You are on page 1of 7

A New Generation of Mindfulness-based Intervention

In one of our research papers that was published this summer in the journal
Mindfulness, we identified and discussed a recent development in mindfulness research and
practice. Until a few years ago, mindfulness research within psychology has primarily
focussed on what have been termed First Generation Mindfulness-Based Interventions (FGMBIs). FG-MBIs refer to interventions such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
developed by Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970s and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
developed by Segal, Williams, and Teasdale in 2002. According to Professor Nirbhay Singh
and colleagues, one of the primary purposes and achievements of FG-MBIs has been
gaining acceptance of mindfulness within Western clinical and scientific domains.

However, due to the speed at which mindfulness has been integrated into western
research and public healthcare settings, concerns have been raised by scientists and
Buddhist teachers regarding the authenticity of FG-MBIs and whether they actually teach
mindfulness in a manner that still bears any resemblance to the traditional Buddhist model.

These concerns do not detract from the fact that there is a growing evidence-base that
supports the efficacy of FGMBIs as clinical and behavioural interventions, but they give
rise to a number of questions that have important implications for mindfulness research
and practice:
1. If mindfulness is efficacious when it is taught in isolation of many of the practices
and principles that are traditionally deemed to make it effective, then how much
more effective will it be when taught in a manner that includes and embodies these
supporting elements?
2. Is it ethically correct to inform service users and members of the public that they are
receiving training in a method that is grounded in Buddhist practice (a claim often
made about FG-MBIs), when in fact this is not the case?
3. Is it essential to de-spiritualise psychological interventions before they can be used
in clinical contexts, or based on a what-works approach can interventions that
are openly spiritual in nature be considered as viable and mainstream public
healthcare treatments?

In an attempt to overcome some of the above issues concerning FG-MBIs, efforts


have been made in recent years to formulate and empirically evaluate a second generation
of mindfulness-based interventions. Second Generation Mindfulness-based Interventions (SGMBIs) are still intended to be used in public healthcare contexts (i.e., they are still secular in
nature) but as explained in the following quote from our recently published Mindfulness
2

paper they are openly spiritual in nature and are more traditional in the manner in which
they construct and teach mindfulness:

Due to the suggestion that some individuals may prefer to be trained in a version of mindfulness that
more closely resembles a traditional Buddhist approach, recent years have witnessed the development
and early-stage evaluation of several Second Generation Mindfulness-Based Interventions (SGMBIs) Although SG-MBIs still follow a secular format that is suitable for delivery within
Western applied settings, they are overtly spiritual in aspect and teach mindfulness within a practice
infrastructure that integrates what would traditionally be deemed as prerequisites for effective
spiritual and meditative development. At the most basic (but by no means the least profound) level,
such prerequisites include each element of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Noble Eightfold Path
comprises each of the three quintessential Buddhist teaching and practice principles of (i) wisdom
(i.e., right view, right intention), (ii) ethical conduct (i.e., right speech, right action, right livelihood),
and (iii) meditation (i.e., right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration). Each of these three
fundamental elements (Sanskrit: trishiksha the three trainings) must be present in any path of
practice that claims to expound or be grounded in authentic Buddhadharma and they apply to (and
form the basis of) the Fundamental or Theravada vehicle just as much as they do the Mahayana
and Vajrayana Buddhist vehicles. Thus, for mindfulness practice to be effective, it must be taught as
part of a rounded spiritual path and it must be taught by a spiritual guide that can transmit the
teachings in an authentic manner.

The development and empirical evaluation of a second generation of mindfulnessbased intervention appears to represent an emerging trend in mindfulness research.
Outcomes from our own research work with the eight-week SG-MBI known as Meditation
Awareness Training (MAT) suggest that SG-MBIs may have applications in the treatment of
(i) workaholism, (ii) work-related stress, (iii) stress, (iv) anxiety, (v) depression, (vi)
schizophrenia, and (vii) pathological gambling. Recent MAT studies that we have
conducted have also demonstrated that SG-MBIs can help to improve work effectiveness,
decision-making competency, and leadership/management skills more generally. SG-MBI
studies by other researchers also indicate a range of clinical and non-clinical applications
for SG-MBIs. For example, studies led by Professor Nirbhay Singh indicate that SG-MBIs
may have utility as (i) a smoking cessation program for individuals with mild intellectual
disabilities, (ii) an anger regulation method for individuals with schizophrenia, and (iii) a
training and support program for parents in order to reduce the aggressive and disruptive
behaviour of their children/adolescents. However, it needs to be remembered that research
into SG-MBIs is still at a very early stage and so although the abovementioned outcomes
are promising, further empirical investigation is obviously required. Furthermore, it is our
view that rather than directly compete with FG-MBIs, SG-MBIs simply provide an
alternative approach to practising mindfulness that for some individuals may be more
appealing.

Please note: This article provides a summary of, and is adapted from, a discussion that first appeared in a
paper we published in the journal Mindfulness.

Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon

Further Reading
Carrette, J., & King, R. (2005). Selling spirituality: The silent takeover of religion. New York:
Routledge.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New
York: Hyperion.
McWilliams, S. A. (2014). Foundations of Mindfulness and Contemplation: Traditional
and Contemporary Perspectives. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction,
12, 116-128.
Rosch, E. (2007). More than mindfulness: when you have a tiger by the tail, let it eat you.
Psychological Inquiry, 18, 258-264.
*Shonin, E., & Van Gordon, W. (2014) Managers experiences of Meditation Awareness
Training. Mindfulness, DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0334-y. [Source Article].
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013a). Mindfulness-based interventions:
Towards mindful clinical integration. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1-4. DOI:
10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00194.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014c). The treatment of workaholism
with Meditation Awareness Training: A case study. Explore: The Journal of Science and
Healing, 10, 193-195.

Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., Dunn, T., Singh, N., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014d). Meditation
Awareness Training for work-related wellbeing and job performance: A randomized
controlled trial. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, DOI
10.1007/s11469-014-9513-2.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014e). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
(CBT) and Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for the treatment of co-occurring
schizophrenia with pathological gambling: A case study. International Journal of Mental
Health and Addiction, 12, 181-196.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Griffiths M. D. (2013). Meditation Awareness Training
(MAT) for improved psychological wellbeing: A qualitative examination of participant
experiences. Journal of Religion and Health, 53, 849-863.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Singh, J. Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., &
McAleavey, K. M. (2007). Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social
behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 31, 749-771.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Karazia, B. T., Singh, A. D. A., Singh,
A. N. A., & Singh, J. (2013). A mindfulness-based smoking cessation program for
individuals with mild intellectual disability. Mindfulness, 4, 148-157.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Karazsia, B. T., & Singh, J. (2014a).
Mindfulness-Based Positive Behavior Support (MBPBS) for mothers of adolescents
with autism spectrum disorders: Effects on adolescents behavior and parental stress.
Mindfulness, DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0321-3.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Myers, R. E., Karazsia, B. T., Winton, A. S. W., & Singh, J.
(2014b). A randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based smoking cessation
program for individuals with mild intellectual disability. International Journal of
Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 153-168.
Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Karazsia, B. T., Winton, A. S. W., Singh, J., & Wahler, R. G.
(2014c). Shenpa and compassionate abiding: Mindfulness-based practices for anger
and aggression by individuals with schizophrenia. International Journal of Mental
Health and Addiction, 12, 138-152.
6

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Sumich, A., Sundin, E., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014b).
Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for psychological wellbeing in a sub-clinical
sample of university students: A controlled pilot study. Mindfulness, 5, 381-391.
Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Zangeneh, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Work-related
mental health and job performance: Can mindfulness help? International Journal of
Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 129-137.
Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., & Griffiths, M. D. (2015). Mindfulness and the Four Noble
Truths. In: Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Singh, N. N. (Eds). Buddhist Foundations of
Mindfulness. New York: Springer.