Mindfulness & Meditation
on this page
- Books for Therapists
- Book-Plus-Audio Combinations
- Scholarly and Scientific Articles
- Other Resources
Most of the recommendations here are for materials specifically focused on the cultivation of mindfulness, lovingkindness and compassion as originally taught in the Buddhist Vipassana tradition. This tradition’s methods and concepts have been incorporated into the scientifically supported treatments of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression.
Work by teachers and writers from Tibetan and other Buddhist traditions are recommended too, and a few key scholarly and research papers are listed and linked to as well.
First, I recommend books for everyone, then books specifically written for therapists.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening, by Joseph Goldstein
The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh
What the Buddha Taught, by Walpola Rahula
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius
Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom, by Joseph Goldstein
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions, by Christopher Germer
he Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges, by Paul Gilbert
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation, by Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield
A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, by Jack Kornfield (also available on audio CD)
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, by Christopher Germer, Ronald Siegel, and Paul Fulton (Editors). Written for therapists, but accessible to those familiar with therapy concepts and principles.
The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (includes CD), by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindal Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Peaceful Mind: Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Psychology to Overcome Depression, by John McQuaid and Paula Carmona
Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction, by Thomas and Beverly Bien
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chodron
As noted on Cultivating Mindfulness, for some people, including those with histories of major hurt and betrayal in childhood, mindfulness practices will not be helpful until a foundation of self-regulation skills has been established (and before then could even increase suffering). The self-help books below are excellent, though professional help may be necessary too.
- Growing Beyond Survival: A Self-Help Toolkit for Managing Traumatic Stress, by Elizabeth Vermilyea. This is particularly helpful if you struggle with dissociation.
- The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms, by Mary Beth Williams and Soili Poijula
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook, by Glenn Schiraldi
- Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, by Peter Levine (and his Healing Trauma audio tapes).
Also, some people may need to take medication for severe depression, anxiety, posttraumatic or other symptoms. Medicate or Meditate? is an excellent article on this issue, including potential benefits of anti-depressants for meditators who suffer from major depression.
Books for Therapists
Sitting Together: Essential Skills for Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy, by Susan Pollak, Thomas Pedulla, and Ronald Siegel
Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, edited by Christopher Germer, Ronald Siegel, and Paul Fulton.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A New Approach to Preventing Relapse, by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale
Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Anxiety: Conceptualization and Treatment, edited by Susan Orsillo and Lizabeth Roemer
Encountering Buddhism: Western Psychology and Buddhist Teachings, edited by Seth Segall (summary, blurbs, contents)
Mindfulness Meditation Practice CDs and Tapes, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield
A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life, by Jack Kornfield (also available as a book)
Loving-Kindness Meditation: Learning to Love Through Insight Meditation, by Sharon Salzberg
Awakening Compassion: Meditation Practice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chodron
Healing Trauma: Restoring the Wisdom of the Body, by Dr. Peter Levine. While not focused on cultivating mindfulness or lovingkindness, these audio tapes can be very helpful for understanding and working with overwhelming emotional and bodily states experienced by those dealing with the effects of traumatic experiences. Like Levine’s book, Waking the Tiger, these tapes have some great exercises, including how to “pendulate” or move back and forth between experiences of pain or fear and safety, which can help to provide a foundation for mindfulness practice.
Chaos to Freedom Skills Training Videos, by Marsha Linehan Dr. Linehan created Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a powerful treatment for cultivating self-regulation and relationship skills. These videotapes teach very practical and effective skills, and one is specifically focused on mindfulness: This One Moment: Skills for Everyday Mindfulness.
Dharma Seed offers videos and audiotapes of talks by Western teachers in the Buddhist Vipassana tradition, including Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, and their Talks page offers free talks in mp3 or streaming audio formats.
As mentioned above, for those who are very motivated and disciplined, there are self-study courses offered by two of the most respected teachers of mindfulness meditation in the West, Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. If you do go this route, I encourage you also to seek out communities of other mindfulness meditators in your area, because the support of others on the path is extremely important.
- Insight Meditation: An In-Depth Correspondence Course - includes an 88-page workbook and 18 hours of audiotaped instruction designed to help you establish and sustain a daily mindfulness meditation practice. There is also the option of receiving personalized instruction (via email) from an advanced meditation teacher.
- Insight Meditation: A Step-By-Step Course on How to Meditate - smaller and less expensive, includes a 240-page Insight Meditation workbook, two 70-minute CDs and twelve study cards.
Scholarly and Scientific Articles
For those who are academically inclined and have access to college and university libraries, a few important and informative articles are listed here. Certainly there are many others, and increasing numbers are being published in reputable psychology and medical journals. But these are a good start for those who are interested.
Baer, R.A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125-143. This article is followed by several commentaries, by Jon Kabat-Zinn and several clinical and research psychologists who are integrating mindfulness practices into therapy interventions.
Bishop, S.R. et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230-241.
This article is followed by several commentaries by researchers and clinical psychologists who are integrating mindfulness practices into therapy interventions.
Brown, K.W., & Ryan, R.M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-48. This article introduces a unidimensional self-report measure of mindfulness, and presents results from several studies suggesting relationships between mindfulness and both physical and psychological well-being, including self-regulated behavior and positive emotional states.
Farb, N.A.S, et al. (2007). Attending to the present: Mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2, 313-322. Nice study, brilliant paper. Shows that just 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation can not only increase the capacity for mindful awareness of the present moment, but alter brain activity in ways that support such awareness. A passage from the paper’s discussion:
“Consistent with a dual-mode hypothesis of self-awareness, these results suggest a fundamental neural dissociation in modes of self-representation that support distinct, but habitually integrated, aspects of self-reference: (i) higher order self-reference characterised by neural processes supporting awareness of a self that extends across time and (ii) more basic momentary self-reference characterised by neural changes supporting awareness of the psychological present. The latter, represented by evolutionary older neural regions, may represent a return to the neural origins of identity, in which self-awareness in each moment arises from the integration of basic interoceptive and exteroceptive bodily sensory processes… In contrast, the narrative mode of self-reference may represent an overlearned mode of information processing that has become automatic through practice, consistent with established findings on training-induced automaticity.”
Farb, N.A.S, et al. (2010). Minding one’s emotions: Mindfulness training alters the neural expression of sadness. Emotion, 10, 25-33. Another nice study and brilliant paper by Farb and colleagues. Shows that just 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation can enable people to experience the bodily sensations of sadness without getting lost in self-referential verbal thoughts about it, and provides functional brain imaging evidence that corresponding greater activation of brain regions involved in somatic experience of sadness, along with less activation of regions involved in self-referential cognitive elaboration of sadness, are associated with less depressive symptoms. Key passages from the paper’s discussion:
The neural patterns observed in the present study suggest that the reduced emotional interference associated with mindfulness may stem from the objectification of emotion as innocuous sensory information rather than as an affect-laden threat to self requiring a regulatory response…. Compared to [healthy] controls, effortful down regulation of sadness via [cognitive] reappraisal is rated as more difficult by patients with mood disorder and is shown to be less successful in decreasing limbic activation. In the presence of these disrupted neural circuits, especially in at-risk populations, strategies for generating positive affective appraisals may paradoxically reactivate existing negative appraisals…. Disengaging reappraisal of negative affective content, in favor of engaging attention toward sensory integration, would allow for the generation of novel affective appraisals rather than attempting to manipulate an existing negative cognitive set.
Hayes, A.M., & Feldman, G. (2004). Clarifying the construct of mindfulness in the context of emotion regulation and the process of change in therapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 255-262. This article presents a stage-oriented view of how mindfulness training can be incorporated into psychotherapy. In the first stage, mindfulness is stabilizing and promotes emotion regulation and symptom reduction, and the second stage involves “moving into suffering and difficult emotions with a foundation of mindfulness, and transforming the destructive emotions.” This approach is consistent with the “stage-oriented model” of treatment, which is the state of the art in the treatment of psychological trauma.
Lazar, S.W., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16, 1893-1897. This study compared 20 people with extensive meditation experience (but normal lives involving work and family) to matched controls. The scientists found that the more meditatation people had done (years of regular practice and intensive “retreats”), the thicker were brain areas involved in monitoring bodily sensations and feelings. These results not only suggest that meditation practice can alter the structure of one’s brain, but fit with readily observable personal experiences of how mindfulness meditation increases bodily and emotional awareness (which in turn fosters self-understanding and freedom). Another interesting finding: the meditation group showed no “age-related thinning” of cortical areas known to be involved in the integration thoughts and feelings.
Neff, K.D. (2004). Self-compassion and psychological well-being. Constructivism in the Human Sciences, 9, 27-37. This article explains what is meant by self-compassion, including the traditional Buddhist emphasis on how compassion for the self is a necessary foundation for being compassionate toward others. It also discusses why self-compassion is more helpful and more achievable than self-esteem, and evidence for its relationship to psychological well-being. (Other articles on self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff, and her scales for measuring it, are at selfcompassion.org.)
Lutz, A., et al. (2004). Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), 101, 16369-16373. Published in one of the most prestigious science journals, this article is highly technical. It reports evidence that meditation practices which cultivate lovingkindness and compassion can dramatically transform people’s brains.
The four links below are to respected Vipassana meditation centers and organizations. Each has a links page with many other resources.
Insight Meditation Society - Barre, Massachusetts
Spirit Rock Meditation Center - Woodacre, California (near San Francisco)
Gaia House - Devon, United Kingdom
Vipassana Fellowship - Online meditation courses
The Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy - A group of Boston-area psychotherapists who are meditators, “dedicated to the education and training of mental health professionals interested in the integration of mindfulness meditation and psychotherapy, for the purpose of enhancing the therapy relationship, the quality of clinical interventions, and the well-being of the therapist.” Provides workshops around the country and online training options.
Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society - Founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues, this organization developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and has trained people to run MBSR programs around the world.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy - Site by Dr. Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale, who have developed and researched Mindfulness-Based Cogntive Therapy for Depression. About MBCT discusses the nature of depression and how mindfulness can prevent relapse.
Iyengar Yoga: National Association of the United States includes a clear description of Iyengar Yoga and a directory of Iyengar yoga teachers in the U.S. As explained on Cultivating Mindfulness, this yoga method can be a good way to cultivate mindfulness for people who need a physically active and movement oriented approach and/or don’t (yet) feel at home in their bodies.
Self-Compassion - Site of Dr. Kristin Neff, focused on ‘a healthier way of relating to yourself,’ includes scholarly research and exercises for how to increase self-compassion.
The Center for Mindful Eating - This is a ‘forum’ for “professionals who wish to help their clients develop healthier relationships with food and eating, and to bring eating into balance with other important aspects of life.” The resources on this site are helpful for non-professionals too.