A Mindful Halloween and Day of the Dead


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


For death,
Now I know, is that first breath
Which our souls draw when we enter
Life, which is of all life center.

~Edwin Arnold


The beginning of the month of November is marked by a variety of celebrations throughout the world including the Day of the Dead and Halloween, the night before All Souls Day. Halloween was actually a pagan holiday called Samhain that was coopted by the Christians. But, they are all celebrations of those who have passed away, a celebration of our ancestors, a celebration of the dead. This might seem a bit macabre to be celebrating death. And, indeed, the macabre is an integral part of the celebration.


It does seem to be strange, however, that death is celebrated when it is in fact the second most frequent fear. So why do we celebrate? Perhaps Mark Twain put his finger on it “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. The celebration is not really about death. It’s actually a celebration of life. Death reminds us that our lives are limited. We celebrate to help us experience life while we still have it. As pointed out by Angelina JolieThere’s something about death that is comforting. The thought that you could die tomorrow frees you to appreciate your life now.


These ideas are well stated in the Zen Evening Gatha that is recited every evening in Buddhist monasteries.

Let me respectfully remind you,
life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive to awaken.
Awaken.  Take heed.
Do not squander your life.


Rather than not squandering our lives, many of us live in a state of unaware numbness, going through the motions of life, but not really living. Focusing on an anticipated happiness in the future or ruminating about past issues. We seem to not comprehend that the essence of life is the present moment. That is all life is, a long-lasting present moment. It is the only time that we can actually live. So, if we do not relish what is in the present moment, we might as well already be dead. This is where contemplative practice and mindfulness comes in. These practices help us to learn to live fully in the present, experiencing what life has to offer.


Somehow, in our everyday lives we see the present as unsatisfactory or boring. But, nothing could be further from the truth. If we truly do focus on the present we are often surprised by its richness. Even focusing on something simple like our breathing, really paying attention to it in all its exquisite detail, we can see that this simple experience is replete with beauty and nuance. We can feel the delicious sensations of our body in action. We can see how remarkable this simple process really is. We can see how essential it is to our very existence, yet we take it for granted. And that is only breathing. There is so much in the present moment that when we carefully look at it we’re amazed as to how we could ever have missed it. Life is a miracle. Life is special. Only by being mindful can we deeply immerse in the wonder of life.


Halloween and the Day of the Dead is also an opportunity to recognize our ancestors without whom we would not exist. It’s a time to view how interconnected we are to all of humanity. All one has to do is follow the family tree back a few generations to see how widespread our connections are throughout time, culture, religion, race, etc. If we go very far back, we can see that everyone is connected to everyone else somewhere in our ancestry. Also, by looking at our ancestors and understanding what they have contributed to our existence, we can see how important it is for us to commit to future generations to promote understanding, peace, and prosperity for the future.


But what about death itself, should we be as afraid of it as we are? It is helpful to remember that life is bounded by birth and death. Do we fear the state we were in prior to birth? In fact, many psychologists think of birth, the entry into life, as a traumatic event. It involves leaving a very peaceful state for the chaos of life, what William James called the “blooming, buzzing confusion”. So, maybe we should fear birth and not fear death which may simply return us to the peaceful prenatal state. Perhaps we should look forward to it.


The important thing and the message of Halloween and the Day of the Dead is to experience this precious time of life that we’ve been given. Indeed, many have suggested that the entire purpose of life is simply to experience it. So celebrate life and don’t worry about death. Enjoy Halloween and the Day of the Dead in the present moment. Stay in the present moment and be truly alive, celebrate every experience, and when death comes welcome it having experienced life to its fullest.


 “On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. Instead of the sympathy, the friendly union, of life and death so apparent in Nature, we are taught that death is an accident, a deplorable punishment for the oldest sin, the arch-enemy of life, etc…. But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory for, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.” ~John Muir


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Self is a verb


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“The falling away of self is the most significant, bewildering, and liberating spiritual event in one’s entire life, and perhaps the least understood.” – Adyashanti


 “What is fascinating is that in the western psychological view, the “self” or the “executive function” is actually a process and not really a thing. It waxes and wanes all the time, goes into the foreground and background of awareness depending on how much we need it, disappears when we sleep, is not the same as it was when we were little, much less the same as it was last year, and is even subtly different than it was last week.” – Ron Crouch


Most people strongly believe that they have a self, an ego. Reflecting this, our language is replete with concepts that contain self; oneself, myself, himself, herself, ourselves, self-concept, self-esteem, self-love, self-regard, selfless, selfish, selfhood, selfie, etc. But, particularly note the term self-concept. It directly states that self is a concept. It is not a thing. It is an idea.  This is important, as most of us think that there is a thing that is the self, when, in fact, there is not. A concept is a way to summarize a set of phenomena that appear to have common properties, such as fruit, or more abstractly, attention. But, note there is not a single entity that is fruit. It is a set of things that are grouped together by common biological factors. The idea of attention is not a thing. Rather it refers to a set of processes. This is also true of the concept of self.


A simple self-exploration can verify this. Spend some time looking within to find the self, to find anything that comprises the self. You will discover that you can’t find it. That’s because it’s a concept not a thing. Now quiet the mind for a brief time, even if for only a few seconds, and you’ll note that when you’ve eliminated thinking, the self disappears. In other words, self only appears when you’re thinking about it. This is clear evidence that self is a concept and is created by thought. In other words, there’s a process involving thought that creates a self. This is a verb. We are not a self, we are producing a self, we are selfing!


As another exercise, write down a set of responses to “I am ______.” You may have answered, a man, an engineer, an academic, a father, a cyclist, a Buddhist, etc. In other words, you would list of a set of labels that you believe are essential to your idea of yourself. These labels come from our minds summarization and categorization of a variety of experiences and memories. Thinking now goes to work using these labels in its construction of the self. Note these are not the self itself, but rather the remembered characteristics of the individual. These are now employed in producing the self, in selfing.


Webster’s dictionary defines self as:

“1a :  the entire person of an individual

b :  the realization or embodiment of an abstraction

2a (1) :  an individual’s typical character or behavior

(2) :  an individual’s temporary behavior or character

  b :  a person in prime condition

3:  the union of elements (as body, emotions, thoughts, and sensations) that constitute the individuality and identity of a person”

This definition suggests that the “self” consists of a set of components including physiology, behaviors, personality, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, memories, etc. It is not a single thing rather it’s a set of things that in their entirety are considered a self. The self itself is thought to define one’s individuality. But, note that the definition indicates that self is an embodiment of an abstraction. In other words, the dictionary defines self as a concept, not a thing.


Each of these components of a self are themselves processes. To create a self, we recall memories, stories about us, that exemplify our nature. The active process of memory retrieval and review is part of selfing. We incorporate beliefs about ourselves in the self. These include ideas such as outgoing, intelligent, unlovable, overweight, etc. But these beliefs are produced by thoughts that are fueled by memories and prior learning. They are an active construction, a part of selfing. We include our emotions as components of our constructed selves. These include happy, afraid, loving, etc. But emotions are changeable moment to moment. We only include what we consider stable patterns of emotions. But this requires memory and thought, reflecting on our past emotional states, and is thus an active construction, part of selfing.


We also include what we consider our personalities in our constructed self. Personality is itself a constructed concept. There is no single entity that comprises a personality. Personality is thought to be composed of a set of relatively permanent and stable characteristics that mark our individuality, such as the so-called “Big Five” personality traits, openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. But, once again these are not things, but concepts. They are actually constructed from consistencies of the answers to a set of standardized questions such as I am interested in people, I think a lot before I speak or act, I get stressed out easily, I pay attention to details, I have a vivid imagination. These all refer to the “I” (self) and refer to how you act or feel. But, note that these questions cannot be answered without reference to our memories of how we’ve acted or felt in the past. So, we address each question by constructing an answer based upon a review of memories, an active process. Hence, our personality is also constructed. It also is a process. If self is in part composed of personality then it also is constructed, part of selfing.


We think of the body as our self, with the skin physically separating us from the outside world and others. But is this actually true? The body is constantly changing. Every cell in the body is different than it was a few years ago. The body actually changes from moment to moment. It is constantly incorporating things from the outside, air, food, and water and contributing to things outside through breathing, sweating, and elimination. Hence, the body is not constant and it is not something separate from the environment. So, how can something so fluid and impermanent be a self? It is only our ideas and perceptions and beliefs about our bodies that are actually what we think of as a self. It’s a construction produced by thought. It is just one more component of selfing.


Buddhism teaches that there is no self. This is an unfortunate term as it implies no existence. A good example of what is really meant is contained in this story. A student came to his Zen teacher stating that he had a breakthrough. That he experienced no self. The teacher raised up his stick and hit him on the back of the head, then asked “now tell me who felt that?” The story emphasizes that no self does not mean that there isn’t an experiencing entity. Rather, that there is no enduring thing that is the self. The Buddha refused to answer whether a self-existed or not. He taught that we should not dwell on thoughts like these but rather to view everything as impermanent, arising and passing away. He taught that we should then look at the self in this way and investigate where this perception of self originates. So, the Buddha taught that what is important is to not think about a self but rather investigate the process of selfing.


The great Zen master Dogen wrote “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by the 10,000 things.” This well states the view that we need to investigate the process of selfing, study the self, but then realize that it’s just a lived experience and not a permanent thing; forget it, and stop looking at the world through a lens of self. There is indeed a lived experience. It would be a mistake to deny it. But, what the idea of no self points to is that it is only an impermanent experience, nothing more, nothing less.


So, self is simply a natural process of the mind. It is constructed. A solid self is an illusion. The idea of self may be useful in helping us navigate everyday existence, particularly during development, but has no true existence. We can’t really eliminate the idea of self as it is a lived experience. But, we can recognize it for what it is, a process and not an entity, and no longer make it central to our existence. Getting it out of the center is helpful as it destroys many delusions. That is the key to the teaching. Let self be experienced, see it for what it is, a process, and give it no dominant place in our lives. Let what is experienced in the present moment define what we are.


“Everything we think has self-nature, actually doesn’t. Buddha called it anatta or no-self where nothing has self-nature. That means, you and I and all of us are not really this thing called a self, or me. This is strange because it’s almost impossible for the Western mind or the human mind to think of itself in any terms other than self. The mind doesn’t even know where to begin how to do this. But, with deep insight this orientation toward self, collapses. We see that—wow—none of this has self-nature in it!” – Adyashanti


“Suffering exists, but no sufferer can be found.

Actions exist, but no doer of actions is there.

Nirvana exists, but no one who enters it.

The Path exists, but no traveler can be seen.” – Visuddimagga, 513
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Improve Knee Osteoarthritis with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“adults with knee osteoarthritis-—the most common joint disease in midlife—saw up to three times greater improvement in both pain and joint function from biweekly hour-long tai chi sessions, compared with those who attended stretching and wellness classes. The flowing, meditative movements tone the muscles surrounding joints, enhance body awareness to reduce risk of injury, and improve alignment.” – Natalie Gingerich


Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis. It produces pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with about 43% of arthritis sufferers limited in mobility and about a third having limitations that affect their ability to perform their work. In the U.S., osteoarthritis affects 14% of adults over 25 years of age and 34% of those over 65.


Knee osteoarthritis is not localized to the cartilage alone but involves the whole joint, including articular cartilage, meniscus, ligament, and peri-articular muscle. It is painful and disabling. While age is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis of the knee, young people are not immune. It effects 5% of adults over 25 years of age and 12% of those over 65. Its causes are varied including, hereditary, injury including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, infection, or from being overweight.  There are no cures for knee osteoarthritis. Treatments are primarily symptomatic, including weight loss, exercise, braces, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, arthroscopic knee surgery, or even knee replacement.


Gentle movements of the joints with exercise appears to be helpful in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. This suggests that alternative and complementary practices that involve gentle knee movements may be useful in for treatment. Indeed, yoga practice has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis and mind-body practices in general have been shown to reduce the gene expressions that underlie the inflammatory response which contribute to arthritis. So, it would seem reasonable to look further into the effectiveness of alternative and complementary practices, such as Tai Chi, in treating knee osteoarthritis.


In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi Chuan on Improving Mind-Body Health for Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Chang and colleagues review the published research literature (11 articles) on the effects of Tai Chi training on the physical and mental issues that accompany knee osteoarthritis. They found that Tai Chi practice significantly improved the physical symptoms of knee osteoarthritis including reduced perceived pain and stiffness, and lessened fear of falling, increased quadriceps muscle strength, enhanced lower extremity strength, improved walking, stair climbing, sitting to standing, and faster getting up and moving.


The mechanism of action for Tai Chi’s effects are not known. But, it could be the gentle slow movements of the knee or the anti-inflammatory effects of Tai Chi that may be responsible. The findings of this meta-analysis suggest that Tai Chi is an effective treatment for the physical effects of knee osteoarthritis. Since Tai Chi is safe, with few, if any, adverse effects, a gentle exercise appropriate for aging individuals, and inexpensive as it can easily be performed at home, and can be readily scaled for large groups without the necessary presence of a therapist, it is almost an ideal treatment.


So, improve knee osteoarthritis with tai chi.


“Tai Chi may be an especially applicable treatment for older adults…The physical component provides exercise consistent with current recommendations…range of motion, flexibility, muscle conditioning and aerobic cardiovascular exercise…the mental component could address the chronic pain state through effects on psychological well-being, life satisfaction, and perceptions of health.” – Mayo Clinic


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Wen-Dien Chang, Shuya Chen, Chia-Lun Lee, Hung-Yu Lin, Ping-Tung Lai. The Effects of Tai Chi Chuan on Improving Mind-Body Health for Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 1813979. Published online 2016 Aug 21.



Purpose. To conduct a meta-analysis and systematic review examining whether Tai Chi Chuan could have mental and physical benefits for patients with knee osteoarthritis. Methods. MEDLINE, PUBMED, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases were searched for relevant studies. Data of the studies were collected, and outcomes were classified using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health model. Effect sizes of the mental and physical components were determined, along with the recommendation grades of Philadelphia Panel Classification System for Tai Chi Chuan on knee osteoarthritis. Results. Eleven studies were selected and retrieved from the databases. The results of meta-analysis revealed that the effects of Tai Chi Chuan were observed for physical components in the body functions and structures domain. The effects favoring Tai Chi Chuan were observed in the physical component in the activities and participation domain. Insufficient data was included in the meta-analysis of the mental component.Conclusions. The review revealed that Tai Chi Chuan had beneficial outcomes for patients with knee osteoarthritis. The evidence-based results represented that it had small-to-moderate effects on body functions and structures, activities, and participation of physical component. However, there was insufficient evidence to support that Tai Chi Chuan had beneficial mental effect.



Improve Premenstrual Syndrome with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Yoga boosts circulation, which can relieve fluid buildup that causes bloating. The paced, deep breathing also increases oxygen flow to tissues, decreasing discomfort induced by cramps.” – Suzanne Trupin


PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome is an extremely common problem among women and almost 85% of women, between 20 years old and 40 years old, suffer from PMS. It is associated with a collection of emotional and physical symptoms that is experienced during the time of ovulation or Luteal phase of the Menstruation cycle.  PMS produces physical symptoms such as Joint or muscle pain, headache, fatigue, weight gain related to fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, acne flare-ups, and constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms are accompanied by a constellation of psychological symptoms such as tension or anxiety, depressed mood, crying spells, mood swings and irritability or anger, appetite changes and food cravings, trouble falling asleep (insomnia), social withdrawal, and poor concentration. Around 5% of women are disabled by extremely severe symptoms. PMS is often accompanied with depression and called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and can be dangerous as the suicide rate for patients with depression is much higher in the second half of the menstrual cycle.  Rather than improve with age, PMS can get worse as patients age and approach menopause.


For most women PMS is left untreated, with the women simply putting up with the misery. But for some drugs are prescribed such as antidepressants, NSAIDs, diuretics, and hormones. These are all accompanied by significant side effects. There is, therefore, a need to find safe and effective treatment for the torment of PMS. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve the physical and psychological state of women and men and women with high levels of mindfulness experience milder PMS symptoms. It would seem reasonable to examine whether training in a mindfulness technique, specifically yoga training, might be helpful relieving the symptoms of PMS.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yoga Exercise on Premenstrual Symptoms among Female Employees in Taiwan.” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Tsai recruited female employees of a large manufacturing company and provided them with a 12-week yoga program with twice a week sessions of 50 minutes. The yoga included breathing, posture, and meditation exercises. Before and after training the women completed measurements of premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, stress, sleep, alcohol intake, exercise and general health.


They found that after yoga training the women’s menstrual pain, use of analgesics, and body pain was lower. Also, the women reported less premenstrual abdominal swelling, breast tenderness, abdominal cramps, and cold sweats. In addition, the decreased menstrual pain was associated with increases in physical function, bodily pain, general health perception, vitality/energy, social function, and mental health. So the yoga practice appeared to reduce both premenstrual and menstrual physical symptoms.


The study results are very encouraging and suggest that yoga practice can be beneficial in relieving women’s symptoms surrounding menstruation. The study, however did not have a control group for comparison and so conclusions must be tempered. It is possible that participation in any program to improve their health and well-being would produce similar effects. Nevertheless, the results justify and encourage more extensive controlled research studies on the application of yoga practice to the relief of troublesome symptoms related to women’s menstrual cycle.


So, improve premenstrual syndrome with yoga.


“The benefits of yoga in relieving the symptoms of PMS are countless and difficult to list. Yoga is like a magical wand that touches our lives to bless us with a fit, flexible and healthy body,flawless, glowing skin, peaceful mind and great overall health. The benefits of yoga are not only limited to the physical level, it transcends the body to bring harmony between the body and the soul and fill the mind with happiness.”Deblina Biswas


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Tsai, S.-Y. (2016). Effect of Yoga Exercise on Premenstrual Symptoms among Female Employees in Taiwan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(7), 721. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13070721



Yoga classes designed for women with premenstrual syndrome are available, but their efficacy is unclear. We investigated the effects of 12 weeks’ yoga exercise (yoga intervention) on premenstrual symptoms in menstruating females in Taiwan. Sixty-four subjects completed the yoga intervention, and before and after the intervention filled out a structured self-report questionnaire about their demographics, personal lifestyle, menstrual status, baseline menstrual pain scores, premenstrual symptoms, and health-related quality of life. Of 64 subjects, 90.6% reported experiencing menstrual pain during menstruation. After the yoga intervention, subjects reported decreased use of analgesics during menstruation (p = 0.0290) and decreased moderate or severe effects of menstrual pain on work (p = 0.0011). The yoga exercise intervention was associated with the improvement of the scale of physical function (p = 0.0340) and bodily pain (p = 0.0087) of the SF-36, and significantly decreased abdominal swelling (p = 0.0011), breast tenderness (p = 0.0348), abdominal cramps (p = 0.0016), and cold sweats (p = 0.0143). Menstrual pain mitigation after yoga exercise correlated with improvement in six scales of the SF-36 (physical function, bodily pain, general health perception, vitality/energy, social function, mental health). Employers can educate female employees about the benefits of regular exercise such as yoga, which may decrease premenstrual distress and improve female employee health.




Get Mindful On-Line and Get Feeling Better


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“mindfulness exercises delivered in face-to-face settings or remotely via the Internet seem to yield similar changes in symptoms. The remote delivery does not seem to lessen the efficacy of mindfulness interventions.”– Johanna Boettcher


Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses. Techniques such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be particularly effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.


The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, adopted so far, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules. As a results, there has been attempts to develop on-line mindfulness training programs. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs and making training schedules much more flexible. But, the question arises as to whether these programs are as effective as their traditional counterparts. Many believe that the presence of a therapist is a crucial component to the success of the programs and the lack of an active therapist in on-line programs may greatly reduce their effectiveness.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Interventions Delivered by Technology Without Facilitator Involvement: What Research Exists and What Are the Clinical Outcomes?” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Fish and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of technology-based mindfulness training programs that did not include an active facilitator’s participation. They found 10 studies published, 9 of which were web-based programs. They found that, in general, the mindfulness programs produced increases in mindfulness and reductions in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and rumination and these effects were maintained at follow-ups occurring as much as 6-months later. Unfortunately, compliance was relatively low and drop-out rates were relatively high.


These are encouraging findings and suggest that mindfulness can be effectively trained with web-based materials and that this can produce psychologically beneficial results. But, there were no direct comparisons to traditional programs. So, it cannot be determined if the web-based programs are as effective as traditional programs. In addition, there methods need to be developed to help maintain compliance and decrease dropping out of web-based programs. Regardless, the benefits are substantial and the results are sufficiently positive to encourage further research.


So, get mindful on-line and get feeling better.


“Internet delivery of mindfulness training may be a viable alternative if an evidence base can be established. It can be self-paced, less costly, and more accessible while additionally allowing for participant anonymity. “ – David Messer


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Fish, J., Brimson, J., & Lynch, S. (2016). Mindfulness Interventions Delivered by Technology Without Facilitator Involvement: What Research Exists and What Are the Clinical Outcomes? Mindfulness, 7(5), 1011–1023. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0548-2



New cost-effective psychological interventions are needed to contribute to treatment options for psychiatric and physical health conditions. This systematic review aims to investigate the current literature on one potentially cost-effective form of mindfulness-based therapy, those delivered through technological platforms without any mindfulness facilitator input beyond the initial design of the programme. Three electronic databases (Ovid Medline, PsychINFO and Embase) were searched for relevant keywords, titles, medical subject headings (MeSH) and abstracts using search terms derived from a combination of two subjects: ‘mindfulness’ and ‘technology’. Overall, ten studies were identified. The majority of studies were web-based and similar in structure and content to face-to-face mindfulness-based stress reduction courses. Clinical outcomes of stress (n = 5), depression (n = 6) and anxiety (n = 4) were reported along with mindfulness (n = 4), the supposed mediator of effects. All eight studies that measured significance found at least some significant effects (p < .05). The highest reported effect sizes were large (stress d = 1.57, depression d = .95, both ps > .005). However, methodological issues (e.g. selection bias, lack of control group and follow-up) which reflect the early nature of the work mean these largest effects are likely to be representative of maximal rather than average effects. Whilst there are important differences in the construction, length and delivery of interventions, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the most effective models. Suggestions of key characteristics are made though, needing further investigation preferably in standardised interventions. Given the existing research and the speed at which technology is making new platforms and tools available, it seems important that further research explores two parallel lines: first, refinement and thorough evaluation of already established technology-based mindfulness programmes and second, exploration of novel approaches to mindfulness training that combine the latest technological advances with the knowledge and skills of experienced meditation teachers.



Reduce Pain with Meditation Rather Than Drugs


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“For some people with chronic pain, mindful meditation is an appealing pain management option because it has an unusual benefit; it is something that you personally control. Unlike pain medications or medical procedures, meditation is not done to you, it is something you can do for yourself.” – Stephanie Burke


Pain can be difficult to deal with, particularly if it’s persistent. But, even short-term pain, acute pain, is unpleasant. Pain, however, is an important signal that there is something wrong or that damage is occurring. This signals that some form of action is needed to mitigate the damage. This is an important signal that is ignored at the individual’s peril. So, in dealing with pain, it’s important that pain signals not be blocked or prevented. They need to be perceived. Nevertheless, it would be useful to find ways to lower the intensity of perceived pain and improve recovery from painful stimuli. Pain signals are processed in the brain and the state of the brain can alter the perception of pain. Indeed, opioid drugs are very effective pain killers and they work by affecting opioid receptors in the brain that are important in the perception of pain.


Pain is affected by the mind. The perception of pain can be amplified by the emotional reactions to it and also by attempts to fight or counteract it. Pain perception can be reduced by aerobic exercise and mental states, including placebo effects, attention, and conditioning. Additionally, contemplative practices have been shown to reduce both chronic and acute pain. It has been shown that exercise and mental states affect pain perception via opioid receptors. Their effects on pain can be prevented by the injection of a drug, naloxone, that blocks opioid receptors. Hence, mental states appear to alter pain perception through effects on the opioid system in the brain. But, it is not known if contemplative practices act in the same way.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Meditation-Based Pain Relief Is Not Mediated by Endogenous Opioids.” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Zeidan and colleagues examine the involvement of opioid receptors in the pain reduction produced by meditation practice. They recruited participants who had no experience with meditation and randomly assigned them to four groups. Two groups engaged in meditation for 20 minutes per day for four days, while two groups listened to an audiobook for 20 minutes per day for four days. One meditation group and one no-meditation group received a naloxone injection while the other two groups received injections of a non-active saline solution. Both participants and experimenters were blind as to whether they were receiving naloxone or saline. Before and after injection, participants were tested while meditating or resting for sensitivity to pain induced by heat to the skin. Participants rated their perceived pain to different levels of heat.


They found that mindfulness meditation reduced pain perception by 21% and pain unpleasantness by 36% relative to resting controls. This occurred for the meditation groups regardless of whether naloxone or saline was injected. So, the opioid receptor blocking drug naloxone had no effect on the reductions in pain produced by meditation. Hence, meditation, unlike other mental states, appears to reduce pain independent of the opioid pain system in the brain.


There are a number of effects of meditation that might underlie the reduction in pain perception. The stress, fear, and anxiety produced by pain tends to elicit responses that actually amplify the pain. So, reducing the emotional reactions to pain may be helpful in pain management. Meditation practices have been shown to reduce stress responses and anxiety, and to improve emotion regulation producing more adaptive and less maladaptive responses to emotions. So, it would seem reasonable that mindfulness practices would be helpful in pain management. In addition, pain is accompanied by, and frequently caused by, inflammation and meditation has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response. This may account for the mindfulness’ effects on the physical aspects of chronic pain.


So, reduce pain with meditation rather than drugs.


“Meditation teaches patients how to react to the pain. People are less inclined to have the ‘Ouch’ reaction, and are able to control their emotional reaction to pain.” – BRIAN STEINER



CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary

Fadel Zeidan, Adrienne L. Adler-Neal, Rebecca E. Wells, Emily Stagnaro, Lisa M. May, James C. Eisenach, John G. McHaffie, Robert C. Coghill. Mindfulness-Meditation-Based Pain Relief Is Not Mediated by Endogenous Opioids. J Neurosci. 2016 Mar 16; 36(11): 3391–3397. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4328-15.2016



Mindfulness meditation, a cognitive practice premised on sustaining nonjudgmental awareness of arising sensory events, reliably attenuates pain. Mindfulness meditation activates multiple brain regions that contain a high expression of opioid receptors. However, it is unknown whether mindfulness-meditation-based analgesia is mediated by endogenous opioids. The present double-blind, randomized study examined behavioral pain responses in healthy human volunteers during mindfulness meditation and a nonmanipulation control condition in response to noxious heat and intravenous administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone (0.15 mg/kg bolus + 0.1 mg/kg/h infusion) or saline placebo. Meditation during saline infusion significantly reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings when compared to the control + saline group. However, naloxone infusion failed to reverse meditation-induced analgesia. There were no significant differences in pain intensity or pain unpleasantness reductions between the meditation + naloxone and the meditation + saline groups. Furthermore, mindfulness meditation during naloxone produced significantly greater reductions in pain intensity and unpleasantness than the control groups. These findings demonstrate that mindfulness meditation does not rely on endogenous opioidergic mechanisms to reduce pain.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Endogenous opioids have been repeatedly shown to be involved in the cognitive inhibition of pain. Mindfulness meditation, a practice premised on directing nonjudgmental attention to arising sensory events, reduces pain by engaging mechanisms supporting the cognitive control of pain. However, it remains unknown if mindfulness-meditation-based analgesia is mediated by opioids, an important consideration for using meditation to treat chronic pain. To address this question, the present study examined pain reports during meditation in response to noxious heat and administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone and placebo saline. The results demonstrate that meditation-based pain relief does not require endogenous opioids. Therefore, the treatment of chronic pain may be more effective with meditation due to a lack of cross-tolerance with opiate-based medications.


Does Perinatal Mindfulness Training Help?


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Since mindfulness has a lot to do with being in touch with the sensations in your body, and being aware, new moms are in a prime state to learn it! In fact, pregnancy and early motherhood, nursing and sleep disturbance, weight gain and weight loss-these all in some way force you to be in your body. For those of us who live most of our lives above our necks, this can actually be a great blessing.”Cassandra Vieten 


The perinatal period, from the onset of pregnancy to the end of the infants first year, is a time of intense physiological and psychological change in both the mother and the infant. Anxiety and depression are quite common during pregnancy. More than 20 percent of pregnant women have an anxiety disorder, depressive symptoms, or both during pregnancy. Depression is characterized by a low or sad mood, loss of interest in fun activities, changes in eating, sleep, and energy, problems in thinking, concentrating, and making decisions, feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt, and thoughts that life is not worth living. It is difficult to deal with under the best of conditions but in combinations with the stresses of pregnancy can turn what could be a joyous experience of creating a human life into a horrible torment.


Depression occurring after delivery of a baby is well known, documented and discussed. Less well known but equally likely is depression during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that between 14 and 23 percent of women suffer from some form of depression during pregnancy. Without treatment, prenatal depression can pose a serious threat to a mother-to-be, who may stop taking care of herself or, in extreme cases, become suicidal. This can cause a woman to want to terminate her pregnancy. There are no statistics on the matter but it has been speculated that prenatal depression can lead to abortion.


The psychological health of pregnant women has consequences for fetal development, and consequently, child outcomes. Depression during pregnancy is associated with premature delivery and low birth weight. It is also associated with higher levels of stress hormone in the mother and in the newborns, which can make them more stress reactive, temperamentally difficult, and more challenging to care for and soothe. Long-term there’s some evidence that the children have more social and emotional problems, including aggression and conduct problems and possibly child IQ and language.


It is clear that there is a need for methods to treat depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Since the fetus can be negatively impacted by drugs, it would be preferable to find a treatment that did not require drugs. Moderate exercise including yoga practice is also beneficial during pregnancy. Mindfulness training has also been shown to improve anxiety and depression normally and to relieve maternal anxiety and depression during pregnancy. So, it would make sense to study the effects of mindfulness training during the perinatal period.


In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in the Perinatal Period: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Lever Taylor and colleagues review 17 research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness training on the women’s psychological health during the perinatal period. They found that compared to before, after mindfulness training the women demonstrated significantly reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, and increased mindfulness, all with moderate effect sizes. The effects appeared to be greater for women who had the greatest levels of distress prior to training. Unfortunately, when a control condition was included (7 studies), either usual care or a wait-list control, these women improved comparable amounts to the mindfulness trained women and there were no significant differences between the groups.


Hence, clear conclusions cannot be drawn regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness training for the psychological health of women during the perinatal period. The reviewed studies in general investigated the effectiveness of a variety of different mindfulness training practices. So, the lack of effectiveness in comparison to control conditions may well have been due to the employment of sub-optimal trainings. In addition, the majority of studies looked at healthy normal women and mindfulness training may only be effective in women with psychological distress. Needless to say, more research is needed to determine whether, under what conditions, and with what kind of training program that mindfulness training may be helpful for the psychological health of women during the perinatal period.


But your job in this holding environment is to, well, hold what is happening. To tolerate his distressing moments, to recognize and reflect his feelings and their expressions in his body and on his face, even to be the target of and survive his anger, frustration, and aggression. You can do a kind of aikido with your baby. Mindful awareness can help you in this dance of attunement, synchrony, and consciously participating in co-creating the space through which both of you move through your days” – Cassandra Vieten 


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Lever Taylor, B., Cavanagh, K., & Strauss, C. (2016). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Interventions in the Perinatal Period: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 11(5), e0155720. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0155720



Perinatal mental health difficulties are associated with adverse consequences for parents and infants. However, the potential risks associated with the use of psychotropic medication for pregnant and breastfeeding women and the preferences expressed by women for non-pharmacological interventions mean it is important to ensure that effective psychological interventions are available. It has been argued that mindfulness-based interventions may offer a novel approach to treating perinatal mental health difficulties, but relatively little is known about their effectiveness with perinatal populations. This paper therefore presents a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for reducing depression, anxiety and stress and improving mindfulness skills in the perinatal period. A systematic review identified seventeen studies of mindfulness-based interventions in the perinatal period, including both controlled trials (n = 9) and pre-post uncontrolled studies (n = 8). Eight of these studies also included qualitative data. Hedge’s g was used to assess uncontrolled and controlled effect sizes in separate meta-analyses, and a narrative synthesis of qualitative data was produced. Pre- to post-analyses showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety and stress and significant increases in mindfulness skills post intervention, each with small to medium effect sizes. Completion of the mindfulness-based interventions was reasonable with around three quarters of participants meeting study-defined criteria for engagement or completion where this was recorded. Qualitative data suggested that participants viewed mindfulness interventions positively. However, between-group analyses failed to find any significant post-intervention benefits for depression, anxiety or stress of mindfulness-based interventions in comparison to control conditions: effect sizes were negligible and it was conspicuous that intervention group participants did not appear to improve significantly more than controls in their mindfulness skills. The interventions offered often deviated from traditional mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or mindfulness-based stress reduction programmes, and there was also a tendency for studies to focus on healthy rather than clinical populations, and on antenatal rather than postnatal populations. It is argued that these and other limitations with the included studies and their interventions may have been partly responsible for the lack of significant between-group effects. The implications of the findings and recommendations for future research are discussed.



Improve Cellular Molecular Health with a Meditation Retreat



By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Researchers globally are continuing to explore how telomerase activity can be a measure of the effects of psychological stress on physical health. As they study the different types of meditation in more detail and uncover more of the benefits for cell aging, we will gain a deeper understanding of the new-found link between mind and body health. In the meantime, it seems that any type of meditation can do some good for your longevity.” – Courtney Danyel


Meditation practice has been shown to improve health and longevity. One way it appears to act is by altering the genes which govern cellular processes in our bodies. One of the most fundamental of these processes is cell replication. Our bodies are constantly turning over cells. Dying cells or damaged are replaced by new cells. The cells turn over at different rates but most cells in the body are lost and replaced between every few days to every few months. Needless to say were constantly renewing ourselves.


As we age the tail of the DNA molecule called the telomere shortens. When it gets very short cells have a more and more difficult time reproducing and become more likely to produce defective cells. On a cellular basis this is what produces aging. There is an enzyme in the body called telomerase that helps to prevent shortening of the telomere. So, processes that increase telomerase activity tend to slow the aging process. Contemplative practice has been shown to increase telomerase activity thus helping to prevent cellular aging. It is thought that this protection of telomeres could protect the body’s cells from aging and deterioration and be the basis for the increased longevity in contemplative practitioners. So, it is important to further investigate the effects of contemplative practices on telomeres and telomerase.


In today’s Research News article “Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes.” See:


or see summary below, Epel and colleagues studied the impact of a 5-day intensive meditation retreat on the genes associated with health and longevity. They compared two groups of people participating in a meditation retreat, novices and experienced meditators to a novel vacation control group which spent a comparable amount of time in a spa in the same location at the same time simply relaxing. The participants were measured before and after the retreat or vacation and 1-month and 12 months later for depression, stress, mindfulness, vitality, and blood was drawn for genetic analysis.


They found that all three groups showed significant improvements in depression, stress, mindfulness and vitality after the treatment, which was maintained 1-month later, while the novice meditators on the retreat maintained the improvements in depression and stress at the 10-month follow-up. There were marked changes in gene expressions that were present in all groups that included genes involved in the suppression of stress-related responses and immune function related to acute-phase wound healing and inflammation. Hence, the retreat and the vacation produced change in gene expressions that reflected lower stress, wounding, and inflammation, all of which signal improved health and well-being. In addition, the experienced meditator group showed increased expression for genes associated with healthy aging and in increased telomerase levels. Hence, meditation appears to promote healthy aging and longevity by protecting the telomeres from shortening which signals aging.


These are outstanding results and demonstrate that a week’s break either in the form of a meditation retreat or as a simple vacation produces improved mental health and vitality and decreased stress and gene expressions reflecting reduced stress and inflammation. This is a marked endorsement of the importance of a vacation to the individual’s health and well-being. But, the addition of meditation produces additional benefits which signal healthy aging and longevity. This is a marked endorsement of meditation retreat to not only improve current well-being but also to produce healthier aging.


So, improve cellular molecular health with a meditation retreat.


“At the retreat, the teacher warned us over and over not to look for major shifts in our lives when we got home. But my constellation of little changes seemed just evidence, really, that with continuous effort, I could change the way my mind worked. I could decouple, however briefly, my sense of self from the meat sack of mind and body. And that decoupling gave me the ability to actually control where that sack was headed next.” – Zoe Schlanger


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Epel ES, Puterman E, Lin J, Blackburn EH, Lum PY, Beckmann ND, Zhu J, Lee E, Gilbert A, Rissman RA, Tanzi RE, Schadt EE. Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes. Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e880; doi:10.1038/tp.2016.164. Published online 30 August 2016



Meditation is becoming increasingly practiced, especially for stress-related medical conditions. Meditation may improve cellular health; however, studies have not separated out effects of meditation from vacation-like effects in a residential randomized controlled trial. We recruited healthy women non-meditators to live at a resort for 6 days and randomized to either meditation retreat or relaxing on-site, with both groups compared with ‘regular meditators’ already enrolled in the retreat. Blood drawn at baseline and post intervention was assessed for transcriptome-wide expression patterns and aging-related biomarkers. Highly significant gene expression changes were detected across all groups (the ‘vacation effect’) that could accurately predict (96% accuracy) between baseline and post-intervention states and were characterized by improved regulation of stress response, immune function and amyloid beta (Aβ) metabolism. Although a smaller set of genes was affected, regular meditators showed post-intervention differences in a gene network characterized by lower regulation of protein synthesis and viral genome activity. Changes in well-being were assessed post intervention relative to baseline, as well as 1 and 10 months later. All groups showed equivalently large immediate post-intervention improvements in well-being, but novice meditators showed greater maintenance of lower distress over time compared with those in the vacation arm. Regular meditators showed a trend toward increased telomerase activity compared with randomized women, who showed increased plasma Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels. This highly controlled residential study showed large salutary changes in gene expression networks due to the vacation effect, common to all groups. For those already trained in the practice of meditation, a retreat appears to provide additional benefits to cellular health beyond the vacation effect

Making the Ego Go Away is a Mystical Experience



By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“When subjected to a scientific experiment, these characteristics proved to be identical for spontaneous and psychedelic mystical experiences.
 Unity is a sense of cosmic oneness achieved through positive ego transcendence. Although the usual sense of identity, or ego, fades away, consciousness and memory are not lost; . . ., so that a person reports that he feels a part of everything that is, or more simply, that “all is One.”  – Walter N. Pahnke


The core experience that has been found to be present in spiritual awakenings is a loss of the personal self. What they used to refer to as the self is experienced as just a part of an integrated whole. People who have had these experiences report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. Although awakening experiences can vary widely, they all contain this experience of oneness.


Millions of people worldwide seek out spiritual awakening by engaging in practices, such as meditation, yoga, and prayer. Others use drugs such as peyote, mescaline, LSD, ayahuasca and

psilocybin to induce spiritual awakenings. The experiences produced by the drugs have many characteristics which are unique to the experiencer, their religious context, and their present situation. But, the common, central feature of these drug experiences is a sense of oneness, that all things are contained in a single thing, a sense of union with the universe and/or God and everything in existence.


Hence, central to both practice induced awakenings and psychedelic drug experiences is a loss of self that is sometimes called an ego death or an ego dissolution. In today’s Research News article “Ego-Dissolution and Psychedelics: Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI).” See:


or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:


Nour and colleagues attempt to develop a psychometric scale measuring ego dissolution and its opposite ego inflation and compare the results on this scale for people who self-reported use of psychedelic drugs, cocaine, and alcohol. They recruited participants with on-line ads and obtained anonymous responses from 691 people. The ego dissolution inventory (EDI) contained 8 items; “I experienced a dissolution of my “self” or ego,”I experienced a dissolution of my “self” or ego,” “I felt at one with the universe,” “I felt a sense of union with others,” “I experienced a decrease in my sense of self-importance,” “ I experienced a disintegration of my “self” or ego,” “I felt far less absorbed by my own issues and concerns,” “I lost all sense of ego,” “all notion of self and identity dissolved away.” Items were rated 0–100, with zero defined as “No, not more than usually”, and 100 defined as “Yes, entirely or completely.”


They found that the ego dissolution inventory (EDI) had adequate psychometric properties suggesting reliability and validity of the scale. The scores on the EDI were extremely similar to the participant’s responses to unity experiences on the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ) suggesting that ego-dissolutions were virtually identical to reported senses of oneness. Interestingly, they found that ego dissolution was highly related to well-being suggesting that loss of the self produces a sense of personal well-being. In terms of drugs, it was found that when psychedelic drug dose or intensity of experience was high, ego dissolution was also high. But, there was no such relationship with cocaine or alcohol, while when cocaine dose was high ego-inflation was also high. So, psychedelic use is associated with ego dissolution while cocaine use is associated with a heightened sense of self, ego-inflation.


The results demonstrate that the ego dissolution can be measured and that the EDI is a reliable and valid measure. They further indicate that ego dilution and unity experiences are virtually identical suggesting that they may be measures of the same experience. The results also show that psychedelic drug use, but not cocaine or alcohol are highly associated with ego dilution. All of this adds to the case that awakening experiences and psychedelic drug experiences are either extraordinarily similar or perhaps identical. Since psychedelic drugs alter the brain, the results further suggest that awakening experiences may be due to similar changes in the brain.


This study was strictly correlational and no causal connections can be determined. But, these interesting results strongly suggest that a double-blind clinical trial of drug effects on ego dissolution and inflation should be conducted. It is not possible to manipulate participants into having non-drug induced awakening experiences. But, the similarity between the two suggests that drug induced experiences may be an excellent model for the study of the neural changes that underlie spiritual awakening experiences


“Because the ego never actually exists, those who are most captivated by its illusion are still playing. They take it seriously and do not know that they are playing. By inducing ego-death and evolutionary perspectives, psychedelic drugs can counteract
the fear of death.”
– LSD Experience – Ego


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Nour, M. M., Evans, L., Nutt, D., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2016). Ego-Dissolution and Psychedelics: Validation of the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI). Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 269. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00269



Aims: The experience of a compromised sense of “self”, termed ego-dissolution, is a key feature of the psychedelic experience. This study aimed to validate the Ego-Dissolution Inventory (EDI), a new 8-item self-report scale designed to measure ego-dissolution. Additionally, we aimed to investigate the specificity of the relationship between psychedelics and ego-dissolution.

Method: Sixteen items relating to altered ego-consciousness were included in an internet questionnaire; eight relating to the experience of ego-dissolution (comprising the EDI), and eight relating to the antithetical experience of increased self-assuredness, termed ego-inflation. Items were rated using a visual analog scale. Participants answered the questionnaire for experiences with classical psychedelic drugs, cocaine and/or alcohol. They also answered the seven questions from the Mystical Experiences Questionnaire (MEQ) relating to the experience of unity with one’s surroundings.

Results: Six hundred and ninety-one participants completed the questionnaire, providing data for 1828 drug experiences (1043 psychedelics, 377 cocaine, 408 alcohol). Exploratory factor analysis demonstrated that the eight EDI items loaded exclusively onto a single common factor, which was orthogonal to a second factor comprised of the items relating to ego-inflation (rho = −0.110), demonstrating discriminant validity. The EDI correlated strongly with the MEQ-derived measure of unitive experience (rho = 0.735), demonstrating convergent validity. EDI internal consistency was excellent (Cronbach’s alpha 0.93). Three analyses confirmed the specificity of ego-dissolution for experiences occasioned by psychedelic drugs. Firstly, EDI score correlated with drug-dose for psychedelic drugs (rho = 0.371), but not for cocaine (rho = 0.115) or alcohol (rho = −0.055). Secondly, the linear regression line relating the subjective intensity of the experience to ego-dissolution was significantly steeper for psychedelics (unstandardized regression coefficient = 0.701) compared with cocaine (0.135) or alcohol (0.144). Ego-inflation, by contrast, was specifically associated with cocaine experiences. Finally, a binary Support Vector Machine classifier identified experiences occasioned by psychedelic drugs vs. cocaine or alcohol with over 85% accuracy using ratings of ego-dissolution and ego-inflation alone.

Conclusion: Our results demonstrate the psychometric structure, internal consistency and construct validity of the EDI. Moreover, we demonstrate the close relationship between ego-dissolution and the psychedelic experience. The EDI will facilitate the study of the neuronal correlates of ego-dissolution, which is relevant for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and our understanding of psychosis.



Reduce Anxiety and Depression with Mindfulness and Yoga



By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“But for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.”Harvard Mental Health Letter


Many people have fond memories of their college years. It is likely, however, that they forgot about the stress and angst of those years. The truth is that college is generally very stressful for most students, from the uncertainty of freshman year, to the social stresses of emerging adulthood, to the anxiety of launching into a career after senior year. Evidence for the difficulties of these years can be found in college counseling centers which are swamped with troubled students. In fact, it’s been estimated that half of all college students report significant levels of anxiety and depression.


In recent years, it has become apparent that contemplative practices are powerful treatment options for depression and anxiety disorders either alone or in combination with other therapies. Both mindfulness training and yoga practice have been found to be effective. But, there has not been a direct comparison. In today’s Research News article “Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Versus Yoga: Effects on Depression and/or Anxiety in College Students.” See:


or see summary below, Falsafi recruited college students, with a diagnosis of wither anxiety disorder or depression, and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weeks, 75 minutes per week, plus 20 minutes per day of home practice, of either mindfulness training or Hatha yoga practice, or to a no-treatment control condition. All groups also continued their usual treatments of drugs or psychotherapy. The students were assessed for mindfulness, depression, anxiety, stress, and self-compassion prior to treatment, mid treatment (week 4), the end of treatment (week 8) and a follow-up at week 12.


They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control condition both the mindfulness training and yoga practice groups had significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and stress, and increases in mindfulness and these improvements were maintained at the 12-week follow-up. There were no significant differences found between the effects of mindfulness training or yoga practice, except that only the mindfulness training groups showed a significant increase in self-compassion. This latter difference was probably due to the fact that the mindfulness training included specific exercises to improve self-compassion including loving-kindness meditation practice.


These findings confirm previous findings that both mindfulness training and yoga practice produce clinically significant improvements in mindfulness, anxiety, depression, and stress, and that mindfulness improves self-compassion. The interesting aspect of this study is that comparable amounts of mindfulness and yoga practice did not differ in effectiveness. This is useful as different people prefer mindfulness training or yoga practice. So, individuals with anxiety and depression can choose which practice they are most comfortable with. This should increase participation and compliance and as a result effectiveness.


So, reduce anxiety and depression with mindfulness and yoga.



“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power. They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a nagging worry that has no benefit. If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” – Elizabeth Hoge


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts


Study Summary

Falsafi N. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Versus Yoga: Effects on Depression and/or Anxiety in College Students. J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2016 Aug 26. pii: 1078390316663307. [Epub ahead of print]



BACKGROUND: Depression and anxiety disorders are two of the most common mental disorders in the United States. These disorders are prevalent among college students.

OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this study is to compare the effectiveness of two different types of intervention practices (mindfulness vs. yoga) and a noninterventional control group in mitigating the effects of depression and/or anxiety in college students.

METHOD: A sample of 90 students (both genders) over age 18 who had a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression was recruited from 11,500 undergraduate college students in a mid-size university. The study’s design included stratified-randomized controlled repeated measures with three groups: a mindfulness intervention group, a yoga-only intervention group, and a noninterventional group. Participants were randomly assigned to the aforementioned three groups. Participants in the intervention groups received an 8-week training either in mindfulness or yoga. Depressive, anxiety, stress symptoms, self-compassion, and mindfulness were measured at baseline, Week 4, Week 8, and Week 12.

RESULTS: Depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms decreased significantly (p < .01) from baseline to follow-up conditions in both the mindfulness and yoga intervention groups. The changes in mindfulness scores were also significant in both groups. However, the changes in self-compassion scores were significant only in the mindfulness intervention group. No significant changes in the control group were demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study can provide useful information to nurses and other health care providers. This study may have implications for a cost-effective treatment for depression and anxiety.