Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health

By Thomas G. Plante | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction: Contemplative
Practices in Action

Thomas G. Plante, Adi Raz, and Doug Oman

Several decades ago in his book The Meditative Mind,1 Daniel Goleman reviewed more than a dozen major Eastern and Western methods of contemplative practice, ranging from Christian hesychasm and Jewish Kaballah to Transcendental Meditation and Tibetan Buddhism. He reported that two major approaches or strategies to meditation were incorporated: One recurrent approach was concentration, that is, focused attention on a single object, such as the breath, a mantram, or a prayer. The other recurrent approach was mindfulness (the detached observation of one’s thinking process). Sometimes concentration and mindfulness were used separately, and sometimes they were combined in various ways. Goleman argued that both mindfulness and concentrative meditation have been directed to a single objective, the retraining of attention, a skill that he believed “amplifies the effectiveness of any kind of activity” (p. 168). Goleman also reported that “the need for the meditator to retrain his attention, whether through concentration or mindfulness, is the single invariant ingredient in the recipe for altering consciousness of every meditation system” (p. 107). Nearly a century earlier, William James, one of the founders of modern psychology, had argued that “the faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will…. An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence” (p. 424).2

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