• Contemplative Psychology: History, Key Assumptions, and Future Directions

      Van Gordon, William; Sapthiang, Supakyada; Shonin, Edo; University of Derby; Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research (SAGE Publications, 2021-06-29)
      Contemplative psychology is concerned with the psychological study of contemplative processes and practices, such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, introspection, reflection, metacognition, self-regulation, self-awareness, and self-consciousness. Although contemplative psychology borders with other psychological and nonpsychological disciplines, some of its underlying assumptions distinguish it from other remits of psychological and scholarly inquiry, as do its component areas of empirical focus, conceptual nuances, and challenges. Furthermore, the discipline has tended to be somewhat disparate in its approach to investigating the core techniques and principles of which it is composed, resulting in a need for greater intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary awareness of the commonalities and differences of core contemplative psychology attributes. As a remedy to these issues, in this article, we adopt a whole-discipline perspective and aim to explicate contemplative psychology’s history, breadth, key assumptions, challenges, and future directions.
    • Exploring emptiness and its effects on non-attachment, mystical experiences, and psycho-spiritual wellbeing: a quantitative and qualitative study of advanced meditators.

      Van Gordon, William; Shonin, Edo; Dunn, Thomas J.; Sapthiang, Supakyada; Kotera, Yasuhiro; Garcia-Campayo, Javier; Sheffield, David; University of Derby; Bishop Grosseteste University; University of Essex; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-12-28)
      Wisdom-based Buddhist-derived practices (BDPs) are concerned with transmuting suffering by cultivating insight into the ultimate nature of both the self and reality. Arguably the most important wisdom-based BDP is emptiness (Sanskrit: śūnyatā) that implies that although phenomena are perceptible to the human mind, they do not intrinsically exist. Despite its significance in Buddhism, emptiness has received little empirical attention. Advancing scientific understanding of emptiness is important as it may yield novel insights not only into the nature of mind and reality, but also in terms of helping human beings realise more of their capacity for wisdom and wellbeing. This study recruited 25 advanced Buddhist meditators and compared emptiness meditation against a mindfulness meditation control condition within the same group of participants. Qualitative analytical techniques were also employed to investigate meditators’ experiences of emptiness. Compared to the mindfulness control condition, emptiness meditation resulted in significantly greater improvements in non-attachment to self and environment, mystical experiences, compassion, positive affect, and negative affect. No significant relationship was observed between duration of emptiness meditation and any of the aforementioned outcome measures. Qualitative outcomes demonstrated that participants (i) combined concentrative and investigative meditation techniques to induce emptiness, (ii) elicited spiritually meaningful insights both during and following the meditation on emptiness, and (iii) retained volitional control over the content and duration of the emptiness meditation. Cultivating emptiness appears to be a means of reconnecting advanced Buddhist meditators to what they deem to be the innermost nature of their minds and phenomena.
    • Meditation-induced near-death dxperiences: a 3-year longitudinal study.

      Van Gordon, William; Shonin, Edo; Dunn, Thomas J.; Sheffield, David; Garcia-Campayo, Javier; Griffiths, Mark D.; University of Derby; Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research; Bishop Grosseteste University; University of Zaragoza; et al. (Springer, 2018-03-12)
      Near-death experiences (NDEs) are life transformational events that are increasingly being subjected to empirical research. However, to date, no study has investigated the phenomenon of a meditation-induced near-death experience (MI-NDE) that is referred to in ancient Buddhist texts. Given that some advanced Buddhist meditators can induce NDEs at a pre-planned point in time, the MI-NDE may make NDEs more empirically accessible and thus advance understanding into the psychology of death-related processes. The present study recruited 12 advanced Buddhist meditators and compared the MI-NDE against two other meditation practices (i.e. that acted as control conditions) in the same participant group. Changes in the content and profundity of the MI-NDE were assessed longitudinally over a 3-year period. Findings demonstrated that compared to the control conditions, the MI-NDE prompted significantly greater pre-post increases in NDE profundity, mystical experiences and non-attachment. Furthermore, participants demonstrated significant increases in NDE profundity across the 3-year study period. Findings from an embedded qualitative analysis (using grounded theory) demonstrated that participants (i) were consciously aware of experiencing NDEs, (ii) retained volitional control over the content and duration of NDEs and (iii) elicited a rich array of non-worldly encounters and spiritual experiences. In addition to providing corroborating evidence in terms of the content of a “regular” (i.e. non-meditation-induced) NDE, novel NDE features identified in the present study indicate that there exist unexplored and/or poorly understood dimensions to NDEs. Furthermore, the study indicates that it would be feasible—including ethically feasible—for future research to recruit advanced meditators in order to assess real-time changes in neurological activity during NDEs.
    • Ontological Addiction Theory and Mindfulness-Based Approaches in the Context of Addiction Theory and Treatment

      Barrows, Paul; Van Gordon, William; University of Derby (MDPI AG, 2021-07-30)
      Buddhist-derived interventions have increasingly been employed in the treatment of a range of physical and psychological disorders, and in recent years, there has been significant growth in the use of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for this purpose. Ontological Addiction Theory (OAT) is a novel metaphysical approach to understanding psychopathology within the framework of Buddhist teachings and asserts that many mental illnesses have their root in the widespread mistaken belief in an inherently existent self that operates independently of external phenomena. OAT describes how different types of MBI can help undermine these beliefs and allow a person to reconstruct their view of self and reality to address the root causes of suffering. As well as proving effective in treating many other psychological disorders, MBIs based on OAT have demonstrated efficacy in treating conventional behavioural addictions, such as problem gambling, workaholism, and sex addiction. The goal of this paper is to (i) discuss and appraise the evidence base underlying the use of MBIs for treating addiction; (ii) explicate how OAT advances understanding of the mechanisms of addiction; (iii) delineate how different types of MBI can be employed to address addictive behaviours; and (iv) propose future research avenues for assessing and comparing MBIs in the treatment of addiction.