My interest in the Begley book is really part of an ongoing inquiry into the area of mind games &emdash; or rather the challenge of pushing mental ability to its human potential (self-realization), or healing from debilitating condition (depression, for instance), or warding off the effects of aging (I am 58 years old).
The Dana Foundation, a first-rate place for scientific information on the brain, recently posted Experts, Dalai Lama Discuss Meditation for Depression about a conference at Emory University in Atlanta last week. This conference was a continuation of the dialogue between the Dalai Lama and scientists that Begley wrote about. There was a similar conference, Center for Healthy Minds, organized with Georgetown University here in Washington in 2007.
What has struck me is that I’ve been moving in this direction for more four years, well before I started reading about these trends in neuroscience, mental health and wellness. I was on the right track. Probably, this meme had not gelled so cogently into an explicit message or I was picking up strands of the news and associated them in my mind. After all, this kind of research has been going on for more than 20 years. But is even more mind boggling is that I can sit on my mat and experience this same practice in a very personal way.
MIT Technology Review Meditation and the Brain: “Of course, the monk lifestyle isn’t for everyone. So a recently published study on the effects of short meditation sessions with novice practitioners is perhaps of greater relevance to the rest of us. As reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Davidson and Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted a small controlled study of “mindfulness meditation” training for employees of a small biotech firm. Four months after an eight-week meditation course, the researchers found that emotional and immune system benefits persisted—with just 15-minute meditation sessions only two or three times a week.”
I came back to this article after reading it two month ago. It caught my attention because it captured my penchant for rationalizing my intellectual queries and my emotional satisfaction with my yoga and meditation practice. Whenever I ease into meditation mode, it’s like slipping into a hot bath. You think to yourself — “This is so right.”
But I suddenly realized that there is another level in which this feeling of satisfaction can border on self-righteousness. There can be all kinds of claims about the value of yoga and meditation that cannot be confirmed objectively. You can see it a lot in the “life style” choices that surround these traditions. Do I have to become a vegitarian to follow through on my new yoga-based options. How can you prove some of the claims made about yoga and meditation — curing back pain, managing mood swings or increased holiness.
The interesting angle is the collaboration between Western science and Eastern wisdom.
You can find out more about this trend by going to Center for Healthy Minds for the September 2003 conference that brought the Dalai Lama to Cambridge, Mass or the Mind and Life Institute, the organization that has been exploring the trend for the past decade or so.