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The Neuroscience of Meditation: What We Know & Don’t Know w/ Kati Devaney
A conversation on the latest research on meditation and where its heading
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What is happening in the world of neuroscience and meditation?
I’m going to come clean here.
My relationship with science has been on somewhat of a pendulum over the years. At first I worshiped it as a God, clinging to it as the primary input for all decision-making. I recently learned there is a term for this called Scientism.
Then as science started to fall short in its explanatory capacity for many things I have gone through, I started to become increasingly less interested in what science had to say relative to wisdom traditions and mysticism which seemed to more effectively explain my direct experience.
Science and the latest research kind of all felt like the kid who was late to the party, missing the bigger understanding that everything is created by consciousness. And because the current instruments cannot measure the information or associated energies of consciousness, it felt like much of what we have been told about the way the world works is discounting a fundamental substrate.
Now I can say that I am starting to come around again to a more healthy view of science’s place in explaining the human experience. This conversation reaffirmed to me science has an important role to help further increase well-being by helping us understand contemplative practices.
I found it interesting that for a long time, meditation had trouble getting research grants because it was not seen as something that helped alleviate disease. This is fascinating when stress seems to be at an all time high. Many great researchers like Kati are changing this with their ability to demonstrate verifiable increases in well-being in the lab. The more the research provides this type of evidence, the more practices that work on consciousness can be integrated into the fabric of the many systems in our society.
I have read a fair amount of meditation science over the years, but it’s been awhile, so this conversation was very much a great refresher on what we currently know and what we want to know.
In addition to her research at Cal, Kati also started Berkeley Alembic which provides classes and community on meditation in the bay area as well as performs research.
As an independent organization, Berkeley Alembic has more autonomy to perform research on experiences that highly experienced meditators have, yet might not match the immediate criteria of fighting disease. This is exciting to me because with greater potential understanding, there may be pathways and technologies that provide increased access to these peak experiences ancient traditions associate with greater wisdom and well-being. Berkeley Alembic is currently fundraising to do these studies, so if that’s of interest to you, I recommend reaching out here.
Some other highlights from the episode include:
Why longitudinal studies are so important in the conversation which are beginning to happen
The importance of finding a Sangha
Where Kati is pushing her own edge as a 20-year meditator
How she sees AI and other technology potentially playing a role alongside teachers and community
Her experience studying Nirodha Samāpatti (the 9th Jhana) documented on’s newsletter
A few of the hottest debates in the meditation neuroscience community
Like always, I left this conversation with lots of energy and curiosity.
I wish the same for you as you listen to it and encourage you to continue following the work of Berkeley Alembic if it resonates!
If you liked reading or listening to this, feel free to click the ❤️ or 🔄 button on this post so more people can discover it on Substack 🙏
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