Friday 20 September 2013

Carving out categories of meditation

The distinction between focused awareness (FA) meditation and open monitoring (OM) meditation is well established in the literature on meditation (Lutz et al, 2008).  However, it is unlikely that these categories are inclusive of the many different types of meditation that have been practiced.  Travis and Shear (2010) argue that Transcendental Meditation (TM), which is usually classified as a form of FA, warrants a new category as a form of automatic self-transcending meditation (AST?).  In AST, practitioners develop effortlessness in their meditation and so transcend the specific technique that is employed. TM is not the only such technique; in fact, Travis and Shear argue this kind of transcending is common among experienced practitioners of other meditation techniques.  TM, they claim, provides a very efficient technique for developing the desired automaticity.  

In a commentary on Travis and Shear's article, Josipovic (2010) argues that the distinction that they have drawn points to a more basic difference between forms of meditation that are essentially dualistic and involve a "subject-observing-object" orientation and forms of meditation that involve nondual awareness, open awareness or open presence (OP) (Kozhevnikov et al, 2009; Lutz et al., 2007).  In a more recent article, Josipovic (2011) presents evidence based on MRI studies for the distinctiveness of this type of meditation, which he categorizes as nondual awareness (NDA).

In future posts, I will provide more detailed exposition and commentary on Travis and Shear's categories and on Josipovic's category of NDA.

Josipovic, Z., Dinstein, I., Weber, J., & Heeger, D. J. (2011). Influence of meditation on anti-correlated networks in the brain. Frontiers in human neuroscience5.
Kozhevnikov, M., Louchakova, O., Josipovic, Z., & Motes, M. A. (2009). The enhancement of visuospatial processing efficiency through Buddhist deity meditation. Psychological Science20(5), 645-653.
Lutz, A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness: An introduction. The Cambridge handbook of consciousness19, 497-549.
Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in cognitive sciences12(4), 163-169.
Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions. Consciousness and cognition19(4), 1110-1118.