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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Most of the world's major religious and spiritual traditions incorporate elements of contemplative prayer or meditation, although the nature, prominence, and precise features of such practices vary between traditions. Neuroscientific findings indicate that meditation is associated with significant, enduring alterations in patterns of activity in specific brain areas (e.g., anterior cingulate cortex, dorsolateral prefrontal areas). These, in turn, are linked with the increased attention and alterations in experience of self associated with contemplative practice. Neuroscientific findings are complemented by clinical evidence of relationships between contemplative practice and positive psychological change, leading, for example, to the use of “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy” for depression (combining mindfulness-based techniques from Buddhist tradition with Western cognitive therapeutic approaches). There remains substantial potential for further research and ongoing dialog aimed at developing deeper, more integrated understandings of the spiritual, psychological, and biological effects of contemplative practice.

Keywords: meditation, spirituality, religion, Buddhism, Christianity, cross-cultural comparison, neurosciences, psychology, psychotherapy, mental disorders

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