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The ability to accurately infer others’ mental states from facial expressions is important for optimal social functioning and is fundamentally impaired in social cognitive disorders such as autism. While pharmacologic interventions have shown promise for enhancing empathic accuracy, little is known about the effects of behavioral interventions on empathic accuracy and related brain activity. This study employed a randomized, controlled and longitudinal design to investigate the effect of a secularized analytical compassion meditation program, cognitive-based compassion training (CBCT), on empathic accuracy. Twenty-one healthy participants received functional MRI scans while completing an empathic accuracy task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (RMET), both prior to and after completion of either CBCT or a health discussion control group. Upon completion of the study interventions, participants randomized to CBCT and were significantly more likely than control subjects to have increased scores on the RMET and increased neural activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). Moreover, changes in dmPFC and IFG activity from baseline to the post-intervention assessment were associated with changes in empathic accuracy. These findings suggest that CBCT may hold promise as a behavioral intervention for enhancing empathic accuracy and the neurobiology supporting it.

Abstract. We explore the role of meditative practice in cultivating experiences of compassion, empathy, and altruism and address an apparent paradox: Meditation often is associated with solitary retreat, if not preoccupation with one's own concerns. How, then, does such a practice promote compassion for others? We propose a two-stage model. The first stage involves disengagement from usual preoccupation with self-reinforcing, self-defeating, or self-indulgent behaviors and reactions; the second involves a focused engagement with a universal human capacity for altruistic experience, love, and compassion. Reference is made to the limited research literature and to clinical applications of loving kindness (metta) meditation in cultivating these processes.

This book presents Tibetan Buddhist instructions for transforming negative thoughts and feelings into loving-kindness toward all beings. Tulku Thondup instructs that by bringing to mind images and thoughts of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist deity of loving-kindness, we can connect from the heart with the Buddha's example. According to Tulku Thondup, when we awaken loving-kindness through this practice, our outlook on life fundamentally changes and we ourselves can become a source of joy and inspiration to others.

Publisher's description: The Tibetan practice of "mind training," or lojong, stretches back for hundreds of years and encompasses a variety of techniques for cultivating altruistic thoughts and coping with the inevitable challenges of everyday life. Mind Training: The Great Collection is an English adaptation of the first anthology of these techniques. Presenting 44 of the original texts — including seminal works such as "Leveling out All Preconceptions" and "Eight Verses on Training the Mind" — Mind Training combines eloquent translations and historical commentaries to demonstrate how anyone can learn to exude love, compassion, and perseverance.

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.

InSeeking the Heart of WisdomGoldstein and Kornfield present the central teachings and practices of insight meditation in a clear and personal language. The path of insight meditation is a journey of understanding our bodies, our minds, and our lives, of seeing clearly the true nature of experience. The authors guide the reader in developing the openness and compassion that are at the heart of this spiritual practice. For those already treading the path, as well as those just starting out, this book will be a welcome companion along the way. Among the topics covered are:    •  The hindrances to meditation—ranging from doubt and fear to painful knees—and skillful means of overcoming them    •  How compassion can arise in response to the suffering we see in our own lives and in the world    •  How to integrate a life of responsible action and service with a meditative life based on nonattachment Useful exercises are presented alongside the teachings to help readers deepen their understanding of the subjects.

The purpose of this study was to add to the empirical literature in the growing area of psychological flexibility. Specifically, this study investigated the Buddhist practices of nonattachment, self-compassion, and meditation as they related to the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) construct of psychological flexibility among Buddhists. In addition, it was examined whether differences existed in levels of psychological flexibility among Buddhists and other religious and spiritually oriented individuals. Buddhist participants (N = 299) completed the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire - II (AAQ-II), Nonattachment Scale (NAS), Self-Compassion Scale - Short Form (SCS-SF), and a demographic questionnaire. Non-Buddhist participants (N=303) completed the AAQ-II and demographic questionnaire. Although findings indicated significant differences in degrees of psychological flexibility between Buddhists and non-Buddhists, the actual difference in mean scores was very small. Number of years of regular meditation practice, nonattachment, and self-compassion contributed to a significant degree of variance in degree of psychological flexibility among Buddhists, while the overall model was significant, accounting for ( R 2 ) 42.2% of the variance in psychological flexibility. Implications of results for clinical practice and counselor education, along with recommendations for future research are discussed.

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