Document Type



Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) helps people to manage stress reactivity through contemplative practices such as meditation. The creator of the program, Kabat-Zinn (1994), defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (p. 4). Shapiro et al. (2006) clarified this definition as consisting of three mechanisms of mindfulness. In particular, their mechanism “intention” captures Kabat-Zinn’s phrase “on purpose.” Historically, mindfulness practices were intended to cultivate compassion and insight; thus, practitioners’ intentions need to be included in a psychological model of mindfulness (Shapiro & Schwartz, 2000). In keeping with their approach, this project explored the concept of intentionality as reported by MBSR practitioners. Participants often begin the course expecting to achieve stress relief, psychological change, or some other concrete outcome (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Santorelli, 1999). During the course, there is often a shift in their understanding of mindfulness practice: from a method of goal-attainment to a way of being. This shift in intention has not been studied directly; the guiding research question therefore was, “After taking the MBSR course, how do participants discuss shifts in their intention to practice mindfulness?” The data were semi-structured conversations conducted with participants (N = 14) who completed the MBSR program. The approach used was Grounded Theory (GT), a systematic method of content analysis (Charmaz, 1995). Using a process of constant comparison, codes were sub-divided, grouped and integrated to create themes within and across participant interviews. Three themes emerged: Doing: Practicing to Achieve, Being: Practicing to Become Mindful, and Shifting Awareness: From Doing to Being. Findings support the idea that any model of mindfulness ought to take practitioners’ intentions into account as they are complex and may impact the efficacy of MBSR.



Thesis Comittee

Michelle Mamberg (Thesis Director)

Elizabeth Spievak

Melissa Singer

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.

Included in

Psychology Commons