How can we proceed?

We have proposed three ways to arrive at better theories of meditation. One could begin with trying to find a unifying framework for the Western approaches by asking if attentional processes are at the core of the mechanisms involved in meditation (as we interpret the existing literature) or if there are several (partially independent) basic mechanisms, such as direct effects of meditation on emotional or cognitive processes that interact with each other. The different Eastern approaches to explaining the effects of meditation should be made more precise and an effort should be made to connect them to the Western theoretical approaches, complemented by the self-reports of contemporary experienced meditators.

As almost all major forms of meditation are embedded in a spiritual context, future theories of meditation should include assumptions about the role of such a context (Sedlmeier et al. 2014). Possible functions of the spiritual context could be help and motivation in overcoming times of doubt or difficulties meditators experience in their practice. It could also serve as a framework that allows for meaningful interpretations of meditation experiences and it might, especially if a personal good is involved in the framework, provide solace in times of crisis. It seems that different spiritual contexts fit different people and, therefore, future theories should also take personality factors into account, as well as social and environmental factors, so that it might eventually be possible to make recommendations as to which meditation technique fits a given person best.

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