UMMS Affiliation

Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type

Book Chapter


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


In this chapter I attempt to address these issues, drawing on 45 years of practice in the three main Buddhist traditions, along with years of experience researching the clinical effects and mechanisms of MT, and finally teaching mindfulness practice to patients and clinicians. I first briefly describe the role that mindfulness and MT plays in the Buddhist religious and philosophical system, then comment on the disagreements and confusions that result from carrying over Buddhist conceptualizations of human suffering into Western science and clinical settings. I then describe the effect of this on both the development of MT research and the training of people in need. In an effort to offer solutions to these dilemmas, I address the basis of mental suffering using a Western scientific framework rather than a Buddhist one as a basis for explaining the value of mind training programs such as MT. I do this in two ways: First, I attempt to circumvent disagreements about both the meaning of mindfulness and the role of MT within a larger system of training by presenting an operational and needs-based conceptualization, based on evolutionary psychology, and of how practices typically taught in MT can reduce distress and increase well-being, including the genetically driven imperatives that make MT challenging and the value of mindfulness practice in diminishing their role in ongoing distress.

Second, I discuss the commonalities that MT has (and does not have) with other evidence- based psychological and mind–body trainings. I argue for the clinical and scientific advantages of this approach, highlighting (1) the clinical utility of using concepts already familiar to many Western patients and clinicians; (2) the provision of a stronger empirical foundation for how mindfulness can best be explained and taught, instead of relying on traditional assumptions and/or presumed expert testimony; and (3) the contribution of this approach to the development of a unified theory of the mechanisms underlying psychological and mind–body programs designed to reduce distress and increase well-being. I close this chapter with a discussion of several challenges that this approach faces.



Rights and Permissions

From Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice, Edited by Kirk Warren Brown, J. David Creswell, and Richard M. Ryan. Copyright 2015 by The Guilford Press. Reprinted with permission of The Guilford Press.


Re-Conceptualizing Mindfulness: The Psychological Principles of Attending in Mindfulness Practice and Their Role in Well-Being. In Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice. Brown K, Creswell D and Ryan R (Eds). Guilford, 2015, p. 62-78. Link to book on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice