Thursday, February 14, 2013

ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Upaya Zen Center)


Another excellent Zen Brain conference hosted by Joan Halifax Roshi and the Upaya Zen Center. This yearly event always features excellent speakers and enlightening discussions. This year is no exception, with Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax all participating.

All eleven segments (+1) are linked to below - you can listen for free at the Upaya site in exchange for an email address.


ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 1): Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax: 02-07-2013

Speakers: Al Kaszniak & Evan Thompson & Stephen Batchelor & Richard Davidson & Joan Halifax
Recorded: Thursday Feb 7, 2013

SERIES DESCRIPTION: At the core of Zen practice lies an intention to develop the ability to rest our attention in the broad field of conscious awareness and to observe the mental continuum without grasping, aversion, or judgment. In doing so, we can begin to examine the enormous range and subtlety of the mysterious phenonemon that we call “consciousness”. In this ground-breaking retreat, neuroscientists, a philosopher, Buddhist scholars, and Buddhist teachers will explore the intersection of what philosophy, science, Buddhist scholarship, and meditation practice have contributed to our understanding of the variations of consciousness from waking to dreaming and the states that unfold in the process of dying.

Episode Description: This is the opening session of Zen Brain. Each of the presenters explains what their upcoming talks will be about and respond to Roshi’s question: “Why is it important to explore the nature of consciousness at this point in time.”

Teacher BIOs: 


Al Kaszniak received his Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Illinois in 1976, and completed an internship in clinical neuropsychology at Rush Medical Center in Chicago. He is currently Director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium Education Core, and a professor in the departments of psychology, neurology, and psychiatry at The University of Arizona (UA. He formerly served as Head of the Psychology Department, and as Director of the UA Center for Consciousness Studies. Al also presently serves as Chief Academic Officer for the Mind and Life Institute, an organization that facilitates collaborative scientific research on contemplative practices and traditions. He is the co-author or editor of seven books, including the three-volume Toward a Science of Consciousness (MIT Press), and Emotions, Qualia, and Consciousness (World Scientific). In addition to his academic and administrative roles, he is a lineage holder and teacher (Sensei) in the Soto tradition of Zen Buddhism.

Dr. Evan Thompson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. He received his B.A. from Amherst College in Asian Studies, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. He is the author of Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2007), and the co-editor (with P. Zelazo and M. Moscovitch) of The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2007) He is also the co-author with F.J. Varela and E. Rosch of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (MIT Press, 1991) and the author of Color Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (Routledge Press, 1995). He is currently working on a new book, titled Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Revelations about the Self from Neuroscience and Meditation. Thompson held a Canada Research Chair at York University (2002-2005), and has also taught at Boston University. He has held visiting positions at the Centre de Récherch en Epistémologie Appliqué (CREA) at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer. Stephen spent his young adult life ordained as a Buddhist Monk, first in the Tibetan tradition, and later in Korean Zen. He has been the co-ordinator of the Sharpham Trust and since 1990 has been a guiding teacher at Gaia House Meditation Center. Stephen is the translator and author of various books and articles on Buddhism including the bestselling Buddhism Without Beliefs and Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil . His most recent publication is Confession of a Buddhist Atheist.

Richard J. Davidson received his Ph.D. in Personality, Psychopathology, and Psychophysiology from Harvard University. He is currently Director for the Laboratory of Affective Neuroscience as well as the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is focused on cortical and subcortical substrates of emotion and affective disorders, including depression and anxiety, using quantitative electrophysiology, positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging to make inferences about patterns of regional brain function. A major focus of his current work is on interactions between prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in the regulation of emotion in both normal subjects and patients with affective and anxiety disorders. He has also studied and published several papers on brain physiology in long-term Buddhist meditators, and in persons receiving short-term training in mindfulness meditation. Among his several books is Visions of compassion: Western Scientists and Tibetan Buddhists Examine Human Nature (2002, Oxford University Press), co-edited with Anne Harrington.

Joan Halifax Roshi is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and author. She is Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, a Buddhist monastery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She received her Ph.D in medical anthropology in 1973. She has lectured on the subject of death and dying at many academic institutions, including Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Medical School, Georgetown Medical School, University of Virginia Medical School, Duke University Medical School, University of Connecticut Medical School, among many others. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on applied Buddhism. Her books include: The Human Encounter with Death (with Stanislav Grof); Shamanic Voices; Shaman: The Wounded Healer; The Fruitful Darkness; Simplicity in the Complex: A Buddhist Life in America; Being with Dying; and Wisdom Beyond Wisdom (with Kazuaki Tanashashi).

Al Kaszniak: 02-08-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 2)
In this session Dr. Al Kaszniak takes listeners through some of the ways that cognitive science and neuroscience have approached the study of consciousness.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax: 02-08-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 3)

In this second panel discussion our presenters answer such guest questions as: difference between awareness and consciousness, is unconscious created externally, long term meditation and pain response, historical use of term consciousness.

Evan Thompson: 02-08-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 4)

Dr. Thompson takes the listener on a cross-cultural fusion, neuro-phenomenology journey. He weaves Buddhist ideas from the Abhidharma, with work on the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax: 02-08-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 5)

During the Fri afternoon and evening panels. The Zen Brain faculty consider questions on “out of body” experiences, embodiment and direct experience, Indian writings on interoception, lucid dream states, consciousness as a layered phenomenon, the mind and life meeting held in monastery in India attended by 10000 monks, relationship between attention and consciousness.

Al Kaszniak: 02-06-2013: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and Zen Practice

Sensei Al notes that understanding consciousness can be useful in our lives. In this dharma talk he explores what can be learned about the nature and function of consciousness through some recent research in neuroscience and through experience in meditation practice. (NOT part of the Zen Brain series, but it fits here anyway.)

Stephen Batchelor: 02-09-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 6)

In this presentation, Stephen Batchelor considers two questions: What was the Buddha trying to do? and How does consciousness fit in? His draws on the Pali canon but not any particular school of buddhism.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax: 02-09-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 7)

During this session the Zen Brain faculty answer questions about the concepts: rebirth, fully knowing, mindful awareness, yoni awareness & Dogen, near death experience. store consciousness and memory.

Richard Davidson: 02-09-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 8)

In this presentation, Richard Davidson explores three of the major topics of the seminar: waking, sleeping, and dying. Richard orients the presentation specifically to the intersection of Neuroscience and contemplative practice. Richard begins the presentation by taking offering the audience a visual contemplative journey through the beautiful complexity of the brain. This video can be found here (or direct URL : http://smithlab.stanford.edu/Smithlab/AT_Movies.html ), titled “Machinery of Mind.” Richard goes on to identify particular phenomena of contemplative practice that are currently being investigated by neuroscientists. He then discusses recent findings of this exciting work.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, Richard Davidson, and Joan Halifax: 02-09-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORINGCONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 9)

During our Saturday afternoon session, our faculty respond to questions about the scientific and subjective significance of near death experience and the continuity of consciousness after death. Also, Richard comments on the differences he has measured between different styles of meditation, and he further discusses the implications of contemplative science in the health care fields.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, and Joan Halifax: 02-10-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 10A)

This is the final day of Zen Brain. This podcast includes the reflections of the faculty on their own personal way of coming to grips with what has been talked about during these days.

Al Kaszniak, Evan Thompson, Stephen Batchelor, and Joan Halifax: 02-10-2013: ZEN BRAIN: EXPLORING CONSCIOUSNESS: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Dying (Part 10B, last part)

This is the final day of Zen Brain. This last session contains participant reflections on what they are taking from this time, what is most relevant to them, what are the implications for what they do and what does all this have to do with practice.
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