Episode 06 – Buddhism and Contemplative Science, with Norman Farb

In this episode, Sarah Richardson speaks with Norman Farb, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Mississauga, about teaching contemplative science.

Sarah and Norm talk about the benefits and drawbacks of secularizing Buddhist practices such as mindfulness, and about his use of exercises such as mindfulness and body scanning in his courses.

Show Notes

1:05 – Norman introduces himself and his research interests

1:35 – Teaching contemplative practices defining what they are

2:27 – Accessibility of contemplative practices

2:56 – Differences between contemplative practices and Buddhist practices such as meditation

3:57 – The “Foundations of Contemplative Science” course construction

5:21 – Course structure

5:55 – The luminaries of Contemplative Science

7:30 – Interoception defined

7:50 – How to measure interoception

10:25 – Brain imaging for interoception

12:11 – Benefits for people

13:32 – Getting mindfulness right – the pitfalls to the mass marketing of ‘wellness’

16:29 – Derealization disorder defined

18:19 – Potential dangers of not setting people up for success – the importance of direction

21:51 – Dividing up types of mediation, and introducing type of meditation to students

25:17 – Student pushback and discomfort when taking on daily practices

26:29 – Most popular practices with students and what works best

26:48 – Norman describes body scans

27:41 – Length of guided meditations

28:35 – Visual focus in classrooms

29:28 – Student evaluations in terms of mechanistic lines of inquiry

31:51 – How to test people’s ability to connect to themselves during contemplative practice

33:58 – Methods of engagement with self-reference

36:17 – Benefits of meditation training

37:42 – Difficulties with reconciling personal experiences and academic experiences and Norman’s journey into contemplative science

42:20 – Zindel Segal and the Mindful Awareness Lab

44:05 – Myths about meditation

48:16 – Research development and growth

51:36 – Space for students to think about their own mental health, in courses and beyond

52:59 – Teaching methods and developments

55:31 – Building a community of students

56:26 – Endings

Resources Mentioned

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s guided mindfulness practices, at https://www.mindfulnesscds.com/

An APS article on the concept of interoception

Ronald Purser’s book, McMindfulness