This article offers an overview of meditation research: its history, recent developments, and future directions. As the number and scope of studies grow, the field has converged with cognitive and affective neuroscience, and spawned many clinical applications. Recent work has shed light on the mechanisms and effects of diverse practices, and is entering a new phase where consensus and coherent paradigms are within reach. This article suggests an unusual path for future advancement: complementing conventional research with rigorous dialogue with the contemplative traditions that train expert meditators and best know the techniques. It explores the Nalanda tradition developed in India and preserved in Tibet, because its cumulative approach to contemplative methods produced a comprehensive framework that may help interpret data and guide research, and because its naturalistic theories and empirical methods may help bridge the gulf between science and other contemplative traditions. Examining recent findings and models in light of this framework, the article introduces the Indic map of the central nervous system and presents three testable predictions based on it. Finally, it reviews two studies that suggest that the multimodal Nalanda approach to contemplative learning is as well received as more familiar approaches, while showing promise of being more effective.
Mettais a mindfulness-based practice rooted in the Buddhist tradition that is now used in contexts as diverse as mental health clinics, corporate wellness programs, and VA hospitals, where it's helping veterans recover from PTSD. It's been shown to spike neurochemicals associated with feelings of wellbeing, connection to others, and confidence; and it's been linked to a whole host of physiological health benefits. Not only that, it's been shown to have lasting effects on the brains of meditators after just six weeks of consistent practice. It's simple, and one of the best things about it is that it's a thought-friendly meditation. So, bring your busy monkey mind aboard; you'll be steering the ship.
Love doesn't always come easy these days. From an early age, our family, culture, and media environments train us to believe that we are at constant battle with each other for social supremacy. Someone is always put up as "better" or further ahead. Competition, one-upmanship, gossip, and manipulation are weapons with which we guard our positions in the crowd. People do benefit from this system; there are many who profit politically or financially from encouraging all of this bickering and in-fighting. In our culture, exclusivity is commodified and marketing is hardly subtle. These messages create the false feeling of a resource war, a feeling that the good stuff is kept just out of reach. With that attitude, it's not so hard to then make the leap to stepping on others to get a boost up to that next echelon. We go around acting like happiness is a limited resource: if someone lands the job of his or her dreams, that must somehow take away from my own happiness. Jealousy comes between friends and lovers, as if friendship and love are also limited resources. If anything, they are renewable ones. The ancient texts and mantras of yoga help to remind us that we can give and receive love infinitely, and we need not be selfish.
I could not think of any better place to be building tapas, accumulating ojas, and preparing to accept the jungle elixir that would send me barefoot into a balancing act between death and awakening. Each day, for ten days, there would be four hours of asana. And then the ceremony. Then, and only then, the energy and intentions set in the temple room would be not only safe, but abundant and beautiful. I could not wait. We would be masters of ourselves. This is absolutely the place, I thought, I am sure.
Close your eyes. Trace the direction of your attention when you think "self" to yourself. Note where your awareness resides when you think "me" or "I". Perhaps somewhere around the head? William James once considered, when he turned his focus inward, that he perceived his self to be something related to the "motions" between his head and neck. A contemporary version of the same idea might be the notion that all of our psychological life can be reducible to the life of neurons, the activity of the brain.