Monks Succeed in Cyclone Relief as Junta Falters. In Burma (Myanmar) the Buddhist monks are doing more than anyone to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis. At the same time, Burmese officials are trying to stem the influence of the monks by forcing survivors who have sought refuge in monasteries to return to their shattered homes. [Via Barbara's Buddhism Blog.]
"Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation" (PDF). A recent article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences on the neuroscience of meditation, focusing on how meditation alters and sharpens the brain's attention systems. The research is being done at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior (previously), who have also recently published research on the "Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation" (PDF), which describes how meditation can cultivate compassion by physically affecting brain regions that play a role in empathy. They shared this research with the Dalai Lama at the recent Seeds of Compassion forum.
Most of us are sadly aware of the protests over the last few months by Buddhist Burmese monks. (previously 1, 2). To sustain themselves in the face of likely attack these monks have been chanting the Metta Sutta, the Buddha's teachings on compassion and loving kindness. The Metta Sutta is here in translation, some expositions (dharma talks) on the same subject: One by Sharon Salzberg who has done much to popularize metta in the west in the last 20 years, and a whole bunch from Dharma Seed, which makes buddhist teachings available on the web. You want to get in on the action? In the US you can try the Insight Meditation Society, which is based in Barre, Mass., but has lots of local branches. [more inside]
Meditation and neuroplasticity. A new study (PDF) describes the changes in the brains of Buddhist monks, using fMRI to scan their brains while they practice compassion meditation. The project was a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and the Shechen Monastery in Nepal.