UMMS Affiliation

Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Behavioral Medicine | Clinical Psychology | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Health Psychology | Movement and Mind-Body Therapies | Preventive Medicine | Psychiatry and Psychology


The momentary processes creating our experience of the world are adaptive but have an affective downside in everyday life. These processes of attending form implicitly as part of development. This means that even as they are shaping the valence of our lives, they remain invisible in the way water is invisible to fish. By bringing a curious attention to these default habits, meditation facilitates their experiential recognition. This occurs through psychological principles that are described using culturally familiar constructs rather than traditional and dharma-related language and assumptions. Explaining it in this way highlights the commonality of these principles across mind-body programs and therapeutic modalities and facilitates explanations to patients as to why something like meditation may be useful. The chapter also discusses misunderstandings in the terms “meditation” and “practice,” and suggests we examine the cultural and political values that may be embedded in meditation as it develops in the West.


meditation, mindfulness, psychology

Rights and Permissions

© Oxford University Press 2016. Author's accepted manuscript version of book chapter posted as allowed by the publisher's policy at

DOI of Published Version



Carmody J. Fish Discovering Water: Meditation as a Process of Recognition, in The Psychology of Meditation. Michael West (Ed). Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 73-92. DOI: 10.1093/med:psych/9780199688906.003.0004. Link to book chapter on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Psychology of Meditation: Research and Practice