Definitions of mindfulness – MBSR, MBCT
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
What does mindfulness mean, how is the term used and how closely does it relate to the practice?
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
Problems in the scientific research of meditation and mindfulness.
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
Mindfulness increases some brain matter dentsity
Authors: Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W
Title: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density
Summary: An investigation into the neural mechanisms underpinning that may be impacted by the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) form of mindfulness meditation. Sixteen participants with no prior experience of meditation were put through an eight-week MSBR training programme. Any observed changes to grey matter concentration within the MBSR group were investigated and compared to a 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. These findings suggest a potential relationship between the practice of MBSR and changes to the concentration of grey matter in parts of the brain connected to learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, as well as perspective-taking. The number of participants in the control group is low (16), so replication with a larger number of people is essential. It would also be interesting to know if any parts of the brain suffered reduced concentration of grey matter.
Mindfulness and time perception – a cognitive study
Author: Robin S.S. Kramer, Ulrich W. Weger, Dinkar Sharma
Title: The effect of mindfulness meditation on time perception
Summary: Research based on the hypothesis that because mindfulness meditation focuses on living in the moment, practitioners’ perception of time would be changed compared to a control group. In a within-subject design experiment, participants carried out temporal bisection tasks. Results indicated that the perception of time duration of the experimental group was altered via attentional processes.
Perspective: Cognitive psychology, neuroscience
A critical perspective of mindfulness. Understanding the contemporary mindfulness movement in a wider perspective.
Author: Steven Stanley
Title: Mindfulness: Towards A Critical Relational Perspective
Summary: This research acknowledges the increasing role of mindfulness in the west; enabling people to engage with new approaches to cope with issues connected to subjective wellbeing such as stress, depression and anxiety. It also discusses the appropriation of ‘mindfulness’ by psychology and the potential for conflict between its role in traditional and modern westernised meditation movements. A social critique, exposing the failure (and thus the potential opportunity) of psychology to integrate mindfulness as a personal and social practice.
Perspective: Social psychology, discursive psychology
What is the effect of loving kindness meditation for post traumatic stress disorder
Authors: Kearney DJ, Malte CA, McManus C, Martinez ME, Felleman B, Simpson TL.
Title: Loving-kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study
Summary: A trial of loving kindness meditation was undertaken with veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants were given 12 weeks training in loving-kindness meditation and measured for PTSD, depression, self-compassion, and mindfulness at different stages. The effects of this pilot demonstrated a range of benefits for participants from the meditation and concluded that the practice was both “safe” and “acceptable”. A pilot study but really strong participant attendance (74% involved in 9 to 12 classes) and fascinating results:
- self-compassion increased with large effect
- mindfulness increased with medium to large effect
- PSTD symptoms subject to a large effect at 3-month follow-up (d = -0.89)
- depression subject to a medium effect at 3 months
Perspective: Health psychology, positive psychology, clinical psychology