Investigating mindfulness to ease suffering

Contemplative Psychotherapy graduate finds her place as contemplative researcher

Is mindfulness a therapeutic tool, a trend in psychotherapy, or a way of living one's life? It's all of this and more, according to Abigail (Abby) Lindemann, a 2009 graduate of the Contemplative Psychotherapy (MACP) program. Living
in Nepal with a Tibetan Buddhist family as a teenager had a profound impact on her. After earning a degree in psychology and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, she wanted a graduate program where she could integrate her interests in positive psychology and contemplative studies. The way Naropa University incorporates mindfulness into its therapist training intrigued Lindemann, but she didn't know if she'd conduct research as part of her studies.

"I had decided being a good therapist and receiving a contemplative education that incorporated Buddhist psychology was more important to me than my research ambitions. Fortunately, MacAndrew [Jack] inspired me to pursue a holistic integration and really bring together my passion for contemplative psychology with my passion for the scientific investigation of what contributes to psychological well-being," she says.

Although other Naropa faculty played critical roles in her development, MACP Chair MacAndrew Jack was her supervisor and mentor when she was a graduate research assistant for the department. Her research with Jack focused on what happens in the training process. Jack also provided her with the opportunity to co-author a chapter in Brilliant Sanity: Buddhist Approaches to Psychotherapy (Universities of the Rockies Press, 2008) and to attend the Mind and Life Conference at Emory University that focused on mindfulness, compassion, and depression treatment.

Jack recalls deciding with Lindemann to study retreat experience and long-term meditation among MACP students. "In particular, we were interested to look at some of the more subtle experiences often cultivated in daily meditation and retreat practice, some- times considered under the broad category 'emptiness.' We had fun proceeding along the disciplined scientific path, all the while heading into what felt like meaningful, uncharted territory!"

Lindemann sees the potential of research to be a force for social justice, for bringing treatments, techniques, and scientific findings to people who might not otherwise have access to them, specifically interventions and teachings that help ease psychological suffering.

"My work with MacAndrew at Naropa combined with
 my participation in the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute have affirmed that I want to be not just a researcher who studies mindfulness and contemplative practice, but a contemplative researcher," Lindemann says.

he's already well on her way. She works at the University of Colorado's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience as a professional research assistant. Among her responsibilities is coordinating the study "Mindfulness Based Cognitive for the Prevention of Perinatal Depression," a National Institute of Mental Health–funded study with Principal Investigator Sonia Dimidjian. She also facilitates mindfulness-based cognitive therapy groups and conducts depression screening and clinical assessments. Additionally, she's on the Mental Health Foundation's associate board.

"Abby has the confidence to move into the unknown, the diligence and discipline to follow the methodical steps of research, and the internal awareness to keep her work relevant to what
she feels is important to offer in the world," Jack says. "Abby can enter into just about any part of psychology and bring something fresh and needed. Whether designing the next wave of mindfulness research, helping new populations to benefit from contemplative counseling, or taking the future mantle of teaching Contemplative Psychotherapy, Abby will continue to make meaningful contributions to the field."

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