From Discourse to Awareness: Towards a Mindful Rhetorical Psychology of the Person

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Theory & Psychology TAP-09-0116.R1 Regular Manuscript Rhetoric, Social Construction, Mindfulness, Buddhism, consciousness This paper opens up the possibility for a dialogue between rhetorical social psychology and Buddhist thought. It suggests that a mindfulness-based approach may complement the rhetorical study of the person. The rhetorical critique of cognitivism is based on a certain narrow (Western) concept of mind – cognition – that is very different to the ‘mind’ of Buddhist thought. The proposed inclusion of Buddhist mindfulness into rhetorical studies of consciousness may broaden current debates and practices beyond a sole focus on discourse. This move is in sympathy with, and in response to, the ‘affective turn’ in social psychology and the rest of the social sciences which has lead to renewed interest in, and search for, ways of studying embodied subjectivity, awareness and personal order. Mindfulness practice offers a complementary ‘art of living’ to this work, which discursive and post-discursive approaches appear to lack.

Abstract:

Foundations, Psychology & Buddhism I follow the call by Brown and Stenner (2010) to reconsider the foundations of critical psychology following the discursive turn. In Psychology Without Foundations, they take a step back from the details of recent critical psychological research to consider it within the context of the continuing ‘crisis’ of social psychology (for example, between mainstream experimental and qualitative psychologies). They make a persuasive case for revisiting the foundations of psychology as a trans-discipline, by engaging with process philosophers of ‘experience’. They argue for a psychology which does not prematurely seek solid foundations – for example, in discourse or cognition – proposing that attempts by social psychologists “to fix and provide onceand-for-all explanations actually impedes rather than enhances our understanding” (p. 2). Instead, they do not call for new foundations, or for abandoning existing foundations, but for a “creative and reflexive foundationalism”, which is always changing. They propose the ‘art’ of existence or living should be made the central object of psychology (see also Brown, 2001). To paraphrase, they ask ‘What forms of life or being are we to create?’ and ‘How are we to live based on recent theoretical ideas?’ They suggest this will involve a caring ethical engagement, which is badly needed in psychology. In accordance with the spirit of this perspective, I propose a shift in social psychological research practice from a discursive or cognitive ground to a ‘groundless ground’ in mindful awareness. Paradoxically, this is achieved here in part through a rhetorical exploration of how language may be used to cultivate a mindful orientation. In turn, this orientation involves seeing the ‘mind’ and consciousness as not only discursive activities, but also as specifically embodied, affective and social activities or selfless processes. I explore the following questions: How are we to understand the

embodied and material foundations of our lived experience along with its rhetorical organisation? How can we cultivate forms of awareness, which get us into contact with the ‘groundless ground’ of our changing existence? And what would it mean to make a shift from a focus on discourse to a stance, which also cultivates mindful awareness in our research practices? I will respond in three primary ways: paralleling Buddhism and social construction; presenting a rhetorical analysis of early Buddhist discourses on the conscious cultivation of mindfulness; and by indicating to the reader of this article how a mindful orientation might be cultivated during the reading of the paper – which uses the guidance presented in the Buddhist discourses to approach the very phenomena under analysis. The paper thereby attempts to produce a reflexive approach to foundations, akin to that proposed by Brown and Stenner.

Paralleling Buddhism and Social Constructionism Brown and Stenner’s process philosophy resonates strongly with Buddhist ideas and the Buddhist-inspired practice of mindfulness, although they do not make these links. From a Buddhist perspective, attachment to a fixed ground is seen as an existential dead-end. In Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Batchelor (2010) suggests that to:
steady one’s gaze on the finitude, contingency, and anguish of one’s existence is not easy; it requires mindfulness and concentration. One needs to make a conscious shift from delight in a fixed place to awareness of a contingent ground (p. 156).

The parallels do not end here. Indeed, Brown and Stenner’s (2010) aim to “continuously examine how foundations are constructed and reconstructed as a live feature of the phenomena we study” (p. 4) seems to the present author like a

or as. 1996. 1997. Edwards. This work claims that dominant social cognitive approaches to psychology have looked in the wrong place.suggestion for how mindfulness might be practiced in. and productive of. 1996). outwardly . and responding compassionately to the anguish that awareness of this impermanence can engender both within and beyond us. the training of consciousness so familiar to Buddhist practitioners in the mindfulness (or Insight Meditation) tradition might seem strange and unfamiliar – even irrelevant – to the majority of social psychologists. However. and observe external. current critical psychologies do not provide much guidance on how to steady our gaze on change and transformation in the ways suggested by Batchelor. By analysing discourse. as well as our prejudices. Much discursive psychology prioritises discourse: locating and grounding psychology in the study of language use in talk and texts – increasingly in conversational materials. social action. Indeed. critical psychologists highlight what could be termed the interdependent nature of the discursive mind and how it is dependent upon. may have precluded engagement with traditions originating in ‘the East’. discursive researchers reject the experimentalism and individualism of much cognitive psychology. interaction and contexts of language use – both conversational and ideological (Billig. Potter. when they locate psychology in hypothetical computational processes in the isolated individual mind. Arguably. which cannot be observed. 1987). Indeed. 1992. social research: by cultivating the capacity to come into more intimate contact with the shifting groundlessness of momentary experience. Edwards and Potter. one book on mindfulness meditation is titled The Art of Living (Hart. our premature grounding in cognition and discourse. Instead.

it risks losing site of the non-discursive. 259) of inner states. discursively) at the expense of studying what happens ‘within us’ (e. rather than putative ‘inner’ states produced within rarified experimental settings. For other critics. 255) or the “subjective stream” (p. 1999). The same might be said of today’s discursive psychologists.g. Brown. Burr. 1998. 2003. Hollway and Jefferson. As Durrheim (2011) notes. discursive psychology adopts a model of the person as Homo Rhetoricus: as speaker or hearer oriented to stake and interest in interaction. He suggests that while the move from a perceptual to discursive model of psychology has been enormously productive. 2007. who tend to adopt a sceptical stance towards ‘inner states’. which neglects the non-discursive materiality of bodies and objects (Bayer and Shotter. Nightingale and Cromby. 2000).g. material actions taking place in the world. discursive constructionists have tipped the balance too far in favour of what happens ‘between us’ (e. William James (1890) famously argued that the psychologists of his day overlooked the “free water of consciousness” (p. psychically or somatically) – whilst acknowledging that the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ are not discrete ‘locations’. Critics suggest that discursive psychology represents a ‘dead-end’ in the sense of it being an unbalanced kind of psychology.or ‘extra’-discursive – are arguably neglected in discursive psychology (Cromby. 2001.occurring activities and shared practices in everyday life. Embodiment. such as consciousness. He argues in the context of studying racism in South Africa that discursive psychology has privileged discursive action at the expense of other kinds of bodily. . Long before the rise of discursive psychology. Social constructionists were initially criticised for presenting ‘disembodied’ research. feelings and affectivity – aspects of subjectivity that are partly ‘pre’.

Edwards.g. 2008). 1997. The person both produces. Voloshinov and Vygotsky . This perspective has been accused of either (i) lacking an ‘ontology of subjectivity’ by adopting blank or empty understandings of what is within people when they interact (Corcoran. whether conscious or unconscious. The image of the thinker as a “conversationalist” locates the psychology of thinking in language use in spoken interaction. rhetorical psychologists understand inner states themselves as partly discursive.But there are different varieties or ‘flavours’ of discursive psychology (McKinlay and McVittie. 2000). 2009). 1994). Feelings and emotions. 2010). 1999a). By contrast.even unconscious practices such as repression are seen as discursively and dialogically constructed. This work is partly influenced by the cultural psychology of Bakhtin. which then becomes internalized (Billig. 2009. 2006).influenced by Wittgenstein’s action view of language and Freud’s psychoanalysis . discursive action. . common sense and ideology. in psychoanalytic discursive psychology . Hollway and Jefferson. preferring not to make claims about ‘inner’ phenomena existing behind or beyond the ‘rich surface’ of outwardly hearable or observable language use (e. Similarly. or (ii) implying instrumental agency in the subject position of the ‘discourse user’ who strategically manages stake and interest in each encounter (Madill and Doherty. The rhetorical psychology of thinking. and is produced by. are understood to be discursively constructed in interaction through language use. Some discursive psychologists do indeed stay ‘ontologically agnostic’ about the existence or otherwise of inner states existing within the mind or body. 1996) can be described as ‘ontologically constructionist’ because inner states are argued to be constituted through outward practices (Corcoran. categorisation and prejudice (Billig.especially their ideas of inner speech and internalization. rather than inner processes (Billig.

‘Multiple Chemical Sensitivity’ (Brown. physical illness (Hollway and Jefferson. and silence (Billig. Indeed. which is largely neglected by discursive psychology... but without resorting to cognitivism. inner life (e. Similarly.. which stress the vocal or spoken aspects of embodied being (e. read and understood when used for the performance of social action. 2002). this is usually through discourse or conversation analyses. 2001). which is difficult to appreciate without experiential practice of mindfulness. Discursive psychologists do not tend to require . I wish to present mindfulness practice as one way of studying the “mind behind the mouth” (Edley. consciousness is a topic. 2005). analysed at a between-person level.g. Wiggins.This work illustrates how we can treat consciousness and unconsciousness as discursive activities. 1990). 2003). ageing (Gillies et al. bodily feelings) might be taken off the map of social psychology except insofar as it is understood as solely discursively produced through words. discursive approaches are disembodied in a very particular way. 2009. 1999a) are ‘hard cases’ which do not seem to be (easily) reducible to discourse or language use without undermining their essentially embodied. From a mindfulness perspective. 2005). While this is useful in pushing the discursive turn towards the analysis of embodied and gestural actions. dizziness (Brown et al.g. arguably we need more embodied methodologies. But there is a risk of reducing the richness of consciousness to one modality: words that are being spoken or written and being heard. When discursive psychologists do consider the body and embodiment. which is difficult to explain purely through discursive theory or discursive empiricism. Topics such as sweating and pain (Gillies et al. 2004). which study both the internal and external dynamics. In this sense. 2011). which produce embodied experience (Csordas. material or non-verbal nature.

Cromby. Visual Analysis (Gillies et al. 1998). power) and inner subjective experience (e. By contrast mindfulness is rooted in an experiential meditative practice in which synchronicity of mind and body is cultivated internally.g. non-cognitive and embodied forms of knowledge. 1999. 2005).mind-body synchronicity on the part of the investigator. sensations or feelings in discursive work.. or spatiality (e. objects. Such research attempts to study non-discursive aspects of outer social life (e. The present approach is sympathetic to the turn to affect. because such work tends to avoid specifying what we are to do in response to such critiques.g. emotions) along with their discursive production. 2004). 13). They argue that “the development. 2007). embodiment/materiality.. The body and embodiment are understood primarily from a betweenperson point of view. such as Memory Work (Gillies et al. participants or members. Stam. Free Association Narrative Interviewing (Hollway and Jefferson. adaptation or adoption of an appropriate method might currently be the primary impediment to critical psychological investigations of affect and feeling” (p. i. What methodologies are we to adopt in their study? Blackman and Cromby (2007) encourage “the development of methods and analytic inquiry based upon a form of sense-making that is embodied rather than cognitively and consciously understood and articulated” (p. This is often engaged through predominantly theoretical work.g. 17). 2000) and Phenomenological Psychology (Langdridge. bodily sensations. . looking externally at bodily practices. 2007. A number of methodological interventions have recently been proposed which seek to produce non-discursive. subjectivity and affect might be another dead-end for psychologists. attempts to theorise the body. feelings. materiality. However.e. One is not required to cultivate awareness of bodily postures. Burkitt.

analysts tend to look at or listen to practices occurring between people in external interaction. “Offering a light. 1995).. Bentz and Shapiro’s (1998) mindful inquiry approach to social research “combines the Buddhist concept of mindfulness with phenomenology. and uses that subjective engagement to pursue embodied investigations. And Barnes and Moss (2008) discuss the relevance of mindfulness to qualitative research. or engaging in collective group-level analyses. curious and appreciative. For example. 2004. There are similarities here with early methods of systematic experimental introspection adopted in America and Europe. 19). A strict analytic separation is sometimes made between subject (researcher/analyst) and object (discourse/members practice) (although see the reflexivity of some early discourse work. critical theory. and not too grasping to make what is passing too fixed and tangible” (p.In some discursive empiricism. for example by: investigating the counter-transference relationships between researchers and participants (Hollway and Jefferson. Stainton-Rogers (2011) discusses mindfulness as a study skill relevant for critical social psychology (pp. In the space of mindfulness. 2000). xxiii-xxv). Ashmore et al. producing work in which researcher and participant positions can coincide within one person (Gillies et al. Mindfulness practice also involves taking one’s own subjectivity as the locus of inquiry. which are now being revisited in studies of consciousness (Petitmengin and Bitbol. one creates a context of “friendly. and hermeneutics that puts the inquirer at the center” (p. 2009). 2005). 171).g. ‘spacious’ noticing. from the point of view of an onlooking or hearing analyst.. e. paralleling a mindful perspective with the “unmotivated looking” of conversation analysis. affective and embodied research tries to more thoroughly collapse solid divisions between researcher and participants. curious inquiry . Some recent work in psychosocial.

I will invite the reader to sample such an approach. A rhetorical perspective on mindfulness may allow us to complicate such separations. 2002. especially object relations and relational psychoanalysis. by adopting the position of both researcher and participant. I am concerned that . There is a long history of engagement and mutually enriching dialogue between Buddhism and psychoanalysis. critical psychology.free from strong assumptions and preconceptions” (p. 13). Safran. But unfortunately. From the discursive side of the debate. 1991). This is similar to proposals for first-person inquiry in enactive cognitive science studies of consciousness. methodologically and ethically. Thompson and Rosch. phenomenological and humanistic approaches to social psychology – among others – all attest to this not being the case. Equally. is equivalent to cognitivism. and which has not yet been explicitly explored by critical psychologists or psychosocial researchers (Magid. it is easy to assume that any approach. in a rhetorical exploration of early Buddhist texts. But generally. 2003). This would take another paper. despite there being deep similarities and affinities between these approaches – theoretically. and social constructionist psychology. Buddhism does not adopt a cognitivist understanding of the mind. which predates social constructionism. It is not my intention in this paper to consider the strikingly overlapping epistemological stances of some Buddhist traditions and psychoanalysis. But psychosocial. which stresses the importance of inner life. second-person (intersubjective) and third-person (objective) research accounts (Varela. but without making the same solid distinctions between first-person (subjective). This involves opening to the tangible and intangible aspects of experience with equanimity. there has been little engagement between Buddhism.

or in natural and social worlds (Gergen and Hosking. Kwee. which attempt to identify a core ‘essence’ in objects or individuals that are isolated and independent from specific conditions. Moving from discourse to awareness involves coming into experiential contact with experience behind or beneath language and before it arises. Pagis shows how the kind of vipassana meditation she studied is initially and primarily a form of embodied reflexivity. For example. theories which undermine the existence of abiding independent entities. 2006. Siddartha Gotama. Kwee. Gergen & Koshikawa. ‘joint action’ and ‘co-action’ and Buddhist ideas of ‘inter-being’ or ‘dependent origination’. which parallels a constructionist approach (Gombrich. 2010). Pagis (2009. It thus has parallels with embodied research (e. 2010b) has conducted participant-ethnography on the production of intersubjectivity in vipassana meditation silent retreats. Both critical psychologists and Buddhist practitioners are critical of essentialist stances. Buddhist mindfulness practice is often grounded in the ‘groundlessness’ of changing bodily sensations and feelings. Finlay. 1996). was not so concerned with ontology (what is) as with epistemology (how things come to be). 2006). 2010a. Whereas discursive constructionists tend to ground themselves in the study of discourse. quite different to an abstract or discursive reflexivity wherein . social constructionists have explored some of the theoretical resonances between notions of ‘relationality’. Gergen. Mindfulness practice can be considered epistemologically pragmatic through its emphasis upon the effects of particular constructions in terms of the complex web of dependently originated processes. Recently.g. The main concern becomes whether the constructions constitute or alleviate anguish.work in psychosocial studies becomes synonymous with psychoanalysis at the expense of other commensurate traditions – such as Buddhism. whether in people. The historical Buddha. 2006. 2009.

At this stage. these are proposals. feelings.one makes oneself a subject or object through language (“I”. hearing. But paradoxically. A mindfulness-based perspective thereby challenges the ocular metaphor frequently employed in Western culture. Gergen (2009) is critical of individualised meditation practices which only focus on individual change – presuming social change can arise purely from individual practice – and argues that we need relational meditation practices.e. touch. the emphasis of mindfulness practice tends to be initially upon non-discursive sensory awareness of the full range of sensory experience – especially bodily sensations and feelings experienced from within – without clinging to the contents of experience. it involves getting in touch with the ‘lived’ body of experience. rather than the ‘objective’ body of science. it is anchored or grounded in the sensed or felt body. Instead. to include other neglected senses (i. mental activity). mindfulness practice has a less ‘identified’ or ‘attached’ relationship to discourse (or talk) than discursive psychology. bodily sensations. taste. sight. “mine”).e. which seem to dominate discursive turn work. which cultivate mindful communities. there have been few attempts to think through in detail how a Buddhist approach might resonate with critical psychological research and practice. as adopted in discursive analyses. Beyond such general theoretical parallels. In this sense. which have . In the words of Merleau-Ponty (1945). “me”. movement). Shusterman (2008) similarly illustrates how mindfulness meditation is about feeling one’s own bodily sensations from within rather than observing one’s own and other’s bodies from the outside. we need to use language in order to cultivate such a stance internally. Mindfulness practice also involves opening up our inquiries to more than just three senses (i. as shall be seen. which study what is observable in a transcript or video recording. Indeed.

500 years ago. it is important to understand how I am approaching mindfulness itself. Might we be able to synthesise the perceptual and discursive accounts of consciousness through dialogue between this perspective and rhetorical psychology? To develop this position. The Pali Canon comprises what Gotama is claimed to .yet to be practically developed. In this paper. and how rhetorical psychology might in turn help to bring the mindfulness-based approach out of its cul de sac in experimental cognitivist and neuroimaging research. I will now discuss background assumptions to my take on mindfulness as a culture. The present paper is grounded mainly in an understanding of mindfulness practice derived from the contemporary Insight Meditation movement in the West. including the work of Batchelor (1997. we need to understand how a Buddhist approach might complement a rhetorical psychology of the person. lest it is understood simply as a cognitive process or therapeutic technique. Pali is the ancient Indian language used to record the teachings of Gotama and his followers over 2. I consider a rhetorical approach to mindfulness as a social approach. 2010). To develop this approach further. one of the earliest stratas of Buddhism. One great challenge is teasing mindfulness apart from the dominant cognitivist paradigm through which it is commonly engaged. spiritual or mystical practice – but it does not need to be seen in this way. and the early Buddhist Pali Canon: key texts in the Theravada school of Buddhism. Mindfulness Practice as a Culture of Awakening It would be easy to assume that mindfulness is a religious.

The word mindfulness is used particularly in the Setting up of the Foundations of Mindfulness (Analayo. and now recently adopted in ‘the West’ – especially in the United States and Europe – since the beginnings of the twentieth century. not least because they often take the form of dialogues between Gotama and a variety of interlocutors. Buddhist Studies and Psychology about precisely what mindfulness is. I am using the term ‘mindfulness practice’ instead of dharma or Buddhist practice because these latter terms can create a lot of confusion and misunderstanding – particularly the mistaken assumption that what I am presenting is necessarily a ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ perspective (ala Transpersonal Psychology or Psychology of Religion and Spirituality). 2011). these teachings might be very interesting. . developed in a variety of ‘Eastern’ cultures. It is in these discourses that teachings on mindfulness can be found. Mindfulness of Breathing (Rosenberg and Guy. 1998) and Mindfulness of the Body (Nanamoli & Bodhi. 2005) discourses. The present discussion will consider these texts from a rhetorical perspective. and how it is to be practiced (Williams & Kabat-Zinn.have actually taught. although there are disputes about the historical accuracy of the written teachings. The practice of mindfulness has been part of several of the world traditions of Buddhism since its early origins in ancient India. 2003). I adopt a highly selective reading of this canon for the purposes of developing mindfulness practice as a style of critical psychological experiential inquiry. It is part of the extensive Buddhist meditative tradition. For discursive and rhetorical psychologists. whilst acknowledging that there is much debate within the fields of Buddhism.

or things to do. Gotama was living through times of unprecedented social and cultural change. 1997). This perspective becomes possible through a Modernist or Postmodernist take on Buddhism suitable for engagement in a changing. including detraditionalisation. but rather argumentatively in conflict with other approaches. mainly involving a movement from a traditional agrarian society to an increasingly market-based economy and from government by local tribal leaders to centralised power in the form of monarchies. or brought into being. We need to understand how Buddhist ideas similarly developed during the same historical period (5th century BC). This involves seeing Buddhism as a cultural practice of awakening. Buddhism is a ‘culture’ in the sense of needing to be cultivated or grown. demythologisation.Instead. we can understand how the Buddha was engaging in dialogue with his host culture. and psychologisation (McMahan. Billig (1996) points out that theoretical approaches do not develop in isolation. By approaching Buddhism as a culture of awakening. In Arguing and Thinking. From the present perspective. His antiquarian psychology turns to ancient Greek philosophy and shows how ideas develop historically in relation to their cultural and intellectual contexts. I intend ‘mindfulness practice’ to be inspired by dharma or Buddhist practice understood as a ‘culture of awakening’ rather than as a religion (Batchelor. 2008). this perspective is very different to religious Buddhism. Such social change may partly explain his focus on impermanence/change. globalized world through complex cultural processes. rather than truths to believe. Arguably his approach provides a highly skillful way of . Buddhism becomes a religion the moment the teachings of the Buddha are taken to be ‘true’ without critical examination and reflection. Buddhism is a collection of practices. Crucially. It is an art of living rather than a dogmatic adherence to particular beliefs.

through concentration meditation practices designed to lead to absorption states (jhanas). that also arises. which animates all reality. And when this no longer occurs. and translated and adapted for contemporary purposes. 106). but rather interdependent processes. p. This is not the same as saying that ‘everything is connected’ or ‘interconnected’. Gotama’s mindfulness practices were partly designed to investigate the conditionality of lived experience – in and through the meditative cultivation of an awareness of co-arising conditions. p. the word . it is argued that we do not find underlying essences. for example. and detaching oneself from sensory consciousness. that also ceases (Olendzki. The principle of ‘conditioned arising’ or ‘interdependent origination’ is one of the Buddha’s original ideas. that comes to an end. all phenomena are conditioned and changing.. Instead of seeking absorption with Brahman. Gotama was arguing against the dominant Brahminical belief in an abiding Self (atman). No isolated independent phenomena can be found. that comes to be. Instead of there being an abiding independent substance. 110). many of his ideas need to be understood in their specific cultural context.responding creatively to change and is especially relevant to contemporary periods of rapid social transformation. In mindfulness practice. When this occurs. which is the “pure consciousness that is the core of one’s true being” and “identical in nature to Brahman (God)” (Batchelor. Nevertheless. 2010. This perspective is not a depiction of linear causal sequences or “chains of events” but that “multiple factors co-arise in each moment while mutually conditioning one another” (ibid. This undermines the idea of isolated ‘factors’ interacting with one another. p. 2010. The Upanishads (or Vedanta) were literature exploring the ways to achieve unity with Brahman. As Olendzki astutely points out. from the arising of this. from the cessation of this. 275).

or state to be measured. Mindfulness is a concept used to direct our attentions. Even material objects – such as a piece of paper – are ‘selfless’ in the sense of containing no isolated. independent core. abiding self. Crucially. Much scientific work on mindfulness attempts to study its nature by ‘pinning it down’ and treating it as an object of study within a hypothetico-deductive positivist . This broadly methodological approach can be distinguished from scientific and therapeutic approaches. Instead. which provide the sense of a continuously existing. to the conditioned processes of becoming. such as mindfulness. 105). wherein “the dynamics of the flux are more significant than the temporary structures taking shape and arising within it” (p. conditioned arising is part of the Buddha’s process philosophy. moment by moment. Mindfulness: From Definition to Practice I understand mindfulness primarily as a practice to be performed rather than as a concept to be theorized. 106). Buddhist concepts of emptiness and selflessness/not-self emphasise our lack of inherent independent being and bring attention to our responsibility to ourselves. This background is essential for understanding how I am approaching the cultivation of mindfulness through meditation practice. Meditation means to cultivate (bhavana) particular qualities internally. others and othernesses.interconnected rests upon a “spatial image suggesting a relationship between two or more things” (p. Our attentions become directed to the patterning of such processes – especially those. this involves particular uses of language as well as bodily postures.

I consider an essential aspect of mindfulness to be the awareness of bodily sensations.experimental paradigm. and should be treated as distinct (Langer and Moldoveanu. Within this paradigm. suitable for critical psychology. These definitions are intimately connected to the therapeutic purpose of mindfulness practice in such programmes. Thompson & Rosch. This is a non-Buddhist. 2000). social psychologists will be more familiar with the experimental social cognitive research by Langer (1989) and colleagues. 1999b). 2003) – indirectly influenced by humanistic psychology (Dryden & Still. Her definition is also a highly individualized understanding of mindfulness (Billig. 1995). While there are some similarities between Langer’s mindfulness and early Buddhist mindfulness in terms of how attention is understood. which are sensitive to the present social context. In particular. It is opposed to the ‘mindless’ utilization of concepts from the past. Baer. phenomenology and Buddhist theory and practice . 2010). Segal & Williams. non-meditative understanding of mindfulness. Contemporary therapeutic interventions such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy adopt the definition of mindfulness as “awareness of present experience with acceptance” (Kabat-Zinn. 1991).which combines cognitive science. the concepts are not the same. Here. mindfulness is a style of information processing involving the creation of new conceptual distinctions and categories. . involving the manipulation and measurement of factors and variables (e.g.is situated within an experimental (neuroimaging) paradigm (Varela. which are not addressed in Langer’s definition. they are not primarily tailored to understanding mindfulness as a style of investigative inquiry. Even enactive or embodied cognition research . 2006) – or as a “meta-cognitive decentering” – drawing upon cognitivist computational theory (Teasdale.

acknowledging that there is never a ‘pure’ present moment outside of historical construction and processes of conditioning. One may mindfully remember or witness an event from the past as well as the present. And it highlights how the take on the ‘discursive mind’ (Harre & Gillett. But even this is vague compared to the specific meanings given in the Pali canon. It connotes the affective qualities of our mental and bodily activities and the intimacy between our usual distinction between thoughts and feelings. .Such psychological definitions of mindfulness risk de-ethicising mindfulness practice by aligning it with acceptance. because it does not just concern the mind. In addition. In fact the Pali term citta. which is embodied and feelingful. It could equally be bodyfulness or heartfulness. Most crucially for this paper. which requires a solid ethical grounding. cultural-historical approach to social psychological research. Sati might be better translated as a kind of ‘awareness’. such research tends to ignore the active qualities of language use. 1994) is overly restrictive because it is grounded in discourse alone. 2011). I am using the term ‘mindfulness’ as an English translation of the Pali word ‘sati’ (RhysDavids. which allows mindful awareness to encompass events from the past. which is usually translated as mind. There have been calls to re-engage mindfulness practice with its Buddhist ethical roots (Bodhi. and how rhetoric is central to the cultivation of mindfulness. there is also a need to recover the recollective dimensions of mindfulness. is more accurately rendered ‘heart-mind’. This is crucial if we are to engage with mindfulness practice as critical. It undermines our assumed rationality by foregrounding our affective being. and distinguishes the present perspective from the idiosyncratic take on mindfulness as ‘present moment’ awareness alone. 1890).

third-person objective accounts must be written by living. ludic and dramaturgical theories of social psychological life for neglecting its argumentative aspects. performing social functions within specific cultural. Instead. By contrast. which can encompass the contradictions of inner speech and dialogue. He thereby lays the theoretical foundations for rhetorical and discursive psychological investigations of topics such as attitudes. Sharf (1995) illustrates this in his critique of the “rhetoric of experience” displayed within Buddhist religious discourse. While concepts such as mindfulness are “presumed to designate discrete ‘states of consciousness’ experienced by Buddhist practitioners in the midst of their meditative practice” (p. 231).A Rhetorical Approach to Mindfulness Billig (1996) criticises cognitive. historical. But the focus on argumentation and the two-sidedness of everyday thinking in rhetorical psychology risks undermining other embodied. and political contexts. At the same time. For example. at the same time. breathing individuals working in the first-person – or perhaps collaboratively and inter-subjectively with others in the second-person – who in turn . mindfulness involves opening ourselves up to the rich diversity of our sensorial lives. the grounding in logos and anti-logos neglects the groundless ground of changing bodily sensations. the lack of public consensus between practitioners about their meaning belies the notion that the terms function representatively. as soon as we attempt to define “experience” we situate it in the public sphere. assuming an “objective or third-person perspective” (p. Sharf argues that they function rhetorically and ideologically. As Sharf (2000) acutely points out. there is a possibility that the non-discursive dimensions of our existence are rhetorically organized. but is not limited to them. categorization. sensorial aspects of existence. Nevertheless. 226). and thinking.

and the functionalism of early Buddhism. inner state words such as ‘anger’) is established directly and introspectively through a correspondence relationship with the inner states themselves. From this perspective. and feelings (Varela & Shear. Langer’s 1989 distinction between mindfulness and mindlessness). Wittgenstein disputed that the meaning of psychological language (e. This debate has its roots in Wittgenstein’s (1953) critique of James (1890). Mindfulness meditation is rhetorical in the sense that it involves the cultivation of a ‘presence’ of mind (upathana). we are reminded to recall “what is otherwise too easily forgotten: the present moment” . In general terms. an “‘inner process’ stands in need of outward criteria” (p. meditation practice is rhetorical in the sense of being argumentatively directed towards the development or cultivation of a particular way of being. which in turn cannot be reduced to language. How are we to step out of this longstanding debate about language and mind? One way is to consider how rhetoric can be used alongside the adoption of specific bodily postures to cultivate a mindful perspective. Stanley. One cultivates concentration in opposition to distraction. in which consciousness is seen as an embodied function. rather than an entity (Scott. 129). 2000. 2011). Wittgenstein’s action view of language. which is the opposite of absent-mindedness or distraction (multhassati) (cf. rhetorically organized against forgetting. In being mindful. The verb form of ‘sati’ is ‘sarati’ and can be translated as remembering or recollection. This is in line with James’ pragmatist orientation. nonattachment as opposed to clinging. It is also a specific form of remembering. we become interested in how language can function as an essential part of the experience of mindfulness.g. Instead.have their own thoughts. kindness as opposed to hostility. memories. 1999). to be found primarily in language use. in opposition to other alternative ways of being.

It is a lucid awareness of whatever is happening momentarily. 48). by avoiding or rejecting experience). We take an ethical training to alleviate harm and avoid creating distress. if possible. Stop reacting and experience responsive calm. 2003. p. Befitting my pragmatic perspective. mind and the full range of our sensory contents – according to a specific. rather than as a concept to grasp after. feelings. Cultivating a Mindful Stance It is perhaps easier to understand a mindful stance through practice rather than intellectual thought. He offers the memorable acronym ELSA: Embrace and fully know anguish or suffering (rather than avoiding or ignoring it). it is to be practised in a kind and gentle way. According to Batchelor (2010). Let go of the craving for things to be otherwise (e. To be clear: this can involve becoming aware of remembering an event from the past. This is especially important when working at the boundary between our interior and exterior lives. embodied and affective dimensions. our ‘heart-minds’ and our interactions with others and ‘othernesses’ in our surroundings. mindfulness is presented in the early Pali discourses as something to do.(Analayo. We are invited to cultivate a clear comprehension and awareness of our bodies.g. Crucially. 262). which is affectionate towards whatever comes into awareness. sustained awareness of what is happening to us and within us on each occasion of experience” (Bodhi. which includes our bodies. 2005. But here it will be considered specifically in terms of its present moment. applied ethico-moral framework. Mindfulness involves “recollection of the present. mindfulness practice involves creatively responding to four injunctions to act. p. Act in such a .

2005. For Gotama. To practice this method in contemporary life. and establishes mindfulness in front of them. p. the meditator adopts a particular bodily posture. secluded place. How? A meditator. which is self-supported if possible. Traditionally. sits down. either in a chair or sitting on a cushion. 2003). Evidently. suitable for their own body. try setting a timer to ring in 10 minutes time. find a quiet. If you can. having folded their legs crosswise. Then. fully aware and mindful” (Nanamoli and Bodhi. it cannot be taken for granted. “gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or an empty hut. The meditator is instructed to abide contemplating “the body as a body ardent. sets their body erect. the mindful researcher would begin their mindfulness of the body by bringing awareness to the sensations of their own breathing. Close or half-close your eyes and incline your head slightly downwards. social withdrawal and silence in order for stability of concentration to develop. after reading this paragraph. upright yet comfortable posture. Mindfulness of breathing is “probably the most widely used method of body contemplation” (Analayo. Bring awareness to your bodily posture.way as to cultivate a specific ethically-informed way of life. .). Work gently within the confines of your own bodily abilities. Mindfulness practice requires a degree of initial solitude. Adopt an open. mindfulness of the body needs to be developed and cultivated. ever mindful they breathe in. Contemplation of the body is to be practised through mindfulness and ‘clear comprehension’ of breathing as it occurs. 145). This approach involves seeing mindfulness as an embodied methodology. The final injunction comprises mindfulness practice and opens the practice up to social engagement. mindful they breath out” (ibid. the cultivation of mindfulness requires specific social and material conditions to be in place.

chest. The mindfulness meditator begins by bringing awareness to the bare sensations of the breath as it is felt in the body. which are contacting the ‘outside’ world: the sensations of your skin against clothing. letting the breath breathe itself. Feel the movement this creates in your body. forehead. feeling/emoting. We become aware of a flowing stream of life arising and passing away. Investigating ‘Interiority’ Through Mindfulness Evidently. thinking and our intuitive capacities. or nostrils. In cultivating mindfulness. Notice any evidence you have that you are alive right now in this moment. take three deep breaths. touching. Then. we need to use language as our guide. Rest your attention on these changing sensations. Release them if you can. seeing. becoming more aware of life as it is lived. while mindfulness initially involves a non-discursive contemplation of the body. When you are ready. around the eyes. Notice those parts of your body. hands. your feet on the floor. One becomes mindful of the sensations of the air flowing through the nostrils or the kinesthetic rising and falling of the abdomen. One extends in time the “initial split seconds … before one begins to . we are using language as a tool to open ourselves up to the rich diversity of our sensory contact with the world. smelling. whether at the belly. expanding your lungs. your bottom sitting.Notice any obvious places of intentional holding in your body: the base of the stomach. such as bodily sensing. Keep your attention there for the remaining time. This includes the full range of our sensory life. shoulders. hearing. see if you can find where you can feel the movement of the breath most readily.

As Barnes and Moss (2008) illustrate. Fromm (1960) describes thinking about breathing as “cerebration” rather than mindfulness: “Once I begin to think about my breathing. identify. 1984). 59). which may specific matters of greater or lesser significance” (p. I am not aware of my breathing anymore” (p. This has been termed a ‘bare attention’. and conceptualize” (Analayo. for example conversation analyses. the breath is sensed inwardly. and awareness. synchronicity. in which one focuses on feeling the sensations of breathing with a “beginner’s mind” (Suzuki. 2003. the auditory sound is transcribed and may feature in analysis for how it functions as part of the co-ordinated performance of social actions – such as crying or laughing (Jefferson. From a mindfulness perspective. Perhaps this is a difference of perspective: mindfulness is initially directed within. when breathing features in discursive psychological studies. direct perception and sensation. whereas conversation analysis is directed without. 45). As Psathas (1995) explains. p. 1970): suspending conceptual or discursive thinking in favour of unprejudiced. This is different from thinking about one’s breathing. But there are possible similarities. 67). This moment-to-moment sensing is used as a tool for the cultivation of concentration. the “variety of interactional phenomena available for study are not selected on the basis of some preformulated theorizing. This perspective on breathing is a good illustration of the different vantage point on experience of Buddhism and discursive psychology. the stance of mindfulness seems a similar orientation to the “unmotivated looking” or “ethnomethodological indifference” of conversation analysis – in which members’ methods of making sense are explored inductively without praising or blaming them. The actual sensations of inhalation and exhalation are directly sensed. By contrast. Breath awareness is .recognize.

From this perspective.practised by bringing a similar kind of non-judgemental watchfulness to the sensations of the breath.1 While mindfulness is often initially cultivated and directed inwardly. It is essentially a training in attention. which reifies psychological or social realities in ways that were critiqued by Gotama. Zen is a form of “radical reflexivity” (p. We simply wait and see what arises and passes away. similar to ethnomethology. The tendency to change or control the breath is momentarily suspended. 721). While concentration or unification (samadhi) practice may lead to experiences of calm (samatha) or eventually absorption in the object of 1 See Moore. 704). in the sense that the meditator becomes aware of subjectively experienced bodly sensations from within. . what James (1890) termed ‘voluntary sustained attention’. From Calming to Inquiry Mindfulness of breathing is presented here as a calming practice which is a precursor to the inquiries which may lead to experiential insights. But this is an actively engaged rather than indifferent stance. Dereification is the “perception of the objects of the social world as socially relative and as dependent on human perception and activity” (p. 719). One brings the mind back whenever it wanders. Moore (1995) argues that training in Zen Buddhism involves a “resocialization in which the initiate learns to perceive the social world in a dereifying manner” (p. Mindfulness practice may therefore have the potential to challenge ideological discourse. 1995 on further similarities between Zen Buddhism and ethnomethodology – including parallels between Zen Koan practice and Garfinkel’s breaching experiments. it culminates in an extrospective awareness which can encompass our awareness of our social and natural worlds.

this needs to be distinguished from insight meditation (vipassana) which is a style of experiential inquiry. With practice this stability will increase and some subjective ‘space’ maybe experienced between thoughts. we may notice that our minds are ‘wild’ or ‘drowsy’. projections. which may occur quickly or after much practice. If wild. is to stablise and centre the mind. which arguably arise before the activities of rhetorical construction begin. fantasies. Noticing transformation and processes of change and becoming is a key part of mindfulness practice and allows one’s attention to stay relatively stable whilst bearing witness to impermanence.concentration (jhana). One of the aims of calming practice. we can begin to inquire into the patterning of subjective experience. a kind of heavyness. we may notice a torrent of discursive thoughts. Then. or plans may arise.e. desires. When we slow down in this way. If drowsy. we are able to suspend or reverse our routine . This is what James (1890) metaphorically termed the “thought stream” and includes thoughts and feelings which maybe discursive. By stopping or pausing and ‘swimming against the stream’ of our reactivity cycles. memories. sensations. taking us away from our meditation object (i. resulting in intuitive insights experienced at a bodily level. A cascade of judgements. visual or difficult to discern. concentration and calm is developed which allows intuitive insights to arise is termed ‘access’ concentration. and bodily sensations of tiredness maybe more apparent. the sensations of breathing). which includes adopting a stable bodily posture. reactions. hazyness or fuzziness may be felt. The point at which enough stability. We need enough concentration to reach this point in practice. commentaries. feelings. we become aware of the moments of sensory contact. When beginning meditation.

But this strategy would crucially miss the point of mindfulness itself: that it is to be practiced. This act would need to be understood in its local strategic. absorption meditations. Mindfulness. and witness their coming into being. 1970). as well as broader historical.activities. Through silent meditative practice. 2005). in ongoing experience. Rhetoric and Experience If we were conducting a traditional rhetorical analysis of Gotama’s guidance for meditation presented above. the ‘mind’ is seen as a sixth sense which one should be especially aware of because of its ability to make things such as thoughts. This allows us to understand the connection between pre-discursive experience and the arising of rhetorical constructions. This can include sensations of touch. smelling and seeing. or . Mindfulness practitioners often seek to go beyond thinking. perhaps as a meditation instruction opposed to. discursive nor not. hearing. rather than intellectually dissected or analysed. or satisfactory – especially through the use of language (Bodhi. and how the three lists of three work to produce the utterance as performing the social action of instruction. Mindfulness practitioners tend to be sceptical of linguistic concepts because their employment often takes them experientially away from visceral awareness of what is happening sensorially in the present moment (Suzuki. In Buddhism. we might have brought attention to the use of listing. language and concepts. one trains in bringing mindful awareness to the conditioned genesis of phenomena. feelings and sensations seem to be permanent. for example. our own possessions. taste. context.

in order to then foster more ethically wholesome ways of speaking and acting. that utterances reflect or report inner states of mind. So. language can be used to guide practices. and cultivate a mindful stance towards the arising of discourse. . 1987). In turn. Instead. In mindfulness practice. But this is not to say that mindfulness meditation is language-less or entirely separate from discursive activity. Nevertheless there are approaches. meditation allows us to take our personal inner lives seriously whilst at the same time not ‘clinging’ to the contents of consciousness. 1996). in discursive psychology.e. The present perspective does not advocate a complete detachment from language use. which arise before rhetorical action. and for the actions and deeds they are used to perform.at least to adopt a more skillful – i. but rather often has pragmatic effects in terms of how it leads to. However. by loosening identification with the contents of consciousness. or alleviates. anguish. non-attached/non-identificatory – relationship to them. for example. Its practice is intimately connected to public uses of language. Instead. we can use discursive utterances to direct our attentions in particular ways. 1996). The analyst avoids creating an inside/outside split by assuming. rather than their putative correlates in mind or world (Potter. one momentarily suspends the conditioned assumption that discursive thoughts index reality or self (Epstein. which understand vipassana as a realist practice allowing us to “see things as they really are” (Hart. Thoughts are seen not as representational. as our awareness turns to changing sensations. 1987). Buddhism often comprises a scepticism of language which derives from an understanding that discourse does not represent the self or world. descriptions or instructions are studied for the business they do in interaction. as in some styles of vipassana (Hart. but as active parts of the constitution of realities. This is not the approach adopted here.

If experienced with an unpleasant hedonic tone. by for example moving position or scratching an itch. constructed. We can use this method to become aware of the role of bodily sensations in the arising of discursive thought. for the investigation of interior and exterior life. Feelings (vedana) specifically refer to the hedonic tone. the meditator contemplates ‘feelings as feelings’. Perhaps when a painful physical sensation arises in the body. depending upon its hedonic tone. By bringing awareness to what prompted the arising of such inner speech. which are themselves rhetorical. which experientially arises upon sensory contact with a given object. and constitutive of realities. One may notice a desire to make a rhetorical movement towards or away from a particular sensation. Let us take the example of physical discomfort or pain in the body. To use a cognitive metaphor. the meditator may notice a temptation to make the sensation go away. we could understand these as tools for ‘parsing’ experience.we can see language as very useful for mindful practice. Bringing awareness to the sensations themselves interrupts this automatic response and allows for inquiry to proceed (see Cromby. which cannot always be reduced to language. or what Billig (1996) calls inner dialogue. we would be beginning to adopt a mindful approach to our inner lives – which at heart is an investigative approach. Buddhist texts provide many very useful structuring categories and devices. 2007 for a commensurate approach to feelings). This requires a degree of calming of our ‘heart-minds.’ . Linguistic tags and labels are used to pull out particular patterns from the stream or flow of experience. For example. the meditator witnesses the arising of a phrase of inner speech. “This meditation business is a bad idea – it’s making my body hurt”. and as contingent.

As well as becoming aware of how phrases of inner speech are conditioned. we might also become interested in the activities performed by these phrases. If such pain is taken as an unwanted part of the self. But is this borne out through experiential inquiry of bodily sensations? Body scanning techniques may be useful here (see Shusterman. which internally and externally give rise to particular phenomena. For example. . We become aware of phenomena arising at all of the sense doors. In mindfulness meditation we cultivate mindfulness by bringing attention to the whole range of six internal and external sense spheres or bases. and cling to it. mind. The impression is given that the whole body is hurting. ears. This means taking a careful approach to the investigation of whatever arises and passes away and particularly paying attention to the conditions. eyes. 2008). the above phrase might be performing an evaluative judgement of experience. along with an associated act of ‘selfing’. anguish may arise – and we may be prompted to remove the sensation. The meditator “investigates and examines that state with understanding and embarks upon a full enquiry into it” (Nanamoli and Bodhi. For example. This includes the body. by taking the body as a personal possession (‘my body’). an utterance in inner speech may arise such as “this is I. 2005). According to Gotama. taking it as a personal desire for an object. me or mine” when mind-consciousness comes into contact with a bodily pain. the beginnings of a sense of self is constructed in experience precisely at the moment when we notice ‘we’ like or dislike something. nose and tongue.

eye-consciousness). based upon one of the six internal and external sense bases. and discursive/embodied collapse through an awareness of transformation and intangibility.g.Conclusion I propose that a mindful perspective offers an art of living. The Buddhist take on ‘consciousness’ as a co-dependently arisen phenomena. At the same time. a sensory organ (e. Thus. the discursive domain. eye) co-arises with a modality of consciousness (e. and interior life is not reduced to inner dialogue. It might be argued that such a perspective is individualistic. we may find that during sustained mindful practice. internal/external. Thus. tongue. and an object of awareness form (e. but is not limited to. by emphasizing the rhetorical/social organization of momentary mindful experiences. because it focuses on bodily sensations experienced internally by the solitary meditator. Once we pursue such inquiries. potentially broadens out the rhetorical conceptualization of the person. But who is this meditator? Mindfulness practice encourages us to investigate the notion of a . body and mind. nose. the solid distinctions of within/between.g. rhetorical psychology may contain implications for Buddhist insight meditation practice. it is argued that the very capacity to remember to be mindful is rhetorically.g. Each moment of consciousness is dependently arising based upon this tripartite. visual form). This happens for each other sensory modality: ear. as well as materially. public/private. social psychology is not reduced to rhetorical action. organised. It is proposed that in each moment of awareness. containing the seeds of a psychology that is radically experiential and embodied in practice and which includes.

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