Therefore, the concept of reappraisal cannot be used to explain why mindfulness promotes positive emotions, otherwise, it would be tautological and self-referred.
Other commentators on the mindfulness to meaning theory — like Chambers and Hassed — welcome the expansion to more positive mental states but also question that the proposed mechanism is the only pathway from mindfulness to meaning. The authors acknowledge that this may be just one manifestation of the link between the two and encourage systematic investigation to find out.
Why The Reaction?
Why does Craig Hassed, who has spearheaded a world-first university-wide approach to mindfulness, think this theory is getting such a reaction from the field?
“I think to some extent, people have seen mindfulness in a narrow way for example to reduce stress, anxiety and depression rather than opening it up as something that expands your life and meaning – as the wisdom traditions have taught for millennia. So this opens up a very useful dialogue. The secondary issue is if mindfulness open up the possibilities of greater meaning in life, is it because its an active cognitive process or is it because it clears the mind and brings us to a point of stillness in itself?”
Eric’s view though is that “… some scholars do not believe that mindfulness promotes semantic meaning and evaluative processing. They see mindfulness as purely non-evaluative and non-conceptual. In contrast, Garland and colleagues believe that the non-evaluative, non-conceptual state of mindfulness developed “on the cushion” can foster positive evaluations and meaningful conceptualizations of one’s life “off the cushion” during everyday experience.”
So what’s Garland’s top tip for people wanting to make the most of the Mindfulness-to-Meaning Theory in their own lives?
“During a mindfulness mediation practice session, once the mind becomes more settled, clear, and open after an extended period of focusing on breathing, take a few minutes to actively reflect on what is good, life affirming, or meaningful. If you are facing a serious stressor, ask yourself “How is facing this situation teaching me something important or making me a stronger person?” Use the clear, open state of mindfulness generated from your meditation practice to consciously contemplate insights and realizations that have great personal relevance and meaning for you. When the mind wanders, use mindfulness to re-stabilize your focus on these important thought processes, and the positive emotions that flow from them”
So, a radical new perspective on mindfulness or simply an appropriate expansion of current scholarship to embrace our sense of meaning? You decide. I for one am thrilled to see the vigorous discussion continue and will watch this space with interest.
Mindfulness concept image available from Shutterstock