Introduction to the special issue on mindfulness, meditation and the person-centered approach

The Person-centered approach (PCA) is characterized by a fundamental ethical core but has over time been arguably co-opted by neoliberalism. The latter has a penchant for reducing any multifaceted methodology or clinical philosophy attending to the complexity of being human into yet another set of techniques aimed at measuring and computing what can neither be measured or computed.

In a similar way, the practice of Mindfulness as taught by the historical Buddha has been largely decontextualized in order to serve the needs of neoliberalism. The dominant view of Mindfulness is no longer one of several practices embedded in an elaborate and rich context with ethical, religious, mythical, and anthropological connotations, nor is it particularly rooted in how one lives. Instead it has become another set of techniques aimed at de-stressing before going back to the assembly line. In an attempt to create an open and hospitable dialogue, the following articles offered here are a variety of descriptions within the realm of Mindfulness and its therapeutic application and impact.

In his opening article, Terry Hyland offers a shrewd and well-argued critique of the ways in which current mindfulness programs may be bypassing the fundamental Buddhist principle of right livelihood.

Julie Webb offers a description of Person-centered therapy as a kind of artistry similar to that of Zen practice. Her paper discusses the ethics implicit in such a view of the human and reinforces the vitality and importance of the ethic necessarily embedded at the heart of the PCA that aids our becoming human.

Inviting the reader to take part and feeling Passionate about presence, Zoe Shobbrook-Fisher gives a detailed and poetic personal account of her own use of mainstream Mindfulness approaches, of her practice as a person-centered therapist, combined with some invitations to experience directly the benefits of mindful practice.

In his article A certain kind of mindful man David Brazier becomes curious about Carl Rogers as a person and paints a gentle portrait of a man whose way of being in the world feels implicitly attuned to the wisdom of the Dharma.

Joey Weber and Rachel Taylor (Can leopards change their spots?), present an investigation into how mindfulness can make use of natural plasticity within the brain, and present a study of how mindfulness can impact our thoughts and change brain function, that may in turn result in a change of behavior. Weber and Taylor detail how active engagement in a practice such as Mindfulness reminds us that we are free to take action and affect change, even when feeling plighted by an anxious sense of powerlessness in life.

Going refreshingly against the grain of secular interpretations of mindfulness, Asimina Lazaridou and Panagiotis Pentaris (Mindfulness and spirituality) investigate the often forgotten link between mindfulness and spirituality.

In asking the question Is suffering therapeutic? Cristalle Hayes considers how we might come to accept our suffering compassionately, and discusses the similarities and perhaps helpfulness, of ideas from Person-centered conditions necessary for acceptance and change, and a Buddhist understanding of what it is to suffer well. Aside from suffering, often clients arrive in therapy feeling that they are fixed or stuck somehow and experience hopelessness in what may seem like an immovable life position creating overwhelming anxiety.t

Finally, Manu Bazzano weaves old and new tales in order to reiterate the fundamental point that mindfulness is always in context, in this case mindfulness of impermanence, in turn a powerful aid in being more present to our day-to-day interaction with others and with clients in particular.

Mindfulness is no longer one thing, one approach or one understanding. It varies in its description, application and impact, and therefore will sometimes naturally be at variance with what some consider being at its heart: a way to live a life with others. Our hope is that the articles assembled here will inspire you and prompt further discussion.