Marieke van Vugt
I am a neuroscientist studying memory and decision making using neural activity and computational models. In my free time, I am a dancer. I have been a student of Sogyal Rinpoche since approximately 1998. I am fascinated by the human mind and brain, and like to study it both from the first-person perspective (my own mind) and the third-person perspective (other people's minds).
One interesting lecture during the International Conference on Mindfulness that I attended was given by Susan Boegels from the University of Amsterdam about mindful parenting. She talked about several things that are really interesting, even for a non-parent, which revolved to a large extent around dealing with triggers.
I was this past weekend at a retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche. One of the most striking things he said was that we tend to load a lot of suffering upon ourselves by identifying with our suffering, our doubts, our pain. And meditation practice is designed to really help you let go of this tendency. It helps you to dare to let be, to hang loose, because in some sense that is the essence of meditation. How does this work?
I just attended the First International Conference on Mindfulness in Rome. It is quite amazing to see how mindfulness research is thriving in Europe, and how many studies are being done. While the quality of the presented research varied, the range of presented topics was just as large, and included mindfulness in business situations, mindful tango, mindfulness for different kind of psychiatric conditions, and computational modeling of meditation (which was my contribution).
One of the first findings on the effects of meditation on the brain were very large amounts of gamma brain waves reported in long-term practitioners (Lutz et al (2004)). An important problem with that study was the fact that we had no idea how these gamma waves came about. Were they caused by the meditation or were the people that took part in this study simply weird people? Recently, a new study was published that shed light on this issue.
At this same retreat with Yangthang Rinpoche that I wrote about before, we were all very impressed with the being of this amazing lama. It is quite moving to meet such a special human being, which is why I want to share it with you.