There are many forms of traditional Buddhist meditation, each with different specific purposes – some geared toward quieting and focusing the mind, some for developing love and compassion, some for examining the nature of mind and developing wisdom. In the context of the Buddhist spiritual path, meditation practice is ultimately for the purpose to bring the practitioner closer to spiritual Enlightenment.
On a practical, secular level, meditation can also have benefits. Completely secular therapeutic forms of meditation and “mindfulness-based interventions” have become increasingly common in the past 20 years and are offered at major academic medical centers and increasingly online. Programs like Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBSR) and Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) promise to help patients find relief from conditions ranging from chronic stress, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, and even PTSD, and high quality federally-funded clinical trials have demonstrated effectiveness in many cases. “Mindfulness” has also become a ubiquitous media “buzzword” and has been commodified as a huge “big business”, with sometimes over-blown claims in advertising, and can be found in corporate settings, in smartphone apps, and local fitness centers all over.
This three-week experiential class will explore the relationships between traditional Buddhist and “therapeutic” meditation programs (e.g., Mindfulness and Compassion) and provide an accurate and contemporary discussion of the psychology and neuroscience underlying these programs, based on rigorous scientific evidence.
In 3 weekly sessions we will provide instruction, guided practice, and opportunity for discussion in using several forms of mindfulness and mind-body meditation practices, commonly used in programs like MBSR / MBCT etc. for treatment of (1) stress and anxiety, (2) depression, and (3) chronic pain. It will also provide an up-to-date and accessible review of the psychological and the neuroscientific evidence about the mechanisms of meditation and how it can have therapeutic effects on psychological stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. This will include cutting-edge fMRI neuroimaging research, including Dr King’s own work, showing that practicing mindfulness meditation for several weeks can lead to changes in large-scale brain networks.
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