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.

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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.

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.

How does loving-kindness meditation alter brain and body?

Mascaro, J. S., Darcher, A., Negi, L. T., & Raison, C. (2015). The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 109. To access full text, click here, then open PDF.

brain-budAbstract. Although kindness-based contemplative practices are increasingly employed by clinicians and cognitive researchers to enhance prosocial emotions, social cognitive skills, and well-being, and as a tool to understand the basic workings of the social mind, we lack a coherent theoretical model with which to test the mechanisms by which kindness-based meditation may alter the brain and body.

Here we link contemplative accounts of compassion and lovingkindness practices with research from social cognitive neuroscience and social psychology to generate predictions about how diverse practices may alter brain structure and function and related aspects of social cognition.

Contingent on the nuances of the practice, kindness-based meditation may enhance the neural systems related to faster and more basic perceptual or motor simulation processes, simulation of another’s affective body state, slower and higher-level perspective-taking, modulatory processes such as emotion regulation and self/other discrimination, and combinations thereof.

This theoretical model will be discussed alongside bestpractices for testing such a model and potential implications and applications of future work.

EEG measures manifestations of nondual awareness

Berman, A. E., & Stevens, L. (2015). EEG manifestations of nondual experiences in meditators. Consciousness and Cognition, 31, 1-11. Abstract

Highlights • Nondual states of consciousness reflect the culminating meditation experience. • These resulting states are differentiated from method or type of practice. • EEGs were recorded during meditation and states of nonduality. • Results suggest nondual states are neurologically distinct from general meditation. • Differentiating method and state will contribute to a more comprehensive taxonomy.

The holistic experiential benefits of meditation among a widely ranging population have been well established within the empirical literature. What remain less clear are the underlying mechanisms of the meditative process. A large impediment to this clarity is attributable to the lack of a unified and comprehensive taxonomy, as well as to the absence of clear differentiation within the literature between method of practice and resulting state.

The present study discusses and then attempts to identify within our sample a theoretically universal culminating meditative state known as Nondual Awareness, which is differentiated from the method or practice state. Participants completed an in-lab meditation, during which neurological patterns were analyzed using electroencephalography (EEG).

Analyses indicated significantly higher EEG power among slower wave frequencies (delta, theta, alpha) during the reported nondual events. These events appear neurologically distinct from meditation sessions as a whole, which interestingly demonstrated significant elevation within the gamma range.

Mindfulness in the brain

Fletcher, L. B., Schoendorff, B., & Hayes, S. C. (2010). Searching for mindfulness in the brain: A process-oriented approach to examining the neural correlates of mindfulness. Mindfulness, 1(1), 41-63. Full text.

Abstract. There has been great interest of late in trying to capture the benefits of meditation by scanning meditators’ brains. In this paper, we argue that a successful neuroscience of mindfulness needs to be based on an adequate psychological analysis.

We present a definition of mindfulness based on four psychological processes that are relatively well understood, and we show how this model may help organize neuroimaging research and create a bridge to clinical applications.

This framework provides an approach to neuroscience research grounded in psychological principles and theory. We propose that this is critical for advancing scientific endeavors such that the knowledge gained helps improve the human condition.