10. Mindfulness Meditation: The Essential Stress-buster in Military Life Context – Positive Psychology


Mindfulness Meditation: The Essential Stress-buster in Military Life Context

Nilanjana Sanyal

Professor and Former Head, Department of Psychology, University of Calcutta, West Bengal

Abstract   The survival of the fittest is the demanding cry of the present world. The intricate dynamics of socio-political rivalry impacting the general flow of life, the self-centered materialism of human beings, the relentless competition in practical life, the ever-increasing pollution, the ever- growing population and resultant ecological imbalance, the health concerns due to virulent diseases have made this earth an enormously stressful domain to live in. Specific professions which involve frequent confrontations with hostile forces are crossing the limits of stress-bearing capacity. Hence, there is a dire need for an appropriate stress-buster. Mindfulness meditation seems to be a currently developed therapeutic mode to offer a rescue operation in this context. Overbearing stress is reducing logical fitness, curtailing emotional regulation, blurring our feelings to develop appropriate perspective in life. The resultant feature is restlessness, helpless state of self-inadequacy. To improve on our existential contour of realizational life, the primary purpose of mindfulness meditation is to cultivate a non-judgemental awareness of body and mind, and secondarily, to learn how to witness events and experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Meditation practices can also help to foster insights into one’s habitual and reactive patterns of perceiving and behaving, thus facilitating a desirable change in mental perspective. The elements of mindfulness meditation practice, like metacognition, mindful attention in the present moment experience, being non-judgemental, having re-perceiving capacity, having cognitive flexibility and developing meaning in life will be discussed in this chapter with their possible implications to combat the stress-load of military services. With its emphasis on cultivating tranquility, mindfulness meditation might seem like an odd fit for the military personnel.

The birth of a child into the world initiates the periphery of subjectivity. An immature child believes in self-pleasure only and promptly develops primary narcissism to draw pleasures in the poly morpho-perverse continuum. The external world is unknown to him owing to very limited cognitive strength and the volley of impulses coming from within the system which look for gratifications all the time. The hedonic contents in his mental sphere are only pleasure or displeasure. If and when his system is forced to encounter displeasure, frustration is the resultant feature. With days and years rolling by, when the child develops into a cognitive being, his understanding accommodates externality of the world with the concepts of objects therein. Amidst the context of interactions, his relationships evolve. Satisfactory flow of life contents make him feel contended, otherwise, the added-up frustrations result in stress.

The materialistic world of the 21st century with its advanced technological amenities and facilities has curved the desired patterns of its inmates in a way where intolerance of failure has made them look rigid in their perspective. People are mostly unaware of the fact that what they think, do and feel are the basic sources of their trouble because the flow of mental energy in the context is subjectivity-oriented demand patterns. Developing resilience in the advance face of tolerating stresses signifies maturity and non-suffering flairs in the life pattern. Psychology, as a behavioural science wing, tries to design and offer means and techniques which help humans to develop resilience to combat stress of various kinds. The ultimate aim there is to look for means of drawing satisfaction in life through graceful acceptance of reality and orienting one towards transcendence to have stress-free experience. Stress is a universal phenomenon. It is an evidence of life. A human being needs to be equipped enough psychologically to sail through life with ease and touch the fringes of existential bliss. Here is the offer of certain ‘practice modes’ or ‘therapeutic tips’ to be conscious of, to know and to practice, to develop or enhance quality resilience. One such means is ‘Mindfulness Meditation,’ an adaptive behavioural practice to reorient self from subjectivity to objectivity, to develop positive experiential perspective in understanding life in a global context of totality. The implications of the method will be verified in combating the usual stress-laden military services.

Stress in the Dynamics of Military Service

Of the multitude of services, military services belong to defence category. The role of military is to protect a whole nation and not an individual or a group. The enormity of this duty puts tremendous stress on military personnel. Obviously, the protector’s role of not only a person, but a whole nation openly hints at the amount of stress being automatically associated with that. Being alert all the time, engaged in sharpening one’s frustration tolerance limit, developing one’s coping skill to combat stresses very often typically characterize the military pattern of services. Before joining the profession, personnel are aware of the stress factor; but once they are into the job the continuous exposure to stressful conditions pulls them down at times. Hence, it seems to be an important task of psychologists to chart stress-busters for these personnel, to free them off their negative emotion-loads, and be equipped to perform their responsible jobs.

Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) (2008) had clearly reported that in military service members, the usual demands of multiple deployments exposing the personnel to regular stressful environments have shown enormous deterioration in psychological and physical health conditions. The resultant effects included mental sufferings of the veterans, compromised effectiveness of the fighting force and high costs included in caring for combat veterans with stress-related ailments. While such stressors are widely recognized (Adler, McGurk, Stetz, and Bliese, 2003; King, King, Vogt, Knight, and Samper, 2006), comparatively less is known about effective methods for buffering against the adverse effects of such stresses as dysfunctional orientation and disease prevalence. In the context, a number of researchers (Grossman, Viemann, Schmidt, and Walach, 2004) have proved the efficacy of ‘Mindfulness Training’ (MT) as a stress-buster in a variety of civilian contexts. The same efficacy had been related to treating clinical populations as reported by Baer (2006). The MT protocols summarily attempts to set the mindfulness-mental mode being characterized by maximum attention to present-moment experiences, being devoid of judgement, elaboration or emotional reactivity (Stanley, Schaldach, Kiyonaga, and Jha, 2011). Mindfulness is a way of holding attention ‘on purpose’ (Chaskalson, 2011).

The Encapsulated Stress Context for Military Service

Even within the periphery of common-sense knowledge military service is an inherently stressful profession. Wearing the risk-taking responsibility of protecting a country from its predators on their sleeves, service members are openly exposed to traumatizing stressors before, during and after deployment, that include directly threats to individual safety, the need to inflict harm on others and encountering injury, death and significant human suffering (Adler et al., 2003). Countless researchers suggest that troops are enveloped with considerable anxiety and distress in anticipation of deployment (Bolton, Litz, Britt, Adler and Roemer, 2001; MacDonald, Chaberlain, Long, Pereiran–Laird and Mirfin, 1998), resulting in possible higher risk for mental health problems after deployment. Recent researches unveil a strong association between mental health disorders and lower magnitude deployment stressors, including difficult living conditions, intense feeling of boredom and separation anguish from family (King et al., 2006). Multiple deployments are found to earn a high toll, including lower morale, more mental health problems and more stress-related work problems (MHAT, 2008). Additionally, a range of negative health consequences, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Kaylor, King and King, 1987), depression (Erikson, Wolfe, King, King and Sharkansky, 2001), substance abuse (Boscarino, 1981) and physical health problems (Taft, Stern, King and King, 1999) are found to be the direct outcome of combat encounters.

The recent post-deployment conditions of the service members report a broad range of physiological disturbances like changes in sleep habits, low energy, headaches, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary symptoms and gastro-intestinal difficulties (Levine, 2007; Scaer, 2008). The same condition was found to produce distinctive psychological disturbances including PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression and anxiety disorders. In the same mental mosaic, PTSD was reported to have frequent comorbidity with other psychological problems and physical problems (Hoge, Kopian, Castro, Messer and Engel, 2007). The dysfunctions are frequently and generally labelled as independent issues that demanded situation-specific treatment. The process of analysis of such clinical conditions reveals that these disorders were the resultant effects of prolonged or extreme stress rather than the product of an illness with unrelated causes (Miliken, Auchterlonie and Hage, 2007; Tanielian and Jaycox, 2008; Hermann, 1992; Scaer, 2005; van der Kolk, Roth, Pelcovitz, Sunday and Spinazzoia, 2005). Since military service is crowning the glory of highest order protection for a country, this invaluable resource-repertoire needs to be served with all our power of behavioural reorientation. In the context, resilience means the ability to withstand strain and maintain healthy functioning even in highly stressful and demanding situations and to recover to full normalcy after the period of stress. A number of important studies suggest that resilience as a protective layer in individual personality can be cultivated or enhanced through mindfulness training (Feder, Nestler and Charney, 2009; Haglund, Nestadt, Cooper, Southwick and Charney, 2007). Hence, receiving training to cultivate resilience in the pre-deployment interval may directly counter the deleterious effects of the high-stress military context in tune of physical and psychological health. Thus, the beneficial effect of mindfulness training as a stress-buster is suggested for such profession.

The Beneficial Dynamism of Mindfulness Training

In eastern contemplative traditions, enhanced wellbeing is strongly associated with mindfulness training. In the West, interest in mindfulness has included efforts to define, measure and test mindfulness in order to develop a construct that connects mindfulness training with positive physical and mental health outcomes (Grossman et al., 2004). Definitionally, the mindfulness training protocol points out the state of ‘bringing one’s attention to the present experience on a moment-by-moment basis.’ (Marlatt and Kristeller, 1999, p. 68). Ample research evidences are available on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions at reducing distress (Baer, 2003; Grossman et al., 2004). The most well validated and known of such MT programme is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Recent studies of Carmody and Baer (2008) and Shapiro, Oman, Thoresen, Plante and Flinders (2008) subscribe to the same notion. Importantly, the common message from these studies is that a critical factor in determining the salutary effect of the procedure is the amount of spent time in mindfulness practice. The regular engagement with the process seems to be the most essential criterion. Recent reviews of resilience unveil the fact that important contributors to develop the power of resilience include willingness to face fears, the presence of positive emotions, the ability to attend to unpleasant stimuli, exposure to stressful experiences that are modestly destabilizing together with the capacity for cognitive flexibility, reappraisal, acceptance and emotion-regulation (Feder et al., 2009; Haglund et al., 2007). To unfold the true utilitarian value of mindfulness meditation in promoting resilience, the nature of the process, its constituting ingredients and their composite efficacy must be deduced for deeper understanding of the concept and establish its merits in handling stresses of various kinds.

History of the Concept of Mindfulness Meditation

According to Shapiro (1980), ‘Meditation refers to a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a non-analytical way and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought.’ (p. 14). The important components of the process highlight the words, ‘conscious’ used explicitly to introduce the importance of the ‘intention’ to focus attention and the word ‘attempt’ which emphasizes ‘process’ rather than result. Moreover, the definition is found to be independent of religious framework or orientation. In fact, practices of mindfulness have their bases in positivistic wisdom traditions, but mindfulness is neither a religion nor a belief system. It is a skill like critical thinking that, once learned, becomes indispensable personality component.

Meditation techniques have been divided into concentrative meditation, mindfulness meditation (Goleman, 1972) and contemplative meditation (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). In all types of concentrative meditation, awareness is restricted by focusing attention on a single object. The attempt is to ignore other stimuli in the environment and focus complete attention on the object of meditation. The nature of focused attention here, is of a non-analytical, unemotional way, to directly experience the object of meditation either in the realm of external or the internal environment. It is an exercise in awareness which turns into the flow of breath. Mindfully focusing on the breath is like staring into a flame. We keep on, watching each breath from the bottom of the in-breath to the pause at the bottom of the out-breath. Examples of the object include the breath, as mantra, a single word like ‘OM’ (Benson and Proctor, 1984).

Mindfulness meditation is not about paying attention to the concept of the breath only. Rather, it is about following the physical breath with intense curiosity as to its texture, temperature and related sensations. These may include deep inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils as also the retention of the air in the lungs for longer intervals. The quality of attention we look for in mindfulness meditation is different from bearing down mentally. In such meditation, an attempt is made to attend non-judgmentally to all stimuli in the internal and external environment but not to get caught up in (ruminate on) any particular stimulus. Mindfulness meditation is referred to as an opening-up meditation practice. In fact, the first thing we observe when we practice mindfulness meditation is that the untrained mind is not at all cooperative. Instead of paying attention to each breath, the mind wanders in varied directions. It reaches into the future, worries about the past or judges meditation as a fruitless involvement. The failure to focus in the present moment can cause physical distractions too. But observing the wandering mind is the first step of mindfulness practice. And the way we observe the wandering mind is the key. A recent study has shown that such meditation is producing changes in the regions of the brain involved in learning and memory, regulation of one’s emotions and self-awareness (McLean, 2012).

The third category is contemplative meditation. It involves opening and surrendering to a larger self (e.g., God, benevolent other), asking questions and bringing things unresolved. Such queries open up the vistas of new understandings and visions and prompt one to take new actions. Kabat-Zinn (1994) proposes that contemplative practices presuppose a certain degree of both concentration and mindfulness meditation skill that require opening up and focusing. To him, meditation is not a static category, but a dynamic process. Basically meditation is conceived as a developmental process, beginning with concentration and continuing with the ability to open up mentally and contemplate.

The primary purpose of all types of meditation is to cultivate a non-judgemental awareness of body and mind of the self, and secondarily to learn the technique of how to witness events and experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Meditation practices can also help to improve one’s habitual and reactive patterns of perceiving and behaving, thus initiating changes of these patterns where and when desired. It is to generate wisdom and compassion. Astin (1977) is of the opinion that mindfulness training provides powerful cognitive-behavioural coping tools. While having some commonness with other cognitive interventions, mindfulness-based approaches focus on attending to and altering cognitive processes rather than changing their content (Orsillo, Roemer, Block–Lerner, and Tull, 2004). Some authors have suggested that mindfulness training allows one to develop alternative paradigms and therefore interpret experiences in new ways, so that the crisis of a stressful situation may be perceived as an opportunity to progress further rather than a threat. Roemer and Orsillo (2002) call this ‘cognitive flexibility’. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is also thought to cultivate self-regulation, being related to positive changes in both physical and psychological health (Coffey and Hartman, 2008). This ‘self-regulated’ psychological orientation is used to describe a kind of learning that is guided by metacognition, strategic action and motivation to learn. People who have developed their self-regulatory capacities as a product of MBSR are better able to calibrate their emotions, and they tend to attribute their successes or failures to factors within their control. They usually exhibit a high sense of self-efficacy (Pintrich and Schunk, 2002). Thus research-based evidences prove that meditation techniques, including MBSR, can cultivate qualities such as compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness and spirituality inviting the positive psychological components in one’s behavioural frame. In the context, Kabat-Zinn (1990, 2003) outlined seven foundations of mindfulness practice within the Positive Psychology fold.

  1. Non-judging: Being aware of judgemental qualities and perceiving inner and outer experiences;
  2. Patience: Understanding and accepting that sometimes things will unfold in their own time;
  3. Beginner’s mind: Observing everything as if for the first time;
  4. Trust: Taking responsibilities for being oneself and learning to listen to and trust one’s own being;
  5. Non-striving: Realizing that there is no goal other than searching for self;
  6. Acceptance: experiencing things as they actually are in the present; and
  7. Letting Go: Releasing thoughts, feelings and situations that the mind seems to be enveloped with.

The Process of Imbibing Mindfulness Qualities

All meditation disciplines centre on the practice of cultivating attention. However, the ‘intention’ with which ‘attention’ is directed, may be significant in maximizing optimal health. By making intention explicit in meditation research and practice, it is well assumed that positive psychological qualities may be enhanced. Intension is conceived to be composed of two elements:

  1. The quality of attention designed to as ‘mindfulness qualities’, and;
  2. The content of attention framed as ‘systemic perspectives’.

The Intentional Systemic Mindfulness takes into account both the ‘nature of the attention’ through the mindfulness qualities and the ‘framework’ within which attention is initiated through the systemic perspectives. In short, it verifies two critical aspects of intention—how we attend and why we attend bringing out the nature of mindfulness practice together with its implications in our conscious life. All meditation techniques are grounded on the cultivation of attention. Mere ‘paying attention’ is not enough, how one attends is important as it can be responsible for cultivating health in myriad dimensions. On the other hand, if someone focuses his attention with a conscious intention to blend attention with mindfulness qualities of acceptance, generosity and fairness, this intention may indeed be the hallmark of health-promoting tendency.

Twelve mindfulness qualities are intentionally incorporated and present in conscious attention. Seven were initially defined by Kabat-Zinn (1990) as mentioned earlier with an addition of five being mentioned by Shapiro and Schwartz (2000) which are as follows:

  1. Gentleness: Characterized by a soft, considerate and tender quality; not really being passive, indisciplined or indulgent in character orientation.
  2. Generosity: Gaining in the present moment within a context of love and compassion, but having detachment orientation in the context.
  3. Empathy: The quality of feeling and understanding another person’s present moment life context including his/her emotions and reactions and communicating this to the person.
  4. Gratitude: The quality of reverence, appreciation and thankful acknowledgement for the present moment.
  5. Loving kindness: A quality signifying benevolence, compassion and cherishing a quality of having deep marks of forgiveness and unconditional love.

The set of qualities of mindfulness meditation implies that by incorporating these qualities within one’s mental system, people can really move out of the just reverse negative qualities, the accumulation of which changes our perspectives in life and bestows on us loads of stressful reactions. Hence, as an answer to stress-buster, one of the techniques of the process is the development of greater understanding through the systemic cultivation of inquiry and insight.

The Ingredients of Mindfulness Meditation: The Invited Positive Elements of Mind

The mindfulness meditation practice necessarily hints at the developmental folds of maturity-attainment process. The self-system being exposed to the materialistic competitive world is bound to incorporate negative components of mind like jealousy, non-cooperation, competitiveness, sense of inadequacy, senses of deficiency or deprivations in life. All these together compose the negative life perspective calling forth rigidity in the self-system, having self-centeredness and non-empathic personality mould. The life flow in socio-emotional parlance keeps staggering, affecting the basic senses of cohesion and cooperation. We all suffer in such an ambience and our good senses are one of the inherent features which at times prompt us to find out means of avoiding these negativities and invite positive components in the same context. Mindfulness meditation seems to be the mental key to open up self to itself and become aware of such follies within us. The very fact of becoming aware of our killing impulsive processes that are wrapped up in immaturity, enveloping the true original self of faith, trust and mutuality, will automatically drop off the negative cast and will be replaced by better set of positive features of the self. Delving into the process-work of mindfulness meditation is expected to bring out in the light its constitutional ingredients as follows in the free-flowing wandering mind of thoughts and feelings.

1. Metacognition

The capacity to know what we are thinking, feeling, or sensing as it is going on is what might be called the ‘metacognitive’ dimension of mindfulness. Metacognition refers to our insightful knowledge about our own cognitive processes or anything related to them (Flavell, 1976). In the context of mindfulness, metacognition extends into the domains of feelings and body-sensations of the present moment. All of these, thoughts, feelings and body sensations are experienced in thinking, ‘that’ it is feeling, ‘that’ it is sensing. Anyone of these metacognitive elements of mindfulness can take place in our experience at any time and transform it. We are able to make wiser choices then. In fact, one of the purposes of mindfulness practice is to significantly increase the chance of that happening.

2. Existential Evidence

Another quality of mindfulness attentive process, according to Kabat-Zinn’s (1990) definition, is that it is rooted ‘in the present-moment’, that is phenomenologically existential evidence. Generally our attention, other than being directed at something present or in fore of us, is oriented towards the future or the past. Our future seems unknown and hence thoughts regarding future occurrences will either be fantasized positively or else anxiety ordered regarding some unwanted components. Things are not just within our control there. Similarly, if the mind keeps on tracing back the past evidences, either of positive or negative quality, we seem to have no control over the felt experiences. The harping of mind tries to revisit the older situations in life, feeling either happy or morose about them. But present experiences together with their clear consciousness are energizing in one sense. Counting on our failures or deficiencies may produce rigid morality that tightens up our system and we fail to touch upon the present ‘bliss’. Conscious present experiences with the touch of the magic wand of positive perspective within us may provide us the opportunities to refreshen ourselves and broaden our emotional horizons. Rather than having the wandering mind which is always preoccupied by the past or future, the fresh consciousness of the immediate present seems to rejuvenate us with fresh positive angles of experience that is desired in our present study-quality. Moyers (1993), citing Jha, Krompinger and Baime (2007), thus grins, ‘to place your attention where you want it to be and to keep it there for longer is a known outcome of mindfulness training’ (Moyers, 1993, p. 18).

Jha and Stanley (2010) had shown in their study that just as daily physical exercise leads to physical fitness, being involved in mindfulness exercises on a regular basis improved the Marines’ mind-fitness by extending their working memory under stress. That, they claimed, safeguards then against distraction and emotional reactivity and lets them maintain a mental work-parlance that ensures quick decisions and action plans. Besides offering some protection to combatants from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety disorders, the mindfulness training opened the vistas of clear thinking needed for soldiers fighting in challenging and ambiguous counter-insurgency zones. For Jha and Stanley, the study showed that mindfulness training help in maintaining peak performance in the face of extremely stressful circumstances: the emergency services, relief workers, trauma surgeons, professional and Olympic athletes, and so on. Mindfulness meditation seems to produce an increased capacity to deploy their attention in ways that their tasks require.

3. Non-judgemental Mental Fold

The quality of mindful awareness that Kabat-Zinn (1990) draws attention to is that it is ‘non-judgemental’. This does not mean that one does not make judgements or that one does give up the powers of discrimination. Far from it, it says that it indicates our frequent tendency of constantly judging ourselves in a critical light. The judgemental orientation there signifies once again the rigidity in the self, curbing the power of realistic acceptance and widened accommodativeness. It seems to be a kind of irrational tyranny that can never be satisfied (Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn, 2007). The mindfulness approach, by contrast, is to let one experience what one is experiencing without censoring it, without blocking things in order to have only right kind of things in the mind. Mindfulness training prompts people to bring an attitude of warm, kind curiosity to their direct experiences—encompassing thoughts, feelings and body-sensations from moment to moment. Learning to pay attention in this way—on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally—participants in mindfulness courses begin to experience a radical shift in perspective. Hence, clarity and objectivity of personal present experiences become the outcome of mindfulness training.

4. Re-perceiving

The last ingredient of mindfulness meditation seems to be the product of shifted perspective due to its process, that is ‘re-perceiving’ (Shapiro, Carlson, Astin and Freedman, 2006). Rather than being emotionally entangled in the drama of their personal narratives or life stories, participants on MBSR courses learn the skill of taking a back foot and witnessing what is going on for them. This skill of re-perceiving brings them the skill of converting ‘subjectivity’ into ‘objectivity’ (Goleman, 1980). The shift is in fact wisdom-orienting detachment process of self from subjectively enmeshed emotions of daily chores. Such a shift is conceived as an ‘approach’ mode of mind, characterized by warmth, acceptance and curiosity, the elements of Positive Psychology that prompt effective handling of any situation on the part of the experiencing partner. ‘Re-perceiving’ is not the same as detachment. It is not about distancing oneself from one’s experience to the point of apathy or numbness. Instead, the experience of mindful re-perceiving gives rise to a deep knowledge regarding present experience. Mindfulness allows for a degree of distance from one’s experience in the sense that one becomes clearer about what one is experiencing. But, this does not result in disconnection or disassociation. Instead, it allows one to experience the changing flow of one’s mental and physical experiences without getting identified with them and getting fixated to them. Ultimately, the outcome seems to bear a profound, penetrative, non-conceptual knowledge into the nature of mind and world (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).

This capacity to re-perceive, although it needs to be learned, is something people can consciously train in and it is simply a continuation of the way we naturally develop. In our developmental trajectory of life, we develop increasing capacity for objectivity about our internal experiences. In psychodynamic language this is our ‘object relation’ and attainment of ‘object constancy’ as unconscious processes. Such developments initiate the development of the ability to ‘re-perceive’. The re-perceptive process generates ‘empathy’ within us and ultimately widens the periphery of self-growth. Mindfulness practice continues this natural process, but now at the conscious level. With mindfulness training, we can consciously develop an increasing capacity for objectivity with regard to our internal and external experiences (Shapiro et al., 2006) and become personally responsible persons. Etches of maturation set their marks on our life canvas and mental reflections. The conversion from unmindfulness to mindfulness—from unconsciously clinging to the state of intimate objectivity around that experience—is almost alchemical in its subtlety. A kind of transmutation takes place that allows the recognition and understanding that what was once threatening or compulsively desirable can become much more tolerable and effectively manageable.

The Need for Improving Our Existential Contours of Realizational Life

Life undoubtedly has concrete, realistic bases. The sensory-experiential contents fulfil or frustrate our hedonic impulses. We have sense of happiness and are given to fits of anger, fear, and worry almost alternately. No one can have seamless peaceful existence. The existential evidences are marked with both positivities as well as negativities. Maturity orientation puts its radar on widened acceptance spectrum to accept reality as gracefully as possible. The task is not that simple, but demands awareness on our part to realize the fact that we are thrown into the abyss of existence to experience everything that we set into the realm of authenticity, our realizational folds change in the direction of making us equipped to deal with our stresses of various kinds. Understanding and feeling components prompt us to alter our realizational contours, but we need to adopt appropriate actions to accomplish this. Mindfulness meditation, in the theoretical folds of analysis together with research evidences, has framed the way for us to follow a system of developing enough resilience to combat negative experiences of myriad magnitudes. Following the system, there seems to be bright expectations that our realizational fold of experience will emit the fragrance of a desirable quality to tread on context of living with greater vigour and required humility.


The content called ‘life’, the context called ‘living’, inevitably will have tumultuous evidences of positivities and negatives. Stresses are challenges in life, that can propel the attempt to accept them in positive mind-frame or else, they are craters of darkness that initiate helplessness, hopelessness and depression in negative mental flickers. Stressful service contexts like military profession demand enough strength of mind together with physical fitness to carry the unwanted loads of each and every deployment. For this they need to be trained. One such training is mindfulness meditation. Defense personnel are assets of our socio-political life. The badges on their pockets and sleeves dazzle with achievement glories. But, after all they are human beings, with their share of personal frailties. Why not help them with techniques, so that they can overcome their breakdowns?


Adler, A. B., McGurk, D., Stetz, M. C., and Bliese, P. D. (2003). Military Occupational Stresses in Garrison, Training, and Deployed Environments. Paper Presented at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, American Psychological Association Symposium, Toronto, Canada.

Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress Reduction through Mindfulness Meditation: Effects on Psychological Symptomatology, Sense of Control and Spiritual Experiences. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 66(2), 97–106.

Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Intervention: A Conceptual and Empirical Review. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 10(2), 125–43.

Baer, R. A. (2006). Mindfulness-based Treatment Approaches: Clinician’s Guide to Evidence Base and Applications. Boston: Elsevier, Academic Press.

Benson, H., and Proctor, W. (1984). Beyond the Relaxation Response. New York: Putnam/Berkeley.

Bolton, E., Litz, B., Britt, T., Adler, A., and Roemer, L. (2001). Reports of Prior Exposure to Potentially Traumatic Events and PTSD in Troops Poised for Deployment. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 14(1), 249–56.

Boscarino, J. (1981). Current Excessive Drinking among Vietnam Veterans: A Comparison with Other Veterans and Non-veterans. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 27(3), 204–12.

Carmody, J. and Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships Between Mindfulness Practice and Levels of Mindfulness, Medical and Psychological Symptoms and Well-being in a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Programme. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 31(1), 23–33.

Chaskalson, M. (2011). The Mindful Workplace: Developing Resilient Individuals and Resonant Organizations with MBSR. Chichester, West Susex: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Coffey, K. A., and Hartman, M. (2008). Mechanisms of Action in the Inverse Relationship Between Mindfulness and Psychological Distress. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13(2), 79–91.

Erikson, D., Wolfe, J., King, D., King, L., and Sharkansky, E. (2001). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression Symptomatology in a Sample of Gulf War Veterans: A Prospective Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 41–49.

Feder, A., Nestler, E. J., and Charney, D. S. (2009). Psycho-biology and Molecular Genetics of Resilience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 446–57.

Flavell, J. H. (1976). Meta-cognitive Aspects of Problem-solving. In L. B. Resnick (Ed.), The Nature of Intelligence (pp. 232–36). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Goleman, D. (1972). The Buddha on Meditation and States of Consciousness: Part II. A Typology of Meditation Technique. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 4(2), 151–210.

Goleman, D. (1980). A Map for Inner Space. In R. N. Walsh and F. Vaughan (Eds.), Beyond Ego (pp. 141–150). Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher.

Grossman, P., Viemann, L., Schmidt, S., and Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Health Benefits: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35–43.

Haglund, M. E. M., Nestadt, P. S., Cooper, N. S., Southwick, S. M., and Charney, D. S. (2007). Psycho-biological Mechanisms of Resilience: Relevance to Prevention and Treatment of Stress-related Psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 19(3), 889–90.

Hermann, J. L. (1992). Complex PTSD: A Syndrome in Survivors of Prolonged and Repeated Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5(3), 377–91.

Hoge, C. W., Kopian, A. T., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., and Engel, C. C. (2007). Association of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder with Somatic Symptoms, Health Care Visits and Absenteeism among Iraq War Veterans. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(1), 150–53.

Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness Training Modifies Subsystems of Attention. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 7(2), 109–19.

Jha, A. P., and Stanley, E. A. (2010). Examining the Protective Effects of Mindfulness Training on Working Memory Capacity and Affective Experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54–64.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living. New York: Delta Books.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hyperion.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based Interventions in Context: Past, Present and Future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144–56.

Kaylor, J., King, D., and King., L. (1987). Psychological Effects of Military Service in Vietnam: A Meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 102(2), 257–71.

King, L., King, D., Vogt, D., Knight, J., and Samper, R. (2006). Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory: A Collection of Measures for Studying Deployment-related Experiences of Military Personnel and Veterans. Military Psychology, 18(2), 89–120.

Levin, A. (2007). Multiple Physical Illnesses Common in Iraq War Veterans with PTSD. Psychiatric News, 42(2), 4–5.

MacDonald, C., Chaberlain, K., Long, N., Pereiran-Laird, J., and Mirfin, K. (1998). Mental Health, Physical Health, and Stressors Reported by New Zealand Defense Force Peacekeepers: A Longitudinal Study. Military Medicine, 163(7), 477–81.

Marlatt, G. A., and Kristellar, J. L. (1999). Mindfulness and Meditation. In W. R. Miller (Ed.), Integrating Spirituality into Treatment (pp. 67–84). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Moyers, B. (1993). Healing and the Mind. New York: Broadway Books.

McLean, V. A. (2012, May 08). A New Component of US Military Combat Preparedness: Meditation. Veterans Today.

Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT) (2008). Operation Iraqi Freedom, 06–08: Iraq Operations Enduring Freedom 8: Afghanistan. The United States of America: Department of Defense.

Miliken, C. S., Auchterlonie, J. L., and Hage, C. W. (2007). Longitudinal Assessment of Mental Health Problems Among Active and Reserve Component Soldiers Returning from the Iraq War. Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(11), 2141–48.

Orsillo, S. M., Roemer, L., Block-Lerner, J., and Tull, M. T. (2004). Acceptance, Mindfulness and Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy: Comparisons, Contrasts and Applications to Anxiety. In S. Hayes, M. Linchan and V. Folette (Eds.), Mindfulness and Acceptance: Expanding the Cognitive-behavioural Tradition (pp. 66–95). New York: Guilford.

Pintrich, P. R. and Schunk, D. (2002). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research and Applications (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Roemer, L. and Orsillo, S. M. (2002). Expanding our Conceptualization of and Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Integrating Mindfulness/Acceptance-based Approaches with Existing Cognitive-Behavioural Models. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(1), 54–68.

Scaer, R. (2005). The Trauma Spectrum. New York: W. W. Norton.

Scaer, R. (2008). Trauma, Dissociation and the Healing of Combat Stress. Presentation to the Conference of the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine. Hilton Head Islands, South Carolina. Mp3 Recording Retrieved from: http://www.iplayback.com/prod_detail_list/166/2

Shapiro, D. H. (1980). Meditation: Self-regulation Strategy and Altered State of Consciousness. New York: Aldine.

Shapiro, S. L., and Schwartz, G. E. (2000). The Role of Intention in Self-regulation: Toward Intentional Systemic Mindfulness. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich and M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of Self-regulation (pp. 253–73). New York: Academic Press.

Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., and Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of Mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–86.

Shapiro, S., Oman, D., Thoresen, C., Plante, T., and Flinders, T. (2008). Cultivating Mindfulness: Effects on Well-being. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(7), 840–62.

Stanley, E. A., Schaldach, J. M., Kiyonaga, A., and Jha, A. P. (2011). Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training: A Case Study of a High-stress Predeployment Military Cohort. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 18(4), 566–76.

Taft, C., Stern, A., King, L., and King, D. (1999). Modeling Physical Health and Functional Health Status: The Role of Combat Exposure. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Personal Resource Attributes. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 12(1), 3–23.

Tanielian, T. and Jaycox, L. H. (2008). Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, their Consequences and Services to Assist Recovery. Santa Monica, CA: Centre for Military Health Policy Research, RAND Corporation.

van der Kolk, B. A., Roth, S., Pelcovitz, D., Sunday, S., and Spinazzoia, J. (2005). Disorders of Extreme Stress: The Empirical Foundation of a Complex Adaptation to Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(5), 389–99.

Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, S., and Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. London: Guildford Press.