There are methods in Buddhist practice devoted to cultivating loving-kindness and compassion. Here, the meditators try to generate an all pervading sense of benevolence, a state in which love and compassion permeate the entire mind. The led pure love and compassion be the only object of their thoughts: intense, deep, and without any limit or exclusion. Although not immediately focussing on particular persons, altrusituisic love and compassion include a total readiness and unconditional availability to benefit others.
Focussed attention, or concentration, requires focussing all one’s attention upon one chosen object and calling one’s mind back each time it wonders. Ideally this one pointed concentration should be clear, calm, and stable. It should avoid syncing into dullness or being carried away by mental agitation. Open presence is a clear, open, vast, and alert state of mind, free from mental constructs. It is not actively focussed on anything, yet it is not distracted. The mind simply remains at ease, perfectly present in a state of pure awareness. When thoughts intrude, the meditator does not attempt to interfere with them, but allows the thought to vanish naturally.
Visualisation, consists of reconstituting in the minds eye a complex mental image, such as the representation of a Buddhist diet. The meditator begins by visualising as clearly as possible every detail of the face, the clothes, the posture, and so on, inspecting them one by one. Lastly, he visualises the entire diety and stabilises that visualisation.
These various meditations are among the many spiritual exercises that a practicing buddhist cultivates over the course of many years, during which they become ever more stable and clear.
In the lab there are two main ways to test the meditators. Electroencephalograms (EEG) allow changes in the brains electrical activity to be recorded with the very accurate time resolution, while functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures blood flow in various areas of the brain and provides an extremely precise localisation of cerebral activity.