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Mastery of the Mind East and West: Excellence in Being and Doing and Everyday Happiness

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Western psychological research on positive psychology and Buddhism have recently converged in their emphasis on the development of positive states, like states of excellence and everyday happiness. Yet, these traditions differ in their approaches to positive states, with respect to a state-trait and doing-being distinction. Western scientific research on peak performance emphasizes discontinuous, time-limited peak performance states wherein individuals do things extraordinarily well in sports and in the arts. The Eastern spiritual traditions emphasize continuous excellence of being, in the form of traits or character strengths. In both traditions mental imagery is a key ingredient to excellence training. With respect to everyday happiness, Western psychological research has focused on the role of meaning systems in the transformation of flow states into vital engagement in everyday life, while Buddhism stresses the role of meditation training to gain mastery over all levels of mind that leads to everyday happiness. Rorschach and tachistoscopic research on advanced meditators suggests that advance meditators have gained unusual mastery over states of mind not yet documented in the Western psychological research on positive psychology.
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Keywords: flow; happiness; meditation; peak performance; positive psychology; vital engagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychiatry Department, Harvard Medical School, Newton, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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