I just downloaded the new, absolutely free eBook, edited by Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz. Believe me when I say, you gots to get this! It’s called Compassion: Bridging Practice and Science it is the result of a workshop organized by Dr. Singer in the atelier of Olafur Eliasson and included some of the world’s top Buddhist scholars and teachers, scientists and representative from the best places doing compassion based training and research.
One interesting lecture during the International Conference on Mindfulness that I attended was given by Susan Boegels from the University of Amsterdam about mindful parenting. She talked about several things that are really interesting, even for a non-parent, which revolved to a large extent around dealing with triggers.
Doctors, Nurses and care givers of all kinds often report that they go through periods of apathy, hopelessness, anxiety and depression in response to constant exposure to human suffering. This is sometimes referred to as “Compassion Fatigue”. Even being exposed to lost of negative stories in the news can trigger symptoms in people. So what is going on?
It’s tempting to believe in the social identity: the roles we perform, the personas we embody, at work, with friends, amongst family gatherings. Over the years we become so caught up perfecting these roles that we forget they’re fabrications, based on exaggerating our “winning” traits—our knowledge, sophistication, skills, achievements, etc—while concealing what believe be our weaknesses—inexperience, confusion, disappointments, loneliness and so on.
Emma Seppala, Ph.D, has done groundbreaking work on using yoga and meditation to help veterans cope with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Her work is featured in the “Free the Mind” documentary, reviewed here. While the most common treatment is to prescribe drugs, research shows that the drugs very rarely, if ever work. But for patients who meditate and do yoga, there are some very promising results.
[Editor’s note: After reading Brandt Passalacqua’s excellent blog post, I had to admit that my curiosity was piqued. So Brandt thought it might be fun to do an interview. Our schedules and distant time zones made it hard to connect and but we managed, through the magic of email, to get it done.]
I remember Sogyal Rinpoche saying that learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself. He was right. The best thing I ever did, not just for myself but for everyone around me, was to take the time I did to learn to meditate so that I can snap my fingers / switch my perspective / turn my mind and instead of being confused, frustrated, rushed and tense, I become calm, clear and undistractracted. It's a kind of magic. I feel the tension and stress fall away. A smile blossoms on my face and in my heart. My work proceeds more efficiently and I am more empathetic to others.
Danish filmmaker Phie Ambo’s compelling new documentary “Free the Mind” is not only transformatively moving but informative and hopeful. There's something restorative about watching the gentle, compassionate story highlighting the use of the non-pharmacological methods of mindfulness, yoga and meditation to overcome the anxiety and trauma suffered by the film’s subjects.
Professor Paul Gilbert, OBE has spent much of the last twenty years developing a therapeutic approach which he calls Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT). CFT is not a stand-alone therapy as such, but offers another approach to working or organizing ideas for practitioners of all sorts of therapy. It has been a promising approach, especially when working with patients who experience a great deal of shame or self-criticism.
Andy Fraser and I spent some time with him at the recent Buddhism and Medicine Forum and asked him to explain a bit about CFT and its relationship to Buddhist practice. It is very encouraging to hear about how centuries old practices of mindfulness and compassion can be combined with modern psycho-therapeutic approaches with remarkable results.
The fourth installment of the Buddhism and Medicine series of conferences, a grand experiment bringing together Buddhist Masters, Doctors and Scientists, took place from May 31st through June 2nd at the Lerab Ling Buddhist Retreat Center in France. This year’s forum topic was “Compassion, Empathy and Health” and was attended by over 800 people.