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The study evaluates the effects of 5 years of religious training on the personalities of 31 residents of a Zen Buddhist monastic seminary. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was administered to each subject each year. Comparison of results at Years 1 and 5 revealed predicted improvements, significant at the .05 level, in scales assessing ego strength and dependency and in two measures of general adjustment. A similar pattern of results was found across a time period of only one year in those subjects who experienced a major religious understanding. Comparison with similar studies conducted in Christian seminaries and religious orders suggests that specific elements of monastic life may influence personal adjustment.

We present a new sparse shape modeling framework on the Laplace-Beltrami (LB) eigenfunctions. Traditionally, the LB-eigenfunctions are used as a basis for intrinsically representing surface shapes by forming a Fourier series expansion. To reduce high frequency noise, only the first few terms are used in the expansion and higher frequency terms are simply thrown away. However, some lower frequency terms may not necessarily contribute significantly in reconstructing the surfaces. Motivated by this idea, we propose to filter out only the significant eigenfunctions by imposing l1-penalty. The new sparse framework can further avoid additional surface-based smoothing often used in the field. The proposed approach is applied in investigating the influence of age (38-79 years) and gender on amygdala and hippocampus shapes in the normal population. In addition, we show how the emotional response is related to the anatomy of the subcortical structures.
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We used fMRI to examine amygdala activation in response to fearful facial expressions, measured over multiple scanning sessions. 15 human subjects underwent three scanning sessions, at 0, 2 and 8 weeks. During each session, functional brain images centered about the amygdala were acquired continuously while participants were shown alternating blocks of fearful, neutral and happy facial expressions. Intraclass correlation coefficients calculated across the sessions indicated stability of response in left amygdala to fearful faces (as a change from baseline), but considerably less left amygdala stability in responses to neutral expressions and for fear versus neutral contrasts. The results demonstrate that the measurement of fMRI BOLD responses in amygdala to fearful facial expressions might be usefully employed as an index of amygdala reactivity over extended periods. While signal change to fearful facial expressions appears robust, the experimental design employed here has yielded variable responsivity within baseline or comparison conditions. Future studies might manipulate the experimental design to either amplify or attenuate this variability, according to the goals of the research.
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This paper argues the case for meditation with children. It seeks to define what meditation is, why it is important and how it can be practised with children. Meditation provides a good starting point for learning and creativity. It builds upon a long tradition of meditative practice in religious and humanistic settings and research gives evidence of its practical benefits. We need to help children find natural ways for body and mind to combat the pressures of modern living and to find better ways to help focus their minds on matters of importance. There are strong pedagogical reasons for including meditation as part of the daily experience of pupils of all ages and abilities. Meditation is a proven means for stilling the mind, encouraging mindfulness, and providing optimum conditions for generative thinking and reflection. This paper aims to encourage more experimentation and research into meditative practice with children.

Laughter facilitates the adaptive response to stress by increasing the psychological distance from distress and by enhancing social relations. To test these hypotheses, the authors related measures of bereaved adults' laughter and smiling 6 months postloss to measures of their (a) subjective emotion and dissociation from distress, (b) social relations, and (c) responses they evoked in others. Duchenne laughter, which involves orbicularis oculi muscle action, related to self-reports of reduced anger and increased enjoyment, the dissociation of distress, better social relations, and positive responses from strangers, whereas non-Duchenne laughter did not. Lending credence to speculations in the ethological literature, Duchenne laughter correlated with different intrapersonal and interpersonal responses than Duchenne smiles. Discussion focuses on the relevance of these findings to theories of positive emotion.
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"The practice of contemplation is one of the great spiritual arts," writes Martin Laird in A Sunlit Absence. "Not a technique but a skill, it harnesses the winds of grace that lead us out into the liberating sea of silence." In this companion volume to his bestselling Into the Silent Land, Laird focuses on a quality often overlooked by books on Christian meditation: a vast and flowing spaciousness that embraces both silence and sound, and transcends all subject/object dualisms. Drawing on the wisdom of great contemplatives from St. Augustine and St. Teresa of Avila to St. Hesychios, Simone Weil, and many others, Laird shows how we can uncover the deeper levels of awareness that rest within us like buried treasure waiting to be found. The key insight of the book is that as our practice matures, so will our experience of life's ordeals, sorrows, and joys expand into generous, receptive maturity. We learn to see whatever difficulties we experience in meditation--boredom, lethargy, arrogance, depression, grief, anxiety--not as obstacles to be overcome but as opportunities to practice surrender to what is. With clarity and grace Laird shows how we can move away from identifying with our turbulent, ever-changing thoughts and emotions to the cultivation of a "sunlit absence"--the luminous awareness in which God's presence can most profoundly be felt. Addressed to both beginners and intermediates on the pathless path of still prayer, A Sunlit Absence offers wise guidance on the specifics of contemplative practice as well as an inspiring vision of the purpose of such practice and the central role it can play in our spiritual lives.

This book takes a bold new look at ways of exploring the nature, origins, and potentials of consciousness within the context of science and religion. It draws careful distinctions between four elements of the scientific tradition: science itself, scientific realism, scientific materialism, and scientism. Arguing that the metaphysical doctrine of scientific materialism has taken on the role of ersatz-religion for its adherents, it traces its development from its Greek and Judeo-Christian origins, focusing on the interrelation between the Protestant Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. It also looks at scientists' long term resistance to the firsthand study of consciousness and details the ways in which subjectivity has been deemed taboo within the scientific community. In conclusion, the book draws on William James's idea for a “science of religion” that would study the nature of religious and, in particular, contemplative experience.

The scientific discovery of novel training paradigms has yielded better understanding of basic mechanisms underlying cortical plasticity, learning and development. This study is a first step in evaluating Tai Chi (TC), the Chinese slow-motion meditative exercise, as a training paradigm that, while not engaging in direct tactile stimulus training, elicits enhanced tactile acuity in long-term practitioners. The rationale for this study comes from the fact that, unlike previously studied direct-touch tactile training paradigms, TC practitioners focus specific mental attention on the body’s extremities including the fingertips and hands as they perform their slow routine. To determine whether TC is associated with enhanced tactile acuity, experienced adult TC practitioners were recruited and compared to age–gender matched controls. A blinded assessor used a validated method (Van Boven et al. in Neurology 54(12): 2230–2236, 2000) to compare TC practitioners’ and controls’ ability to discriminate between two different orientations (parallel and horizontal) across different grating widths at the fingertip. Study results showed that TC practitioners’ tactile spatial acuity was superior to that of the matched controls (P < 0.04). There was a trend showing TC may have an enhanced effect on older practitioners (P < 0.066), suggesting that TC may slow age related decline in this measure. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate a long-term attentional practice’s effects on a perceptual measure. Longitudinal studies are needed to examine whether TC initiates or is merely correlated with perceptual changes and whether it elicits long-term plasticity in primary sensory cortical maps. Further studies should also assess whether related somatosensory attentional practices (such as Yoga, mindfulness meditation and Qigong) achieve similar effects.
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The specific aim of this course is development of a university dance curriculum that will link post-modern dance with Tai Chi as it is understood and practiced by the masters of the discipline in China – both as a practice (i.e., as a set of physical movements known as “Tai Chi Chuan”) and as a spiritual discipline (i.e., “Tai Chi”) worthy of scholarly study. A central hypothesis of this course is that the teaching of Tai Chi Chuan in this country – both in academic and experiential contexts – has generally missed the essence of the actual Chinese discipline by concentrating more on the specific physical steps than on the deeper mental and spiritual principles from which it derives. A major goal of the course is to restore to the curriculum those important principles of employing certain meditation techniques that have not been taught here. The course will apply two central principles of Tai Chi in the context of dance: first, the goal of awareness, or softness, which is simply movement based on stillness; and second, the goal of relational physics, or the intention and orientation of the individual to the whole.

Mindfulness, or being fully present and attentive to the moment, not only improves the way doctors engage with patients but also mitigates the stresses of clinical practice.

Following E. Goffman's (1967) face threat analysis of social interaction, it was hypothesized that the aggressive, playful content of teasing would vary according to social status and relational satisfaction, personality, role as teaser or target, and gender. These 4 hypotheses were tested in analyses of the teasing among fraternity members (Study 1) and romantic couples (Study 2). Consistent with a face threat analysis of teasing, low-status fraternity members and satisfied romantic partners teased in more prosocial ways, defined by reduced face threat and increased redressive action. Some findings indicate that disagreeable individuals teased in less prosocial ways, consistent with studies of bullying. Targets reported more negative emotion than teasers. Although female and male romantic partners teased each other in similar ways, women found being the target of teasing more aversive, consistent with previous speculation.
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We present a new tensor-based morphometric framework that quantifies cortical shape variations using a local area element. The local area element is computed from the Riemannian metric tensors, which are obtained from the smooth functional parametrization of a cortical mesh. For the smooth parametrization, we have developed a novel weighted spherical harmonic (SPHARM) representation, which generalizes the traditional SPHARM as a special case. For a specific choice of weights, the weighted-SPHARM is shown to be the least squares approximation to the solution of an isotropic heat diffusion on a unit sphere. The main aims of this paper are to present the weighted-SPHARM and to show how it can be used in the tensor-based morphometry. As an illustration, the methodology has been applied in the problem of detecting abnormal cortical regions in the group of high functioning autistic subjects.
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The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the attentional blink-a deficit in identifying the second of two targets (T1 and T2) presented in close succession. This deficit is thought to result from an overinvestment of limited resources in T1 processing. We previously reported that intensive mental training in a style of meditation aimed at reducing elaborate object processing, reduced brain resource allocation to T1, and improved T2 accuracy [Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J., et al. Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PloS Biology, 5, e138, 2007]. Here we report EEG spectral analyses to examine the possibility that this reduction in elaborate T1 processing rendered the system more available to process new target information, as indexed by T2-locked phase variability. Intensive mental training was associated with decreased cross-trial variability in the phase of oscillatory theta activity after successfully detected T2s, in particular, for those individuals who showed the greatest reduction in brain resource allocation to T1. These data implicate theta phase locking in conscious target perception, and suggest that after mental training the cognitive system is more rapidly available to process new target information. Mental training was not associated with changes in the amplitude of T2-induced responses or oscillatory activity before task onset. In combination, these findings illustrate the usefulness of systematic mental training in the study of the human mind by revealing the neural mechanisms that enable the brain to successfully represent target information.
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Although a great deal of attention has been paid to the role of people's own investment in promoting relationship commitment, less research has considered the possible role of the partner's investments. An experiment (Study 1) and two combined daily experience and longitudinal studies (Studies 2 and 3) documented that perceived investments from one partner motivate the other partner to further commit to the relationship. All three studies provided support for gratitude as a mechanism of this effect. These effects held even for individuals who were relatively less satisfied with their relationships. Together, these results suggest that people feel particularly grateful for partners who they perceive to have invested into the relationship, which, in turn, motivates them to further commit to the relationship. Implications for research and theory on gratitude and relationship commitment are discussed.
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<p>Philosophers speak-or, rather, they respond to various forms of speaking that are handed to them. This book by one of our most distinguished philosophers focuses on the communicative aspect of philosophical thought. Peperzak's central focus is addressing: what distinguishes speaking or writing from rumination is their being directed by someone to someone. To be involved in philosophy is to be part of a tradition through which thinkers propose their findings to others, who respond by offering their own appropriations to their interlocutors.After a critical sketch of the conception of modern philosophy, Peperzak presents a succinct analysis of speaking, insisting on the radical distinction between speaking about and speaking to. He enlarges this analysis to history and tries to answer the question whether philosophy also implies a certain form of listening and responding to words of God. Since philosophical speech about persons can neither honor nor reveal their full truth, speaking and thinking about God is even more problematic. Meditation about the archaic Word cannot reach the Speaker unless it turns into prayer, or-as Descartes wrote-into a contemplation that makes the thinker consider, admire, and adore the beauty of God's immense light, as much as the eyesight of my blinded mind can tolerate."Thinking is a work of genuine and original scholarship which responds to the tradition of philosophical thinking with a critique of its language, style, focus, and scope.-Catriona Hanley, Loyola College, Maryland</p>
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Translated by Agurme Dorje. Edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa. Introductory Commentary by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Two replication studies test in Canada a field theory of the effect of consciousness on social change. The exogenous variable is the number of participants in the largest North American group practice of the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program, in Iowa. The first study indicated a significant reduction in violent deaths (homicide, suicide, and motor vehicle fatalities), using both time series intervention analysis and transfer function analysis methods, in weeks following change in the exogenous variable during the period 1983 to 1985. The second study, using time series intervention analysis, gave during and after intervention periods a significant improvement in quality of life on an index composed of the behavioral variables available on a monthly basis for Canada from 1972 to 1986 - homicide, suicide, motor vehicle fatalities, cigarette consumption, and workers' days lost due to strikes. Implications of the findings for theory and social policy are noted briefly.

Several randomised controlled trials suggest that mindfulness-based approaches are helpful in preventing depressive relapse and recurrence, and the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has recommended these interventions for use in the National Health Service. There are good grounds to suggest that mindfulness-based approaches are also helpful with anxiety disorders and a range of chronic physical health problems, and there is much clinical and research interest in applying mindfulness approaches to other populations and problems such as people with personality disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders. We review the UK context for developments in mindfulness-based approaches and set out criteria for mindfulness teacher competence and training steps, as well as some of the challenges and future directions that can be anticipated in ensuring that evidence-based mindfulness approaches are available in health care and other settings.
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