For some years now, there has been a great deal of interest in the ways that contemplative practices with roots in spiritual traditions may also provide a range of emotional and physical benefits to practitioners. We now have a substantial body of experimental and clinical work focused both on outcomes and on the neural, cognitive, and affective markers of changes resulting from practice. It is often assumed that these data have a great deal to offer the world of psychotherapy, stress management and what some call “wellness” practices — so much so that some now speak of an emerging field of “clinical contemplative science.” But how relevant really are the laboratory data for the real-world complexities of health maintenance and enhancement? Does the fact that we might measure changes in response to distressing images in a laboratory study have any bearing on how well-being can be enhanced in real world contexts? When persons undergo training in mindfulness meditation in the context of a supportive community of fellow travelers searching for better health, do we know enough to say that the meditation practice is the critical ingredient in any improvement they might experience? How does the current “medicalization” of meditation affect patients or potential patients coming from religious traditions where contemplative practice is either central, or regarded with suspicion?
LOCATION: New York, New York