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We investigated the impact of mindfulness training (MT) on working memory capacity (WMC) and affective experience. WMC is used in managing cognitive demands and regulating emotions. Yet, persistent and intensive demands, such as those experienced during high-stress intervals, may deplete WMC and lead to cognitive failures and emotional disturbances. We hypothesized that MT may mitigate these deleterious effects by bolstering WMC. We recruited 2 military cohorts during the high-stress predeployment interval and provided MT to 1 (MT, n = 31) but not the other group (military control group, MC, n = 17). The MT group attended an 8-week MT course and logged the amount of out-of-class time spent practicing formal MT exercises. The operation span task was used to index WMC at 2 testing sessions before and after the MT course. Although WMC remained stable over time in civilians (n = 12), it degraded in the MC group. In the MT group, WMC decreased over time in those with low MT practice time, but increased in those with high practice time. Higher MT practice time also corresponded to lower levels of negative affect and higher levels of positive affect (indexed by the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). The relationship between practice time and negative, but not positive, affect was mediated by WMC, indicating that MT-related improvements in WMC may support some but not all of MT's salutary effects. Nonetheless, these findings suggest that sufficient MT practice may protect against functional impairments associated with high-stress contexts.
This narrative ethnography explores the value of Buddhist consciousness of death, kamma, and the gift, by following the transformation in Thailand from a political order based in the global, military-gift economy of the cold war to the liberal free-market exchange of a "new world." At key moments in the transformation, the Thai military has massacred unarmed citizens in Bangkok streets. As actors struggle to harness the unstable symbolic power of corpses in public culture, the meaning of death becomes increasingly subject to the political economy that shapes mass media. While benefitting from both the sensational value of violent death and from the powerful argument for liberal freedoms which military massacres provide, the new order does not acknowledge the sacrifice of the demonstrators for its sake. Their death is divested of value, in part because of the flattening and anaesthetizing effect that mechanical reproduction has when representing violence, but ultimately because the form of political economy that may be gaining ascendance in Thailand is a cultural system inherently immune to symbolic exchange with the dead. The dissertation then explores alternatives to this economy of forgetting. Buddhist meditative visualizations of corpses, like mass media, seize upon gory detail as a powerful source of value, and yet the economy of the "charnel ground" meditation can avoid anaesthetizing effects. Never-the-less, the parallels between the image-realms of Buddhist meditation and media experience suggest that the utopian hopes some theorists have placed in mechanical reproduction are not unfounded, but unrealized. The problem of public memory that jettisons the dead is ultimately one of alternate cultural-economic realities in Thailand, and can be critically understood through a Buddhist consciousness of mind-body, and of the kamma haunting capitalist politics. The dissertation concludes by describing how rural villagers bring an ur-form of free-market capitalism, the casino, into the household funeral, where Buddhist consciousness of kamma, within a complex of family, economic, societal, political, and historical relations, provides fertile ground for a critique of political economy and for further development of the anthropological theory of the gift.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a potential candidate for learning to cope with stress in a high-stress professional environment. In a pilot study the authors evaluated the potential of MBSR for stress management. Workers participated in an MBSR training for stress-related problems (treatment, n = 12) or waited for such a course (control, n = 11). The authors conducted interviews and measured coping and well-being. Qualitative interviews indicated that subjects had attained more awareness of work-related problems contributing to stress and had grown more critical toward their work environment. In the treatment group, positive strategies of coping with stress increased and negative strategies of coping decreased (significant difference at post treatment: p = .039 compared to control). Eighty-two percent of the participants reported having reached their personal goal.