Saturday, 17 December 2016

Meditation, Downward Causation, Neuroplasticity and the Quantum Zeno Effect.



Recent research has shown that Buddhist meditation can not only affect long-term behavior, but can actually alter the structure of the brain (1, 2, 34).

So how does something as non-physical as the attention developed during meditation affect physical structures of the brain?  According to the mechanistic materialist worldview, this sort of 'downward-causation' (mind over matter) shouldn't happen.  To a materialist, mental activities result from physical processes, not vice versa.

One possible mechanism for downward causation has been suggested by physicist Henry Stapp, who proposed that the Quantum Zeno Effect  allows the observer to hold patterns of energy states in a stable condition where they would normally, if left unobserved, decay randomly .  

The Quantum Zeno effect (also known as the Turing paradox) is a situation in which an unstable quantum system, if observed continuously, will never decay. One can "freeze" the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its known initial state. 



A watched quantum state never changes

The prolonged processes of attention in Buddhist meditation are good candidates for the kind of mental activities that could affect the physical state of microscopic brain structures.


Related Articles

Buddhism, Quantum Physics and Mind

Quantum Buddhism







Monday, 12 December 2016

The Mind-Bending History Of Buddhism And Psychedelics



Opening the doors of perception?  Go ask Alice

by Carolyn Gregoire

In the Huffington Post

"The history of Buddhism and of psychedelics in American culture follow a surprisingly similar trajectory from the 1950s through the present-day.

But perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise, given that they share a common aim: the liberation of the mind.

Many of the thinkers who turned to Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies in the 1960s -- including Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg and Ram Dass -- were influenced in some way by their experiences with LSD and other psychedelic drugs.

American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield said that LSD, "prepares the mind for Buddhism," while Allan Watts described both practices as being part of a comprehensive philosophical quest.

Now, more than 60 years later, we're seeing a resurgence of popular interest in Buddhism -- with mindfulness meditation now firmly entrenched in the cultural mainstream -- and also in psychedelics, which are being investigated as therapeutic agents for mental health issues including depression, anxiety and addiction.

The intersection of these practices raises a number of questions: Are psychedelics an obstruction to a Dharma practice, or a helpful accompaniment? Are mind-altering substances a legitimate means of personal transformation..."    Read it all here  

 

See also Can you trust your brain?

and  Buddhism, Shamanism and the use of Hallucinogens   


Thursday, 1 December 2016

THE STRUCTURE OF BUDDHISM




Aspects, components and interfaces


Buddhism - a religion, a philosophy or a psychology? Or all three?

Most religions have no foundation apart from the ‘truths’ revealed long ago by the voices of the gods to a collection of prophets. 

When different voices of different gods say different things to different prophets, then the only way to determine which version is correct is by war,  persecution and terrorism, as the Islamic State so effectively demonstrates.

Thankfully, Buddhism is different.   The Buddhist religion is based on two rational and verifiable foundations - a philosophy and a psychology.    And the psychology is itself founded upon philosophy, as shown in the diagram. 

So whereas other religions can only support their tenets by reference to ‘truths’ revealed to an exclusive group of long dead people who heard voices in their heads, Buddhism can appeal to rationality and shareable, reproducible experience.


Components and interfaces

The diagram illustrates how these three major domains of Buddhism - Philosophy (blue), Psychology (green) and Religion (orange) - fit together, with their components and interfaces.

LOGIC
The foundation of Buddhist philosophy is a logical analysis of phenomena, which radically deconstructs how things exist, and also how we think things exist. 

Deconstructing how things exist reveals that all phenomena are ultimately processes, and no thing or substance is capable of permanent existence, or existence 'from its own side'. This is the basis of Buddhist METAPHYSICS.

This conclusion immediately raises psychological implications. If everything is impermanent, then why are our minds so biased in favor of viewing the world as things and substances, rather than processes?    This is the main topic of Buddhist EPISTEMOLOGY, which interfaces philosophy with psychology.  An important concept in this epistemological analysis is the theory of the two truths - the contrast between the ‘working approximations’ we use to find our way around the everyday world, and how phenomena truly exist when we analyze them in depth.

The conclusion reached from the study of epistemology is that our distorted view of the world gives rise to DELUSIONS, especially the three mental poisons of aversion, attachment and ignorance.   Eradication of these three biologically based poisons, and prevention of their resultant actions, is one of the principle aspects of Buddhist ETHICS.   One of the main ways of reducing and eventually eradicating delusions is by the practice of MEDITATION, especially meditation on emptiness.

ETHICS and DELUSIONS are thus at a triple interface between philosophy, psychology and those aspects of Buddhism that people from Judeo-Christian cultural traditions would more readily recognise as religious.

Interfaces between psychology and religious practises are provided by RITUALS (such as sadhanas, pujas, mantras, mudras etc), ART (including numinous symbolism) and TANTRA.  


Unlike other religions, rather than aiming to placate or appease jealous gods, ritual practices are intended to produce changes in the minds of the practitioners, resulting in the ability to step outside the system of the Samsaric world (TRANSCENDENCE).  

Thus Buddhist art and ritual practices are intended to facilitate mental realisations, mystical experiences and ultimately the recognition of ones own Buddha-nature. Hence they are each shown as interfaces, with one end in religion, and the other in psychology.

Components which are primarily religious are the SANGHA, which is the community of Buddhist practitioners in its widest sense, including both ordained and lay persons organised as traditional congregations in dharma centers, or increasingly nowadays as online communities of people who may not have easy access to a center.  These geographically scattered Sangha often meet up for FESTIVALS.

 
Another major component of Buddhism is the large collection of NARRATIVES, ranging from historical accounts of the lives of major Buddhist teachers, including the Buddha himself, to the various parables such as the Jataka tales and Zen stories.

For a detailed discussion of the rational foundations of Buddhism see Buddhist Philosophy.



- Sean Robsville


 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Mindful Eating for Weight Loss and Other Health Benefits




From Global Times 

"Li Shanshan, a 29-year-old girl in Beijing, sat quietly on the ground in a dimly lit room with light music floating through the air. Holding the plate in front of her, she opened her eyes. With a deep breath of the aromatic air, she grasped some food from it and took her first bite.

While she ate, she did not think about anything else. She put all of her attention toward the food. She takes her time to chew slowly, sense the vegetable's flavors and textures and observe how her body reacts to the food.

"It feels really different when I eat my food this way. I feel so relaxed and pleased. I can actually feel which food my body wants, if the food can give me more strength and if I want to eat more," Li said.

Li experienced this on Tuesday at the Beijing Mindfulness Center (BMC) in Dongcheng district, which provides classes and workshops on meditation to seek awareness of one's body and mind. Li first started to practice the method in September, and lost five kilograms after the first week.

"It's not just about losing weight. I am also healthier and in a better mood since I feel more in control of myself," Li said.

The practice of mindful eating has existed for over 3,000 years within Buddhism. Recently, it became more popular as a secular practice as the latest research has shown that practicing mindful eating has been directly related to the regulation of weight and fighting obesity, according to Dalida Turkovic from Serbia, the executive coach and founder of the BMC... "


Read it all

Monday, 12 September 2016

The Unconditioned



From Beliefnet 

   "...Buddhists believe that Siddhartha attained a state that was free of conditions—things like upbringing, psychology, perceptions, opinions, presuppositions, and so on. To be Enlightened is to be Unconditioned, and a Buddha is free from conditioned responses such as prejudice, hatred, and greed. Rather, a Buddha is characterized by wisdom, compassion, and freedom. To be a Buddha is to see reality as it truly is. The word Buddha, in fact, is a title which means “one who is awake”—in essence, one who has completely awoken to reality..."


See also  Can you debiologize your mind? And if you do will anything remain?


Friday, 9 September 2016

Buddhist meditation helps kids unplug from their online world





From the Telegraph

"Children should be taught Buddhist meditation techniques and yoga in schools to help them "unplug from their online world", a minister has said.

Edward Timpson, an education minister, said that schools across the country should start teaching "mindfulness" as a "normal part of the school day".

The meditative practice, which has its roots in Buddhism, encourages people to focus on the present, rather than on the anxieties of the past or future.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament, Mr Timpson warned that “children cannot unplug from their online world, and that is changing the shape of many of their relationships and the pressures that they come under at a much more tender age”.

He said that mindfulness is “a modern innovation born from the deepest traditions of meditation” and that schools and colleges using the technique will “to enable all children to enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing...”.    More



See alsNumber of calls to Childline from children experiencing suicidal thoughts doubles in five years

 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Can mindfulness improve high school students' concentration?






From the BBC Magazine

"...The practice of mindfulness - which draws on Buddhist thinking - has become increasingly popular in recent years. There have been calls for brain-training techniques, using breathing to achieve mental clarity, to be introduced in schools.

In October, the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group said the practice should be made more widely available and recommended the Department for Education designate three schools to "pioneer mindfulness teaching and disseminate best practice".

Political author and former head of Wellington College Anthony Seldon has called for daily "stillness sessions" in schools, saying a decline in traditional religious assemblies has left students with little space for reflection in the school day.

So can mindfulness meditation really help pupils concentrate amid the distractions of 21st Century living? A group of BBC School Reporters from Connaught School for Girls in Leytonstone, east London, decided to investigate... "

"... At the end of the two week experiment, the results were positive. Those who had taken part in mindfulness meditation successfully completed the concentration task an average of 2.15 times more than before, while the results of the control group improved by just 0.69 times..."

Full report here


 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Be mindful when you smoke and booze.




A simple way to break a bad habit - Judson Brewer at
TEDMED 2015


Can we break bad habits by being more curious about them? Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Mindfulness and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School studies the relationship between mindfulness and addiction - from smoking to overeating to all those other things we do even though we know they're bad for us. Learn more about the mechanism of habit development and discover a simple but profound practice that might help you beat your next urge to smoke, snack or check a text while driving.