#390 – A Scientific and Phenomenological Exploration of Meditation with Dr. Adeline van Waning

Adeline van Waning

Adeline van Waning MD PhD, a Dutch psychiatrist-psychotherapist with an MA in Buddhist Studies, integrates her broad professional expertise and interests with a deep commitment to meditation and mind training regarding cultivating attention, emotion regulation and well-being. She participated in the Shamatha Project, a large international “meditation and neuroscience” project in the US. She documents here experiences in that project in her 2014 book, The Less Dust, The More Trust. Adeline has held positions at universities – including as a Visiting Professor in Japan, various institutes, and is also in private practice. One of her fields of expertise has been in working with persons with a migrant and refugee background. Adeline published widely about her approach and experiences. Presently she gives meditation guidance, including for mental health professionals. She also works in hospice care, writes and paints.

She has requested that I include the following links: This link is about the book, information in English, with pre-publications etc.

This link is the always updated site of the Saron lab with all the info and scientific publications about The Shamatha Project

This link will take you to a 12 page excerpt in English from her book.

This link will take you to a magazine article with pictures of the Shamatha Retreat.

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copyright 2014: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.


One Comment

  1. Anirudh Kumar Satsan
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Meditation is a state of consciousness in which the individual eliminates environmental stimuli from awareness so that the mind can focus on a single thing, producing a state of relaxation and relief from stress. A wide variety of techniques are used to clear the mind of stressful outside interferences. It includes meditation therapy. (Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary, 4th ed)

    Meditation may not be restricted to the level of spiritual well being only. It’s scope in emotional well being, mental well being, physical well being and ultimately social well being is widely recognized now.

    Julian B. Rotter (1970) writes in his book Clinical Psychology “Other professions which overlap clinical psychology are those of the psychiatrist, social worker, lawyer, speech pathologist, and religious worker. All these professions are concerned in one way or another with the individual’s adjustment to a special set of circumstances”.

    Now the question arises what does a religious worker does to help an individual for his/her adjustment with himself/herself and with the society? The one apparent answer is guiding people to perform devotional exercises.

    Perhaps answer lies in the following lines:

    Psychoanalysis emphasizes free association, the phenomenon of transference, and the development of insight. Psychoanalysis helps a person understand himself/herself better. The goal of psychoanalysis is to acquire self-understanding and knowledge of the sources of anxiety.

    According to Swami Vivekananda, “During meditation the mind is at first apt to wander. But let any desire whatever arise in the mind, we must sit calmly and watch what sort of ideas are coming. By continuing to watch in that way the mind becomes calm, and there are no more thoughts waves in it. Those things that we have previously thought deeply, transformed themselves into a subconscious current , and therefore these come up in the mind during meditation.” We may call this ‘auto-catharsis’ sort of free-association, unconscious mind talking to conscious mind. Meditation provides us insight, understanding of self and increases our psychological strength. So we can draw some analogy between practice of meditation and psychoanalysis. .

    According to Swami Vishnu Devananda:”Through meditation, the play of the mind is witnessed. In the early stages nothing more can be done than to gain understanding as the ego is observed constantly asserting itself. But in times its game become familiar, and one begins to prefer the peace of contentment. When the ego is subdued, energies can then be utilized constructively for personal growth and the service of others”.

    According to Radhasoami Faith: “…strong desires, embedded in the mind, are awakened in Bhajan (a type of meditation-Surat Shabd Yoga) by the current of Shabd (sound)………all sort of thoughts will arise at the time of Abhyas, and the Abhyasi will not even be aware of them. His mind, instead of applying itself to Bhajan and Dhyan, will be swept away by all sorts of thoughts.

    According to Sri Aurobindo in Yoga one can isolate mind, watch its workings as under a microscope, separate every minute function of the various parts of the antahkaran, the inner organ – every mental and moral faculty.

    Comparison between Sufism and Psychoanalysis by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

    The Transference Phenomenon

    According to psychoanalysts, the creation of the relationship between a patient and analyst is a crucial element of the therapeutic process. Freud termed this phenomenon “transference.” Under certain circumstances an individual being analyzed transfers his past to the person of the therapist. H. Racker has explained, “Freud denominated ‘transference’ the entirety of the patient’s psychological phenomena and processes referred to the analyst and derived from the other previous object relations.”
    In transference, a relationship is formed between the analyst and patient in which the latter becomes obedient to the former and puts his trust in him. This obedience and surrendering of trust, which stem from the child’s relationship to his parents, are used in the psychoanalytic situation as a therapeutic instrument. By virtue of the new relationship that is formed, the analyst comes to be perceived as a person to be relied upon. Such a relationship usually occurs spontaneously at some point in the course of therapy and is indispensable for any real therapeutic progress to take place. As Freud explains:
    We observe that the patient, who ought to be thinking of nothing but the solution of his own distressing conflicts, begins to develop a particular interest in the person of the physician. Everything connected with this person seems to him more important than his own affairs and to distract him from his illness.
    The Differences between Transference and Iradah

    When the bond of iradah brings master and disciple together, the disciple unconsciously projects his image of the ideal person upon the master and transfers his feelings and worldly passions to him. In this way, the disciple comes to fully accept the master and surrender his total being to him. The question arises of whether or not this phenomenon is what Freud has called transference.

    As noted earlier, the term iradah is used in sufi terminology to describe what takes place when God establishes a bond between the heart of the disciple and that of the master. It has been said, “The reality of iradah is the motion of the heart in search of the Truth.” In order to determine whether or not iradah is the same as transference, we must distinguish between two different kinds of iradah. One, which can be called iradah only in the loosest sense, is the iradah of those who are dominated by the “commanding self,” that is, of those who suffer from the sickness of the self. Such patients practice iradah firstly and essentially because of the demands of the carnal self, and secondly and apparently because of the judgment of the particular intellect. It is only this kind of iradah that can be related to the transference of psychoanalysis.

    The second kind of iradah is the iradah of the lovers of the Truth who practice it in relation to a spiritual master, first by virtue of the guidance of God, and second because of the approval of the heart. Only in such instances can the sufi term iradah be accurately applied.
    On the basis of what has been said here we can conclude:

    Transference is the establishment of an appropriate relationship between the patient and the analyst which may result in curing the patient and bringing him to the state of a “normal” person. Iradah, on the other hand, is a spiritual relationship between master and disciple for the purpose of elevating the state of a normal person to that of the “Perfected One.”

    Transference is the establishment of a relationship with an analyst to fulfill the desires of the self (nafs-i am.m.ara); iradahis love of another person established to escape from self-love.
    The transference phenomenon demands the choosing of an appropriate listener to listen to the words of a self-worshipping speaker, while iradah requires becoming a listener qualified to learn how to worship the Truth.

    Finally, transference is a material, relative, and temporal phenomenon, while iradah is spiritual, absolute, and eternal.

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