Does humanist meditation exist

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Presentation on secular meditation made at American Humanist Association conference, April 8, 2011

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Does humanist meditation exist

  1. 1. Does Humanist Meditation Exist? Presented by Rick Heller Harvard Humanist Contemplative Group
  2. 2. Humanist Contemplative Group <ul><li>Established 2009 at Harvard </li></ul><ul><li>Inspired by Houston Contemplative </li></ul><ul><li>Have met twice a month since 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>Now weekly </li></ul>
  3. 3. Secular Meditation <ul><li>Derived mostly from Buddhism </li></ul><ul><li>Stripped of supernatural (rebirth, karma) </li></ul><ul><li>Exercise to cultivate attention </li></ul>
  4. 4. Informed by Stephen Batchelor
  5. 5. Meditation Gets Medicalized
  6. 6. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
  7. 7. Why A Part of Humanism? <ul><li>Create community for mutual aid </li></ul><ul><li>Community service projects provide material support. </li></ul><ul><li>Group meditation supports emotional health. </li></ul>
  8. 8. How does meditation work? <ul><li>Daniel Siegel, The Mindful Brain </li></ul><ul><li>Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence </li></ul><ul><li>Stephen Grossberg, Adaptive Resonance Theory </li></ul>
  9. 9. Inhibiting Top-Down Modulation
  10. 10. Focus on Present <ul><li>Inner voice produced by top-down on cortex. Source: “How hallucinations may arise from brain mechanisms of learning, attention, and volition,” Stephen Grossberg, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (2000), 6: 583-592 </li></ul><ul><li>Sensory focus promotes bottom-up over top-down, inhibits inner voice. </li></ul><ul><li>Silences ruminations that cause suffering </li></ul>
  11. 11. Enhances Sense of Wonder <ul><li>Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, U. Michigan psychologists, say nature’s restorative effects due to amplified sensory flow </li></ul><ul><li>Mindfulness can amplify sensory flow, increase novelty, joy, sense of wonder in everyday life </li></ul>
  12. 12. Warnings: <ul><li>Short, 20 min meditations appear safe </li></ul><ul><li>Long silent retreats may kindle mental illness in vulnerable </li></ul><ul><li>PTSD flashbacks in tortured Tibetan monks (loss of top-down inhibition?) </li></ul>
  13. 13. New Directions <ul><li>Applying mindfulness to the environment </li></ul><ul><li>When we learn the present is “enough” </li></ul><ul><li>We can be happy without the hyper-consumption that drives climate change </li></ul><ul><li>SeeingTheRoses.org </li></ul>

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