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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.
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Although empathy is crucial for successful social interactions, excessive sharing of others’ negative emotions may be maladaptive and constitute a source of burnout. To investigate functional neural plasticity underlying the augmentation of empathy and to test the counteracting potential of compassion, one group of participants was first trained in empathic resonance and subsequently in compassion. In response to videos depicting human suffering, empathy training, but not memory training (control group), increased negative affect and brain activations in anterior insula and anterior midcingulate cortex—brain regions previously associated with empathy for pain. In contrast, subsequent compassion training could reverse the increase in negative effect and, in contrast, augment self-reports of positive affect. In addition, compassion training increased activations in a non-overlapping brain network spanning ventral striatum, pregenual anterior cingulate cortex and medial orbitofrontal cortex. We conclude that training compassion may reflect a new coping strategy to overcome empathic distress and strengthen resilience.
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Practitioners understand "meditation," or mental training, to be a process of familiarization with one's own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion. Little is known about this process and its impact on the brain. Here we find that long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. These electroencephalogram patterns differ from those of controls, in particular over lateral frontoparietal electrodes. In addition, the ratio of gamma-band activity (25-42 Hz) to slow oscillatory activity (4-13 Hz) is initially higher in the resting baseline before meditation for the practitioners than the controls over medial frontoparietal electrodes. This difference increases sharply during meditation over most of the scalp electrodes and remains higher than the initial baseline in the postmeditation baseline. These data suggest that mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural changes.

Practitioners understand “meditation,” or mental training, to be a process of familiarization with one's own mental life leading to long-lasting changes in cognition and emotion. Little is known about this process and its impact on the brain. Here we find that long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation. These electroencephalogram patterns differ from those of controls, in particular over lateral frontoparietal electrodes. In addition, the ratio of gamma-band activity (25-42 Hz) to slow oscillatory activity (4-13 Hz) is initially higher in the resting baseline before meditation for the practitioners than the controls over medial frontoparietal electrodes. This difference increases sharply during meditation over most of the scalp electrodes and remains higher than the initial baseline in the postmeditation baseline. These data suggest that mental training involves temporal integrative mechanisms and may induce short-term and long-term neural changes.
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How can we use every moment to progress toward enlightenment? Those with profound experience of that path have distilled their advice into powerful, seedlike instructions that get to the heart of the matter. Matthieu Ricard has selected and translated some of the most refreshing and clearest of these, drawing from all eight traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche inspired Ricard to create this anthology by telling him that "when we come to appreciate the depth of the view of the eight great traditions and also see that they all lead to the same goal without contraditctin geach other, we think, 'Only ignorace can lead us to adopt a sectarian view.'"
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Wherever he goes, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard is asked to explain what meditation is, how it is done, and what it can achieve. In this elegant, authoritative, and entirely accessible book, he sets out to answer these questions. Although meditation is a lifelong process even for the wisest, 'Why Miditate?' demonstrates that by practicing it on a daily basis we can change our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. In this brilliant short book and the accompanying CD, Ricard talks us through the theory, spirituality, and practical aspects of meditation. He illustrates each stage of his teaching with examples, leading readers deeper into their own practice. Through his experience as a monk, his close reading of sacred texts, and his deep knowledge of the Buddhist masters, Ricard shows the significant benefits that mdeitation, based on selfless love and compassion, can bring to each of us.
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