Psychology Meditation
by
Willoughby Britton, Jared Lindahl
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0169

Introduction

“Meditation” is an umbrella term for a variety of practices that are intended to cultivate a particular state or quality of mind or body through the regulation or modulation of cognitive, affective, and perceptual faculties. Across various studies, there is considerable disagreement about what constitutes meditation. The various types of practices that are commonly considered “meditation” will be discussed below (see Types of Meditation). Furthermore, movement-based practices such as qigong and tai chi have been considered a form of meditation by some, but not by others, and therefore will not be included in this review. Many meditation practices that are used in Western psychology are derived from contemplative religious traditions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Some of these Buddhist-derived or Hindu-derived practices have been modified to be applied in secular, medical or clinical contexts, with varying degrees of implicit or explicit spirituality. Thus, in the context of western psychology, “meditation” refers to a multiplicity of practices oriented toward a number of possible religious, spiritual, or secular goals. Thus, some research in the psychology of meditation frames the goal of practice as Enlightenment, Awakening, or Cosmic or Transcendental Consciousness, whereas other research seeks improvements in attention, emotion regulation, physiological stress, or mental health. Both secular and religious approaches to meditation have become allied with Western science. The interest in meditation has been growing steadily since the 1960s and is arguably at its historical apex. The increased interest in and popularity of meditation has inspired a proliferation of meditation-based programs and treatments, as well as a multitude of scientific research studies with varying degrees of methodological limitations. The surge of public interest, the range of different practices, and the various applications and research studies of meditation is both staggering and also the source of much controversy and confusion. One goal of this entry is to help bring clarity to the field by highlighting points of confusion and controversy and by providing resources for further reading on these topics. Thus, our choice of sources for any given section intends to provide a broad overview, while also emphasizing areas of confusion, or in the case of scientific research, where public perception or interpretation of the studies diverge from the original data. This entry begins with a history of meditation and its interface with Western psychology and science. The section Types of Meditation characterizes different approaches to meditation practice according to both traditional and scientific classification systems. Current Research in the Science of Meditation addresses central findings from current research on the science of meditation and on the efficacy of meditation-based interventions in clinical psychology. The section Unexpected, Adverse, and Understudied Effects of Meditation introduces a range of meditation-related experiences and effects presently not well understood from psychological or scientific perspectives. The final section, Criticism and Controversy, tackles issues that have arisen on account of the process of cultural translation as meditation traditions are reimagined in the context of Western psychology.

History of Meditation in the West

Addressing the specific historical conditions that led to the widespread appeal of the science of meditation and the clinical application of meditation-based techniques has been the subject of a number of important book-length studies. Lopez 2008 focuses on interactions between Asian Buddhists and Westerners in the 19th century and how the attempt to present Buddhism as compatible with science has endured to the present day. McMahan 2008 addresses a similar time period, but also contextualizes the rhetoric of Buddhism as a “mind-science” in the broader context of the formation of Buddhist modernism. Multiple chapters discuss the relationship between Buddhism and psychotherapy and the neuroscience of meditation as illustrations of how “Buddhism” has been redefined in relation to Western values. Braun 2013 provides a detailed study on the development and rise of Vipassana meditation, a dominant meditation tradition both in Southeast Asia and in the United States that is commonly referred to as “Insight meditation.” Payne 2012 is a concise and focused article-length argument on the mutual development of Buddhism, psychotherapy, and Western occultism, suggesting that all three were characterized by a turn toward interiority and subjective experience and sought legitimation in relation to science. Wilson 2014 provides the first book-length study on the history of the mindfulness movement, focusing on the proliferation of mindfulness-based applications and how they have been marketed as addressing a wide variety of modern American cultural needs. Williamson 2010 offers a good introduction to similar issues within Hindu-inspired meditation movements (HIMMs). Her study focuses more on distinguishing the history, development, and impact of three HIMMs in the West, although there are important references to the importance of positive psychology and relationships to science throughout. For a more focused analysis of the importance of science to the Transcendental Meditation movement, see Humes 2010, whose study specifically details the strategies Maharishi Mahesh Yogi employed to create an alliance between TM and science in order to distinguish it from religion and for legitimizing and promoting the practice.

  • Braun, Erik. 2013. The birth of insight: Meditation, modern Buddhism, and the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226000947.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In-depth study of the 19th-century origins of Vipassana, or Insight meditation, one of the dominant meditation traditions in the West. The last chapter explains how the unique approach to practice of Burmese Vipassana came to influence American Buddhism in general and the Mindfulness movement in particular, which adopts, but also departs from, the rhetoric and approach of Vipassana.

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    • Humes, Cynthia A. 2010. The Transcendental Meditation organization and its encounter with science. In Handbook of religion and the authority of science. Edited by James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer, 345–369. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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      This study of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, explores his relationship to the authority of science, beginning with his branding of classical Hindu scriptures as “Vedic science.” Maharishi also promoted TM practice as a “natural” technique that transcended religious ideology and which was part of a perennial philosophy he called the “Science of Creative Intelligence.”

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      • Lopez, Donald S. 2008. Buddhism and science: A guide for the perplexed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

        DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226493244.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        This book identifies the origin of the rhetoric of the compatibility of Buddhism and science in 19th-century encounters between Asian Buddhists and Western missionaries. Shows how Buddhists actively promoted their tradition as compatible with science in order to grant it legitimacy (and superiority over Christianity) in the eyes of the West. These claims have continued in various similar forms for the past 150 years.

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        • McMahan, David L. 2008. The making of Buddhist modernism. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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          This book thoroughly documents the rise of Buddhist modernism. Central to the argument is the legitimizing role of science. McMahan devotes a chapter to showing how Asian Buddhists subsumed scientific rhetoric into Buddhism, thus setting the stage for its elevation to the status of a “mind-science.” Another chapter explores the alliance between Buddhism and psychology, as meditation was promoted as an authentic method of introspection and as a psychotherapy.

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          • Payne, Richard K. 2012. Buddhism and the powers of the mind. In Buddhism in the modern world. Edited by David L. McMahan, 233–256. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

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            Argues that the perceived fidelity of Buddhism and psychotherapy is in part due to romantic ideas that Buddhism is a precursor to psychotherapy or a repository of psychotherapeutic techniques. Contends that the psychotherapeutic reading of Buddhism arose in conjunction with the interplay between psychotherapy and Western occultism, which, like Buddhist modernism, appealed to science and to direct experience to construct and legitimate the tradition.

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            • Williamson, Lola. 2010. Transcendent in America: Hindu-inspired meditation movements as new religion. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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              Identifies how Hindu-inspired meditation movements (HIMMs) were created by modern Hindus revisioning their tradition in relation to a “Vedic” ideal as well as the process of acculturation as Hindu gurus came West. Details the appeal of meditation, personal experience, positive psychology, and personal growth in the rise of three HIMMs.

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              • Wilson, Jeff. 2014. Mindful America: The mutual transformation of Buddhist meditation and American culture. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827817.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Traces the history of the mindfulness movement from early 20th-century Buddhist scholars and practitioners to the present day. Through analysis of the commercialization and marketing of mindfulness to a wide-audience, Wilson provides a balanced assessment of mindfulness that attends both to its traditional Buddhist roots and to its allegedly secular applications in mainstream American culture, where mindfulness has been designed to meet various cultural needs.

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                Catalyzing Events, Publications, and Collaborations

                The history of meditation in the West is not only a confluence between meditation traditions and science, it has also been significantly shaped by the collaborative efforts of a fairly small group of individuals. Beginning in the mid-1970s, the seeds for the later explosion of interest in and research on meditation were planted. Prominent meditation researcher Richard Davidson and writer Daniel Goleman studied meditation in graduate school at Harvard together, inspiring some of their first works on the topic (Davidson, et al. 1976, Goleman 1996). In the next decade, studies of Hindu and Buddhist meditation began appearing in respected medical journals. For example, Benson, et al. 1982, a study of Tibetan meditators voluntarily increasing their body temperature during meditation, was published in the premier scientific journal Nature, catalyzing an international interest and curiosity in the possible far-reaching effects of meditation training. The lead author, Herbert Benson, became a prominent meditation researcher and creator of the program called the relaxation response (see TM-Inspired Meditation Practices). Compiled by two prominent University of California professors, Shapiro and Walsh 1984 was the first academic textbook on meditation theory and effects, which brought more legitimacy to the scientific study and clinical use of meditative practices. Ongoing dialogue and collaborations between Western scientists and contemplative practitioners, most notably those promoted and organized by The Mind and Life Institute, have also played an important role in the current popularity and scientific standing of meditation. Beginning in the 1980s, prominent Western scientists met with Buddhist leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on topics related to the confluence of Buddhism and science. The inaugural meeting was in 1987 and is catalogued by Hayward and Varela 2001. Kabat-Zinn and Davidson 2011 is the most recent book that chronicles the 2005 Mind and Life Dialogue with the Dalai Lama in Washington, DC. It includes contributions by Buddhist monks and scholars, neuroscientists, and clinicians. Mind and Life also started a research network with seed funding and conferences to create a new generation of meditation researchers, many of whom are “second generation,” that is, the students or children of the these early pioneers. For example, more than twenty years after publishing his textbook with Walsh, Deane Shapiro’s daughter, Shauna, who also became a meditation researcher, paired up with Buddhist scholar, former monk, and Tibetan meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace to promote the confluence of Buddhism and Psychology in the American Psychological Association’s flagship journal The American Psychologist (Wallace and Shapiro 2006).

                • Benson, Herbert, John W. Lehmann, M. S. Malhotra, Ralph F. Goldman, Jeffrey Hopkins, and Mark D. Epstein. 1982. Body temperature changes during the practice of gtum-mo yoga. Nature 295.21: 234–236.

                  DOI: 10.1038/295234a0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  This study, published in the premier journal Nature, reported that Tibetan meditators could voluntarily increase their body temperature, which provoked widespread interest in the potential effects of meditative training. One of the first collaborations between psychologists, scientists, and Buddhist studies scholars.

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                  • Davidson, Richard J., Daniel J. Goleman, and Gary E. Schwartz. 1976. Attentional and affective concomitants of meditation: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 85:235–238.

                    DOI: 10.1037/0021-843X.85.2.235Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Relevant mostly for historical reasons. Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman’s graduate school research and friendship was the foundation for the careers of two of the most important figures researching and promoting Buddhist meditation in the West. This article, concerning attention and emotion in healthy non-clinical individuals, was published in a journal for “abnormal” psychology.

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                    • Goleman, Daniel. 1996. The meditative mind: The varieties of meditative experience. New York: Tarcher/Putnam.

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                      In his first book, Goleman describes the varieties of meditative experiences associated with Buddhist meditation training, drawing heavily from Theravada Buddhism and the stages of insight. Goleman has since gone on to write many best-selling books on meditation. Reprint of the 1977 book entitled The Varieties of Meditative Experience.

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                      • Hayward, Jeremy W., and Francisco J. Varela, eds. 2001. Gentle bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the sciences of mind. Boston: Shambhala.

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                        This book chronicles the inaugural Mind and Life Dialogue about the science of mind between Western scientists and His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, in 1987. The first of eleven Mind and Life books. There have been twenty-seven other such dialogues on Buddhism and science since this one.

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                        • Kabat-Zinn, Jon, and Richard J. Davidson, eds. 2011. The mind’s own physician: A scientific dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the healing power of meditation. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

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                          The most recent Mind and Life book. Transcript from the 2005 Mind and Life Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the science and clinical applications of meditation. Includes chapters by Theravadan monk Ajahn Amaro, B. Alan Wallace, Jon Kabat-Zinn, neuroscientists Wolf Singer, Robert Saplosky, Richard Davidson, and Helen Mayberg, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) creator and clinical researcher Zindel Segal.

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                          • The Mind and Life Institute.

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                            This website contains a description of the Mind and Life organization, a calendar of events, and meetings past and present, including the annual dialogues with the Dalai Lama. See “resources” for a list of Mind and Life publications based upon previous conferences. Also has information on ongoing research initiatives and grant opportunities.

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                            • Shapiro, Deane H., and Roger N. Walsh, eds. 1984. Meditation: Classic and contemporary perspectives. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.

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                              This 725-page textbook is a compendium of reprinted journal articles on the theory of and research into Buddhist meditation and Transcendental Meditation (TM). Broad in scope, it includes theory based upon traditional religious literature, psychological applications, and physiological concomitants of meditation, as well as issues of cross-cultural translation.

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                              • Wallace, B. Alan, and Shauna L. Shapiro. 2006. Mental balance and well-being: Building bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology. American Psychologist 61:690–701.

                                DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.7.690Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                A collaborative piece by meditation researcher Shauna Shapiro and Buddhist scholar and meditation teacher B. Alan Wallace on the psychological benefits of Buddhist meditation in a Western context. Published in the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association.

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                                Meditation and Psychotherapy

                                The interface between meditation and psychotherapy began with dialogues between psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. One of the earliest encounters was between German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm and the influential Zen thinker D. T. Suzuki (see Fromm, et al. 1974). In more recent years, the loosely pan-Buddhist term “therapeutic mindfulness” encompasses this interface, which has also been influenced by the short-lived tradition of Transpersonal Psychology. As a result, meditative techniques have been applied in psychotherapy in various ways. On one end of a continuum are critical, secular conceptions of meditation as a form of self-control, whereas at the other end are more explicitly Buddhist conceptions of meditation employed for both psychological and spiritual transformation. Based upon his experiences with Transcendental Meditation (TM), Goleman 1971 conceptualized meditation as a “meta-therapy” that was effective beyond conventional therapies because it involved the cultivation of altered states of consciousness. Goleman later went on to write several best-selling books on meditation, but never stated the centrality and importance of altered states of consciousness as clearly as in this article. For a set of similar articles that view meditation as a “consciousness discipline,” emphasizing alterations in consciousness as a form of psycho-spiritual development, see Wilber, et al. 1986. Shapiro 1982 explains how meditation was conceptualized as a self-control strategy in the context of mainstream psychiatry. For a more clinically oriented use of meditation at interface between the psychological and the spiritual, see Welwood 2002. Pollak, et al. 2014 provides the most current view of the interface between Buddhism, meditation, and psychotherapy, intended for psychotherapists who use meditation with their clients. West 1990 is an important scholarly textbook summarizing the different views and orientations of meditation and psychology. See Unno 2006 for an excellent collection of recent articles on Buddhism and psychotherapy written by historians of religion and practicing Buddhist psychotherapists.

                                • Fromm, Erich, Daisetz Teitarō Suzuki, and Richard de Martino, eds. 1974. Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis. London: Souvenir.

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                                  One of many books on the dialogues between Zen and Western psychoanalysis, featuring essays by each author. Important primarily for its historical value, namely for understanding the perspectives of the earliest Western psychologists and Buddhist scholars who laid the groundwork for subsequent exchanges.

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                                  • Goleman, Daniel. 1971. Meditation as meta-therapy: Hypothesis toward a proposed fifth state of consciousness. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 3.1: 1–25.

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                                    An early description by prominent figure Daniel Goleman that the altered states of consciousness produced by meditation can exceed the benefits of current psychotherapeutic models. Theory is based upon the author’s familiarity with Transcendental Meditation (TM) at the time.

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                                    • Pollak, Susan, Thomas Pedulla, Ronald D. Siegel. 2014. Sitting together: Essential skills for mindfulness-based psychotherapy. New York: Guilford.

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                                      A practical guide for clinicians teaching mindfulness meditation in the context of psychotherapy. Written by core members of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, which has also published several other books on mindfulness and psychotherapy.

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                                      • Shapiro, Deane H. 1982. Comparison of meditation with other self-control strategies: Biofeedback, hypnosis, progressive relaxation: A review of the clinical and physiological literature. American Journal of Psychiatry 3:267–274.

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                                        Review commissioned by the American Psychiatric Association to assess the clinical efficacy of meditation in comparison to other similar methods. Meditation is compared to other self-regulation techniques such as biofeedback, hypnosis, and progressive relaxation. Includes a section on adverse effects of meditation, and concludes that meditation may be contraindicated for certain types of people. Reprinted in Meditation: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Deane H. Shapiro and Roger N. Walsh (New York: Aldine, 1984).

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                                        • Unno, Mark, ed. 2006. Buddhism and psychotherapy across cultures: Essays on theories and practices. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

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                                          A collection of recent articles on Buddhism and psychotherapy by top scholars in the field, covering multiple topics. Specific attention given to the problems and prospects of cross-cultural dialogue and to Buddhist approaches to death and dying in the Pure Land tradition.

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                                          • Welwood, John. 2002. Toward a psychology of awakening; Buddhism, psychotherapy and the path of personal and spiritual transformation. Boston: Shambhala.

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                                            Intended for a general audience, this book integrates Buddhist psychology and spiritual development with Western psychotherapeutic traditions, primarily with a loosely psychoanalytic and transpersonal psychology orientation. Particularly influenced by Zen and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Shambhala Buddhism.

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                                            • West, Michael A. 1990. The psychology of meditation. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                              A classic text concerning the application of meditation to Western psychology. Part 1 explores traditional and contemporary perspectives; Part 2 reviews the available research on the effects of meditation of physiology; Part 3 explores the application of meditation in clinical and psychotherapeutic contexts.

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                                              • Wilber, Ken, Jack Engler, Daniel P. Brown. 1986. Transformations of consciousness: Conventional and contemplative perspectives on development. Boston: Shambhala.

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                                                A reprinting of articles published in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, this book provides descriptions and models of the “full-spectrum of human development” by integrating Western psychology and Buddhism, primarily within the frameworks of the tradition of Transpersonal Psychology. Brown’s chapter on the stages of meditation provides a useful, if dated, study of key Buddhist texts and traditions.

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                                                Transcendental Meditation

                                                Transcendental Meditation (TM) is form of Hindu-inspired meditation as well as an international organization and movement that was created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008), an Indian-born follower of the Hindu guru Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. As described by Humes 2010, Maharishi initially taught meditation and Hindu philosophy in the context of religion, but progressively aligned the technique with modern science. Currently there are more than seven hundred scientific studies on the physiological and psychological benefits of TM, although many of these studies, such as the edited volume Orme-Johnson and Farrow 1977, have been self-published by the TM organization. Holmes 1984 was one of the first to critically evaluate the research into TM, and since then the claims, credibility, and quality of the research has been questioned. Canter and Ernst 2004 are among the more recent critics questioning the rigor of the studies as well as possible effects of researcher bias. Despite criticism, TM continues to be one of the most popular and most researched form of meditation internationally, and has recently regained some credibility by being recommended by the American Heart Association in a study by Brook, et al. 2013 as being potentially effective for high blood pressure management. See also Types of Meditation: Transcendental Meditation.

                                                • Brook, Robert D., Lawrence J. Appel, Melvyn Rubenfire, et al. 2013. Beyond medications and diet: Alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension 61:1360–1383.

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                                                  In a review of different non-pharmacological approaches for blood pressure management, The American Heart Association (AHA) classified Transcendental Meditation (TM) as Class II “might be reasonable, effectives unclear” and Level of Evidence B “conflicting evidence,” which situates it below aerobic exercise but above other meditation and relaxation techniques (including mindfulness) and yoga.

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                                                  • Canter, Peter H., and Edzard Ernst. 2004. Insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not Transcendental Meditation decreases blood pressure: Results of a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Hypertension 22:2049–2054.

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                                                    One of the first papers to publically criticize the Transcendental Meditation (TM) organization for the quality of its research, including self-publishing, and investigators’ affiliation with the TM organization. This as well as other papers by Canter and Ernst call into question the credibility of TM research methods, finding a correlation between purported effect size and lower Jadad scores for methodological rigor.

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                                                    • Holmes, Davis S. 1984. Meditation and somatic arousal reduction. American Psychologist 39.1: 1–10.

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                                                      An early critical review of the physiological effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM), published by the American Psychological Association’s flagship journal, reports that just as many studies found increases in physiological arousal as decreases, questioning the widespread assumption that TM meditation globally decreases somatic arousal.

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                                                      • Humes, Cynthia A. 2010. The Transcendental Meditation organization and its encounter with science. In Handbook of religion and the authority of science. Edited by James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer, 345–369. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

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                                                        Provides a scholarly overview of the history of Transcendental Meditation and the teachings of its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as he combined his Hindu-derived teachings into a “Vedic Science.” Identifies important moments in the history and development of the movement, especially in relation to the process of secularization and proximity to scientific authority.

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                                                        • Orme-Johnson, David W., and John T. Farrow, eds. 1977. Scientific research on the Transcendental Meditation program: Collected papers. Vol. 1. New York: Maharishi European Research Univ. Press.

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                                                          The first of many volumes of research on Transcendental Meditation (TM) that was published by the Maharishi European Research University (M.E.R.U.). Research includes works considered important by insiders within the TM organization. These volumes have been criticized by other scientists for being a self-published, non-peer reviewed form of self-promotion by the TM organization.

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                                                          TM-inspired Meditation Practices

                                                          The popularity of Transcendental Meditation (TM) inspired several secular variations, most notably Acem meditation and the Relaxation Response. Acem meditation is a secular derivative of TM that was developed in 1966 by the Norwegian psychiatrist Aren Holen, a former follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation movement. Although not popular in the United States, Acem has centers and programs throughout northern Europe, Canada, China, and Taiwan. The scientific research of Acem lags behind mindfulness and TM, with about ten publications, mostly by the same group of researchers, and often including founder Are Holen. Holen and Eifring 2007 provides an overview of this technique and its purported effects. Similar to TM, Acem meditation involves repeating a meditation sound and allowing thoughts to flow freely. Nesvold, et al. 2012 distinguishes Acem from both concentration practices and from TM, claiming it is a “non-directive practice” more akin to mindfulness. This study found an effect on sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity and increased heart rate variability that may be supportive of cardiovascular health. According to Xu, et al. 2014, the non-directive Acem practice also increases default mode network activity, a finding that stands in contrast to many studies on Buddhist meditation, especially those involving Focused Attention (FA). The authors interpret this activity as in line with the Acem meditation’s relaxed attention that allows (rather than restricts) mind wandering, spontaneous memories, and emotional processing as part of the practice. The Relaxation Response (RR) is TM-derived practice that was developed in 1975 by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, but secularized for use in medicine. As a practice, Benson 2000 describes RR as a employing a mental device (a simple word, phrase, or activity to repeat) and cultivating a passive attitude. The “relaxation response” has also been described as a physiological state of relaxation that can be evoked by a number of different practices or activities. One oft-cited recent study, Lazar, et al. 2000, studied a Hindu-inspired meditation movement with a practice similar to RR in order to gauge the effects of the relaxation response as a state, finding dynamic changes in attention and respiration across the meditation session. RR continues to be taught and researched, but mostly localized to the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Boston.

                                                          • Benson, Herbert. 2000. The Relaxation Response. New York: HarperCollins.

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                                                            The original book on the Relaxation Response (RR) by its creator Herbert Benson. Includes many chapters on cardiovascular health, the nervous system physiology of the stress response, and research into RR. An important book in 1975, a revised and updated version appeared in 2000.

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                                                            • Holen, A., and H. Eifring. 2007. Acem meditation: An introductory companion. Oslo: Acem International.

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                                                              A description of Acem meditation and its benefits written by its founder and creator.

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                                                              • Lazar, Sara W., George Bush, Randy L. Gollub, Gregory L. Fricchione, Gurucharan Khalsa, and Herbert Benson. 2000. Functional brain mapping of the relaxation response and meditation. Neuroreport 11:1581–1585.

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                                                                Harvard scientists, including Benson, studied practitioners in a Hindu-inspired meditation tradition (Kundalini yoga) who recited a short mantra in order to induce the “relaxation response.” Brain imaging via fMRI found increases in areas related to attention as well as changes in respiration. Also concluded that brain activity in meditation is dynamic and changes across meditation sessions.

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                                                                • Nesvold, Anders, Morten W. Fagerland, Svend Davanger, et al. 2012. Increased heart rate variability during nondirective meditation. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 19:773–780.

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                                                                  A recent study of Acem meditation, showing that Acem can increase heart rate variability, an index of parasympathetic predominance. The authors suggest that Acem may reduce cardiovascular risk, however the sample studied investigated only meditators familiar with Acem practice. A handful of other studies of Acem meditation have been published by Solberg.

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                                                                  • Xu, Jian, Alexandra Vik, Inge R. Groote, et al. 2014. Nondirective meditation activates default mode network and areas associated with memory retrieval and emotional processing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8.86: 1–10.

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                                                                    Recent study from Acem researchers aims to distinguish “Concentrative Practicing” from Acem’s “Nondirective Meditation,” which employs minimal cognitive effort and allows for mind wandering, spontaneous memories, and emotional processing. fMRI analysis found that default mode network activity increased during Nondirective Meditation, which authors suggest makes it more in line with findings from Transcendental Meditation (TM) and less like findings from most studies of Buddhist meditation practices.

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                                                                    Mindfulness

                                                                    Mindfulness meditation is a Buddhist-derived form of meditation that is generally perceived as a secular form of practice (see also the Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology article Mindfulness). Many mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been developed based upon the original program (see also the section Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs)). The application of mindfulness meditation in medicine was largely instigated by Jon Kabat-Zinn. A molecular geneticist from MIT and an ardent Buddhist meditator, Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness in 1979 and created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), one of the most widely used meditation programs in science, psychology, and medicine. The program’s success is due in part to being paired with research from its inception. Kabat-Zinn 1982 is the first scientific study of the effects of mindfulness on chronic pain. Kabat-Zinn 2013 is a reader-friendly overview of MBSR that includes a session-by-session program description along with many reports of participant experiences. The Center for Mindfulness website is an important hub of information, listing MBSR training programs through the center as well as programs offered through affiliated centers across the United States and worldwide. Black 2010 describes the website Mindfulness Research Monthly, which provides a list of other mindfulness-based centers and websites, as well as a monthly newsletter and research guide about recent research on mindfulness. Although very popular as a secular treatment widely adopted in clinical psychology, the precise nature of “mindfulness” as a state, trait, or practice, and questions concerning whether MBSR is secular or religious is the topic of much recent debate (see Criticism and Controversy). Kabat-Zinn 2011 addresses historical and theoretical roots of MBSR and is a must-read for anyone questioning whether MBSR is secular or religious. He describes MBSR as a skillful means for bringing the dharma into mainstream settings by using the word “mindfulness” to refer to “a universal dharma that is co-extensive, if not identical, with the teachings of the Buddha.” Supporting Kabat-Zinn’s insistence that MBSR is a loyal extension of Buddhist teachings, Cullen 2011, written by a long-time MBSR teacher, also describes a stronger link between MBSR and Buddhism than is currently assumed, even proposing MBSR teachers as a new lineage with American Buddhism.

                                                                    • Black, David S. 2010. Mindfulness research guide: A new paradigm for managing empirical health information. Mindfulness 1.3: 174–176.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s12671-010-0019-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      This article describes the creation of the research guide Mindfulness Research Monthly, a monthly digital newsletter of all recently published mindfulness studies.

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                                                                      • The Center for Mindfulness.

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                                                                        A center at the University of Massachusetts—Worcester Medical School, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. Offers MBSR courses, trains MBSR instructors, holds an annual conference for mindfulness research. The Center for Mindfulness website answers FAQs about MBSR, details ongoing research projects, and has a schedule of training programs offered across the United States and countries worldwide.

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                                                                        • Cullen, Margaret. 2011. Mindfulness-based interventions: An emerging phenomenon. Mindfulness 2:186–193.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s12671-011-0058-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Describes the roots of modern mindfulness and MBSR as emerging from the Buddhist text the Satipatthāna Sūtta (The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse). Investigates current trends, opportunities, and challenges for MBIs. Contends that although there are some advantages to “secular” MBIs, they risk becoming about relaxation and stress-reduction if the traditional practices pertaining to ethics and to insight are lost.

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                                                                          • Kabat-Zinn, Jon. 1982. An out-patient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry 4:33–47.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/0163-8343(82)90026-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            The first scientific study of MBSR and the first publication from the Center for Mindfulness. Describes the rationale of MBSR program components and preliminary outcomes for patients with chronic pain. Pre-post analysis showed reductions in pain, psychological distress, and psychiatric symptoms. Authors hypothesize that MBSR exerts benefits by decoupling the pain sensation from the psychological distress that accompanies the appraisal of pain.

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                                                                            • Kabat-Zinn, Jon. 2011. Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps. Contemporary Buddhism 12.1: 281–306.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/14639947.2011.564844Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Kabat-Zinn describes the Buddhist roots and general background of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He explains how the creation of MBSR was his attempt to bring the dharma to the mainstream and how “mindfulness” was meant as an umbrella term and as a “placeholder for the entire dharma,” which in part explains why there remains much confusion about the term.

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                                                                              • Kabat-Zinn, Jon. 2013. Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacorte.

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                                                                                A classic, reader-friendly introduction to MBSR and Kabat-Zinn’s model of recontextualizing Buddhist mindfulness into healthcare, originally published in 1990. Provides a theoretical overview of the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness and a summary of the eight-week program. The most recent (2013) edition has expanded to 720 pages to include a longer introduction and updated research sections.

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                                                                                Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs)

                                                                                While Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) continues to be applied to an increasingly wider range of conditions, since its inception, condition-specific variants of the program have also been created. These programs, collectively called Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs), include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) for substance abuse, Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) for binge eating, Mindfulness-Based Mental Fitness Training (MMFT) for military personnel, and many more (see also the Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology article Mindfulness). Of the various MBIs, MBCT has gained the most traction within mainstream psychiatry and has been included in clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of depression by the American Psychiatric Association and the UKs National Health Service (NICE 2009). Segal, et al. 2001 is the standard manual for MBCT; Bowen, et al. 2011 is the standard manual for MBRP; Kristeller and Wolever 2011 provides the rationale for MB-EAT; and Stanley, et al. 2011 is the latest study of MMFT. While the MBIs that are derived from MBSR programs tend to feature large amounts of formal meditation practice, several other therapies also use the term “mindfulness-based” to describe themselves. Some of these, however, rely more on mindfulness principles such as acceptance and do not include formal practice; therefore, they are not considered meditation programs. MBIs that do not include meditation include Linehan 1993, which is the manual on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Hayes, et al. 1999, the manual for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). However, the theoretical approaches of MBSR, DBT and ACT are largely in accord, and results are often published together. To make things more confusing, a new manual for a program called Mindfulness-based Anxiety Reduction (MBAR) put forth by Bujosa 2011 on the surface sounds like MBSR or one of its derivatives, but is an unrelated, self-published look-alike that sees “non-conceptual awareness” as both the antidote to suffering and a state of enlightenment.

                                                                                • Bowen, Sarah, Neha Chawla, and G. Alana Marlatt. 2011 Mindfulness-based relapse prevention for addictive behaviors: A clinician’s guide. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                  The Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) manual, a session-by-session guide with rationale for clinicians and researchers.

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                                                                                  • Bujosa, Cesar. 2011. Mindfulness-based anxiety reduction: Enlightenment and the liberation from psychological suffering. New York: Cesar Bujosa.

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                                                                                    A self-published spin-off MBI. Based both in Schema Therapy and in a theory that conceptual thinking is at the root of suffering, proposes that a state of “non-conceptual” awareness is both enlightenment and therapeutic. Provides the author’s autobiographical accounts of Mindfulness-Based Anxiety Reduction (MBAR) therapy and a manual for the reader to undergo the therapeutic process.

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                                                                                    • Hayes, Steven C., Kirk D. Strosahl, and Kelly G. Wilson. 1999. Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experimental approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                      The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) manual, intended for clinicians. Provides a theoretical framework as well as exercises and guidelines.

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                                                                                      • Kristeller, Jean L., and Ruth Q. Wolever. 2011. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for treating binge eating disorder: The conceptual foundation. Eating Disorders 19:49–61.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/10640266.2011.533605Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Provides a description of components of and rational for the Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) program. Explains how it is grounded in the theory and practice of mindfulness. Provides preliminary evidence on effects of MB-EAT on different dimensions of eating disorders.

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                                                                                        • Linehan, Marsha M. 1993. Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                          The manual for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), intended for clinicians. Discusses how mindfulness is a core skill that works in conjunction with other dimensions of the therapy.

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                                                                                          • National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). 2009. Depression: Management of depression in primary and secondary care. National Clinical Practice Guideline 23.

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                                                                                            A formal inclusion of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as a recommended treatment for the treatment of depression in the UK’s National Health Service. This puts MBCT in the category of state-sponsored treatments.

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                                                                                            • Segal, Zindel V., J. Mark G. Williams, and John D. Teasdale. 2001. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                              The first edition of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) manual, a session-by-session guide with agendas, homework and handouts, intended for clinicians. The second edition (2013) manual includes an electronic PDF document of all handouts and audiofiles of each meditation, read by Zindel Segal.

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                                                                                              • Stanley, Elizabeth A., John M. Schaldach, Anastacia Kiyonaga, and Amishi P. Jha. 2011. Mindfulness-based mind fitness training: A case study of a high stress pre-deployment military cohort. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice 18.4: 566–576.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.cbpra.2010.08.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Contains the most recent update of the Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training (MMFT) program. Also includes rationale and data for MMFT.

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                                                                                                Types of Meditation

                                                                                                There are many different types of meditation, and even across a single practice session, let alone a lifetime of practice. Practitioners may draw upon meditation techniques that need to be differentiated in order to be understood scientifically. Lutz, et al. 2007 offers an interdisciplinary perspective on both traditional Buddhist approaches to meditation and the state of the neuroscience of meditation. The authors detail the complex challenges involved in operationalizing traditional Buddhist practices for research. Lutz, et al. 2008 attempts to clearly distinguish Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) modes of practice. This tradition-neutral dichotomy has been widely adopted. Manna, et al. 2010 finds that this distinction holds neurobiologically and yields insights into the unique cognitive dimensions of these two practices. However, recent research has pointed out some limitations to this dichotomy. Formal meditation practice associated with different Zen traditions do not neatly fit with this dichotomy (see the section Zen). Responding to a similar conundrum, Travis and Shear 2010 argues that Transcendental Meditation is neither FA nor OM and propose a third category: Automatic Self-Transcending. Similarly, Josipovic, et al. 2012 proposes another type of Buddhist practice, Non-Dual Awareness, and the authors contrast this with FA in terms of its impact on cortical activity and neural networks. Lee, et al. 2012 demonstrates that Loving Kindness Meditation also has a unique neural signature when compared to FA, especially in terms of affective processing. Nash and Newberg 2013 summarizes and evaluates many of these existing taxonomies before proposing its own novel system of affective, cognitive, and null meditation methods and resultant states. Although based upon empirical work on FA, OM, NDA, and AST, Nash and Newberg’s theoretical taxonomy has not been empirically investigated. Finally Deleanu 2010 identifies various other affective, cognitive, and physiological types of traditional Buddhist meditation, some of which, such as visualization, have only barely begun to be studied scientifically. Typologies will likely continue to be expanded as a greater variety of meditation practices from within and across traditions are researched empirically.

                                                                                                • Deleanu, Florin. 2010. Agnostic meditations on Buddhist meditation. Zygon 45.3: 605–626.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01117.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  The author offers his own taxonomy of meditation based upon traditional Buddhist sources. A useful overview for those wanting to look beyond the existing scientific typologies to under-researched dimensions of meditation such as morality and visualization. Part of an interdisciplinary special issue entitled Imag(in)ing the Buddhist Brain.

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                                                                                                  • Josipovic, Zoran, Ilan Dinstein, Jochen Weber, and David J. Heeger. 2012. Influence of meditation on anti-correlated networks in the brain. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 5.183: 1–11.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00183Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Draws upon the hypothesis that cortical activity is divided into typically anti-correlated “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” systems. Uses fMRI to contrast Focused Attention (FA) meditation, which led to greater anti-correlation between systems, with Non-Dual Awareness (NDA) meditation, which led to decreased anti-correlation. Suggests that NDA is a unique mode of practice.

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                                                                                                    • Lee, Tatia M. C., Mei-Kei Leung, Wai-Kai Hou, et al. 2012. Distinct neural activity associated with focused-attention meditation and loving-kindness meditation. PLoS ONE 7.8: 1–11.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040054Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Contrasts Focused Attention (FA) practice with Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) in both experts and novices in terms of their effect on cognitive and affective processing. Through fMRI and behavioral measures, FA but not LKM enhanced attention, and both FA and LKM enhanced emotion processing. Suggests different practices lead to domain-specific changes.

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                                                                                                      • Lutz, Antoine, John P. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson. 2007. Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness: An introduction. In The Cambridge handbook of consciousness. Edited by Philip Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, and Evan Thompson, 497–550. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511816789Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        An essential interdisciplinary work. Provides a state-of-the-field synopsis of scientific research and methodological guidance for overcoming issues in research design. The authors explain various approaches to meditation within and across traditions and then detail a three-fold typology of Focused Attention, Open Presence, and Non-referential Compassion. This typology is then applied in relation to a thorough review of prior brain imaging research employing electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the study of different meditation practices.

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                                                                                                        • Lutz, Antoine, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12.4: 163–169.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.01.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Operationalizes for future research a distinction between Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) types of meditation. FA engages and develops sustained attention, whereas OM engages distributed attention and develops interoception and emotion regulation. Situates existing literature in relation to this typology and offers hypotheses for future research.

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                                                                                                          • Manna, Antoinetta, Antonino Raffone, Maruo Gianni Perrucci, et al. 2010. Neural correlates of focused attention and cognitive monitoring in meditation. Brain Research Bulletin 82:46–56.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.03.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Grounds Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) in discrete patterns of brain activity. Uses fMRI to contrast FA and OM in monastic experts and lay novices. Findings include enhanced activation in executive areas in monks practicing FA, and a more evaluative and effortful OM practice in laity than monks.

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                                                                                                            • Nash, Jonathan D., and Andrew Newberg. 2013. Toward a unifying taxonomy and definition for meditation. Frontiers in Psychology 4.806: 1–18.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00806Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Summarizes various recent attempts at creating taxonomies for meditation practices. Distinguishes between taxonomical approaches based upon techniques from those based upon resultant states. Suggests a new taxonomy of “affective-directed,” “cognitive-directed,” and “null-directed” methods as well as resultant “enhanced affective,” “enhanced cognitive,” and “enhanced non-cognitive/non-affective” states. Also includes helpful suggestions for additional qualifiers through a rubric of “taxonomic keys.”

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                                                                                                              • Travis, Fred, and Jonathan Shear. 2010. Focused attention, open monitoring, and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist, and Chinese traditions. Consciousness and Cognition 19.4: 1110–1118.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.01.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Based on existing EEG studies, suggests that Transcendental Meditation (TM) is neither Focused Attention (FA) or Open Monitoring (OM). Proposes instead the new category Automatic Self-Transcending (AST), which is effortless and without attentional focus. Although TM begins with an FA component, its AST technique is shown through unique alpha signatures.

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                                                                                                                Focused Attention

                                                                                                                Lutz, et al. 2008 operationalizes Focused Attention (FA) for empirical research. FA practices entail directing and sustaining attention on a target object, typically the sensation of breathing. However, practitioners also recruit other attentional skills, namely vigilance for detecting distractions, disengaging from distractions, and redirecting attention to the target object. Hasenkamp, et al. 2012 distinguishes four intervals of FA practice in terms of how they correlate with activation and connectivity in the default mode network, the salience network, and the executive network. Hasenkamp and Barsalou 2012 build upon this study to identify the experience-dependent plasticity of these networks among more experienced practitioners. Through neuroimaging and self-report measures, Lee, et al. 2012 demonstrate that FA practice leads to increased vigilance and executive control as well as decreased emotional reactivity. Similarly, Lutz, et al. 2009 and MacLean, et al. 2010 investigate the impact of intensive FA training in the context of three-month retreats. Both found increased vigilance as well as decreased cognitive effort relative to perceptual discrimination tasks. Zeidan, et al. 2010 uses self-report measures and cognitive tasks to find effects even in a four-day training period in mindfulness meditation. Due to the confusions over “mindfulness” (see Criticism and Controversy), Zeidan, et al. 2010 is a good example of how mindfulness research that investigates “mindfulness of breathing” contributes to the literature on FA, even though “mindfulness” is generally associated with Open Monitoring (OM).

                                                                                                                • Hasenkamp, Wendy, and Lawrence W. Barsalou. 2012. Effects of meditation experience on functional connectivity of distributed brain networks. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 6.38: 1–14.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Builds upon four intervals of Focused Attention (FA) from Hasenkamp, et al. 2012. Evaluated experienced meditators (more than 2000 hours) to determine experience-dependent plasticity. Experienced practitioners showed greater connectivity within attention networks, decreased connectivity between anterior and posterior regions of default mode network, and suggested more efficient switching between default and executive networks.

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                                                                                                                  • Hasenkamp, Wendy, Christine D. Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence W. Barsalou. 2012. Mind wandering and attention during focused meditation: A fine-grained temporal analysis of fluctuating cognitive states. NeuroImage 59:750–760.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.07.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Unpacks Focused Attention practice into four intervals: mind wandering, awareness of mind wandering, redirecting attention, and sustained attention. fMRI analysis showed mind wandering is associated with default mode network activity; the salience network is engaged during awareness of mind wandering; disengaging, redirecting, and sustaining attention are associated with the executive network.

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                                                                                                                    • Lee, Tatia M. C., Wai-Kai Hou, Mei-Kei Leung, et al. 2012. Distinct neural activity associated with focused-attention meditation and loving-kindness meditation. PLoS ONE 7.8: 1–11.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040054Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Focused Attention (FA) practitioners evaluated through self-report measures and fMRI. FA practitioners made fewer omission errors on attention task, demonstrating increased vigilance and executive control. They also demonstrated decreased emotional reactivity to an emotion-processing task similar to Loving-Kindness meditation practitioners, even though FA practice does not directly engage affect.

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                                                                                                                      • Lutz, Antoine, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12.4: 163–169.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.01.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Operationalizes Focused Attention (FA) practice as involving three attentional skills: maintaining vigilance for distractions from the target object, disengaging from distractions, and redirecting attention to the target object. Novices frequently invoke the regulative skills. Advanced practitioners invoke regulative skills less frequently, and less effort is required to sustain attention.

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                                                                                                                        • Lutz, Antoine, Heleen A. Slagter, Nancy B. Rawlings, Andrew D. Francis, Lawrence L. Greischar, and Richard J. Davidson. 2009. Mental training enhances attentional stability: Neural and behavioral evidence. The Journal of Neuroscience 29.42: 13418–13427.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1614-09.2009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Pre- and post-assessment of practitioners on three-month meditation retreat found decreased trial-to-trial variability in brain and behavioral responses to deviant attended tones. Specifically, the authors found an increase in phase consistency in theta activity in anterior regions in response to target stimuli, reflecting increased cognitive control; reduced cortical engagement in beta event-related desynchronization, associated with decreased cognitive effort; and a reduction of phase variability, indicating increased vigilance.

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                                                                                                                          • MacLean, Katherine A., Emilio Ferrer, Stephen R. Aichele, et al. 2010. Intensive meditation training improves perceptual discrimination and sustained attention. Psychological Science 21.6: 829–839.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0956797610371339Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Study investigates whether Focused Attention (FA) is a practice that can alleviate vigilance decrement. Participants in a three-month retreat demonstrated heightened vigilance with respect to a visual-perception task. The authors propose FA decreases resources needed for discrimination of a visual target and increases resources available for sustained attention to task.

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                                                                                                                            • Zeidan, Fadel, Susan K. Johnson, Bruce J. Diamond, Zhanna David, and Paula Goolkasian. 2010. Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition 19:597–605.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Long-term effects on advanced practitioners have been documented. This study investigates the impact of a four-day training in Mindfulness of Breathing, a Focused Attention practice, on cognition and mood. Self-report measures found an increase in mindfulness in practitioners; performance improved on cognitive tasks assessing vigilance, executive function, and working memory.

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                                                                                                                              Open Monitoring

                                                                                                                              As with Focused Attention (FA), Lutz, et al. 2008 also operationalized Open Monitoring (OM) as a monitoring skill that provides greater phenomenal access to the qualities of experience. In contrast to FA, OM has little to no sustained attention on a target object. The hypothesis in Lutz, et al. 2008 that OM also leads to decreased emotional reactivity due to the non-reactive orientation has been supported by subsequent research such as Taylor, et al. 2011, which found that different mechanisms of emotion regulation may be at work in beginning mindfulness meditators compared to experienced meditators. Like Taylor, et al. 2011, Dor-Ziderman, et al. 2013 also found that default mode network activity was implicated among advanced practitioners, which supports the general approach of OM to monitor the phenomenal qualities of experience without identifying with them. By comparing monks and novices, Manna, et al. 2010 also found evidence to suggest that novice OM practitioners may engage in more top-down regulation of their experience than experienced practitioners, for whom the OM task state more closely resembles their baseline. Looking at long-term practitioners, Holzel, et al. 2008 found structural changes in gray matter concentration in the right hippocampus and right anterior insula, which they interpreted as related to training in the modulation of cortical arousal and interoception. Multiple studies of OM have investigated hypothesized changes in perception and interoception. Slagter, et al. 2008 found that long-term OM practice resulted in a diminishing of the effects of attentional blink, which they hypothesized is due to a more diffuse distribution of cognitive resources or widening of the attentional spotlight. Cahn, et al. 2010 similarly found an increase detection and integration of sensory information, which like Slagter, et al. 2008, correlated with increase theta activity in frontal regions. Chiesa 2010 provides a critical overview of additional research into Vipassana-based OM in particular, pointing out both the methodological flaws of clinical and neuroimaging studies as well as the lack of clarity among Vipassana, mindfulness, and OM in scientific research (see Criticism and Controversy).

                                                                                                                              • Cahn, B. Rael, Arnaud Delorme, and John Polich. 2010. Occipital gamma activation during Vipassana meditation. Cognitive Processing 11:39–56.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/s10339-009-0352-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Assessed the state of Vipassana meditators fully absorbed in meditation in comparison to a mind-wandering control state. Authors interpreted increase in parieto-occipital gamma, decrease in frontal delta, and frontal distribution of theta as indicating an increased detection and integration of sensory information and a widening of the attentional spotlight.

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                                                                                                                                • Chiesa, Alberto. 2010. Vipassana meditation: Systematic review of current evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 16:37–46.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0362Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Review of scientific literature up to 2009 finds neuroimaging studies focusing on activation and gray matter density in long-term practitioners were the most rigorous. Clinical studies were critiqued for not being sufficiently grounded in validated scales. Author discusses the absence of a validated scientific model for Vipassana and confusion over the relationship between Vipassana and mindfulness.

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                                                                                                                                  • Dor-Ziderman, Yair, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Joseph Glicksohn, and Abraham Goldstein. 2013. Mindfulness-induced selflessness: A MEG neurophenomenological study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7.582: 1–17.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00582Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Employs MEG and qualitative self-reports to differentiate “narrative self,” “minimal self,” and “selflessness” in Vipassana meditators. Authors found distinct neural signatures for each of the modes relating to self. Research confirmed previous studies on self-referential processing and default mode network activity. In addition, beta activity in subcortical regions was implicated in “selflessness.”

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                                                                                                                                    • Holzel, Britta K., Ulrich Ott, Tim Gard, et al. 2008. Investigation of mindfulness meditation practitioners with voxel-based morphometry. SCAN 3:55–61.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsm038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Compared gray matter concentration in Vipassana meditators and controls to correlate structural differences with long-term practice. Gray matter increases in right hippocampus and right anterior insula interpreted as indications of increased ability to modulate cortical arousal and increased interoception.

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                                                                                                                                      • Lutz, Antoine, Heleen A. Slagter, John D. Dunne, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12.4: 163–169.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.01.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Operationalizes Open Monitoring (OM) as the cultivation of a monitoring skill. The monitoring does not take a target object; rather, salient features of present moment experience are effortlessly monitored, resulting in a greater phenomenal access to the qualities of experience. The authors hypothesize that because of the non-reactive stance, OM may diminish emotional reactivity.

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                                                                                                                                        • Manna, Antoinetta, Antonino Raffone, Maruo Gianni Perrucci, et al. 2010. Neural correlates of focused attention and cognitive monitoring in meditation. Brain Research Bulletin 82:46–56.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.03.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Investigates Open Monitoring (OM) in Theravada Buddhist monks and novices using fMRI. The authors found right prefrontal activation dominant in novices, though left dorsal and rostral ACC also suggests executive control and an evaluative stance not seen in monks. The OM task condition closely resembled monks’ resting state, suggesting habituation to OM in post-meditation.

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                                                                                                                                          • Slagter, Heleen A., Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar, Sander Nieuwenhuis, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. Theta phase synchrony and conscious target perception: Impact of intensive mental training. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 21.8: 1536–1549.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21125Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Investigates the impact of Open Monitoring (OM) practice on attentional blink. Concludes that long-term OM practice results in increased target detection even when not engaged in meditation because attentional resources are distributed more diffusely due to a stance of “nonclinging.” Authors found a correlation between target detection and enhanced theta phase synchrony.

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                                                                                                                                            • Taylor, Veronique A., Joshua Grant, Veronique Daneault, et al. 2011. Impact of mindfulness on the neural responses to emotional pictures in experienced and beginning meditators. NeuroImage 57:1524–1533.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.06.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Used behavioral measures and fMRI to evaluate emotional response to visual images in experienced (1000h+) and beginning mindfulness meditators. Found that beginning mindfulness meditators showed decreased amygdala activity relative to experienced meditators, whereas experienced meditators showed diminished default mode network activity but not amygdala activity, suggesting that novices employ mindfulness as strategy for top-down modulation of emotion, whereas more experienced practitioners are more “accepting” of emotional states.

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                                                                                                                                              Zen

                                                                                                                                              There is a general ambiguity in scientific literature on Zen meditation as to whether this practice is a Focused Attention (FA) or an Open Monitoring (OM) practice. Part of the problem is that “Zen” can include multiple lineages with different practice traditions. As is often the case with traditional Buddhist meditation systems, practices of formal meditation (generally referred to as “zazen”) can vary considerably across Zen lineages. In the Soto lineage, one central approach to practice, “just sitting” (shikantaza), incorporates cognitive processes resembling the dominant scientific typologies of FA and OM. Other practices, however, such as the koan practice predominant in the Rinzai lineage, do not neatly fit the dominant typologies and have not been extensively studied scientifically. Chiesa 2009 evaluates existing literature and finds it hard to summarize on account of a lack of standard operationalized model for Zen practice. Some studies he reviews show similar findings in theta activity akin to Vipassana studies, suggestive of an OM approach. Grant and Rainville 2009 document a decrease in reports of sensation of pain intensity as well as of unpleasantness in OM (but not FA) dimensions of Zen practice. However, the methods in Pagnoni, et al. 2008 are much closer to FA. They find that Zen practitioners using an FA approach were more effective than non-meditating controls in regulating default mode network activity when presented with semantic stimuli. Yu, et al. 2011 prescribe a controlled breathing technique in order to facilitate Focused Attention (FA) on breathing. However, the intentional manipulation of the abdominal muscles in this practice means that it cannot be directly compared with other FA practices involving mindfulness of breathing. Researchers must use caution in situating other studies about “Zen” in relation to this literature, as the techniques described are not necessarily typical of all Zen practices for the reasons explained above. Other studies have focused less on the method of practice and more on resultant experiential states. Shear and Jevning 1999 contend that even though Zen koan practice and Transcendental Meditation differ in technique, both are oriented toward the attainment of a “pure, qualityless consciousness.” Huang and Lo 2009 use electroencephalography (EEG) to establish the neural signature of a practice of focusing on the “Zen chakra,” through which proficient meditators attain a state of “transcendence.” This approach to practice is not common in Zen outside of the particular Taiwanese lineage they investigated, thus exemplifying some of the methodological difficulties in studying traditional Buddhist practices, which often vary considerably from lineage to lineage, even if they all purport to be associated with a common tradition such as “Zen.”

                                                                                                                                              • Chiesa, Alberto. 2009. Zen meditation: An integration of current evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15:585–592.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1089/acm.2008.0416Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Review of randomized controlled and cross-sectional studies prior to 2008. Some beginning Zen practices employ concentration on the breath akin to Focused Attention (FA); other Zen lineages eschew this method in favor of an approach akin to Open Monitoring (OM). Lack of operationalized scientific model makes general conclusions difficult.

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                                                                                                                                                • Grant, Joshua A., and Pierre Rainville. 2009. Pain sensitivity and analgesic effects of mindful states in Zen meditators: A cross-sectional study. Psychosomatic Medicine 71:106–114.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31818f52eeSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Used self-reports and physiological measures to compare experienced Zen meditators and non-meditators in their sensitivity to temperature-based pain stimulus during baseline state, concentration task (FA), and mindfulness task (OM). Found that concentration increased reports of pain in controls, and mindfulness decreased reports of pain sensation and unpleasantness in Zen practitioners.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Huang, Hsuan-Yung, and Pei-Chen Lo. 2009. EEG dynamics of experienced Zen meditation practitioners probed by complexity index and spectral measure. Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology 33.4: 314–321.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/03091900802602677Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    The authors employ EEG analysis on Taiwanese Zen meditators and non-meditating controls. Controls engaged in forty minutes of relaxation, while meditators concentrated on the “Zen chakra,” a practice atypical of Zen traditions. Meditators showed increased overall delta and occipital beta activity, interpreted as a state of increased arousal.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Pagnoni, Giuseppe, Milos Cekic, and Ying Guo. 2008. “Thinking about not-thinking”: Neural correlates of conceptual processing during Zen meditation. PLoS ONE 3.9: 1–10.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003083Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Employed fMRI to measure the response of experienced Zen meditators and non-meditating controls when presented with a semantic stimuli designed to trigger chains of thought and associated default mode network activity. Zen practitioners showed an increased ability to regulate spontaneous mental activity by redirecting attention to the breath.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Shear, Jonathan, and Ron Jevning. 1999. Pure consciousness: Scientific exploration of meditation techniques. Journal of Consciousness Studies 6.2–3: 189–209.

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                                                                                                                                                        Compares the techniques and experiences associated with Zen koans and Hindu mantra practices. Through reports from classical and contemporary texts, concludes that despite differences in technique, the target state is “pure consciousness.” Draws upon physiological studies of respiratory activity in meditators to support an argument for pure consciousness. Although, despite the title of the article, physiological data is subordinate to primarily theoretical arguments for pure consciousness.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Yu, Xinjun, Masaki Fumoto, Yasushi Nakatani, et al. 2011. Activation of the anterior prefrontal cortex and serotonergic system is associated with improvements in mood and EEG changes induced by Zen meditation practice in novices. International Journal of Psychophysiology 80:103–111.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2011.02.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          Investigates “Tanden breathing,” a Focused Attention practice associated with a Zen tradition, and involving focusing on and intentionally contracting abdominal muscles. The slowed rate of breathing leads to relaxation, increased blood serotonin levels, increased oxygenated hemoglobin in the anterior prefrontal cortex, and reports of reduction in negative mood.

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                                                                                                                                                          Compassion and Loving Kindness

                                                                                                                                                          Hoffman, et al. 2011 provides a brief overview of some of the Buddhist origins of Loving Kindness meditation (LKM) and Compassion meditation (CM). They summarize much of the existing clinical and scientific literature and point out that LKM and CM studies are either short-term trainings in novices or involve highly expert practitioners who have engaged in many other meditative practices as well. Consequently, there is very little understanding of the mechanisms that might underlie both novices and experts or of the changes in practitioners as they progress in LKM or CM as a mode of contemplative training. Among research in novices or meditation-naive subjects, Hutcherson, et al. 2008 employed explicit and implicit tasks to assess shifts in mood as a result of brief LKM when presented with images of strangers. The positive shift in mood among practitioners relative to controls was interpreted to suggest that LKM could increase social connectedness. Pace, et al. 2009 and Desbordes, et al. 2012 investigated a specific Compassion meditation operationalized based upon the Tibetan Buddhist mind-training lineage. Thus, these studies are difficult to compare with precision to other LKM and CM research based upon Theravada Buddhist approaches. Pace, et al. 2009 attempted to evaluate the effect of CM on social stress, but found no effect except in subgroup analysis. Desbordes, et al. 2012 investigates the same Compassion-based practice to determine if there are trait effects on practitioners not in a meditative state at the time of analysis. This study revealed a trend effect of amygdala activation, but it was not statistically significant. Both of these studies may be taken to suggest that CM may require a greater degree of training before significant transformations become apparent. Two studies in advanced CM practitioners in Tibetan Buddhist traditions by Lutz and colleagues demonstrate highly significant differences relative to novices. Lutz, et al. 2004 found unusually high gamma activation and phase-synchrony, which they report as unique to the practice of Non-referential Compassion meditation. Lutz, et al. 2008 implicates the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex in compassion-based responses to emotionally-laden stimuli. Finally, Weng, et al. 2013 and Garrison, et al. 2014 come to different conclusions about the role of the default mode network in CM practice. Garrison, et al. 2014 interpreted decreased BOLD signal and decreased intrinsic connectivity in the default mode network as an indication of a more advanced stage of CM practice in which self-referencing is diminished. Novices, they suggest, engage in the practice with greater self-related processing or mentalizing. By contrast, Weng, et al. 2013 suggest CM actively recruits the default mode network, in conjunction with the nucleus accumbens and greater inferior parietal cortex. They hypothesize that mentalizing may be an important component for increased altruism and social connectedness, which corroborates the findings of Hutcherson, et al. 2008.

                                                                                                                                                          • Desbordes, Gaelle, Lobsang T. Negi, Thaddeus W. W. Pace, B. Alan Wallace, Charles L. Raison, and Eric L. Schwartz. 2012. Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 6.292: 1–15.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Targeting left and right amygdalae, study employs fMRI as well as depression and anxiety scales to analyze effects of Compassion meditation relative to mindful-attention training and health education programs. Compassion group showed a trend increase in right amygdala activation in response to negative images, also associated with a decrease in depression score.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Garrison, Kathleen A., Dustin Scheinost, R. Todd Constable, and Judson A. Brewer. 2014. BOLD signal and functional connectivity associated with loving kindness meditation. Brain and Behavior.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/brb3.219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Compares experienced Loving Kindness practitioners with novices. Experienced meditators showed less intrinsic connectivity distribution, and greater functional connectivity between the posterior cingulate (PCC)/precuneus and the left inferior frontal gyrus and insula. Decrease in BOLD signal in PCC among experts was interpreted as absence of self-referential thinking as practice progresses. However, the authors point out that these effects may have come from practices other than LKM.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Hoffman, Stefan G., Paul Grossman, and Devon Hinton. 2011. Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical Psychology Review 31.7: 1126–1132.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.07.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Provides an overview of Loving-Kindness (LKM) and Compassion meditation (CM) practices from traditional Buddhist perspectives and a review of clinical and scientific studies up to 2010. Addresses the impact of LKM and CM on emotion and neurophysiology. Contends clinical treatments often differ from operationalized studies in their fidelity to Buddhist practices.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Hutcherson, Cendri A., Emma M. Seppala, and James J. Gross. 2008. Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion 8.5: 720–724.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/a0013237Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Assesses the impact of Loving Kindness meditation (LKM) on mood in novice practitioners. A visualization practice without affective content served as control condition. Changes in mood were evaluated through explicit scales and an implicit affective priming task. Explicitly, practitioners showed increased positive mood; implicitly, practitioners increased positive evaluation for targets only.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Lutz, Antoine, Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, Tom Johnstone, and Richard J. Davidson. 2008. Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS ONE 3.3: 1–10.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001897Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Compares effects of Non-referential Compassion practice in advanced meditators (more than 10,000 hours) and novices. When exposed to emotionally-laden auditory stimuli, advanced practitioners showed greater activation than novices in the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex. Negatively valenced emotional stimuli led to a greater activation in meditators, suggestive of increased empathy.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Lutz, Antoine, Lawrence L. Greishar, Nancy B. Rawlings, Matthieu Ricard, and Richard J. Davidson. 2004. Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during meditation practice. PNAS 101.46: 16369–16373.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0407401101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Advanced meditators (more than 10,000 hours) demonstrated higher gamma at baseline, during Non-referential Compassion practice, and in post-meditation relative to controls. Gamma activity and phase-synchrony demonstrated in advanced meditators may be unique to Non-referential Compassion, which is different than most meditation practices studied in cultivating a feeling of compassion without an explicit object.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Pace, Thaddeus W. W, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Daniel D. Adame, et al. 2009. Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34:87–98.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.08.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Employs Trier Social Stress Test to activate emotional and physiological responses to stress in Compassion-based meditators and controls. Study did not find an effect based upon group assignment; however, subgroup analysis correlated high Compassion practice time with decreased interleukin-6 and lower distress scores compared to low practice time and controls.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Weng, Helen Y., Andrew S. Fox, Alexander J. Shackman, et al. 2013. Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological Science 24.7: 1171–1180.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0956797612469537Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Investigates effect of Compassion practice on brain activation (fMRI) and altruistic behavior (redistribution game). Compassion trainees exhibited greater altruistic behavior than reappraisal trainees, greater dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activation, increased connectivity between DLPFC and nucleus accumbens, and greater inferior parietal cortex activation, suggestive of a neural marker for altruism.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Transcendental Meditation

                                                                                                                                                                          The literature on Transcendental Meditation (TM) is vast. Much of the research is undertaken by TM practitioners or faculty at the Maharishi University of Management, whose findings sometimes conflict with those of external reviewers. The fundamental TM practice is the recitation of a mantra, the researchers of such works as Travis and Wallace 1999, Travis, et al. 2010, and Barnes and Orme-Johnson 2012 also insist that TM is unlike other meditation techniques in being an “effortless” and “automatic” process of “self-transcending” all thought in order to attain “Transcendental Consciousness” or “pure awareness.” The Transcendental Meditation movement identifies this pure awareness as the most silent and peaceful state of consciousness possible and hypothesizes that it is through entering into and dwelling in this state that TM practice affects cognition and physiology. Comparing TM to eyes closed rest, Travis and Wallace 1999 found decreased breath rate, heart rate, and skin conductance levels, along with increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia at the onset of and throughout the TM condition. These physiological responses along with increased alpha coherence in frontal regions were taken to suggest that the practice of Transcendental Meditation is unlike Focused Attention practices; rather, TM introduces an immediate cascade of physiological response and cognitive changes indicative of an effortless, restful alertness. Similar cognitive findings were reported in Travis, et al. 2010. The authors analyzed alpha coherence in frontal regions, which they localized to the cingulate and precuneus of the default mode network. Unlike other studies of DMN activity, which associate it with mind-wandering or social cognition, this study interprets DMN activity and connectivity as correlating with the fundamental basis of consciousness accessed during TM practice. There are a number of comprehensive review articles summarizing the expansive research onto the implications and applications of Transcendental Meditation on health. These conclusions of reviews and meta-analyses noticeably differ between those affiliated with TM or one of its academic institutions and outside reviewers. Barnes and Orme-Johnson 2012 summarizes previous research on the effects of TM on cardiovascular disease, emphasizing throughout the positive effects in both youth and adults demonstrated through the studies. However, a critical evaluation of the methodologies of similar studies in Canter and Ernst 2004 found that most studies lacked control groups or randomization. These outsider reviewers found that across the studies on the effect of TM on blood pressure that effect size was inversely correlated with Jadad score for methodological rigor. They conclude that the evidence is insufficient. The meta-analysis by Orme-Johnson and Barnes 2013 is more nuanced and statistically rigorous. The authors conclude that TM demonstrated greater effect size on anxiety reduction than any other active alternative treatment. Finally, in response to a meta-analysis by Sedlmeier, et al. 2012 (cited under Meta-Analyses), Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck 2014 (cited under Meta-Analyses) comment that effect size for TM is demonstrably greater than for other meditation techniques. Sedlmeier, et al. 2014 contends, in reply, that their analysis would not be significantly changed by the criticisms from Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck, and that meta-analysis does not support claims that one meditation technique is generally superior to others.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Barnes, Vernon A., and David W. Orme-Johnson. 2012. Prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in adolescents and adults through the Transcendental Meditation program: A research review update. Current Hypertension Reviews 8.3: 227–242.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2174/157340212803530411Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Divides existing TM research into studies of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in youth and studies of hypertension and stress in adults. Concisely summarizes the various studies of positive effects found from TM practice. This review summarizes existing literature, but does not attempt a statistical meta-analysis.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Canter, Peter H., and Edzard Ernst. 2003. The cumulative effects of Transcendental Meditation on cognitive function: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 115.21–22: 758–766.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/BF03040500Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Review of studies claiming to demonstrate cognitive effects such as increased attention, alertness, creativity, and intelligence resulting from TM practice. Most studies were excluded on account of being self-selecting rather than randomized. Included studies summarized in detail. Studies strongest the positive results highly correlated with participant interest in learning TM, suggesting an expectation effect.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Canter, Peter H., and Edzard Ernst. 2004. Insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not Transcendental Meditation decreases blood pressure: results of a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Hypertension 22:2049–2054.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1097/00004872-200411000-00002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                This review is critical of most TM research as lacking a control group or randomization. Analysis of the eight studies on the impact of TM on blood pressure that met criteria found that greater positive outcomes reported by studies were associated with lower Jadad scores for methodological rigor. Potential bias and lack of rigor suggest insufficient evidence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Orme-Johnson, David W., and Vernon A. Barnes. 2013. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on trait anxiety: 
A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine 19:1–12.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1089/acm.2013.0204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  Review locates and summarizes the effects of TM on trait anxiety, assessing variables such as initial anxiety levels, age, and duration of practice. Anxiety was gauged through various physiological and behavioral measurements across the studies included. Meta-analysis found that TM had a greater effect size than all alternative active treatments, especially among those with high initial anxiety.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Sedlmeier, Peter, Juliane Eberth, and Marcus Schwarz. 2014. Meta-analyses and other methodological issues in meditation research: Reply to Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck (2014). Psychological Bulletin 140.2: 617–622.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1037/a0035074Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Response to the Comment by Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck in the same issue (pp. 610–616). While Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck challenged the initial meta-analysis of Sedlmeier, et al. 2012 (cited under Meta-Analyses) and argued that TM demonstrated greater effect size than other meditation practices, here Sedlmeier, et al. stand by their initial meta-analysis and argue that existing data are insufficient for supporting such claims.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Travis, Fred, David A. F. Haaga, John Hagelin, et al. 2010. A self-referential default brain state: Patterns of coherence, power, and eLORETA sources during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation practice. Cognitive Processing 11:21–30.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s10339-009-0343-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Investigates the impact of TM practice on default mode network (DMN) activity. Found frontal alpha power and coherence higher in TM practitioners. Through eLORETA analysis, alpha localized to cingulate and precuneus circuits, which was interpreted as suggesting TM practice engages a baseline self-awareness akin to that of the default mode network.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Travis, Frederick, and R. Keith Wallace. 1999. Autonomic and EEG patterns during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice: The basis for a neural model of TM practice. Consciousness and Cognition 8:302–318.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1006/ccog.1999.0403Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Found decreased breath rate, heart rate, and skin conductance levels, as well as increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia during TM practice when compared to eyes closed rest. Through EEG, the authors found higher anterior, posterior and frontal alpha coherence, but no change in power. The authors interpret these results as evidence of minimal effort and focused attention.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Other Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements

                                                                                                                                                                                        In addition to Transcendental Meditation, there are many other Hindu-inspired meditation movements that have been studied scientifically. Williamson 2010 provides an overview of the history and transmission of three major Hindu-inspired meditation movements (HIMMs), their social organization in America and the West, and the experiences of practitioners within these movements. However, few scientific studies explain in detail the origin, lineage, nature, and context of the meditation practice under investigation. Most of the studies of other Hindu-inspired meditation movements involve a meditation task that was or could be classified as Focused Attention (FA). Bormann, et al. 2013 found that veterans who engaged in a mantra-recitation based FA practice reported calm relaxation, letting go of negative thoughts and feelings, and diverting and redirecting attention in relation to stress and trauma triggering events. Braboszcz, et al. 2013 used various attention tasks to study a suite of three practices in the Isha Yoga tradition. After a three-month retreat, practitioners showed results on a Stroop and a global-local task consistent with other findings on the impact of FA practices. Isha Yoga is also comprised of a practice with an Open Monitoring (OM) component. The authors suggest that reduced attentional blink may be minimally cultivated through this OM practice, in line with other findings in OM traditions like Vipassana. However, the inability to disaggregate the three meditation practices prevents direct correlations. In contrast to most studies that compare a meditation task to control task, Baijal and Srinivasan 2010 also differentiated among three temporal stages of meditation. Their results are in accord with other Focused Attention (FA) techniques from other traditions that show increased theta activity in frontal areas and decreased activity in parietal areas, suggesting that sustained attention also diminishes awareness of sensory stimuli from the external environment. Wang, et al. 2011 also aimed to take into account perceived depth of meditation. Meditators in a Kundalini Yoga tradition performed an FA task and a deep breathing relaxation task. As with Baijal and Srinivasan 2010, this FA task showed increased cerebral blood flow in frontal areas and decrease in parietal areas. The perceived depth associated with the second task is confounded by a lack of validated scales in the self-report measures and the absence of task randomization.

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Baijal, Shruti, and Narayanan Srinivasan. 2010. Theta activity and meditative states: Spectral changes during concentrative meditation. Cognitive Processing 11:31–38.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s10339-009-0272-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Investigates a Focused Attention (FA) technique within Sudarshan Kriya Yoga. Distinguished three stages of meditation: initial, deep meditation, and exit. Results are consonant with other FA studies that have found increased theta activity in frontal areas during deep meditation, associated with attention. Decreased activity in parietal areas attributed to reduced attention to sensory stimuli.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bormann, Jill E., Samantha Hurst, and Ann Kelly. 2013. Meditation-based mantram intervention for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized trial. Psychological Trauma 5.3: 769–784.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/a0027522Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Investigates the impact of mantra-recitation practice on PTSD symptoms in veterans (n=65). Qualitative data collected on 268 triggering events, to which participants were trained to respond with mantra-recitation practice. Participants associated mantra effectiveness primarily with relaxation, letting go of negative feelings, thinking clearly, and diverting and focusing attention.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Braboszcz, Claire, B. Rael Cahn, Bhavani Balakrishnan, Raj K. Maturi, Romain Grandchamp, and Arnaud Delorme. 2013. Plasticity of visual attention in Isha Yoga meditation practitioners before and after a 3-month retreat. Frontiers in Psychology 4.914: 1–9.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00914Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Studies the effects of Isha Yoga, a system of three distinct meditation practices, on attention performance in three-month retreatants (n=82). Through Stroop, attentional blink, and global-local tasks, found that meditators post-retreat had less Stroop interference, reduction of attentional blink, and a greater tendency toward local processing. Findings suggest that Isha Yoga practices dominantly train Focused Attention.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Wang, Danny J. J., Marc Korczykowski, Hengyi Rao, et al. 2011. Cerebral blood flow changes associated with different meditation practices and perceived depth of meditation. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191.1: 60–67.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.09.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Investigates meditators in a Kundalini Yoga tradition with fMRI. Contrasts a recitation-based Focused Attention (FA) task with a deep breathing task aimed at relaxation. Found greater prefrontal cortex activation during FA task, but not in the relaxation task. Both showed decreased CBF in parietal area; the perceived depth of the relaxation task negatively correlated with activity in the anterior cingulate cortex.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Williamson, Lola. 2010. Transcendent in America: Hindu-inspired meditation movements as new religion. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  This book-length study of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation, and Swami Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga explains the impact of these new religious movements in 20th-century America. Part 2 provides the history, transmission, and development of these three major Hindu-inspired meditation movements. Part 3 provides very useful accounts of first-person experiences among practitioners within each movement.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Christian Contemplative Prayer Traditions

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Although there are many long-standing traditions of Christian contemplative prayer that could meaningfully be put in conversation with Hindu, Buddhist, and other traditions of meditation, presently there is very little scientific or clinical research on such practices. Studying Christian and other theistic traditions may also pose unique methodological problems. Beauregard and Paquette 2006 attempted to identify the neural correlates of nuns’ mystical experience, but were soon told that “God cannot be summoned at will.” This led to a research design in which both control and mystical conditions were of remembered experiences. Although they did also gather data on the degree to which the nuns felt the presence of God even in the remembered mystical condition, the idiosyncratic nature of the task precludes comparing that state to a mystical experience as typically understood. A better approach is to study the effects of Christian practices most similar to meditation. The SPECT analysis Newberg, et al. 2003 found that Franciscan nuns engaged in a contemplative prayer technique activated similar brain regions as Tibetan Buddhists engaged in a visualization practice. The increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex was interpreted as an indication of the role of focused attention, while blood flow to the inferior parietal lobe differentiated, associated with language, was interpreted as distinguishing visual from verbal-based practices. Articles by Knabb 2010 and Blanton 2011 make a case for considering the contemporary Christian contemplative practice “Centering Prayer” as a viable alternative to Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs). Both articles take as their point of departure the potential challenges when Buddhist-derived MBIs are applied to patients with theistic worldviews, suggesting that Centering Prayer may be more appropriate. Both articles argue that Centering Prayer and Mindfulness share many conceptual and practical similarities, most notably cognitive defusion, an emphasis on present-moment experience, and changing one’s perception of “self.” Cook 2010 also explores the intersection between psychotherapy and Orthodox Christian modes of contemplative prayer at length, focusing in particular on how the instructions in The Philokalia emphasize changing one’s relationship to one’s thoughts as a strategy for human flourishing. Despite the similarities between Mindfulness and Christian modes of contemplative prayer, presently Johnson, et al. 2009 is the only empirical study on the clinical effectiveness of Centering Prayer. This pilot study found evidence supporting previous hypotheses that Centering Prayer would have a positive impact on mood and well-being. Depression, anxiety, and anger decreased, while emotional and spiritual well-being increased post-intervention; however, only spiritual well-being was maintained six months later.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Beauregard, Mario, and Vincent Paquette. 2006. Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns. Neuroscience Letters 405:186–190.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2006.06.060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Study attempts to determine the neural correlates of a mystical experience through real-time fMRI analysis of Christian Carmelite nuns. The authors set up the study to contrast a remembered mystical experience with a remembered union with a human being. Many brain regions were implicated in the mystical condition relative to the control condition. Study demonstrates some of the challenges posed by studying religious experience in theistic traditions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Blanton, P. Gregg. 2011. The other mindful practice: Centering prayer and psychotherapy. Pastoral Psychology 60:133–147.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s11089-010-0292-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Compares the modern practice of Centering Prayer to Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs). Details the practice instructions of Centering Prayer and suggests intersections with Mindfulness. Suggests that on account of the similarities, Centering Prayer should also be integrated into psychotherapy as a theistic alternative to Buddhist-inspired MBIs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Cook, Christopher C. H. 2010. The Philokalia and the inner life: On passions and prayer. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        An in-depth study of The Philokalia—an 18th century compendium of contemplative literature from the Orthodox Christian tradition—from a psychological perspective. Details the rich phenomenology of subjective experience found throughout The Philokalia. Contends that changing one’s relationship to one’s thoughts through the practice of contemplative prayer is a strategy for human flourishing and well-being.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Johnson, Mary E., Ann M. Dose, Teri B. Pipe, et al. 2009. Centering prayer for women receiving chemotherapy for recurrent ovarian cancer: A pilot study. Oncology Nursing Forum 36.4: 421–428.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.421-428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Investigates the effects Centering Prayer has on mood and well-being for women (n=10) with ovarian cancer. Employed the Profile of Mood States and two other validated scales for measuring well-being in patients with chronic illness. Pre vs. post-intervention assessment showed decreased anxiety, depression, and anger, and improved emotional and spiritual well-being.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Knabb, Joshua J. 2010. Centering prayer as an alternative to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression relapse prevention. Journal of Religion and Health 51:908–924.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1007/s10943-010-9404-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Speculates that Christian psychotherapy clients would be more comfortable with a cognitive therapy based in their own theistic worldview rather than one derived from Buddhism. Contrasts Buddhist and Christian worldviews and practices, and presents Centering Prayer as an alternative to Mindfulness-Based Interventions given similar approaches to practice, such as cognitive defusion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Newberg, Andrew, Michael Pourdehnad, Abass Alavi, and Eugene G. D’Aquili. 2003. Cerebral blood flow during meditative prayer: Preliminary findings and methodological issues. Perceptual and Motor Skills 97:625–630.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2466/pms.2003.97.2.625Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Employs SPECT analysis to measure changes in cerebral blood flow in Franciscan nuns (n=3) during a verbal meditation practice. Results showed increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex and in the inferior frontal and parietal lobes, which were interpreted as reflecting focused attention and the role of language in this mode of contemplative prayer.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Current Research in the Science of Meditation

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The scientific study of meditation has been rapidly expanding at an unprecedented pace, with new scientific articles published almost every week. Despite the overwhelming number of studies, the poor methodological quality of most of the studies undermines the ability to come to conclusions about meditation’s effects. Understanding what constitutes or undermines methodological quality, and therefore what constitutes the level of evidence, becomes a prerequisite for being able navigate and interpret the research. Several sets of guidelines have been published that describe the standards of good research. Moher, et al. 2010 describes the third version of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT). A numerical quality scoring system was created by Jadad, et al. 1996, which remains frequently used in meta-analyses of meditation studies to determine quality as well as inclusion/exclusion criteria. Caspi and Burleson 2007 addresses methodological challenges that are specific to meditation research and offers advice for addressing them. A number of online resources are available to facilitate research into the science of meditation. David Black’s “Mindful Experience” website publishes a free monthly newsletter entitled Mindfulness Research Monthly. This newsletter covers newly published articles related to mindfulness and also announces studies and clinical trials. Black 2010 provides an overview of this research guide. The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) also hosts an impressive online bibliography with more than six thousand annotated entries (Murphy and Donovan 1997).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Black, David S. 2010. Mindfulness research guide: A new paradigm for managing empirical health information. Mindfulness 1.3: 174–176.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/s12671-010-0019-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                This article describes the creation of Mindfulness Research Monthly research guide, a digital newsletter of all recently published mindfulness studies. Newsletters published monthly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Caspi, Opher, and Katherine O. Burleson. 2007. Methodological challenges in meditation research. Advances in Mind Body Medicine 22:36–43.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Addresses the challenges and difficulties that are specific to meditation research and offers advice for addressing them.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Jadad, Alejandro R., R. Andrew Moore, Dawn Carroll, et al. 1996. Assessing the quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: Is blinding necessary? Controlled Clinical Trials 17.1: 1–12.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/0197-2456(95)00134-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Highly influential paper describes the creation of the Jadad score, a numerical scoring system for study quality that is widely used in meta-analyses of the effects of meditation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Moher, David, Sally Hopewell, Kenneth F. Schulz, et al. 2010. CONSORT 2010 explanation and elaboration: Updated guidelines for reporting parallel group randomised trials. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 63:e1–e37.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2010.03.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) is a set of guidelines and requirements for reporting clinical trials that were developed to improve the quality of research and to facilitate accurate, unbiased reporting. The CONSORT guidelines also have a checklist of requirements that can be used to assess the quality of a clinical trial. More information can be found at the CONSORT Statement Website.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Murphy, Michael, and Steven Donovan. 1997. The physical and physiological effects of meditation. 2d ed. Sausalito, CA: Institute of Noetic Sciences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Originally printed in 1997, The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) continues to maintain one of the most comprehensive annotated bibliographies of meditation research, containing more than six thousand entries. Updated quarterly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Neuroplasticity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We have often heard that “meditation changes the brain,” but what is the evidence? Both cross-sectional and longitudinal research studies on brain structure support this claim. Lazar, et al. 2005 was the first to document a difference in age-related cortical thickness between Theravada Buddhist meditators and age matched non-meditators. Similarly, Pagnoni and Cekic 2007 found a similar reduction in age-related brain volume in Zen meditators, and Luders, et al. 2009 found greater grey matter density in multiple brain areas in meditators across traditions compared to non-meditators. However, these cross-sectional studies, which compare meditators and non-meditators at a single point in time, cannot prove that the difference was due to meditation and not a preexisting difference between these groups. Thus, Hölzel, et al. 2011 investigated structural brain changes across an eight-week MBSR program. This study was one of the first to show longitudinal changes as result of meditation training. For a recent, technical, neuroscience-heavy review of meditation and neuroplasticity, see Fox, et al. 2014. For less recent, but also less technical and more reader-friendly reviews, see Davidson and Lutz 2008 and Ott, et al. 2011. Luders 2014 provides a review that specifically addresses the possibility of preventing age-related brain degeneration through meditation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Davidson, Richard J., and Antoine Lutz. 2008. Buddha’s brain: Neuroplasticity and meditation. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 171–174.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Non-technical review of meditation and neuroplasticity and its potential impact. Summarizes the authors’ previous work on neuroplasticity in attention areas as a result of Focused Attention (FA) practice and differences in gamma synchrony in long-term meditators engaged in Open Monitoring (OM) practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Fox, Kieran C. R., Savannah Nijeboer, Matthew L. Dixon, et al. 2014. Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The most recent and comprehensive review available to date on the topic of meditation-related changes in brain structure by well-known neuroscientists in the field. Meta-analysis of grey and white matter found differences in meditators primarily in prefrontal cortex and body awareness regions, among others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hölzel, Britta K., James Carmody, Mark Vangel, et al. 2011. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging 191:36–43.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The first study to investigate meditation-related changes in brain structure longitudinally, by measuring brain volume both before and after a MBSR course. This study demonstrates that meditation-related changes in brain structure can occur with two months of meditating.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Lazar, Sara W., Catherine E. Kerr, Rachel H. Wasserman, et al. 2005. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport 16:1893–1897.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1097/01.wnr.0000186598.66243.19Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Areas of the brain related to attention and interoception showed an age-relate decline in volume in non-meditators but not in Insight (Vipassana) meditators, suggesting that meditation training might prevent age-related brain atrophy. The study was criticized for not having a behavioral correlate of the brain measure.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Luders, Eileen. 2014. Exploring age-related brain degeneration in meditation practitioners. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307:82–88.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12217Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A technical but also reader-friendly review on whether meditation slows the degeneration of the aging brain. Reviews the three studies that have addressed this topic to date. Part of a special issue entitled Advances in Meditation Research.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Luders, Eileen A., Arthur W. Toga, Natasha Lepore, and Christian Gaser. 2009. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger frontal and hippocampal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage 45:672–678.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.12.061Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Luders has a data set of meditators from multiple traditions that she compares to matched controls from a brain mapping database. She publishes about one study a year on differences between meditators and non-meditators with a range of brain imaging techniques, including fMRI, fractional anisotropy, and cortical gyrification. This study found differences in gray matter density in the right orbito-frontal cortex and right hippocampus.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Ott, Ulrich, Britta K. Hölzel, and Dieter Vaitl. 2011. Brain structure and meditation: How spiritual practice shapes the brain. In Neuroscience, consciousness and spirituality. Edited by Harald Walach, Stephan Schmidt, and Wayne B. Jonas, 119–128. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-2079-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This chapter includes both a fairly technical summary of many of the studies in this section as well as a more reader-friendly discussion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Pagnoni, Giuseppe, and Milos Cekic. 2007. Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation. Neurobiology of Aging 28:1623–1627.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2007.06.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A similar finding as Lazar, et al. 2005, but this study also includes a behavioral attention task. The lack of age-related atrophy in meditators’ brains was associated with faster reaction times and better attention, suggesting that brain differences translate into preserved age-related behavioral performance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Meditation for Addiction

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There are many studies, articles, books, and chapters on the use of meditation, especially mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), for the treatment of addiction. There are three recent special issues on mindfulness for substance abuse, one in the journal Substance Use & Misuse (Vol. 49, April 2014) and another two in Substance Abuse (Vol. 30, no. 4, 2009 and Vol. 31, no. 2, 2010). Each contains many articles by experts in the field. The meta-analysis from each issue has been included below. Furthermore, each of the first authors listed below are well-known experts in the field of meditation and addiction and have each published many articles and book chapters on the topic. As recently as Zgierska, et al. 2009, conclusive data for mindfulness as a treatment for addiction was deemed “lacking.” As of 2014, there have been less than fifteen randomized controlled trials. Chiesa and Serretti 2014 provides a more positive review, and suggest that some MBIs may be as good or better than standard treatments or 12-step programs, while standard MBSR can sometimes be the same as no treatment. Alexander, et al. 1994 reviews the use of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for addiction. This study also provides a model of addiction treatment based through the lens of Vedic psychology. Similarly, Witkiewitz, et al. 2014 and Brewer, et al. 2013 propose psychological and biological mechanisms for mindfulness and addiction grounded in traditional Buddhist accounts of craving and contemporary psychology. Marlatt, et al. 2004 was one of the first pioneers to bring Buddhist meditation practices to the treatment of addiction, creating Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). Bowen, et al. 2014 compares MBRP to two other active conditions, a cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention program, and 12-step program in a three-way randomized clinical trial that followed participants for twelve months. Garland, et al. 2014 also proposes a neurobiological mechanism of addiction and its treatment through MBIs, based upon some of his own research testing these mechanisms in clinical trials.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Alexander, Charles N., Pat Robinson, and Maxwell Rainforth. 1994 Treating and preventing alcohol, nicotine, and drug abuse through Transcendental Meditation: A review and statistical meta-analysis. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11:13–87.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1300/J020v11n01_02Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Summarizes nineteen studies on the effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on multiple forms of substance abuse. Concludes that TM’s effects “are significantly larger than those produced by relaxation and other prevention and treatment programs.” Contextualizes approach within a theoretical framework of Maharishi’s Vedic philosophy of the Transcendent Self.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bowen, Sarah, Katie Witkiewitz, Seema L. Clifasefi, et al. 2014. Relative efficacy of mindfulness-based relapse prevention, standard relapse prevention, and treatment as usual for substance use disorders: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4546Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Arguably the most rigorous randomized controlled trial (n=286) of a mindfulness-based addiction program to date. Both cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based treatments were better than 12-step programs, with mindfulness showing a greater reduction in substance use at twelve months.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Brewer, Judson A., Hani M. Elwafi, and Jake H. Davis. 2013. Craving to quit: Psychological models and neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness training as treatment for addictions. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 27.2: 366–379.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/a0028490Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Combines Buddhist theory and cognitive science to propose a theoretical model of how mindfulness works to address craving and addiction. Claims that classical Buddhist theory, from which mindfulness-based interventions are derived, is similar to operant conditioning in providing a theory of how affective states contribute to positive and negative reinforcement. Unpacks Buddhist theories of craving and grounds them in modern psychological models.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Chiesa, Alberto, and Alessandro Serretti. 2014. Are mindfulness-based interventions effective for substance use disorders? A systematic review of the evidence. Substance Use & Misuse 49.5: 492–512.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2013.770027Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The most recent review of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for substance abuse. Among twenty-four included studies, about half were randomized control trials. Summarizes studies and evaluates for methodological rigor. Finds evidence that MBIs are effective on reducing the consumption of addictive drugs, and preliminary evidence that MBIs can directly reduce craving. Methodological confounds preclude more definitive conclusions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Garland, Eric L., Brett Froeliger, and Matthew O. Howard. 2014. Mindfulness training targets neurocognitive mechanisms of addiction at the attention-appraisal-emotion interface. Frontiers in Psychology 4.173: 1–16.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00173Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A review and a theoretical model for how mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) address addiction in terms of attentional biases, re-appraisal, and emotion regulation. Garland has many other studies testing these models through objective and behavioral measures.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Marlatt, G. Alan, Katie Witkiewitz, Tiara M. Dillworth, et al. 2004. Vipassana meditation as a treatment for alcohol and drug use disorders. In Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive-behavioral tradition. Edited by Steven C. Hayes, Victoria M. Follette, and Marsha M. Linehan, 261–287. New York: Guilford.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Drawing specifically on Vipassana meditation, Marlatt, et al. present mindfulness as an alternative spirituality-based treatment for those who don’t want to participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Presents the rationale, development, and preliminary data for a Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) program.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Witkiewitz, Katie, Sarah Bowen, Erin N. Harrop, Haley Douglas, Matthew Enkema, and Carly Sedgwick. 2014. Mindfulness-based treatment to prevent addictive behavior relapse: Theoretical models and hypothesized mechanisms of change. Substance Use & Misuse 49.5: 513–524.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2014.891845Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Provides a session-by-session guide to Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). Also proposes a mechanism of mindfulness for addiction that draws upon both Buddhist and psychological models. Demonstrates ways in which MBRP is related to other behavioral therapies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Zgierska, Aleksandra, David Rabago, Neharika Chawla, Kenneth Kushner, Robert Koehler, and Allan Marlatt. 2009. Mindfulness meditation for substance use disorders: A systematic review. Substance Abuse 30.4: 266–294.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/08897070903250019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Review of twenty-five eligible studies, including eight randomized controlled trials, on the effects of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on substance abuse. The authors conclude that due to methodological limitations, “conclusive data for mindfulness meditation as a treatment of substance use disorders are lacking.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Meditation for Cardiovascular Disease

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide and is therefore a major public health concern and a subject of well-funded research. Because of the link between CVD and stress, and because of the application of meditation as a form of stress reduction, there have been many studies on meditation’s effects on CVD and related factors like blood pressure. Research into Transcendental Meditation (TM) is the most extensive on this topic, with more than twenty peer-reviewed studies on blood pressure, cholesterol, stroke and heart disease. However, TM research in general and on CVD factor in particular has been subject to much scrutiny. Canter and Ernst 2004 reviewed TM studies and concluded that there was no evidence for positive, clinically relevant effects of TM on blood pressure. In addition, they criticized, “All the randomized clinical trials of TM for blood pressure that have been published to date have important methodological weaknesses and are potentially biased by the affiliation or association of authors to the TM organization.” This paper has important scientific and historical significance, as it was the first to publically question the scientific credibility of TM research. As a response to Canter, the TM organization has made attempts for authors of their studies to be unaffiliated, and they have also addressed Canter’s criticisms in their subsequent papers. For example, Anderson, et al. 2008 performed a meta-analysis of TM studies for blood pressure with a more careful methodology and concluded that “most studies” of TM lower blood pressure and “at least three trials related to Transcendental Meditation and blood pressure have been of high quality.” Meanwhile, studies of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for cardiovascular disease have also been accumulating. A recent review by Abbott, et al. 2014 located nine randomized controlled trials of MBIs for cardiovascular risk. They found strong evidence for MBI-related benefits for emotional distress, but mixed results with physiological outcomes like blood pressure. In a review of both TM and mindfulness meditations, Olex, et al. 2013 concluded that the evidence in support of meditation as an intervention for cardiovascular diseases is “limited but promising.” In 2013, the American Heart Association gave TM a class IIb, or “may be considered,” category of recommendation (see Brook, et al. 2013). This placed it above yoga and mindfulness, but well below aerobic exercise, which has a high level of evidence for reducing blood pressure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Abbott, Rebecca A., Rebecca Whear, Lauren R. Rodgers, et al. 2014. Effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness based cognitive therapy in vascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.02.012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Review and meta-analysis of mindfulness-based therapy interventions for people with, or at risk of, vascular disease. Eight randomized controlled trials suggested a reduction in stress, depression, and anxiety but mixed results for effects on the physiological aspects of vascular disease (i.e., blood pressure), which may be partially attributable to lack of long-term follow-up in available studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Anderson, James W., Chunxu Liu, and Richard J. Kyrscio. 2008. Blood pressure response to Transcendental Meditation: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Hypertension 21.3: 310–316.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1038/ajh.2007.65Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for blood pressure concluded that most studies show TM lowers blood pressure and is likely to thwart cardiovascular disease. Also includes responses to criticisms of study quality in TM research, including investigator bias and adverse effects.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Brook, Robert D., Lawrence J. Appel, Melvyn Rubenfire, et al. 2013. Beyond medications and diet: Alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension 61:1360–1383.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1161/HYP.0b013e318293645fSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The American Heart Association classified different non-pharmacological approaches to lowering blood pressure. Based on available evidence, Transcendental Meditation was categorized as Class II “might be reasonable, effectives unclear” and Level of Evidence B “conflicting evidence,” the same level as biofeedback. Other meditation and relaxation techniques (including mindfulness) and yoga were designated as Class III “no evidence, not recommended.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Canter, Peter H., and Edzard Ernst. 2004. Insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not Transcendental Meditation decreases blood pressure: Results of a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Hypertension 22:2049–2054.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1097/00004872-200411000-00002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Reviews six randomized controlled trials of Transcendental Meditation (TM) for hypertension. Concludes that there is insufficient evidence. Also includes extensive and detailed criticism of TM research, especially investigator bias and affiliation with the TM organization.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Olex, Stephen, Andrew Newberg, and Vincent M. Figueredo. 2013. Meditation: Should a cardiologist care? International Journal of Cardiology 168:1805–1810.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.06.086Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A reader-friendly review of meditation’s effects on processes involved in cardiovascular disease (CVD), including respiration, heart-rate variability, autonomic nervous system, inflammation, blood pressure, hormones, and emotional influences, especially stress and depression. Includes clinical description of meditation-based trials for cardiovascular disease, as well as multiple graphics, charts, and images and extensive reference list. Concludes that meditation-based interventions for CVD are “limited but promising.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Meditation for Pain

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pain is one of the most common, debilitating, and difficult medical conditions, and consequently many people seek out alternative methods, including meditation, to manage pain. As with most research on meditation, the evidence for meditation’s effects on pain is mixed. Chiesa and Serretti 2011 and Rajguru, et al. 2014 both provide a helpful meta-analysis on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for chronic pain, finding little evidence for a meditation-related benefit beyond the non-specific effects found in any treatment expectation. Rajguru, et al. 2014 concludes, “The current evidence supporting improvement of chronic pain due to mindfulness interventions is weak.” While MBIs had little impact on pain ratings, evidence was more positive for the aspects of psychological distress—such as fear, anxiety, and depression—that are a common part of pain-related conditions. In contrast to studies of eight-week clinical meditation-based interventions in medical patients, research exploring experimentally induced pain in advanced meditators have found more positive results. Grant 2014 reviews the existing studies of pain in advanced meditators. These studies are often accompanied by neuroimaging measures (fMRI, EEG). While there is much variability in the samples, practices, and methods, Grant concludes that Open Monitoring (OM) practices are superior to Focused Attention (FA) practices in reducing both pain intensity and unpleasantness. Zeidan, et al. 2011 found positive effects for FA and is particularly important because it suggests that the neuroscientific models based upon experimentally precise studies of pain in advanced meditators can be applied to programs for beginners. Naive meditators were trained in FA meditation practice for four days, and then practiced FA in an fMRI scanner while being subjected to the experience of thermal pain. Training in FA decreased the experience of pain intensity and unpleasantness, two dimensions that they were able to map to multiple brain areas related to sensory processing, executive control, and affective evaluation. Together, these studies suggest that more precision about the types of practices, the brain areas targeted, and the influence of certain psychological factors (i.e., acceptance, avoidance, compassion, etc.) could yield additional pain-relieving benefits to the current MBI programs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Chiesa, Alberto, and Alessandro Serretti. 2011. Mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain: A systematic review of the evidence. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17:83–93.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0546Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Reviewed ten controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on pain and emotional distress. The effect of MBIs on both pain ratings and psychological distress was mixed, with MBIs showing superiority over waitlist control, but not over other active treatments. Suggests that MBI’s benefits for pain are due to non-specific effects like expectation and hope, rather than a specific effect of meditation practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Grant, Joshua. 2014. Meditative analgesia: The current state of the field. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307:55–63.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12282Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A review of studies of Buddhist meditation on experimentally induced pain in healthy samples and advanced meditators. Concludes that Open Monitoring (OM) meditation is superior to Focused Attention (FA) meditation for reducing both pain intensity and unpleasantness. Includes a comprehensive review of neural mechanisms and brief discussion of the potential role of compassion meditation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Rajguru, Parth, Morey J. Kolber, Ashley N. Garcia, Matthew T. Smith, Chetan K. Patel, and William J. Hanney. 2014. Use of mindfulness meditation in the management of chronic pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1559827614522580Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reviewed the six existing randomized controlled trials of mindfulness meditation for pain. Concludes that current evidence for mindfulness-related improvements in pain was “weak” with better evidence for psychological variables like depression and anxiety.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Zeidan, Fadel, Katherine T. Martucci, Robert A. Kraft, Nakia S. Gordon, John G. McHaffie, and Robert C. Coghill. 2011. Brain mechanisms supporting the modulation of pain by mindfulness meditation. The Journal of Neuroscience 31:5540–5548.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5791-10.2011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Following four days of Focused Attention (FA) training, healthy subjects practiced FA meditation during experimentally induced pain (heat) in the fMRI scanner. FA produced reductions in both (objectively measured) pain intensity and pain unpleasantness. Multiple brain areas contribute to the FA-related experience of pain after, but not before, the training.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Meditation for Cognitive Enhancement

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Meditation is often called “mental training” or more specifically “attention training” and is therefore assumed to enhance a wide range of cognitive abilities, especially different forms of attention. However, the scientific evidence for meditation-related improvement in cognitive abilities is surprisingly sparse. Chiesa, et al. 2011 reviewed studies of the effects of mindfulness meditation on objectively measured cognitive abilities, including attention and memory. After reviewing more than forty-five hundred papers and discarding ones that relied on self-report data, the review produced twenty-two studies. However, of the twenty-two, only seven were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and two of those seven RCTs found no effect of meditation on any cognitive ability. For example, Anderson, et al. 2007 assessed four types of attention (sustained attention, inhibition, switching, and object detection) with standard neuropsychological measures before and after Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or a waitlist condition in a RCT of healthy adults (n= 72), but found no evidence that participation in the standard eight-week MBSR program improved any form of attention. One of the RCTs that found benefits, Ortner, et al. 2007, compared traditional Buddhist mindfulness practices with a relaxation program and a waitlist control in healthy adults. They found that meditators were able to disengage from the interference of negative emotional stimuli more quickly on the emotional interference task (EIT). In addition, emotional reactions were measured objectively, using galvanic skin response. Chiesa, et al. 2011 concluded that while many of the results are promising, the poor methodological quality of the research precludes any firm conclusions. Similar conclusions were made following recent reviews of meditation for improving cognition in aging (Gard, et al. 2014), or cognitive decline in the context of neurodegenerative conditions (Marciniak, et al. 2014). Gard, et al. 2014 found a total of twelve studies on meditation and cognition in the elderly. These studies were from a wide-range of meditation traditions including Zen, mindfulness/MBSR, Transcendental Meditation (TM), and other Hindu-influenced meditation movements, and assessed a range of cognitive abilities, including attention, processing speed, executive function, and memory. Only six studies were RCTs. While many studies yielded positive results, the methodological limitations (non-RCT, small sample size, high risk of bias) prevented any conclusions. Marciniak, et al. 2014 could find only three studies of meditation effects on cognition in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, and therefore concluded that more research was needed. Studies with more rigorous methodology and positive results are continuing to appear, such as Ainsworth, et al. 2013, an RCT which found improvements in executive function in short-term meditators.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ainsworth, Ben, Rachel Eddershaw, Daniel Meron, David S. Baldwin, and Matthew Garner. 2013. The effect of focused attention and open monitoring meditation on attention network function in healthy volunteers. Psychiatry Research 210:1226–1231.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.09.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Randomized control trial evaluated the effects of three hours of Focused Attention (FA), Open Monitoring (OM), and a relaxation control on alerting, orienting, and executive attention network function in college students. Found that both FA and OM demonstrated improvements in executive function even in a short-term practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Anderson, Nicole D., Mark A. Lau, Zindel V. Segal, and Scott R. Bishop. 2007. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and attentional control. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy 14:449–463.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/cpp.544Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Randomized controlled trial of participants in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) (n=39) versus a waitlisted control condition. Four standardized measures of different attention tasks (sustained attention, inhibition, switching, and object detection) found no effect over and above controls.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Chiesa, Alberto, Raffaella Calati, and Alessandro Serretti. 2011. Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review 31:449–464.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.11.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Comprehensive review focused exclusively on mindfulness meditation practices. Includes critical discussion of the Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) components of mindfulness. Suggests that initial stages of mindfulness training show improvement in executive functioning, while subsequent stages may show improvement in unfocused sustained attention. Table summarizes measures of cognition and main findings across twenty-three studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Gard, Tim, Britta K. Hölzel, and Sara W. Lazar. 2014. The potential effects of meditation on age-related cognitive decline: A systematic review. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307:89–103.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12348Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Rigorous recent review by well-known experts in the field. Thoroughly summarizes findings from twelve studies (six of which were randomized controlled trials) on the effects of meditation on cognitive capacities related to aging. Studies analyzed in the review included a range of meditation traditions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Marciniak, Rafal, Katerina Sheardova, Pavla Cermakova, Daneil Hudecek, Ratislav Sumec, and Jakub Hort. 2014. Effect of meditation on cognitive functions in context of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 8.17: 1–9.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Recent review of cognitive decline in the context of neurodegenerative conditions. Limited range of studies and methodological flaws preclude conclusions on the effect of meditation on age-related cognitive decline. Discussion contains theoretical and proposed mechanisms by which different meditation practices may slow neurodegeneration.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Ortner, Catherine M. N., Sachne Kilner, and Philp D. Zelazo. 2007. Mindfulness meditation and emotional interference in a simple cognitive task. Motivation and Emotion 31:271–283.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s11031-007-9076-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A well-designed three-armed randomized controlled trial comparing traditional Buddhist meditators with both a relaxation program and a waitlist. Both emotion task and physiological measures demonstrated meditators were able to disengage from interference of negative emotional stimuli more quickly than controls. One confound is the specific practices of the meditators were heterogeneous and not explained.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meditation for Depression and Anxiety

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meditation is most often applied in a clinical context for improving emotional disturbances like depression and anxiety. As a result, emotional disturbances are the most frequently studied and have the largest evidence base of any meditation outcome. Fjorback, et al. 2011 and Hofmann, et al. 2010 both provide meta-analyses that assessed the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on depression and anxiety. Both found moderate effect sizes for uncontrolled pre-post effects of meditation on depression and anxiety symptoms, with greater effects for individuals with more severe symptoms. However, neither analysis calculated the effect of mindfulness training in comparison to control conditions, which is a better estimate of the actual effect of meditation. (For more rigorous calculations of effect size, see Goyal, et al. 2014, cited under Meta-Analyses) Orme-Johnson and Barnes 2013 reviewed fourteen randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the impact of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on anxiety. They calculated moderate benefits over and above control conditions, with larger effects for more severe samples. One limitation to this review is that more than half of the studies reviewed were performed between 1970 and 2000. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was designed to prevent relapse or recurrence of depression. There are many neurobiological models of how mindfulness may help improve emotional disturbances; see Farb, et al. 2012 for a well-written review and introduction to the topic. Piet and Hougaard 2011 reviewed six RCTs of MBCT for depression relapse prevention, and found that MBCT was significantly better at reducing risk of relapse than treatment-as usual (TAU), but only for individuals who had three or more previous episodes of depression. Individuals with fewer than three prior episodes did not benefit from MBCT, or did slightly worse than TAU. This review also describes two studies where MBCT is compared to antidepressant maintenance (ADM) treatment, and reports that MBCT and ADM are equally effective, which is a frequently repeated interpretation of these studies. However, readers are encouraged to read both of these papers carefully. For example, Segal, et al. 2010 found that MBCT and ADM were comparable and better than placebo in about half (42 percent) of the sample, while in the other half (56 percent) neither treatment was better than a placebo. In order to assess whether the mindfulness-meditation practice in MBCT is the reason for its benefit, Williams, et al. 2014 constructed a three-armed RCT comparing regular MBCT with meditation to MBCT without meditation, with an additional TAU condition as control. MBCT with meditation had equal effects as MBCT without meditation, which raises questions about whether the meditation practice per se is the active ingredient of MBCT. For individuals who met diagnostic criteria for anxiety or depression, Strauss, et al. 2014 found that MBCT, but not MBSR, benefited individuals with depression, but they did not find evidence that any MBI was beneficial for individuals with an anxiety disorder. They conclude by cautioning against offering MBIs for anxiety disorders instead of a standard therapy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Farb, Norman A., Adam K. Anderson, and Zingal V. Segal. 2012. The mindful brain and emotion regulation in mood disorders. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 57:70–77.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A clear and concise overview of mechanisms of mindfulness by three well-known experts in the field. This review emphasizes that the mechanisms of mindfulness in emotion regulation entail redirecting attentional resources toward sensory regions, an alternate model of emotion regulation to cognitive reappraisal. Farb has published several other excellent and important papers on this topic. (See also the Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology article Mindfulness)

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Fjorback, L. O., M. Arendt, E. Ørnbøl, P. Fink, and H. Walach. 2011. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 124.2: 102–119.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01704.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Reviewed twenty-one randomized controlled trials of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Thorough tables systematically compare these studies, their methodologies, effect sizes, and reliability. Found moderate effect sizes in treatment for emotional problems, and both interventions are recommended for depression.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Hofmann, Stefan G., Alice T. Sawyer, Ashley A. Witt, and Diana Oh. 2010. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 78.2: 169–183.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1037/a001855Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Reviewed thirty-nine studies of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) for their effects on depression and anxiety in a range of clinical and non-clinical samples (n=1140). Only sixteen studies were randomized controlled trials. These studies showed particular efficacy in using MBIs for treating anxiety. Unlike other reviews, the authors found that Jadad scores did not moderate effect size.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Orme-Johnson, David W., and Vernon A. Barnes. 2013. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 19:1–12.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1089/acm.2013.0204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Reviewed fourteen randomized controlled trials employing Transcendental Meditation (TM) for the treatment of anxiety. Concluded that TM is superior than both relaxation and other types of meditation even though two studies reviewed found relaxation and TM as comparable and only two studies directly compared TM and other forms of meditation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Piet, Jacob, and Esben Hougaard. 2011. The effect of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for prevention of relapse in recurrent major depressive disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 31.6: 1032–1040.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.05.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Reviewed six randomized controlled trials of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression relapse prevention. Found that MBCT was significantly better at reducing risk of relapse than treatment-as usual (TAU), but only for individuals who had three or more previous episodes of depression. Individuals with fewer than three prior episodes did not benefit from MBCT, or did slightly worse than TAU.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Segal, Zindel V., Peter Bieling, Travor Young, et al. 2010. Antidepressant monotherapy vs sequential pharmacotherapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, or placebo, for relapse prophylaxis in recurrent depression. Archives of General Psychiatry 67:1256–1264.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This well-designed study by the creators of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has become a high-profile and frequently cited article. Large three-armed randomized controlled trial of MBCT compared to antidepressants and placebo with a long follow-up period. Conclusions setting MBCT on par with antidepressants are based on a subgroup analysis and should be interpreted with caution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Strauss, Clara, Kate Cavanagh, Annie Oliver, and Danelle Pettman. 2014. Mindfulness-based interventions for people diagnosed with a current episode of an anxiety or depressive disorder: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLoS One 9.4: e96110.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Reviewed twelve RCTs of MBCT and MBSR in individuals who met current diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder. MBCT but not MBSR was found to be beneficial compared to (mostly inactive) controls for individuals with depression, but MBIs were not found to be beneficial for individuals with an anxiety disorder.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Williams, J. Mark G., Catherine Crane, Thorsten Barnhofer, et al. 2014. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: A randomized dismantling trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 82:275–286.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1037/a0035036Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This study was a large (n=274), well-designed three-armed randomized controlled trial comparing regular Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with meditation to MBCT without meditation. Main analysis found no difference between interventions. Subgroup analysis found that MBCT provided more protection against relapse into depression (as compared to treatment as usual, but not MBCT without meditation) for those with more history of childhood trauma.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meta-Analyses

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There are many different kinds of “summary reports,” reviews, or meta-analyses of scientific studies of meditation which, depending on their scope and methodology, yield different conclusions. The most rigorous and extensive reviews of the research on meditation are reports that were commissioned by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a branch of the US government. Two AHRQ reports on meditation exist to date (Ospina, et al. 2008 and Goyal, et al. 2014). Ospina, et al. 2008 is a 482-page report that reviews a wide range of practices (including yoga, qigong, and tai chi) on health-related outcomes; Goyal, et al. 2014 is a 182-page report that reviews only meditation studies in clinical populations with active control groups, and excludes movement-based practices like yoga, qigong and tai chi. Both reports are rigorous and tend to report a much lower level of evidence for meditation benefits than many individual reports and review articles. Consequently, they have generated much criticism from meditation enthusiasts. The AHRQ report (Ospina, et al. 2008) found that “the therapeutic effects of meditation practices cannot be established based on the current literature,” citing the biggest problems as “confusion over what constitutes meditation” and “a lack of methodological rigor.” In general, the later reviews by Khoury, et al. 2013; Sedlmeier, et al. 2012; and Goyal, et al. 2014 reported greater evidence for positive effects of meditation-based interventions for improving anxiety and depression, with less evidence for other outcomes. The size of the effect was generally found to be inversely related both to the rigor of the study (i.e., the more rigorous the study, the smaller the effect) and to the strength of the comparison/control group (i.e., the more legitimate the control group, the smaller the effect). These recent reviews also agree that meditation is comparable, but not superior to, most other standard treatments for clinical samples, including psychotherapy and medication. Sedlmeier, et al. 2012 found that meditation was superior to both relaxation training and other types of active comparisons (like sports or positive thinking), but did not assess comparisons with standard treatments like psychotherapy or medication. The relationship between outcome and “mindfulness” (either practice minutes or self-reports) scales was mixed. Ospina, et al. 2008 and Sedlmeier, et al. 2012 include multiple kinds of meditation and a range of different outcomes; Khoury, et al. 2013 includes only mindfulness meditation; and Sedlmeier, et al. 2012 included only studies in healthy adult samples. These reviews have provoked strong reactions and response letters which are worth reading to get a sense of how divided the field is on the nature of the evidence for or against meditation. Orme-Johnson and Dillbeck 2014, whose authors both are scientists from the Maharishi School of Management, complained about Sedlmeier’s characterization of Transcendental Meditation (see also Types of Meditation: Transcendental Meditation). Harvard physician Allan Gorall (Goroll 2014) writes a scathing (invited) commentary in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about complementary medicine, including meditation and the factors that propagate it despite lack of evidence for its benefits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Goroll, Allan H. 2014. Moving toward evidence-based complementary care. JAMA Internal Medicine 174.3: 368–369.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.12995Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A highly critical commentary on the place of meditation among complementary and alternative medicines. Asks why meditation is so popular despite the absence of strong scientific evidence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Goyal, Madhav, Sonal Singh, Erica M. S. Sibinga, et al. 2014. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine 174:357–368.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A review of over eighteen thousand articles yielded only forty-seven studies that compared meditation to active control conditions in clinical samples. Concluded that mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence for improved anxiety, depression, and pain, but less evidence for other outcomes including stress, positive mood, attention, substance use, or sleep, and no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Khoury, Bassam, Tania Lecomte, Guillaume Fortin, et al. 2013. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review 33:763–771.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The authors reviewed 209 studies of mindfulness meditation and found that mindfulness was more effective in treating psychological disorders (anxiety, depression) than it was in treating physical or medical conditions (pain). Study quality predicted magnitude of effects such that more rigorous studies had smaller effects, and meditation was not better than standard treatments.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Orme-Johnson, David, and Michael C. Dillbeck. 2014. Methodological concerns for meta-analyses of meditation: Comment on Sedlmeier, et al. (2012). Psychological Bulletin 140.2: 610–616.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/a0035074Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Letter from Transcendental Meditation (TM) researchers criticizing Sedlmeier, et al.’s review of TM studies as biased. Argues that important studies were not included and that TM demonstrates a greater effect size than other meditation practices. Be sure to read Sedlmeier’s response in the same issue.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Ospina, Maria B., Kenneth Bond, Mohammad Karkhaneh, et al. 2008. Clinical trials of meditation practices in health care: Characteristics and quality. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14:1199–1213.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1089/acm.2008.0307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This article is the summary of a more than four-hundred page report that reviewed more than four hundred meditation studies and concluded the current state of research does not allow the therapeutic effects of meditation practices to be established. Identified as central flaws a lack of methodological rigor and problems with the definition and operationalization of “meditation.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Sedlmeier, Peter, Juliane Eberth, Marcus Schwarz, et al. 2012. The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin 138.6: 1139–1171.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/a0028168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This paper reviewed 163 studies of different types of meditation in nonclinical/healthy samples, including cross-sectional studies, and concluded that meditation is comparable to behavioral treatments and psychotherapy for emotional and relationship problems, but had weaker effects for cognitive variables. The review did not find a strong dose-related relationship between meditation practice amount and outcomes. Lack of theoretical precision about the goals and mechanisms of meditation was a frequent criticism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Unexpected, Adverse, and Understudied Effects of Meditation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that “Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people.” However, it also recognizes that adverse effects have been reported and not well researched. Indeed, only two studies have deliberately studied adverse effects of meditation. Shapiro 1992 found that over 60 percent of long-term Vipassana meditators reported one or more adverse effects. And while Otis 1984, who investigated adverse effects in Transcendental Meditation practitioners, found that less than half reported adverse effects, this study also documented that reports of adverse effects increased with more practice. Other studies are retrospective case reports of meditation-induced psychosis (Kuijpers, et al. 2007, Chan-Ob and Boonyanaruthee 1999), depersonalization (Castillo 1990) or mania (Yorston 2001). Significantly, in each of these studies the meditator was hospitalized or otherwise required acute treatment. In Epstein and Lieff 1981, Mark Epstein, a psychiatrist with an informed knowledge of Buddhist theory and practice, writes extensively on meditation-related difficulties both mild and severe. In the last five years, meditation researchers in the United Kingdom and the United States have begun to express concern about meditation-related adverse effects and safety issues (Kuijpers, et al. 2007; Lustyk, et al. 2009). For the most comprehensive review to date, start with Lustyk, et al. 2009.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Castillo, Richard J. 1990. Depersonalization and meditation. Psychiatry 53:158–168.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Comprehensive review and six detailed case reports of meditation-induced depersonalization. Suggests that contextualization and interpretation of symptoms as psychopathology or spiritual attainment may mediate whether the experience is distressing.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Chan-Ob, Tinnakorn, and Vudhichai Boonyanaruthee. 1999. Meditation in association with psychosis. Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand 82:925–930.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A series of three cases of meditation-induced psychosis at a single temple and meditation-center in Thailand. Describes symptoms, treatment, and follow-up. The authors postulate that two cases were triggered by sleep deprivation in the context of practice, but not by meditation itself.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Epstein, Mark D., and Jonathan D. Lieff. 1981. Psychiatric complications of meditation practice. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 13:137–147.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Psychiatrist Mark Epstein provides a knowledgeable, albeit somewhat outdated, review of previous reports and studies on meditation-related difficulties, situated in a psychodynamic framework and with an informed knowledge of traditional Buddhist practices.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kuijpers, H. J. H., F. M. M. A. van der Heijden, S. Tuinier, and W. M. A. Verhoeven. 2007. Meditation-induced psychosis. Psychopathology 40:461–464.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1159/000108125Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          One of the few recent articles on the topic of meditation-induced psychosis. Includes a novel case report and a review of other published cases of psychosis induced by meditation practice. This brief study comprises only two pages of text on the new case study and a one-page table summarized case reports in the existing literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Lustyk, M. Kathleen B., Neharika Chawla, Roger S. Nolan, and G. Alan Marlatt. 2009. Mindfulness meditation research: Issues of participant screening, safety procedures, and researcher training. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 24:20–30.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The most recent and comprehensive review of meditation-related adverse effects to date. Provides a detailed review of twelve studies and case reports of meditation-related adverse effects, potential risk factors, and implications for training of clinicians and researchers. Also includes a detailed table of reports of adverse effects in existing literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Otis, L. 1984. Adverse effects of Transcendental Meditation. In Meditation: Classic and contemporary perspectives. Edited by Deane H. Shapiro and Roger Walsh, 201–208. New York: Aldine.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A study of 574 Transcendental Meditators found that 36–48 percent reported adverse effects with the frequency of adverse effects increasing with more practice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Shapiro, Deane H., Jr. 1992. Adverse effects of meditation: A preliminary investigation of long-term meditators. International Journal of Psychosomatics 39:62–67.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The only prospective study of adverse effects from meditation to date, this study follows participants before, one month, and six months after a Vipassana retreat. Sixty-four percent reported at least one adverse effect and 7 percent serious adverse effects that required discontinuation of meditation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Yorston, Graeme A. 2001. Mania precipitated by meditation: A case report and literature review. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 4:209–214.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/713685624Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Includes a brief case study meditation-induced mania in a female Zen practitioner, as well as a brief scientifically oriented discussion of meditation-induced psychosis.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Meditation Effects Expected by Tradition

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The secular and clinical applications of meditation in the West often proceed without much attention to the traditional religious motivations for and goals of meditation. As a result, many of the meditation-related experiences that are well-documented in traditional religious texts remain unknown to Western practitioners, scientists, and psychologists. As Kennedy 1976 points out, desired states or meditation effects explicitly sought in traditional contexts may be viewed as pathological in a secular or clinical context. This section intends to provide readers with information about the range of experiences expected from meditation according to different traditional perspectives outside of health promotion or other secular goals. Kornfield 1979 and Goleman 1979 provide good overviews of the variety of meditative experiences in the Theravada Buddhist Vipassana tradition. VanderKooi 1997 looks specifically for difficult or challenging experiences across Theravada, Zen, and Tibetan types of Buddhist meditation. Kennedy 1976 was one of the first psychiatrists to consider that the loss of the sense of self, considered a pathological state called “depersonalization” in psychiatry, is a desired state in certain meditation traditions. More recently, the field is beginning to acknowledge and study traditional meditation effects with neuroscientific approaches. Dor-Ziderman, et al. 2013 explores the neural correlates of a cultivated experience of selflessness in Theravada Buddhist meditators. Full, et al. 2013 is a novel qualitative study of meditation-induced alterations in perception and cognition among advanced practitioners, mostly from Burmese Vipassana traditions. Lindahl, et al. 2014 investigates meditation-induced light experiences, a common meditation experience that has been virtually undocumented in scientific research, and provides a novel hypothesis about the significance of such experiences relative to traditional goals (concentration) and scientific understandings (neuroplasticity). Travis 2014 presents the goals of Transcendental Meditation from the perspective of founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In particular, this study attempts to correlate the desired state of “Transcendental Consciousness,” “Cosmic Consciousness,” or “pure consciousness” in relation to existing EEG-based research on the process of “automatic self-transcending.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dor-Ziderman, Yair, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Joseph Glicksohn, and Abraham Goldstein. 2013. Mindfulness-induced selflessness: A MEG neurophenomenological study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7.582: 1–17.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00582Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Neuroimaging study that uses magnetoencephalography (MEG) to explore the neural correlates of meditation-induced selflessness in twelve Theravada Buddhist Vipassana meditators. Includes an integration between Buddhist and cognitive science approaches to the sense of self.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Full, Gisela E., Harald Walach, and Mathis Trautwein. 2013. Meditation induced changes in perception: An interview study with expert meditators (sotapannas) in Burma. Mindfulness 4:55–63.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s12671-012-0173-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Interview-based study of changes in perception in advanced Theravada Buddhist meditators. Explores meditation effects according to traditional Buddhist goals of insight and enlightenment, especially the perceptual shifts believed to happen as a consequence of long-term practice, rather than modern secular or health objectives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Goleman, Daniel. 1979. A taxonomy of meditation-specific altered states. Journal of Altered States of Consciousness 42:203–213.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A description of meditation-related experiences based on the Theravada Buddhist progression of “stages of insight.” Although dated, it remains a concise and useful overview of traditional Theravada Buddhist trajectories of practice and anticipated anomalous experiences for non-specialists.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kennedy, Raymond B., Jr. 1976. Self-induced depersonalization syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry 133:1326–1328.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1176/ajp.133.11.1326Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Case report of meditation-induced depersonalization in two meditators that incorporates the possibility that the (usually pathological) loss of self may be considered desirable or pathological depending on the patients’ goals or worldview and should be treated accordingly.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kornfield, Jack. 1979. Intensive insight meditation: A phenomenological study. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 11:41–56.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Buddhist meditation teacher and psychologist Jack Kornfield’s doctoral dissertation qualitatively explores the range of meditation-related experiences during insight meditation retreats. A classic must-read for researchers, clinicians, and meditators.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Lindahl, Jared R., Christopher T. Kaplan, Evan M. Winget, and Willoughby B. Britton. 2014. A Phenomenology of meditation-induced light experiences: Traditional Buddhist and neurobiological perspectives. Frontiers in Consciousness Research 4.973: 1–16.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00973Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The first scientific study to document light-related visual hallucinations in contemporary Western Buddhist meditators. Provides qualitative descriptions of light experiences that are contextualized in relation both to the neurobiology of perception and to Buddhist textual perspectives. Authors put forth a hypothesis that meditation-induced lights may be an indication of a heightened period of neuroplasticity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Travis, Frederick. 2014. Transcendental experiences during meditation practice. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307:1–8.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12316Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Review paper by Transcendental Meditation (TM) researcher situates existing literature in the context of the ultimate goal of TM: using the practice of “automatic self-transcending” to attain Transcendental or Cosmic Consciousness. Includes Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s definitions and postulated Indian antecedents. Interprets increased alpha-1 activity in frontal regions as indicating an enhanced wakefulness attained through familiarity with Transcendental Consciousness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • VanderKooi, Lois. 1997. Buddhist teachers’ experience with extreme mental states in Western meditators. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 29:31–46.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mostly useful for the interviews with Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan Buddhist Meditation teachers and practitioners about their experience with difficult, or challenging meditation-induced experiences and non-ordinary states of consciousness. Contextualized within frameworks of both traditional Buddhism and Transpersonal Psychology. Includes implications for clinical applications of meditation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Criticism and Controversy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The role of meditation in Western psychology remains ambiguous for two closely related reasons: confusion over whether meditation practices have become (or even can be) “secularized,” and confusion over the operationalization of those practices as they are translated from an Asian religious context into a Western psychological context. As discussed above in the section entitled History of Meditation in the West, Asian Hindus and Buddhists intentionally embraced the language and authority of science such that systems of meditation like Transcendental Meditation can even present themselves as being scientific and therapeutic as well as being oriented toward goals that many would identify as religious in nature (see also the reviews in Canter and Ernst 2004, cited under Types of Meditation: Transcendental Meditation). These approaches from within meditation traditions have contributed to the process of secularization and have influenced psychologists keen on embracing and integrating meditation, especially in clinical interventions and psychotherapies. Mikulas 2007 summarizes the history of the embrace of Buddhism by Western psychology. He argues that “essential Buddhism” is a psychology and not a religion or philosophy at all and advocates that more dimensions of Buddhist theory and practice be integrated into Western models and therapies. A classic article, Sharf 1995 provides a historian of religion’s perspective on how this view of Buddhism came about in the modern period through the development of a rhetoric on “inner experience.” Cho 2012 explains how ambiguities inherent to the process of translation and cultural transmission has led to Buddhism being shaped in a way that suits the specific needs of the West. The founders of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) have recently weighed in on the question of how mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are related to traditional Buddhism. Kabat-Zinn 2011 discusses the various Buddhist traditions that informed the theory and practice of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). These multiple influences meant that he initially did not clearly define or operationalize mindfulness, preferring instead to treat “mindfulness” as a “place-holder for the entire dharma.” Teasdale and Chaskalson 2011 explains how MBCT should be approached in relation to the Four Noble Truths—the fundamental teaching of Buddhism on the origin and end of suffering. Cullen 2011 supports Kabat-Zinn’s insistence that MBSR is a loyal extension of Buddhist teachings. Her article describes the roots of modern mindfulness and MBSR emerging from the Buddhist text The Satipaṭṭhāna Sūtta (The Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse), and she presents MBIs in general as “a new American Dharma.” Other research has demonstrated that this process of cultural translation has led to ambiguities in how “mindfulness” in particular has been operationalized. Davidson 2010 points out that across a special issue of Emotion, “mindfulness” was operationalized in many different ways and that this inconsistency is an obstacle to scientific understanding of its effects. Dreyfus 2011 demonstrates that the conception of mindfulness in MBIs is missing some of the original Buddhist connotations regarding memory and discrimination. Due to its importance and popularity, the entire special issue of Contemporary Buddhism (Vol. 12, no. 1, 2011), featuring the articles by Teasdale, Kabat-Zinn, and Dreyfus mentioned above, was reprinted as Mindfulness: Diverse Perspectives on Its Meaning Origins and Applications, edited by Jon Kabat-Zinn and Mark Williams, and published by Routledge in 2013. Researchers investigating mindfulness and other meditation traditions should be aware of the heterogeneity both within psychological approaches to meditation and between psychological and traditional religious approaches (for more information, see also the Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology article Mindfulness and the Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism articles Mindfulness, Meditation, and Buddhism in Psychology and Psychotherapy.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Cho, Francisca. 2012. Buddhism and science: Translating and re-translating culture. In Buddhism in the modern world. Edited by David L. McMahan, 273–288. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Addresses the problems inherent in cultural translation and illustrates how contemporary Buddhism has been sculpted for a Western audience in relationship to psychology and science. Argues that the practical benefits of Buddhism have been emphasized over and above fidelity to tradition and that modern Buddhists negotiate “secularism” in a way that works to their advantage.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Cullen, Margaret. 2011. Mindfulness-based interventions: An emerging phenomenon. Mindfulness 2:186–193.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s12671-011-0058-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Traces the history and development of the mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) that derived from Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Investigates current trends, opportunities, and challenges for MBIs. Contends that although there are some advantages to “secular” MBIs, they risk becoming about relaxation and stress-reduction if the traditional practices relative to ethics and to insight are lost.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Davidson, Richard J. 2010. Empirical explorations of mindfulness: Conceptual and methodological conundrums. Emotion 10:8–11.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/a0018480Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reflections on the use of the term “mindfulness” in this special issue. Argues that not only is mindfulness operationalized in multiple, often inconsistent ways, the methodology of many interventions and research studies make isolating the effect of mindfulness challenging and in need of future research. Calls for a differentiation between state-based and dispositional mindfulness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Dreyfus, Georges. 2011. Is mindfulness present-centered and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism 12.1: 41–54.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/14639947.2011.564815Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Argues that traditional Buddhist approaches to “mindfulness” have more to do with memory and discernment or evaluation of experience than its contemporary operationalization as “bare attention” or as a “present-centered” and “non-judgmental” awareness. Distinguishes between mindfulness as a cognitive capacity and “wise mindfulness” as a strategy for attaining insight.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kabat-Zinn, Jon. 2011. Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps. Contemporary Buddhism 12.1: 281–306.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/14639947.2011.564844Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Essential reading from the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on the inspiration and intention behind MBSR as well as its relationship to Buddhism. Kabat-Zinn insists that mindfulness is an attempt to bring various dimensions of Buddhist thought and practice to a wider audience. Includes reflections on some of the critical essays in this volume and how he intentionally left “mindfulness” ambiguous and multifaceted.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Mikulas, William. 2007. Buddhism and Western psychology: Fundamentals of integration. Journal of Consciousness Studies 14.4: 4–49.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Argues that “essential Buddhism” is a psychology, rather than a religion or a philosophy, and is therefore well suited for integration with Western psychology. Provides an overview of how core Buddhist principles have influenced contemporary psychology, especially mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). Suggests that integrating more Buddhist psychology will strengthen Western psychology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Sharf, Robert. 1995. Buddhist modernism and the rhetoric of meditative experience. Numen 42:228–283.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1163/1568527952598549Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Classic essay on the origins in the modern period of a rhetoric of “inner experience” that became increasingly emphasized in the transmission of Buddhism from Asia to the West. Particular attention given to the role of Theravada and Zen reform movements as shaping current understandings of Buddhism as rational, scientific, and/or psychological in nature or origin.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Teasdale, John D., and Michael Chaskalson. 2011. How does mindfulness transform suffering?: I: The nature and origins of dukkha. Contemporary Buddhism 12.1: 89–102.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/14639947.2011.564824Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Part 1 of two-part article provides a commentary on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, which address the origin and cessation of suffering, and an argument for their continued relevance in mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). Part 2: The Transformation of Dukkha(pp. 103–124) applies traditional Buddhist theories of suffering to a psychological model detailing how mindfulness transforms suffering through three strategies.

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