There has been considerable research and enthusiasm for investigating how contemplative training might improve social relationships. However, contemplative training is necessarily embedded in a network of social relationships, and researchers have not sufficiently studied the impact of one’s relationships on contemplative practice and development. Furthermore, contemplative training in the modern world is increasingly focused on techniques that are delivered through books, audiotapes, and internet-based training programs without any relationships to teachers or communities. As a result, these “relationship-minimal” contemplative training attempts may be missing or under-utilizing a vital ingredient that is essential to nurturing contemplative development. This project investigates how the quality of four different types of social relationships affect contemplative development: 1) early life relationships, 2) current family/friend/partner social support, 3) relationship with one’s meditation teachers, and 4) relationship with one’s meditation community. This project assesses the impact of past and current relationships on contemplative practice and experience, and aims to identify the “beneficial relationship factors” with teachers and communities that maximally support contemplative development. Our research employs an interdisciplinary mixed-methods approach that integrates qualitative and quantitative data from two meditation contexts, a clinical trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and an interview-based study of Western Buddhist meditators and teachers.

Willoughby Britton, PhD

Brown University

Convening Faculty, Fellow, Grantee, Planning Committee Member

Dr. Britton earned a B.A. in Neuroscience from Colgate University in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona in 2007.  She is the recipient of two … MORE

Jared Lindahl, PhD

Brown University


Jared Lindahl, PhD is Visiting Scholar at the Cogut Center for the Humanities and Director of Humanistic Research in the Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Lab at Brown University. He holds a … MORE

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