Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sharing the Heart - a Simple Practice

     Why would Pema Chödrön's heart-centered meditation practice (below) be beneficial?

     Yale professor Laurie Santos, interviewed by Christiane Amanpour, provides one perspective:
     "... we now have two decades of scientific work that is identified, exactly these behaviors that seem make us happier. And that the crux of it is that those behaviors aren’t often the things that we expect, they’re often the things that we’re putting off to do other things, thinking that those things are going to make us happy. 
     ... one of the most unexpected areas I find is the power of social connection, just literally spending time with other people and trying to connect with them. I mean, we all know social contact is important but we forget that loneliness (one of the opposites of social contact) can be as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
     We forget also that social contact can come from just simple connections with people we don’t know very well, you know, a chat with a barista at a coffee shop. Those simply kinds of things can boost our mood much more than we expect. And this is the kind of thing I worry about a lot on college campuses because loneliness is also one of these negative mental health statistics that’s increasing on college campuses today.  
     Right now, nationally, about two-thirds of students say that they’re very lonely most of the time. ... And I see why that is ... they sit in a dining hall with these big headphones on, surf scrolling & texting each other but not making contact in real life with actual humans. And so, I think that’s one of the big hints, we just need to take time to chat with people. 
     And I think we see a pattern in technology. The ATM started this revolution of folks kind of getting out of human interactions. We save a lot of time that way, it’s true, and time is very important for well-being also. But all those little mini social interactions that we have waiting in a bank line, or waiting to grab our coffee, or even chatting with the telephone operator when we’re trying to order a taxi, those simple interactions are going away.  
     And the research shows that loneliness is going up. And there’s potentially an important balance here where we do want to save some time, but we also want to make sure that we’re having these social connections in real life. They contribute to our happiness much more than we think.
     ... the problem when we design technology is that we have these mistaken notions about the kinds of things that are going to make us happy. ... we don’t realize that we need the social connection.
     There’s some lovely work by the psychologist, Liz Dunn, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia. And she has this study where she looks at whether or not just having your phone out affects smiling.
     She does this in a waiting room where strangers are waiting together. And what she finds its kind of amazing. She finds that people smile 30 percent less when their phones are around, even if they’re not really doing anything on them.  
     And so, if you multiply that by say, everyone walking around in London and the U.K. on the streets, all that decrease in smiling is probably really affecting the connection that we feel with other people. It’s probably affecting the ease with which we start a conversation with somebody new.
     These phones that we have in six billion pockets around the world are distracting us from the real life connection that we need with other humans."

      "Sharing the heart is a simple practice that can be used at any time and in every situation. It enlarges our view and helps us remember our interconnection.

     The essence of this practice is that when we encounter pain in our life we breathe into our heart with the recognition that others also feel this. It’s a way of acknowledging when we are closing down and of training to open up. 
     When we encounter any pleasure or tenderness in our life, we cherish that and rejoice. Then we make the wish that others could also experience this delight or this relief.
     In a nutshell, when life is pleasant, think of others. When life is a burden, think of others.
     If this is the only training we ever remember to do, it will benefit us tremendously and everyone else as well. It’s a way of bringing whatever we encounter onto the path of awakening compassion."
                                                                                                                            Pema Chödrön

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