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Abstract Complex moving visual stimuli are used to induce states of relaxation, hypnosis and revery. To test the efficacy of using aquarium contemplation to induce relaxation, 42 patients were randomly assigned to one of five treatments prior to elective oral surgery: 1) contemplation of an aquarium, 2) contemplation of a poster, 3) poster contemplation with hypnotic induction, 4) aquarium contemplation with hypnosis, and 5), a non intervention control. Blood pressure, heart rate, and subjective and objective measures of anxiety were used as dependent measures. Pretreatment with aquarium contemplation and hypnosis, either alone or in combination, produced significantly greater degrees of relaxation during surgery than poster contemplation or the control procedure. Two-way analysis of variance demonstrated that a formal hypnotic induction did not augment the relaxation produced by aquarium contemplation.
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The effects of Zen breath meditation were compared with those of relaxation on college adjustment. 75 undergraduates (aged 17–40 yrs) were divided into 3 groups using randomized matching on the basis of initial anxiety scores of the College Adjustment Scales. Ss also completed the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale. The 3 groups included, meditation, relaxation, and control. Training for the meditation and relaxation groups took place during a 1-hr instructional session with written instructions being distributed. After 6 wks anxiety and depression scored significantly decreased for the meditation and relaxation groups. Interpersonal problem scores also significantly decreased for the meditation group.

Divides the study of human attention into 3 components: alertness, selectivity, and processing capacity. Experimental techniques designed to separate these components and examine their interrelations within comparable tasks are outlined. It is shown that a stimulus may be used to increase alertness for processing all external information, to improve selection of particular stimuli, or to do both simultaneously. Development of alertness and selectivity are separable, but may go on together without interference. Moreover, encoding a stimulus may proceed without producing interference with other signals. Thus, the contact between an external stimulus and its representation in memory does not appear to require processing capacity. Limited capacity results are obtained when mental operations, E.g., response selection or rehearsal, must be performed on the encoded information. (45 ref.)

Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings from 19 scalp recording sites were used to differentiate among two posited unique forms of mediation, concentration and mindfulness, and a normal relaxation control condition. Analyzes of all traditional frequency bandwidth data (i.e., delta 1–3 Hz; theta, 4–7 Hz; alpha, 8–12 Hz; beta 1, 13–25 Hz; beta 2, 26–32 Hz) showed strong mean amplitude frequency differences between the two meditation conditions and relaxation over numerous cortical sites. Furthermore, significant differences were obtained between concentration and mindfulness states at all bandwidths. Taken together, our results suggest that concentration and mindfulness “meditations” may be unique forms of consciousness and are not merely degrees of a state of relaxation.

Many spiritual traditions employ certain mental techniques (meditation) which consist in inhibiting mental activity whilst nonetheless remaining fully conscious, which is supposed to lead to a realisation of one’s own true nature prior to habitual self-substantialisation. In this paper I propose that this practice can be understood as a special means of becoming aware of consciousness itself as such. To explain this claim I conduct some phenomenologically oriented considerations about the nature of consciousness qua presence and the problem of self-presence of this presence.

"Consciousness, 'the last great mystery for science', has now become a hot topic. How can a physical brain create our experience of the world? What creates our identity? Do we really have free will? Could consciousness itself be an illusion? Exciting new developments in brain science are opening up debates on these issues, and the field has now expanded to include biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers. This controversial book clarifies the potentially confusing arguments, and the major theories using illustrations, lively cartoons, and experiments. Topics include vision and attention, theories of self and will, experiments on action and awareness, altered states of consciousness, and the effects of brain damage and drugs."--Publisher's description.
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The goal of this course is to explore meditative and contemplative tradition in various cultures and spiritual traditions, and study the ways in which contemplative practice can contribute to psychotherapy, both indirectly through the meditative practice of the therapist, and directly through application in the therapy proper.

ABSTRACT Poor sleep is common in substance use disorders (SUDs) and is a risk factor for relapse. Within the context of a multicomponent, mindfulness-based sleep intervention that included mindfulness meditation (MM) for adolescent outpatients with SUDs (n = 55), this analysis assessed the contributions of MM practice intensity to gains in sleep quality and self-efficacy related to SUDs. Eighteen adolescents completed a 6-session study intervention and questionnaires on psychological distress, sleep quality, mindfulness practice, and substance use at baseline, 8, 20, and 60 weeks postentry. Program participation was associated with improvements in sleep and emotional distress, and reduced substance use. MM practice frequency correlated with increased sleep duration and improvement in self-efficacy about substance use. Increased sleep duration was associated with improvements in psychological distress, relapse resistance, and substance use–related problems. These findings suggest that sleep is an important therapeutic target in substance abusing adolescents and that MM may be a useful component to promote improved sleep.

Illustrates certain commonalities between creative problem solving and Zen koan study. The koan is a type of question used in Zen meditation to help a disciple attain spiritual enlightenment. Both involve the following: (a) extinguishing prior interfering approaches, (b) satiation effects resulting from prolonged concentration, (c) unification of contradictory events, (d) more right than left brain hemispheric functioning, and (e) common psychological processes. Both situations share the stages of preparation, incubation, illumination, and evaluation. The stages of preparation and evaluation are seen as necessary but often overlooked aspects of the overall process. In the illumination stage, the experiences of solving a problem or a koan both have the qualities of suddenness and unexpectedness. The incubation stage involves a turning away from direct attacks on the problem; realization of the solution results from the occurrence of a seemingly unrelated event. (14 ref)

Mindfulness meditation practices (MMPs) are a subgroup of meditation practices which are receiving growing attention. The present paper reviews current evidence about the effects of MMPs on objective measures of cognitive functions. Five databases were searched. Twenty three studies providing measures of attention, memory, executive functions and further miscellaneous measures of cognition were included. Fifteen were controlled or randomized controlled studies and 8 were case–control studies. Overall, reviewed studies suggested that early phases of mindfulness training, which are more concerned with the development of focused attention, could be associated with significant improvements in selective and executive attention whereas the following phases, which are characterized by an open monitoring of internal and external stimuli, could be mainly associated with improved unfocused sustained attention abilities. Additionally, MMPs could enhance working memory capacity and some executive functions. However, many of the included studies show methodological limitations and negative results have been reported as well, plausibly reflecting differences in study design, study duration and patients' populations. Accordingly, even though findings here reviewed provided preliminary evidence suggesting that MMPs could enhance cognitive functions, available evidence should be considered with caution and further high quality studies investigating more standardized mindfulness meditation programs are needed.

The great variety of meditation techniques found in different contemplative traditions presents a challenge when attempting to create taxonomies based on the constructs of contemporary cognitive sciences. In the current issue of Consciousness and Cognition, Travis and Shear add ‘automatic self-transcending’ to the previously proposed categories of ‘focused attention’ and ‘open monitoring’, and suggest characteristic EEG bands as the defining criteria for each of the three categories. Accuracy of current taxonomies and potential limitations of EEG measurements as classifying criteria are discussed.

This article explores the intersection of clinical narcissism and Buddhist meditation practice. Through the lens of Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut's theories of narcissism, the article investigates the many facets of Eastern spiritual practice when undertaken by a narcissistic practitioner. In particular, questions are raised regarding the potential psychological dangers of pursuing meditation practice when suffering from clinical narcissism. Potential applications for a cross-pollination of psychoanalytic support and Buddhist practice are also considered for the narcissistic patient and/or spiritual practitioner.

Consistent with the aims of this special issue, we present a systems perspective on self/identity, predicated on William James's classic distinction between I and Me, and use this perspective to explore conceptual relations between self/identity, motivation to learn, and self-regulated learning. We define the I self functionally in terms of the capacity for the conscious shifting and sustaining of awareness. The I is conceived of as that aspect of the self-system that affords the potential for the conscious and willful, rather than the non-conscious and automatic, motivation and regulation of behavior. We introduce contemplative education as a set of pedagogical practices designed to cultivate conscious awareness in an ethical-relational context in which the values of personal growth, learning, moral living, and caring for others are nurtured. We discuss the implications of contemplative education for the cultivation of conscious and willful forms of learning and living among students and educators alike.
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Losses in relationships, work, and other areas of life often accompany the physical discomfort of chronic pain. Often the depth and intensity of the grief associated with chronic pain are overlooked or possibly misdiagnosed and treated as depression. We used an 8-week mindfulness meditation program to determine its effectiveness in addressing the grieving process among 39 patients diagnosed with chronic pain. Eighteen patients volunteered to be in a comparison group. The study was conducted in a regional hospital's pain clinic and patients completed the Response to Loss Scale (measuring grief), the Beck Depression Inventory, and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Results indicated that the treatment group advanced significantly more quickly through the initial stages of grieving than the comparison group. In addition, the treatment group demonstrated significant reductions in depression and state anxiety, but no significant differences emerged when comparing groups on the final stages of grieving or trait anxiety.

The present investigation examined the contributions of specific attentional networks to long-term trait effects of meditation. It was hypothesized that meditation could improve the efficiency of executive processing (inhibits prepotent/incorrect responses) or orientational processing (orients to specific objects in the attentional field). Participants (50 meditators and 10 controls) were given the Stroop (measures executive attention) and Global-Local Letters (measures orientational attention) tasks. Results showed that meditation experience was associated with reduced interference on the Stroop task (p < 0.03), in contrast with a lack of effect on interference in the Global-Local Letters task. This suggests that meditation produces long-term increases in the efficiency of the executive attentional network (anterior cingulate/prefrontal cortex) but no effect on the orientation network (parietal systems). The amount of time participants spent meditating each day, rather than the total number of hours of meditative practice over their lifetime, was negatively correlated with interference on the Stroop task (r = −0.31, p < 0.005).

This study sought to examine the effect of meditation experience on brain networks underlying cognitive actions employed during contemplative practice. In a previous study, we proposed a basic model of naturalistic cognitive fluctuations that occur during the practice of focused attention meditation. This model specifies four intervals in a cognitive cycle: mind wandering (MW), awareness of MW, shifting of attention, and sustained attention. Using subjective input from experienced practitioners during meditation, we identified activity in salience network regions during awareness of MW and executive network regions during shifting and sustained attention. Brain regions associated with the default mode were active during MW. In the present study, we reasoned that repeated activation of attentional brain networks over years of practice may induce lasting functional connectivity changes within relevant circuits. To investigate this possibility, we created seeds representing the networks that were active during the four phases of the earlier study, and examined functional connectivity during the resting state in the same participants. Connectivity maps were then contrasted between participants with high vs. low meditation experience. Participants with more meditation experience exhibited increased connectivity within attentional networks, as well as between attentional regions and medial frontal regions. These neural relationships may be involved in the development of cognitive skills, such as maintaining attention and disengaging from distraction, that are often reported with meditation practice. Furthermore, because altered connectivity of brain regions in experienced meditators was observed in a non-meditative (resting) state, this may represent a transference of cognitive abilities “off the cushion” into daily life.

A school-based program of mindful awareness practices (MAPs) was evaluated in a randomized control study of 64 second- and third-grade children ages 7–9 years. The program was delivered for 30 minutes, twice per week, for 8 weeks. Teachers and parents completed questionnaires assessing children's executive function immediately before and following the 8-week period. Multivariate analysis of covariance on teacher and parent reports of executive function (EF) indicated an interaction effect between baseline EF score and group status on posttest EF. That is, children in the MAPs group who were less well regulated showed greater improvement in EF compared with controls. Specifically, those children starting out with poor EF who went through the MAPs training showed gains in behavioral regulation, metacognition, and overall global executive control. These results indicate a stronger effect of MAPs on children with executive function difficulties. The finding that both teachers and parents reported changes suggests that improvements in children's behavioral regulation generalized across settings. Future work is warranted using neurocognitive tasks of executive functions, behavioral observation, and multiple classroom samples to replicate and extend these preliminary findings.


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