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Meditation can be conceptualized as a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory training regimes developed for various ends, including the cultivation of well-being and emotional balance. Among these various practices, there are two styles that are commonly studied. One style, focused attention meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, open monitoring meditation, involves nonreactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment. The potential regulatory functions of these practices on attention and emotion processes could have a long-term impact on the brain and behavior.

There has been a great increase in literature concerned with the effects of a variety of mental training regimes that generally fall within what might be called contemplative practices, and a majority of these studies have focused on mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation practices can be conceptualized as a set of attention-based, regulatory, and self-inquiry training regimes cultivated for various ends, including wellbeing and psychological health. This article examines the construct of mindfulness in psychological research and reviews recent, nonclinical work in this area. Instead of proposing a single definition of mindfulness, we interpret it as a continuum of practices involving states and processes that can be mapped into a multidimensional phenomenological matrix which itself can be expressed in a neurocognitive framework. This phenomenological matrix of mindfulness is presented as a heuristic to guide formulation of next-generation research hypotheses from both cognitive/behavioral and neuroscientific perspectives. In relation to this framework, we review selected findings on mindfulness cultivated through practices in traditional and research settings, and we conclude by identifying significant gaps in the literature and outline new directions for research.