Should Mindfulness be taught to Improve Military and Business Effectiveness?

Should Mindfulness be taught to Improve Military and Business Effectiveness?


During one of our recent talks on mindfulness, we were asked whether we feel it is ethically and morally correct for mindfulness to be taught for the purposes of improving military or business effectiveness. Given that mindfulness was originally taught as a means of fostering peace and spiritual awakening, some people are of the view that it is inappropriate for businesses and the military to teach mindfulness to their employees in order to give them a strategic advantage over the competition. This seems to be quite a hot topic at the moment – especially because projects investigating the applications of mindfulness in military and business settings are already underway. Consequently, we have decided to dedicate this entire post to providing our view on this issue.

In the Buddhist teachings, mindfulness occurs as just one aspect (the seventh aspect) of a fundamental teaching known as the Noble Eightfold Path. Although the Noble Eightfold Path (obviously) consists of eight different elements, these elements do not function as standalone entities. In other words, it is not the case that one starts at the first practice of the Noble Eightfold Path (known as ‘right view’) and concludes one’s training in this practice before moving onto the second practice (known as ‘right intention’.). Rather, although the Noble Eightfold Path has eight different elements, it is in fact just one path and just one practice. This means that whenever one aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is present and functioning correctly, then all of the other aspects are also present and functioning correctly. For example, without, ‘right view’, ‘right intention’, ‘right speech’, ‘right action’, ‘right livelihood’, ‘right effort’, and ‘right concentration’, there cannot be ‘right mindfulness’.

Thus, if a person in the military is taught mindfulness correctly, then they are also being directly or indirectly instructed in practices intended to cultivate ethical awareness (i.e., ‘right speech’, ‘right action’, ‘right livelihood’), a compassionate and spiritual outlook (i.e., ‘right intention’), and wisdom (i.e., ‘right view’). Accordingly, people in the military or in business that practice mindfulness correctly will also be learning how to become more responsible, wiser, and compassionate world citizens. Therefore, we don’t really need to worry about whether such people will “miss-use” the mindfulness teachings. In actual fact, many accomplished Buddhist practitioners believe that the Buddha’s teaching on mindfulness are so potent and effective that anybody that practices them correctly can’t help but become a better human being.

Of course, there is a strong possibility that people in the military or in business could be taught to practice “mindfulness” outside of the above system of ethical and spiritual values. However, we also don’t particularly need to concern ourselves about this because in such situations it is no longer mindfulness that is being taught. In other words, one can’t really raise a grievance that an organisation is misusing mindfulness if in fact what they are teaching isn’t mindfulness.

Apologies if you were expecting a lengthier discourse but we don’t think there is much else to discuss on this topic.


Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon


Further Reading

Bodhi, B. (1994). The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.

Dalai Lama. (2001). Stages of meditation: training the mind for wisdom. London: Rider.

Gampopa. (1998). The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The wish-fulfilling gem of the noble teachings. (A. K. Trinlay Chodron, Ed., & K. Konchong Gyaltsen, Trans.) New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Khyentse D. (2007). The heart of compassion: the thirty-seven verses on the practice of a Bodhisattva. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). The emerging role of Buddhism in clinical psychology: Towards effective integration. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, DOI: 10.1037/a0035859.

Five Original Beauty Tips for Men and Women

Five Original Beauty Tips for Men and Women

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Recently, we were en route to a conference in Barcelona and found ourselves with ten minutes to spare at London Stansted airport. We decided to visit the magazine store in order to try to find a classical music magazine (Classic FM) that we sometimes like to read. We couldn’t find the magazine in question, so we took a moment to look at the other magazines on the shelf. We were amazed at the number of men’s and women’s “health” magazines offering beauty tips. Although there appeared to be several shelves full of such magazines, the magazines seemed to be written in a very similar style and we weren’t sure how the advice each magazine was offering differed from that of the competition, or from that offered in the same magazine during the previous month’s edition. Therefore, in today’s post, we adopt a slightly different approach to the magazines we perused and provide what we believe to be five original and effective tips for making oneself more beautiful. We think that these tips will work for both men and women.

1.   Keep anger under control: Research demonstrates that anger is expressed physiologically through facial expressions and body language. Commonly observed physiological responses to anger include contraction of the brow muscles, facial flushing (i.e., turning red), flared nostrils, clenched jaws, and general tension in the skeletal musculature of the facial and neck regions. Physiological responses to anger also often include increased heart rate and increased perspiration. Basically, all of this means that when we become angry, our appearance changes significantly. Leaving aside the fact that anger can leave other people feeling frightened and very uncomfortable, it invariably makes the angry person assume an ‘ugly’ complexion. People that become angry quickly show their “true colours” and don’t really have a place amongst the wise and respected. Therefore, always try to remain patient and composed and try not to lose your temper too easily. Taking control of your anger will definitely help you to be a more beautiful person.

2.  Do things gently and in awareness: In our opinion, it is not particularly beautiful to be boisterous and heavy-handed. We believe it is much better to be careful and gentle as one goes about one’s affairs. Consistent with this point of view, research demonstrates that being mindful reduces both psychological and physiological tension. Therefore, living in awareness not only facilitates the adoption and maintenance of a calm and centred demeanour, but it also has numerous health benefits. As we discussed in our post on Teaching Mindfulness to Children, an analogy that has been used in the Buddhist teachings to explain the principle of living in awareness is that of a graceful swan. The swan is confident and elegant in the way it moves, and it glides effortlessly through the water without disturbing it too much. Thus, try to emulate the swan and be mindful of your being – try to walk around your home or place of work whilst being fully conscious of each and every breath, and of each and every step. Try not to upset and disturb things too much as you go about your business. This will help you to assume a calming presence that will not only make you more beautiful but also the environment in which you find yourself.

3.  Say less rather than more: As Buddhist monks, we spend a reasonable amount of time in silence. In fact, although it is certainly enjoyable to engage in light-hearted mindful conversation, we generally adopt the approach that if there isn’t something particularly meaningful to say, then there is no point in just opening one’s mouth and making noise. It seems that a lot of people are uncomfortable with moments of silence when in the presence of others. Obviously, there are occasions when people really need to talk but in general, we believe that not allowing yourself (and others) time to breathe and to just simply be is not a particularly beautiful quality. Therefore, try to be comfortable with yourself in the presence of others and try not to always feel the need to have something to say. If you relax and centre yourself in your breathing, you will invariably find that the other person begins to relax too. Make an effort to talk gently and quietly – there’s really no need to talk in a very loud voice or to laugh boisterously so that everybody around you can hear. We think that saying less rather than more is a very beautiful way to be and that it will help you to have more meaningful dialogues with other people and with yourself.

4.   Be generous with yourself and others: According to the Buddhist teachings, there are numerous advantages associated with being generous. Leaving aside those that are spiritual in nature, Buddhism asserts that generosity fuels generosity. In other words, people enjoy being at the receiving end of kindness – and there is a good chance that they will respond with kindness in return. Generosity takes on many shapes and forms including being generous with one’s words and time. This includes giving a person your full and undivided attention, and listening carefully to what they are saying – as well as what they are not saying. We can also be generous with the amount of space that we give to ourselves and others. Creating space in our own and others’ lives facilitates personal growth and introduces time for determining what is important in life. This helps to nourish the beauty within each of us.

5. Try not to be too beautiful: Emerging research insights suggest that there are benefits to be gained by not having a huge ego. This is consistent with the Buddhist view that ego is the underlying cause of all suffering and psychological stress. It is important to understand what is meant by ego in Buddhist philosophy because ego can take on many different guises. For example, a person that is successful and that has confidence because of their success doesn’t necessarily have a big ego. Rather, it might be the case that their less-successful peers who feel threatened by them are actually the ones with the bigger ego – because it is strong attachment to an “I” that gives rise to jealousy and/or inferiority complexes. Thus, ego is not always easy to spot and it invariably has many layers. Nevertheless, we would be surprised if people who are caught up with becoming more physically beautiful were not in some way lumbered by “ego issues”. Therefore, although it is good to take care of one’s appearance, try not to become too obsessed with how you look. Real beauty goes well beyond physical appearance. Remember that not trying overly hard to be beautiful can actually be a very beautiful thing.


Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon


Further Reading

Dalai Lama. (2001). Stages of meditation: training the mind for wisdom. London: Rider.

DeFoore, W. (1991). Anger : Deal with It, Heal with It, Stop It from Killing You (1st ed.). Health Communications, Inc.

Gampopa. (1998). The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The wish-fulfilling gem of the noble teachings. (A. K. Trinlay Chodron, Ed., & K. Konchong Gyaltsen, Trans.) New York: Snow Lion Publications.

Khyentse D. (2007). The heart of compassion: the thirty-seven verses on the practice of a Bodhisattva. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Novaco, R. W. (2000). Anger. Encyclopedia of Psychology, Oxford University Press.

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Zangeneh, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Work-related mental health and job performance: Can mindfulness help? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, DOI: 10.1007/s11469-014-9484-3.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A tool for Spiritual Growth? Thresholds: Journal of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Summer Issue, 14-18.

Face[book]ing the future: A brief look at social networking addiction

Another interesting article written by my friend and colleague Prof Mark Griffiths


In many areas of behavioural addiction, there has been debate about whether some excessive behaviours should even be considered as genuine addictions (e.g., video game playing, internet use, sex, exercise, etc.) and the same debate holds for addiction to social networking. I recently published an editorial in the Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy examining the empirical research on the topic.

I have has operationally defined addictive behaviour as any behaviour that features what I believe to be the six core components of addiction (i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, and relapse). I have also argued that any behaviour (including social networking) that fulfils these six criteria can be operationally defined as an addiction.

Researchers have suggested that the excessive use of new technologies (and especially online social networking) may be particularly problematic to young people. In accordance with the biopsychosocial framework for…

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