The Shamatha Project, launched in Spring of 2007, brought together a diverse group of scientists and laypersons to study and measure the long term effects of practicing shamatha, or meditative quiescence, for 8 to 12 hours per day. Although the training at Shambhala Mountain Center lasted three months, nearly one in five of the participants (12 out of 60) in these retreats elected to continue on in full-time practice. So moved were they by their experiences that they immediately sought out the support and environments that could sustain them in the long-term pursuit of shamatha. Read Yogis Story, an account of two Shamatha Project participants who chose the path of a yogi.
This unexpected response required quick action, and temporary accommodations were found for all of the continuing shamatha yogis. Now, more permanent accommodations and funding are required to sustain dedicated meditators from the Shamatha Project and from the 8-week shamatha retreats that Alan Wallace is leading at the Phuket International Academy Mind Centre in Thailand. (Out of 36 participants in the first 2 month retreat, 24 have expressed an intention to continue). Fortunately, their needs are as modest as their goals are great. They have much work ahead and it is our hope and intention to support them all the way.
These yogis have now adopted the radically simplified life of contemplative monks and nuns, living in quiet solitude and meditating 8 to 12 hours each day, in homemade huts, tents, and unused cabins in rural areas from Washington State to Mexico. They are the avant-garde of what may become a revolution in our understanding of the mind, consciousness, and the path of spiritual development.
As the yogis spend hours every day training in shamatha, scientists from UC Davis Mind and Brain and elsewhere are spending countless hours analyzing enormous amounts of data collected throughout the course of the Shamatha Project. As these top-rate neuroscientists and psychologists begin to publish their results, they may contribute significantly to a better scientific understanding of the mind, and motivate further studies on the effects of shamatha practice.
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