Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 56, Issue 5, pp 1720–1739 | Cite as

Zen and the Art of Living Mindfully: The Health-Enhancing Potential of Zen Aesthetics

Philosophical Exploration

Abstract

Amidst the burgeoning enthusiasm for mindfulness in the West, there is a concern that the largely secular ‘de-contextualized’ way in which it is being harnessed is denuding it of its potential to improve health and well-being. As such, efforts are underway to ‘re-contextualize’ mindfulness, explicitly drawing on the wider framework of Buddhist ideas and practices in which it was initially developed. This paper aims to contribute to this, doing so by focusing on Zen Buddhism, and in particular on Zen aesthetic principles. The article concentrates on the seven principles identified by Hisamatsu (1971) in his classic text Zen and the Fine Arts: kanso (simplicity); fukinsei (asymmetry); koko (austere sublimity); shizen (naturalness); daisuzoku (freedom from routine); sei-jaku (tranquillity); and yūgen (profound grace). The presence of these principles in works of art is seen as reflecting and communicating insights that are central to Buddhism, such as non-attachment. Moreover, these principles do not only apply to the creation and appreciation of art, but have clear applications for treating health-related issues, and improving quality of life more generally. This paper makes the case that embodying these principles in their lives can help people enhance their psychosomatic well-being, and come to a truer understanding of the essence of mindful living.

Keywords

Mindfulness Psychosomatic well-being Non-pharmacological interventions Aesthetics Art Zen Health-related disorders 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of East LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Psychological ResearchUniversity of DerbyDerbyUK
  4. 4.Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness ResearchRagusaItaly

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