Research BlogsWhich-Path-of-meditation

Here at the Mindfulness Association we offer a long term systematic training in meditation that moves through practices for cultivating mindfulness, compassion, insight and wisdom. As we do this we don’t leave the previous practices behind but they form a foundation for future practices and also provide a rich collection of practices to revisit whenever we feel we need them. This is a mindfulness path for life.

Mindfulness meditation enables us to know what is happening while it is happening with a sense of allowing. Compassion meditation enables us to be more sensitive to the suffering of ourselves and others and to cultivate the emotional resources to relieve that suffering. Insight meditation enables us to recognise the deeper habitual patterns that give rise to our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Wisdom meditation enables us to get in touch with the truth of the human condition.

Much of the research on mindfulness relates to short interventions, sometimes as short as a single five minute practice, and rarely anything longer than an eight week course of mindfulness. A typical eight week mindfulness course is a two hour class, weekly over eight weeks and an expectation for participants to practice mindfulness meditation at home each day for 30-45 minutes a day as well as incorporating short mindfulness practices into daily life (Crane et al, 2016). What is remarkable is that changes in health related outcomes can be detected after such short interventions. Such outcomes typically include psychological outcomes, such as improved anxiety and depression, as well as improved emotional regulation, reduced stress and improved cognitive outcomes (Howarth et al, 2019).

Many of these changes are detected where there is no control group or when compared to a wait list control group (ie. a group that doesn’t receive any intervention). When a mindfulness intervention is compared to an alternative intervention, involving meeting for a similar time and doing another wellbeing related activity, then there is generally little discernible difference (Fjorback et al, 2011).

As explored in Goleman & Davidson (2017) longer term meditation leads to more measurable, in depth and lasting change. They describe how the states one experiences in meditation, such as compassion and equanimity become personality traits over long term practice. They also discuss how different types of meditation generate different benefits, with mindfulness of breath meditation giving rise to mental calm, loving kindness meditation giving rise to positive mood and observing thoughts meditation giving rise to increased self-awareness.

Goleman & Davidson (2017) describe how the type of neural pathways that meditation transforms are those for reacting to disturbing events (reducing stress and increasing emotional regulation), those which give rise to compassion and empathy, those which enable sustained attention and those which enable a healthy sense of self.

According to the theory of neural plasticity, where neural pathways are used more regularly, they become stronger, where they are used less regularly, they become weaker. For example, in mindfulness practice we train to bring the mind back to being present each time it wanders, so as to reinforce the neural networks associated with being present so as to develop the habit of mindfulness. Generally, research indicates that the more time spent engaging in formal mindfulness meditation increases the measured improvements (eg. Carmody & Baer, 2007).

So, the evidence suggests that a long term systematic path of meditation training, including mindfulness, compassion and insight meditation such as the one offered by the Mindfulness Association, should offer a wide and long lasting range of benefits. However, attending the training is not enough and we need to put in the hours of meditation practice to get the benefits.


Written by Heather Regan-Addis

Heather Regan-Addis is a Founder Member and Director of the Mindfulness Association.

Heather teaches on the Masters Degree courses that the Mindfulness Association partners on with the University of Aberdeen (Studies in Mindfulness) and with the University of West of Scotland (Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion)



Carmody & Baer, 2007 –

Crane et al, 2016 –

Fjorback et al, 2011 –

Goleman & Davidson, 2017 –

Howarth et al, 2019 –


In-Depth MindfulnessCompassionInsightWisdom • Teacher Training2 Post Graduate Master’s Degrees.