What is the difference between empathy and compassion? Is it possible to train compassion? Can it be measured? How useful is compassion training in schools, clinical settings, and end-of-life care? Can the brain be transformed through mental training?
The free eBook: Compassion. Bridging Practice and Science by Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz describes existing secular compassion training programs and empirical research as well as the experiences of practitioners. The state-of-the-art layout of the eBook includes video clips and a selection of original sound collages by Nathalie Singer, and artistic images by Olafur Eliasson
I recommend this article both to those of us who already understand the way mindfulness of both the mediator and the parties can smooth the way to resolution, as well as to those diehards who still protest that mindfulness is not an important component of the way mediation is defined and practiced in the 21st century.
Ignoring your meditation practice? Here's a reminder that you may want to give it some renewed attention. Taking regular walks might step up your cognitive ability, too. (Puns intended.) From "Boosting Brain Power Through a Mind-Body Connection" (Observer-Association for Psychological Science).
What does it take to become a better thinker? Do you need to meditate for hours and engage in grueling cognitive training? Or could the path to a healthy mind be as simple as walking 40 minutes a day? At a symposium on training, performance, and neuroplasticity at the 24th APS Annual Convention in Chicago, three researchers presented their own methods for improving cognition and for tightening the neural circuits that underlie an efficient mind.
...After 20 minutes of meditation a day for five days, the students demonstrated improvements in their conflict-resolution abilities and creative problem solving skills, as well as decreased blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Have you noticed any difference in the mind efficiency and reflectiveness of your clients who have engaged in attention training or regular physical exercise? Ever had a room of reactive-brained couch potatoes?
Being able to draw well can be somewhat like attentive and complete listening. For many people, learning a certain kind of drawing helps them to be better listeners. A receptive state that enables this kind of drawing, once learned, can be transferred to listening.
Good news: (Almost) anyone can master this state.
Today I will recommend two books to help you practice being receptive in drawing. In a later post, we will look at how to transfer that receptivity to situations in which you want to listen deeply. However, many of you probably will be able to transfer the skill as soon as you use it during drawing.
I initiated a seven-year search to discover which functions of the brain artists use when drawing and the causes of the more common problems experienced by my students. I discovered that the right tools for drawing (and painting) are present in everyone's brains but we have other mental processes that subvert the activity of drawing.
It is in order to really see, to see ever deeper, ever more intensely, hence to be fully aware and alive, that I draw what the Chinese call 'The Ten Thousand Things' around me. Drawing is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world.
I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.
One might paraphrase the two authors and say:
The right tools for listening are present in everyone's brain but we have other mental processes that subvert the activity of listening.
Listening is the discipline by which I constantly rediscover the world.
Both drawing and listening can be vehicles for mindfulness and discovery, and I have found that the underlying state for one can be a door to the other. Moving easily between the vehicles will be the focus of another post later this month.
Once in a while, I run into someone who follows this blog but does not know that I also blog at idealawg. At that other blog, I often post about the brain or about mindfulness/meditation. Those posts are typically more general and, unlike most posts here, not specifically related to conflict resolution. Click for idealawg posts about the brain and posts about mindfulness/meditation.
A new article in the New York Times about a school founded by an alternative theater troupe has resulted in some interesting responses; for example, on Twitter: click here or here or here or here or here. The school incorporates practices they claim are brain-based. I guess only time and some rigorous research will tell if the approach is effective in helping kids learn and achieve.
[Y]oung children at the Blue School learn about what has been called “the amygdala hijack” — what happens to their brains when they flip out. Teachers try to get children into a “toward state,” in which they are open to new ideas. Periods of reflection are built into the day for students and teachers alike, because reflection helps executive function — the ability to process information in an orderly way, focus on tasks and exhibit self-control. Last year, the curriculum guide was amended to include the term “meta-cognition”: the ability to think about thinking.
For all the attention brain science is receiving in schools, experts say it is too soon to know whether its application will lead to improved academic outcomes. And some researchers say that while they embrace new ideas — especially around self-control — they personally prefer a more traditional approach to pedagogy.
“The older approach has led to some very good outcomes,” said Sam Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University and co-author of “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain,” a child development primer for parents.
With brain science achieving much more time in the public spotlight, including in the arena of conflict resolution, some of the techniques and theories seeping out of research labs will be be bogus and some will be bona fide. Just a few years from now, we'll know more about what truly helps kids—and adults. In the meanwhile, as I have often warned, be careful, be conservative, be cautious.
In any popular application of neuroscience, you will find people who are careful, conservative, and cautious about what they say, and you will also find the people skilled at marketing. The latter group