Contemplative Mind in Life

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The 2011 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute

The Mind & Life Summer Research Institute was yet again a successful week-long venture into the depths of contemplative science. For a description of the program and its purpose see [Link]. For pictures see picasa [Link] or Flikr [Link] and a montage with Ottmar Liebert is on youtube [Link]. (photos by Dave Vago and Dave Womack)

This was my 7th year attending the SRI and every year since 2005, scientists in this field grapple with operationalizing and deconstructing concepts that originate from an incredibly rich and complex historical context – The Buddhist “science of mind” . With an explosion of research and interest in the domain of mindfulness, science has yet to grasp the subtleties surrounding the heterogeneity of meditation practice and specifically those that seemingly cultivate mindfulness as a state, trait, and in terms of clinical interventions.

This year’s theme was devoted to the theme of ”New Frontiers in the Contemplative Sciences.” It was also paying tribute to Franciso Varela, the pioneer of neurophenomenology and the Mind and Life dialogues. A continued in-depth tri-logue has been the prescription that emerges for pushing this emerging field of contemplative science further…a trilogue between scientists, contemplative scholars/practitioners, and academics who have the ability to translate what one perspective or source of information can benefit in dissemination or integration with the other two.  By continuing this trilogue, scientists will better be able to distinguish between what they should be studying, what they think they should be studying, and what they truly are studying….

This also translates to the practitioner him/herself who must distinguish between what he/she is doing while meditating in a specific style of practice, what they think they should be doing while practicing, and what they actually are doing.  John Dunne, a Buddhist contemplative scholar/academic provided one of the more thought provoking presentations by challenging our conceptions of meditation and mindfulness as ‘Black box’ terms. He emphasized, “Historical contexts are not important if people are practicing something else”. Essentially, as scientists in this field, we MUST be absolutely clear what states of mind we are studying when we claim to be studying mindfulness.

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A few links for Meditation practice

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.

For those interested in some simple guided meditations, try Sharon Salzberg‘s wonderful meditations HERE and a sample of the Metta Meditation HERE.

HERE is a guided anapanasati meditation (concentrative breath meditation) from Lisa Dale Miller

A simple breath meditation video with Michelle Gauthier HERE

Anapanasati with Gil Fronsdal available for playing and download HERE

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center also has a few good links for guided meditation [Link]

UCSD‘s guided meditations straight from an MBSR course [Link]

21 Different Meditation practices from WithinInsight.com and SoundsTrue [Link]

More Insight meditation (which comes from the Theravada tradition) instruction from Ven. Pannyavaro HERE


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.

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