Art by Android Jones
Pure existence, raw feelings and a brimming clarity in a spiritual plane remote from the decaying rationality of conventional mass beliefs. These are the primary traits that bridle the practice of mindfulness.
This practice springs from a Buddhist tradition known as Vipssana or commonly translated as “insight meditation”, which is told to be learned from Buddha himself, 2500 years ago. It slowly but certainly spread towards the western culture where it was promoted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, encouraging the assimilation of mindfulness as an efficient method to fight stress and to improve the overall state of well-being for anyone willing and wise enough to practice it.
Being the first promoter of this new lifestyle, Job Kabat-Zinn decided in 1979 to put the bases of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the University of Massachusetts.
Mindfulness meditation raised many people’s interest due to the thousands of published scientific studies that approved it to be used as a treatment approach, besides the benefits upon individual well-being.
Mindfulness meditation is a proven success, treating a great variety of clinical disorders like: anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and even chronic pain. In healthy individuals, mindfulness grants a visible enhancement on psychological well-being and congnitive functioning.
On the same level of advanced therapy, we observe the potential of ayahuasca which is gaining a notable prestige among the biomedical researchers and the public for its efficiency in treatingsubstance abuse and treatment-resistant depression, apart from its value as an excellent tool for spiritual expansion, healing and shaping a better self.
Although ayahuasca is growing popularity, there are still more to be explored and learned from, as we are far from unraveling entirely the psychological mechanisms that underpin the beneficial effects of ayahuasca. When that will happen, we will have a better understanding of the practice of mindfulness.
After publishing a study about the long term use of ayahuasca, Jordi Riba lead a study at the Autonomous University of Barcelona that revealed several shared commonalities with mindfulness practice in the context of contemporary Western psychology.
Twenty-five volunteers were recruited for this study, made-up of 14 women and 11 men, all of whom had previous experience with ayahuasca, having taking it on average 80 times, except for two of them, who were about to experience ayahuasca for the first time in this study. Participants were only included in this study with the imperative condition of them not having any psychiatric, alcohol or substance abuse disorders and no signs of a current significant medical illness. All volunteers withheld from ayahuasca for 15 days prior to the study and did not use alcohol, medications or any other drug for 24 hours before and after the ayahuasca session.
To determine the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca on the level of mindfulness and decentering, the 25 participants were given two questionnaires to complete 24 hours before and 24 hours after consuming ayahuasca.
The inquiry included assertions like, “When I take a shower or bath, I stay alert to the sensation of water on my body” or, “I can separate myself from my thoughts and feelings.” The scientists analyzed all feedback given by the participants 24 hours before and 24 hours after ayahuasca intake and found significant increases in two facets of the mindfulness questionnaire considered to measure acceptance, “non-Judge” and “non-React.”
The authors of the study noted the following: “although mindfulness is a complex construct that is difficult to define, being mindful implies a certain particular awareness that is, present-centered, non-reactive, characterized by openness, acceptance, and by a non-judgmental stance towards the experience. The fact that a single ayahuasca dose increases mindfulness capacities in experienced users who were already more mindful than the general population […], underscores the power of ayahuasca to enhance these abilities even when the baseline level is high.”
However positive the results, further studies are required to validate these late discoveries and resolve the limitations in the present study.