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Concept: Buddhist meditation


Buddhist-derived meditation practices are currently being employed as a popular form of health promotion. While meditation programs draw inspiration from Buddhist textual sources for the benefits of meditation, these sources also acknowledge a wide range of other effects beyond health-related outcomes. The Varieties of Contemplative Experience study investigates meditation-related experiences that are typically underreported, particularly experiences that are described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing, and/or requiring additional support. A mixed-methods approach featured qualitative interviews with Western Buddhist meditation practitioners and experts in Theravāda, Zen, and Tibetan traditions. Interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors, including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessments of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice-related variables. The content-driven thematic analysis of interviews yielded a taxonomy of 59 meditation-related experiences across 7 domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective, somatic, conative, sense of self, and social. Even in cases where the phenomenology was similar across participants, interpretations of and responses to the experiences differed considerably. The associated valence ranged from very positive to very negative, and the associated level of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. In order to determine what factors may influence the valence, impact, and response to any given experience, the study also identified 26 categories of influencing factors across 4 domains: practitioner-level factors, practice-level factors, relationships, and health behaviors. By identifying a broader range of experiences associated with meditation, along with the factors that contribute to the presence and management of experiences reported as challenging, difficult, distressing or functionally impairing, this study aims to increase our understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for mediators, clinicians, meditation researchers, and meditation teachers.

Concepts: Buddhism and psychology, Experience, Psychology, Anapanasati, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Meditation, Buddhism


Zen Buddhist meditative practices emphasize the long-term, mindful training of attention and awareness during one’s ordinary daily-life activities, the shedding of egocentric behaviors, and the skillful application of one’s innate compassionate resources of insight-wisdom toward others and oneself. This review focuses on how such a comprehensive approach to training the brain could relate to a distinctive flavor of Zen: its emphasis on direct experience, with special reference to those major acute states of awakening that create deep transformations of consciousness and behavior. In Japanese, these advanced states are called kensho and satori. Ten key concepts are reviewed. They begin by distinguishing between the concentrative and receptive forms of meditation, noticing the complementary ways that they each train our normal “top-down” and “bottom-up” modes of attentive processing. Additional concepts distinguish between our two major processing pathways. The self-centered, egocentric frame of reference processes information in relation to our body (our soma) or to our mental functions (our psyche). The other-centered frame of reference processes information anonymously. Its prefix, allo- simply means “other” in Greek. Subsequent concepts consider how these useful Greek words-ego/allo, soma/psyche-correlate with the normal functional anatomy of important thalamo ↔ cortical connections. A plausible model then envisions how a triggering stimulus that captures attention could prompt the reticular nucleus to release GABA; how its selective inhibition of the dorsal thalamus could then block both our higher somatic and psychic cortical functions; so as to: (a) delete the maladaptive aspects of selfhood, while also (b) releasing the direct, all-inclusive, globally-unified experience of other. Two final concepts consider how the long-term meditative training of intuitive functions relates to certain kinds of word-free spatial tasks that involve insightful creative problem-solving.

Concepts: Buddhism, Psychology, Kensho, Buddhist meditation, Satori, Cerebral cortex, Meditation, Zen


Sleep disturbances are most prevalent among older adults and often go untreated. Treatment options for sleep disturbances remain limited, and there is a need for community-accessible programs that can improve sleep.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Buddhist meditation, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Sleep, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Meditation


The scientific interest in meditation and mindfulness practice has recently seen an unprecedented surge. After an initial phase of presenting beneficial effects of mindfulness practice in various domains, research is now seeking to unravel the underlying psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms. Advances in understanding these processes are required for improving and fine-tuning mindfulness-based interventions that target specific conditions such as eating disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. This review presents a theoretical framework that emphasizes the central role of attentional control mechanisms in the development of mindfulness skills. It discusses the phenomenological level of experience during meditation, the different attentional functions that are involved, and relates these to the brain networks that subserve these functions. On the basis of currently available empirical evidence specific processes as to how attention exerts its positive influence are considered and it is concluded that meditation practice appears to positively impact attentional functions by improving resource allocation processes. As a result, attentional resources are allocated more fully during early processing phases which subsequently enhance further processing. Neural changes resulting from a pure form of mindfulness practice that is central to most mindfulness programs are considered from the perspective that they constitute a useful reference point for future research. Furthermore, possible interrelations between the improvement of attentional control and emotion regulation skills are discussed.

Concepts: Scientific method, Buddhist meditation, Resource allocation, Hyperactivity, Psychology, Neuroscience, Attention, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder


Research examining nonpharmacological interventions for adults diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has expanded in recent years and provides patients with more treatment options. Mindfulness-based training is an example of an intervention that is gaining promising preliminary empirical support and is increasingly administered in clinical settings. The aim of this review is to provide a rationale for the application of mindfulness to individuals diagnosed with ADHD, describe the current state of the empirical basis for mindfulness training in ADHD, and summarize a treatment approach specific to adults diagnosed with ADHD: the Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) for ADHD Program. Two case study examples are provided to demonstrate relevant clinical issues for practitioners interested in this approach. Directions for future research, including mindfulness meditation as a standalone treatment and as a complementary approach to cognitive-behavioral therapy, are provided.

Concepts: Buddhist meditation, Meditation, Psychotherapy, Clinical psychology, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Major depressive disorder, Mindfulness


We have previously found that attention to internal somatic sensations (interoceptive attention) during a heart beat perception task increases the misperception of external touch on a somatic signal detection task (SSDT), during which healthy participants erroneously report feeling near-threshold vibrations presented to their fingertip in the absence of a stimulus. However, it has been suggested that mindful interoceptive attention should result in more accurate somatic perception, due to its non-evaluative and controlled nature. To investigate this possibility, 62 participants completed the SSDT before and after a period of brief body-scan mindfulness meditation training, or a control intervention (listening to a recorded story). The meditation intervention reduced tactile misperception and increased sensitivity during the SSDT. This finding suggests that the perceptual effects of interoceptive attention depend on its particular nature, and raises the possibility that body-scan meditation could reduce the misperception of physical symptoms in individuals with medically unexplained symptoms.

Concepts: Mindfulness, Cognition, Mind, Somatosensory system, Meditation, Unsolved problems in neuroscience, Buddhist meditation, Sense


Breathwalk is a science of combining specific patterns of footsteps synchronized with the breathing. In this study, we developed a multimedia-assisted Breathwalk-aware system which detects user’s walking and breathing conditions and provides appropriate multimedia guidance on the smartphone. Through the mobile device, the system enhances user’s awareness of walking and breathing behaviors. As an example application in slow technology, the system could help meditator beginners learn “walking meditation,” a type of meditation which aims to be as slow as possible in taking pace, to synchronize footstep with breathing, and to land every footstep with toes first. In the pilot study, we developed a walking-aware system and evaluated whether multimedia-assisted mechanism is capable of enhancing beginner’s walking awareness while walking meditation. Experimental results show that it could effectively assist beginners in slowing down the walking speed and decreasing incorrect footsteps. In the second experiment, we evaluated the Breathwalk-aware system to find a better feedback mechanism for learning the techniques of Breathwalk while walking meditation. The experimental results show that the visual-auditory mechanism is a better multimedia-assisted mechanism while walking meditation than visual mechanism and auditory mechanism.

Concepts: Religion, Buddhist meditation, Experiment, Zazen, Learning, Science, Zen


Modern exponents of mindfulness meditation promote the therapeutic effects of “bare attention”-a sort of non-judgmental, non-discursive attending to the moment-to-moment flow of consciousness. This approach to Buddhist meditation can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements of the first half of the 20th century, and is arguably at odds with more traditional Theravāda Buddhist doctrine and meditative practices. But the cultivation of present-centered awareness is not without precedent in Buddhist history; similar innovations arose in medieval Chinese Zen (Chan) and Tibetan Dzogchen. These movements have several things in common. In each case the reforms were, in part, attempts to render Buddhist practice and insight accessible to laypersons unfamiliar with Buddhist philosophy and/or unwilling to adopt a renunciatory lifestyle. In addition, these movements all promised astonishingly quick results. And finally, the innovations in practice were met with suspicion and criticism from traditional Buddhist quarters. Those interested in the therapeutic effects of mindfulness and bare attention are often not aware of the existence, much less the content, of the controversies surrounding these practices in Asian Buddhist history.

Concepts: Anapanasati, Mahayana, 20th century, Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Buddhist meditation, Meditation


To test whether a brief mindfulness meditation training intervention buffers self-reported psychological and neuroendocrine responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) in young adult volunteers. A second objective evaluates whether pre-existing levels of dispositional mindfulness moderate the effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on stress reactivity.

Concepts: Mindfulness, Mind-body interventions, Buddhist meditation, Meditation


Poor mood and elevated anxiety are linked to increased incidence of disease. This study examined the effects of sound meditation, specifically Tibetan singing bowl meditation, on mood, anxiety, pain, and spiritual well-being. Sixty-two women and men (mean age 49.7 years) participated. As compared with pre-meditation, following the sound meditation participants reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue, and depressed mood (all Ps <.001). Additionally, participants who were previously naïve to this type of meditation experienced a significantly greater reduction in tension compared with participants experienced in this meditation (P < .001). Feeling of spiritual well-being significantly increased across all participants (P < .001). Tibetan singing bowl meditation may be a feasible low-cost low technology intervention for reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression, and increasing spiritual well-being. This meditation type may be especially useful in decreasing tension in individuals who have not previously practiced this form of meditation.

Concepts: Seasonal affective disorder, Order theory, Buddhist meditation, Depression, Feeling, Emotion, Fatigue, Bipolar disorder