Friday, October 15, 2010

The quest for inner peace and happiness

Depression is the most common mental disorder in the world. In addition to emotional suffering, it takes a terrible physical toll. “Over time, depression damages the heart and sets people up to get diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Charles Raison, clinical director of the Emory Mind-Body Program.

Emory researchers are looking for ways to treat depression without medication – including the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of compassion meditation. An initial study found that Emory students who regularly practiced compassion meditation had a significant reduction in stress and physical responses to stress. The research is now expanding, to explore whether a range of meditative practices have effects on the body and the brain that would be protective not just for depression, but other illnesses as well.

On Monday, Oct. 18, the Dalai Lama will lead a “Compassion Meditation Conference” at Emory, bringing together meditation experts and neuroscientists for a public discussion on the latest research into empathy, compassion and meditation.

So if you are not depressed, are you happy? What exactly is happiness? One way to explore the meaning of this elusive state of being is through the ancient traditions of the world’s major religions.

Happiness is something that people tend to take for granted, says Scott Kugle, an Emory expert on Islam. “But very often,” he adds, “you lose sight of the deeper psychological or devotional insights that are required to get to a point of deep happiness.”

On Sunday, October 17, the Dalai Lama will head an “Interfaith Summit on Happiness.” Broadcast journalist Krista Tippett will moderate the discussion, also including representatives of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

The pursuit of happiness
Breathe in, breathe out, be happy
Richard Gere on Emory, Tibet and shyness
Monks + scientists = a new body of thought

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