Members in the Media
From: The Conversation

What is mindfulness? Nobody really knows, and that’s a problem

The Conversation:

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness. These days, it’s everywhere, like many ideas and practices drawn from Buddhist texts that have become part of mainstream Western culture.

But a review published today in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science shows the hype is ahead of the evidence. Some reviews of studies on mindfulness suggest it may help with psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and stress. But it’s not clear what type of mindfulness or meditation we need and for what specific problem.

The study, involving a large group of researchers, clinicians and meditators, found a clear-cut definition of mindfulness doesn’t exist. This has potentially serious implications. If vastly different treatments and practices are considered the same, then research evidence for one may be wrongly taken as support for another.

At the same time, if we move the goalposts too far or in the wrong direction, we might lose the potential benefits of mindfulness altogether.

Read the whole story: The Conversation

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Overhyped and inadequately researched. Left out of nearly all discussions are the *spiritual* aspects of most training in whatever mindfulness is. Things like being one with the universe etc. Could be good stuff, perhaps even the core of the matter. But it is not being seriously looked at while people are sucking raisins and looking for solutions within at the expense of looking also outside themselves, like acquiring skills, changing social conditions etc. The enthusiastic embrace of “mindfulness” is a social phenomenon that itself calls out for scientific scrutiny.

I was surprised when I read this piece. I’ve been studying mindfulness for forty years. My definition, the process of actively noticing new things, is straightforward as are a plethora of experimental research findings from greater health, longevity and well being to an increase in competence and charisma, and a decrease in prejudice, burnout and stress, to name just a few of the findings. Meditation is a tool to achieve post meditative mindfulness. Both methods have been shown to be highly effective across the board. To call all this research into question may be doing a disservice to the public.

I am a computer science scientist and teacher of transcendental meditation, which is very different from mindfulness, and I have been reviewed research on meditation, including mindfulness, for more than 15 years. I have to agree with Ellen Langer comment. Mindfulness is more a general principle of meditation than a specific technique. Indeed, the principle is noticing the present moment, the present experience in a neutral and cordial manner. There is nothing non scientific about the fact that a single principle can be implemented in many different ways. The confusion, though, is that some people think that what is valid for mindfulness should also be valid for transcendental meditation. It’s not. Transcendental Meditation is a more delicate technique – there is a fundamental principle behind it, but it’s delicate. For example, you cannot do TM with the help of a video – it would make no sense, but you can do mindfulness with the help of a video that guides you while you meditate.

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