The Meditative Brain

Guided Meditations

Guided Meditation Downloads created by the publishers of The Meditative Brain Blog. Do you think you're "not good" at meditating? We developed a system of isochronic tones, verbal guidance, sheppard tones and white noise to force your brain into a altered meditative state. Access the blog and free audio downloads of the Pali Discourses coming soon.

Filtering by Tag: Buddhism

Evidence for mindfulness treatment for individuals experiencing psychosis

You will often see literature that advises against meditation for individuals who have issues with psychosis/mental instability. Honestly, it made sense to me; things can get very weird while meditating. Why add to mental phenomena that you're unfamiliar with when you're just struggling to cope? However, this article, titled, "Mindfulness groups for distressing voices and paranoia: a replication and randomized feasibility trial" shows that our assumptions could be wrong.

Creative Commons - Shaheen Lakhan

Patients that were diagnosed with "psychotic experiences" were randomized into 2 groups; Those groups being (essentially) no-treatment vs. mindfulness training group (for 5 weeks). Patients who were in the mindfulness training group revealed a "...statistically significant improvement in mindfulness of distressing thoughts and images" (but not voices). The authors go on to state that "contemporary mindfulness-based interventions are safe and therapeutic for people with distressing psychosis"

Mindfulness therapy seems to march on, helping to conquer more and more illnesses. Apparently, even illnesses we thought it would aggravate! What can't it do! Here's a link to the abstract or for those who have access to the article:

I created free audio recordings of the Pali Canon

I created free audio recordings of the Pali Canon

The Pāli Canon contains scriptures from Theravada Buddhism. I find they can be difficult to get through when listening or reading, so I've composed some contextual music to accompany my readings. My hopes are that you find them more engaging than the bare text or readings and perhaps they may get you excited about reading more. I've listened to these recordings over and over during the production process, and found that they tend to "sink in" after multiple listens. So you might want to review them from time to time.

These recordings are FREE to download (Enter $0). Click here for more info:

Running with Mindfulness

I was once a very active person. Entering my 20s and early 30s, this activeness slowly gave way to other interests and obligations. Through all my life however, I've always had a love/hate relationship with running. I'll try to run about 3-4 times a week, but due to laziness and busyness, I usually only get around to it about 2 times per week. I imagine this is a common thread for many. My love of running came from the sense of accomplishment and greater fitness at the days end. The hate aspect, came from the running itself. Those first 5 minutes of running are generally the most painful for me. Soreness, malaise and self-pity are usually at their peak, dwindling off at around 10 minutes, these feelings return at around 20 minutes into the run - I may realize how difficult  it is to run up a hill. I find I am breathing hard and may decide to turn back, due to self-pity and my minor sense of accomplishment. My internal monologue usually proceeds as such, "Why don't I just walk right now? Its much easier! Go ahead, catch your breath...You've done enough for today...Hey! Poor baby!...Common push! But my legs! So tired! Aaaaandddd....I'm done.". As I've been trying to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life, one day I thought to incorporate this mind-state into my run. What success! I found all my self-pity, malaise, soreness and sense of accomplishment faded out completely, leaving me only with my sense of breathing, and my feet on the ground. Even the sense of accomplishment is gone, not giving me the chance to think that I had completed enough for the day. My breath volume also decreases dramatically when I'm at my most mindful and thus diminishes my need for self-pity. A positive feed-back loop for running! How fantastic! Avoiding obstacles or people usually bring me back into a thought-filled state, but quick attention back to my breath usually dispels any negative thoughts. I often feel like I literally run all day.

Well I'm not the first to try this idea out. It turns out the running world has known how great mindfulness is for a while now. Here's a more recent post in Runner's World, that may be helpful to some. I also found some guided running meditation exercises that some may enjoy at Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's site,

You may also enjoy this video, where Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, describes his interpretation of body/mind as it relates to running. I hope this post ends up motivating a few of you to get off the internet and put your shoes on...

Cross-Cultural Cognitive Science and the 5 Aggregates (the illusion of self)


What exactly creates the sense of a permanent self? Buddhists will tell you to turn to the 5 aggregates. Bridging the gap between traditional Buddhist teachings and modern neuroscience is a large hurdle that will obviously be instrumental in advancing the science of meditation. Part of that bridging includes examining the lexicon used in Buddhist texts and comparing that to our contemporary knowledge of consciousness. That being said, what does neuroscience and psychology have to say about aspects of Buddhist teachings? I read an article recently that examines, among several things, the correlates between cognitive science/western philosophy and the five aggregates (Rupa, Vedana, sañña, Samskara and Vijnana). I'll present here a very condensed version of what is discussed in the article in hopes of furthering some understanding for those who don't want to dedicate too much time in dissecting the article. If this interests you, I encourage you to read the article in the link to get a better understanding of what I have presented here.

The Five Aggregates:

1. Rupa

Rupa, the aggreagate of the body's matter or form, also refers to the body's "...mobility, temperature regulation, fluid, and digestive systems, as well as its processes of decay". Some may argue that emotion also plays a part in bodily reactions (ex. rising of blood in embarrassment) while emotional theorists obviously extend the definition of emotion as encompassing the feelings associated with them (pleasant feelings/unpleasant feelings/indifferent feelings).

2. Vedana

This latter aspect of "feeling" correlates with the second aggregate of vedana (feeling or sensation). Psychologists may refer to this aspect as "affective valence". Both the Buddhist and neuroscience perspective describe that vedana or affective valence can be present with or without conscious awareness and in more than just emotional mental states.

3. Sanna

The third aggregate, sanna, (or perception) is the aspect of consciousness that can identify, recall, and report experiences and correlates with what philosopher Ned Block calls “cognitive access". Cognitive access consists of "...having the content of an experience enter working memory so that one can identify and report on this content". Samannāhāra (or bringing together thoughts/stimuli) and manasikāra (or attention) are concepts helping to further refine this aggregate. It roughly corresponds to the alertness hypothesized to be dependent on the thalamus and brainstem (and not requiring selective attention).

4. Samkhara

The fourth aggregate, samkhara (mental formation or volition), can refer to cognitive processes that occurs when committing to a course of action, and the habitual routine that determines how we behave without our awareness. Samkhara corresponds to models of cognitive events such as "sensitive dependence on initial conditions". In other words, small changes in our mental conditions can greatly shift trajectories of thought because of "...self-forming processes arising from non-linear interactions between components at neural and motor levels".

5. Vinnana

Viññāṇa (or consciousness), the fifth and final aggregate can correlate with Block's, "phenomenal consciousness", which is defined as, " a moment of visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, or mental awareness". It can be described as "what it is like" to have an experience. For example, what is it like to see the colour red? I believe these types of mental phenomena are referred to as qualia.

Now that the aggregates have been outlined, how do we bring that all together? The article states it nicely so I'll leave the authors to summarize it best,

"This core or ground-floor level of consciousness depends on a basic kind of alerting function distinct from the higher-level mechanisms of selective attention that come into play in determining what one is conscious of. On this view, the fact that there is a phenomenal feel – the fact that there is something it is like for a subject – depends on the basic alerting function. In contrast, the content of phenomenal consciousness – what it is like for a subject – depends also on how this consciousness is directed to particular objects and properties through selective attention. Put another way, the particular contents of phenomenal consciousness can be seen as modifications or modulations of a basal level of awareness dependent on the alerting function (see also Searle 2000)." (Link to main article) (Davis and Thompson)

Additional references mentioned in the above article:

Block, N. (2007). Consciousness, Accessibility, and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience. In Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30, 481–548. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X07002786.

Block, N. (2008). Consciousness and Cognitive Access. In Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108(3), 289–317. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9264.2008.00247.x.

Searle, John R. (2000). Consciousness. In Annual Review of Neuroscience 23, 557–78. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.23.1.557.

Welcome to The Meditative Brain - Some Interesting Links

How exciting! This blog will be dedicated to my journey through all things (contemplative science, neuroscience, Buddhist and technology related) that I'm doing and finding interesting at the moment. While I'm figuring it out, it will help me organize my thoughts, and maybe it will let my readers discover interesting questions (and hopefully some answers!) of their own. I'll be posting things from all over the web. But for now, I thought I'd post my favourite, most-visited sites! Please share some of your own favourite sites! Or let me know what awesome content I may have been missing on any of my favourite sites....Maybe they'll become yours too:

That's probably good to get started....back to practice....

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