Against One Method: Contemplation in Context

  • Brooke D. Lavelle
Part of the Mindfulness in Behavioral Health book series (MIBH)


Interest in secular, mindfulness- and compassion-based contemplative programs is increasing as a growing body of research suggests that such programs enhance health and well-being. These modern secular programs, including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT), and Sustainable Compassion Training (SCT), have been influenced by various Buddhist contemplative traditions. These programs have also been shaped by and in response to their own modern historical–cultural context and the ways in which they variously interpret and rhetorically employ the category of the secular. Yet despite these differences, MBSR, CBCT, and SCT each claim some form of universal applicability, whether in terms of identifying the universal causes of suffering, or the universally applicable method for overcoming it. This underlying assumption raises a host of challenges and reveals a bias within the field of contemplative studies to privilege theory over context. This chapter therefore will briefly consider some of the ways in which certain Buddhist contemplative frames (i.e., innatism and constructivism) and modern cultural frames (i.e., individualism, scientific reductionism, and secularization) both limit and permit different possibilities for health and healing. The aim is to draw attention to the ways in which the universal rhetoric of these programs tends to mask or negate important contextual factors that shape way in which health, healing, and suffering are conceptualized, defined, and transformed.


Mindfulness Compassion Secular Contemplative programs Buddhism Modernism 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Greater Good Science CenterUniversity of California—BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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