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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.

The aim of this article is threefold: It attempts to 1) identify the characteristics of East Asian forms of meditation, as compared to meditation in other parts of the Eurasian continent; 2) test the usefulness of a definition of meditation as a self-administered technique for inner transformation; and 3) test the usefulness of a classification of meditation techniques based on generic features of the meditation object, in particular location (external vs. internal), agency (spontaneous vs. produced), and faculty (cognitive vs. sensory). While the variation among East Asian forms of meditation is considerable, they (along with Indic forms) are often more technical and less consistently devotional than their Western counterparts, and less often sound-based than their Indic counterparts. In a number of ways, both the definition and classification system suggested turn out to be helpful in the analysis of East Asian forms of meditation. Keywords: meditation, mental attitude, meditation object, body, breathing, subtle body, visualisation, direct contemplation, keyword meditation, devotion

The conceptual system contains categorical knowledge about experience that supports the spectrum of cognitive processes. Cognitive science theories assume that categorical knowledge resides in a modular and amodal semantic memory, whereas neuroscience theories assume that categorical knowledge is grounded in the brain's modal systems for perception, action, and affect. Neuroscience has influenced theories of the conceptual system by stressing principles of neural processing in neural networks and by motivating grounded theories of cognition, which propose that simulations of experience represent knowledge. Cognitive science has influenced theories of the conceptual system by documenting conceptual phenomena and symbolic operations that must be grounded in the brain. Significant progress in understanding the conceptual system is most likely to occur if cognitive and neural approaches achieve successful integration.
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Psychological stress is a major provocative factor of symptoms in chronic inflammatory conditions. In recent years, interest in addressing stress responsivity through meditation training in health-related domains has increased astoundingly, despite a paucity of evidence that reported benefits are specific to meditation practice. We designed the present study to rigorously compare an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in ability to reduce psychological stress and experimentally-induced inflammation. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to induce psychological stress and inflammation was produced using topical application of capsaicin cream to forearm skin. Immune and endocrine measures of inflammation and stress were collected both before and after MBSR training. Results show those randomized to MBSR and HEP training had comparable post-training stress-evoked cortisol responses, as well as equivalent reductions in self-reported psychological distress and physical symptoms. However, MBSR training resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to HEP, despite equivalent levels of stress hormones. These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions. Moreover, mindfulness practice, in particular, may be more efficacious in symptom relief than the well-being promoting activities cultivated in the HEP program.

Psychological stress is a major provocative factor of symptoms in chronic inflammatory conditions. In recent years, interest in addressing stress responsivity through meditation training in health-related domains has increased astoundingly, despite a paucity of evidence that reported benefits are specific to meditation practice. We designed the present study to rigorously compare an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) intervention to a well-matched active control intervention, the Health Enhancement Program (HEP) in ability to reduce psychological stress and experimentally-induced inflammation. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to induce psychological stress and inflammation was produced using topical application of capsaicin cream to forearm skin. Immune and endocrine measures of inflammation and stress were collected both before and after MBSR training. Results show those randomized to MBSR and HEP training had comparable post-training stress-evoked cortisol responses, as well as equivalent reductions in self-reported psychological distress and physical symptoms. However, MBSR training resulted in a significantly smaller post-stress inflammatory response compared to HEP, despite equivalent levels of stress hormones. These results suggest behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity may be of therapeutic benefit in chronic inflammatory conditions. Moreover, mindfulness practice, in particular, may be more efficacious in symptom relief than the well-being promoting activities cultivated in the HEP program.
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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.

This essay seeks to explore contemplation as it features in Christian theology and philosophy, both ancient and modern. Contemplation, in ancient philosophy, is transformed in Christian theology; nonetheless, it has the structure of what Jean Wahl calls ‘transascendance’, a rising to the heights. Although contemplation remains as a theme in modern Christian theology, it drops out in modern philosophy: that is, post-Renaissance philosophy. And yet it returns, both in analytic and continental philosophy, in the twentieth century. It returns, however, in the mode of ‘transdescendance’: by way of conditions of possibility, and fundamental orientations.

Contemplative practices are believed to alleviate psychological problems, cultivate prosocial behavior and promote self-awareness. In addition, psychological science has developed tools and models for understanding the mind and promoting well-being. Additional effort is needed to combine frameworks and techniques from these traditions to improve emotional experience and socioemotional behavior. An 8-week intensive (42 hr) meditation/emotion regulation training intervention was designed by experts in contemplative traditions and emotion science to reduce “destructive enactment of emotions” and enhance prosocial responses. Participants were 82 healthy female schoolteachers who were randomly assigned to a training group or a wait-list control group, and assessed preassessment, postassessment, and 5 months after training completion. Assessments included self-reports and experimental tasks to capture changes in emotional behavior. The training group reported reduced trait negative affect, rumination, depression, and anxiety, and increased trait positive affect and mindfulness compared to the control group. On a series of behavioral tasks, the training increased recognition of emotions in others (Micro-Expression Training Tool), protected trainees from some of the psychophysiological effects of an experimental threat to self (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST), appeared to activate cognitive networks associated with compassion (lexical decision procedure), and affected hostile behavior in the Marital Interaction Task. Most effects at postassessment that were examined at follow-up were maintained (excluding positive affect, TSST rumination, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia recovery). Findings suggest that increased awareness of mental processes can influence emotional behavior, and they support the benefit of integrating contemplative theories/practices with psychological models and methods of emotion regulation.

The goal of this course is to explore meditative and contemplative tradition in various cultures and spiritual traditions, and study the ways in which contemplative practice can contribute to psychotherapy, both indirectly through the meditative practice of the therapist, and directly through application in the therapy proper.

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.

Thinking, particularly reflective thinking or inquiry, is essential to both teachers’ and students’ learning. In the past 10 to 15 years numerous commissions, boards, and foundations as well as states and local school districts have identified reflection 0 inquiry as a standard toward which all teachers and students must strive. However, although the cry for accomplishment in systematic, reflective thinking is clear, it is more difficult to distinguish what systematic, reflective thinking is. There are four problems associated with this lack of definition that make achievement of such a standard difficult. First, it is unclear how systematic reflection is different from other types of thought. Second, it is difficult to assess a skill that is vaguely defined. Third, without a clear picture of what reflection looks like, it has lost its ability to be seen and therefore has begun to lose its value. And finally, without a clear definition, it is difficult to research the effects of reflective teacher education and professional development on teachers’ practice and students’ learning. It is the purpose of this article to restore some clarity to the concept of reflection and what it means to think, by going back to the roots of reflection in the work of John Dewey. I look at four distinct criteria that characterize Dewey’s view and offer the criteria as a starting place for talking about reflection, so that it might be taught, learned, assessed, discussed, and researched, and thereby evolve in definition and practice, rather than disappear.

The classical texts of Christianity and Zen Buddhism contain resources with potent appeal to contemporary spirituality. The 'apophatic', or 'negative', may offer a means to integrate the conservation of traditional religious practices and beliefs with an openness to experience beyond the limits of doctrine and of rational thought. Here, J.P. Williams argues for a new understanding of what is meant by apophatic theology. He demonstrates how an apophatic spirituality might inform personal and communal spiritual development, sketching out the contribution it can offer to the modern debate on theology and postmodernism, entropy, and interfaith dialogue, while developing an active theological commitment to humanity.

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