Posted in meditation, theory-building

Research on spirituality and meditative practices

Kristeller, Jean L., and Kevin D. Jordan. “Spirituality and Meditative Practice: Research Opportunities and Challenges.” Psychological Studies, 20 Mar 2017,  doi:10.1007/s12646-017-0391-0.

Abstract. Meditative practices have a long history in India and have influenced contemporary meditative programs elsewhere in the world. Over the last several decades, the use of meditation as a therapeutic tool has been investigated in regard to physical, emotional and behavioral effects with impressive results. In parallel to this has been a growing interest in research on spirituality, spiritual growth, and therapeutic modalities that incorporate the spiritual dimension of the person.

Ironically, very little research has explored the interface between these two constructs, despite how closely linked they are traditionally. This paper addresses the range of ways in which spirituality and spiritual development might be fruitfully investigated in the context of meditative practice, bringing further understanding to both psychological constructs.

Furthermore, the widely recognized significance of both meditative and spiritual experiences suggests that cross-cultural research may be particularly valuable at identifying factors that engage the universal human capacity of spirituality, and the particular potential for meditative practice in doing so.

Posted in conceptual framework, literature review, review, theory-building

Can compassion be defined and measured?

Strauss, C., Taylor, B. L., Gu, J., Kuyken, W., Baer, R., Jones, F., & Cavanagh, K. (2016). What is Compassion and How Can We Measure it? A Review of Definitions and Measures. Clinical Psychology Review. Full draft ahead of inclusion in an issue.


  • Compassion is recognized as important across many sectors of society.
  • There is lack of consensus on definition and few self/observer-rated measures exist.
  • Five elements of compassion are proposed after consolidating existing definitions.
  • The psychometric properties of existing measures are poor, limiting their utility.
  • A new measure of compassion with robust psychometric properties is needed.
Posted in MBCT, MSIR, qualitative, theory-building

Mindfulness in intimate relationships (MSIR)

Kocsis, A. & Newbury-Helps, J. (2016). Mindfulness in Sex Therapy and Intimate Relationships (MSIR): Clinical Protocol and Theory Development. Mindfulness, p. 1-10. First online 05 April 2016.

From the Abstract: Mindfulness has been used as an intervention for specific sexual dysfunctions in women; evidence has also accumulated for the role of mindfulness in treating the kinds of psychological difficulties which are associated with sexual dysfunction. This paper describes, within a clinical context, a qualitative approach to protocol and theory development for a mindfulness-based sex and intimate relationship (MSIR) programme as a generic adjunct to sex therapy. The aim was to adapt the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) group protocol to address diverse sexual and intimacy difficulties.

Posted in MBSR, theory-building

MBSR and Dialogical Self Theory

Mamberg, M.H. & Bassarear, T. (2015). From reified self to being mindful. International Journal for Dialogical Science, 9 (1), 11-37. Full text.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a Western intervention whose theoretical roots are in Buddhist psychology. Dialogical Self Theory (DST) seeks to integrate William James’ and Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas by highlighting the social embeddedness of constitutions of self. For this paper, dialogicality and discourse are emphasized: persons are seen explicitly as comprised of varying perspectives that are in dialogue with each other. Specific forms of language are assumed to constitute different aspects of self.

Posted in mindfulness, qualitative, theory-building

Teaching with mindfulness

Hoyt, M. (2016). Teaching with Mindfulness: Pedagogy of being-with/for and without being-with/for. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 31(1). Full text.

From the introduction: “In this article, drawing on the cultural and spiritual traditions of Buddhism and Taoism, I argue that a pedagogy of mindfulness would cultivate a pedagogical relationship that is being-with/for others and without being-with/for others amid difficult and challenging situations.

Posted in critique, mindfulness, mindfulness training, theory-building

Mindfulness, awareness, and sensitive inquiry

O’Donnell, A. (2015). Contemplative Pedagogy and Mindfulness: Developing Creative Attention in an Age of Distraction. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 49(2), 187-202. Abstract.

Over the last decade, there has been a considerable expansion of mindfulness programmes into a number of different domains of contemporary life, such as corporations, schools, hospitals and even the military. Understanding the reasons for this phenomenon involves, I argue, reflecting upon the nature of contemporary capitalism and mapping the complexity of navigating new digital technologies that make multiple and accelerated solicitations upon attention and our affective lives.

Whilst acknowledging the benefits of mindfulness practice, this article argues that it is equally important to attend to the ethical framework that gives orientation to these practices and the outer conditions that shape lived daily experience, such as school or work environments. I suggest that the well-meaning efforts to secularise mindfulness, provide scientific evidence for its effectiveness, and introduce it to wider publics may have served to impoverish the rich contribution that practices of mindfulness, situated within a broader ethical framework, can make to human lives, and arguably contribute to the educational endeavour. For example, the emphasis on transforming inner conditions of students’ lives can lead to the neglect of outer conditions, such as structural inequality, or unhealthy and exploitative work practices. This can result in practices that privilege individual wellbeing over compassion and concern for the happiness of others, providing a buffer against loving attention to the world and others.

Instead, I ask how mindfulness in educational settings could come to be viewed in a different light if we reflect upon the ways in which school environments and curricula can promote mindfulness, awareness, sensitive inquiry, and contemplative practices through the day, rather than offering it as a discrete intervention focused on the self and wellbeing.

Posted in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness meditation, theory-building

How attention is located within the body (in two types of meditation)

Hartelius, G. (2015). Body Maps of Attention: Phenomenal Markers for Two Varieties of Mindfulness. Mindfulness, 1-11.

Abstract. Mindfulness suffers from a lack of a satisfying consensus definition. This definitional challenge may be simplified by recognizing that there are at least two types of mindfulness: neo-traditional mindfulness, exemplified by Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness-based stress reduction, consists of a shifted state of consciousness inherently carrying qualities associated with mindfulness; cognitive–behavioral mindfulness, exemplified by acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, is achieved more through a shift toward cognitive processes that reflect similar qualities.

Other varieties of mindfulness exist within both Buddhist and cognitive–behavioral traditions, but these two may provide a starting point and a method for further articulation. The distinction between these two varieties of mindfulness is proposed based on analysis using somatic phenomenology, a state-specific approach to the study of body-located phenomenal markers of attention.

In this context attention is described in terms of where it comes from, relative to the body, rather than in terms of where it is directed, and state of consciousness is defined as a change in how attention is located within the body. In cognitive–behavioral mindfulness, attention is seated in the head and is directed outward from that location; in neo-traditional mindfulness, attention is seated in the belly and is directed outward from there. These two types of mindfulness represent similar qualities taking place in two different states of consciousness, reflected by these two discrepant attentional postures.