Can science actually study awakening ?
This April, I attended the 2014 Consciousness Conference in Tucson, AZ, titled Toward a Science of Consciousness. The conference consists mostly of academic work in the fields of neuroscience, brain science, philosophy, psychology, and physics as applied to consciousness and the brain.
Perhaps a dozen out of the 7-800 or so attendees were local geeks like the author, wandering in and around (with no credentials whatsoever) listening to the sometimes barely scrutable offerings of 21st century science.
Some delightful exceptions stood out from the crowd.
Dr. Carmel Ashton presented her work in poster form on the essential ( and often missing ) element of childhood education : emotional intelligence. Her unequivocal message – we have no choice but to include the emotional development in education if there is to be any possibility of addressing the grand issues the world faces. Compassion is and will be fundamental for our continued survival.
Dr. Henry Viner spent 22 years studying the ” Healthy Human Mind ” – egolessness – among Tibetan Lamas who practiced Dzogchen meditation. He spoke without slides or PowerPoint – just a plain mike. His conclusion: the egoless mind is far healthier and happier than the egoic mind and we need to start talking about how to transmit egolessness to our kids.
Dr. Jeffrey Martin studies awakening. [ more accurately, the phenomena known by that name and more than 200 other names] His research involves over a thousand people on most of the continents who have had awakening experiences, their psychological states, practices, personality attributes and the experiences themselves. His presentation deeply impressed this attendee.
Dr. Martin founded the Center for the Study of Non-symbolic Consciousness to continue research into this very human phenomena.
Apparently, science has been studying awakening for a few years now.
It started around 14 years ago. Until then, most psychological research focused on pathology. In the year 2000, some grant money started to become available for studying happiness, wellness, etc. – healthy people’s psychology. The cool pics of monks with electrodes on their heads and the “mindfulness meditation” proliferation followed.
Thereafter proceeded Dr. Jeffrey Martin’s work on the happiest, wellest people around as a population: post-awakening types. Are there patterns ? ( yes) Do they resemble each other ? ( not in most ways measurable ) Is this reproducible through other means which might take less time than decades of meditation ? ( pending )
Am keen to hear where this line of investigation leads.
For further reference:
The photo of Dr. Martin came from: http://lifeboat.com/board/jeffery.a.martin.jpg
The photo from the conference came from: http://www.kurzweilai.net/images/ss_toward_a_science_of_consciousness_2014.jpg
The photo of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche wearing electrodes came from: http://scienceprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MonkNeuroscience2_591.gif