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Wildmind Meditation News

Sep 26, 2014

Your brain on meditation

wildmind meditation newsBrittany Dingler, The Skidmore News: Generally, meditation is a mindfulness-based practice in which an individual sits quietly, focuses on breathing, and tries to clear their mind of any distracting thoughts or worries. Some meditators even choose to supplement their meditation practice with repeated mantras (think “ohmmm…”) or visualization (“imagine you’re a stick, floating down the river of zen”). Though often viewed as a wacky, spiritual practice reserved only for yogis, hippies, and monks, meditation is a critical tool that has recently gained more support as a source of daily restoration for CEOs and doctors as well as an effective, supplemental treatment for chronic …

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Wildmind Meditation News

Sep 24, 2014

Can you meditate with your eyes wide open?

wildmind meditation newsRose Caiola, Huffington Post: I’ve been a dedicated meditation practitioner for more than a decade and I always keep my eyes open for new techniques. Now keeping my “eyes open” can be taken literally–because I’ve learned about the benefits of meditating without closing them.

This was a big departure for me. I had always thought of meditation as a way to keep the external world out of the picture during quiet contemplation. And even though I am very receptive to the benefits of different practices–I’ve tried everything from yogic, mindfulness, and Tibetan mantra meditations to ecstatic dancing and walking a labyrinth–I had assumed …

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Wildmind Meditation News

Sep 08, 2014

Sam Harris’s Vanishing Self

wildmind meditation newsGary Gutting, New York Times: Sam Harris is a neuroscientist and prominent “new atheist,” who along with others like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens helped put criticism of religion at the forefront of public debate in recent years. In two previous books, “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” Harris argued that theistic religion has no place in a world of science. In his latest book, “Waking Up,” his thought takes a new direction. While still rejecting theism, Harris nonetheless makes a case for the value of “spirituality,” which he bases on his experiences in meditation. I interviewed …

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Rick Hanson PhD

Sep 02, 2014

Emotional hijacking

Young woman cryingIn light of the machinery of survival-based, emotional reactivity, let’s look more narrowly at what Daniel Goleman has called “emotional hijacking.”

The emotional circuits of your brain – which are relatively primitive from an evolutionary standpoint, originally developed when dinosaurs ruled the earth – exert great influence over the more modern layers of the brain in the cerebral cortex. They do this in large part by continually “packaging” incoming sensory information in two hugely influential ways:

  • Labeling it with a subjective feeling tone: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. This is primarily accomplished by the amygdala, in close concert with the hippocampus; this circuit is probably the specific structure of the brain responsible

Wildmind Meditation News

Aug 14, 2014

Ancient meditation technique sharpens cognitive skills

wildmind meditation newsLiat Clark, Wired: Different types of meditation illicit different types of physiological response, and can vastly improve cognitive skills.

A team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) explored four types of meditation practiced by Buddhists, from two main branches of the tradition, Vajrayana (Deity and Rig-pa) and Theravada (Shamatha and Vipassana). From each tradition, one style of meditation was designed to relax and another to arouse the senses.

The Singapore team points out in a paper published in PLOS ONE that prior research has focused on Theravada meditation mainly, and its ability to induce relaxation and heighten alertness. Coauthors Maria Kozhevnikov and …

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Rick Hanson PhD

Aug 06, 2014

The machinery of upset

Unhappy little girl crying(Emotional) life is great when we feel enthusiastic, contented, peaceful, happy, interested, loving, etc. But when we’re upset, or aroused to go looking for trouble, life ain’t so great.

To address this problem, let’s turn to a strategy used widely in science (and Buddhism, interestingly): analyze things into their fundamental elements, such as the quarks and other subatomic particles that form an atom or the Five Aggregates in Buddhism of form, feeling (the “hedonic tone” of experience as pleasant-neutral-unpleasant), perception, volitional formations, and consciousness.

We’ll apply that strategy to the machinery of getting upset. Here is a summary of the eight major “gears” of that machine – somewhat based on how …

Wildmind Meditation News

Aug 05, 2014

Use mindfulness to overcome unhealthy cravings

wildmind meditation newsMichael Taft, Huffington Post: I love espresso. But I remember sometimes “waking up” suddenly and finding myself right in the middle of a shuddering caffeine meltdown. I’d been writing on my laptop at a coffee shop, focused on work. Starting out with a latté early in the morning, I’d just kept ordering and drinking triple-espresso drinks all day long while happily typing away. This caffeine intake had all been in the background, unconscious, until my slapping heartbeat and thundering jolts of anxiety crashed violently into the foreground. I would stop then, but I — and my friends and partner — were left to cope …

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Rick Hanson PhD

Jul 25, 2014

Is the intention a goal or already realized?

golden hourDo you express the intention as a goal or as something already realized?

This gets at a recurring question, even a debate, in Buddhism (and also in psychology and in some religions): Is it about progressing toward an enlightened state, or is it about uncovering the enlightened condition that has always been present? I can’t do justice here to the nuances of that consideration, but I can say what many wise people think is at the marrow of the matter: both are true. (Darn that middle way.)

In other words, it is powerful to focus on intention both as an aim toward a target, and as something that is already the case. The …

Wildmind Meditation News

Jul 13, 2014

How addiction can affect brain connections

wildmind meditation newsDeborah Becker, WBUR: As much of the country grapples with problems resulting from opioid addiction, some Massachusetts scientists say they’re getting a better understanding of the profound role the brain plays in addiction.

Their work is among a growing body of research showing that addiction is a complex brain disease that affects people differently. But the research also raises hopes about potential treatments.

Among the findings of some University of Massachusetts Medical School scientists is that addiction appears to permanently affect the connections between areas of the brain to almost “hard-wire” the brain to support the addiction.

They’re also exploring the neural roots …

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Rick Hanson PhD

Jul 08, 2014

Emotion in the brain

Young boy playing in the sprinklers outdoorsThe major brain regions that support emotional processing include the limbic system – particularly the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus – and the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), nucleus accumbens, and insula. Technical note: there are two hippocampi, one in each hemisphere of the brain; the same for the two amygdalae, ACCs, and insulae. Following common practice, we’ll mainly use the singular form.

By the way, as an interesting evolutionary detail, the limbic system seems to have evolved from the olfactory (scent) neural circuitry in the brain developed by our ancient mammal ancestors, living around 180 million years ago. They seem to have used their advanced sense …