The term 'contemplative science' is now often used to describe the field of meditation research. Yet, contemplative science as a scientific discipline has not been clearly defined so far. I have proposed one possible definition of contemplative science in my 2016 article 'Defining Contemplative Science' and I further elaborated on some of these ideas about contemplative science in my recent book. I have suggested that it might be helpful to define contemplative science in terms of the metacognitive self-regulatory capacity of the mind (capacity to monitor and manage our attention, emotions and deriving meaning from our experience) and modes of existential awareness (experiential sense of self and reality). I have been developing measures of the metacognitive self-regulatory capacity and modes of existential awareness to enable more systemic investigation of changes in the mind and brain resulting from meditation.
Developmental Contemplative Neuroscience
Most of my experimental work on meditation has been examining the impact of meditation-based programs delivered as part of regular school curricula in schools on brain indexes of attention and emotion regulation in children and adolescents. I think investigation of longer-term neurodevelopmental changes resulting from such programs can be of particular importance to our understanding of child and adolescent well-being. The current projects in my lab are also researching possible cross-cultural factors modulating how these programs modify emotion regulation abilities of children.
In my work on defining contemplative science I have proposed the new term 'modes of existential awareness' (MEA) which describes the experiential (phenomenological) quality of our self-construal. The MEA are associated with the overaching feeling tones we have about who we are and how we perceive the reality around us. I believe MEA are central to our understanding of changes arising from meditation training and their impact on our well-being. I have proposed that more advanced MEA are associated with enhanced well-being (Dorjee, 2016; Dorjee, 2017).