Ten minutes of nothing

Lynne Malcolm: In relation to the research centre you talk about how you might introduce interventions to increase compassion, to allow people to be more compassionate. How do you do that in a scientific way?

James Doty: Well the preliminary science shows a couple of things. One is that with even an intervention which is a compassion meditation practice as short as two weeks, it can have a significant effect on the levels of stress hormones and also on your immune system.

ABC Radio National, All in the Mind: The Science of Compassion, Sunday 9th December 2012.

A desk in a noisy room, repetitive conversations, untidy rooms, deadlines, the click-click-click of social media, waiting for approvals, underlying worry about people I love. I know these things contribute to stress, and I know that when stressed I find the shortening pause between an action and my (often frustrated) reaction signals a lack of compassion.

Can meditation aid compassion? The quote above from the interview I listened to yesterday, as well as this clear and visual TED talk by Andy Puddicombe  makes it clear that meditation can reduce stresses and help us to observe more clearly our reactions before we act.

Puddicombe’s talk was featured by TED this morning, accompanied by a blog post also describing recent the scientific support for meditation benefits.  I’ve always struggled to set up an effective mediation practice, first taking a course in Transcendental Meditation in Year 11, only to set it as one of my New Year’s Resolutions again and again and have it evaporate by February. But 10 minutes of doing nothing each day? Perhaps that’s achievable?

[Day 2: Practice]

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The Science of Compassion

Do you believe in the innate goodness of people?

I’m rusty, spiky and often pessimistic, but this interview with James Doty on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind opens the heart.

“Compassion is looking someone in the eye and saying we are the same.”

Getting to compassion though, well that can be harder. As founder of the Centre for Compassion and Alturism Research and Education at Stanford University, James Doty draws on his background in neurosurgery, meditative practices, entrepreneurship and philanthropy to deepen our understanding of the science of compassion and find ways to nurture our individual capacities to connect with each other.

“The act of connecting with others defines your purpose, it defines who you are and sticks with you at a deep level.”

[Day 1: Listen]