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Zen meditation, a Buddhist practice centered on attentional and postural self-regulation, has been speculated to bring about beneficial long-term effects for the individual, ranging from stress reduction to improvement of cognitive function. In this study, we examined how the regular practice of meditation may affect the normal age-related decline of cerebral gray matter volume and attentional performance observed in healthy individuals. Voxel-based morphometry for MRI anatomical brain images and a computerized sustained attention task were employed in 13 regular practitioners of Zen meditation and 13 matched controls. While control subjects displayed the expected negative correlation of both gray matter volume and attentional performance with age, meditators did not show a significant correlation of either measure with age. The effect of meditation on gray matter volume was most prominent in the putamen, a structure strongly implicated in attentional processing. These findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects and reduce the cognitive decline associated with normal aging.

Drawing its main source of inspiration from a naturalized interpretation of Husserlian phenomenology, On Becoming Aware: A Pragmatics of Experiencing attempts to examine closely the nature of experience and how we may become aware of our own mental life. The authors also focus on how this project fits into the larger context of cognitive science, psychology, neurosciences, and philosophy. Additional partners in the effort to better understand experience are the contemplative systems of the world's spiritual or wisdom traditions, including particularly that of Buddhism. The book includes three separate glossaries of technical terms in phenomenology, the cognitive sciences, and Tibetan Buddhism. The book On Becoming Aware seeks a disciplined and practical approach to exploring human experience. While much of the book draws its inspiration from the phenomenological theories of Husserl, other approaches to the direct study of experience are also explored in depth. One of these approaches is embodied by the world's spiritual or wisdom or contemplative traditions such as Sufism, Buddhism, the Philokalia tradition, and others. Collectively, these traditions have come upon a variety of their own insights and methods for understanding experience, or, to use words from the phenomenological tradition, has developed its own ways of phenomenological reduction Amongst the various wisdom traditions, the authors focus mainly on Buddhism. The authors give an introduction to Buddhist theory and history, followed by an in-depth discussion of the Buddhist contemplative practices of mindfulness, śamatha, vipaśyanā, tonglen (gtong len), lojong (blo sbyong), dzokchen (rdzogs chen), and mahāmudrā. The authors then relate this discussion to themes from philosophy and phenomenology explored earlier in the book, paricularly Husserl's concept of épochè. (Zach Rowinski 2005-01-17) Publisher's description: This book searches for the sources and means for a disciplined practical approach to exploring human experience. The spirit of this book is pragmatic and relies on a Husserlian phenomenology primarily understood as a method of exploring our experience. The authors do not aim at a neo-Kantian a priori ‘new theory’ of experience but instead they describe a concrete activity: how we examine what we live through, how we become aware of our own mental life. The range of experiences of which we can become aware is vast: all the normal dimensions of human life (perception, motion, memory, imagination, speech, everyday social interactions), cognitive events that can be precisely defined as tasks in laboratory experiments (e.g., a protocol for visual attention), but also manifestations of mental life more fraught with meaning (dreaming, intense emotions, social tensions, altered states of consciousness). The central assertion in this work is that this immanent ability is habitually ignored or at best practiced unsystematically, that is to say, blindly. Exploring human experience amounts to developing and cultivating this basic ability through specific training. Only a hands-on, non-dogmatic approach can lead to progress, and that is what animates this book.

Publisher's description: Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art documents the growing presence of Buddhist perspectives in contemporary culture. This shift began in the nineteenth century and is now pervasive in many aspects of everyday experience. In the arts especially, the increasing importance of process over product has promoted a profound change in the relationship between artist and audience. But while artists have been among the most perceptive interpreters of Buddhism in the West, art historians and critics have been slow to develop the intellectual tools to analyze the impact of Buddhist concepts. This timely, multi-faceted volume explores the relationships between Buddhist practice and the contemporary arts in lively essays by writers from a range of disciplines and in revealing interviews with some of the most influential artists of our time. Elucidating the common ground between the creative mind, the perceiving mind, and the meditative mind, the contributors tackle essential questions about the relationship of art and life. Among the writers are curators, art critics, educators, and Buddhist commentators in psychology, literature, and cognitive science. They consider the many Western artists today who recognize the Buddhist notion of emptiness, achieved through focused meditation, as a place of great creative potential for the making and experiencing of art. The artists featured in the interviews, all internationally recognized, include Maya Lin, Bill Viola, and Ann Hamilton. Extending earlier twentieth-century aesthetic interests in blurring the boundaries of art and life, the artists view art as a way of life, a daily practice, in ways parallel to that of the Buddhist practitioner. Their works, woven throughout the book, richly convey how Buddhism has been both a source for and a lens through which we now perceive art.

Professor George has ventured into a comparatively unchartered area seeking, as he does, to explore the art and concept of performance in Buddhism -- more specially in the context of Buddhist meditation and theatre. Spelling out the epistemology of performance in all its different connotations and definitional nuances, his study opens out an astonishingly vast panorama of the Buddhist theatrical practices in Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Nepal, Tibet . . . and goes on to demonstrate how, within this panorama, three kinds of theatrical practice can be identified, each corresponding to one of the three paths open to a Buddhist: the karma path, the Bodhisattva option, and enlightenment, and each representative of one of the three main cultures of Buddhism -- the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana. Supported by extensive endnotes and bibliographic references, Dr. George's book also carries a range of case studies of the art of performance in Buddhism, with definitive examples, among others, of the Sri Lankan Kandy dance and Karma drama, Tibetan Chams and Chod, and Japanese Noh.

Buddhism has made its way into American popular culture, particularly within the arena of death and dying. The growing influence of Buddhism on the American way of dying has been fostered through its connection with the American hospice movement. This paper describes the developing contact between Buddhism and hospice and documents the efforts of several prominent Buddhist organizations to revolutionize American death practices. The Buddhist approach to death has captured the interest of an American public attracted to its nonsectarian language of spirituality and pragmatic techniques for dealing with death.

Is it really possible to change the structure and function of the brain, and in so doing alter how we think and feel? The answer is a resounding yes. In late 2004, leading Western scientists joined the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India, to address this very question–and in the process brought about a revolution in our understanding of the human mind. In this fascinating and far-reaching book, Wall Street Journal science writer Sharon Begley reports on how cutting-edge science and the ancient wisdom of Buddhism have come together to show how we all have the power to literally change our brains by changing our minds. These findings hold exciting implications for personal transformation.For decades, the conventional wisdom of neuroscience held that the hardware of the brain is fixed and immutable–that we are stuck with what we were born with. As Begley shows, however, recent pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity, a new science that investigates whether and how the brain can undergo wholesale change, reveal that the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma, and compensate for disability. Begley documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. These breakthroughs show that it is possible to reset our happiness meter, regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke, train the mind to break cycles of depression and OCD, and reverse age-related changes in the brain. They also suggest that it is possible to teach and learn compassion, a key step in the Dalai Lama’s quest for a more peaceful world. But as we learn from studies performed on Buddhist monks, an important component in changing the brain is to tap the power of mind and, in particular, focused attention. This is the classic Buddhist practice of mindfulness, a technique that has become popular in the West and that is immediately available to everyone. With her extraordinary gift for making science accessible, meaningful, and compelling, Sharon Begley illuminates a profound shift in our understanding of how the brain and the mind interact. This tremendously hopeful book takes us to the leading edge of a revolution in what it means to be human.
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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.

This article examines the lay meditation movement occurring in contemporary Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The lay meditation movement represents a different perspective from the nationalistic Sinhala Buddhism that has dominated the discourse in the wake of the intractable ethnic conflict in the country. The lay meditation movement reflects the contemporary ferment in Buddhist discourse among the laity. One of the key themes in this movement is the privileging of experience because it gives the lay groups authority to challenge contemporary orthodoxy and it has empowered a new class of spiritual leaders, the lay gurus. Paraphrasing Stirrat, we can say that these lay gurus are leading the lay meditation movement towards ‘a series of different interpretations of what it means’ to be a Buddhist today. In its overall effect the lay meditation movement not only reconstructs what it means to be a Buddhist today but also points in the direction of establishing new forms of sectarianism that could be considered to be ‘new religious movements’ under the umbrella of Buddhism.

This study examined the effects of meditation on mental imagery, evaluating Buddhist monks' reports concerning their extraordinary imagery skills. Practitioners of Buddhist meditation were divided into two groups according to their preferred meditation style: Deity Yoga (focused attention on an internal visual image) or Open Presence (evenly distributed attention, not directed to any particular object). Both groups of meditators completed computerized mental-imagery tasks before and after meditation. Their performance was compared with that of control groups, who either rested or performed other visuospatial tasks between testing sessions. The results indicate that all the groups performed at the same baseline level, but after meditation, Deity Yoga practitioners demonstrated a dramatic increase in performance on imagery tasks compared with the other groups. The results suggest that Deity meditation specifically trains one's capacity to access heightened visuospatial processing resources, rather than generally improving visuospatial imagery abilities.

The Monks produce polyphonic chanting of incredible power and depth, creating resonances both musical and spiritual. This program also features a performance offering to The Monks by Mickey Hart, Kitaro and Philip Glass and featuring Jerry Garcia. It is important to remember, when listening to this recording, that these incantations are not songs, but prayers from ancient ritual traditions. Recorded during their 1988 American tour, in the sonically amazing confines of Lucasfilm's Skywalker Ranch sound studios, two nearly-30-minute recitations focus traditional Tibetan Buddhist deities and their respective powers upon the modern world. "Yamantaka" aligns the Monks with the divine Buddha form "Terminator of Death," chanting to exorcise human afflictions of anger, avarice, lust and envy. "Mahakala," the frightening six-armed protector, is invoked in this eponymous ceremony to protect the earth and all its inhabitants. A third track, "#2 for Gaia," is a live performance by Mickey Hart, Philip Glass, and Kitaro, recorded at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine as a tribute to the Monks, who were in attendance at the performance. Proceeds from all sales of this recording benefit the Gyuto Sacred Trust.

Participants in the dialogue between science and Buddhism have long modeled their discussion primarily on the idea of convergence, the premise that the most significant comparisons are those that reveal common ground. This is by no means the only model for comparative discussion, and I would argue that in the case of Buddhism and science it is deeply flawed. Instead, another model—one based on mutual challenge, in which the two sides are able to shed light on each other precisely because of their differences—offers what I see as a more potentially fruitful alternative.
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The present study was an exploratory investigation of a unique phenomenon: the traditional, Theravadin Buddhist meditation retreat. It is unique in the sense that such meditation retreats involve the constant practice of "concentration" and "insight" meditation techniques during every waking moment for periods of time up to 3 months. The following research questions derived from Buddhist sources and contemporary psychological theory and research, provided the major organizing framework of the study; (1) Are relationship factors, such as idealization, an important component of retreat experience? (2) In a Western, psychoanalytic sense, are the meditators characterized by a healthy sense of "narcissism" or self-love? (3) What is the nature of the meditators' self-concepts? (4) What are the effects of the meditation retreats on the participant's experience of self and world? All subjects were solicited, unpaid, volunteers recruited from the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) during the autumn and winter of 1979-80. The design of the study was naturalistic in the sense that it utilized the natural groupings of the IMS: the 3 month and 2 week meditation retreats. A total of 53 meditators completed the pre and post-retreat test packets: a sample of 20 subjects from the 3 month retreat and a pooled sample of 33 subjects from 3 different 2 week retreats. The self-administering test package included a Semantic Differential with 5 factor scales and 12 concepts, Knapp's Metaphor Scales (MS), and a Who-Are-You (WAY) test in addition to several less important measures. The data analysis was based on the interpretation of sample descriptive statistics, "Matched" T-tests, and analysis of covariance. As reflected by the WAY test, "Abstract" self-concepts predominated over "Role" and "Trait" self-descriptions, suggesting the meditators have an ideological commitment to the "anatta" (no-self) principle of Buddhism. Self-concepts were not significantly effected by either retreat experience. Comparison of the relative magnitude of the profile of semantic factor means for the concepts "Me" and "Your Meditation Instructor" documented that the relationship is an important factor in both types of meditation retreats. Both groups of meditators idealize their teachers, find them reliable and consistent, and experience them as emotionally rewarding. Among the 2 week sample, only, there is evidence that something akin to an "idealizing transference" (or perhaps a more general "positive transference") develops in relation to the teacher. Personality change among the meditators may be as much due to the relationship with the teacher as it is to the practice of meditation, per se. Judged in relation to 3 Western variables, derived from modern clinical theory, both samples appeared to have a healthy sense of "narcissism". These clinical variables seemed unaffected by the meditation retreats. However, important changes in the experience of self and world did occur among the 3 month sample. These results were consistent with Theravadin Buddhist theory. The self was perceived as more "non-reactive", suggesting an increased mastery of the "insight meditation" technique of "bare attention". The connotations of death changed, suggesting an increased appreciation of "anicca" (impermanence) and acceptance of the theory of reincarnation. The 3 month meditators come to reject a Western, romantic, interpersonal definition of love in favor of the Buddhist emphasis on an internally generated and maintained feeling state and stance of selfless, altruistic, "non-reactive", non-selective, compassion for the world. Finally, the 3 month retreat seemed to increase the participants' emotional detachment from and devaluation of Western attitudes concerning work and material strivings. Additional, but less important findings are reported in the body of the study.

The purpose of this theoretical study was to investigate the potential compatibility of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation as they are practiced in the contemporary Western world. The fundamental philosophies and practices of Buddhist meditation, drawn from Tibetan, Zen, and Vipassana sources in Western publication, were presented. The principles and practices of existential-humanistic psychotherapy, represented by the works of May, Rogers, and Maslow, were next brought forth. After these presentations, the major ideologies and techniques of each discipline were compared and contrasted, with a view toward examining their essential similarities and significant points of departure. Following this examination, contemporary practices in the synthesis of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation were discussed as they exist in current usage in therapeutic situations. The voices of persons expressing opposition to a synthesis of Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy were also brought forth for consideration. It was found that a sequential approach, wherein psychotherapy precedes meditation, is of overall greater benefit to the client and to both the disciplines of psychotherapy and meditation, than a blended approach. Among the reasons cited for the favoring of a linear progression from psychotherapy to meditation is a respect for the developmental tasks of each individual. In this regard, it was noted that the existential-humanistic therapy tasks of self-identification, emotional contact and expression, ego-development, and increase in self-esteem are necessary before the individual can undertake, in a serious way, the Buddhist meditational tasks of dis-identification for emotional and egoic concerns. In this light, another advantage of the sequential approach is the opportunity provided for the individual to be sufficiently prepared and matured for the discipline of meditation, which is a journey toward higher realms of consciousness not generally obtainable in existential-humanistic psychotherapy. Additionally, it was shown that although Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy perform corollary functions in the enhancement of individual well-being, the intensification of present awareness, and the lifting of repressedness, there are philosophical differences that are of such sufficient degree that a separation is deemed advisable. It was further seen that a clear distinction between the two disciplines maintains the full integrity and power of each to best accomplish its stated aims. It was noted that meditative practice offers the student specific skills that facilitate the attainment of a still mind, a state of inner harmony, and a transformation and transcendence of the concerns of the pyschotherapeutic level of development.

Buddhists have enjoyed the benefits of meditation for millennia. Here, renowned Buddhist teacher Yongey Mingyur invites us to join him in unlocking the secrets behind this practice. Working with neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, Yongey Mingyur provides insights into modern research indicating that systematic training in meditation can enhance activity in areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion. He has also worked with physicists across the country to develop a scientifically based interpretation of the Buddhist understanding of the nature of reality. Yongey Mingyur weaves together the principles of Tibetan Buddhism, neuroscience, and quantum physics in a way that will change the way we understand the human experience. Using the basic meditation practices he provides, we can discover paths through everyday problems, transforming obstacles into opportunities to recognize the unlimited potential of our own minds.--From publisher description.

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