elusive definition of mindfulness. Apparently the schools of Buddhism said different things.

Mahabodhi has been working on a solution to this problem over the last ten years. Early on, seeing an inadequacy in the Buddhist commentaries on mindfulness, he has been painstakingly examining the Satipatthana Sutta and related texts on mindfulness to get at their deeper meaning. In the process of doing this he has, uniquely, brought the central practices of Buddhism: namely loving kindness and mindfulness, into relationship with its central doctrine: the Buddhist Law of Conditionality.

Mahabodhi is now able to present a solid explanation of how mindfulness is to be understood and practiced, and this forms the basis for the training offered by Mindfulness Origins.

Supervision

For a taste of what you will experience on a Mindfulness Origins course or taster session why not listen to a guided meditation. These were recorded on a meditation course Mahabodhi co-led earlier in the year at the Manchester Buddhist Centre.

 

Sample Guided Meditations

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, sit in a comfortable chair or on some firm cushions. Why not get some headphones and listen or your smartphone!

 

A body scan – 21 minutes

 

The Mindfulness of breathing meditation – 15 minutes

 

The cultivation of loving kindness (metta bhavana,)

stages 1,2 and 5 – 26 minutes

 

 

Your teacher

Mahabodhi teaches meditation at the Manchester Buddhist Centre.

He has been innovating a meditation course, based on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness over the last few years.

 

You will learn how to lead meditations, instruct people in the principles of meditation posture, and …

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