Dr. Smith

About Dr. Smith


Dr. Smith is a Professor of Psychology at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, and founding Director of the Roosevelt University Mindfulness Initiative (formerly the Stress Institute).  In his over 40 years at the University, he has served as teacher, supervisor, program director, researcher, clinical psychologist, and most notably initiator of the Roosevelt University doctoral program (PsyD) in clinical psychology. Although Dr. Smith’s expertise includes clinical psychology, personality theory, critical thinking (applied to the paranormal and health psychology), and stress management, most of his work has focused on mindfulness theory and practice.   He has studied and practiced mindfulness and contemplative techniques since 1969.  Since 1975 he has taught over 150 mindfulness classes of over 4,000 students.   Not wedded to any specific tradition, his approach is inclusive, flexible, individualized, and based on science.  A typical course covers a complete menu of exercises, including at least the following: yoga, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation autogenic self-suggestion, imagery, mantra meditation, and full mindfulness.Dr. Smith’s publications include more than 20 books (with more in preparation) and three dozen articles.  His book publishers have included Aldine, Kendall Hunt, Guilford Press, Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Plenum, Praeger, Prentice-Hall, Research Press, Springer, and Wiley/Blackwell.    Dr. Smith continues to consult and serve on mindfulness dissertation committees around the world (recently the Republic of China, the People’s Republic of China, India, France, Canada and Iran).

Third-Generation Mindfulness

American mindfulness is for the most part a Buddhist phenomenon.  Its main professional proponents are either Buddhists or have been trained by Buddhists.  In practical terms, this means that most deploy focusing, body-scanning, and breathing exercises, all from Buddhist traditions.  Non-Buddhist ideas (Gods, higher powers, guiding purpose, interactive relationships with God or gods, spiritual energies, spirits) and practices (contemplation, prayer, progressive muscle relaxation, self-suggestion) are mostly absent.

This Buddhist emphasis is easy to miss given that the proponents of mindfulness forcefully present their approach as secular, nonreligious, and not wedded to Buddhism.  To emphasize the point, “secular” Western mindfulness is now usefully termed first-generation mindfulness.  However, most mindfulness scholars question the value of scrubbing ethics and philosophical orientation from training.  Mindfulness may well work best in the context of a religious or philosophical tradition.  In light of this general observation, some  have suggested second-generation mindfulness, an approach that reintroduces elements of Buddhist thinking, ethics, and practice.  Mindfulness becomes more than an exercise, but a way of seeing things in a Buddhist way.  A key Buddhist insight is that things are fundamentally impermanent and changing, defined more by our thoughts and opinion rather than “what’s really out there.”  This even applies to one’s very ego.   Second-generation mindfulness is still Buddhism.

Third-Generation Mindfulness (TGM) takes a radical break from “secular” American Buddhist mindfulness tradition.  It is an authentically secular perspective not based on any religion or system of dogmatic instruction.  At its core, TGM is informed and guided by the words and insights of actual everyday practitioners — the universal natural language of relaxation, mindfulness, and all transcendent and contemplative traditions.    This lexicon  is in contrast to the esoteric or scientific terminology used by scientists, religious leaders, or psychological advocates of universal religion.   

A Note on the RMM Tracker Mindfulness Initiative .  The RMM Tracker Mindfulness Initiative is an international research effort housed in Chicago’s Roosevelt University.  Its goal is to explore a diverse array of approaches to contemplation, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and relaxation.  We are not interested in which approach is best or unique. Instead, we are examining the immediate and long-term effects of practice and the relative influence of various variables (such as group vs. individual practice, daily vs. weekly practice, length of practice session, number of years practiced, and combination of various approaches).  We are interested in how these approaches work best and how to enhance practice.  Research is based on the RMM Tracker mindfulness inventory available without charge in Dr. Smith’s recent book, Third Generation Mindfulness (2019; Kendall Hunt). CLICK HERE FOR LATEST SUMMARY OF THE RMM TRACKER AND A DISCUSSION OF MULTIPLE APPROACHES TO RELAXATION, MEDITATION, MINDFULNESS THEORY



The RMM Tracker Project / Mindfulness Initiative is a beginning international research program housed in Chicago’s Roosevelt University. Our goal is to explore a diverse array of approaches to contemplation, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and relaxation. We are not interested in which approach is best or unique. Instead, we are examining the immediate and long-term effects of practice and the relative influence of various variables (such as group vs. individual practice, daily vs. weekly practice, length of practice session, number of years practiced, and combination of various approaches).  We are interested in how these approaches work best and how to enhance practice.  This research effort uses the new “RMM Tracker” mindfulness inventory and is based a theory of relaxation/meditation/mindfulness outlined in my recent book “Stress and Coping: The Eye of Mindfulness.” Through the RMM Tracker Project practitioners from various traditions can share their experiences, insights, and struggles with others. By participating in the R/M Tracker Project you will contribute to group insights that may help others along their journey.

Current research and theory are posted on the pages listed at the top of this site.

Some of the questions we are considering are the following (all make use of various versions ofd the RMM Tracker series, above):

  1. What are the different psychological effects (on the RMM Tracker) of techniques such as mindfulness, mantra meditation, yoga, tai chi, martial arts, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  2. What states of mind emerge early in RMM training?  Which emerge later?
  3. Do practitioners of RMM training display any RMM Traits not displayed by nonpractitioners?
  4. What practice variables (session duration, daily/weekly practice, number of sessions a week) are associated with practice effects defined by the RMM Tracker?
  5. What RMM Tracker states are most associated with symptom reduction (pain management, muscle tension reduction)?
  6. What non-technique practices and beliefs are associated with the emergence of higher RMM states for practitioners of RMM techniques?
  7. Are relaxation states distinct from mindfulness states, or are they different aspects of the same thing?
  8. What RMM states are most associated with continued practice and growth in RMM practice?
  9. What RMM techniques work best as preparatory exercises?
  10. What RMM states are most conductive to the development of the core mindfulness skills of “sustained passive simple focus with minimal judgment and effort” (Smith 2017)?
  11. What RMM states are most definitive of mindfulness?  Of concentrative (FA) meditation?
  12. What RMM states emerge as one becomes proficient at practice?  Do advanced meditators experience different RMM states compared with novices?
A Conceptual Orientation to Mindfulness


I recommend that students who are interested in our research program have some experience with meditation, mindfulness, yoga, or a related discipline.  Furthermore, it is important to be familiar with the basic research on relaxation and mindfulness as outlined in my book Stress and Coping: The Eye of Mindfulness (above).  You need to be conversant in the following areas:

  1. What is stress?  Differentiate stimulus-based, response-based, and newer models.
  2. What are the types of stress management?
  3. What are stress arousal and the fight or flight response?
  4. What is the relaxation response?
  5. What is the mindfulness response?  What parts of the brain are involved?
  6. What are the evidence-based benefits of mindfulness
  7. What are first-generation mindfulness and second-generation mindfulness?
  8. What is third-generation mindfulness and how is it different from first-generation and second-generation mindfulness?
  9. What is the relationship between third- generation mindfulness and yoga, progressive muscle relaxation exercises, autogenics imagery, meditation, and traditional mindfulness?
  10. What  six are the major groups of self-relaxation?
  11. What are are four components of the Eye of Mindfulness?

First, I recommend students view Anderson Coopers excellent brief introduction to mindfulness.  Google: “anderson cooper jon kabat-zinn 60 minutes Special on Mindfulness.” or “anderson cooper mindfulness meditation 60 minutes.”

Next, I suggest that students with no experience in mindfulness try two excellent meditation apps recommended by Wirecutter from the New York Times.  After interviewing university experts in the field, Wirecutter suggests two apps: Headspace (headspace.com) and Calm (calm.com).  Of these, I would start with headspace.   Consider Andy Puddicombe’s book, “The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness.”  This text presents a simple set of beginning exercises (minus yoga) as traditionally taught in the West.   Also consider exercises in Jon Kabat-Ziinn’s mindfulness classic, “Full Catastrophe Living, Revised Edition.”

Students who try any exercises from the above recommended sources might want to complete the RMM tracker after a good session.  In addition, I recommend identifying which of the six major groups of self-relaxation and four components of the Eye of Mindfulness are represented in the various exercises.


Try This Mindfulness Experiment


If you are new to mindfulness and would like to try it before continuing, here is a brief training exercise I use in classes.   The Eye of Mindfulness guides you through four generally recognized types of core mindfulness-related exercises:

  1. Body Scanning
  2. Breath Scanning
  3. Focused and Mantra Meditation
  4. Open Focus pure mindfulness

Try this introduction four times . Then select one of the four as your “home exercise” and practice daily for two weeks. If you want, you may pick an exercise from Headspace.com or Clam.com.   It doesn’t matter how long you practice.  One minute or 20 are fine.  Just do it regularly.  Here is the Eye of Mindfulness:

Once you have picked your home exercise, practice it daily for as long as you can tolerate. Start with one minute. You can use this timer from onlinemeditationtimer.com/:

Take an RMM Tracker after your best session.





The core ideas of Third-Generation MIndfulness, as well as actual usable templates and instructions for the RMM Tracker series, are presented in the forthcoming text, Third-Generation MIndfulness & The Universe of Relaxation.  TO BE RELEASED AUGUST, 2019 by Kendall Hunt Publishers.



CLICK HERE (Flying Spaghetti Monster)



email: jsmith@roosevelt.edu




Over the past decade nearly three dozen doctoral students from around the world have conducted research and published studies on relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness.  Most have used variations of the RMM Tracker (see top for links).  Currently about 5 students a years are part of the ongoing RMM Team.

This year are a conducting study on the effects of a wide range of personal enrichment techniques and activities, including mindfulness, meditation, yoga, relaxation, contemplation, and prayer.  We are not interested in showing if any are better than others. Instead, we are trying to find out from actual practitioners what makes any approach work best.   We expect the ongoing results of this project will help practitioners of a variety of disciplines along their path.

The RMM Team has two types of assistants.   Students interested in finding out about various projects underway can work as Volunteers collecting and entering data.   After working as a Volunteer, students can apply to work as Research Associates and direct their work toward eventual publication.   All Associates are expected to publish their work under the guidance and assistance of Dr. Smith.

November 17, 2018Permalink