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The term “Enlightenment” is quite a big word with a lot of semantic baggage. It’s really an imprecise construct for the field of contemplative neuroscience. Friend and colleague, Jake Davis, a Buddhist scholar and I comment in a recent issue of Frontiers in Consciousness about the forseeable future of unpacking the concept into clearly observable phenomena. Check out the paper here [Link]
“Using the term enlightenment or even the term more native to Buddhist traditions, “awakening” (bodhi), as if it referred to a single outcome either privileges one conception over others or else assumes that there is some commonality among the traditional goals of diverse contemplative traditions. There are deep disagreements over the nature of the goal between and even within various Buddhist schools. Scientific investigations cannot assume that there is any commonality among the transformative changes referred to as “kensho,” “stream entry,” “realizing the nature of mind,” and so on, that various Buddhist traditions take as various stages of awakening. Empirical investigations of these constructs can only proceed with reference to the specific psychological and behavioral outcomes described in the native discourse of a specific tradition”
- Enlightened Science: Technology & Meditation (buddhistinsight.com)
The Mind & Life Summer Research Institute was yet again a successful week-long venture into the depths of contemplative science. For a description of the program and its purpose see [Link]. For pictures see picasa [Link] or Flikr [Link] and a montage with Ottmar Liebert is on youtube [Link]. (photos by Dave Vago and Dave Womack)
This was my 7th year attending the SRI and every year since 2005, scientists in this field grapple with operationalizing and deconstructing concepts that originate from an incredibly rich and complex historical context – The Buddhist “science of mind” . With an explosion of research and interest in the domain of mindfulness, science has yet to grasp the subtleties surrounding the heterogeneity of meditation practice and specifically those that seemingly cultivate mindfulness as a state, trait, and in terms of clinical interventions.
This year’s theme was devoted to the theme of ”New Frontiers in the Contemplative Sciences.” It was also paying tribute to Franciso Varela, the pioneer of neurophenomenology and the Mind and Life dialogues. A continued in-depth tri-logue has been the prescription that emerges for pushing this emerging field of contemplative science further…a trilogue between scientists, contemplative scholars/practitioners, and academics who have the ability to translate what one perspective or source of information can benefit in dissemination or integration with the other two. By continuing this trilogue, scientists will better be able to distinguish between what they should be studying, what they think they should be studying, and what they truly are studying….
This also translates to the practitioner him/herself who must distinguish between what he/she is doing while meditating in a specific style of practice, what they think they should be doing while practicing, and what they actually are doing. John Dunne, a Buddhist contemplative scholar/academic provided one of the more thought provoking presentations by challenging our conceptions of meditation and mindfulness as ‘Black box’ terms. He emphasized, “Historical contexts are not important if people are practicing something else”. Essentially, as scientists in this field, we MUST be absolutely clear what states of mind we are studying when we claim to be studying mindfulness.
Just a short note about the economics of Happiness. The topic has been very popular lately, more so than previously apparently. The short story is that Happiness is good business. It’s good business for your body. It’s good business for your family. It’s good business for your boss. It’s good business for your boss’ boss. It’s good business for your neighbor and your neighbor’s dog that poops on your lawn. Happiness is good business for every sentient being on our planet. Now that the trivial has been stated, is there any ‘being’ that can not benefit from happiness?
As a clinical researcher, I find legitimate biological reasons for the benefit of happiness. But I will make the strong caveat that if you try and define happiness for yourself, you’ll find two things:
1. It is easy to define happiness
2. It is difficult to define happiness
If anything, I do find that happiness is wonderful in itself. The concept before it is defined. The letters as they are perceived and the processing power, time, and space in your brain that is utilized while reading the word on this blog or on the title of a book recommended for you on amazon, Here…Here…or HERE. Just reading the word is good business for YOU. Even better, is the fact that reading the word subconsciously as it becomes a word/concept/image/meme that is prevalent in the social world around you is good business. It’s all good business, because it gives YOU and the 6 billion 818 million humans a chance of experiencing it also…and even better than recently….it gives YOU the chance to experience it right NOW. This is extraordinary.
Experience Happiness. It’s good business.
I also wanted to give a shout out to the WISDOM 2.0 conference and how HAPPINESS is going viral! A lot of great people participated in this conference including the wise Roshi Joan Halifax. There was a great blog written by Maia Duerr in response to this event and I wanted to share the link with you… HERE. The tagline for the conference was, “how we can live in greater balance with, and more successfully use, the great technologies of our age.”
My Colleague and friend, Emma was recently writing an article for Tricycle Magazine about what it’s like to be both a meditator and a meditation researcher. She asked me if I had some thoughts on this topic. I thought it would be appropriate to share below:
The simple answer for me is that being a meditation practitioner is rather easy, but being a meditation practitioner and a meditation researcher adds complexity. I would further characterize the dual role as interdependent upon each other and involving a greater range of responsibility towards oneself and society at large. The added complexity is not necessarily complicated, it refers to the ever-expanding set of relationships that a researcher is cultivating between oneself and society. As a practitioner, one spends a lot of time cultivating a relationship with one’s own mind; this relationship has helped me personally by providing insight and motivation into how best to move forward in the newly emerging field of contemplative science and how the contemplative sciences may integrate with the rigors of the scientific method. The benefits on mental health, the body, and the brain may appear clear to most meditation and other contemplative practitioners, but it is my role as a cognitive neuroscientist to demonstrate tractable benefits from an objective, scientific perspective, while continuing to honor the interdependent and secular nature of compassion, joy, and equanimity throughout everyday experience.
“House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)
Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D is the medical director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. His primary research interests are in mindfulness training as a mechanistic probe and treatment for addictions. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Judson reflects upon his 10-day Vipassana and Metta retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, which is located just north of San Francisco in beautiful Marin county. Led by two “teams” of teachers (metta: Guy Armstrong, Sally Clough Armstrong, Heather Martin, Sharda Rogell; vipassana: Joseph Goldstein, Andrea Fella, Kamala Masters, Steve Armstrong.) Judson writes, “After I went on retreat in July, I wrote down a few of my ongoing habit patterns that became more clear to me, many of which related to science. I remembered hearing many comments and questions from folks at both the MLSRI and scientists retreat about similar issues to which I have/had been struggling, and thought that “publishing” my reflections might be helpful for others who are working with the same “stuff” in their minds that I am.”
You can read his reflections, “Top 10 rookie Mistakes of a Dharma Scientist” HERE.
In NO particular order of preference:
1. Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) [Link] – The FFMQ, revised from the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, is used to assess the construct of mindfulness. Previous research on assessment of mindfulness by self-report suggests that it may include five component skills: observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience. These elements of mindfulness can be measured with the FFMQ.
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., et al. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27-45. [link]
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., et al. (2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15(3), 329-42. [link]
Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2009). Differential item function across meditators and non-meditators on the five facet mindfulness questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(5), 516-521. [link]
2. Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) – A 15-item, reverse-scored, 7-point scale (1 = almost always; 6 = almost never) self-report instrument with a single factor measuring attention to and awareness across several domains of experience in daily life (e.g., cognitive, emotional, physical, and general), such as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.” Respondents rate how often they have experiences of acting on automatic pilot, being preoccupied and not paying attention in the present moment. The MAAS has a uni-dimensional factor structure that eliminated attitudinal components (i.e., acceptance) given the author’s findings of such components offering no explanatory advantage (Brown and Ryan, 2003). The MAAS appears to have appropriate application in research examining the role of mindfulness in the psychological well-being of college, working adults, and cancer patients, with or without comparisons to nonclinical controls.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-48. [link]
Carlson, L. E., & Brown, K. W. (2005). Validation of the mindful attention awareness scale in a cancer population. J Psychosom Res, 58(1), 29. [link]
MacKillop, J., & Anderson, E. J. (2007). Further psychometric validation of the mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(4), 289-293.[link]
Cordon, S. L., & Finney, S. J. (2008). Measurement invariance of the mindful attention awareness scale across adult attachment style. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 40(4), 18. [link]
Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]
Christopher, M. S., Charoensuk, S., Gilbert, B. D., Neary, T. J., & Pearce, K. L. (2009). Mindfulness in thailand and the united states: A case of apples versus oranges? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 590-612. [link]
Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Borders, A. (2010). Measuring mindfulness? An item response theory analysis of the mindful attention awareness scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 805. [link]
3.Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) – A 13-item, two-factor structure (Curiosity, Decentering), uniquely state-oriented for use immediately following a meditation experience, has been validated in a number of clinical contexts. The items of Factor 1 (Curiosity) reflect an attitude of wanting to learn more about one’s experiences. The items of Factor 2 (Decentering) reflect a shift from identifying personally with thoughts and feelings to relating to one’s experience in a wider field of awareness
Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., et al. (2006). The toronto mindfulness scale: Development and validation. J Clin Psychol, 62(12), 1445. [link]
Davis, K. M., Lau, M. A., & Cairns, D. R. (2009). Development and preliminary validation of a trait version of the toronto mindfulness scale. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 185-197. [link]
4. The Revised 12-item Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS-R) – uni-dimensional, 12-item inventory that measures mindfulness during general daily occurrences on four components allegedly needed to reach a mindful state (i.e., attention, awareness, present-focus, and acceptance/nonjudgment).
Feldman, G., Hayes, A., Kumar, S., et al. (2007). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: The development and initial validation of the cognitive and affective mindfulness scale-revised (CAMS-R). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(3), 177-190.[link]
5. The Southampton Mindfulness Questionnaire (SMQ) – uni-dimensional, 16-item inventory assessing the degree to which individuals respond to distressing thoughts and images using four aspects of mindfulness (observation, non-aversion, nonjudgment, letting go). Stressing its usefulness in clinical settings, the scale demonstrated to be able to distinguish between meditators and non-meditators and people with psychosis.
6. The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS) The PHLMS is a 20-item, bi-dimensional measure assessing distinct components of present-centered awareness and acceptance that is based on both clinical and non-clinical samples without any meditation experience. Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance:
The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]
Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance: The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]
7. The 30-item Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) – The FMI was designed only for use with individuals who had prior exposure to meditation practices that cultivate mindfulness, to the extent that it was developed qualitatively out of the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Its intention was to discriminate between novice and expert meditators (Walach et al., 2006).
Buchheld, N., Grossman, P., & Walach, H. (2001). Measuring mindfulness in insight meditation (vipassana) and meditation-based psychotherapy: The development of the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Journal for Meditation and Meditation Research, 1(1), 11-34. [link]
Walach, H., Buchheld, N., Buttenmüller, V., et al. (2006). Measuring mindfulness—the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Personality and Individual Differences, 40(8), 1543-1555. [link]
Kohls, N., Sauer, S., & Walach, H. (2009). Facets of mindfulness–results of an online study investigating the freiburg mindfulness inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(2), 224-230. [link]
8. Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) – developed as a means of determining effectiveness of Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a 39-item multi-dimensional scale of interrelated skills related to what one does while practicing mindfulness, and how one does it. The “what” skills include observing (noticing or attending to) current experience, describing (noting or labeling observed experiences) with words, and participating (focusing full attention on current activity); the “how” skills include being nonjudgmental (accepting, refraining from evaluation), being one-mindful (using undivided attention), and being effective (using skillful means) (Baer et al., 2009).
Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]
Nicastro, R., Jermann, F., Bondolfi, G., et al. (2010). Assessment of mindfulness with the french version of the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills in community and borderline personality disorder samples. Assessment, 1-9. [link]
9. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Adherence and Competence Scale (MBRP-AC)
10. Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI)
Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: Development and initial validation of the self-other four immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169-181. [link]
11. Self-Compassion Scale [Link]
Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223-250. [link]
Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101. [link]
12. Solloway Mindfulness Survey – The SMS is offered free to teachers and their students. Teachers can download their students’ SMS measures in order to monitor growth in mindfulness. [Link]
13. Acceptance & Action Questionnaire II – AAQ-II – The AAQ-II was developed in order to establish an internally consistent measure of ACT’s model of mental health and behavioral effectiveness. Acceptance was the term used to positively describe this model underlying Acceptance & Commitment Therapy; thus, it is defined as the willingness to experience (i.e., not alter the form, frequency, or sensitivity of) unwanted private events, in the pursuit of one’s values and goals. [Link]
Hayes, S.C., et al., Acceptance and commitment therapy: model, processes and outcomes. Behav Res Ther, 2006. 44(1): p. 1-25. [Link]
See the following link for comprehensive review of current research in the area of mindfulness [Link]
Most of these are still under development. Not all of these scales do a very good job at clearly measuring what is historically referred to by Sati or Smrti.
A review of the self-report scales can be found here [Link]
What is Mindfulness you may ask? Read [Here]
Mindfulness originates from a deeply rooted system of contemplative practice. It is imperative that one consider these cultural and historical concepts in trying to define or operationalize Mindfulness.
Good Luck! I look forward to discussion if needed.