Presence: How Mindfulness and Meditation Shape Your Brain, Mind, and Life

Un livre en anglais vient de sortir et fait le point sur les études scientifiques de la méditation de pleine conscience : Presence: How Mindfulness and Meditation Shape Your Brain, Mind, and Life, écrit par Paul Verhaeghen, édité par Oxford University Press (juin 2017).

Paul Verhaeghen est un psychologue et écrivain belge d’expression néerlandaise, écrivant aussi en anglais. Ce livre est impressionnant par les centaines d’études référencées. Bien que pointu, il est toutefois beaucoup plus lisible que les études sur le sujet que je catalogue parfois ici. Nul besoin dans ce livre d’être un expert en statistique ou en neuroanatomie fonctionnelle pour avoir accès au contenu et comprendre le résultat des études les plus récentes. Il s’adresse au méditant curieux. Il a l’avantage également de structurer toute cette masse d’études en chapitres thématiques :

Table des matières :

1. What Is Mindfulness? 1
2. Your Body and Brain on Meditation 17
3. The Meditating Brain in Action: Attention, Body, and Self 39
4. Telltale Traces in the Brain 75 (effets dans la durée)
5. From Monkey Mind to Monk’s Mind: Mindfulness Practice and Attention 95
6. Mindfulness Practice and Well- Being 117
7. Mindfulness as Medicine 145
8. Meditation and Mindfulness: Final Words 159

ou en d’autres termes, selon le chapitre 1 :

  • « Chapter 2 investigates how meditation, as it happens in real time, impacts the body and brain. What changes occur in your physiology as you sit? What goes on inside your brain as you meditate?
  • Chapter 3 looks more closely at individual studies that investigate how meditation impacts attention, body awareness, and the sense of self as expressed in the brain. One very old adage in neuroscience is that what fires together wires together. That is, if you activate particular brain regions and the connections between them a lot, chances are that you will craft some lasting changes in these regions and their connections.
  • Chapter 4 looks at the findings. Are meditators’ brains wired differently? Do particular regions grow in size? How long does it take for changes in brain structure to take hold? Do they last?

Chapters 5 through 7 examine how these changes play out in daily life, or at least as close to daily life as psychological measures typically get.

  • Chapter 5 focuses on changes in attention;
  • Chapter 6 discusses changes in stress, sleep, personality, and well- being; and
  • Chapter 7 gives an overview of mindfulness as medicine; that is, it examines the effects of mindfulness programs that are used as therapeutic endeavors, mostly for anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Chapter 8 is an attempt at bringing this all to a conclusion and to finally answer the question: Does mindfulness deliver? »

Très scientifique, Paul Verhaeghen avoue deux biais dans son livre. Le premier biais : il est méditant lui-même et est convaincu que la méditation et ses conséquences sont indispensables à une vie épanouie. Il ne va pas toutefois dire que c’est magique et que cela guérit tout.

« After writing this book, I am convinced that it would be very hard to argue that meditation is not a good thing for those who find it an enjoyable practice; it is, however, clearly not a cure- all or a magic bullet. »

Le second biais : il est matérialiste et pense que de toute façon, l’esprit provient de l’activité du cerveau et se réduit in fine à ce que fait le cerveau.

« I have another bias as well: Like many scientists, I am, philosophically speaking, a materialist. (…) As we often say: The mind is what the brain does. »


Résumé du livre :

« Mindfulness and one of the roads to it, meditation, have become increasingly popular as a way to promote health and well-being.

Meditation can create mindfulness in daily life, which becomes an ingrained habit if applied consistently-it can boost immune function; lower levels of stress, anxiety, or depression; lift affect; regulate emotion more easily; and make you happier.

Presence reviews how meditation calms the body and what goes on inside the brain during meditation-how it impacts control over attention, awareness of the body, and the experience of self.

It examines how meditation leaves telltale lasting traces in brain structure, and how it impacts important areas of life such as well-being, stress, and health.

In addition, it examines how mindfulness can be useful as therapy, alleviating depression, anxiety, worry, and pain.

A final chapter provides advice on how to meditate and practice mindfulness in a scientifically sound way, based on what we know about how meditation works.

Over the last decade, research on these beneficial effects has boomed in the cognitive and behavioral psychology and neuroscience literature, and Presence provides an overview of this research that is thorough and accessible for the curious meditator, seasoned or beginner, as well as for students and practitioners of contemplative science and related fields. »