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Marieke van Vugt

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).

Monday, 23 June 2014 16:24

Creating a compassionate organization

The second day of the Meditation & Human Values in the Workplace conference moved from the individual to the organizational level. We started out by hearing from Federico Daini-Jôkô Procopio, a Zen monk who also works with many organizations and businesses. He opened our eyes to seeing our colleagues as marvelous human beings, rather than as ways to make profit. He also made the point that since we spend so much time at work, we may just as well try to make it a place to work with ourselves and eventually maybe to become buddhas. He invited us to see how actually from one moment to the next everything is possible, if you can just open your eyes. This way of seeing was really quite an eye-opener for me: maybe we can really try to see our organization or business as a place where people come together to develop their talents, and find themselves. Rather than focus on maximizing profit we could see business as a way to together contribute to society.

With economic crises and various corporate scandals under our belt you may wonder whether meditation and human values actually exist in the workplace. Right now a group of people is investigating this question in Lerab Ling. I am participating as one of the speakers in the conference on Meditation and Human Values in the Workplace, and the first day I already learned a lot.

Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00

Mind & Life's first European Symposium

In addition to the First Mindfulness conference in Europe that I blogged about a little while ago, this year hosted another first: the European Symposium for Contemplative Studies organized by Mind & Life in Europe. This symposium took place in Berlin and its theme was the role of contemplative practice in relieving suffering for individuals and society.

Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00

Taking a bite of mindfulness

Eating is a very touchy topic in our society (see also this recent article on WMRI). There are enormous social problems associated with addiction to food (listen for a discussion of this to Upaya's podcasts about Zen Brain). In fact, for many of us, food occupies a significant portion of our moment-to-moment thoughts. Can we bring some of our meditation wisdom to bear on this aspect of our lives?

Thursday, 31 October 2013 00:00

Non-silent interaction meditation

If you are anything like me, you spend a good deal of time interacting with other people. Is it possible to integrate meditation in your interaction with others, and if so, what does it feel like? The attitude cultivated in meditation is one of openness, softness, and spaciousness. You can focus on the other person just like any other focus of meditation. This means that you are not focussing on something else, which is actually exceedingly rare these days. This in itself is already a large gift to the person you interact with, because we really see the other person, and don't we all spend a large portion of our time trying to be seen?

Many meditation retreats, such as the well-known 10-day vipassana retreats consist not only of sitting meditation but also include frequent periods of walking meditation. To the bystander these walking meditations look something like zombie apocalypse--making them not immediately suitable for practising them in daily life. But you can adapt these methods to make the times you are getting from one place to the other be moments of sanity in your otherwise busy day.

Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00

Don't let the trigger trigger you!

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.

Wednesday, 04 September 2013 00:00

Curling yourself up into your suffering

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?

Thursday, 15 August 2013 21:32

An update on mindfulness research in Europe

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 most important things of meditation is not the meditation practice itself, but rather bringing the mindful attitude in our daily life. I found that this is relatively easy when interacting with another person, because you can listen to the person with a mindful attitude, using the words of the others as an object of your meditation. Or you could walk, using the movement as a meditation, being aware of your surroundings. But what do you do when you, like I do, work on your computer most of the day? I spend most of my day reading, writing, e-mailing, computing things, etc. How can you bring meditation to working on the computer? How do I use the computer as the object of my meditation?
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