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The term ‘contemplative’ is now frequently used in the fast growing field of meditation research. Yet, there is no consensus regarding the definition of contemplative science. Meditation studies commonly imply that contemplative practices such as mindfulness or compassion are the subject of contemplative science. Such approach, arguably, contributes to terminological confusions in the field, is not conducive to the development of an overarching theory in contemplative science, and overshadows its unique methodological features. This paper outlines an alternative approach to defining contemplative science which aims to focus the research on the core capacities, processes and states of the mind modified by contemplative practices. It is proposed that contemplative science is an interdisciplinary study of the metacognitive self-regulatory capacity (MSRC) of the mind and associated modes of existential awareness (MEA) modulated by motivational/intentional and contextual factors of contemplative practices. The MSRC is a natural propensity of the mind which enables introspective awareness of mental processes and behavior, and is a necessary pre-requisite for effective self-regulation supporting well-being. Depending on the motivational/intentional and contextual factors of meditation practice, changes in the metacognitive self-regulatory processes enable shifts in MEA which determine our sense of self and reality. It is hypothesized that changes in conceptual processing are essential mediators between the MSRC, motivational/intentional factors, context of meditation practice, and the modulations in MEA. Meditation training fosters and fine-tunes the MSRC of the mind and supports development of motivational/intentional factors with the ultimate aim of facilitating increasingly advanced MEA. Implications of the proposed framework for definitions of mindfulness and for future systematic research across contemplative traditions and practices are discussed. It is suggested that the proposed definition of contemplative science may reduce terminological challenges in the field and make it more inclusive of varied contemplative practices. Importantly, this approach may encourage development of a more comprehensive contemplative science theory recognizing the essential importance of first- and second-person methods to its inquiry, thus uniquely contributing to our understanding of the mind.
Prolonged exposure to ‘toxic stress’ caused by financial hardship and social exclusion can result in reduced well-being, increased risk of illness and impaired cognitive function and can negatively impact the physiological processes underlying ageing. Evidence suggests that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may reduce stress and improve well-being in clinical and non-clinical populations, and recent studies indicate they may also help address well-being-related effects of poverty. This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of delivering an adapted MBI training to adults living with the psychosocial stress caused by poverty and its effectiveness in improving participants’ well-being. In this mixed method, non-randomised waitlist-controlled feasibility pilot study, 40 adults (n = 20 in the training group) from regeneration areas in Scotland earning less than the Living Wage completed the adapted MBI. Delivery proved feasible, even though, as with previous studies on psychosocial interventions in socioeconomically deprived (SED) areas, the rate of participant attrition from recruitment (n = 107) to completion (n = 40) was high (58%). The results showed significant increases in well-being post training for the training group only (p < 0.001). No changes in mindfulness were found in either group. Further qualitative analyses suggested a possible shift in participants’ conceptualisation of well-being from being difficult to manageable or workable. These results indicate that MBI training can be feasibly delivered within SED communities and potentially improve the well-being of course participants. The practicalities of developing accessible MBIs for those living in areas of multiple deprivation are discussed.
Growing interest in mindfulness-based programs (MBPs) has resulted in increased demand for MBP teachers, raising questions around safeguarding teaching standards. Training literature emphasises the need for appropriate training and meditation experience, yet studies into impact of such variables on participant outcomes are scarce, requiring further investigation. This feasibility pilot study hypothesised that participant outcomes would relate to teachers’ mindfulness-based teacher training levels and mindfulness-based teaching and meditation experience. Teachers (n = 9) with different MBP training levels delivering mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) courses to the general public were recruited together with their course participants (n = 31). A teacher survey collected data on their mindfulness-based teacher training, other professional training and relevant experience. Longitudinal evaluations using online questionnaires measured participant mindfulness and well-being before and after MBSR and participant course satisfaction. Course attendees’ gains after the MBSR courses were correlated with teacher training and experience. Gains in well-being and reductions in perceived stress were significantly larger for the participant cohort taught by teachers who had completed an additional year of mindfulness-based teacher training and assessment. No correlation was found between course participants’ outcomes and their teacher’s mindfulness-based teaching and meditation experience. Our results support the hypothesis that higher mindfulness-based teacher training levels are possibly linked to more positive participant outcomes, with implications for training in MBPs. These initial findings highlight the need for further research on mindfulness-based teacher training and course participant outcomes with larger participant samples.
Neuroscience and Psychology of Meditation in Everyday Life addresses essential and timely questions about the research and practice of meditation as a path to realization of human potential for health and well-being. Balancing practical content and scientific theory, the book discusses long-term effects of six meditation practices: mindfulness, compassion, visualization-based meditation techniques, dream yoga, insight-based meditation and abiding in the existential ground of experience. Each chapter provides advice on how to embed these techniques into everyday activities, together with considerations about underlying changes in the mind and brain based on latest research evidence. This book is essential reading for professionals applying meditation-based techniques in their work and researchers in the emerging field of contemplative science. The book will also be of value to practitioners of meditation seeking to further their practice and understand associated changes in the mind and brain.