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Scientists’ Meditation Retreat at Spirit Rock


Spirit Rock is offering a Scientists’ Meditation Retreat in early 2009 from Sunday, January 11 – Sunday, January 18. This retreat is designed to introduce neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, mental health practitioners and others who study the mind to ways in which mindfulness practice can inform their research. The faculty includes vipassana teachers Sylvia Boorstein, Wes Nisker, Trudy Goodman and Diana Winston (who is Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center), plus Richard Davidson, PhD, from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The goal of this retreat is to introduce mind scientists and researchers to in-depth training in meditation. It is also open to graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty who work in the mind sciences. The retreat will be conducted in most respects like a traditional silent vipassana or Insight meditation retreat, which incorporates an ancient method of introspection often called mindfulness that readily conforms to the spirit of empirical science. While this method comes out of the most ancient school of Buddhism (the Theravada), it is presented as a non-sectarian practice as a means of training the mind to be more keenly aware of sensory phenomena, the flow of thought, the ever-changing display of emotions and moods. The practice need not be adopted in the context of Buddhism as a religion or as a philosophical tradition.

The last two days of this retreat will include a talk by Dr. Davidson and focused discussions among participants on topics relevant to the intersection of the mind, neurosciences and contemplative practice. Apart from instructions, question and answer sessions, and evening didactic presentations, the first five days of the retreat will be conducted in silence. For anyone who has never spent days in silence before, this aspect of the retreat alone is quite likely to be a revolutionary experience.

Prerequisite: Intended for neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists and other mind scientists, including graduate students, post-doctoral trainees and faculty who work in the mind sciences, as well as all mental health practitioners.

Cost $905 – $555, sliding scale, plus a donation to the teachers and retreat staff. Click here to register:
HYPERLINK “https://dnbweb1.blackbaud.com/OPXREPHIL/Link.asp?link=284990http://spiritrock.org/calendar/display.asp?id=216R09&type=retreats

Sylvia Boorstein has been teaching since 1985 and teaches both vipassana and metta meditation. She is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a psychotherapist, wife, mother, and grandmother who is particularly interested in seeing daily life as practice. Her books include It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness; Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There: A Mindfulness Retreat; That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist; Pay Attention for Goodness’ Sake: The Buddhist Path of Kindness; and Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Richard J. Davidson, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he serves as both Director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in psychology and has been at Wisconsin since 1984. Davidson is internationally renowned for his research on the neural substrates of emotion and emotional disorders. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his research including a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award. He was the 1997 Distinguished Scientific Lecturer for the American Psychological Association. He served as a Core Member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network in Mind-Body Interaction, is currently a Core Member of the MacArthur Foundation Mind-Brain-Body and Health Initiative and a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors, NIMH. In 2000, he received the most prestigious award given by the American Psychological Association for lifetime achievement-the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. He has published more than 150 articles, many chapters and reviews and edited 12 books.

Trudy Goodman has practiced Zen and Vipassana since 1974 and taught retreats and workshops nationwide for many years. She is a founder and guiding teacher of Insight LA, Growing Spirit (a family program) and the Center for Mindfulness and Psychotherapy in Los Angeles, and the first Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, in Cambridge MA, where she lived and taught at the Cambridge Buddhist Association from 1991-99.

Wes “Scoop” Nisker is a Buddhist meditation teacher, author, radio commentator and performer. His bestselling books include Essential Crazy Wisdom; The Big Bang, The Buddha, and the Baby Boom; and Buddha’s Nature. His latest book is Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again! He is also the founder and co-editor of the Buddhist journal “Inquiring Mind.” For the past 15 years, Wes has been leading his own retreats and workshops in Buddhist insight meditation and philosophy at venues internationally.

Diana Winston is the Director of Mindfulness Education at HYPERLINK “https://dnbweb1.blackbaud.com/OPXREPHIL/Link.asp?link=284991“UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research CenterHYPERLINK “http://www.marc.ucla.edu/” \n. She is a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and founder of the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) Program and the former associate director of Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She has practiced vipassana since 1989, including a year as a Buddhist nun in Burma and is the author of Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens. She has been teaching meditation to youth and adults nationally for many years.

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What it’s like to be both a meditator and a meditation researcher.

My Colleague and friend, Emma was recently writing an article for Tricycle Magazine about what it’s like to be both a meditator and a meditation researcher. She asked me if I had some thoughts on this topic. I thought it would be appropriate to share below:

The simple answer for me is that being a meditation practitioner is rather easy, but being a meditation practitioner and a meditation researcher adds complexity. I would further characterize the dual role as interdependent upon each other and  involving a greater range of responsibility towards oneself and society at large. The added complexity is not necessarily complicated, it refers to the ever-expanding set of relationships that a researcher is cultivating between oneself and society. As a practitioner, one spends a lot of time cultivating a relationship with one’s own mind; this relationship has helped me personally by providing insight and motivation into how best to move forward in the newly emerging field of contemplative science and how the contemplative sciences may integrate with the rigors of the scientific method. The benefits on mental health, the body, and the brain may appear clear to most meditation and other contemplative practitioners, but it is my role as a cognitive neuroscientist to demonstrate tractable benefits from an objective, scientific perspective, while continuing to honor the interdependent and secular nature of compassion, joy, and equanimity throughout everyday experience.

-dv

Compassion Meditation May Improve Physical and Emotional Responses to Psychological Stress

Data from a new study suggests that individuals who engage in compassion meditation may benefit by reductions in inflammatory and behavioral responses to stress that have been linked to depression and a number of medical illnesses. The study’s findings are published online at www.sciencedirect.com and in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices designed to specifically foster compassion,” says Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, who designed and taught the meditation program used in the study. Negi is senior lecturer in the Department of Religion, the co-director of Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies and president and spiritual director of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc.

This study focused on the effect of compassion meditation on inflammatory, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress, and evaluated the degree to which engagement in meditation practice influenced stress reactivity.

“Our findings suggest that meditation practices designed to foster compassion may impact physiological pathways that are modulated by stress and are relevant to disease,” explains Charles L. Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program, Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory School of Medicine, and a lead author on the study.

click HERE for the original link.

Values and Empathy across Social Barriers: A Neurocognitive Approach to Fairness

There will be conference on neuroscientific approaches to fairness and empathy in Barcelona

Nov 21, 2008 – Nov 22, 2008 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM

CosmoCaixa Barcelona, Spain

Click HERE for information

For the agenda please click here.
For the registration form, please click here.

The Polish Mindfulness Association conference on Practical Application of Buddhism in Western Psychology

A Conference on Mindfulness and its practical applications will be held in Warsaw, Poland November 26-28th, 2008.

The Conference is meant to be the platform of inspiration for scientific research, workshops, and training programmes on mindfulness and other Buddhist techniques. That is why the term practical application has been used instead of theoretical and philosophical concepts of psychology and Buddhism.

See Link HERE.

When Worlds Collide: The Study of Religion in an Age of Science Buddhism and Science: Tibetan and Zen Buddhist Perspectives (April 2007)

George Dreyfus, Professor of Religion at Williams College and first westerner to be given the title of geshe, and Eshin Nishimura, former president of Hanazono University, Kyoto, Japan, each spoke, with a Q&A moderated by Donald K. Swearer following the two talks. This event was sponsored by Harvard Divinity School (with a special grant from Richard Watson); the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School; and the Boston Theological Institute. This was the third event in the “When Worlds Collide: The Study of Religion in an Age of Science” lecture series; for more information, visit the series webpage.

Check out the Video of the talks HERE.

The Science of Buddhist Meditation

The University of Liverpool is sponsoring an event concerning the science of Buddhist Meditation November 09, 2008. The Link is HERE. The abstract follows:

Increasingly scientific investigations suggest that Buddhist meditators are happier, have improved cognitive abilities and that meditation practice leads to measurable changes in brain activity. Four experts from psychology, psychotherapy, neuroscience and philosophy present and discuss the evidence from a scientific as well as Buddhist perspective, also drawing on their experience with meditation practice and as Buddhist lay teachers.

From 28 July to 01 August 2008 an International Summer School on Buddhism entitled Buddhism into the 21st Century will take place in Hamburg, organised by the prestigous Center for Buddhist Studies. This summer school is open to everybody interested in the topic. Peter Malinowski will be teaching on “Buddhism and Science – Neuroscientific and Psychological Perspectives”.
For more information visit: www.summerschool-buddhism.de/

Watch Peter talking about Meditation techniques and their relevance in everyday life on UK Future TV:
Uk Future TV
direct link to the stream [wmv 700kbps]

Zen Meditators Show faster return to resting state

Giuseppe Pagnoni, a Neuroscientist in the dept. of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University just recently published a study on Zen Meditators and fMRI.

Using fMRI and a simplified meditative condition interspersed with a lexical decision task, they investigated the neural correlates of conceptual processing during meditation in regular Zen practitioners and matched control subjects. While behavioral performance did not differ between groups, Zen practitioners displayed a reduced duration of the neural response linked to conceptual processing in regions of the default network, suggesting that meditative training may foster the ability to control the automatic cascade of semantic associations triggered by a stimulus and, by extension, to voluntarily regulate the flow of spontaneous mentation. See the entire article published in PLoS ONE HERE.

The article received press in The New Scientist. “The closest thing to Jedi Mind Tricks” See HERE.

Tibet House in Germany

The Tibet-Haus in Germany supports scientific, non-sectarian, research and scholarship throughout Europe and is a great resource for anybody interested in Buddhist or contemplative programs in Germany.

Check it out HERE.

Researchers on retreat: Reflections and Mistakes

“House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.)

Judson Brewer, M.D., Ph.D is the  medical director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. His primary research interests are in mindfulness training as a mechanistic probe and treatment for addictions. He can be contacted at judson.brewer@yale.edu.”

Judson reflects upon his 10-day Vipassana and Metta retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, which is located just north of San Francisco in beautiful Marin county. Led by two “teams” of teachers (metta: Guy Armstrong, Sally Clough Armstrong, Heather Martin, Sharda Rogell; vipassana: Joseph Goldstein, Andrea Fella, Kamala Masters, Steve Armstrong.) Judson writes, “After I went on retreat in July, I wrote down a few of my ongoing habit patterns that became more clear to me, many of which related to science. I remembered hearing many comments and questions from folks at both the MLSRI and scientists retreat about similar issues to which I have/had been struggling, and thought that “publishing” my reflections might be helpful for others who are working with the same “stuff” in their minds that I am.”

You can read his reflections, “Top 10 rookie Mistakes of a Dharma Scientist” HERE.

$1 million for Vedic education program at U of Massachusetts

August 17, 2008

$1 Million Endowment at UMass Dartmouth to Leverage Super Accelerated
Learning Techniques from Vedic Traditions for 21st Century Education

On Friday, August 15, as Indian students and community celebrated
India’s independence day UMass Dartmouth announced that the Three Rs
Foundation has pledged $1 million to support the university’s Center
for Indic Studies to initiate an innovative educational pedagogy
rooted in India’s Vedic traditions. The donation will support the
Center’s mission to connect the university, region and Commonwealth to
India’s growing economy and world influence.


The Center for Indic Studies was established in 2001 to disseminate
understanding of issues relating to the arts, philosophy, culture,
societal values, and customs of India. For more information, visit
http://www.umassd.edu/indic

Media coverage:
http://www.indolink.com/displayArticleS.php?id=082108063408
http://www.lokvani.com/lokvani/article.php?article_id=5106
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080816/NEWS/808160345
http://www.heraldnews.com/education/x1822517277/Indic-studies-program-receives-1M-gift
UMass Dartmouth website:
http://www.umassd.edu/communications/articles/printversion.cfm?a_key=2182

Self-Report Measures of Mindfulness

In NO particular order of preference:

1. Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) [Link] – The FFMQ, revised from the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, is used to assess the construct of mindfulness. Previous research on assessment of mindfulness by self-report suggests that it may include five component skills: observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudging of inner experience, and nonreactivity to inner experience. These elements of mindfulness can be measured with the FFMQ.

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., et al. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27-45. [link]

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Lykins, E., et al. (2008). Construct validity of the five facet mindfulness questionnaire in meditating and nonmeditating samples. Assessment, 15(3), 329-42. [link]

Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2009). Differential item function across meditators and non-meditators on the five facet mindfulness questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(5), 516-521. [link]

2. Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) – A 15-item, reverse-scored, 7-point scale (1 = almost always; 6 = almost never) self-report instrument with a single factor measuring attention to and awareness across several domains of experience in daily life (e.g., cognitive, emotional, physical, and general), such as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.” Respondents rate how often they have experiences of acting on automatic pilot, being preoccupied and not paying attention in the present moment. The MAAS has a uni-dimensional factor structure that eliminated attitudinal components (i.e., acceptance) given the author’s findings of such components offering no explanatory advantage (Brown and Ryan, 2003). The MAAS appears to have appropriate application in research examining the role of mindfulness in the psychological well-being of college, working adults, and cancer patients, with or without comparisons to nonclinical controls.

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822-48. [link]

Carlson, L. E., & Brown, K. W. (2005). Validation of the mindful attention awareness scale in a cancer population. J Psychosom Res, 58(1), 29. [link]

MacKillop, J., & Anderson, E. J. (2007). Further psychometric validation of the mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(4), 289-293.[link]

Cordon, S. L., & Finney, S. J. (2008). Measurement invariance of the mindful attention awareness scale across adult attachment style. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 40(4), 18. [link]

Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]

Christopher, M. S., Charoensuk, S., Gilbert, B. D., Neary, T. J., & Pearce, K. L. (2009). Mindfulness in thailand and the united states: A case of apples versus oranges? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 590-612. [link]

Van Dam, N. T., Earleywine, M., & Borders, A. (2010). Measuring mindfulness? An item response theory analysis of the mindful attention awareness scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 805. [link]

3.Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) – A 13-item, two-factor structure (Curiosity, Decentering), uniquely state-oriented for use immediately following a meditation experience, has been validated in a number of clinical contexts. The items of Factor 1 (Curiosity) reflect an attitude of wanting to learn more about one’s experiences. The items of Factor 2 (Decentering) reflect a shift from identifying personally with thoughts and feelings to relating to one’s experience in a wider field of awareness

Lau, M. A., Bishop, S. R., Segal, Z. V., et al. (2006). The toronto mindfulness scale: Development and validation. J Clin Psychol, 62(12), 1445. [link]

Davis, K. M., Lau, M. A., & Cairns, D. R. (2009). Development and preliminary validation of a trait version of the toronto mindfulness scale. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 185-197. [link]

4. The Revised 12-item Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS-R)  uni-dimensional, 12-item inventory that measures mindfulness during general daily occurrences on four components allegedly needed to reach a mindful state (i.e., attention, awareness, present-focus, and acceptance/nonjudgment). 

Feldman, G., Hayes, A., Kumar, S., et al. (2007). Mindfulness and emotion regulation: The development and initial validation of the cognitive and affective mindfulness scale-revised (CAMS-R). Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 29(3), 177-190.[link]

5. The Southampton Mindfulness Questionnaire (SMQ) – uni-dimensional, 16-item inventory assessing the degree to which individuals respond to distressing thoughts and images using four aspects of mindfulness (observation, non-aversion, nonjudgment, letting go). Stressing its usefulness in clinical settings, the scale demonstrated to be able to distinguish between meditators and non-meditators and people with psychosis.

6. The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale (PHLMS) The PHLMS is a 20-item, bi-dimensional measure assessing distinct components of present-centered awareness and acceptance that is based on both clinical and non-clinical samples without any meditation experience. Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance:

The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]

Cardaciotto, L., Herbert, J. D., Forman, E. M., et al. (2008). The assessment of present-moment awareness and acceptance: The Philadelphia mindfulness scale. Assessment, 15(2), 204. [link]

7. The 30-item Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) – The FMI was designed only for use with individuals who had prior exposure to meditation practices that cultivate mindfulness, to the extent that it was developed qualitatively out of the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. Its intention was to discriminate between novice and expert meditators (Walach et al., 2006). 

Buchheld, N., Grossman, P., & Walach, H. (2001). Measuring mindfulness in insight meditation (vipassana) and meditation-based psychotherapy: The development of the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Journal for Meditation and Meditation Research, 1(1), 11-34. [link]

Walach, H., Buchheld, N., Buttenmüller, V., et al. (2006). Measuring mindfulness—the freiburg mindfulness inventory (FMI). Personality and Individual Differences, 40(8), 1543-1555. [link]

Kohls, N., Sauer, S., & Walach, H. (2009). Facets of mindfulness–results of an online study investigating the freiburg mindfulness inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(2), 224-230. [link]

8. Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) – developed as a means of determining effectiveness of Linehan’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a 39-item multi-dimensional scale of interrelated skills related to what one does while practicing mindfulness, and how one does it. The “what” skills include observing (noticing or attending to) current experience, describing (noting or labeling observed experiences) with words, and participating (focusing full attention on current activity); the “how” skills include being nonjudgmental (accepting, refraining from evaluation), being one-mindful (using undivided attention), and being effective (using skillful means) (Baer et al., 2009). 

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Assessment, 11(3), 191-206. [link]

Dekeyser, M., Raes, F., Leijssen, M., Leysen, S., & Dewulf, D. (2008). Mindfulness skills and interpersonal behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 44(5), 1235-1245. [link]

Hansen, E., Lundh, L. G., Homman, A., et al. (2009). Measuring mindfulness: Pilot studies with the swedish versions of the mindful attention awareness scale and the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Cogn Behav Ther, 38(1), 2-15. [link]

Nicastro, R., Jermann, F., Bondolfi, G., et al. (2010). Assessment of mindfulness with the french version of the kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills in community and borderline personality disorder samples. Assessment, 1-9. [link]

9. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Adherence and Competence Scale (MBRP-AC)

Chawla, N., Collins, S., Bowen, S., et al. (2010). The mindfulness-based relapse prevention adherence and competence scale: Development, interrater reliability, and validity. Psychotherapy Research, 4, 1-10. [link]

10. Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI)

Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: Development and initial validation of the self-other four immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169-181. [link]

11. Self-Compassion Scale [Link]

Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223-250. [link]

Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101. [link]

12. Solloway Mindfulness Survey – The SMS is offered free to teachers and their students. Teachers can download their students’ SMS measures in order to monitor growth in mindfulness. [Link]

13. Acceptance & Action Questionnaire II – AAQ-II – The AAQ-II was developed in order to establish an internally consistent measure of ACT’s model of mental health and behavioral effectiveness. Acceptance was the term used to positively describe this model underlying Acceptance & Commitment Therapy; thus, it is defined as the willingness to experience (i.e., not alter the form, frequency, or sensitivity of) unwanted private events, in the pursuit of one’s values and goals. [Link]

Hayes, S.C., et al., Acceptance and commitment therapy: model, processes and outcomes. Behav Res Ther, 2006. 44(1): p. 1-25. [Link]

See the following link for comprehensive review of current research in the area of mindfulness [Link]

Most of these are still under development. Not all of these scales do a very good job at clearly measuring what is historically referred to by Sati or Smrti.

A review of the self-report scales can be found here [Link]

What is Mindfulness you may ask? Read [Here]

Mindfulness originates from a deeply rooted system of contemplative practice. It is imperative that one consider these cultural and historical concepts in trying to define or operationalize Mindfulness.

One MUST understand the cultural sensitivities involved in the introduction of these practices and therefore encourage you all to approach “mindfulness” and “contemplative practice” as a respectful anthropologist would treat an encounter with an indigenous culture (as Jon K-Z would say), while being careful to not unwittingly ignore or dismiss the deepest and most subtle features of such practices.

Good Luck! I look forward to discussion if needed.