I read Tim Parks' Teach Us to Sit Still: A Sceptic's Search for Health and Healing recently. It is a fascinating book which has led me (via the its references to the author's Vipassanā retreat I think) to Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, thence Richard J Davidson's experiments - in cooperation with the Dalai Lama - on the effects of meditation on the brain, which introduced me in turn to the wonderful Matthieu Ricard. (Much to my astonishment, a subset of Google Tech Talks - the ones curated by Chade-Meng Tan - is a great source of information in this area.)
It's a subject for another day, but I think that the evidence that is emerging that the mind can change the brain's structure is likely to be one of the most profound discoveries of our age.
The point I want to make this morning is that as I was watching The Big Silence - in which a Benedictine introduces five ordinary people to silent, monastic contemplation - on BBC2 last night I was struck by the amount of overlap there was at the level of practice with Buddhist methods.
I suppose that if meditation really is therapeutic, we shouldn't be surprised - looking at it phenomenologically - if parallel approaches arise in different cultures.
Compare and contrast: