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Summary In addition to philosophical treatments of meditation and consciousness, this category also includes key works in the cognitive science of meditation, especially scientific articles oriented to the general methodological difficulties of empirical work on conscious experience. The philosophy and science of consciousness are of course broad and deeply contentious fields of current philosophical debate. Meditation is likewise a broad notion, applied to diverse practices derived from many different traditions of practice, and arguably lacking any unifying feature that would distinguish properly meditative practices from skill training and character development more generally. This category focuses in particular on those works that address the effects of attention training on consciousness experience, including self-consciousness, emotional awareness, and qualities of experience such as stability, clarity, and effortless awareness.
Key works Lutz et al 2006 offer a groundbreaking review and manifesto for research on meditation and consciousness in The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. Lutz, Dunne, and Davidson are leading figures in the emerging field of contemplative neuroscience, and are also co-authors on an influential paper (Lutz et al 2008) proposing a distinction between Focused Attention and Open Monitoring forms of meditative practice. Travis & Shear 2010 propose that while these two categories may be adequate for understanding many meditative practices in Buddhist and other traditions, a third category "automatic self-transcending" more adequately describes certain meditative practices in the Vedic and Chinese traditions. In response, Josipovic 2010 suggests a fundamental distinction between dualistic and non-dual forms of meditation practice. In a special issue of Contemporary Buddhism devoted to the topic, Dunne 2011 argues that contemporary mindfulness meditation is best understood as falling on the non-dual side of this distinction. Following the lead of other authors in that special issue (e.g. Bodhi 2011Gethin 2011, Dreyfus 2011), Davis & Thompson 2013 offer a more classical perspective on mindfulness practice, relating Theravada Buddhist textual understandings to recent empirical research, with particular emphasis on relations to philosophical debates over the nature of consciousness and mind.
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  1. L. I. Aftanas & S. A. Golosheikin (2003). Changes in Cortical Activity in Altered States of Consciousness: The Study of Meditation by High-Resolution EEG. Human Physiology 29 (2):143-151.
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  2. C. M. Anderson (2000). From Molecules to Mindfulness: How Vertically Convergent Fractal Time Fluctuations Unify Cognition and Emotion. Consciousness and Emotion 1 (2):193-226.
    Fractal time fluctuations of the spectral “1/f” form are universal in natural self-organizing systems. Neurobiology is uniquely infused with fractal fluctuations in the form of statistically self-similar clusters or bursts on all levels of description from molecular events such as protein chain fluctuations, ion channel currents and synaptic processes to the behaviors of neural ensembles or the collective behavior of Internet users. It is the thesis of this essay that the brain self-organizes via a vertical collation of these spontaneous events (...)
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  3. Lutz Antoine, J. Brefczynski-Lewis, T. Johnstone & R. J. Davidson, Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise.
    PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.
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  4. Noritoshi Aramaki (2007). A Critique of Whitehead in Light of the Buddhist Distinction of theTwo-Truth Doctrine. Process Studies 36 (2):294-305.
    We need to distinguish systematically what is culturally creative from the degenerative forces that now rule the world. Whitehead comes closest to defining the creative when he identifies it as freedom on the human side and peace on the divine. Buddhist meditation can go deeper to realize the zero-dimension of the communal life-as-such, which corresponds to Whiteheadean freedom-and-peace as the ultimate wellspring of cultural creativity.
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  5. Alarik T. Arenander & Frederick T. Travis (2004). Brain Patterns of Self-Awareness. In Bernard D. Beitman & Jyotsna Nair (eds.), Self-Awareness Deficits in Psychiatric Patients: Neurobiology, Assessment, and Treatment. W.W. Norton & Co. 112-126.
  6. R. P. Atkinson & H. Earl (1996). Enhanced Vigilance in Guided Meditation: Implications of Altered Consciousness. In Stuart R. Hameroff, Alfred W. Kaszniak & A. C. Scott (eds.), Toward a Science of Consciousness. MIT Press.
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  7. James H. Austin (2012). Meditating Selflessly at the Dawn of a New Millennium. Contemporary Buddhism 13 (1):61-81.
    Increasingly open to question are the efficacies and timing of some traditional, conventional and current meditative techniques. Recent brain research emphasizes that it is important to distinguish between the Self-centred (egocentric) and other-centred (allocentric) streams of processing. It also proves useful to view as complementary the assets of the concentrative and receptive styles of meditation, especially when one's practices cultivate an appropriate balance between their top-down and bottom-up systems of attentive processing. From this neural perspective, Part I ventures a small (...)
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  8. James H. Austin (2010). The Thalmic Gatteway. In Brian Bruya (ed.), Effortless Attention: A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action. MIT Press.
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  9. James H. Austin (2000). Consciousness Evolves When the Self Dissolves. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7 (11-12):209-230.
  10. James H. Austin (1998). Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness. MIT Press.
    The book uses Zen Buddhism as the opening wedge for an extraordinarily wide-ranging exploration of consciousness.
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  11. Imants Barušs (2003). Transcendence. In Imants Baruss (ed.), Alterations of Consciousness: An Empirical Analysis for Social Scientists. American Psychological Association. 187-210.
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  12. Brian Bruya (ed.) (2010). Effortless Attention: A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action. MIT Press.
    This is the first book to explore the cognitive science of effortless attention and action. Attention and action are generally understood to require effort, and the expectation is that under normal circumstances effort increases to meet rising demand. Sometimes, however, attention and action seem to flow effortlessly despite high demand. Effortless attention and action have been documented across a range of normal activities--from rock climbing to chess playing--and yet fundamental questions about the cognitive science of effortlessness have gone largely unasked. (...)
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  13. Brian Bruya (2010). Introduction: Toward a Theory of Attention That Includes Effortless Attention. In , Effortless Attention: A New Perspective in the Cognitive Science of Attention and Action. MIT Press.
    In this Introduction, I identify seven discrete aspects of attention brought to the fore by by considering the phenomenon of effortless attention: effort, decision-making, action syntax, agency, automaticity, expertise, and mental training. For each, I provide an overview of recent research, identify challenges to or gaps in current attention theory with respect to it, consider how attention theory can be advanced by including current research, and explain how relevant chapters of this volume offer such advances.
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  14. Lorenza S. Colzato & Jonathan A. Silk (2010). Imag(in)Ing the Buddhist Brain: Editorial Introduction. Zygon 45 (3):591-595.
    Buddhism has captured the imagination of many in the modern (Western) world. Recently, scientists have seemed eager to discover whether claims about Buddhist meditation can be verified experimentally. Brain research is beginning to produce concrete evidence that mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain and allow practitioners to achieve different levels of awareness, as measurable for instance in reaction times to stimuli. The goal of this section of articles in Zygon is to address recent developments (...)
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  15. Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, Zachary Irving & Lu Teng, Mind and Attention in Indian Philosophy: Workshop Report, Question Two.
    This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, Zachary Irving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: How can we train our attention, and what are the benefits of doing so?
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  16. Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, Zachary Irving & Lu Teng, Mind and Attention in Indian Philosophy: Workshop Report, Question Three.
    This is an excerpt from a report on the workshop on mind and attention in Indian philosophy at Harvard University, on September 21st and 22nd, 2013, written by Kevin Connolly, Jennifer Corns, Nilanjan Das, Zachary Irving, and Lu Teng, and available at http://networksensoryresearch.utoronto.ca/Events_%26_Discussion.html This portion of the report explores the question: Can meditation give us moral knowledge?
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  17. Barry F. Dainton (2002). The Gaze of Consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (2):31-48.
    According to one influential view, consciousness has an awareness– content structure: any experience consists of the awareness of some content. I focus on one version of this dualism, and argue that it should be rejected. My principal argument is directed at the status of the supposed contents of aware- ness; I argue that neither of the principal options is tenable, albeit for different reasons. Although the doctrine in question may seem to be supported by the find- ings of researchers in (...)
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  18. Richard J. Davidson, Mental Training Affects Distribution of Limited Brain Resources.
    The information processing capacity of the human mind is limited, as is evidenced by the so-called ‘‘attentional-blink’’ deficit: When two targets (T1 and T2) embedded in a rapid stream of events are presented in close temporal proximity, the second target is often not seen. This deficit is believed to result from competition between the two targets for limited attentional resources. Here we show, using performance in an attentional-blink task and scalp-recorded brain potentials, that meditation, or mental training, affects the distribution (...)
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  19. Jake H. Davis & Evan Thompson (2013). From the Five Aggregates to Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a Cross-Cultural Cognitive Science. In Steven M. Emmanuel (ed.), A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons.
    Buddhism originated and developed in an Indian cultural context that featured many first-person practices for producing and exploring states of consciousness through the systematic training of attention. In contrast, the dominant methods of investigating the mind in Western cognitive science have emphasized third-person observation of the brain and behavior. In this chapter, we explore how these two different projects might prove mutually beneficial. We lay the groundwork for a cross-cultural cognitive science by using one traditional Buddhist model of the mind (...)
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  20. Jake H. Davis & David R. Vago (2013). Can Enlightenment Be Traced to Specific Neural Correlates, Cognition, or Behavior? No, and (a Qualified) Yes. Frontiers in Psychology 4.
    Can enlightenment be traced to specific neural correlates, cognition, or behavior? No, and (a qualified) Yes.
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  21. Leesa S. Davis (2010). Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism: Deconstructive Modes of Spiritual Inquiry. Continuum.
    Introduction: Experiential deconstructive inquiry -- Foundational philosophies and spiritual methods -- Non-duality in Advaita Vedanta and Zen Buddhism -- Ontological differences and non-duality -- Meditative inquiry, questioning, and dialoguing as a means to spiritual insight -- The undoing or deconstruction of dualistic conceptions -- Advaita Vedanta : philosophical foundations and deconstructive strategies -- Sources of the tradition -- Upaniads that art thou (Tat Tvam Asi) -- Gauapda (c.7th century) : no bondage, no liberation -- Aakara (c.7th-8th century) : there is (...)
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  22. Florin Deleanu (2010). Agnostic Meditations on Buddhist Meditation. Zygon 45 (3):605-626.
    I first attempt a taxonomy of meditation in traditional Indian Buddhism. Based on the main psychological or somatic function at which the meditative effort is directed, the following classes can be distinguished: (1) emotion-centered meditation (coinciding with the traditional samatha approach); (2) consciousness-centered meditation (with two subclasses: consciousness reduction/elimination and ideation obliteration); (3) reflection-centered meditation (with two subtypes: morality-directed reflection and reality-directed observation, the latter corresponding to the vipassanā method); (4) visualization-centered meditation; and (5) physiology-centered meditation. In the second part (...)
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  23. Yair Dor-Ziderman, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, Joseph Glicksohn & Abraham Goldstein (2013). Mindfulness-Induced Selflessness: A MEG Neurophenomenological Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7 (582).
    Contemporary philosophical and neurocognitive studies of the self have dissociated two distinct types of self-awareness: a ’narrative’ self-awareness (NS) weaving together episodic memory, future planning and self-evaluation into a coherent self-narrative and identity, and a ’minimal’ self-awareness (MS) focused on present momentary experience and closely tied to the sense of agency and ownership. Long-term Buddhist meditation practice aims at realization of a ’selfless’ mode of awareness (SL), where identification with a static sense of self is replaced by identification with the (...)
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  24. Georges Dreyfus (2011). Is Mindfulness Present-Centred and Non-Judgmental? A Discussion of the Cognitive Dimensions of Mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1):41--54.
  25. John Dunne (2011). Toward an Understanding of Non-Dual Mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1):71--88.
    The aim of this article is to explore an approach to ?mindfulness? that lies outside of the usual Buddhist mainstream. This approach adopts a ?non-dual? stance to meditation practice, and based on my limited experience and training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, this non-dual notion of ?mindfulness? seems an especially appropriate point of comparison between Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Buddhism. That comparison itself will not be the focus here?given my own inexpertise and lack of clinical experience, it would be (...)
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  26. John D. Dunne (2006). Realizing the Unreal: Dharmakīrti's Theory of Yogic Perception. [REVIEW] Journal of Indian Philosophy 34 (6):497-519.
    The Buddhist epistemologist Dharmakīrti (fl. ca. 7th century C.E.) developed a theory of yogic perception that achieved much influence among Buddhist thinkers in India and Tibet. His theory includes an odd problem: on Dharmakīrti’s view, many of the paradigmatic objects of the adept’s meditations do not really exist. How can one cultivate a meditative perception of the nonexistent? This ontological difficulty stems from Dharmakīrti’s decision to construe the Four Noble Truths as the paradigmatic objects of yogic perception. For him, this (...)
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  27. Wolfgang Fasching (2008). Consciousness, Self-Consciousness, and Meditation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7 (4):463-483.
    Many spiritual traditions employ certain mental techniques (meditation) which consist in inhibiting mental activity whilst nonetheless remaining fully conscious, which is supposed to lead to a realisation of one’s own true nature prior to habitual self-substantialisation. In this paper I propose that this practice can be understood as a special means of becoming aware of consciousness itself as such. To explain this claim I conduct some phenomenologically oriented considerations about the nature of consciousness qua presence and the problem of self-presence (...)
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  28. David Fontana (2007). Meditation. In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
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  29. R. Forman (1998). What Does Mysticism Have to Teach Us About Consciousness? In Stuart R. Hameroff, Alfred W. Kaszniak & A. C. Scott (eds.), Toward a Science of Consciousness. MIT Press. 185-201.
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  30. Jay L. Garfield, Mindfulness and Ethics: Attention, Virtue and Perfection.
    Mindfulness is regarded by all scholars and practitioners of all Buddhist traditions as essential not only for the development of insight, but also for the cultivation and maintenance of ethical discipline. The English term denotes the joint operation of what are regarded in Buddhist philosophy of mind as two cognitive functions: sati/smṛti/dran pa, which we might translate as attention in this context (although the semantic range of these terms also encompasses memory or recollection) and sampajañña/samprajanya /shes bzhin , which I (...)
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  31. Kathleen Garrison, Scheinost A., Worhunsky Dustin, D. Patrick, Hani Elwafi, Thornhill M., A. Thomas, Evan Thompson, Clifford Saron, Gaëlle Desbordes, Hedy Kober, Michelle Hampson, Jeremy Gray, Constable R., Papademetris R. Todd & Brewer Xenophon (2013). Real-Time fMRI Links Subjective Experience with Brain Activity During Focused Attention. Neuroimage 81:110--118.
  32. Kathleen Garrison, Juan Santoyo, Jake Davis, Thomas Thornhill, Catherine Kerr & Judson Brewer (2013). Effortless Awareness: Using Real Time Neurofeedback to Investigate Correlates of Posterior Cingulate Cortex Activity in Meditators' Self-Report. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7.
    Neurophenomenological studies seek to utilize first-person self-report to elucidate cognitive processes related to physiological data. Grounded theory offers an approach to the qualitative analysis of self-report, whereby theoretical constructs are derived from empirical data. Here we used grounded theory methodology to assess how the first-person experience of meditation relates to neural activity in a core region of the default mode network –the posterior cingulate cortex. We analyzed first-person data consisting of meditators’ accounts of their subjective experience during runs of a (...)
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  33. C. Genoud (2009). On the Cultivation of Presence in Buddhist Meditation. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 16 10 (12):117--128.
    This article is an exploration of the nature of consciousness. The author draws in depth from works of philosophy, psychology, literature, and meditation practice to examine a subject so subtle that we may overlook it. Consciousness, in the Buddhist tradition, cannot be held as merely another object of knowledge, a thing to be known, because it is not located in time or in space. Some modern philosophers seem to arrive at the same conclusion. Consciousness cannot be discovered through common scientific (...)
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  34. Rupert Gethin (2011). On Some Definitions of Mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism 12 (1):263--279.
    The Buddhist technical term was first translated as ?mindfulness? by T.W. Rhys Davids in 1881. Since then various authors, including Rhys Davids, have attempted definitions of what precisely is meant by mindfulness. Initially these were based on readings and interpretations of ancient Buddhist texts. Beginning in the 1950s some definitions of mindfulness became more informed by the actual practice of meditation. In particular, Nyanaponika's definition appears to have had significant influence on the definition of mindfulness adopted by those who developed (...)
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  35. Richard Gilpin (2008). The Use of Theravada Buddhist Practices and Perspectives in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Contemporary Buddhism 9 (2):227-251.
    This study explores and assesses the nature and practice of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) from the perspective of Therav?da Buddhism. It is particularly concerned with how both models of training understand and apply ?mindfulness?. The approach here is, firstly, to examine how the Therav?da understands and employs mindfulness and, secondly, to explore, and more accurately contextualize, the work of MBCT. The evaluation of MBCT in terms of the Therav?da suggests the former has both a strong affinity with, as well as (...)
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  36. Daniel Goleman (ed.) (2003). Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health. Shambhala.
    Can the mind heal the body? The Buddhist tradition says yes--and now many Western scientists are beginning to agree. Healing Emotions is the record of an extraordinary series of encounters between the Dalai Lama and prominent Western psychologists, physicians, and meditation teachers that sheds new light on the mind-body connection. Topics include: compassion as medicine; the nature of consciousness; self-esteem; and the meeting points of mind, body, and spirit. This edition contains a new foreword by the editor.
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  37. Daniel Goleman (1976). Meditation and Consciousness: An Asian Approach to Mental Health. American Journal of Psychotherapy 30:41-54.
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  38. Paul J. Griffiths (1986). On Being Mindless: Buddhist Meditation And The Mind-Body Problem. La Salle: Open Court.
  39. Herbert V. Guenther (1992). Meditation Differently, Phenomenological-Psychological Aspects of Tibetan Buddhist (Mahāmudrā and Snying-Thig) Practices From Original Tibetan Sources. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
    Concept of meditation in Tibetan Buddhism. - Includes bibliographical references (p. [193]-198). - Includes indexes.
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  40. Fred J. Hanna (2000). Dissoving the Center: Streamlining the Mind and Dismantling the Self. In Tobin Hart, Peter L. Nelson & Kaisa Puhakka (eds.), Transpersonal Knowing: Exploring the Horizon of Consciousness. State University of New York Press. 113-146.
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  41. Peter Harvey (1993). The Mind-Body Relationship in Pali Buddhism: A Philosophical Investigation. Asian Philosophy 3 (1):29 – 41.
    Abstract The Suttas indicate physical conditions for success in meditation, and also acceptance of a not?Self life?principle (primarily viññana) which is (usually) dependent on the mortal physical body. In the Abhidhamma and commentaries, the physical acts on the mental through the senses and through the ?basis? for mind?organ and mind?consciousness, which came to be seen as the ?heart?basis?. Mind acts on the body through two ?intimations?: fleeting modulations in the primary physical elements. Various forms of r?pa are also said to (...)
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  42. Holley S. Hodgins & Kathryn C. Adair (2010). Attentional Processes and Meditation. Consciousness and Cognition 19 (4):872--878.
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  43. Frank J. Hoffman (2001). Non-Dual Awareness and Logic. Asian Philosophy 11 (2):125 – 132.
    The thesis of this paper is that the question of whether and how statements of the form 'p and not-p' can have religious meaning in Buddhism can be answered in the affirmative and how in terms of a movement from pre-meditative to meditative state to a post-meditative state in life. The paper focuses on the Diamond Sutra in light of Shigenori Nagatomo's study (Asian Philosophy Vol. 10, No. 3, 2000) and advances an additional line of inquiry. This view emphasises the (...)
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  44. N. Humphrey (2000). One Self: A Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness. Social Research 67 (4):1059-1066.
    What unites the many selves that constitute the human mind? How is the self-binding problem solved? I argue that separate selves come to belong together as one Self as a result of their dynamic participation in creating a single life, rather as the members of an orchestra come to belong together as a result of their jointly creating a single work of music.
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  45. Nicholas Humphrey, One Self: A Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness. Social Research, 67, No. 4, 32-39, 2000.
    I am looking at my baby son, as he thrashes around in his crib, two arms flailing, hands grasping randomly, legs kicking the air, head and eyes turning this way and that, a smile followed by a grimace crossing his face. . . And I’m wondering: what is it like to be him? What is he feeling now? What kind of experience is he having of himself?
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  46. Ronald R. Irwin (2000). Meditation and the Evolution of Consciousness: Theoretical and Practical Solutions to Midlife Angst. In Melvin E. Miller & Alan N. West (eds.), Spirituality, Ethics, and Relationship in Adulthood: Clinical and Theoretical Explorations. Psychosocial Press. 283-305.
  47. R. Jevning (1999). Pure Consciousness: Scientific Exploration of Meditation Techniques. Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (2-3):189-210(22).
    This paper will explore the integration of elements of traditional Eastern meditative procedures with modern objective scientific methodologies. In contrast to the introspective methods usually relied on in modern Western treatments of consciousness, the Eastern procedures in question have the possible advantage of being the products of centuries of effort to develop systematic first-person exploratory methodologies. But since these methodologies developed outside of the context of our traditions of science, their reported results of course cannot simply be taken at face (...)
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  48. Zoran Josipovic (2010). Duality and Nonduality in Meditation Research☆. Consciousness and Cognition 19 (4):1119-1121.
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  49. Zoran Josipovic, Neural Correlates of Nondual Awareness.
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  50. Samten Gyaltsen Karmay (2007). The Great Perfection (Rdzogs Chen): A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Brill.
    The Great Perfection (rDzogs Chen in Tibetan) is a philosophical and meditative teaching.
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