Understanding Mindfulness

Excerpt from "Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, & Self-Transcendence (S-ART): A Framework for Understanding the Neurobiological Mechanisms of Mindfulness," by David VagoContemplative Mind in Life [blog], Nov. 1, 2012:

Our method for understanding mindfulness has been to focus broadly on the goals of mindfulness as it is described in the early Buddhist suttas and in the Western medical model: To decrease mental suffering and create a sustainable healthy mind. In this context, we operationalize mindfulness in two ways:

  1. As a broadly defined method for developing self-awareness, self-regulation and self-transcendence (S-ART); 
  2. As a continuous discriminative attentional capacity.

Our second formulation is one critical skill in a multidimentional skillset that is developed and strengthened through specific meditation practices. Other skills are described to function along with mindfulness to support S-ART.

To be clear, this is in no way a new definition that is meant to disparage Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s widely disseminated description:

Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

...but more so an attempt to dismantle the concept into component parts so that we can better study it in the laboratory.

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