Perhaps the most startling finding for meditation beginners
comes with what’s called compassion or loving kindness meditation.
This is a practice that often accompanies
mindfulness the breath for example.
People will do at the end of the session
they bring to mind people that have been kind to them
they think of themselves
they think of people they love
people they know everyone and everywhere
and wish them well
may they be safe, happy, healthy
free from suffering.
And it turns out that the repetition of those phrases
is psychoactive it actually changes
the brain and how
you feel right from the get go.
We find, for example, that people who do this meditation
who’ve just started doing it actually are kinder
they’re more likely to help someone in need
they’re more generous
and they’re happier.
It turns out that the brain areas that help us
or that make us want to help someone that
we care about also connect with the circuitry for feeling good.
So it feels good to be kind and all of that
shows up very early in just a few hours really
of total practice of loving kindness or compassion meditation.
So we feel that the brain is somehow
biologically prepared to learn to love better.
The brain area that become stronger in its activity
is the same as a parent’s love for a child.
It’s the mammalian caretaking circuitry.
We share it with all other mammals.
And in humans it’s extremely important for
the third of three kinds of empathy.
There’s empathy that allows you to understand better
how someone thinks to take their perspective
lets you be a good communicator.
There’s the empathy where you connect emotionally;
you feel what the other person feels immediately;
you sense in your own body what’s going on
in the other person.
This allows rapport and chemistry, it’s also very important.
But the third kind of empathy
is what’s called empathic concern;
it’s the feeling
of caring about another person wanting to help them.
It’s the basis of compassion.
You can have the first two and
not to be particularly concerned or caring
but if you have all three
then you’ve got the whole package of empathy
and we find that love and kindness meditation
strengthens that third, both in terms of
how you behave, how you feel
and what’s happening in the brain.
One of the paradoxes we found when we started looking very closely
at all of the research
that’s done on meditation was a kind of a disconnect
between what the classic traditions
from which these methods come are saying is important
and what scientists are studying.
One of the most important things,
whether you’re looking in the Christian literature
or the Buddhist literature or Jewish literature or Hindu literature,
doesn’t matter, all
of the meditative traditions within those
classical schools of thought are saying the
most important thing is that
you become less focused on yourself,
caring only about yourself,
less selfish as it were
and more open to the needs of others,
more compassionate, more caring
more pleasant to other people.
And even though the classic traditions say
this is what counts
in terms of the scientific interest it was minimal.
We found maybe three or four studies…
remember out of 6,000…
that really were tight methodologically
and spoke to this,
but here again the news was good.
If you look at the longer-term meditators,
people who have done more than say 1,000 or 2000
hours of meditation over their entire life,
and this happens naturally, let’s
say you do a half hour of sit every morning
before you go out for the day, well after a decade
or two it does add up.
And it seems that that cumulative amount
does make people less selfish, less just caring
about me and more open to other people around them, more
caring, more able to tune in, more able to empathize.
And this also shows up in a brain change,
which we think is quite significant, which
is that the nucleus incumbents,which is the focus of craving
of I got to have that,
drug addiction for example,
actually become smaller in longer-term meditators.r
And that seems to be related to this lack
“我 我 我”的
of “I me mine” in how people behave and how
they think in their emotional life.
And we see it most strikingly, of course,
in Olympic level meditators where these are
people who have done 10,000 or more…
10,000 to 62,000 hours of meditation
and they are genuinely selfless people, but they’re
very nourishing very enjoyable to be with
because they pay attention to you, they really
focus on the person they’re with and how they can be
of service of service or what do you need now now
and it’s very refreshing.