The other day, I had the pleasure of being able to attend a "Wise Heart and the Mindful Brain" workshop given by Jack Kornfield, a world renowned expert in Buddhist Psychology, and Dan Siegel, an authority on interpersonal neurobiology.
Both speakers were extremely eloquent and knowledgeable about their respective fields and they brought together the fields of neuroscience, psychology, Buddhism and healing in a most profound way.
The above is a brief video from another "Wise Heart and the Mindful Brain" workshop given by Jack and Dan.
I will share with you what I think were the key take-aways from the workshop that Jack and Dan presented.
Dan referred to three of his books during the workshop:
Learnings from Neuroscience:
- Daily mindfulness meditation is recommended for all of us.
- Mindfulness meditation leads to structural changes in our brain (neuroplasticity).
- Mindfulness meditation leads us to have integration of separate parts; this, in turn, leads us to experience greater mental health, better, have a stronger immune system, be more resilient, have more compassion and greater empathy.
- Mindfulness meditation has the ability to lead us to incredible transformation; as it moves us to health, we are presented with the vast open plane of possibility.
- Mindfulness meditation practice is something that would also benefit children as well as people with attention deficit disorder; the structural changes that it makes in the brain will improve the ability to focus, improve emotional regulation and even reduce the occurrence of bullying in classrooms.
Below is a short video clip with Dan explaining about our brain's capacity to transform.
Gems from Buddhist Psychology:
- Practice of forgiveness and loving kindness: Jack quoted the following line from a poem: "to make injustice the only focus of our attention is to praise the devil" to make the point that we need to acknowledge the joys, the unbearable beauty of life. This is to see our potential, what the world really needs. To not do so, would be to diminish ourselves as human beings.
- A key component is intention. For the short term, when something happens and you are close to "losing it" with someone, stop for 1-3 breaths and ask yourself: "What is your true intention?" Usually, there is a desire to connect or to love and once you realize this, you will respond differently. You will feel differently and respond in a different tone and voice than if you hadn't stopped and asked yourself this question.
- For the long term, taking a vow such as "being committed to bringing well-being to everyone in this world" sets the purpose of your life. Taking such a vow helps you have a broader and more compassionate perspective; it helps you not to focus on the results but rather on the work itself.
- Practicing forgiveness doesn't mean that you condone what has happened in the past. It means that you will not carry the bitterness of the past and carry it on to others. It means you give up all hope for a better past, you take that survival and plant a seed that you plant. It's a process. You keep on practicing (meditating the specific forgiveness meditation) until it brings you loving kindness.
- Dan Siegel: This [meditation] gives you the capacity to start again, to let go. You can be made anew and whole. This is the result of neuroplasticity. You can change! You're given the opportunity to integrate internal and interpersonal processes to become healthy.
Aside from learning so much during the two day workshop, we also went through several meditations or practices. Click on the links below to see some examples of some of Jack Kornfield's wonderful meditations.
Meditation on forgiveness
Meditation on compassion
Meditation on lovingkindness
We had done the one on forgiveness and a variation of the compassion and lovingkindness practices. Our compassion version was one in which we did it together with a partner.
As we were going through the various stages of the compassion version, I was looking into the eyes of a female woman who happened to be sitting next to me at the workshop and she, in turn, was looking into my eyes.
Listening to Jack leading the meditation, I was experiencing the different emotions or states of mind he was describing: first love for her, then compassion for her suffering, then joy for her during the stage where she was supposed to be full of child-like free joy and then finally, a sense of interconnectedness at a point where she could be anyone, a friend, a parent etc.
It was at this stage where I all of a sudden saw my partner as my dear friend who is battling cancer (as described in What Do You Do When a Loved One Has Cancer ) and instead of being overcome with fear and worry, I had this peaceful and calm sort of feeling that I would be connected with my dear friend even once he was no longer going to be here.
It was quite extraordinary...It's almost like it gave me the feeling that one is able to be connected to someone once they pass away and I have no idea how this would be possible or how I got this feeling from this meditation but that is what I was left with and it was immensely comforting.
My partner had a very different experience. She shared with me how she saw in me such sadness and how she was unable to see in me any joy or lightness of being during the childhood piece of the guided meditation. She went so far as to say that she saw so much sadness that it was unbearable and she had to turn away from my gaze.
When I heard this, I apologized because my first reaction was to feel guilty and responsible for what my partner had seen/experienced but now upon reflection, I realize that what she experienced was not just as a result of what I was feeling but also as a result of what she was feeling in her own life...
Aside from this practice, there were many others that we engaged in during the workshop and each one left you with different feelings. With some, I think I was simply very tired and my end benefit was that I felt very relaxed and rested. With others, different emotions were stirred. It was such an amazing experience to engage in multiple meditations two days in a row in a theater with over seven hundred people.
Finally, below are a few good books on the neuroplasticity and mirroring that Dan recommended:
Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books)
Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves
Have you ever participated in a workshop that included meditations and if yes, what was the experience like for you? What are your thoughts about meditation? Do the potential benefits of mindful meditation make you want to start engaging in this practice yourself?
You May Also Enjoy:
The Power of Meditation [Based upon How Psychotherapy Works with Dan Siegel]
Jack Kornfield's Dharma Talks