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Yearly Archives: 2009

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Saturday, April 4th – New Delhi

Rob and I are sitting here in our beautiful New Delhi hotel, The Radisson. Lets be clear, the difference between Delhi and New Delhi is about 2-3 generations of progressive change. The Radisson has beautiful flower arrangements that are changed daily. See the orchids below.

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Total travel time was 19 hours from New York to Delhi with a stop in Paris. The auspicious nature of the journey reared its head once again when I was boarding the plane and situating myself for the next 7 hour flight and there was Jon Kabat-Zinn and his family. Jon is always a welcoming face. We met up Rob Roeser at the airport and after our short car ride to the hotel had some Indian whiskey and beer.

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Now in New Delhi, a majority of the participants have congregated for breakfast before our flight to Dharamsala. 

 

Alan Wallace, Diego Hangartner, and David Meyer

Alan Wallace, Diego Hangartner, and David Meyer

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The Dosas were delicious (the coconut, mint, chili chutneys)…actually, we are not sure what the green and red chutneys were.

One more picture for the religious heterogeneity of India

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I don’t know how many details I will be writing about, but I thought I could set the stage as I scramble this evening to make the “to-do lists” that I haven’t already, finish some loose ends on an NIH challenge grant, check the weather in Dharamsala, Delhi, and the phase of moon.

Well here it is:

The moon first:

Today
4 / 2
First Quarter
4 / 9
Full
4 / 17
Last Quarter
4 / 25
New

The full moon at the end of the meeting. Seems appropriate.

There surely is a stark contrast between the two cities in terms of weather:

Dharamsala’s 5-day forecast:

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Chance of Rain
66° F | 48° F
Chance of Rain
68° F | 51° F
Chance of a Thunderstorm
68° F | 53° F
Chance of Rain
71° F | 50° F
Chance of Rain
69° F | 50° F
Chance of Rain

20% chance of precipitation
Chance of Rain

30% chance of precipitation
Chance of T-storms

40% chance of precipitation
Chance of Rain

20% chance of precipitation
Chance of Rain

20% chance of precipitation

Delhi’s 5-day forecast:

Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Scattered Clouds
91° F | 73° F
Partly Cloudy
93° F | 75° F
Partly Cloudy
96° F | 69° F
Clear
95° F | 73° F
Partly Cloudy
96° F | 71° F
Scattered Clouds Partly Cloudy Partly Cloudy Clear Partly Cloudy

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

Dear Friends,

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.

http://mindandlife.org/conf09.dharamsala.html

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.”

Rumi[1]


[1] From: Dunn, P. (2000). The Love Poems of Rumi. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.

hhdl

HOW GOD CHANGES YOUR BRAIN – Book by Newberg and Waldman

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

Can Meditation improve Attention?

What types of meditation improve attention? And what types of attention? There appears to be some data that suggest “mindfulness training” will improve orienting ( a component of attention proposed by Posner and colleagues). There appears to be less an effect on shifting attention and engagement of attention. How about the phenomenon of “Change Blindness” or “Attentional Blink” or “conjunction search” or “binding of features”? How does improvement of attention benefit the human condition, improve resilience to psychopathology, and improve overall general well-being? Are these effects on attention directly related to improvements in working memory? How so?

attention

2009 Mind and Life Summer Research Institute


Applications are now being accepted for the 2009 Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) to be held at the Garrison Institute (www.garrisoninstitute.org) in New York from June 7 (mid-aft. to the morning of June 13, 2009, The application period will close on Sunday, February 8, 2009.

To apply now, please go to: http://www.mindandlife.org/sri09.ml.summer.apply.html. This is an online only application process — no paper applications, either mailed or faxed, will be accepted. For a more detailed overview of the MLSRI, including information explaining applicant category (see “Who Should Attend”) please go to: http://www.mindandlife.org/sri09.ml.summer.institute.html

Please forward this message to anyone you know who might be interested in the MLSRI.

The purpose of the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute is to advance collaborative research among behavioral and clinical scientists, neuroscientists, and biomedical researchers based on a process of inquiry, dialogue and collaboration with Buddhist contemplative practitioners and scholars and those in other contemplative traditions. The long-term objective is to advance the training of a new generation of behavioral scientists, cognitive/affective neuroscientists, clinical researchers, and contemplative scholar/practitioners interested in exploring the potential influences of meditation and other contemplative practices on mind, behavior, brain function, and health. This includes examining the potential role of contemplative methods for characterizing human experience and consciousness from a neuroscience and clinical intervention perspective.

The 2009 Mind and Life Summer Research Institute (MLSRI) will be devoted to the theme of the self, its development in sociocultural and contemplative contexts, and its implications for human flourishing and social transformation. MLSRI 09 will bring together contemplatives and academic scholars from the social, developmental, and clinical sciences, the neurosciences, contemplative studies, and philosophy to dialogue about a variety of topics pertaining to the self. These topics will include conceptualizations of self and identity in various traditions; the development of self in normative and contemplative contexts; the neurobiology of the self; the processes of self-identification and their effects on life outcomes; the phenomenology of identity, ownership; the concept of “self-regulation” and its relation to issues of mental causation, and free-will; the role of self processes in psychological illness; and finally, self versus no-self views on the fundamental nature of the mind and consciousness.

Happiness and the Brain

What makes us happy? Are there correlates in the brain? Can positive emotions like happiness find a place in rigorous scientific research?

These were some of the questions addressed in the recent TV program, The Agenda with Steve Paikin. See description HERE. You can see the video stream HERE.

Happiness and the brain

Happiness and the Brain with Steve Paikin