Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mayo Clinic co-sponsors Dalai Lama's Mind and Life Conference

As we recount in The Spiritual Brain, Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and his doctoral student Vince Paquette got a chance to study spiritual experiences in contemplative Carmelite nuns (= Catholic Christians). However, a number of researchers, including Andrew Newberg and colleagues, have studied Eastern meditators, especially Buddhist monks as well.

Generally, such studies show that deep spiritual experiences are complex rather than simple, so there is no one simple explanation like the fabled God gene or spot or glitch that explains them.

One major backer of such studies has been the Dalai Lama, and his most recent Mind and Life conference, (XVI) was held at the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester:
Mind and Life XVI convenes the Dalai Lama, scientists, clinicians, other contemplatives, and an audience of Mayo Clinic professionals to review the current science and clinical applications of meditation and to identify new lines of research on and clinical applications of contemplative practices such as meditation within medicine.

Here's the brochure, which reads in part:
These collaborative studies are beginning to elucidate the extraordinary capacity of the human brain for plasticity that may underlie the development and cultivation of positive human qualities such as compassion. In the course of these investigations, discoveries are occurring that suggest that meditation may have specific beneficial effects for helping patients cope with certain diseases, particularly chronic illnesses, and further indicate that some of the biological processes that underlie some of these diseases may be affected in beneficial ways from the practice of meditation.

Whether sponsored by Buddhists or others, study of the role of contemplation/meditation in helping ease chronic pain and other symptoms is very worthwhile. As our population ages, many people find themselves taking several medications that do not always agree with each other. Where medication can be supplemented by mind-based symptom relief, the person may be healthier and happier, and feel more in control.

Apparently, there is a live Web link, but it does not seem to be accessible as of April 20, 2008.

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