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<p>This exploratory study examined differences in normal narcissism between mindfulness meditation practitioners (n = 76), comprised of men (30%) and women (70%) between the ages of 18 and 79, and a control group (n = 36) of nonmeditators with spiritual interests, comprised of men (19%) and women (81%) between the ages of 31 and 78. Normal narcissism was defined as a concentration of psychological interest upon the representational self (i.e., ego-identity). Quantitative analysis was conducted using the Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA and Fisher's Least Significant Differences (LSD) test. The study's measures included (a) the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) measuring normal, overt narcissism and (b) the Transpersonally Oriented Narcissism Questionnaire (TONQ)--a piloted measure of normal narcissism designed to assess overt, covert, and transformative aspects of 4 core narcissistic features: (a) self-centeredness, (b) grandiosity, (c) need-for-mirroring/admiration, and (d) emptiness. Quantitative results are informed by qualitative analysis utilizing heuristic, hermeneutical, and phenomenological principles. Results indicate no differences in NPI scores among the various meditator variables: (a) years of practice, (b) amount of meditation per week, (c) duration of meditation per sitting, and (d) retreat experience or between meditators ( n = 76) and control (n = 36). Differences exist among all 4 meditator variables (a) - (d) and control group regarding (a) overall transformation of narcissism, (b) emptiness as the ultimate potential (e.g., sunnata), and (c) self-centeredness, with controls having higher means than meditators on overall narcissism-transformation and narcissistic emptiness, and lower means on self-centeredness subscales. Differences exist between 3 meditator variables and control regarding narcissistic emptiness, with controls having higher means than meditators. Differences exist between 2 meditator variables and control regarding transforming grandiosity, where controls report higher means than meditators. This exploratory research demonstrates that the transpersonal study of narcissism is possible despite the many methodological complications and numerous theoretical questions it raises.</p>

<p>The use of the concept ‘religious experience’ is exceedingly broad, encompassing a vast array of feelings, moods, perceptions, dispositions, and states of consciousness. Some prefer to focus on a distinct type of religious experience known as ‘mystical experience', typically construed as a transitory but potentially transformative state of consciousness in which a subject purports to come into immediate contact with the divine, the sacred, the holy. We will return to the issue of mystical experience below. Here I would only note that the academic literature does not clearly delineate the relationship between religious experience and mystical experience. The reluctance, and in the end the inability, to clearly stipulate the meaning of such terms will be a recurring theme in the discussion below.</p>

Our objective was to conduct the first randomized controlled trial of the efficacy of a group mindfulness program aimed at reducing and preventing depression in an adolescent school-based population. For each of 12 pairs of parallel classes with students (age range 13–20) from five schools (N = 408), one class was randomly assigned to the mindfulness condition and one class to the control condition. Students in the mindfulness group completed depression assessments (the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales) prior to and immediately following the intervention and 6 months after the intervention. Control students completed the questionnaire at the same times as those in the mindfulness group. Hierarchical linear modeling showed that the mindfulness intervention showed significantly greater reductions (and greater clinically significant change) in depression compared with the control group at the 6-month follow-up. Cohen's d was medium sized (>.30) for both the pre-to-post and pre-to-follow-up effect for depressive symptoms in the mindfulness condition. The findings suggest that school-based mindfulness programs can help to reduce and prevent depression in adolescents.
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<p>Appropriate social problem solving constitutes a critical skill for individuals and may rely on processes important for self-generated thought (SGT). The aim of the current study was to investigate the link between SGT and social problem solving. Using the Means-End Problem Solving task (MEPS), we assessed participants' abilities to resolve daily social problems in terms of overall efficiency and number of relevant means they provided to reach the given solution. Participants also performed a non-demanding choice reaction time task (CRT) and a moderately-demanding working memory task (WM) as a context in which to measure their SGT (assessed via thought sampling). We found that although overall SGT was associated with lower MEPS efficiency, it was also associated with higher relevant means, perhaps because both depend on the capacity to generate cognition that is independent from the hear and now. The specific content of SGT did not differentially predict individual differences in social problem solving, suggesting that the relationship may depend on SGT regardless of its content. In addition, we also found that performance at the WM but not the CRT was linked to overall better MEPS performance, suggesting that individuals good at social processing are also distinguished by their capacity to constrain attention to an external task. Our results provide novel evidence that the capacity for SGT is implicated in the process by which solutions to social problems are generated, although optimal problem solving may be achieved by individuals who display a suitable balance between SGT and cognition derived from perceptual input.</p>
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This study examined the interplay of social engagement, sleep quality, and plasma levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in a sample of aging women (n = 74, aged 61-90, M age = 73.4). Social engagement was assessed by questionnaire, sleep was assessed by using the NightCap in-home sleep monitoring system and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and blood samples were obtained for analysis of plasma levels of IL-6. Regarding subjective assessment, poorer sleep (higher scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) was associated with lower positive social relations scores. Multivariate regression analyses showed that lower levels of plasma IL-6 were predicted by greater sleep efficiency (P < 0.001), measured objectively and by more positive social relations (P < 0.05). A significant interaction showed that women with the highest IL-6 levels were those with both poor sleep efficiency and poor social relations (P < 0.05). However, those with low sleep efficiency but compensating good relationships as well as women with poor relationships but compensating high sleep efficiency had IL-6 levels comparable to those with the protective influences of both good social ties and good sleep.
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OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that socioeconomic status (SES) would be associated with sleep quality measured objectively, even after controlling for related covariates (health status, psychosocial characteristics). Epidemiological studies linking SES and sleep quality have traditionally relied on self-reported assessments of sleep. METHODS: Ninety-four women, 61 to 90 years of age, participated in this study. SES was determined by pretax household income and years of education. Objective and subjective assessments of sleep quality were obtained using the NightCap sleep system and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), respectively. Health status was determined by subjective health ratings and objective measures of recent and chronic illnesses. Depressive symptoms and neuroticism were quantified using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and the Neuroticism subscale of the NEO Personality Inventory, respectively. RESULTS: Household income significantly predicted sleep latency and sleep efficiency even after adjusting for demographic factors, health status, and psychosocial characteristics. Income also predicted PSQI scores, although this association was significantly attenuated by inclusion of neuroticism in multivariate analyses. Education predicted both sleep latency and sleep efficiency, but the latter association was partially reduced after health status and psychosocial measures were included in analyses. Education predicted PSQI sleep efficiency component scores, but not global scores. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that SES is robustly linked to both subjective and objective sleep quality, and that health status and psychosocial characteristics partially explain these associations.
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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.

We present a new sparse shape modeling framework on the Laplace-Beltrami (LB) eigenfunctions. Traditionally, the LB-eigenfunctions are used as a basis for intrinsically representing surface shapes by forming a Fourier series expansion. To reduce high frequency noise, only the first few terms are used in the expansion and higher frequency terms are simply thrown away. However, some lower frequency terms may not necessarily contribute significantly in reconstructing the surfaces. Motivated by this idea, we propose to filter out only the significant eigenfunctions by imposing l1-penalty. The new sparse framework can further avoid additional surface-based smoothing often used in the field. The proposed approach is applied in investigating the influence of age (38-79 years) and gender on amygdala and hippocampus shapes in the normal population. In addition, we show how the emotional response is related to the anatomy of the subcortical structures.
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This paper argues the case for meditation with children. It seeks to define what meditation is, why it is important and how it can be practised with children. Meditation provides a good starting point for learning and creativity. It builds upon a long tradition of meditative practice in religious and humanistic settings and research gives evidence of its practical benefits. We need to help children find natural ways for body and mind to combat the pressures of modern living and to find better ways to help focus their minds on matters of importance. There are strong pedagogical reasons for including meditation as part of the daily experience of pupils of all ages and abilities. Meditation is a proven means for stilling the mind, encouraging mindfulness, and providing optimum conditions for generative thinking and reflection. This paper aims to encourage more experimentation and research into meditative practice with children.

"The practice of contemplation is one of the great spiritual arts," writes Martin Laird in A Sunlit Absence. "Not a technique but a skill, it harnesses the winds of grace that lead us out into the liberating sea of silence." In this companion volume to his bestselling Into the Silent Land, Laird focuses on a quality often overlooked by books on Christian meditation: a vast and flowing spaciousness that embraces both silence and sound, and transcends all subject/object dualisms. Drawing on the wisdom of great contemplatives from St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Avila to St. Hesychios, Simone Weil, and many others, Laird shows how we can uncover the deeper levels of awareness that rest within us like buried treasure waiting to be found. The key insight of the book is that as our practice matures, so will our experience of life's ordeals, sorrows, and joys expand into generous, receptive maturity. We learn to see whatever difficulties we experience in meditation--boredom, lethargy, arrogance, depression, grief, anxiety--not as obstacles to be overcome but as opportunities to practice surrender to what is. With clarity and grace Laird shows how we can move away from identifying with our turbulent, ever-changing thoughts and emotions to the cultivation of a "sunlit absence"--the luminous awareness in which God's presence can most profoundly be felt. Addressed to both beginners and intermediates on the pathless path of still prayer, A Sunlit Absence offers wise guidance on the specifics of contemplative practice as well as an inspiring vision of the purpose of such practice and the central role it can play in our spiritual lives.

This book takes a bold new look at ways of exploring the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness within the context of science and religion. It draws careful distinctions between four elements of the scientific tradition: science itself, scientific realism, scientific materialism, and scientism. Arguing that the metaphysical doctrine of scientific materialism has taken on the role of ersatz-religion for its adherents, it traces its development from its Greek and Judeo-Christian origins, focusing on the interrelation between the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. It also looks at scientists' long term resistance to the firsthand study of consciousness and details the ways in which subjectivity has been deemed taboo within the scientific community. In conclusion, the book draws on William James's idea for a “science of religion” that would study the nature of religious and, in particular, contemplative experience.

The specific aim of this course is development of a university dance curriculum that will link post-modern dance with Tai Chi as it is understood and practiced by the masters of the discipline in China – both as a practice (i.e., as a set of physical movements known as “Tai Chi Chuan”) and as a spiritual discipline (i.e., “Tai Chi”) worthy of scholarly study. A central hypothesis of this course is that the teaching of Tai Chi Chuan in this country – both in academic and experiential contexts – has generally missed the essence of the actual Chinese discipline by concentrating more on the specific physical steps than on the deeper mental and spiritual principles from which it derives. A major goal of the course is to restore to the curriculum those important principles of employing certain meditation techniques that have not been taught here. The course will apply two central principles of Tai Chi in the context of dance: first, the goal of awareness, or softness, which is simply movement based on stillness; and second, the goal of relational physics, or the intention and orientation of the individual to the whole.

Mindfulness, or being fully present and attentive to the moment, not only improves the way doctors engage with patients but also mitigates the stresses of clinical practice.

Following E. Goffman's (1967) face threat analysis of social interaction, it was hypothesized that the aggressive, playful content of teasing would vary according to social status and relational satisfaction, personality, role as teaser or target, and gender. These 4 hypotheses were tested in analyses of the teasing among fraternity members (Study 1) and romantic couples (Study 2). Consistent with a face threat analysis of teasing, low-status fraternity members and satisfied romantic partners teased in more prosocial ways, defined by reduced face threat and increased redressive action. Some findings indicate that disagreeable individuals teased in less prosocial ways, consistent with studies of bullying. Targets reported more negative emotion than teasers. Although female and male romantic partners teased each other in similar ways, women found being the target of teasing more aversive, consistent with previous speculation.
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We present a new tensor-based morphometric framework that quantifies cortical shape variations using a local area element. The local area element is computed from the Riemannian metric tensors, which are obtained from the smooth functional parametrization of a cortical mesh. For the smooth parametrization, we have developed a novel weighted spherical harmonic (SPHARM) representation, which generalizes the traditional SPHARM as a special case. For a specific choice of weights, the weighted-SPHARM is shown to be the least squares approximation to the solution of an isotropic heat diffusion on a unit sphere. The main aims of this paper are to present the weighted-SPHARM and to show how it can be used in the tensor-based morphometry. As an illustration, the methodology has been applied in the problem of detecting abnormal cortical regions in the group of high functioning autistic subjects.
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