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Traditional and Contemporary Mindfulness: Finding the Middle Path in the Tangle of Concerns

Abstract

Contemporary mindfulness has grown through innumerable secular and clinical programs. This rapid growth has raised two main concerns from the Buddhist community: the accuracy of the teachings and the impact of not explicitly including ethics as part of the teachings. Specific concerns include a potential weakening of the concept of right mindfulness and, as a corollary, misunderstanding the intent mindfulness as being a technique for symptomatic relief. With respect to the absence of explicit ethics in the teachings, concerns are expressed that this omission risks misappropriating mindfulness practices so that they do more harm than good. This article explores the main criticisms expressed by Traditional Mindfulness community and assesses the validity of these criticisms. The dialogue between traditional and contemporary mindfulness practitioners is an opportunity to examine the conceptual integrity of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) with respect to what comprises right mindfulness, assess whether MBIs include the factors that can extend them beyond symptomatic relief, and reflect on the issues related to teaching ethics as part of an MBI program. Because ethics is viewed in Traditional Mindfulness as a foundation for a meditative practice, it is explored in detail for its potential contribution to MBIs.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful for comments and thoughtful suggestions offered on early drafts of this manuscript by Gordon Bermant, Ph.D., J.D., Boris Bornemann (Ph.D. candidate), Seth Segal, Ph.D., and Justin Whitaker (Ph.D. candidate) and to Ms. J. Sotozaki for copyediting.

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Correspondence to Lynette M. Monteiro.

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Monteiro, L.M., Musten, R. & Compson, J. Traditional and Contemporary Mindfulness: Finding the Middle Path in the Tangle of Concerns. Mindfulness 6, 1–13 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0301-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0301-7

Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Buddhism
  • Secular
  • Mindfulness-based interventions
  • Ethics