Presence. Detached and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and emotions. Living in the moment in full awareness. These are some of the fundamental qualities underlying the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness practice has its historical origins in the Buddhist tradition, particularly Vipassana or insight meditation, which was taught by Buddha himself 2500 years ago. It has since become popularized in the West as a secular vehicle for increased well-being and stress reduction, most notably by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts in 1979.

Mindfulness meditation continues to gain traction as a treatment modality and way of being as evidenced by the thousands of published scientific studies available. Mindfulness interventions have been shown to successfully treat a variety of clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and chronic pain. In healthy participants, mindfulness produces positive effects on psychological well-being and enhances cognitive functioning.

Similarly, the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca is gaining prominence among biomedical researchers and the general public for its beneficial effects in treating substance abuse, treatment-resistant depression, and as a method for spiritual growth, healing, and development. Despite its growing popularity, little is known about the psychological mechanisms underpinning the beneficial effects of ayahuasca.

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New research suggests that the ayahuasca experience shares several commonalities with mindfulness practice. Via:

New research at the Autonomous University of Barcelona — led by Jordi Riba who previously published a study on the long-term use of ayahuasca — posits that the ayahuasca experience shares several commonalities with mindfulness practice in the context of contemporary Western psychology. The authors note that although mindfulness is a “complex construct that is difficult to define,” for the purposes of their study, “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.”

Alongside mindfulness, the researchers also considered something known as “decentering,” which is characterized by the ability to take a detached view of one’s thoughts and emotions as temporary events of the mind. A key characteristic of the ayahuasca experience is the promotion of a detached view of one’s own thoughts and emotions. Similarly, “increasing this capacity is the goal of mindfulness interventions.” Further parallels between mindfulness and ayahuasca are evident in other areas, including increased awareness, changes in self-perspective, decreased hopelessness, and positive impact of general well-being.

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