Over the years, I have learned that people reading this blog come from a wide range of belief systems, including atheist, agnostic, and those involved to large or small degree in various spiritual and religious practices. Although this blog post to which I am linking today is written by a Christian and part of the post is from a Christian perspective, I think anyone can learn from what Dr. William Struthers calls the Seven Dangerous Neuro-Temptations (The Table, blog of Biola University). Click to see how he defines neuro-essentialism, neuro-manipulation, neuro-divination, neuro-absolution, neuro-narcissism, neuro-normalcy, and neuro-privilege.
Does resolving conflict require learning? Typically, yes, of course. If no one in the dispute learns anything new, the conflict will probably remain unresolved. That's one of the reasons learning is often mentioned here at BonP.
In May, I attended the 26th annual convention of the Association of Psychological Science; some of the presentations I chose among the multitude offered included learning as a focus. One of my favorite programs, and certainly the most entertaining, was one copresented by APS past-president Henry Roediger who is the author of a new book on learning titled Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. This week I have been reading the book for the first time. I say "first time" because I know I will be reading it again: it contains so much of value about teaching and learning. The book is one I will continue to recommend often.
Click to watch Dr. Willoughby Britton talk to the Dalai Lama about her research on the negative effects of meditation. He responds that problems can occur when the practice is decontextualized and is not grounded in tradition, knowledge, ethics, and morality.
So often today we see people blithely stripping off the practice from its tradition and using meditation for be-here-now, anything-goes, feel-good benefits while not including important components such as ethics and ignoring context. The Dalai Lama told the story of being shown the blueprints for a new meditation center. He looked them over and said, "Where's the library?" Knowledge of the tradition, and of the roots and principles of mediation, is critically important.
What are some of the pitfalls of viewing meditation simply as a process of bare attention? When mindfulness is equated with bare attention, it can easily lead to the misconception that the cultivation of mindfulness has nothing to do with ethics or with the cultivation of wholesome states of mind and the attenuation of unwholesome states. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Pali Abhidhamma, where mindfulness is listed as a wholesome mental factor, it is not depicted as bare attention, but as a mental factor that clearly distinguishes wholesome from unwholesome mental states and behavior. And it is used to support wholesome states and counteract unwholesome states.
Everyday the media report science findings and the journals churn out research articles. In addition to feeling inundated, the lay reader may also wonder what's accurate and what's suspect and what's downright bogus. Here are three articles that can remind us to be discerning.
First is an interview with neuroscience researcher Dr. Willoughby Britton. Although she is addressing the science of meditation, what she says about how research should be evaluated has more general application. Click to read "Meditation Nation" (Tricycle).
There are different levels of scientific research, different levels of rigor. I think this is a place where the public could use a lot of education. Because they don’t know how to interpret science, they assume much higher levels of evidence.
The first level is a “pre-post” study, which looks something like this: We go learn to meditate for eight weeks and at the end of it we feel better. We took a stress and anxiety scale before and after, and our stress or anxiety improved. So we say, “Meditation helped me!” That is actually not a valid conclusion. The conclusion you can make in science is that something helped. We didn’t control for the idea that just deciding to do something is going to help. Just that factor—intentionally deciding to make a commitment to your health and well-being—can make a big difference.
Click to read about other levels of rigor.
Next is a post titled "How to Spot Bad Science"(Big Think) which includes "a rather splendid bucket list of issues to look out for when reading science news."
And finally here is an article in which the authors point out how important the relational context is in evaluating research, and look at some research showing how it might have different results had the relational context been different.
The study of social behavior using any methodology, including neuroscience methodologies, must take relational context into account. Researchers must consider not only the nature of the actor him or herself, but also the nature of the person with whom he or she is interacting, and, crucially, the nature of the existing (or desired) relationship between them. It is this last aspect of multi-person processes on which we focus in this paper.
When researchers discovered neurons in monkey brains that fired when an action was performed or observed, they were dubbed “mirror neurons.” And they quickly became the go-to explanation for empathy. Decades later, says Sharon Begley, the evidence that human beings have them is sketchy at best.
Mirror neurons were indeed a paradigm-changing discovery. From the observation that some premotor neurons fire when action is observed rather than performed, however, it is quite a leap to empathy, autism, and the rest. It’s natural to root for the human brain to have as many cool components as possible, and enticing to think that one of them offers a simple and elegant answer to the question of what make us human. But even if it turns out that we don’t have these nifty mirror neurons, it doesn’t make us any less empathetic. We just lack a simple neurological explanation for it.
Respected brain researcher Amishi Jha brings a fascinating exploration of findings from cutting-edge neuroscience on the profound and positive effects of mindfulness practices on the brain, psychological health, wellness, and resilience. These practices are finding broad application in corporate, medical, educational, and military settings.
Amishi Jha, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, is an award-winning and widely published researcher and director of contemplative neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. (www.amishi.com)
Enjoy her presentation. In addition to being a noted researcher, she is an excellent speaker.
Both photos were taken by me at the Naropa event. The second one includes Jane Carpenter who co-presented with Dr. Jha on the second day.
Brains on Purpose: Traits and States to Shape Your Conflict Fate
Our brains are changing all the time. We can be in control of those changes or we can have accidental brains, ruled by habit. Stephanie will show you how you can break bad habits, set and reach goals, and maximize your ability to handle conflict through the process of self-directed neuroplasticity. By using some basic techniques, you can take charge of how your brain changes. You can rewire your brain on purpose.
Click to listen (the link is towards the bottom of the page).
Conflict Resolution, Neuroscience & Zombies with Stephanie West Allen (Idealawg)
In this 31st episode of the Conflict Specialists Show, Dave Hilton interviews Stephanie West Allen (Idealawg & Brains on Purpose) about her work with Conflict Resolution, Neuroscience, Mediation, Monsters and…wait for it…ZOMBIES!
Some of the topics in today’s episode:
Writing Multiple Blogs
BOOK – Triversity Fantasy: Seven Keys To Unlock Prejudice
Your tone of voice can affect your client's ability to hear you, especially in times of stress. In order to have a tone of voice that allows us to be heard, we need to monitor our own level of tension, our own level of defensiveness, our own level of feeling safe. Ongoing monitoring requires mindfulness.
And a truly calming tone of voice is very different from a maneuver, move, or ploy to manipulate a client.
The tone of voice that facilitates good communication does not result from a technique: it flows from the speaker's state. It comes from an inner feeling of safety and conveys that safety to others. Porges's Polyvagal Theory provides the neuroscience and physiology behind the effect of voice tone.
If you want to interact effectively with clients, I highly recommend that you take some time to listen to Porges talking about his theory here or here (slides for the CCARE talk). (Other talks are here.) I have found that listening at those links was easier to understand than reading his book or articles about his work, with the exception of this written interview and this one which are easy to understand.
Once again I am featuring wise practitioners, Shanker and Porges today, who do not talk about stuffing your bag of tricks fuller or
Neuroscientist Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph D, Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center, presents at Berkeley Law on the ways meditation can improve the well-being, concentration, and emotional intelligence of lawyers. In addition to reviewing recent studies in neuroscience and psychology, Simon-Thomas highlights results of pilot studies on Berkeley Law students demonstrating these benefits among participants in mindfulness-in-law courses. Hosted by the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law (law.berkeley.edu/mindfulness.htm).
Below is an article with a good overview of a skill and habit that is helpful, probably essential, to both parties in dispute and conflict professionals: focusing a mind that's wandering. The article also explains some of the neuroscience underlying focus and wandering. From "How to Focus a Wandering Mind" (DailyGood.org):
Reading all this might make you think that we’d be better off if we could live our lives in a constant state of laser-like, present moment focus. But a wandering mind isn’t all bad. Not only can we leverage it to build focus using FA [focused attention] meditation, but the capacity to project our mental stream out of the present and imagine scenarios that aren’t actually happening is hugely evolutionarily valuable, which may explain why it’s so prominent in our mental lives. These processes allow for creativity, planning, imagination, memory—capacities that are central not only to our survival, but also to the very essence of being human.
The key, I believe, is learning to become aware of these mental tendencies and to use them purposefully, rather than letting them take over. Meditation can help with that.