Keywords: Mind wandering, mindfulness, meditation, meta-awareness, experience sampling.
We propose a theoretical framework that integrates the dynamics of mind wandering and meta-awareness into the practice of mindfulness meditation, referring to the Meta-Awareness Hypothesis (Smallwood, 2013) and to the cycle of cognitive states theorized by Hesenkamp et al. (2012). We present a study that investigates the relationship between mind wandering and mindfulness and the effects of mindfulness training on spontaneous thoughts. Thirty-one students attended an 8-week Mindfulness- Oriented Meditation program and underwent 4 experience sampling tasks, with probe-caught and self-caught measures. Self-report questionnaires (Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and Mind Wandering Questionnaire) were also used pre- and post-training. The results confirm the existence of a negative relationship between the constructs of mindfulness and mind wandering and the reduction of mind wandering episodes after the meditation training. Therefore, the practice of mindfulness meditation could be a useful tool for reducing the wandering of the mind and its negative consequences. Finally, different effects of mindfulness meditation training were found once the whole group of participants was median split into two subgroups according to the frequency of mind wandering episodes (high and low). Such effects will need to be further explored in future studies.