Title: Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps
Author: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Summary: In this frank an open exposition of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s development of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) system, readers are given an insight into the background and conditions under which the MBSR concept was transposed. I use the term ‘transposed’ because that appears to be the essence of how Kabat-Zinn positions his work in the context of his experience and knowledge of Zen Buddhism. In this paper he stresses that MBSR and other systems in the mindfulness family should be integrated and consistent with the Buddhadharma (authentic teachings of Buddhism) but not constrained by the historical, cultural and religious phenomenon that exist in the societies where the Buddhadharma has been preserved and may still flourish.
Kabat-Zinn reveals his own close connection with the Zen one thousand year view and this insight perhaps gives a clue to the current academic debate whether the understanding of mindfulness as expressed in MBSR actually reflects mindfulness in Buddhism more generally. Mindfulness in its broader meaning is given a prominent role in this paper and Kabat-Zinn shares his compassionate vision regarding the benefits of the continued growth in the ‘mindfulness’ movement.
Perspective: Health psychology, religious studies,
Title: On Some Definitions of Mindfulness
Author: Rupert Gethin
Summary: Rupert Gethin cites Rhys Davids as the first person to translate the concept of mindfulness from the Pali sati or the Sanskrit smrti, although he stresses subsequent difficulties in finding a workable definition of the term. According to Gethin, Nyanaponika’s definition appears to have been particularly influential in providing an acceptable explanation, particularly within the MBSR and MBCT approaches to meditation. However he argues that the Theravāda exposition of mindfulness may include elements not immediately explicit in either MBSR or MBCT; concerns are also raised over the use and understanding of the term ‘non-judgmental’. In conclusion Gethin suggests that westernized approaches to Buddhism may have contributed to a ‘succinct’ definition of mindfulness, and that the clinical applications of MBSR and MBCT may lead to further understanding of mindfulness and the implications for its practice.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, religious studies, contemporary Buddhism
Title: Is mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness
Author: Georges Dreyfus
Summary: Among the issues that are publicly manifesting in the research of ‘mindfulness’ are fundamental problems achieving reliable and consistent understandings of the term itself. Definitions of mindfulness are becoming an increasingly thorny issue both as a cognitive process as well as a soteriological path. Some accounts of mindfulness express the concept as ‘present-centered non-judgmental awareness’, a view that that is challenged in this critique by Georges Dreyfus. Dreyfus argues that the essence of mindfulness is connected to the phenomenon of ‘sustained attention’ and can, to some extent engage evaluative processes. Whilst acknowledging merit in the modern definitions of mindfulness, this essay highlights significant discrepancies with traditional Buddhist accounts and more general uncertainty regarding the wider theoretical understanding.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, contemporary Buddhism, religious studies
Authors: Richard J. Davidson, Alfred W. Kaszniak
Title: Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Research on Mindfulness and Meditation
Summary: As western psychological investigation into meditation and mindfulness increases, concerns are being raised about how to understand and integrate the wide ranging findings that are being published. Mindfulness is a very general term for one meditative approach which can include a number of distinct psychological phenomena. This paper discusses the conceptual and methodological difficulties in researching this area. Addressing the challenges of creating and subsequently evaluating findings, which by their very nature may only be fully appreciated in the first person.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, neuroscience
Author: Britta K. Hölzela, James Carmodyc, Mark Vangela, Christina Congletona, Sita M. Yerramsettia, Tim Garda, Sara W. Lazara
Title: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density
Summary: An investigation into the neural mechanisms that may be impacted by the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) form of mindfulness meditation. 16 participants with no prior experience of meditation were put through an eight week MSBR training programme. Any changes to grey matter concentration within the MBSR group were investigated and compared to the control group. Analyses indicated the MBSR group experienced increased grey matter in the left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-parietal junction and the cerebellum. The findings suggest a potential relationship between the practice of MBSR and changes to concentration of grey matter in parts of the brain connected to learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.