The science of contemplation has focused on mindfulness in a manner quite disproportionate to its use in contemplative traditions. Mindfulness, as understood within the scientific community, is a practice that invites practitioners to disattend to words and images. The practitioner is meant to experience things as they “really are,” unfolding here and now in the flux of embodied sensations. Yet the use of words and images, together with intentions, is a far more common contemplative practice.
Stanford University researchers, Michael Lifshitz, Josh Brahinsky and TM Luhrmann, present ethnographic research with a syncretic contemplative tradition, Integral Transformative practice (ITP), which grew out of the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s. In this study, they focus on the practice of “affirmations,” in which practitioners seek to actualize spiritual goals by imagining future possibilities. Our ethnographic account invites new avenues for psychological research to illuminate the role of words and images in contemplation.