It wasn't so much a decision as a clarification of my true leanings on mindfulness as spiritual practice vs medically-proven therapy. I would really like to hold Mindfulness in equipoise--simultaneously considering it as a scientific / medical practice AND an ancient spiritual discipline. But, in all honesty, I find my equipoise developing some cracks.
The Masters of Mindfulness™ would say you don't have to make a choice-- it is, indeed, an age-old spiritual practice, but now being studied--and its benefits confirmed--by scientific evidence. At least in the UK, Mindfulness teachers always hasten to say that Mindfulness is a secular practice and you don't have to be a Buddhist or change your religious beliefs to benefit from it.
A recent scientific review for example, defines Mindfulness in light of the connection:
"Mindfulness derives from Buddhist practice and is described in the psychological literature as an intentional and non-judgemental awareness of the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Mindfulness is utilized in secularized interventions such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction..."
The Buddhist BackdropEvidence abounds of the pervasive Buddhist /Eastern / New Agey associations and influences in Mindfulness. For example, many teachers of Mindfulness in this area share office space with purveyors of unproven, semi-proven, or disproven holistic/ mind-body treatments such as crystal therapy, hydrotherapy, aroma therapy, massage, chiropractic, yoga, homeopathy, accupuncture, Qi Gong, reiki, Indian head massage, Hopi ear candling, reflexology, etc. Association with yoga practices is especially prevalent.
My friend Tudor, who is a Naval chaplain training to be a Mindfulness teacher, has found that most Mindfulness retreats are held at New Age or Buddhist retreat centers. Another hint of the link: Meditation periods during Mindfulness classes will usually start with the ringing of a ghanta (Buddhist temple bell) or singing bowl --drawing on a ritual used for starting silent meditation in Tibetan Buddhist practice.
One type of Mindfulness meditation practice involves gentle yoga moves. While many Westerners today understand and practice yoga as a largely secular form of stretching for relaxation and fitness, its origins lie in Eastern religions. Wikipedia says:
Yoga (Sanskrit: योग) is a commonly known generic term for the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace... Specifically, yoga is one of the six āstika ("orthodox") schools of Hindu philosophy. ... Yoga has also been popularly defined as "union with the divine" in other contexts and traditions... Various traditions of yoga are found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism..Tudor sees the links between Mindfulness and Buddhism as "inevitable, given that [Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the fathers of modern Mindfulness-based treatment programs] borrowed heavily from the Buddhist tradition to put together his mindfulness meditation program. " Wikipedia notes:
"Kabat-Zinn was a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn and a founding member of Cambridge Zen Center. His practice of yoga and studies with Buddhist teachers led him to integrate their teachings with those of Western science."