This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
page=0,0 In his latest book, Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, author of the best-seller Emotional Intelligence, illustrates how new clinical results in the fields of neuroscience and biology show that humans are in fact wired for empathy—that without any conscious effort, we feel the joy, pain, anger, and other emotions of the people around us. Sharon Salzberg, co-founder and teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, spoke to Goleman this summer about the emerging field of social neuroscience and its implications for the principles and practices of Buddhism. In your book you talk about Freud's theory that a psychoanalyst attuned to his own feelings has a window into his client's emotional world. Is that a clue for the rest of us that our own inner experience can be an accurate reflection of what other people around us are going through? Yes. In fact, there's a class of brain cells called "mirror neurons," which act as a neural Wi-Fi, attuning to the other person's internal state moment to moment and recreating that state in our own brain—their emotions, their movements, their intentions. This means empathy is not just based on reading the external signs of someone
else's feeling, like the hint of a frown, or the irritation in their voice. Because of mirror neurons, we feel with the other. Empathy, then, includes attuning to our own feelings in order to better sense what's going on with the other person. So it's like another whole take on interconnectedness? That's why I was so fascinated by this new field of social neuroscience. In the last few years researchers have discovered the social brain, the circuitry that connects us intimately in every human encounter we have. This can be for better or for worse, of course. For instance, we can pick up toxic emotions by witnessing violence, something like the emotional equivalent of secondhand smoke. Or we can radiate peacefulness to the people we meet. We're all part of an invisible emotional economy, a give-and-take of feelings that transpires no matter what else we do in an encounter. The question is, at the end of an encounter, which emotions have been transferred—do people feel better, or worse?
which means our empathy also makes us vulnerable to catching distress. The ideal response to suffering is to empathize—be open to the pain—while staying calm and clear. The state you're describing. for example. you might have the thought "This person isn't worth my spending time on." Compassion means "I feel with you enough to be moved to help. And I don't feel so much that I become helpless." Those are all projections. feeling within our bodies what someone else is feeling or even their intention. whose emotional state has been transferred to the other person? Is it the distressed person who's flooding the would-be helper? Or is it the helper who has been calm and kind to the other person. Empathy naturally leads to compassionate action.2 What about delusion? How do we know we're not just seeing the world through our own habitual reaction? Because of mirror neurons. at that instant you might assume she's rejected you and is going to leave. we attune and so feel with them. Empathy simply means "I sense how you feel. That occurs when people are constantly confronting human pain and distress but have too few inner emotional resources or too little emotional support in their workplace to contain those feelings —they get swamped. The literature on altruism points to a three-stage process: We notice someone is in need or distress. and then we act to help. Can you trace for us the path from suffering to compassion? In one part of your book. It's a common moment that can be interpreted in many ways." If you have fears of social exclusion. Then we can make the appropriate compassionate response. This is where dharma practice can help enormously: We know that people with a strong practice tend to become more calm and clear. but is scanning the room behind you. let alone . and it's that even-minded clarity that lets compassionate action be on target. If you're a narcissist. who goes away feeling better? I see a lot of people who feel overwhelmed at someone else's suffering. Exactly—that's a mindful response. empathy and compassion are two different phases in the arc toward altruism. tuning into our internal feelings gives us a mix of our own responses and what we pick up from the other. The archetype of such empathy distress is compassion burnout in helping professions like nursing or social work. you might start feeling you're an outsider in this group. None of them would allow you to sense. So the challenge is to distinguish between what comes from our own reactions and what comes from the other person. Unlovability would trigger the thought "She doesn't like me. seems like a world in which we could also be just constantly overwhelmed by input. They feel distaste." But not so much that I'm overwhelmed. The dilemma is that the social brain continually makes emotions contagious. that the other person is looking for someone they think you might like to meet. But simple inattention kills empathy. Or even maybe just to see that that is an interpretation and you don't know if it's true or not. Yes. If you are prone to an abandonment pattern. you talk about the role of attention in altruism—that in a way it's a form of both focusing and opening attention. at the end of the interaction. And so the question is. they feel frightened that empathy and compassion actually seem distinct from one another. depending on our own emotional habits. in which we are so interconnected and responsive to one another. Say you're at a party and you notice the person you're talking to is not really listening to what you're saying.
Psychophysiologists who study marital disagreements call this the "downward spiral. would our instinctive response to help be overridden by intervening thoughts and patterns that tend to arise. then we feel with. Once we shift our attention to the person." when one person's hostility triggers the same in the other. When our attention gets captured by all these gadgets. today it needs to be said because our attention gets split continually. " And once we notice. and then we respond to. But just in terms of helping. we're wired to automatically help others in distress. What happened is that we have become the victims. automatically. What about when the person we're interacting with isn't in distress but is attacking us." The dilemma is that social arrangements have intervened so that we rarely encounter people in dire need face-to-face. If we see the other as an object. and we miss the human moment—we miss the opportunity for attending to what's going on with the other person. we automatically sense their state of mind. or for anger in ourselves. I think in this day and age it needs to be said more and more. It all begins with the simple act of attention. . expressing anger or hatred toward us? So while we are wired for compassion when the other is in desperate need. The design of the social brain creates a three-step process: First we notice. we feel with. I've got an appointment. which is that anybody will save a baby poised at the edge of a well. we may feel like we're in touch with someone at a distance while we're completely indifferent to the person right next to us. That seems like such a radical statement. most often it's self-preoccupation that keeps us from noticing what others need in the first place. So the enemy of compassion is preoccupation with the self. All the more need for cultivating the inner readiness to respond with compassion. That's the path toward hatred. and responding as needed. That's the immediate human response." Or "Gee. being locked in to our email." I think that's more to the point than "us" and "them" most of the time in our daily lives. "Attention must be paid . and are unmoved by their plight. Blackberries. in evolution these responses were hardwired in the brain because they helped us survive in small bands in a dangerous world. as "it" rather than "you. Are you saying that at first there is a compassionate response. if one of the two has strong equanimity or compassion—or just a sense of humor about what's going on—that spiral can be broken. There's that line from Death of a Salesman. So the first step in compassion is to notice the other's need. in a reverberating circuit of building recrimination. And if they're in immediate distress. the way we're made to feel empathy takes over. It has often seemed to me that there is a phase between empathy and action where we might sense that someone is suffering but be frightened or repulsed." we have zero empathy. of "civilization and its discontents. But even when we do see someone in need. That's what the social brain does. And remember. to use Freud's phrase.3 compassion. We are tuned out of the present reality by our cell phones. The moment we attune. Although that may seem self-evident. other circuitry flips on when we face anger or aggression—wiring for fear. but that it can be overridden by our fear or aversion? The Chinese philosopher Mencius gave a famous example. like "I don't like that kind of baby" or "I'm afraid. can't other social afflictions—like racism— intervene? If the child at the edge of Mencius's well is of a race we have been taught to despise. not a person. On the other hand. I'd better hurry. we are wired to help them. . .
But you see. when they're joyous. we make it more likely to operate in moments that require altruism. Wow. to pay attention. Part of our work is rehearsing that compassionate response so that the other kinds of fear or distresses that may arise aren't so predominant. This is true both in the classroom and the office. motivated. it may be that the need to cultivate compassion more intentionally arose with the rise of civilization. we take our present circumstances to be the human norm when— in the long view of human history—actually it's an aberration. . That arc seems like the most crucial learning we have to do. especially when it comes to leadership. But I think more to the point is that today it behooves us to cultivate compassion so that our instinctive altruistic response has a chance to operate freely. It's also a teacher's responsibility with a student. Otherwise all you're doing is arousing the brain's centers for anxiety. So that we pay attention instead of walking around in the fog that we're usually in. So people need to be very skillful when giving performance feedback and not be overly harsh. So that we not only pay attention but also predispose ourselves. Before we realized that brains interconnect so much. That's right. Or if a boss puts someone down or humiliates them. The social brain's design favors empathy and compassion. When people are in an alert. In fact. that threatens and undermines the person's neural ability to be at their best. we live in such artificial circumstances compared with how we lived for most of human evolution. and can have great power because something coming from this powerful person in your life is amplified emotionally. and engaged state. undermining the very ability to perform well. I think it's so interesting that part of our work really is to open.4 But you're implying that all of these obstacles are conditioned. it seemed that how someone does at work has little or nothing to do with how that person's boss treats them—that it's entirely up to the person alone. for example. Which means that a small dose of negative feedback gets magnified in your own mind. But if a teacher just angrily scolds a student and expects that student to learn better. despite the muffling effects of modern life. So the boss or teacher has to understand that they're partly responsible for the other person's very brain state and subsequent inability to do better. That's not the way we're wired. the brain operates at a peak efficiency. which in Buddhist terminology is what you were talking about before. One study shows that people ruminate about negative statements from their boss far more than they remember positive ones. they're even more efficient. And part of our work is cultivating equanimity. And so. That's right. that's hopeful. because there is a strong relationship between maximal cognitive efficiency and a person's emotional state. he's basically undermining his own efforts as a teacher. Absolutely. I think that by rehearsing the intention of compassion. But the social brain's interconnectivity means that to some degree the boss's brain is looped into that person's brain. The best is to put negative feedback in a positive context—adding a suggestion for the person to improve. they're not the way we're made. The equanimity allows us to register another's pain while staying calm enough ourselves to do what's called for. There is also a power factor: emotions are most contagious from the most powerful person in a group outward. And so a leader's responsibility includes helping that person get into and stay in an internal state where he can do his best work.
it plummets to nothing.com. to see: wow. That one person simply holding someone's hand. And. I found it very inspiring. And because the social brain makes their state of mind contagious to anyone in their presence. We can do this for each other. Yeah. and loving. automatic way. it might have clinical consequences. It's more than just a nice thing to do. If you have a loved one who is suffering.5 I remember when Munindraji. rate the questions of others. because the more you can develop the internal ability to have that kind of presence—which is not getting lost and also not pushing away—toward what's arising within. and you yourself are calm. to rejoice in the inherent ability of their students to become more free. in the sangha. simply being in the presence of a realized being. it's an effective thing to do. That study is one of many that suggests we are each other's biological allies. Ask a question. now you solve yours. She's understandably apprehensive. It's the essence. the very expression of compassion. her anxiety level falls a bit. those beings transmit a taste of their mind-state to those around them. because you come away with a bit of what they have." It was a great moment of confidence in me—I felt like he really believed I could. That calls to mind the study of the effect of someone holding your hand in the MRI. can have a powerful biological effect both emotionally and physiologically. There's a strong tradition among dharma teachers. I've often thought that one of the great things we get from our teachers is their faith in us. I think so. So the point of darshan is just going to be in that presence. through emotional contagion. but actually. Mindfulness and other meditation practice are things we can do for ourselves. While she's lying there. This doesn't cure the disease. done by James A. look how we're wired. this rejoicing in others' abilities. it can be better. . your presence is going to help them. People go to be with someone who has stabilized in an equanimous. For people who are in very vulnerable. in hard scientific terms. a calm. too. quite skillful in view of social intelligence. But apart from that. That's a very important study. Do you have any more questions for Daniel Goleman? Visit the new Tricycle Q & A on tricycle. in a rather beautiful. then you can have it for others. loving awareness. Coan in Richard Davidson's lab at the University of Wisconsin: A woman lies in a brain-imaging machine and waits to get a mild shock. seamless. But the interconnections of the social brain suggest that we can then bring our ease of mind to other people. too. it eases the suffering the disease brings. loving presence can make a huge difference. just in terms of how a person experiences their illness. If it's her husband. No wonder I follow the Dalai Lama around everywhere! I think your research is incredibly hopeful—in a time when a lot of people are in despair. and that is a gift. equanimous. someone comes and holds her hand. said to me very early on in my practice. all the data itself. and Daniel Goleman will answer the top three in our reader-directed follow-up. extremely precarious health situations. one of my meditation teachers. If it's a stranger. Not just in some metaphorical way. you know. or maybe just being a calm presence. I also think that neural interconnection may partly explain the tradition in Asian cultures of darshan. "The Buddha's enlightenment solved the Buddha's problem. It makes the internal work and the external work the same. it starts right here and now.
then why chant at all. wouldn't the idea be to change that through chanting? f one already has confidence. I've been chanting about four years now and I don't want it to be a useless austerity. positivity and self-belief. If one is a negative person. It's not just in things I've read from you but from books and other chanters.6 What is the correct way to chant nam myoho renge kyo? How to chant nam myoho renge kyo Focus on your chanting. your view that chanting isn't a good cause in itself raises the question about how one's life state is when we chant. Often in the same paragraph it will be suggested that one thinks of little if anything at all while chanting and then the encouragement to chant for one's happiness or some specific goal or goals. The rest will come to you in good time. Thanks WR My response: How to chant nam myoho renge kyo? Hi WR . This has created a deadlock in my practice because I never feel like I'm doing it correctly. Also. Hey Robbie I enjoy your site but I have a question that has confused me. Any help on these questions would be appreciated.
alone with your thoughts. I can understand your point of view about deadlock. as it puts you on the right track. on waking. Richard G Causton . I have quite a temper on me and I can loose it easily. If you chant morning and evening. It matters not what is going through your mind. When you think about it. Anyone who has told you to formulate your chanting is incorrect. I think what is very important is your attitude to the chanting. is not enough. years of practice. (Amazon UK . the more you do it.. No one is forcing your or expecting you to do it and there should certainly never be any guilt for NOT doing it. your day is really where you live your life.' by Causton. dont. and then sit and chant. then that is all you must do. http://amzn. These are all questions I have asked my self. that we must have faith.Check out 'The Buddha In Daily Life: An Introduction to the Buddhism of Nichiren. to greet a new day. As long as you are sitting still. do 2 minutes. It is a daily practice to help you become closer to your self. the happier . reading. you surround your day with the positive and life affirming process of chanting. just remind your self that this is for you and this is your time.7 Some very good questions there indeed. The idea with chanting is that there is no right or wrong way. The process of chanting is deeply profound and all you need do is simply chant. You can get a copy on Amazon. If you feel like doing 30 minutes do 30 minutes. very easily. If you dont feel like doing it. and the deeper the connection you have with your mind and body. with your eyes focused on either The Gohonzon or a blank space. It is advised to do it daily. what is best is to write them down. The chanting is a good cause. developing our selves) this is Buddhism and the three pillars. I can get very angry. If you feel like doing 2 minutes. as a sort of gratitude practice. It takes practice. or the behaviour I have learnt from my father or mother. to know your self better. Chanting can become very boring if you have no motivation and what you mentioned at the end that if you are already a very positive person.to/dXOogr) Now the next time you sit down and chant and feel like you are doing it wrong. You are doing it for your self and not for anyone else. why chant? We are told that chanting alone. I know in my self that when I do not chant. with a positive start. It would be interesting to learn how much study you are doing. There is no guilt or regret in what we do. So you want to know how to make chanting nam myoho renge kyo effective? Well chanting is something that anyone can do. and then before bed as a way to thank the universe for everything you have received that day. but it simply allows you to focus with time.. you feel like you have got to a point and then cant go further. you should defiantly consider reading a book called The Buddha in Daily Life by Richard Causton. practice and study (learning. When you "chant for specific" things. When I have been doing a lot of diamoku (chanting) I am calmer and I tend not to over react and to revert to my old way of being... But.
It just so happens that this path is relatively free from dogma and rules and laws and temples etc Its all about your daily life. this is the only way to happiness. Never do something unless it feels right to you. I am by no means a master at this stuff. We break through these clouds. This is why there are other people (non-buddhists) who are able to manifest deep happiness as they are able to connect with this part of them selves. So please just take my advice if you connect with it or feel right about it. Don't every let anyone tell you that. Just trust that when you are chanting. regularly. Robbie . but I feel I do have a deep and profound understanding of the practice. or its caused by a minded clouded by emotion. when we spend time with our selves and connect with our true selves. and how the whole world fits together. you are the Buddha and that you are able to manifest the Buddha nature in your daily life.8 you will be as a person. I do hope all this makes sense. our Buddha nature. I believe there are many paths to wholeness. Nichiren Buddhism is just one path of many. your mind. your community. Namaste friend. your body. As the un-happiness that most people feel is an illusion.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.