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Exploring the Mind - Buddhist and scientific approaches to mental health and healing" Conference

Please join us at the "Exploring the Mind - Buddhist and scientific  approaches to mental health and healing" conference, which brings together Buddhist scholars and scientists prominent internationally in their fields research in a 3-day conference happening on Oct. 14 - 16, 2005 at the

downtown campus of the University of Toronto.

Visit U of T's Department for the Study of Religion for further information and on-line registration.

Friday Oct. 14, 2005:

~~Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation Workshop by Ven. Punnadhammo, Buddhist monk

~~Public lecture The Structure of No Structure: Buddhist Contributions to Psychotherapy by Mark Epstein, M.D. Psychiatrist and author of Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, Going on Being and Open to Desire.

Saturday Oct. 15, 2005

Panel 1: Advances in Mindfulness Research and Measurement

~~Zindel Segal, University of Toronto - On mindfulness and depression

~~Kirk Warren Brown, University of Rochester - On the clinical applications of mindfulness

~~Ruth Baer, University of Kentucky - On the measurement of mindfulness.

Panel 2: Buddhism and Cognitive Science

~~William Waldron, Middlebury College - A discussion of models of mind in Indian Buddhism in general, and Yogacara Buddhism in particular, emphasizing Buddhist theories of the unconscious

~~Evan Thompson, University of Toronto - On cognitive science and Buddhism

~~Adam Anderson, University of Toronto - On the neural correlates of mindfulness meditation.

Panel 3: Applied Buddhism: Advances and Issues

~~Jose Cabezon, University of California at Santa Barbara

"Toward a Typology of Buddhist Psychological Interventions": A discussion of Buddhist interventions for curbing desire, suggesting a general typology of Buddhist strategies for curbing negative emotions and behaviors, with comments on possible contemporary applications.

~~Mark Unno, University of Oregon

"Method and Madness in Buddhist Practice and Psychotherapy": A discussion of the significance and limits of objective method in both Buddhist practice and psychotherapy vis-a-vis the 'mind.'

~~Paul Simons, Yale University

"Spiritual Self-Schema (3-S) therapy": A manual-guided intervention developed at Yale University School of Medicine that integrates cognitive and Buddhist psychologies in the treatment of addiction and HIV risk behavior.

Sunday Oct. 16, 2005

Workshop 1: "Spiritual Self Schema (3-S) Therapy," led by Paul Simons, Yale University

This interactive workshop is intended to introduce mental health professionals to the theory and practice of a spiritually-oriented psychotherapy, called Spiritual Self-Schema (3-S) therapy. Developed at Yale University School of Medicine, 3-S is a manual-guided cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach informed by Buddhist psychology, for helping individuals in treatment for addiction to use their own spiritual/religious beliefs to develop and activate a self-schema that is consistent with doing no harm to self or others.

Workshop 2 "Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for the Prevention of Depressive Relapse," led by Mark Lau, U of T

This 3-hour workshop will provide the theoretical background underlying the development of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), empirical support for MBCT as well as practical training in the key elements of MBCT. The workshop will combine a didactic base with experiential exercises. This workshop meets the accreditation criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and has been accredited for up to 3 Mainpro-M1 credits; it is approved as an Accredited Group Learning Activity under Section 1 of the Framework of CPD options for the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.


A message from the Co-Chair of the conference, Dr. Tony Toneatto Ph.D., CPsych. from the Clinical Research Department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in Buddhism and Western psychological science. This interest can best be seen in the growing evidence showing the powerful effect of mindfulness meditation on both physical and mental health. Buddhist spiritual leaders, such as the Dalai Lama, have welcomed and strongly encouraged the dialogue between science and Buddhism and many scientists have begun to closely study how mindfulness meditation can be helpful.

One type of mindfulness meditation that has become very popular in the past few years, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), is being shown to help reduce the stress, disability and suffering associated with chronic pain, cancer, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, fibromyalgia and many other mental and physical illnesses.

The main skill that regular mindfulness practice teaches is the ability to respond to unpleasant thoughts, perceptions, physical sensations, images and feelings with an attitude of non-judgmental openness and acceptance. Mindfulness encourages a present-moment, compassionate awareness of all mental states, whether they are pleasant or painful.  Through regular practice, mindfulness is believed to help oneself to first recognize and then interrupt repetitive cycles of negative thought patterns that would make pain, suffering, and disability worse.

Eventually one can see that what we feel, sense, think, imagine, and perceive is not the same as my core self but rather a constantly changing experience which one can observe without interference or judgement.  This understanding can give us an important tool to improve our quality of life regardless of the pain and suffering that we may meet.

Although mindfulness techniques are an important part of the Buddha's message, researchers are not really sure how mindfulness actually helps. Does mindfulness meditation practice actually lead to an attitude of compassionate acceptance towards our mental experiences, as practicing Buddhists might suggest? Does it help us to relax? Do we just get used to the negative thoughts over time by repeatedly practicing mindfulness? Do we actually find better ways of distracting ourselves from thoughts and feelings we don't like? Do we find other ways to cope with unpleasant thoughts and feelings?  These are some of the questions that mindfulness researchers are trying to answer.

Although Buddhist-related techniques such as mindfulness have been shown to be effective there are many more ways that Buddhism can help us to understand, prevent, and treat mental and physical illness.  As researchers become more aware of the range and depth of Buddhist techniques and strategies, we can expect that many more treatments for physical and mental suffering will be discovered. The upcoming conference, Exploring the Mind, to be held at the University of Toronto between October 14 and 16, 2005 will hopefully contribute to the dialogue between Buddhism and the healing sciences by bringing together researchers who are studying Buddhism-related treatments as well as Buddhist scholars who can discuss the potential of Buddhism to alleviating suffering and improving health.

© University of Toronto Scarborough