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Yearly Archives: 2009

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The Effects of meditation and contemplative practice on Pain

Fadel Zeidan and David Vago were recently guests on NPR affiliate in Charlotte, NC – WFAE 90.7 discussing the effects of meditation and contemplative practice on pain. Listen HERE.

Charlotte Blogs about it HERE.

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An interview with Jack Kornfield

Here is a link to an interview with Jack Kornfield on the topic of “mindfulness and psychotherapy”.

On suffering, Jack states, “The suffering that is experienced by people is described in the Buddhist tradition as the first noble truth of the Buddha. The Buddha says that life entails a certain measure of suffering and no one is exempt from that. There is pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. Human happiness and mental well-being doesn’t come from avoiding these changing circumstances, they happen to all of us. True happiness comes from the openness of heart, compassion, resiliency and mindfulness, the wisdom that we bring to it, that gives perspective and meaning.”

“In Western psychotherapy, much of the same is true. The biggest complementary difference between east and west is that most of western psychotherapy is done together with another person.”

Meditation ‘eases heart disease’

There was a piece in the BBC News today about research conducted at the Maharishi University in Iowa. Trancendental Meditation eases heart disease. Using a longitudinal design, researchers showed the meditation group had a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes. Click HERE for the link.

here is a link to the maharishi talking about TM on Larry King in April, 2009:

and from 1968, Lake Louise Canada

The Floating Feather Meditation Technique

The Floating Feather Meditation Technique – from the Dallas Yoga Examiner

Sit up straight, whether you’re on the floor or in a chair. Relax your face and shoulders. Take a long, deep breath and fill your belly and chest with air. As you exhale, make a soft “ffffffffff” sound, extending the outbreath as long as you can without straining. At the end of the exhalation, use the abdominals to push out the last bit of breath. Pause for two counts, then inhale again.

Repeat this pattern of breathing, establishing a slow count of four for the inhalation, pausing for two counts, a slow count of four for the exhalation (using the “ffffffff” sound), and a pause for two counts at the end of the exhale. Continue breathing this way, internalizing the rhythm until you no longer have to count.

Now envision a small white feather on the floor in front of you. As you inhale, imagine the feather rising off the floor a few inches, hovering as you pause, and descending as you exhale. It may be difficult at first to stay with the visualization, but don’t be hard on yourself. With time and practice, you’ll be able to hold the image in your mind for longer periods, adding detail and even imagining the feather rotating as it rises and falls. Stay with the meditation as long as you like, and try it again tomorrow.

You can recognize a thriving plant. What is a model for a thriving human?

How do we cultivate a thriving human? Is is happiness? Material or Spiritual gain? Health? Can we all thrive as humans while death and disease remain throughout the world?

As researchers, we know that the brain can be trained to dwell in a constructive range: contentment instead of craving, calm rather than agitation, compassion in place of hatred. Medicines are the leading modality in the West for addressing disturbing emotions, and for better or for worse, there is no doubt that mood-altering pills have brought solace to millions. But one compelling question the research [with meditators] raises is whether a person, through his or her own efforts, can bring about lasting positive changes in brain function that are even more far-reaching than medication in their impact on emotions. – Dan Goleman

Unlike depression, which often sends us into a tailspin, positive emotions create an upward spiral “by building resilience and influencing the ways people cope with adversity” – Matthieu Ricard

Training in Spiritual Care – NYC Zen Center for Contemplative Care and OM Yoga

The Co-Founders of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, along with the Founder and Director of Teacher Development of OM yoga, are collaborating to bring you a year of rich training in contemplative care for those facing suffering, old age, sickness and death.

This innovative new program is designed for yoga teachers who are inspired to integrate contemplative care with yoga teaching skills in order to help people in hospices, hospitals, mental care facilities, private clients or any place where spiritual care is needed.

You will receive foundational training in spiritual care: attending the sick and dying; offering meditation, yoga and pranayama care; and performing ritual.

A unique aspect of this training is a firm grounding in meditation and yoga practice, which will give you the ability to work from the inside out, assessing a variety of situations and offering what is needed, including simply being present.

At the completion of the nine month program, consisting of 100 educational hours and 100 hours of volunteer caregiving, you will have gained the skills and confidence needed to give solace and be of benefit to those in profound transition.

AREAS OF TRAINING

  • History of Contemplative Care: applications and setting for spiritual care; engaged spirituality
  • Contemplative Care Skills: purpose and functioning of a caregiver, establishing spiritual care relationships, active listening, spiritual counseling, verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Contemplative practices related to health care.
  • Cultural competency.
  • Use of Self: when to disclose and not to; boundaries and ethics of conduct; personal safety; sexual feelings in spiritual care relationships.
  • Guided and silent meditation instruction and practice for patients and families.
  • How to deconstruct yoga asanas to create simple healing movements.
  • Therapeutic use of pranayama: anatomy of pranayama and nervous system, breathing techniques.
  • Developing sensitive quality of touch
  • Learning about the lymph system and yogic methods for moving it.
  • Working with pre-and post-operative patients.
  • Yoga, pranayama, and meditative methods for stress reduction, anxiety and depression.
  • Offering movement as meditative experience.
  • Self-care for the yoga teacher.

http://www.zencare.org/chaplaincy/yoga/index.html

This reminds me of the Bardo Thodol – Tibetan Book of the Dead

Tibetan Monks and Nuns Turn Their Minds Toward Science

The NY Times just published a story concerning the urging of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to involve Tibetan monks with Western Science. In a time where “mindfulness” is trendy everywhere, it is important to study the rigors of Buddhist science/epistomology of the mind and the benefits of long-term contemplative practitioners

check it out HERE

Mindfulness in the workplace

Jayanath Narayanan of the National University of Singapore, also affiliated with University of Michigan School of Business and center for Positive Organizational Scholarship has been studying how mindfulness training can affect the workplace.

In two studies, they claim that, “mindfulness leads to superior performance and lower emotional exhaustion thereby contributing to workplace well-being and performance”

for more info check out: HERE

Integrative body-mind training (IBMT) for 5 days induces neuroplastic changes in areas of self-regulation

“We were able to show that the training improved the connection between a central nervous system structure, the anterior cingulate, and the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system to help put a person into a more bodily state,” Posner said. “The results seem to show integration — a connectivity of brain and body.”

see link for study HERE.

How do these changes speak to state vs. trait-level changes in self-regulation? 5 Days of training is a short period of time to show such changes, but they are likely to disappear within the same amount of time. Continued practice is clearly essential for sustained trait-level changes.

Buddhist Deity Meditation Temporarily Augments Visuospatial Abilities, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2009) — Meditation has been practiced for centuries, as a way to calm the soul and bring about inner peace. According to a new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, there is now evidence that a specific method of meditation may temporarily boost our visuospatial abilities (for example, the ability to retain an image in visual memory for a long time).

The question that this study addresses is whether meditation practice, specifically meditation on a Deity, or open presence allows practitioners to access a heightened state of visual-spatial awareness. What “heightened” actually refers to physiologically and behaviorally may refer to the ability to maintain complex images in the visual short-term memory for minutes or hours, which is rather long compared to a normal undergraduate student. Such sustained attention in the visualspatial domain may indicate a more developed attentional system and visual-spatial ability.

The researchers focused on two styles of meditation: Deity Yoga (DY) and Open Presence (OP). During DY meditation, the practitioner focuses intently on an image of deity and his or her entourage. This requires coming up with an immensely detailed, three-dimensional image of the deity, and also focusing on the deity’s emotions and environment. In contrast, practitioners of OP meditation believe that pure awareness cannot be achieved by focusing on a specific image and therefore, they attempt to evenly distribute their attention while meditating, without dwelling on or analyzing any experiences, images, or thoughts that may arise.

In these experiments, experienced DY or OP meditation practitioners along with nonmeditators participated in two types of visuospatial tasks, testing mental rotation abilities (e.g., being able to mentally rotate a 3-D structure) and visual memory (e.g., being shown an image, retaining it in memory and then having to identify it among a number of other, related images). All of the participants completed the tasks, meditators meditated for 20 minutes, while others rested or performed non-meditative acitivities, and then completed a second round of the tasks.

The results revealed that all of the participants performed similarly on the initial set of tests, suggesting that meditation does not result in an overall, long-lasting improvement of visuospatial abilities. However, following the meditation period, practitioners of the DY style of meditation showed a dramatic improvement on both the mental rotation task and the visual memory task compared to OP practitioners and controls.

These results indicate that DY meditation allows practitioners to access greater levels of visuospatial memory resources, compared to when they are not meditating. The authors state that this finding “has many implications for therapy, treatment of memory loss, and mental training.” Although, they conclude, future studies will need to examine if these results are specific to DY meditation, or if these effects can also occur using other visual meditation techniques.

Journal reference:

1. Kozhevnikov et al. The Enhancement of Visuospatial Processing Efficiency Through Buddhist Deity Meditation. Psychological Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02345.x

Mind and Life XVIII – Blog continued

Hi all,

Mind & Life has decided to break into the social networking scene. I will continue blogging about my experience in Dharamsala there:

www.mindandlife.org/blog

Sunday, April 5th

The monkeys

The monkeys

View from Pema Thang of the temple and residence of His Holiness
View from Pema Thang of the temple and residence of His Holiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful day in Dharamsala. We woke in our modest suite at the Pema Thang house to a view of the abode of His Holiness and the sound of loud banging….apparently the monkeys were waking up and pouncing over the tin rooftops closely followed by the barking dogs. Soon thereafter, we were able to discern the sounds of Tibetan trumpets and prayer reverberating throughout the foothills of the towering Himalayas. These mountains peak at 28,000 feet while Dharamsala is at around 6000 feet….so the immensity of the raw energy of nature is clearly present all around

Last night, the 9 presenters ate dinner together and mingled over late-night conversation and today we are immersed in the planning process to ensure a fruitful dialogue

Diego, Rob, and Adam immersed in planning process

Diego, Rob, and Adam immersed in planning process