Conceptual issues

Conceptual issues of meditation and mindfulness

Peter Malinowski (LJMU), Manfred Seegers (University of Hamburg), Alberto Chiesa (University of Bologna), Alessandro Serretti (University of Bologna)

To advance research into meditation practice it is paramount to also improve the conceptual clarity. We are, for instance, discussing the relationship between traditional forms of mindfulness training as transmitted and practiced for millenia within different buddhist schools and their adaptation within Western psychology.
Furthermore, we are concerned with the question, how successfully mindfulness can be operationalised in terms of psychological concepts. Some ideas concerning this question can be found in Malinowski (2008).
Of fundamental importance is furthermore the detailled classification of meditation states and meditation systems as they are practiced within specific buddhist traditions. As long as the specifities of different meditation practices, their similarities and differences are not clearly understood conceptually, it will remain difficult to advance their scientific description.

Our collaboration with Alberto Chiesa and Alessandro Serretti from the Institute of Psychiatry, University of Bologna, Italy focuses on clarifying the conceptual basis underpinning current research into mindfulness and meditation practice more generally. While the popularity of mindfulness-based practices in clinical and non-clinical settings is growing exponentially, comprehensive, evidence-based theoretical frameworks for positioning this research is sketchy and inconsistent. For instance, the term mindfulness is conceptualised in several distinct ways, denoting a meditation practice, a state of mind, a personal disposition or even an attitude towards one’s own thoughts and feelings. More conceptual clarity is needed to guide the related research. Beyond providing an overview and summary of differences and commonalities regarding the different mindfulness-based approaches, we are currently working on establishing a theoretical framework that accounts for psychological processes underlying the development of mindfulness through meditation practice. In a recent publication we provide an overview of the main mindfulness-based approaches and discuss their differences and commonalities (Chiesa & Malinowski, 2011).

  • Chiesa, A. & Malinowski, P. (2011). Mindfulness based approaches: are they all the same? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(4), 1-21. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20776
  • Malinowski, P. (2008). Mindfulness as psychological dimension: Concepts and applications. Irish Journal of Psychology, 29(1),155-166. [download]