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Lions Roar : September 2005
96 SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 SHAMBHALA SUN Market Place ARTS & CRAFTS/GIFTS BOOKS/TAPES/VIDEOS LIFELONG LEARNING & CAREER PRACTICE SUPPLIES SERVICES & SOCIAL ACTION TRAVEL tion. We would have known what they were like and who it was who got involved. Then, we would follow them for the next twenty-five years. That is the research that needs to be done. “The only problem with the Santa Barbara Institute study is that people will- ing to spend a year in a meditative retreat are not Buddhist virgins. We’ll see what changes over time, and we’ll see what their nervous systems and their emotional lives are like at the start and how they change. We’ll learn a lot from it. But I would have liked to have seen them twenty years earli- er, to find out what they were like before they got involved, and what it was that got them involved. Someday, someone will do that. It takes dedicating a lifetime to it. My mentor did a forty-year study of hyper- tension. It takes a career to do it. People who have been influenced by Buddhism, I would think, would be more willing than others to dedicate the time, since they are less preoccupied with their own cravings for glory and recognition.” ON MARCH 24, 2000, Francisco Varela took the floor in the Dalai Lama’s meet- ing hall to give the last of his many pre- sentations in the dialogue between Buddhists and scientists that he had done so much to get started. On the verge of tears, in his gestures and soft words he implicitly thanked the Dalai Lama for making it possible for him to be there. Several years earlier, when he was dying of cancer, he had been ambivalent about receiving a liver transplant. Suddenly he received a fax from the Dalai Lama encouraging him to prolong his life. Now, although frail, he was back in action, flashing a PowerPoint slide onto the screen. He made the case for Buddhists and neuroscientists to collabo- rate for the good of the human race, a case he had been making for more than twenty years, since a time when there were few people actually called neurosci- entists, a time when people were laugh- ing him out of the building. By the time the proceedings were published, he would be dead, but the movement he helped to start flourishes. © research will go on. Grant applications for research at prominent institutions like the National Institutes of Health, MIT, and Princeton that contain “mindfulness” or “meditation” are no longer scoffed at, and research centers focusing on meditation are likely to spring up. Alan Wallace, a former Buddhist monk who studied with Arthur Zajonc, has been an interpreter and an active par- ticipant in every Mind and Life confer- ence. He is also the author of the anthol- ogy Buddhism and Science and recently founded the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. The institute has picked up on work that Paul Ekman was doing at the behest of the Dalai Lama on “cultivating emotional balance,” and is training schoolteachers, nurses, and other health professionals in “secularized meditation” techniques and other forms of working with emotions. The Mindful Attention Program will study whether meditation can aid people with attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder. Finally, the Shamatha Project will observe people meditating in a special facility over the course of a year. Paul Ekman, who is on the board of the Santa Barbara Institute, is excited about this study, but he says, it’s the “sec- ond-best study.” The best study, he says, would be “to do something like what was done in the famous studies of cardiac disease, where they started with 4,000 people. If we started to look at 4,000 teenagers in the Bay Area, and studied them every few years, inevitably some of them would get involved with medita- B. Alan Wallace, center, with the Dalai Lama, left, and the Seventeenth Karmapa, right, at the Mind and Life meeting in Dharamsala. ©2005THEMINDANDLIFEINSTITUTE