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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.

The distinct definition of stress postulated by Buddhist and Western cultures is the foundation for their different coping styles, traditions, and practices. Dukkha, derived from Buddha's Four Noble Truths, appears on the surface similar to psychological stress. Further examination of the Eastern cosmology yields a fundamental disagreement between Western psychological theory and Buddhists' conception of suffering and stress related to incorporating reality into the formulation. Cross-cultural research on traditional approaches to coping with occupational stress found that problem solving was the most effective strategy, however in Thailand meditation helped nurses cope with a variety of stressors such as dealing with death and dying.

The category "experience" has played a cardinal role in modern studies of Buddhism. Few scholars seem to question the notion that Buddhist monastic practice, particularly meditation, is intended first and foremost to inculcate specific religious or "mystical" experiences in the minds of practitioners. Accordingly, a wide variety of Buddhist technical terms pertaining to the "stages on the path" are subject to a phenomenological hermeneutic-they are interpreted as if they designated discrete "states of consciousness" experienced by historical individuals in the course of their meditative practice. This paper argues that the role of experience in the history of Buddhism has been greatly exaggerated in contemporary scholarship. Both historical and ethnographic evidence suggests that the privileging of experience may well be traced to certain twentieth-century Asian reform movements, notably those that urge a "return" to zazen or vipassanā meditation, and these reforms were profoundly influenced by religious developments in the West. Even in the case of those contemporary Buddhist schools that do unambiguously exalt meditative experience, ethnographic data belies the notion that the rhetoric of meditative states functions ostensively. While some adepts may indeed experience "altered states" in the course of their training, critical analysis shows that such states do not constitute the reference points for the elaborate Buddhist discourse pertaining to the "path." Rather, such discourse turns out to function ideologically and performatively-wielded more often than not in the interests of legitimation and institutional authority.

To enhance psychological adjustment, Vipassana meditation assists individuals to perceive the transitory nature of the self. Because the consequences of this potentially troubling insight are not well understood, changes in self-concept and ego defense mechanisms of two cohorts (N1=222, N2=216) of young (M = 18.03 years) Thai participants who attended separate seven-day Vipassana meditation retreats and a nontreated control group (N = 281) were compared. Multivariate statistical analysis revealed positive gains in all areas of self-representation among meditators relative to controls (p < .001). Ego defense mechanisms of the meditation participants also underwent significant change (p < .0001) with coping becoming characterized by greater maturity and tolerance of common stressors. Increases in Buddhist beliefs were significantly correlated with heightened self-esteem and less impulsiveness (ps < .001). Theoretical and applied implications of the findings are discussed.

Charting his journey from hippie to monk to lay practitioner, teacher, and interpreter of Buddhist thought, Batchelor reconstructs the historical Buddha's life, locating him within the social and political context of his world. In examining the ancient texts of the Pali Canon, the earliest record of the Buddha's life and teachings, Batchelor argues that the Buddha was a man who looked at human life in a radically new way for his time, more interested in the question of how human beings should live in this world than in notions of karma and the afterlife. According to Batchelor, the outlook of the Buddha was far removed from the piety and religiosity that has come to define much of Buddhism as we know it today.

The complex process of health has, until recently, been understood devoid of a spiritual component. The present article offers a model of health inclusive of spirituality with implications for the health communication field. Amending the assumptive non-relevance of spirituality to individual health, a growing body of scholarship in various disciplines recognizes the ways in which spirituality connects to overall wellness. As a whole, this literature equates spirituality with seeking, striving, and forward movement. Given the potential for health communication scholars to make significant contributions at the forefront of this research, this article proposes a dynamic model of health inclusive not only of the physical and mental, but of the spiritual as well. Recognizing its centrality to wellbeing, the model locates the spiritual self at the center. Specifically, the spiritual self is described as engaging action, hope, and connection to self, others, and/or the universe.

Mindfulness meditation is increasingly recognized as a health promotion practice across many different kinds of settings. Concomitantly, contemplative education is being integrated into colleges and universities in order to enhance learning through reflection and personal insight. The confluence of these trends provides an opportunity to develop experiential curriculum that promotes both health and learning through the teaching of contemplative practices in higher education settings. Such curriculum, if indeed it is believed to be a valuable development in higher education, must not be reserved only for elite and highly competitive schools serving traditional college students, but must be integrated into campuses of all kinds and made accessible to any student. This emphasis on accessibility will need to consider the growing interest in contemplative learning across economic, religious, and ethnic groups, geographic contexts, and individual differences, including disability. The growth of contemplative curriculum in higher education will also need to be accompanied by meaningful and valid curriculum assessment methods in order to abide by the standards of contemporary university settings as it gently transforms many such settings. This article describes the development of an experiential course in mindfulness that was taught on two very different college campuses. The author's personal experiences and preparation for the course, the course content, the impact of the course on students, and reflections on contemplative practice as a movement in education are offered as an example of the potential for contemplative education in some unexpected places.

Contemplative practices, from meditation to Zen, are growing in popularity as methods to inspire physical and mental health. "Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation, and Health" offers readers an introduction to these practices and the ways they can be used in the service of well being, wisdom, healing, and stress reduction. Bringing together various traditions from the East and West, this thought-provoking work summarizes the history of each practice, highlights classic and emerging research proving its power, and details how each practice is performed. Expert authors offer step-by-step approaches to practice methods including the 8-Point Program of Passage Meditation, Centering Prayer, mindful stress management, mantram meditation, energizing meditation, yoga, and Zen. Beneficial practices from Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic religions are also featured. Vignettes illustrate each of the practices, while the contributors explain how and why they are effective in facing challenges as varied as the loss of a partner or child, job loss, chronic pain or disease, or psychological disorders.

A number of issues important to the clinical utility of mindfulness require systematic study. These include the most parsimonious definition of mindfulness for clinical purposes, how mindfulness is best described to be most approachable to patients, and the extent to which mindfulness shares common mechanisms with other mind-body programs. The discussion includes a brief review of the transition of mindfulness from traditional into clinical settings as well as the components commonly contained within clinical descriptions of mindfulness. A model based on facility in the use of attention is proposed, and a description of mechanisms by which attentional skill may lead to the recognition of internal associational processes and account for psychological outcomes is given. Using constructs already familiar to patients, an attention-based conception may also be more accessible to patients than more elaborate descriptions and have greater utility in identifying commonalities that mindfulness training may have with other mind-body programs.

Contextualizing the back-to-the-land experience with mindfulness, a variant of meditative phenomena, within deep ecology's contention that humankind requires a fundamental shift in consciousness in order to insure ecological sustainability, this study compares and contrasts those variables that explain variance in mindfulness, ope rationalized as a quasi-religious indicator, with those that explain variance in church attendance, a measure of formal religious behavior. Drawing on a national sample for a mailed questionnaire survey of back-to-the-landers, the study found that the predictor variables for mindfulness share little overlap with those that explain variance for church attendance. The exception is spiritual mindedness, itself a quasi-religious measure, which has a statistically significant relationship with both mindfulness and church attendance. The data suggest, then, that the religious and the quasi-religious are relatively independent spheres of human behavior and sentiment. It would appear, consequently, at least in terms of the back-to-the-land sample and the assumptions of deep ecology, that the adherents of organized religion are not as likely to be disposed towards ecologically sustainable frames of mind as those who center their spirituality on quasi-religious practices such as mindfulness.
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In theory, mindfulness has a role to play in resolving intercultural conflicts. This suggestion rests upon the relatively untested presumption that mindfulness operates similarly across cultures. In a test of this presumption, university students from two countries that are often in conflict at the governmental level, Iran (N=723) and the United States (N=900), responded to the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Brown and Ryan Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84(4):822-848, 2003), along with an array of other psychological measures. This Mindfulness Scale displayed structural complexities in both societies, but a measurement invariant subscale was nevertheless identified. Similar cross-cultural evidence of concurrent validity was obtained in relationships with wide-ranging measures of adjustment. Nonsignificant linkages with Public Self-Consciousness and Self-Monitoring demonstrated discriminant validity in both societies. These data identified mindfulness as a cross-culturally similar psychological process that could plausibly have a role in resolving intercultural conflicts.
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Objective Although the relationship between religious practice and health is well established, the relationship between spirituality and health is not as well studied. The objective of this study was to ascertain whether participation in the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program was associated with increases in mindfulness and spirituality, and to examine the associations between mindfulness, spirituality, and medical and psychological symptoms. Methods Forty-four participants in the University of Massachusetts Medical School's MBSR program were assessed preprogram and postprogram on trait (Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale) and state (Toronto Mindfulness Scale) mindfulness, spirituality (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Spiritual Well-Being Scale), psychological distress, and reported medical symptoms. Participants also kept a log of daily home mindfulness practice. Mean changes in scores were computed, and relationships between changes in variables were examined using mixed-model linear regression. Results There were significant improvements in spirituality, state and trait mindfulness, psychological distress, and reported medical symptoms. Increases in both state and trait mindfulness were associated with increases in spirituality. Increases in trait mindfulness and spirituality were associated with decreases in psychological distress and reported medical symptoms. Changes in both trait and state mindfulness were independently associated with changes in spirituality, but only changes in trait mindfulness and spirituality were associated with reductions in psychological distress and reported medical symptoms. No association was found between outcomes and home mindfulness practice. Conclusions Participation in the MBSR program appears to be associated with improvements in trait and state mindfulness, psychological distress, and medical symptoms. Improvements in trait mindfulness and spirituality appear, in turn, to be associated with improvements in psychological and medical symptoms.

The premise of this dissertation is that Buddhism must inculturate to meet the context of contemporary North America. Given the widespread interest in the application of Buddhist-derived ideas and practices in a host of secular settings, the capacity for teachers to engage with new ideas and disciplines will be crucial to the tradition's continued relevance. Because there is a high demand for and interest in Buddhist-derived programming in secular spaces, the number of individuals and organizations striving to meet this demand is mushrooming. This trend, coupled with a dearth of professional training programs and accreditation processes means that not only are there an eclectic array of approaches being used to teach meditation, but there is also minimal discourse engaging the crucial question of what constitutes effective pedagogy or adequate training processes for teachers. Chapter 1 establishes the need for the inculturation of Buddhism. This imperative for adaptation raises fundamental questions regarding how to best evaluate the authenticity of changes to traditional teaching methods. In Chapters 2 and 3, the Buddhist doctrine of skillful means is explored with an eye toward distilling guiding principles for analyzing this process of adaptation of teachings to meet a variety of cultural and personal perspectives. Drawing from Mahayana and pre-Mahayana sutras, traditions of commentary, and contemporary hermeneutics, a set of priorities based on the perspective of the Buddhist tradition is proposed. In Chapter 4, it is established that finding points of relevance to particular cultural concerns such as physical and mental health issues has been a vital component of existing efforts toward secularized meditation programs to date. This chapter concludes by drawing out of such present practices additional guiding principles to advance the process of pedagogical inculturation. Despite the widespread interest in applying meditation to a variety of settings, the pedagogy and philosophy of education behind the various approaches remains largely under-theorized. To fill this need, Chapter 5 establishes a set of guiding principles for pedagogical adaptation, drawing from the tradition's own self-understanding as well as from the insights of Western education as discussed in the prior 4 chapters. Finally, Chapter 6 offers an example of inculturated pedagogy at work.

The study evaluates the effects of 5 years of religious training on the personalities of 31 residents of a Zen Buddhist monastic seminary. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was administered to each subject each year. Comparison of results at Years 1 and 5 revealed predicted improvements, significant at the .05 level, in scales assessing ego strength and dependency and in two measures of general adjustment. A similar pattern of results was found across a time period of only one year in those subjects who experienced a major religious understanding. Comparison with similar studies conducted in Christian seminaries and religious orders suggests that specific elements of monastic life may influence personal adjustment.