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Mindful : August 2014
Happier and Healthier Lives A key part of the center’s mandate is to do what is now commonly called tra nslational research— which involves real people in real life settings. It helps people while also advancing scientific knowl- edge and educating others about the value of med- itation from a scientific perspective. Davidson has devoted his life to uncovering scientific discoveries that ca n help people live happier, healthier lives through mental skills tra ining. For ma ny meditators, talking about “the brain” seems materialistic, as if all we were was a lump of electrically charged flesh; similarly, many scien- tists are uncomfortable talking about something as intangible as mind. Where is it? How do you mea- sure it? Davidson is comfortable talking about both, and says that nowadays many more resea rchers are, too. Mind may not be so easily defined and delin- eated as bra in, but the center uses the term healthy minds, he says, because it is minds—different types of minds—that can be trained in beneficial ways. And the effects of this training leave their mark on the brain, and can be observed and measured. These demonstrable positive results are the point. Not only do they increase Western science’s understa nding Staff members at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds sit together in the center’s meditation hall. Personal experience with mindfulness helps the researchers better understand what they’re studying. of the brain’s nature a nd capabilities, they offer convincing evidence for U.S . institutions like the Depa rtment of Education, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, even the Depa rtment of Energy, that mind/brain training could offer beneficial results that would help them fulfill their missions. In his capacity as neuroscientist and as New York Times bestselling author, Davidson is featured widely in popular media—every where from Time magazine to O, The Oprah Magazine, to the Harvard Business Review. Between his work and his writing, he is beyond extremely busy. Even as a long-time meditator, Davidson is quick to acknowledge how challenging it is for any of us with busy 21st-century lives to add yet another “habit”—a lbeit, one that sci- ence is proving leads to greater happiness and better quality of life. “ Basic neuroscience evidence suggests that sma ll, short periods of practice done many times in a way that can actually be sprinkled throughout the day is a really powerful way to promote enduring cha nge in the brain,” Davidson says. “ It has yet to be studied in the specific a rea of meditation practice, but we ca n ask the question, for exa mple, is it better to sit for 30 minutes a day, or is it better to have 10 three-minute 54 mindful August 2014