The Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM led by Roshi Joan Halifax continually provides access to top scientists discussing the latest research on mindfulness and contemplative practice. These series of lectures/dialogue provide insight into the effects of mindfulness practice on well-being and flourishing, emotion regulation and transformation.
the podcasts see:
Another good lecture by Shauna is below:
As clinicians, researchers, and basic scientists, we are slowly operationalizing the concept of mindfulness. It is important that we consider the cultural context from which the term arises and clearly distinguish it from secular practices like:
These practices all involve:
Cultivation of Mental Discipline, primarily through discursive strategies.
Heightened ability to stop and start thoughts and emotions
Reduced susceptibility to mental habits; increased ability to develop new habits
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been instrumental in forging a close relationship between Buddhist teachers, Rinpoches, monks, and Scientists. Scientists across multiple disciplines have started to take note of the possibilities for investigating positive human qualities and the effects of types of practices that can influence our minds and our physical nature in an adaptive fashion. A new center has opened in Wisconsin called:
It is a center for studying not one way of developing a healthy mind, but the many factors and that can potentially influence the mind towards developing a particularly health-promoting disposition. Richie Davidson and his lab have been pioneers in this emerging field of contemplative neuroscience. There has been an explosion of research since 2004 in this area and the opening of such a lab (and there are now many others as well), is indicative of the times….a revolution of sorts for humanity. It is no longer sufficient to study biopsychosocial models of disease and dysfunction, but to investigate the explicit factors and specific practices that reduce the risks of developing mental disease and related physical ailments. Essentially, how do we weather the storms of life, while also focusing beyond ourselves!
Excessive focus on the self clearly contributes to psychopathology (e.g., see Northoff, 2007). In the laboratory, we are now beginning to see physical benefits of less self-focus, compassion and empathy for others. The Dalai Lama noted in the talk today with Richie Davidson and Dan Goleman that deeply rooted Self-confidence apparently reduces fear, mistrust, and decreases hostile behavior. On the other hand, primary self-focus alone is likely to produce insecurities that further lead into selfish behavior leading to mistrust, increased fear, and more hostile behavior. Therefore, taking care of others well-being will directly benefit your SELF.
One example of research in this area is in one study where people were give $50 and asked to spend it on either one self or on other people. They were then asked the subjective level of happiness. Those individuals who were asked to spend it on themselves were found to be less happy than those individuals who spent the money on others.
So…I gather you will go out today and tip your Barista a little more or give that extra dollar to the homeless guy…because truly this selfless action is what will be preventing you from developing a form of depression or psychopathology later.
Just a short note about the economics of Happiness. The topic has been very popular lately, more so than previously apparently. The short story is that Happiness is good business. It’s good business for your body. It’s good business for your family. It’s good business for your boss. It’s good business for your boss’ boss. It’s good business for your neighbor and your neighbor’s dog that poops on your lawn. Happiness is good business for every sentient being on our planet. Now that the trivial has been stated, is there any ‘being’ that can not benefit from happiness?
As a clinical researcher, I find legitimate biological reasons for the benefit of happiness. But I will make the strong caveat that if you try and define happiness for yourself, you’ll find two things:
1. It is easy to define happiness
2. It is difficult to define happiness
If anything, I do find that happiness is wonderful in itself. The concept before it is defined. The letters as they are perceived and the processing power, time, and space in your brain that is utilized while reading the word on this blog or on the title of a book recommended for you on amazon, Here…Here…or HERE. Just reading the word is good business for YOU. Even better, is the fact that reading the word subconsciously as it becomes a word/concept/image/meme that is prevalent in the social world around you is good business. It’s all good business, because it gives YOU and the 6 billion 818 million humans a chance of experiencing it also…and even better than recently….it gives YOU the chance to experience it right NOW. This is extraordinary.
Experience Happiness. It’s good business.
I also wanted to give a shout out to the WISDOM 2.0 conference and how HAPPINESS is going viral! A lot of great people participated in this conference including the wise Roshi Joan Halifax. There was a great blog written by Maia Duerr in response to this event and I wanted to share the link with you… HERE. The tagline for the conference was, “how we can live in greater balance with, and more successfully use, the great technologies of our age.”
Mirabai Bush from the Center for Contemplative Mind discussing Mindfulness in Education,
Peter Brown discussing how he teaches the life of the Buddha and Buddhism in a secular independent school, and me discussing secular mindfulness in K-12 education.
Please share this information with interested friends, colleagues and list serves.
Paul Ekman, a leading scientist on Emotion speaks with HHDL on overcoming the obstacles and specifically on Forgiveness and Anger.
An excerpt from their conversation can be found HERE.
Some of what was discussed involves questions like, Can we forgive people, but still hold people responsible for their actions? or How can anger be non-afflictive, but constructive?
The Dalai Lama states that “Grudges produce suffering, forgiveness is good for the people who forgive”. Negative feelings towards those who do us wrong will only produce suffering, but one should most definitely criticize those who act wrongly.
Anger can be constructive as “Force for the action and compassion for the actor”.
There are many types of meditation practice from many types of contemplative traditions. Some are rooted in the Buddhist contemplative tradition (Theravada or Mahayana) and others from traditions like Kabbalah in Judaism, and centering prayer originating in Christianity. There are many other contemplative practices, but it is those that stem from Buddhism that have been secularized and adapted into the Western medical model for a variety of clinical conditions and are simple enough for anyone who knows how to breathe.
A simple breath meditation video with Michelle Gauthier HERE
21 Different Meditation practices from WithinInsight.com and SoundsTrue [Link]
I will be sure to post more links to guided meditations soon. Until then, if you have any questions or comments, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer you.
- Anapanasati Meditation (endofthegame.net)
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.”
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 – 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.
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