Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology – by Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken

Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology – by Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken

How does mindfulness promote psychological well-being? What are its core mechanisms? What value do contemplative practices add to approaches that are already effective? From leading meditation teacher Christina Feldman and distinguished psychologist Willem Kuyken Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology, provides a uniquely integrative perspective on mindfulness and its applications.

Following ten years of gestation and three years of writing it is now available in both North America and the UK. The book is available to order at Amazon – USA and UK. In the UK, it is also available at Routledge and Blackwell’s. You can read a sample chapter here.

Foreword by Zindel Segal

In the poem “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver (2015) poignantly compares prayer to paying attention. After reading Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken’s wonderful book Mindfulness: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology, I now see that these lines from Oliver’s poem reflect the remarkable shift that has taken place in medicine, health care, and society over the past 25 years. What I am referring to, and what each of the authors has played a pivotal role in supporting, is the introduction of contemplative practices in mainstream health and social institutions as adjunctive means for addressing disease and suffering. Much as going to a yoga class is no longer considered esoteric, teaching people who are managing a mood disorder or cardiovascular condition how to practice mindfulness meditation is increasingly seen as integral to good quality care.

This book’s particular value lies in providing a broader perspective on the two worlds—contemplative and secular—that undergird this movement. Where it succeeds most vividly is in synthesizing the varied research, clinical, and contemplative inputs into a framework that allows readers to fully appreciate how these domains are, in spite of their surface differences, implicitly linked. As well, this book could not have come at a better time. Most would agree that the mindfulness field is rapidly expanding; indeed, some would say it is becoming a global phenomenon. And yet with scale comes excess and the inevitable dilution of quality. Fortunately, Mindfulness invites us to pause and return to the sources that have informed this unique synthesis of modern science and ancient traditions, thereby allowing their shared intentionality to be revealed.

As guides through this material, I cannot think of two authors better suited to this task than Christina Feldman and Willem Kuyken. Christina is a world-renowned meditation teacher and co-founder of Gaia House in the United Kingdom, and Willem is a research psychologist who, as Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, has published a number of our field’s seminal papers. Their book provides the reader with a number of rare treasures, such as a contemplative teacher and scientist authorship team, or cognitive science and Buddhist psychology maps of “the mind.”

At its most ambitious, Mindfulness is larger than the service of conceptual clarity and coherence it provides for our field. The book’s core actually addresses a personal quest we each find ourselves on: how we can live with ease within the condition of our modern world. It is, true enough, a perennial question, and yet, here we find a novel set of answers that draw from the best that science and contemplative practice have to offer. For starters, it is vital to understand the roots of struggle and suffering that we all encounter. With this in hand, how can we use this knowledge to support greater moments of well-being and wholeness? Mindfulness has a central role to play here, both through its capacity to free the mind from the confines of habit and by creating an opening for the enactment of new choices and perceptions—in short, the possibility of real transformation. The living discussion among Buddhism, contemporary secular mindfulness, and psychological science that has been initiated across these pages helps draw us all closer to understanding how liberation is nearer to us than we might dare to imagine.


“A tour de force. This book elaborates in exquisite detail—yet with utter accessibility and clarity—what mindfulness is and where it comes from, as well as its profound ethical foundation, clinical applications, growing evidence base, and potential for healing. The depth of the case studies alone exemplifies the elemental wisdom inherent to the practice of mindfulness, and how it can be applied in trying and challenging life situations to beneficial effect.”

—Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

“Given the widespread appeal of mindfulness training, there is a growing need to understand what mindfulness actually is (and is not!), and to see the ancient roots of its modern applications. Bringing together their own deep practice of meditation with sophisticated psychological expertise and the latest neuroscience research, the authors have created a comprehensive map of the mind. This book illuminates the range and transformative power, both secular and spiritual, of mindfulness practice.”

—Joseph Goldstein, cofounder, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, Massachusetts

“This inspiring book builds bridges between Buddhist psychology and contemporary science. This integration is vital in our world—it has the potential to radically transform perspectives and relieve suffering for individuals and communities. Highly renowned in their respective fields, Feldman and Kuyken are professionally and personally invested in discovering what can emerge from bringing ancient and contemporary disciplines together. This resource will be profoundly useful to so many of us.”

—Rebecca Crane, PhD, Director, Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University, United Kingdom

“This book provides a much-needed view of the lay of the land for mindfulness in the 21st century. Drawing on their many years of experience in practicing, investigating, and teaching within the Buddhist insight meditation tradition, on the one hand, and contemporary psychological science, on the other, Feldman and Kuyken offer a remarkably elegant and profound demonstration of what they name as the ‘mutuality of learning and dialogue’ between the two worlds. Their book shows clearly how and why such mutuality has transformative potential, and the conditions under which it may or may not flourish. This book is a ‘must read’ for students and teachers of mindfulness-based approaches.”

—Mark Williams, DPhil, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

“You are holding in your hands a profound work that brings much-needed clarity to the synergies and tension between Buddhist psychology and psychological science. The book offers an integrated map of how distress is created and perpetuated, and how mindfulness training can transform suffering into well-being and flourishing. Highly recommended.”

—S. Helen Ma, PhD, Founding Teacher, Hong Kong Center for Mindfulness