Research Topic

The Varieties of Contemplative Experiences and Practices

About this Research Topic

Despite growing interest in research on meditation, studies in contemplative science have largely focused on a narrow selection of practices (e.g., mindfulness, compassion, etc.) and traditions (e.g., Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, etc.).

Over the years, repeated calls have been made by researchers to expand the field of contemplative science to incorporate the vast trove of lesser-known and studied contemplative practices. However, little has been done to fill this gap. At the same time, even within commonly researched meditation traditions such as Buddhism, there are often practices (e.g., visualisation/tantric practices) that don't strictly fall within the scope of clinically-applicable practices such as mindfulness. Such practices are either not sufficiently understood, or when they are, they are categorised under a broadened rubric of mindfulness. This last point is partly due to the loose definitions of the term mindfulness; sometimes it refers specifically to the select few focused attention and open monitoring type practices used in mindfulness-based interventions that are de-contextualised from Buddhism while other times it encompasses any or all studies conducted using a sample of Buddhist meditators (this has been particularly true in case of some prominent meta-reviews of mindfulness literature). 

Finally, while the developmental trajectory of contemplative practices from different traditions is closely associated with the larger context of that tradition (e.g., soteriological, social, historical, political), such context has largely been overlooked in the field of contemplative science, mainly because the field of contemplative science serving a primarily clinical purpose in its initial years. While serving a valid clinical purpose, such approach has undermined a more basic scientific understanding of contemplative practices.

Through this Research Topic, we hope to broaden the scope of contemplative science. This would help bring rigorous scientific inquiry and validity to a broad range of contemplative practices undertaken around the world that currently fall outside the radar of contemplative science. At the same time, such an understanding would help foster the development of a more individual-catered approach to meditation-based therapeutic interventions, which currently tends to use a "mindfulness-fits-all" approach.
We welcome papers on various topics including (but not limited to):
• empirical (psychological/neuroscientific/phenomenological) or theoretical (cognitive/phenomenological/computational) study of less-understood types and traditions of contemplative practice,
• comparative empirical studies of well-studied contemplative practices with less-studied ones,
• empirical or theoretical study of the synthetic functioning of multiple practices belonging to the same tradition or different traditions possibly contextualised within psychologically- or phenomenologically-defined goal(s) of the contemplative tradition.
• clearer definition(s) of mindfulness, and if/how it can/should be applied in a more tradition-non-specific manner
• theoretical frameworks (cognitive/phenomenological/biological/computational) that are able to explain shared and/or unshared variation between a larger variety of practices.

It could however also be done through more novel interdisciplinary approaches such as by historically tracking a certain type of practice that may have been shared between different coexisting contemplative traditions (e.g., certain Tantric practices in Buddhism, Yoga) and studying their psychological/phenomenological/biological similarities and/or differences (e.g., differences due to meta-physical beliefs or socio-political influence of the time).


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Despite growing interest in research on meditation, studies in contemplative science have largely focused on a narrow selection of practices (e.g., mindfulness, compassion, etc.) and traditions (e.g., Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, etc.).

Over the years, repeated calls have been made by researchers to expand the field of contemplative science to incorporate the vast trove of lesser-known and studied contemplative practices. However, little has been done to fill this gap. At the same time, even within commonly researched meditation traditions such as Buddhism, there are often practices (e.g., visualisation/tantric practices) that don't strictly fall within the scope of clinically-applicable practices such as mindfulness. Such practices are either not sufficiently understood, or when they are, they are categorised under a broadened rubric of mindfulness. This last point is partly due to the loose definitions of the term mindfulness; sometimes it refers specifically to the select few focused attention and open monitoring type practices used in mindfulness-based interventions that are de-contextualised from Buddhism while other times it encompasses any or all studies conducted using a sample of Buddhist meditators (this has been particularly true in case of some prominent meta-reviews of mindfulness literature). 

Finally, while the developmental trajectory of contemplative practices from different traditions is closely associated with the larger context of that tradition (e.g., soteriological, social, historical, political), such context has largely been overlooked in the field of contemplative science, mainly because the field of contemplative science serving a primarily clinical purpose in its initial years. While serving a valid clinical purpose, such approach has undermined a more basic scientific understanding of contemplative practices.

Through this Research Topic, we hope to broaden the scope of contemplative science. This would help bring rigorous scientific inquiry and validity to a broad range of contemplative practices undertaken around the world that currently fall outside the radar of contemplative science. At the same time, such an understanding would help foster the development of a more individual-catered approach to meditation-based therapeutic interventions, which currently tends to use a "mindfulness-fits-all" approach.
We welcome papers on various topics including (but not limited to):
• empirical (psychological/neuroscientific/phenomenological) or theoretical (cognitive/phenomenological/computational) study of less-understood types and traditions of contemplative practice,
• comparative empirical studies of well-studied contemplative practices with less-studied ones,
• empirical or theoretical study of the synthetic functioning of multiple practices belonging to the same tradition or different traditions possibly contextualised within psychologically- or phenomenologically-defined goal(s) of the contemplative tradition.
• clearer definition(s) of mindfulness, and if/how it can/should be applied in a more tradition-non-specific manner
• theoretical frameworks (cognitive/phenomenological/biological/computational) that are able to explain shared and/or unshared variation between a larger variety of practices.

It could however also be done through more novel interdisciplinary approaches such as by historically tracking a certain type of practice that may have been shared between different coexisting contemplative traditions (e.g., certain Tantric practices in Buddhism, Yoga) and studying their psychological/phenomenological/biological similarities and/or differences (e.g., differences due to meta-physical beliefs or socio-political influence of the time).


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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