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The FitMind Podcast: Mental Fitness, Neuroscience & Psychology

Feb 11, 2020

Dr. Willoughby Britton is a neuroscientist at Brown University studying the neurocognitive effects of mindfulness-based interventions for mood and anxiety disorders. She's currently the Director of Brown's Clinical and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory and has research service awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As a clinician, Dr. Britton has been trained as an instructor in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and has taught mindfulness to both clinical and non-clinical populations, as well as in federally-funded clinical trials. She also runs an organization called Cheetah House, a non-profit that supports meditators in distress.

In this episode, we discuss the potential dark sides of meditation practice. In a western world where meditation has been taken out of eastern traditions and spread widely in a secular context, we need to be pragmatic and aware of the risks. Dr. Britton's research has demonstrated that some meditators experience adverse side effects as a result of their practice, and she helps us understand how to avoid such pitfalls. For example, she talks about the specific meditation techniques one should employ and also avoid if they have a history of trauma.

It's important to note that this shouldn't scare you away from meditation, but rather help you to understand that meditation is fundamentally reordering of the mind, a delicate instrument that determines our realities, in ways that we can't take lightly.

Dr. Britton's work is important because it challenges dogma and seeks to help a minority group of meditators who are experiencing some life-threatening adverse phenomena. And while she admits that there's much more research to be done, her early findings are both fascinating and essential knowledge for any meditator.

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