Seminar Series

Seminar Series

Critical Realism Seminar Series - coming soon!


Past Seminar Series: Mindfulness

Mindfulness (-based Cognitive Therapy) for Life Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Psychology in the Contemporary World - Professor Willem Kuyken, University of Oxford

Mindfulness (-based Cognitive Therapy) for Life Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Psychology in the Contemporary World

Wednesday 22nd November 2023 16.00 GMT - CGD Mindfulness Seminar - Professor Willem Kuyken, University of Oxford.

Depression will directly affect more than 1 billion of the world’s population, is a leading cause of disability adjusted life years, one of the main risk factors for suicide, as well as causing untold human suffering. This presentation will briefly overview the story to date of cognitive-behavioural (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). This will include the key milestones over >20 years of definition, theory, innovations in research methods, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and implementation. Most importantly, we have learned that CBT is an effective psychological treatment, MBCT provides a cost-effective approach to helping people to prevent depression and that both can be integrated into mainstream mental health services. But we have also seen a growing evidence base suggesting that MBCT can promote mental health and well-being in the wider population and potentially across the lifespan. How can this work best evolve to meet its full potential? How can we unlock all that we have learned to use these psychological approaches as a vehicle to create a world without the devastating effects of depression, where people enjoy mental health and well-being and are resourced to meet the challenges of the next 50 years?

Willem Kuyken is the Ritblat Professor of Mindfulness and Psychological at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. His work has focused on depression across the translational pathway from theory, through treatment and implementation. In particular, his research examines how cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based programs can prevent depression, promote mental health and enhance well-being across the lifespan. Dr. Kuyken has published more than 150 journal articles. He was named by Web of Science as in the top 1% of the most cited scientists in the world in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Together with Christina Feldman, he wrote Mindfulness – Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Psychology, published in 2019. A new book for the general population, provisionally entitled Mindfulness for Life is due to be published presently, also with Guilford Press.

Event Recording:


Recommended additional reading:

Saxbe, D. (2023) 'This Is Not the Way to Help Depressed Teenagers', The New York Times, 18 November. Available here (Accessed 15th February 2024).

Mindfulness as Political Object and Democratic Opportunity - Dr Will Leggett, University of Birmingham

Mindfulness as Political Object and Democratic Opportunity

Wednesday 29th November 2023 16.00 GMT - CGD Mindfulness Seminar - Dr Will Leggett, University of Birmingham.

While the Mindfulness phenomenon tends not to be thought of as ‘political’, I present it as exemplifying the politics of individualised social practices. Those who do read Mindfulness politically can be quite polarised: between critics who dismiss it as the embodiment of neoliberal self-help ideology, and advocates who invest it with inherently progressive possibilities. I argue it is perhaps more productive to think of Mindfulness in relation to its broader democratic potential – as a rich resource for cultivating the open-ended democratic subjectivities and spaces within which such ideological contestation – politics – plays out. In this respect, the civic educational potential of Mindfulness is significant.

Will Leggett is Professor of Political Sociology and Head of the Department of Social Policy, Sociology & Criminology (SPSC) at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of Politics and Social Theory: The Inescapably Social, the Irreducibly Political (Palgrave), and his current research focuses on the politics of individualised governance and participation. This began with work on behavioural economics and ‘nudging’, and has been followed by analysis of the politics of Mindfulness meditation and similar practices, published Open Access as ‘Can Mindfulness really change the world? The political character of meditative practices’, in Critical Policy Studies.



Event Recording:

Critical Social Mindfulness: Foundations and Emergent Practices for a New Mindful Deal - Professor David Forbes, City University of New York

Critical Social Mindfulness: Foundations and Emergent Practices for a New Mindful Deal

Wednesday 06th December 2023 16.00 GMT - CGD Mindfulness Seminar - Professor David Forbes, City University of New York

Progressive social critics call out certain mindfulness practices as McMindfulness—the unmindful focus on individualistic stress reduction, self-regulation, and personal wellness that ignores neoliberal and racist social contexts, and the root sources of the stress, unhappiness, and lack of well-being people experience. These practices unwittingly reinforce a self-centred neoliberal society that regards people as privatized, competitive selves who feel compelled to meet their needs through the market and constantly improve their personal brand, instead of social beings.

This seminar will look at some conventional mindfulness practices in K-12 schools that risk adjusting students to social inequities, rather than working collaboratively to identify, resist, challenge, and transform them. It will explore whether the purpose of mindfulness to adjust people to “the way things are” in society, increase personal happiness, reduce stress, and promote conventional success and productivity? Or is it for the transformation of ourselves and society, to help us recognize our social nature, strive for moral, universal development, and overcome social injustices and end suffering?

In this seminar, I will describe some psychological, social, and moral foundations for an alternative critical social mindfulness in schools and then suggest ways we can address these issues in more transformative ways. As an emergent perspective and practice, a critical social mindfulness sees personal development as inseparable from identifying and challenging social and educational inequities with others, and through the commitment to both personal and social transformation may help us create an evolved, compassionate, equitable society for all.

David Forbes, PhD, is an Emeritus in the Urban Education Doctoral Program at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. He teaches and writes on critical and integral approaches to mindfulness in education and consults with New York City schools on developing social mindfulness programs.

As a counsellor educator David taught School Counselling in the School of Education at Brooklyn College/CUNY for nineteen years. While there he wrote about his experience teaching and practicing mindfulness with a Brooklyn high school football team in his book, Boyz 2 Buddhas: Counselling Urban High School Male Athletes in the Zone (2004) and was a co-recipient of a Contemplative Program Development Fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

His latest book is Mindfulness and its Discontents: Education, Self, and Social Transformation (2019). He co-edited the Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context, and Social Engagement (Springer, 2016) with Ron Purser, with whom he co-produced the podcast, The Mindful Cranks.

David is a member of the UK-based Mindfulness and Social Change Network  from which he is featured on a website, “Being Mindful of our World: A Collection of Social Mindfulness Voices.” He has written and co-written articles in their series on Open Transformation: Mindfulness and Social Change. He is a member of the multidisciplinary academic network, Popular Psychology, Self-Help Culture, and the Happiness Industry.

Event Recording: