"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.
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.
Two replication studies test in Canada a field theory of the effect of consciousness on social change. The exogenous variable is the number of participants in the largest North American group practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program, in Iowa. The first study indicated a significant reduction in violent deaths (homicide, suicide, and motor vehicle fatalities), using both time series intervention analysis and transfer function analysis methods, in weeks following change in the exogenous variable during the period 1983 to 1985. The second study, using time series intervention analysis, gave during and after intervention periods a significant improvement in quality of life on an index composed of the behavioral variables available on a monthly basis for Canada from 1972 to 1986 - homicide, suicide, motor vehicle fatalities, cigarette consumption, and workers' days lost due to strikes. Implications of the findings for theory and social policy are noted briefly.
Several randomised controlled trials suggest that mindfulness-based approaches are helpful in preventing depressive relapse and recurrence, and the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended these interventions for use in the National Health Service. There are good grounds to suggest that mindfulness-based approaches are also helpful with anxiety disorders and a range of chronic physical health problems, and there is much clinical and research interest in applying mindfulness approaches to other populations and problems such as people with personality disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders. We review the UK context for developments in mindfulness-based approaches and set out criteria for mindfulness teacher competence and training steps, as well as some of the challenges and future directions that can be anticipated in ensuring that evidence-based mindfulness approaches are available in health care and other settings.
A humanistic and transpersonal approach to personal growth necessitates careful inquiry into the often pathological world of egoistic functioning—where the psyche is engaged in a continual, defensive, and ruminative effort to assert the uniqueness, power, and positivity of an independent symbolic self. This article describes narrative research, conducted at the beginning of several undergraduate courses in personality theory, in which students (n = 229) were encouraged to introspect into the process of objectifying and evaluating the self. After undergoing brief mindfulness training, individuals spent 1 week journaling about salient upward and downward social comparisons, with particular attention to those experiences that triggered strong feelings of inferiority and superiority. Prototypic journal passages are quoted to illustrate central findings. Participants expressed a remarkably intense array of self-evaluative episodes, particularly along the dimensions of physical appearance and intellect. Discussion focuses on the very high frequency of social comparisons reported, the cyclical nature of self-evaluation and its implications for persistent suffering, and the spontaneous experiences of insight into ego transcendence and deeper levels of self-awareness. This work advances the humanistic project by detailing a novel mechanism for facilitating self-realization in an educational context.
This preliminary study examined whether the practice of mind–body techniques decreases symptoms of posttraumatic stress in adolescents. Posttraumatic Stress Reaction Index questionnaires were collected from 139 high school students in Kosovo who participated in a 6-week program that included meditation, biofeedback, drawings, autogenic training, guided imagery, genograms, movement, and breathing techniques. Three separate programs were held approximately 2 months apart. There was no control group. Posttraumatic stress scores significantly decreased after participation in the programs. These scores remained decreased in the 2 groups that participated in the follow-up study when compared to pretest measures. These data indicate that mind–body skills groups were effective in reducing posttraumatic stress symptoms in war-traumatized high school students.
Teasing requires the ability to understand intention, nonliteral communication, pretense, and social context. Children with autism experience difficulty with such skills, and consequently, are expected to have difficulty with teasing. To better understand teasing concepts and behaviors, children with autism, their parents, and age and Verbal-IQ-matched comparison children and parents described concepts and experiences of teasing and engaged in a parent–child teasing interaction. The teasing of children with autism was less playful and provocative and focused less on social norms than that of comparison children. Similarly, parents of children with autism teased in less playful ways. Scores on a theory of mind task accounted for several of the observed differences. Discussion focused on the importance of understanding social context and playful behavior during teasing.
In this article, I argue that educators can utilize mindfulness practices to enhance the efficacy of anti-oppressive pedagogy. The philosophies of Wittgenstein and Nagarjuna provide a holistic human ontology and show that learning affects students at all levels: mind, body, emotion, and spirit. My analysis of the phenomenology of thinking reveals the modes of relationship to ideation. I have proposed mindfulness practice as a proven technique to address the non-cognitive forms of attachment to ideation that may remain in force despite the most thorough-going intellectual change. /// Dans cet article, l'auteure fait valoir que les enseignants peuvent utiliser des pratiques attentionnées pour augmenter l'efficacité de la pédagogie libertaire. Les philosophies de Wittgenstein et de Nagarjuna permettent une ontologie humaine holistique et démontrent que l'apprentissage affecte les étudiants sur tous les plans: l'intelligence, le corps, les émotions et l'esprit. Les analyses de la phénoménologie de la pensée révèlent les types de relation à l'idéation. La pratique attentionnée est proposée comme une technique qui a fait ses preuves pour traiter les formes d'attachement hors du champ cognitif à l'idéation qui demeure active malgré le plus profond changement intellectuel.
Reputation systems promote cooperation and deter antisocial behavior in groups. Little is known, however, about how and why people share reputational information. Here, we seek to establish the existence and dynamics of prosocial gossip, the sharing of negative evaluative information about a target in a way that protects others from antisocial or exploitative behavior. We present a model of prosocial gossip and the results of 4 studies testing the model's claims. Results of Studies 1 through 3 demonstrate that (a) individuals who observe an antisocial act experience negative affect and are compelled to share information about the antisocial actor with a potentially vulnerable person, (b) sharing such information reduces negative affect created by observing the antisocial behavior, and (c) individuals possessing more prosocial orientations are the most motivated to engage in such gossip, even at a personal cost, and exhibit the greatest reduction in negative affect as a result. Study 4 demonstrates that prosocial gossip can effectively deter selfishness and promote cooperation. Taken together these results highlight the roles of prosocial motivations and negative affective reactions to injustice in maintaining reputational information sharing in groups. We conclude by discussing implications for reputational theories of the maintenance of cooperation in human groups.
Studies of emotion signaling inform claims about the taxonomic structure, evolutionary origins, and physiological correlates of emotions. Emotion vocalization research has tended to focus on a limited set of emotions: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise, happiness, and for the voice, also tenderness. Here, we examine how well brief vocal bursts can communicate 22 different emotions: 9 negative (Study 1) and 13 positive (Study 2), and whether prototypical vocal bursts convey emotions more reliably than heterogeneous vocal bursts (Study 3). Results show that vocal bursts communicate emotions like anger, fear, and sadness, as well as seldom-studied states like awe, compassion, interest, and embarrassment. Ancillary analyses reveal family-wise patterns of vocal burst expression. Errors in classification were more common within emotion families (e.g., 'self-conscious,' 'pro-social') than between emotion families. The three studies reported highlight the voice as a rich modality for emotion display that can inform fundamental constructs about emotion.
Who benefits most from making sacrifices for others? The current study provides one answer to this question by demonstrating the intrinsic benefits of sacrifice for people who are highly motivated to respond to a specific romantic partner's needs noncontingently, a phenomenon termed communal strength. In a 14-day daily-experience study of 69 romantic couples, communal strength was positively associated with positive emotions during the sacrifice itself, with feeling appreciated by the partner for the sacrifice, and with feelings of relationship satisfaction on the day of the sacrifice. Furthermore, feelings of authenticity for the sacrifice mediated these associations. Several alternative hypotheses were ruled out: The effects were not due to individuals higher in communal strength making qualitatively different kinds of sacrifices, being more positive in general, or being involved in happier relationships. Implications for research and theory on communal relationships and positive emotions are discussed.
One of the most important goals and outcomes of social life is to attain status in the groups to which we belong. Such face-to-face status is defined by the amount of respect, influence, and prominence each member enjoys in the eyes of the others. Three studies investigated personological determinants of status in social groups (fraternity, sorority, and dormitory), relating the Big Five personality traits and physical attractiveness to peer ratings of status. High Extraversion substantially predicted elevated status for both sexes. High Neuroticism, incompatible with male gender norms, predicted lower status in men. None of the other Big Five traits predicted status. These effects were independent of attractiveness, which predicted higher status only in men. Contrary to previous claims, women's status ordering was just as stable as men's but emerged later. Discussion focuses on personological pathways to attaining status and on potential mediators.
Dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are well documented in conflict tasks, wherein competition from irrelevant stimulus attributes intensifies selection demands and leads to subsequent performance benefits. The current study investigated whether mnemonic demands, in a working memory (WM) task, can drive similar online control modifications. Demand levels (high vs. low) of WM maintenance (memory load of 2 items vs. 1 item) and delay-spanning distractor interference (confusable vs. not confusable with memoranda) were manipulated using a factorial design during a WM delayed-recognition task. Performance was best subsequent to trials in which both maintenance and distractor interference demands were high, followed by trials with high demand in either of these 2 control domains, and worst following trials with low demand in both domains. These results suggest that dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are not triggered exclusively by conflict-specific contexts but are also triggered by WM demands, revealing a putative mechanism by which this system configures itself for successful task performance.
Some common conceptions of Buddhist meditative practice emphasize the elimination of emotion and desire in the interest of attaining tranquility and spiritual perfection. But to place too strong an emphasis on this is to miss an important social element emphasized by major figures in the Mahāyāna and Chan/Zen Buddhist traditions who are critical of these quietistic elements and who stress instead an understanding of an enlightenment that emphasizes enriched sociality and flexible readiness to engage, and not avoid, life’s fluctuations in fortune and essential impermanence. It is argued here that these criticisms of quietism are bolstered by recent advances in the philosophy and psychology of the emotions that highlight the role of emotions in framing the context of decision making—that is, in sorting out the relevant from the irrelevant, identifying salience, and directing decisions when uncertainty prevents definitive judgment. This research makes clearer why self-liberation is fundamentally a matter of liberation from judgmental habit and inflexibility, and lends support to a view of enlightenment that emphasizes compassionate engagement with others. It also provides for a more plausible picture of the cognitive transformation involved in liberation and sheds light on the rationale for certain traditional Chan and Zen teaching tactics, such as those involving koan introspection.