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Dialectics of mindfulness: implications for western medicine

Sebastian Sauer12*, Siobhan Lynch34, Harald Walach56 and Niko Kohls126

Author Affiliations

1 Generation Research Program, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany

2 Peter-Schilffarth-Institute, Bad Toelz, Germany

3 School of Social Sciences, The University of Northampton, Northampton, UK

4 Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK

5 Institute of Transcultural Health Studies, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany

6 Brain, Mind and Healing Program, Samueli Institute, Alexandria, USA

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Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2011, 6:10  doi:10.1186/1747-5341-6-10

Published: 17 May 2011


Mindfulness as a clinical and nonclinical intervention for a variety of symptoms has recently received a substantial amount of interest. Although the application of mindfulness appears straightforward and its effectiveness is well supported, the concept may easily be misunderstood. This misunderstanding may severely limit the benefit of mindfulness-based interventions. It is therefore necessary to understand that the characteristics of mindfulness are based on a set of seemingly paradoxical structures. This article discusses the underlying paradox by disentangling it into five dialectical positions - activity vs. passivity, wanting vs. non-wanting, changing vs. non-changing, non-judging vs. non-reacting, and active acceptance vs. passive acceptance, respectively. Finally, the practical implications for the medical professional as well as potential caveats are discussed.