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Neuroscience & Compassion with Dr. James Doty

Dr. James Doty shares the amazing story of how a trip to a local magic shop when he was 12 led him down a path to learn about the power of meditation and compassion. He also discusses the neuroscience of stress, the science of of “woo woo” and the practical application of compassion, and meditation. […]

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Does Mindfulness Really Work? With Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson

Does Mindfulness Really Work? What the Science Tells Us. With Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, authors of Altered Traits.   If you liked the video, check out Richard Davidson’s online course, The Neuroscience of Compassion.

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The Relational Neuroscience Behind How to Change a Habit for Good

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Most of us walk around in this world in a trance with the delusional belief that we are only autonomous beings that are completely acting with free will. However, many scientists agree that we are interdependent with our environments and our brains are constantly making snap judgments based on internal and external cues.

You have recall this quote by Albert Einstein:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

The notion of willpower, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or manning up fails to take the psychological and scientific realities into mind. Alcoholics Anonymous has it right, if you’re addicted to substances you need to get them out of the house and begin to change your relationships. This was certainly my experience with my own struggle with substances years ago.

Considering the impact of our environments on our ability to be happy and make the changes we want to make, can drastically facilitate more adherence to whatever habits you’re trying to break or create.

Years ago, UC Berkeley Researcher Marian Diamond conducted a study where she randomly put mice in a few different cages. One had toys and playmates, one had playmates and one had neither. After a few weeks, they found that the brains of the mice that had toys and playmates had thicker cerebral cortices than the other two. This part of the brain is associated with higher order functions like cognitive processing. In fact, the one without toys and playmates showed the thinnest layer.

This is just to say that our environments not only impact our behavior, but also impact our brains (which impact our behavior).

So what’s the secret sauce?

The Neuroscience of Compassion

“The best way to activate positive-emotion circuits in the brain is through generosity,” Davidson, who founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin, Madison, said in a talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival. “This is really a kind of exciting neuroscientific finding because there are pearls of wisdom in the contemplative tradition—the […]

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