"Mind the Hype"(Van Dam et al) Does CFM have a response?

In October 2017 a paper was published, “Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation”, by lead author Nicholas T. Van Dam. I have since been following any media or academic responses to this rather severe critique of mindfulness research to date but haven’t seen anything “official” from CFM. Given that Van Dam et.al. (which include other scholars from CFM/UMass I believe) have been highly critical of mindfulness research, it would seem appropriate for the birthplace of MBSR to respond to the accusations made in “Mind the Hype”. I fear that Van Dam et.al. may have thrown out the baby with the bath.

I’m also most curious how the mindfulness researchers affiliated with UMass/CFM would respond, particularly as to whether or not they concur with what was said in the paper. This paper has already been used by the media (Newsweek for starters) to basically trash the mindfulness movement. While I agree that “McMindfulness”(not a good thing) is spreading and that mindfulness is not a panacea, my concern is that critics of Mindfulness – particularly those funding research – will use this paper to discredit legitimate Mindfulness and also scare people away from even considering it. So, in short, I am very interested in hearing from scholars there at CFM/UMass on their opinions and responses to the assertions in “Mind the Hype”.

Dana Kenneth Lewis
Mindful Veterans Connection


Davidson, Dahl - 2017 - Outstanding Challenges in Scientific Research on Mindfulness and Meditation.pdf (366.0 KB)

Hi Dana,

This is a really interesting question. I would also be curious to know how the CFM reacted to this article. I’m attaching an article written by Davidson and Dahl. This is certainly a good start.




Thank you very much Simon for the reference. As it happened, only minutes before your message came I had just completed and posted a paper on our website, mindfulvets.net calling for responses.

Please visit it here: http://mindfulvets.net/thread/270/critique-mindfulness-research-backlash-overdue .
Thanks again,

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Hi, Dana. Thank you for your questions about the paper, it certainly has gotten a great deal of media attention. And as is often the case, journalists sometimes misunderstand, misinterpret, or outright misrepresent what is stated in scientific studies, especially in the headlines over which they may have little control. This is an ongoing struggle with science journalism and communicating with the general public.

Speaking as a co-author of this paper and a staff member of the Center for Mindfulness, the paper discusses in more detail what we’re explicitly clear about in the programs we offer: mindfulness is not a cure all. It is not always the right time to take a mindfulness course. Self care is paramount, and the state of the scientific study of mindfulness is in the early stages with the constraints mentioned in the paper – small sample sizes, challenges with active controls, replication, and the complexity of human behavior. This is not limited to mindfulness, either, and is a continual set of issues arising with many fields of study. None of the authors consider that factual acknowledgment to be “severe”, but rather an honest facing of the current state of the science. It is because of that care for the learning and practice of mindfulness that we were actively involved, over the course of years, in the careful crafting of this paper.

I will defer to those in our research department to share their input as well; claims that mindfulness is a “done deal”, “proven”, and “the results are conclusive” are not phrases that tend to be used by reputable scientists and I’ve not heard such terms used here at CFM for the reasons mentioned above. Science is tentative, and even Laws and Theories as they are used within science are subject to falsification.

I’ve spoken directly with the author of the Newsweek piece in particular, as it was a good example of negative, mis-representative hype, and is part of the problem – hype pro and con is unhelpful to the public good. Science education is challenging enough without that, and so is the fallout from over promising results that aren’t in evidence. By suggesting greater rigor, we are fostering the long-term health of mindfulness research and mindfulness programs ability to deliver what is intended.

Interestingly, I’ve not seen the paper used to “trash” mindfulness by the same authors who make their name shouting about McMindfulness, in part because the paper itself doesn’t do that, and in part because we’re responsive to such misleading material as it appears. And that shall continue, we have ample opportunity to push back.

You may also be interested to hear Nicholas speak directly about the paper in our interview here – https://presentmomentmindfulness.com/2017/10/22/episode-098-nicholas-t-van-dam-mind-the-hype-a-critical-evaluation-and-prescriptive-agenda-for-research-on-mindfulness-and-meditation/

I hope that helps, and am happy to continue the conversation.

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Thank you Dr Meissner for your thoughtful and kindly reply. I will share this with others on our site as it is very helpful and has helped improve my perspective on this whole matter. I’ll be listening to your podcast – thanks for that – and respond here later. I’m delighted to have heard from you and look forward to hearing from others as well.Thanks again.

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Happy if this has provided some context, Dana, and should you or any others want to speak directly, please let me know. This is a very hot topic in the media these days, and honestly is an expected outcome from the rise in popularity and the mainstreaming of mindfulness. As best we can, providing some clarity, whatever that might be to our best understanding in this field we find helpful and beneficial on a personal and social level, can only help over time.

And you can call me Ted, even my left-handed scrawl is too legible for me to have ever earned a PhD :-)

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Ok, will lose the honorifics😊, it’s just that I know how hard folks worked for their Doctorates and always want to respect that fact. I just presumed all are PhD’s there…so…Ted… ok, I listened to the podcast and it is even more helpful to me, with the fact that Van Dam (and you and your group) are coming from a place of deep caring about the Mindfulness movement/research, a point of relief for me personally. As I mentioned in my original post about “Mind the Hype” on mindfulvets.net I did have a visceral first defensive reaction (not response) to my first read of Van Dam, with concerns about it being an attack intended to discredit mindfulness. However, hearing your perspective and especially what you and Van Dam discussed in the podcast, I think I better understand the thrust of the group’s efforts and more importantly the spirit in which the paper was created. I am greatly encouraged.

I will also add your presentmomentmindfulness.com podcasts link as a resource to our website as well as share your responses for our mindfulvets.net readers. I Would love to have you on our site as a member, to help our perspective from time to time as we do our best to spread ‘this mindfulness thing’ to a particular audience who so much need it .

Can you send me a private email to danaklewis@gmail.com as I would like to discuss something with you separate from this discussion? Thanks again.

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Hi, Dana. Thank you for your work on mindfulvets.net, truly a needed and beneficial resource for those who have served with honor. There is an upcoming interview this weekend that speaks a little bit about mindfulness in the military, and another coming soon with Amishi Jha on her work with service personnel. It matters, caring for those who have given so much of their lives.

I do understand the reaction, as it tends to come up whenever I see articles written by those continually criticizing while not acknowledging the full story of contemplative practice, or patently avoiding mention of problems in other contexts they may hold dear. It can be hard to welcome both the wanted and the unwanted as necessary for learning, and for changing that which needs to shift. And that’s what the podcast is intended to do, to allow the more complete and especially human side of the story.

Thank you for linking the podcasts, that’s very kind of you and I hope the members find some value in it. Will email you soon, Dana, thank you for this lovely, collaborative discussion!

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thank you Ted and Dana for continuing this very important dialogue. And thank you both for all you do. Ted I listen to your podcasts regularly, thanks and thanks for the facebook posts and comments. Dana I found your “Critique of Mindfulness 2017” well thought out and informative, thanks for that. Gus


While I am quite recovered from my concerns about the Mind the Hype discussion – thanks to Ted’s caring explanations to me – I still have my scan on for keyword, ‘McMindfulness’, and sure enough came across still another article on ‘McMindfulness’ today. This one has a different twist which I added to our discussion of this thread on mindfulvets.net. Thought it a relevant and interesting take from a Law Professor in the UK so offering link to it here:
McMindfulness: Buddhism as sold to you by neoliberals
February 23, 2018 8.12am EST
Author: Peter Doran
Lecturer in Law, Queen’s University Belfast

Read more: http://mindfulvets.net/thread/287/another-mcmindfulness-article-feb2018-neoliberals#ixzz589y59zdV

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