Compassion, empathy, altruism and kindness are positive qualities we intuitively want our children to have, helps a child be successful in life and, research tells us, can be deliberately fostered in families, schools and communities. Teaching these qualities is what the Dalai Lama Center refers to as “Educating the Heart.”
This video of Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl reminds us we can, indeed, teach compassion and kindness through positive relationships, through modeling as well as through opportunities to practice skills with others.
We can be healthier, live longer, and make the world a better place by exploring our potential for compassionate behavior, according to neurosurgeon James Doty,founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, part of the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences.
Where does your strong interest in compassion, altruism and empathy come from?
Having grown up in poverty with a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who was an invalid, I was exposed to suffering—lack of shelter, lack of food. Sometimes you would see people in positions of power or wealth who could intervene to help, and either would be silent observers or would turn away. And then you would see other people who would immediately reach out. Why is it that there are some who are immediately engaged, and others who turn away as soon as they see suffering because they don't want any proximity to it? That paradox stuck with me.
In a speech at the College of William and Mary, the Dalai Lama described the unique nature of human compassion versus that of other animals. What matters as much as his conclusions, says commentator Barbara J. King
In this way the Dalai Lama moved fluidly between what I'd call a continuum model of compassion, one in which our brand of loving kindness emerges from that of other mammals, and a dichotomy model, which stresses that our species' compassion is like no other animal's.
But is this accurate? Is there a sharp division such that other animals never express compassion for strangers or enemies? I'm not entirely sure. When Frans de Waal discusses empathy, he likes to tell the story of the captive bonobo Kuni who came to the aid of a wounded bird. And in the wild, elephants may try to help an ailing or dead elephant, even when that animal is a stranger.
Self-compassion involves becoming aware of the presence of suffering in our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and actions—and then taking steps to diminish the suffering.
Compassion is the natural and spontaneous feeling that arises when we witness suffering, and that triggers our taking action to alleviate the suffering. While it may sound easy, practicing compassion for ourselves is the more difficult of the two. Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life can heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights.
David DeSteno: Compassion is a state to be cultivated. The ability to foster social bonds through aiding others, though taking effort in the short term, is what makes us, both as individuals and as societies, more resilient in the long term.
The past decade has witnessed an explosion of research confirming that what the Dalai Lama said is correct: "Love and compassion are necessities not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."
The first week of The Compassionate Brain series focused on the link between compassion and neuroplasticity of the brain. First let us start with some definitions:
Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to change due to environmental changes or training. These changes can be both structural and functional. All events in our lives affect the neuroplasticity of the brain. Just reading this post is changing the neuroplasticity of your brain.
In this video, Vinciane Rycroft, Director at Mind with Heart, an educators' network for a secular education in empathy and compassion, gives a short introduction to their upcoming 'Empathy & Compassion in Society' Conference in London.
The Conference has a great lineup of speakers and will address three topics: 1. Compassion and empathy: scientific definitions, misunderstandings and function. 2. Compassion, the benefits at the personal level. 3. Compassion in action and social cohesion
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