Mindfulness and Neuroscience
It seems that everyone is talking about mindfulness lately. Have you heard?
*The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is working with a number of groups—college faculty, attorneys and judges, social justice workers, business leaders, youth and those who work with young people–to encourage the incorporation of contemplative practices in a variety of settings.
*Film director David Lynch is traveling across the U.S. offering presentations and podcasts about the power of Transcendental Meditation.
*Colleges such as Portland State University in Oregon are offering meditation classes at no charge to any interested students. The focus is on stress-reduction, not spirituality.
*Goldie Hawn’s organization, the Bright Light Foundation, is studying the effects of mindfulness education in students in the Vancouver, B.C. area. The program teaches a series of simple techniques designed to enhance self awareness, focused attention, self regulation and stress reduction.
Mindfulness is popping up in surprising places as the buzz moves from meditation to everyday ways to increase awareness. In the last week alone, I have been interviewed for forthcoming articles in Self, Vibrant Life, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Health, and even Sly, Sylvester Stallone’s magazine for mid-life men.
But the greatest buzz of all comes thanks to the Dalai Lama and his invitation to speak at the annual convention of the Society for Neuroscience last week. Hundreds of scientists signed a petition against his selection as the speaker, citing a conflict between science and religion.
As a serious student of science, the Dalai Lama has been actively encouraging mind/body research for many years. He feels that learning more about what happens during meditation will help shed light on the ways in which the brain processes information and responds to focused attention, and the findings may prove useful in alleviating human suffering.
Those who are worried about blurring the line between science and religion would do well to embrace a little temporary fuzziness for the greater good. In an editorial published in both The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, the Dalai Lama says: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”
Wow. Now there’s a guy who is not attached to the outcome. He’s simply seeking to learn as much as he can and wants to see that new information shared with everyone who might benefit from it.
Neuroscience has much to gain by opening to new discoveries, but in order to do so, researchers must be willing to question their own theories if findings do not support them.
Let’s make a deal: Neuroscientists will do research. People will meditate. We will all learn about meditation and mindfulness and attention as best we can and share what we find.
We’ll keep at it until we come to a greater understanding of what it means to be mindful and how that might affect the brain.
And we’ll look forward to reading all about it in Playboy and Popular Science, in People and Parents and Pro Football Weekly.
We won’t stop questioning and studying and sharing until mindfulness is discussed by all kinds of people while they sip milk or mint tea, Mountain Dew or mocha cappucino, merlot or Miller beer.