Date of Award
MA - Master of Arts
Dr. Melissa Jean
Dr. Andrew Olendzki
The ability to tame the wandering mind is at the heart of the insights emerging from the places where Buddhism and the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 2001, 2011) meet. A polyvagal understanding of how our nervous system functions opens the door to developing skills that can strengthen our ability to regulate ourselves and others during times of challenge. The Buddha’s meditation instructions, laid out in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, the Establishment of Mindfulness Discourse offers a type of attentional training that allows us to become aware of our current neural state so that we can make intentional choices to tame our wandering mind. Research shows that this ability to govern our current neural state provides greater psychological and physiological flexibility and tolerance and is associated with benefits ranging from cardiopulmonary fitness and immune function to psychological health and improved executive functioning (Gerritsen & Band, 2018; Poli et al., 2021). While the polyvagal theory offers a neurobehavioral understanding of how and why our minds wander, Buddhism gives us the insights and practices to keep our minds from wandering on. This reduces suffering for ourselves, our communities, and the world.
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Embrey, Tamara, "Taming the Wandering Mind: Where Buddhism & Polyvagal Theory Meet" (2022). Mindfulness Studies Theses. 69.