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The Science of Meditation

Meditation has surged in popularity in recent years, from a fringe interest to a mainstream trend championed by therapists, scientists, and celebrities. As part of this shift, misconceptions and dismissals have given way to the emerging recognition of meditation as a science. There are, however, those who would challenge this view. As both a scientist and a meditator, I feel a duty to respond.

In doing so, I must first acknowledge the huge number of activities commonly referred to as meditation. Many of those activities are not in any sense scientific. However, I will argue that some meditation practices, including the method I describe in The Mind Illuminated and other practices within the Buddhist tradition, do qualify as science. I will confine my discussion to those practices.
We can define science as the systematic study of the natural world through observation and experiment, yielding an organized body of knowledge on a particular subject. The human mind is undeniably a suitable s…

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