Filmed during Mind & Life Institute’s “Mind and Life XXV: Contemplative Practice and Health: Laboratory Findings and Real World Challenges” on October 20, 2012.
Session Two – Laboratory Research
Life in the Lab: The Shamatha Project as a Model For SPEAKER: Bridging the Lab-Life Gap Clifford Saron
Meditation is often mischaracterized as an effort to achieve a particular state of mind, often free of thoughts, in which one somehow is able to float above everyday concerns. In fact, the basis of contemplative practice is simply to investigate, through disciplined introspection, how patterns of thought and behavior have consequences for one’s own and others’ well-being. Such knowledge is believed to have potentially transformative effects on health, ethical behavior and happiness. But is this true? In this talk I will describe results from The Shamatha Project, a randomized, wait-list controlled, longitudinal study of the effects of intensive (3-months full-time) meditative practice. The data suggest that intensive practice of shamatha (meditative quiescence) and compassionate regard for self and others can positively affect biological variables related to cellular repair (telomerase) and stress (cortisol). It can also improve perception and executive control processes that relate to adaptive psychological function. Further, data, including first-person narratives, also suggest that the training may affect prosocial behaviors more generally, through changes in domains thought to be difficult to alter (e.g., increased sensitivity to the suffering of others, and world view). The rich multidisciplinary and mixed methods approach of the Shamatha Project will be emphasized as a potential model for future research that bridges the lab-real world gap.
MODERATOR: Al Kaszniak
INTERPRETER: Thupten Jinpa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Richard J. Davidson
Bruce S. McEwen
Clifford Saron, PhD
University of California, Davis
Convening Faculty, Fellow, Planning Committee Member