The basic practice of mindfulness – sustained observation of the senses, emotions, and thoughts without judgement – has its roots in Buddhist teachings and has also become deeply integrated into many branches of Western psychotherapy. Though the tool is the same, the end goals of Buddhism and psychotherapy are often quite different.
Buddhist scholar C.W. Huntington wrote a piece in Tricycle magazine that clarifies some of the differences between the aims of Buddhist practice and the aims of many forms of Western psychotherapy that I found to be quite helpful.
Here’s the paragraph that sums it up:
Let’s be clear: mindfulness meditation has proven to be an effective component in psychotherapeutic programs aimed at achieving the secular or (to use the Buddhist term) conventional goal of mental health. This in itself is an accomplishment of indisputable value. But mindfulness meditation in its “ultimate” application—as a Buddhist practice aimed toward realization of nibbana—is not concerned with shaping a functional ego. It is, rather, a way to disidentify with both health and illness, happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. To disidentify, that is, with the unavoidably painful nature of even the most refined varieties of self-centered experience.
Enjoy the reading!