This talk continues the exploration of what Peter terms “self-state conflict”, with discussion of the characteristic symptoms of depression in the context of Buddhist concepts and practices. One of the primary causes of depression is what is called “intrusive negative rumination”; from the Buddhist perspective, this is understood as the manifestation of craving and clinging to a self-organization that is dysfunctional. Peter mentioned that this consumer culture creates “needs” that were unheard of in the Buddhist world until the 20th century, and that one cause of depression for this era is misconceiving a marketing generated ideal self as real and important. The application of mindfulness of breathing, noting distracting thoughts and impulses and refusing to feed them with attention will diminish the conditions that produce depression. These insights were related to Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which modern research suggests can prevent relapse back into depression, provided that the meditation practice is maintained on a daily basis.
Last week’s discussion was organized around how stressful contemporary life is, compared to the largely agrarian cultures that characterized the earliest centuries of what is now called Buddhism. The results of culturally induced stress in this consumeristic era were emphasized. This week’s topic was the prevalence of anxiety (18% of Americans were diagnotically anxious in 2007, the latest data found on the internet while preparing this talk; this was before the economic stress of 2008 and beyond!). Peter described the Buddhist perspective on anxiety, again related to the first and second noble truths, that is, stress and how craving and clinging bring about stress. This was followed by quotes from a recent peer reviewed research article, “Neural Correlates Of Mindfulness Meditation-Related Anxiety Relief”, published in 2013, which correlated the difference between “state” and “trait” anxiety and the neurological processes that occur.
Suggestions were offered regarding how the regular practice of mindfulness of breathing meditation can reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of anxiety. Peter also described the varieties of clinical anxiety, which are reviewed in this document: ANXIETY FROM A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE
Next week’s discussion will focus on depression from a Buddhist perspective.
The Buddhist First Noble Truth, the reality of dukkha, was described in contemporary terms. The traditional translation of dukkha is “suffering”; modern commentators prefer words such as “stress”, “insufficiency”, and “dissatisfaction”, among others, to describe current cultural experience. Peter talked of the increasingly stressful characteristic of modern cultures, with the imposed stressors of consumerism and media indoctrination, and the impact stress has on the human body/mind process. This was related to the Five Hindrances, with emphasis on the hindrance of restlessness/worry.
The ways and means that Buddhism provides relief from contemporary stress was described, followed by lively discussion of what this means to those attending the meeting.
Here are the notes prepared for this presentation: STRESS AND THE DHAMMA The notes provide data on the prevalence and impact on contemporary society as a result of stress, derived from the National Institute for Mental Health, a governmental organization.
Next week’s topic will address the issues associated with anxiety, from a Buddhist perspective as well as various levels of clinical anxiety disorders.
During this talk, Peter describes how mindfulness meditation supports the development of “Emotional Intelligence”, which is the title of a book written by Daniel Goleman. Emotional intelligence provides internal resources such as self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation and empathy to foster social competency.
After a retreat, we set aside one evening’s talk for reviewing the experience. Much of what happens during a retreat is not clearly registered in the mind; talking about the retreat with well-informed people helps clarify the gains from the intensive practice and the skills gained are more generally accessible. It is also often the case that those hearing of the benefits of retreat experience are inspired to participate in future retreats.
Recently Peter watched an episode of “Super Soul Sunday”, during which Oprah interviewed Daniel Goleman about “Emotional Intelligence”. This inspired him to revisit the book, which will be the topic of next week’s Wednesday night meeting.
This talk concludes a series of explorations of the neuroscientific discoveries about how mindfulness of breathing meditation restructures important neural pathways during the process of awakening. The topic for this discussion reviews some of the progressive steps in mindful breath awareness as they are manifested in important neural pathways to promote samadhi/passadhi (stable attention/emotional balance), […]
This talk and discussion continues exploring last week’s review of what research is revealing about what happens in the brain to manifest consciousness and a sense of self. The focus of the current night was on what happens in the brain when Buddhist mindfulness of breathing training is applied to strengthen the neurological functions to […]