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A “Mechanism of Hope”: Mindfulness, Education, and the Developing Brain
Handbook of Mindfulness
Format: Book Chapter
Publication Year: 2016
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
Place of Publication: Cham
Pages: 447 - 458
Source ID: shanti-sources-68421
Abstract: Mindfulness meditation has recently become mainstream, secular, and backed by evidence from neuroimaging studies about the benefits of “growing the brain through meditation.” Touted as the latest tool for educational curricula, psychotherapy, and intervention for at-risk or disenfranchised youth, it has garnered widespread excitement and investment for its promises to help cultivate self-regulation, empathy, and attentional focus, while being both non-invasive and empowering for young people. The mindfulness movement has, however, also been subject to skepticism, with critics raising caution about the “shadows” of mindfulness, pointing to its (often inadvertent) effects of depoliticizing social problems associated with inequality and poverty, occasional association with adverse behavioral effects, and its instrumental use as a technique for boosting productivity in the corporate workplace. In this paper, we present insights from a project on neuroscience and education, and illustrate some of the tensions surrounding mindfulness as seen from the perspectives of educators and policy makers. We apply a critical neuroscience framework to analyze the role of the brain in underpinning and undermining the mindfulness movement and to understand the reported challenges and promises of mindfulness. We point to a general ambivalence surrounding the potential of mindfulness meditation as an intervention for youth.