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Stimulated by a recent meeting between Western psychologists and the Dalai Lama on the topic of destructive emotions, we report on two issues: the achievement of enduring happiness, what Tibetan Buddhists call sukha, and the nature of afflictive and nonafflictive emotional states and traits. A Buddhist perspective on these issues is presented, along with discussion of the challenges the Buddhist view raises for empirical research and theory.
<p>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.</p>
Discover your personal path to bliss"This book will give anyone interested in the spectrum of core meditative practices stemming from the Buddhist tradition but in essence universal the deepest of perspectives on what is possible for us as human beings as well as excellent guidance in the essential, time-tested attitudes and practices for actualizing our innate capacity for wisdom, compassion, and well-being, right here and right now."—Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to Our Senses and Full Catastrophe Living"In Genuine Happiness, Alan Wallace displays his rare talent in boiling down the complex to the clear and in guiding readers through a practical path to contentment. A gift for all moods and seasons."—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ"This lucid and rich book offers brillant, wise, and accessible teachings on the essentials of four core meditation techniques that lead one to genuine joy and happiness. Alan Wallace's years of practice and teaching shine through every page, as with ease and great humanity, he brings to the reader the possibility of liberation."—Joan Halifax Roshi, abbot of Upaya Zen Center"Genuine Happiness is a treasure chest of wisdom: clear, inspiring teaching jewels. It is an excellent support for any student of meditation."—Sharon Salzberg, author of Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest ExperienceIn today's overstimulated world, many are realizing that happiness gained through material wealth and frivolous conquests is short-lived. To achieve long-term happiness, you must access your own bountiful resources—housed in your heart and mind. In Genuine Happiness, longtime Buddhist practitioner Alan Wallace shows you the path to bliss.Drawing on more than three decades of study under His Holiness the Dalai Lama and sixty other teachers, as well as 2,500 years of Buddhist tradition, Alan Wallace guides you step by step through five simple yet powerful meditations to help you focus your mind and open your heart to true happiness. Featuring a Foreword by the Dalai Lama, this book will help you discover that it is possible to experience genuine happiness every day.As you incorporate the meditations from Genuine Happiness into your life, you will discover that the joy you've sought has always been only a few meditative minutes away.
B. Alan Wallace, Ph. D. (Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) presented a case for the complimentarity of Tibetan medicine with Western medicine. Dr. Wallace traced the history and foundational principles of Tibetan medicine including contemplative practice, mental perception, and the balancing of the three humors (wind, bile, and phlegm which also resemble the humors in Indian Ayurvedic medicine). Leslie J. Blackhall, M.D., M.T.S. (Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Southern California) focused on a few areas (such as explaining the "Why me?" of a cancer patient) where Western medical system has great difficulty. Dr. Blackhall discussed how Tibetan medicine's desire to physically heal is to allow the person to obtain a mental state conducive to obtaining "enlightenment."
The ability to focus one's attention underlies success in many everyday tasks, but voluntary attention cannot be sustained for extended periods of time. In the laboratory, sustained-attention failure is manifest as a decline in perceptual sensitivity with increasing time on task, known as the vigilance decrement. We investigated improvements in sustained attention with training (~ 5 hr/day for 3 months), which consisted of meditation practice that involved sustained selective attention on a chosen stimulus (e.g., the participant's breath). Participants were randomly assigned either to receive training first (n = 30) or to serve as waiting-list controls and receive training second (n = 30). Training produced improvements in visual discrimination that were linked to increases in perceptual sensitivity and improved vigilance during sustained visual attention. Consistent with the resource model of vigilance, these results suggest that perceptual improvements can reduce the resource demand imposed by target discrimination and thus make it easier to sustain voluntary attention.
The capacity to focus one's attention for an extended period of time can be increased through training in contemplative practices. However, the cognitive processes engaged during meditation that support trait changes in cognition are not well characterized. We conducted a longitudinal wait-list controlled study of intensive meditation training. Retreat participants practiced focused attention (FA) meditation techniques for three months during an initial retreat. Wait-list participants later undertook formally identical training during a second retreat. Dense-array scalp-recorded electroencephalogram (EEG) data were collected during 6 min of mindfulness of breathing meditation at three assessment points during each retreat. Second-order blind source separation, along with a novel semi-automatic artifact removal tool (SMART), was used for data preprocessing. We observed replicable reductions in meditative state-related beta-band power bilaterally over anteriocentral and posterior scalp regions. In addition, individual alpha frequency (IAF) decreased across both retreats and in direct relation to the amount of meditative practice. These findings provide evidence for replicable longitudinal changes in brain oscillatory activity during meditation and increase our understanding of the cortical processes engaged during meditation that may support long-term improvements in cognition.
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.