Updated: Oct 3, 2020
On 26th September, several YAD members, friends of YAD, and volunteers at various Fo Guang Shan temples around North America attended a virtual talk on the science of mindfulness and meditation by SFYAD officer, Winson Yang.
We first delved into the hype of the mindfulness movement and the history of the term, "McMindfulness". Furthermore, we learned that society has adapted mindfulness to suit their needs, such as in hospitals, schools, and prisons. On the other hand, we found out that some have over-claimed the effects of meditation.
We then looked into the physiological benefits of meditation. In short, Winson said that meditation improves the body's physiological responses to stress and disease, such that it gives the body more resources and be prepared for stressful situations. Winson also shared his experiences of meditation during high school exams as it helps him be comfortable with the silence and low temperature of the examination hall.
Then we moved towards the brain and neurological evidence of meditation. Among all the brain regions, Winson highlighted the importance of the anterior cingulate cortex as it is important for awareness and many mental illnesses. He summarizes the utility of neuroscientific evidence from Chan Master Nanyue Huairang, that the brain is like the cart, and the mind is like the ox.
After, we looked further into the driver of meditation, the mind. We looked into how meditation changes our experiences with the environment through fear experience. Winson shared that meditation improves our awareness towards ourselves. He brought up an example that meditation amplifies the experiences before one experiences get angry. More importantly, meditation allows us to experience awareness before conception. Winson also stresses the importance of awareness as it builds insight to our own minds.
In the end, Winson highlighted the importance of Right Mindfulness. Winson gave an analogy of a lamp: mindfulness is like lighting up the lamp and brightening your surroundings. Right mindfulness is like pointing the lamp in the right direction so you won't go off the path in front of you before it is too late. Regardless, meditation or mindfulness should be guided by Right View, Right Thought, Right Action, so that mindfulness will become Right Mindfulness.
The full talk can be viewed here: