The two facets of meditation in neuroscientific studies: focused attention and open monitoring

The term meditation refers to a relatively large family of practices linked to different traditions and contexts. For the purposes of research, which demands a precise reference to the objects of investigation, meditation practices can be classified into two main styles—focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM)—depending on how the attentional processes are directed (Cahn and Polich 2006; Lutz et al. 2008a; but see Travis and Shear 2010 for a different perspective). In the FA (“concentrative”) style, attention is focused on a given object in a sustained manner. The second style, OM meditation, involves the non-reactive monitoring of the contents of ongoing experience, primarily as a means to become reflectively aware of the nature of emotional and cognitive patterns. Given their importance in current research on meditation, in this section we first describe FA meditation, and then OM meditation, and then discuss how focused attention and open monitoring can also be practiced in the same meditation context and understood in a unitary manner.

 
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