Mind and Life XVIII: ATTENTION, MEMORY AND THE MIND: A SYNERGY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL, NEUROSCIENTIFIC, AND CONTEMPLATIVE PERSPECTIVES: with His Holiness The Dalai Lama Dharamsala, India • April 6–10, 2009
I have the unique opportunity to attend the private conference Mind and Life XVIII: ATTENTION, MEMORY AND THE MIND: A SYNERGY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL, NEUROSCIENTIFIC, AND CONTEMPLATIVE PERSPECTIVES: with His Holiness in Dharamsala, India – April 6-10, 2009.
I will be blogging my experiences from my perspective daily and hope to hear your comments, questions, and/or feedback during this time (or after).
To begin, I can say that my own perspective is one from mutiple levels. One certainly is a personal one. The auspicious nature of the opportunity and timing is one that I smile about every time I think about it. It happens to be my 34th birthday April 6th, the first day of the meeting. At this personal level, it appears that all roads have led (and would have led) to this one that takes me to Dharamsala to participate in a discussion about memory and attention. From another level, this journey is going to happen because of simple choices that have been made throughout my life, each choice being one that can be retrospectively observed and associated with one or another aspect of the context of my life at which time and in which place I made those decisions/choices. At this same level, I think we can collectively investigate the interdependency of all relations with whom we interact and with whose paths we cross. From a third level, I am a research fellow at Harvard University Medical School in the department of Psychiatry. Here I investigate resilience and vulnerability to psychopathology. If I need to be considered part of a socialized academic category, I typically identify myself as a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in the basic neuroscience of learning and memory. My final perspective is from my position as Senior Research Coordinator of the Mind & Life Institute. As the research coordinator of Mind & Life, I work very diligently and passionately to maintain the rigorous standards of the scientific method in all aspects of research supported by Mind and Life and in our program and event planning.
Well now, those are my levels of perspective and if you find any one of those perspectives intriguing then I look forward to sharing fruitful discussion with you in the next few weeks and beyond.
I leave you with two quotes:
Mind and ideas are nonexistent entities invented for the sole purpose of providing spurious explanations…Since mental or psychic events are asserted to lack the dimensions of physical science, we have an additional reason for rejecting them” – B.F. Skinner
“Open to me, so that I may open.
Provide me your inspiration
So that I might see mine.”
 From: Dunn, P. (2000). The Love Poems of Rumi. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.
Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman at the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, University of Pennsylvania publish new book on beliefs of God and neuroimaging data.
REVIEWS: Library Journal: “God” can be reality or metaphor for physician Newberg and counselor Waldman (Ctr. for Spirituality and the Mind, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Born To Believe). In their latest collaboration, they encourage questioning and contact with diverse beliefs and people. Americans, they reveal, mostly view God as authoritarian, critical, or distant—only 23 percent of believers see God as gentle and forgiving, but the notable trend toward the latter should be beneficial for the individual and society. In the most provocative section, readers learn that there are regions of the brain that respond to thoughts, emotions, and experience and can be changed by willed concentration and practice. The authors present an elaborate, engaging meditation program to reduce anger and fear and increase serenity and love. They embrace faith (not necessarily religious), diversity, tolerance, and “compassionate communication.” Extensive notes—73 pages—include hundreds of recent references to neuropsychological research. Though it may seem speculative to neuroscientists and upsetting to religious conservatives, this is a substantial advance in the self-help/spirituality genre and an excellent choice for general collections.—E. James Lieberman, George Washington Univ. Sch. of Medicine, Washington, DC