The Indian Roots of Mediation & Mindfulness


Mindfulness is a term that is used quite often in the world of therapy and has recently found it’s way onto clothing labels, pop culture icons’ instagram feeds and even the twitterverse, #mindfulness. Many of us may have even used the term without being very mindful about what it truly means.

According to the American Psychological Association (, 2012) mindfulness is: “…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait.”

Jon Kabat Zinn, the “master of mindfulness” defines the state as “The awareness that rises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

And the good ole’ dictionary defines mindfulness as “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”

Awareness. Conscious. Without Judgment.

Now to achieve this level of awareness there are many “mindfulness techniques” that the western cultures are just beginning to employ. However for people from the East these techniques have been utilized for centuries. Whether it be zhikr, yoga or meditation, the repetitive breathing, the connection with oneself and the universe, energy or god all leading to the same level of awareness of self that is now defined as- mindfulness.

Is mindfulness another form of appropriation like Bikram Yoga or Butter Chicken?

Jon Kabat Zinn has revealed that his MBSR program is based on a type of Buddhist meditation called Vipassana and he is not alone in his recognition of the origins of mindfulness. One would assume that since mindfulness has been apart of the Indian subcontinent for centuries it would be easier or more familiar a state for us to achieve.

Being mindful is a state of mind that is not only useful to reduce stress and anxiety and depression but can also help to focus attention, observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment and regulate emotions.

Being mindful is a huge asset in any mediation, especially a divorce mediation. It reminds us the notion that one needs to truly know oneself before they can begin to know another. In that same logic, one must be aware of one’s own true interests, consciously and without judgment before one can really become aware of another’s interest, consciously and without judgment. This understanding or connection with another’s interest is an important route to achieve empathy that moves opposing forces away from their rooted positions and towards an agreement.

So does this mean that if mindfulness is an old friend to the Indian subcontinent then mediation is as well?

Interestingly enough, the process of mediation has been prevalent in the South Asian societies for thousands of years. In traditional village structures feuds between neighbors or disagreements amongst family members were often settled with the help of an intermediary. It is quite customary still to turn to elders in one’s family to help with dispute resolution.
Therefore the idea of mediation- the mutual journey towards a resolution to avoid further escalation of the conflict is something that has been apart of our DNA for generations. However we may not even recognize it as a viable tool because it probably hasn’t worked for us many times. And when I say this I mean specifically turning to an elder in the family to help with the ending of a marriage. What an elder can provide is love, support and tremendous wisdom and guidance. What they cannot provide and what is crucial to a successful mediation is- neutrality.

Most South Asians may not even realize how familiar and comfortable the basic tenets of mindfulness and mediation may be for us since their origins are rooted in our history.

Call Talaiya Safdar, Esq. of Safdar Law & Mediation Group, P.C. now for a free initial consultation to see how mediation can make your divorce as painless as possible.

(212) 324 – 3745

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