Mindfulness is a wonderful technique. In therapeutic circles, it is very much in fashion, and an enormous amount of research has been done on it, showing that regular practise significantly reduces fatigue and depression, hypertension, stress and anxiety, the perception of pain, fear and anger; and that it also significantly increases a sense of both physical and psychological wellbeing, sense of oneness and connection, empathy, focus and concentration, and improves the quality of our relationships.

For maintaining general health and quality of life, it seems to be every bit as important as exercise and our five-a-day.

However, in a therapeutic context, it is generally taught with a positive exclusion of spirituality to avoid alienating those who have had negative religious experiences, and in deference to our predominantly secular society.

While this is understandable, I think there has been a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath-water. Studies show that certain qualities traditionally cultivated within a religious context are good for both our psychological and physical health. Those of us who have a disposition for forgiveness have an increased resilience to stress and greater mental and physical health (Journal of Health Psychology, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1359105314544132). Compassion and gratitude have similar health benefits.

Consciously developing these traits, and consciously expressing and directing them towards ourselves as well as others, can greatly improve our mindfulness practice.