Mindfulness: Journey from Blue Eyed Barbarian to Medical Marvel

by Ponderings Radio

Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti


Mindfulness: Journey From Blue Eyed Barbarian to Medical Marvel

Are you a master of your mind, or does the thought of mindfulness send you cross-eyed and thought twisted? 

What exactly is mindfulness? Is it enveloping our minds in a eurythmic cocoon of self-awareness and safety? Or is it juicing up the old think tank in a new way? We ponder the medical marvel and its history, while talking with mindfulness expert Dr Craig Hassed, Monash University Professor.


The most tragic myth is that mindfulness is easy; you simply sit down, breathe, think, and hum. The truth is, it can be challenging and does not need to be practiced while meditating! Essentially, mindfulness is being aware of one’s thoughts and feelings in the present moment and accepting them without judgement. This can be done at any time; while you eat, walk or even complete chores. Meditation and yoga are merely ways to nurture and expand mindfulness, as it encourages sincere concentration.

Overtime, this ancient religious practice has become the fastest growing health trend in America, with an estimated 200–500 million people meditating worldwide.

Its story begins in the 6th century, when Bodhidharma, an Indian monk known as “The Blue-Eyed Barbarian” arrived in China to teach a special teaching not-written in the scriptures because the teaching is impossible to transmit by words. 

The teaching was Zen, which focuses on achieving enlightenment through meditation.

“What is ultimately behind (Zen), is the annihilation or transcendence of your identity as an individual, and access to non-local, super personal, consciousness,” says Russell Brand, comedian turned human advisor and Luminary Podcaster. There can be no doubt that mindfulness has the power to give anyone a new lease on life.

The 1800s Gold Rush introduced Zen to the western world when Chinese migrants travelled to countries in search of gold. Deep-rooted racism prevented acceptance of Buddhist rituals by the mainstream until, of course, they were whitewashed 100 years later.

Monash University Professor, Dr Craig Hassed, told us, “When the first studies on the benefits of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy came out in 1999, it sparked exponential growth in the research and application of mindfulness.”

Dr Craig Hassed goes as far as to call it “an antidote to the modern world.”

The Monash University professor says, “[mindfulness has] many useful side effects such as reducing stress, enhancing performance, improving mental health, enhancing communication, and fostering prosocial attitudes and emotional intelligence.”

Russell Brand addresses the involvement of modern science in his video, ‘Is Mindfulness a Con’. He says, “the people that came up with meditative techniques, that [modern scientists] are now proving to make your brain waves all groovy and lower your heart rate, already knew [the benefits]. They knew without access to the physicalized technology that demonstrates the efficacy of these techniques.”

In other words, Neuroscience didn’t make meditation ‘better’; it just validated what Buddhists had already known for millennia.

Mindfulness in the western world today, is a hybrid of Zen and the rituals and beliefs of Indian and Chinese Taoism.  The practice has been secularized and become a ‘trendy fad’.

However, the health benefits are irrefutable, and it’s effectively awakening the minds of individuals.

Studies have shown that after meditating for 6–9 months, almost two-thirds of those prone to anxiety manage to reduce their anxiety levels.

Mindfulness has come a long way. From sacred teachings, to medical marvel, to commodity sold by meditation apps and retreats. By acknowledging the origins and its true purpose, mindfulness has the power to create more awakened people.


If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, Monash-FutureLearn collaboration is providing a free online mindfulness course. The next one goes live on October 7 and is ranked as one of the world’s top online courses.