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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.
During the past two decades, mindfulness meditation has gone from being a fringe topic of scientific investigation to being an occasional replacement for psychotherapy, tool of corporate well-being, widely implemented educational practice, and “key to building more resilient soldiers.” Yet the mindfulness movement and empirical evidence supporting it have not gone without criticism. Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed. Addressing such concerns, the present article discusses the difficulties of defining mindfulness, delineates the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices, and explicates crucial methodological issues for interpreting results from investigations of mindfulness. For doing so, the authors draw on their diverse areas of expertise to review the present state of mindfulness research, comprehensively summarizing what we do and do not know, while providing a prescriptive agenda for contemplative science, with a particular focus on assessment, mindfulness training, possible adverse effects, and intersection with brain imaging. Our goals are to inform interested scientists, the news media, and the public, to minimize harm, curb poor research practices, and staunch the flow of misinformation about the benefits, costs, and future prospects of mindfulness meditation.