Get curated editors’ picks, peeks behind the scenes, film recommendations and more.
In 1981, Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School, set out to study the ancient meditation practices of Buddhist monks on the Tibetan Plateau. With the Dalai Lama’s blessing, Benson spent roughly a decade in remote regions of the Himalayas in northern India researching an especially intense technique known as tummo, as well as the physiological effects of other advanced forms of meditation. Rather than debunking the seemingly tall tales of advanced practitioners capable of raising their body temperatures to dry cold, wet sheets around their bodies, Benson’s work actually confirmed and expanded upon these anecdotes. In particular, by tracking vital signs and body-heat output during meditation sessions, Benson found that these monks possessed remarkable capacities for controlling their oxygen intake, body temperatures and even brainwaves. In 2013, a second study conducted on advanced Tibetan tummo meditators by Maria Kozhevnikov, a cognitive neuroscientist the National University of Singapore, corroborated much of what Benson had observed, including practitioners’ ability to raise their body temperatures to feverish levels by combining visualisation and specialised breathing.
This extended trailer for the UK filmmaker Russ Pariseau’s feature documentary Advanced Tibetan Meditation: The Investigations of Herbert Benson MD relays portions of Benson’s landmark research, which ultimately signalled a seismic shift in how Western science views Buddhist meditation. Simultaneously, the material makes evident the disparate ways that Western scientists and Tibetan Buddhists understand the self.
Director: Russ Pariseau
Ageing and death
‘It’s not beautiful, but it’s interesting’ – an ageing nude model surveys her body
An animator wonders: can you ever depict someone without making them a caricature?
Film and visual culture
With human help, AIs are generating a new aesthetics. The results are trippy
Gender and identity
The joys and complications of raising a baby without gender in a binary world
Human rights and justice
The staggering cruelty of Ireland’s Church-run ‘mother and baby homes’
Why a journeyman boxer finds contentment in the art of losing
Mood and emotion
‘Let me dream you into my reality’: memories illuminate an unthinkable isolation
Wesley wants to solve the rooftop mystery – but does he have what it takes?
Love and friendship
Skiing blind is a challenge – but it helps to have a loved one to guide you