The Fetzer Institute (a major funder of The Shamatha Project) has posted a summary of prelimlinary results on the Shamatha Project. Cliff Saron, the project's principal investigator, has noted that this info is outdated (see next post for an update). A pretty technical description, but the short of it is:
- Based on psychological questionaires, retreatants improved significantly on a number of measures, including "mindfulness, ego resiliency, empathy, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and psychological well-being, while reducing their attachment-related avoidance, general anxiety and neuroticism, and their difficulties in regulating emotions."
- Sustained voluntary attention improved, with greater improvements in younger participants. (As this NYT op-ed notes, attention is the foundation of human potential, and realizing that we have the power to train attention is a big deal. William James delcared a training in attention, which he didn't know was in fact possible, to be "the education par excellence").
The study hypothesized that training in compassion would reduce the intensity of emotions that cause people to
pull back from others who are either suffering or doing things that are
unappealing. Consistent with this prediction, preliminary analyses show
that after viewing scenes of the Iraq war (in which American soldiers
bragged about getting psyched up to shoot Iraqis by listening to heavy
metal music), followed by images of suffering Iraqis (including
children), the retreat group reported significantly less contempt than
the control group.
- The brain scans (EEG), and other physiological markers (blood tests, saliva tests, perspiration & heart rate while undergoing psychological measurements, testing for markers of cellular aging, etc.) haven't yet been analyzed. Scientists are currently analyzing the video footage of particpants undergoing the psychological measurements (from a hidden camera). This work takes 100 minutes for every minute of footage - and is a huge job. Reading this, it's clear that many of the psychological measurements have yet to be analyzed, as well.