More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Can Buddhists transcend mental reservations?
By Steve Connor
22 May 2003

Buddhists who meditate may be able to train their brains to feel genuine happiness and control aggressive instincts, research has shown.

According to Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy at Duke University in North Carolina, Buddhists appear to be able to stimulate the left prefrontal lobe - an area just behind the forehead - which may be why they can generate positive emotions and a feeling of well being.

Writing in today's New Scientist, Professor Flanagan cites early findings of a study by Richard Davidson, of the University of Wisconsin, who used scanners to analyze the active regions of a Buddhist's brain.

Professor Flanagan said the findings are "tantalizing" because the left prefrontal lobes of Buddhist practitioners appear to "light up" consistently, rather than just during acts of meditation.

"This is significant, because persistent activity in the left prefrontal lobes indicates positive emotions and good mood," he writes. "The first Buddhist practitioner studied by Davidson showed more left prefrontal lobe activity than anyone he had ever studied before.

"Buddhists are not born happy. It is not reasonable to suppose that Tibetan Buddhists are born with a 'happiness gene'. The most reasonable hypothesis is there is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek," he writes.

Another study of Buddhists by scientists at the University of California has also found that meditation might tame the amygdala, the part of the brain involved with fear and anger.

Professor Flanagan writes: "Antidepressants are currently the favored method for alleviating negative emotions, but no antidepressant makes a person happy. On the other hand, Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, which were developed 2,500 years before Prozac, can lead to profound happiness."


This article does make a lot of sense to me. With that said, having traveled for many years on business, and experiencing first hand cultures and language translations. I have to wonder, what and how we would apply this practice here in the west?
Hope my question was expressed clear enough to generate some responses.


To respond to your question, Tampa11, the practice of vipassana, insight meditation (there are many kinds of meditation and this is the one that is often referred to as Mindfullness meditation which the Dali Lama practices) can be done in your home or even for a few mintues at work. It is as simple as clsoing your eyes, once you have practiced and become proficient with the technique.

It is recommended to take classes through a "teacher". Both people that I attended classes with were also previously trained as psychotherapists but not all teachers are.

I read another article on this site a while back about being in the state of "enlightenment". I recall one of the teachers (who spent many years training in India) saying that it was similar to having an orgasm that never stopped. :shocked:
I'm not sure if this next thought was my own or something he said but I think he referred to it as not being an "easy" place to be!
The site above gives examples of sitting positions but we sat in chairs (with back straight and not against the back of chair to keep from falling asleep) or on the little sitting stools. Very few used pillows or crossed the legs as shown.


If you don't have time to attend a course then it is highly recommended
that you use the audio tapes and book by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Once you have some experience with the practice then you can attend a "sitting" at anyplace anytime. Look in your area for these sitting groups. You could attend a sitting in many different countires if you travel for work!

Each group has a teacher and you can come and go as you time frame or other commitments needed. The teacher guides each meditation similar to the tapes. A donation is requested to pay for the teachers time.

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness

I hope you can gain the benefits that others have from this practice.

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