Beyond Mindfulness and Soulfulness
A Position Paper for Further Research
by Don Ayre, REVISED August 12, 2018
Shortly after the launch of Toward A More Loving And Caring World, I asked the staff of McNally’s Booksellers to experiment a little with the location of my book in their store by trying it out in different genres. They had located it in the Psychology Section of the bookstore prior to the launch but from the responses to it in the question and answer period at the launch, I had become convinced that it was not viewed that way or, at least, not exclusively. Clearly, it was also viewed as theology – a combination of both psychology and theology. There might be a better book-shelf neighborhood for it where potential buyers – “kindred spirits,” I had called them – would find it more easily. But where?
At first, we tried the Metaphysics Section; then the New Age Section. Eventually, we settled on the Spiritual Teaching Section as a good neighborhood to be visible in and to use as a base for ongoing inquiry. So we tried it for about a month. Just above it was a shelf called Mindfulness. Curious, I glanced through the pages of the books on the Mindfulness Section and selected a few to take home for closer scrutiny. I’m a reader who likes to write in the margins of books so libraries don’t find my reading habits too acceptable.
As I pieced together what I could of Mindfulness, I began to solve a mystery that had been nagging in the back of my mind ever since I completed the manuscript for Toward A More Loving and Caring World. Back when I had chosen to leave the University to develop my private practice as a family and child therapist and to continue my research without being restricted, it was mostly because of the new director of the School of Social Work preferred what he called “the science of social engineering” as compared with “the art of individual therapy.” His approach, he insisted, was more politically valid and objective; mine, was more personally directed and subjective.
In particular, I wanted to combine psychology and sociology with an element of spirituality and I wanted to introduce meditation as a methodology toward this end. At about the same time on other North American campuses, other therapists were being influenced by Pierre De Chardin, Carl Jung, Eric Fromm, and Alan Watts. Later, it was Maharishi, Ken Wilbur, Dali Lama, Deepak Chopra...all of whom have added to my thinking over the years. There were more writers that I considered to be great minds, of course. But the mystery that continued to nag at me was: What had happened to their influence in particular on others in my profession? Had these great minds managed to change campus thought at other Universities teaching child and family therapy? I didn’t know for sure. I had been working too independently.
But now I was discovering that it turns out that they had set the climate for the formation of a new and revolutionary movement in departments of psychology and sociology on many campuses and among many of their graduating therapists called Mindfulness. Based on a blending of Eastern philosophy with Western thinking, it is a blending of psychological and spiritual concepts that regards meditation as central to our mental health and to our decision making in all areas of life. Moreover, it is entirely appropriate for the development within individuals for today’s much-needed global mindset. Not surprisingly, Jung’s coveted Red Book is well-known to the Mindfulness movement. And of course, Buddhism.
Initially, I was quite excited as I read through the books in the Mindfulness Section. I thought: Aha, here’s where the threads of progress had been picked up and interwoven into a new psychology guiding therapists and self-development enthusiasts. But as I read through the other books on the shelf designated mindfulness, I realized that the research in my book was less technical, more spiritual. From my experience as a family and child therapist, I had concluded it was not enough to merge Freudian and Jungian theories with Buddhist meditation in particular. There had to be a stronger element of spirituality – call it "soulfulness" – to balance our scientific learning with our spiritual awareness.
Clearly, my professional experience as outlined in Toward A More Loving and Caring World had been somewhere between Spiritual Teaching shelf and the Mindfulness shelf. Jung’s writings and Fromm’s four kinds of love were useful to me in making sense out of my practice. Similarly, Allenby’s eight paths had helped. In fact, there was parallel with the Eightfold Path revealed in Buddhism and used by psychotherapists practicing Mindfulness. As I searched further, I found that it’s not just psychology that’s been advancing. Theology has also become less defined by religious doctrine and more by individual experiences of spirituality. It’s known as Soulfulness. Meditation is the common ground between the two. As David Benner puts it:
Meditation is a doorway to our center. Or, using more psychological knowledge, meditation opens the possibility of accessing our unconscious and, therefore, to living with a stronger alliance between the conscious and the unconscious dimensions of our being. Meditation is a path from ordinary awareness to spiritual awareness, from a knowing about things to a knowing of them. This means that meditation is far more than a way of trying to still ourselves. It is a way of opening our self so that we can be found by our center – by the spirit of God – and therein truly find our self. From Spirituality and the Awakening Self by David Brenner.
So there is today on the one hand, “mindfulness”; and on the other, “soulfulness.” Further research is needed to learn how these revolutionary new trends in psychology and theology respectively are useful to us in linking together SELF with SOUL within each one of us. Mindfulness relates to what I had been calling "developing the SELF;" Soulfulness relates to "growing the SOUL." By using meditation as a means of integrating Mindfulness with Soulfulness, we can create within ourselves a more holistic sense of SELF and a wholeness of worldview that is more loving and caring.
The Internet, I have found, is alive with ongoing research and practical how-to information on both subjects and for linking the two. It seems that: whereas Mindfulness is the new trend in family and child therapy in response to our being caught up problems arising from in the ongoing process of globalization, Soulfulness is becoming the new trend in theology in response to our relying so heavily on the process of computerization for solutions. Combined with the qualities experienced through meditation that we describe as Peacefulness and Blissfulness, they would seem to be the much needed new self-help tools for us as individuals to regain our sense of personal integrity and to contribute to and benefit from a more loving and caring humanity. Could it be that these are the cornerstones of the new wisdom and knowledge that we are needing to rebuild not only ourselves individually but also our society as a whole globally? For sure, we are going to have to get beyond our present state of mindfulness and soulfulness and develop a new sense of who we are and what we are creating as a species...more as part and parcel of a cosmic reality that is truly awesome.