The new issue of * Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience* includes an article: “Investigating the impact of mindfulness meditation training on working memory: A mathematical modeling approach.” The authors are van Vugt, Marieke K.; & Jha, Amishi P.

“We investigated whether mindfulness training (MT) influences information processing in a working memory task with complex visual stimuli. ”

Mindfulness training did improve memory, apparently becuase the information input was better in people who had a month of mindfulness training.

Presumably this is becuase when we are mindful, we are actually deliberately paying attention, rather than just being grabbed by this or that shiny or loud stimulus. It is possible to train ourselves physically and mentally to perform to our potential, and mindfulness – paying attention – is one way that has payoffs – in this case, better recall.

Now, where did I put my keys??? Guess I was distracted when I came in…

Professor of Psychology Richard J. Davidson is Director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience,
Director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging & Behavior, and
Director of the Center for Investigating Healthy Mind .

Here is an announcement from the U of Wisconsin about a study from his
group that appeared in *Journal of Neuroscience*:

A new study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that people
can train their minds to stay focused.

The study, led by UW-Madison scientist Antoine Lutz, involved subjects
interested in meditation in an effort to see whether voluntary mental
training can affect attention.

Results suggest that attention stability is not a fixed capacity, and
that it can be improved by directed mental training, such as meditation.

(more…)

The new issue of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science’s journal *Science* (Vol. 324. no. 5926) includes an article:
“Neuroscience: A Quest for Compassion – Guided by a passionate leader, a
new research institute hopes to draw lessons from Buddhism to study
altruism and make the world a better place” by Greg Miller.

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

Back in 2000, James Doty was living the high life.

<snip>

At 45, he was planning to retire, donate a large chunk of his fortune to
charity, and divide his time between his three idyllic homes while doing
medical volunteer work in developing countries.

Last month, Doty was standing behind a lectern at Stanford University in
Palo Alto, California, explaining how he’d lost it all in the dot-com bust.

“Within 6 weeks, I was $3 million in the hole,” he said.

<snip>

But he decided, against the advice of friends and family, to follow
through with stock donations that he’d promised before the crash to a
handful of universities and health charities.

(By holding on to the stock until the market recovered, the recipients
ultimately received nearly $30 million.)

Doty says that losing his material wealth made him more reflective.

“Becoming completely detached from something you think you need is an
interesting exercise,” he said, his voice catching with emotion.

“What you realize is … it doesn’t define you as a person.”

His face flushed, he seemed unable to continue.

<snip>

It was an unusually personal speech for an academic conference, but it
was also an unusual conference.

The audience included psychologists, philosophers, economists,
neuroscientists, and theologians who’d gathered for 2 days to inaugurate
a new center at Stanford for the scientific study of compassion.

(more…)

Take some time today, and another day, and another.

Take some time today to find yourself.  Sit quietly. Do nothing. Turn your attention to yourself, inward. Just be. Feel what you feel. Think what you think. Receive the sensations of your body. Drift away, and come back to yourself. Feel into your worries and preoccupations. Feel into your body into those places that get tight with excitement or dread. Feel into your body where sadness condenses like November rain clouds. Hear the voices of your fears and judgments. Feel the release and the peace if that comes. Be with it all. Your fullness and emptiness. Your wisdom or confusion.

Don’t try too hard. Being with yourself has no specific goal. Don’t worry about trying to do something right.  For now, no need to figure it out. Just be.

Take some time today to be quiet and to discover who you are beneath the plans you have woven and the busyness you have committed to.  Beneath the person you want yourself to be. Or that others want you to be. Be yourself for a little while.

Take some time today with yourself. To be.

Brian Grady 25 Mar 09

A Violinist in the Metro

From The Effective Club

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the hat and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Mockingbirds

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive–
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them–
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down–
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning–
whatever it was I said

I would be doing–
I was standing
at the edge of the field–
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors–
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

by Mary Oliver

Stilling the Mind – The Use of Mindfulness in Therapy

Victoria BC, November 29 & 30, 2008
The use of Mindfulness is the core of Hakomi work. In this workshop, you will learn:

* How to induce mindfulness in a therapeutic setting and use it to deepen your work.
* The felt sense of the “expanded self” available in mindfulness.
* Mindfulness as a state of being to quickly create safety and trust with the client and foster a respectful and effective therapeutic relationship.

$225. early registration by November 10th; $260. afterwards

With Beth Falch-Nielsen, RCC, Certified Hakomi Therapist & Trainer

To register, please contact Rae Bilash, 250-361-2045, info@raebilash.ca

This workshop is the first segment of the Professional Development Series.
Presented by The Hakomi Institute of BC.  www.hakomibc.ca