, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 87–97 | Cite as

Mindfulness for Psychologists: Paying Kind Attention to the Perceptible

  • Paul GrossmanEmail author
Original Paper


Basic definitions, assumptions, and working principles of the Buddhist and mindfulness-based intervention conception of “mindfulness” are characterized. Fundamental distinctions are drawn between Buddhist psychology and mainstream Western behavioral science in terms of aims, types of acquired knowledge, and professional training requirements. Particular emphasis is placed upon issues related to clinical intervention and biopsychosocial dysfunction. An argument is made and examples presented to show that mindfulness is best understood within an experience-based psychological perspective, integrating cognitive, affective, and ethical dimensions. The systematic nature of the development of mindfulness is illustrated by examination of an ancient program aimed at mindful awareness of breathing. Comparisons are made between developmental progression of mindful awareness and a neuroscience-based model of the ontogenesis of capacities of human consciousness; also, the act of awareness or being conscious is distinguished from the capacity for consciousness. In conclusion, acknowledgement of inherent differences—and tensions—between Buddhist and Western psychologies may actually serve to safeguard the concept of mindfulness from being denatured, banalized, or distorted. The potential of mindfulness-based approaches may, in turn, be enhanced for contributing to critical aspects of healthcare, quality of life, and wellbeing.


Mindfulness Mindfulness-based stress reduction Mindfulness-based interventions Meditation Psychotherapy Respiration Breathing States of consciousness Neuroscience Phenomenology 



This investigation was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation, The Swiss Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Swiss Cancer League, and the Samueli Institute (Corona del Mar, CA, USA).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Psychosomatic MedicineUniversity Hospital BaselBaselSwitzerland

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