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The Indo-Tibetan tradition claims that proficiency in the suggested longevity practices of meditation, diet, and physical exercise (yoga), will result in profound anti-aging, stress-mediating and health enhancing effects. Western biomedical research has begun to demonstrate that the psychobiological states induced and cultivated by cognitive behavioral practices which are emblematic of those contained within the Indo-Tibetan tradition (hypnosis, meditation, visualization, systematic relaxation), indeed do have a profound impact on the body's protective and regulatory systems. Although continued study is necessary, much of the early research illuminating the mechanisms responsible for the life-span extending and health-enhancing effects of these cognitive behavioral practices points to the importance of their anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and antioxidant effects as well as their impact in enhancing the production of endogenous substances that possess general longevity-enhancing, regenerative properties.
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<p>This new book, the fruit of a weeklong intermonastic dialogue held at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, includes (in addition to Zen Buddhism &amp; Hinduism) the Chinese traditions of Taoism, Confucianism, &amp; Chan Buddhism.</p>
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<p>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.</p>

<p>The relaxation response (RR) is the counterpart of the stress response. Millennia-old practices evoking the RR include meditation, yoga and repetitive prayer. Although RR elicitation is an effective therapeutic intervention that counteracts the adverse clinical effects of stress in disorders including hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and aging, the underlying molecular mechanisms that explain these clinical benefits remain undetermined. To assess rapid time-dependent (temporal) genomic changes during one session of RR practice among healthy practitioners with years of RR practice and also in novices before and after 8 weeks of RR training, we measured the transcriptome in peripheral blood prior to, immediately after, and 15 minutes after listening to an RR-eliciting or a health education CD. Both short-term and long-term practitioners evoked significant temporal gene expression changes with greater significance in the latter as compared to novices. RR practice enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways. Interactive network analyses of RR-affected pathways identified mitochondrial ATP synthase and insulin (INS) as top upregulated critical molecules (focus hubs) and NF-κB pathway genes as top downregulated focus hubs. Our results for the first time indicate that RR elicitation, particularly after long-term practice, may evoke its downstream health benefits by improving mitochondrial energy production and utilization and thus promoting mitochondrial resiliency through upregulation of ATPase and insulin function. Mitochondrial resiliency might also be promoted by RR-induced downregulation of NF-κB-associated upstream and downstream targets that mitigates stress.</p>
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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>

Resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSAREST) indexes important aspects of individual differences in emotionality. In the present investigation, the authors address whether RSAREST is associated with tonic positive or negative emotionality, and whether RSAREST relates to phasic emotional responding to discrete positive emotion-eliciting stimuli. Across an 8-month, multiassessment study of first-year university students (n = 80), individual differences in RSAREST were associated with positive but not negative tonic emotionality, assessed at the level of personality traits, long-term moods, the disposition toward optimism, and baseline reports of current emotional states. RSAREST was not related to increased positive emotion, or stimulus-specific emotion, in response to compassion-, awe-, or pride-inducing stimuli. These findings suggest that resting RSA indexes aspects of a person's tonic positive emotionality.
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<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>

Numerous studies demonstrate that the rhesus monkey is an excellent species with which to investigate mechanisms underlying human emotion and psychopathology. To examine the role of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) in mediating the behavioral and physiological responses associated with fear and anxiety, we used rhesus monkeys to assess the effects of excitotoxic lesions of the CeA. Behavioral and physiological responses of nine monkeys with bilateral CeA destruction (ranging from 46 to 98%) were compared with five animals with asymmetric lesions (42-86.5% destruction on the most affected side) and with 16 unoperated controls. Results suggest that similar to rodent species, the primate CeA plays a role in mediating fear- and anxiety-related behavioral and endocrine responses. Compared with controls and the asymmetric-lesion group, bilaterally lesioned monkeys displayed significantly less fear-related behavior when exposed to a snake and less freezing behavior when confronted by a human intruder. In addition, bilaterally lesioned monkeys had decreased levels of CSF corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), and both lesioned groups had decreased plasma ACTH concentrations. In contrast to these findings, patterns of asymmetric frontal brain electrical activity, as assessed by regional scalp EEG, did not significantly differ between control and lesioned monkeys. These findings suggest that in primates, the CeA is involved in mediating fear- and anxiety-related behavioral and pituitary-adrenal responses as well as in modulating brain CRF activity.
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This study, based on a sample of 172 children, examined the relation between average afternoon salivary cortisol levels measured at home at age 4.5 years and socioemotional adjustment a year and a half later, as reported by mothers, fathers, and teachers. Cortisol levels were hypothesized to be positively associated with withdrawal-type behaviors (e.g., internalizing, social wariness) and inversely related to approach-type behaviors, both negative and positive (e.g., externalizing, school engagement). Higher cortisol levels at age 4.5 predicted more internalizing behavior and social wariness as reported by teachers and mothers, although child gender moderated the relation between cortisol and mother report measures. An inverse relation was found between boys' cortisol levels and father report of externalizing behavior. A marginal inverse relation was found between child cortisol levels and teacher report of school engagement. Behavior assessed concurrently with cortisol collection did not account for the prospective relations observed,suggesting that cortisol adds uniquely to an understanding of behavioral development.
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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.

BACKGROUND: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system activation is adaptive in response to stress, and HPA dysregulation occurs in stress-related psychopathology. It is important to understand the mechanisms that modulate HPA output, yet few studies have addressed the neural circuitry associated with HPA regulation in primates and humans. Using high-resolution F-18-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) in rhesus monkeys, we assessed the relation between individual differences in brain activity and HPA function across multiple contexts that varied in stressfulness. METHODS: Using a logical AND conjunctions analysis, we assessed cortisol and brain metabolic activity with FDG-PET in 35 adolescent rhesus monkeys exposed to two threat and two home-cage conditions. To test the robustness of our findings, we used similar methods in an archival data set. In this data set, brain metabolic activity and cortisol were assessed in 17 adolescent male rhesus monkeys that were exposed to three stress-related contexts. RESULTS: Results from the two studies revealed that subgenual prefrontal cortex (PFC) metabolism (Brodmann's area 25/24) consistently predicted individual differences in plasma cortisol concentrations regardless of the context in which brain activity and cortisol were assessed. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that activation in subgenual PFC may be related to HPA output across a variety of contexts (including familiar settings and novel or threatening situations). Individuals prone to elevated subgenual PFC activity across multiple contexts may be individuals who consistently show heightened cortisol and may be at risk for stress-related HPA dysregulation.
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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.

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.

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.

Meditation is approached as a technique for the activation of religious experience. Various theories used in psychology to explain the cognitive changes brought about by meditation are briefly reviewed. Of these, the role-theory of Sundén fits best the structure and function of various meditation methods in religious history. A small scale laboratory experiment is reported, designed for the purpose of testing the predictive validity of role-theory. The results make it possible to specify the theory's contribution and limitation.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the mind-cure movement emphasized the healing power of positive emotions and beliefs. William James defended mind-cure during the Massachusetts legislature's debates on licensing physicians in 1894 and 1898. In The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) he used the movement's therapeutic claims to illustrate the typically American, practical turn of the "religion of healthy-mindedness." Varieties sympathetically surveys mind-cure literature, but also criticizes healthy-minded religion for its limited range and refusal to confront tragedy and radical evil. Many of today's mind/body therapies continue the mind-cure tradition and retain the limitations that James noted.

<p>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.</p>
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