Given the rising popularity of meditation and many scientific claims about its benefits, it seems important that we understand how and why contemplative practice works. Indeed, there are many wonderful, inspiring, and beautiful stories for why meditation is helpful, descriptions that often serve to justify a particular system of practice. Unfortunately, not all accounts agree on what makes a given practice effective. And, just like many technologies, our ability to benefit from contemplation does not mean we truly understand how it operates. So, how do we choose which beautiful story to believe? It may be that the scientific method can help—as long as we provide opportunities for empirical data to “push back” against ideas that are simple and attractive, but ultimately incorrect. Examples will be drawn from over a decade of research on meditation’s influence on the self, emotion, and well-being.
Mind & Life Connections