This is a presentation Rick Heller of the Harvard Humanist Contemplative group gave on secular meditation at the American Humanist Association conference, April 8, 2011.

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Does humanist meditation exist — Presentation Transcript

1. Does Humanist Meditation Exist? Presented by Rick Heller Harvard Humanist Contemplative Group
2. Humanist Contemplative Group Established 2009 at Harvard Inspired by Houston Contemplative Have met twice a month since 2009 Now weekly
3. Secular Meditation Derived mostly from Buddhism Stripped of supernatural (rebirth, karma) Exercise to cultivate attention
4. Informed by Stephen Batchelor
5. Meditation Gets Medicalized
6. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
7. Why A Part of Humanism? Create community for mutual aid Community service projects provide material support. Group meditation supports emotional health.
8. How does meditation work? Daniel Siegel, The Mindful Brain Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence Stephen Grossberg, Adaptive Resonance Theory
9. Inhibiting Top-Down Modulation
10. Focus on Present Inner voice produced by top-down on cortex. Source: “How hallucinations may arise from brain mechanisms of learning, attention, and volition,” Stephen Grossberg, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society (2000), 6: 583-592 Sensory focus promotes bottom-up over top-down, inhibits inner voice. Silences ruminations that cause suffering
11. Enhances Sense of Wonder Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, U. Michigan psychologists, say nature’s restorative effects due to amplified sensory flow Mindfulness can amplify sensory flow, increase novelty, joy, sense of wonder in everyday life
12. Warnings: Short, 20 min meditations appear safe Long silent retreats may kindle mental illness in vulnerable PTSD flashbacks in tortured Tibetan monks (loss of top-down inhibition?)
13. New Directions Applying mindfulness to the environment When we learn the present is “enough” We can be happy without the hyper-consumption that drives climate change

Watch for a future podcast with Rick on this very topic!

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  1. Does Humanist Meditation Exist? » Secular Buddhist Association | { wake-up-ism } ------ a live experi (m) en (t/ce) on July 30, 2012 at 8:33 am

    […] Does Humanist Meditation Exist? » Secular Buddhist Association […]

  2. NaturalEntrust on August 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Dana and thanks Rick.

    Not easy to understand this guy’s theories at all.

    Stephen Grossberg, Adaptive Resonance Theory

    With Gail Carpenter, Grossberg developed the adaptive resonance theory (ART). ART is a cognitive and neural theory of how the brain can quickly learn, and stably remember and recognize, objects and events in a changing world. ART proposed a solution of the stability-plasticity dilemma; namely, how a brain or machine can learn quickly about new objects and events without just as quickly being forced to forget previously learned, but still useful, memories. ART predicts how learned top-down expectations focus attention on expected combinations of features, leading to a synchronous resonance that can drive fast learning.

    If I get anything of that your purpose of referring to him are
    to give a reference for why that kind of meditation can allow
    relearning due to that theory giving a explanation on how it
    may work and that one can model it using computer models?

    He has been at it for a very long time now so it seems a
    very complex thing he study?

    What other theories exists about the ability to relearn quickly?

    oops maybe derail thread so forget it.

    Anyway looking forward to know more about how the Humanists
    there up east north of USA. How many do attend that group of

  3. NaturalEntrust on August 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Dana a practical question what does this refers to?

    1 ping

    first time I see it. Whom are pinging whom?

  4. Rick Heller on August 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm


    Thanks for asking. The Humanist Mindfulness Group meets in Cambridge Mass USA and is open to everyone. We meet weekly and usually get between 5 to 15 people.

    With regard to Stephen Grossberg, his theories are highly mathematical. I interviewed him for an article I wrote so I got to spend some time with him. He himself is not interested in meditation, but he is interested in attention, and Daniel Siegel’s model of mindfulness is ultimately grounded in Grossberg’s work.

    The stability-plasticity dilemma that Grossberg talks about is the question of how you learn, and when you learn, how much do you need to forget. If you were totally attuned to the new, it would be like you had amensia. On the other hand, if your memory is strong, you’re pretty rigid and don’t pick up on new things because you are essentially living in the past.

    Actually, according to Siegel, when we’re mindful, we move a little toward the amnesia side, because we perceive things with a curiousity, as if we’d never seen them before. Novelty is rewarding, and this can activate dopamine and internal opioid flow. It’s no doubt more complex than this, but that’s the basic idea.

  5. NaturalEntrust on August 21, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Thanks Rick!

    I am also for being curious. Novelty can be
    very rewarding almost like a drug.

    Those who want to live on being musicians
    get aware of that when a lot of their fans
    wants them to come up with new songs
    but if those songs are too novel then they
    go for somebody that is not too inventive.

    Bob Dylan wanted to go electric rock but a lot
    of his fans wanted him to stay accustic folk.

    I try to be curious on music and ideas but
    it is obvious that I bark loud at some novel things.

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