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The Scientific Rigor Of Independent Research

The immediate previous post was about ongoing scientific research in the field of Positive Psychology, and the incidental impact it has had in verifying the bona fides of self-care mental fitness tools like mindfulness and meditation. The law of unintended consequences strikes again!

This post is about the intended consequences of important independent research related to meditation, in particular-- research that is catalogued and explained in detail by Daniel Goleman (a seasoned science writer) and Richard Davidson (a neuroscientist and head of the University of Wisconsin Center for Healthy Minds and Director of the brain imaging laboratory at the Waisman Center.

The two men collaborated in writing a tremendous book entitled Altered Traits, which establishes very clearly, the fact that meditation can change our mind, brain and body. Carefully describing scientific work conducted in the field, the Chapter labelled "Mind, Body, And Genome" wraps up with a passage (pp. 188- 190) that caught my attention, and should once-and-for-all dispel the abiding skepticism behind which so many non-believers hide:

"A few years after Richie [as Davidson is known, to friends] got that stinging rejection of his plan to measure genetic changes from one day of meditation, he was invited to give the prestigious Stephen E. Strauss Lecture at the National Institute of Health, a yearly talk in honor of the founder of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

"Richie's topic, "Change Your Brain by Training Your Mind" was controversial, to say the least, among many of the skeptics on the NIH campus. But, come the day of his talk, the august auditorium at the Clinical center was packed, with many scientists watching a live stream from their offices-- perhaps an augury of the changing status of meditation as a topic for serious research.

"Richie's lecture focused on the findings in this area, mainly those from his lab, most of which are described in this book. Richie illuminated the neural, biological and behavioral changes wrought by meditation, and how they might help mainstream health-- for instance, in better emotion regulation and sharpened attention. And Richie walked a very careful line between critical rigor and the genuine conviction that there really is a "there" there: that meditation has beneficial impacts worthy of serious scientific investigation.

"At the end of his talk, despite its staid academic tone, Richie received a standing ovation."'

To all the skeptics, I say-- stuff that in your pipe and smoke it. And if you're still skeptical, read the book!


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