Ancient and New Approach To Getting Rid of Stress, Making Better Decisions and Improving Your Health and Happiness Ancient and New Approach To Getting Rid of Stress, Making Better Decisions and Improving Your Health and Happiness
Mindfulness has been around a long time, probably for as long as there have been people. Ironically, despite its current resurgence, modern mindfulness practices... Ancient and New Approach To Getting Rid of Stress, Making Better Decisions and Improving Your Health and Happiness

Mindfulness has been around a long time, probably for as long as there have been people. Ironically, despite its current resurgence, modern mindfulness practices are probably not yet as popularly well accepted as they were in the ancient cultures where they originated thousands of years ago.

In ancient Indian, Chinese and other cultures, mindfulness was probably seen as a natural part of people’s lives that didn’t need to be justified.

It’s not known exactly when mindfulness as a formal practice emerged, but there are records of meditation being practised in China over 7000 years ago. Although mindfulness is often associated with Buddhist meditation practices such as Vipassana — to see things as they really are — it’s an integral aspect of many formal and informal practices that are vital parts of many Eastern and also Western life knowledge traditions.

Eastern mindfulness traditions include Chinese and Indian philosophies/religions such as Taoism, Vedanta and Buddhism.Western mindfulness-related traditions include ancient Greek philosophy, as described by Pythagoras, Plato and others; and also the contemplative traditions of Christianity, Judaism and Sufism (the mystical aspect of Islam).

The sleeping giant of mindfulness practice (and preaching!) has recently awoken in many Western countries after a slumbering consciousness dark age, or at least a dim age. To quote from Mindfulness for Life by Doctors McKenzie and Hassed, ‘This is an overnight lifestyle and clinical sensation that is thousands of years old.’

meditation in a field

photo credit: 118/365 – meditate via photopin (license)

The benefits of mindfulness

William James is regarded as the world’s first scientific psychologist and he was well ahead of this modern time (and well behind an ancient time!) when he said in 1890 that:

The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. No one is compos sui [mentally competent] if he have it not. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence. But it is easier to define this ideal than to give practical directions for bringing it about.

Mindfulness can bring home the prodigal son of our wandering attention and give us back our missing-in-action mental competence. Mindfulness can also restore our life essence — something that all too many of us these days can think we’ve lost!

Mindfulness offers enormous potential benefits for everyone. It can help to restore the mental, physical and spiritual health and happiness of those of us who are physically, psychologically or spiritually unwell or unhappy, and also enhance and expand the health and happiness of those of us who are well, more or less.

Mindfulness can even help people who have never heard of it (mindfulness pagans) and people who know what it is but who don’t believe in it (mindfulness heathens), in the same way that life knowledge and also vitamins can help everyone, not just those of us who believe in them.

There are advantages, however, in knowing what mindfulness is, even for those of us who already practise it at least sometimes (and that’s all of us) and those of us who benefit from it at least sometimes (and that’s also all of us). It’s a lot easier to work mindfulness into our life acts if we know what it is at the level of our minds as well as at the level of our experience.

Have you ever been stressed?

If you have, then please read on without delay. If you haven’t, then please send us some tips! Stress is the root cause of most human unhappiness — and stress is basically being out of our comfort zone for extended periods. Mindfulness can help us to live our lives more healthily and happily by reducing our stress, and therefore reducing our chances of being sick or miserable or unfulfilled or all three.

Mindfulness can help us to prevent, heal or learn to live with just about every physical, mental and psychological malady that can cause us to mislay (never to completely lose) the paradise of our natural human condition, while also making our life a generally richer experience.

We think that stress is caused by events that happen to us out there, but actually stress is caused by our minds — and it often ends up in our bodies, and societies of minds and bodies. Stress really comes from how we perceive events, rather than from the events themselves.The same event — losing our job or a relationship —might make us miserable or even happy, depending on how we perceive it:

This a catastrophe! How can I live without her/him/it?


This is terrific! Now that I don’t have to live with him/her/it, I’m free!

Actually we are always free. Free to perceive whatever level of reality we are mindful enough to perceive, and free to realise that our thoughts — even our happiness- and health-destroying ones — are just thoughts.

Stress is the root cause of a wide range of psychological, physical and general life problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease and job burnout. Being more mindful can help to prevent and heal many of these problems at their roots by enabling us to step back from uncontrolled and controlling thoughts.

Being mindful means simply letting our thoughts come and then go, without reacting to them, without allowing the circus of meaningless mental activity to persuade us that it’s more real than we are.We are no longer distracted by the unrealities of what might come to be or what might have been. Instead, we are focused on the reality of what is, here and now.

Mindfulness helps us be aware of and accept our true self

Our universal self that’s universally connected and eternal, and not our miserable little idea of our self as cut off and alone. It does this by helping us to be aware of what’s actually going on in our bodies and minds, here and now.

Unhappiness comes from our thinking that we are unhappy, which basically comes from our thinking too much.

When we are mindful we transcend unhappiness in every area of our lives because when we are mindful we transcend our incessant circling, meaningless and destructive thinking processes. All we need to do in any situation to be fully happy, fully fulfilled and fully alive is to forget what we are not — separate, miserable, obsessed — and remember what we are — mindful, connected, happy and alive.


Dr. Stephen McKenzie



Dr. Stephen McKenzie has over 20 years experience researching and teaching psychology. He has a unique ability to present potentially complex information in a warm, engaging and entertaining way. He is currently a lecturer and research fellow at Deakin University’s School of Psychology in Australia, where he is investigating mindfulness as a clinical treatment.

His articles and contributions regularly feature on, where you’ll also be able to find his books, Mindfulness at Work and Mindfulness for Life (co-authored with Dr Craig Hassed) .

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