Different Mindfulness Practices Have Differing Effects on Mindfulness and Compassion

Different Mindfulness Practices Have Differing Effects on Mindfulness and Compassion

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Last year it was mindfulness but this year, attending without judgment is out and compassion for you as an antidote to your perceived low self-worth, failure, or any other form of suffering is definitely in.“ – Patricia Rockman

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

There are a number of different types of meditation. Many can be characterized on a continuum with the degree and type of attentional focus. In “Presence” meditation, also known as focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. “Perspective” meditation is another different method of cultivating mindfulness. In open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these thoughts and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention. A third “Affect” meditation technique, e.g. Loving Kindness Meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. Although Loving Kindness Meditation has been practiced for centuries, it has received very little scientific research attention

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Effects of Attention-, Compassion-, and Socio-Cognitively Based Mental Practices on Self-Reports of Mindfulness and Compassion.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5693975/ ), the effects of the various meditation techniques on mindfulness and compassion were compared. Hildebrandt and colleagues recruited healthy adults without meditation experience and randomly assigned them to one of two conditions; the first practiced “Presence”, “Affect”, and “Perspective” conditions in counterbalanced order, while the second constituted a retest control. The conditions were practiced daily at home for 13 weeks and involved a weekly 2-hour training session. In the “Presence” condition the participants practiced as focused attention meditation and body scan meditation In the “Affect” condition the participants practiced Loving Kindness Meditation and engaged in affect dyads, where they were paired with another participant to discuss for 5 minutes each day something that they were grateful for, In the “Perspective” condition the participants practiced observing thoughts meditation and engaged in perspective dyads, where they were paired with another participant to discuss for 5 minutes each day “a situation from the perspective of one of one’s own inner parts.”  The retest control participants were matched on mindfulness with the practice participants. All participants were measured before and after each condition for mindfulness, compassion, fear of compassion, and self-compassion.

 

They found that, compared to the retest control condition all three meditation conditions led to increased mindfulness presence, observing, and non-reacting, but only the “Affect” and “Perspective” conditions produced significant increases in the mindfulness non-judging, accepting, and compassion scales. The “Affect” condition produced additional significant increases in the compassion scales. Hence, different mindfulness practices produced different patterns of change in mindfulness and compassion.

 

Practicing focused meditation appears to improve present moment awareness and the ability to not react to its contents. Practicing observing thoughts appeared to not only improve these mindfulness components but also improved the ability to accept and not judge what is occurring. On the other hand, practicing Loving Kindness Meditation appears to improve all of these mindfulness components and in addition improve compassion. Hence, it appears that “Affect” meditation may be a superior technique for promoting both mindfulness and compassion.

 

These results are surprising as focused attention meditation has long been the most commonly taught practice, yet it was the least effective. It should be mentioned, however, that the present study was unusual in including dyadic discussions in only the “Affect” and “Perspective” conditions and not the “Presence” condition. These dyadic discussions may have been crucial in producing the enhanced effectiveness’ of these practices. It remains for future research to investigate this possibility.

 

This study is an important beginning in documenting the different effects of different meditation techniques. This may lead to better application of meditation tailored for the specific needs of the individual, leading to improved health and well-being.

 

Mindfulness is more than just moment-to-moment awareness. It is a kind, curious awareness that helps us relate to ourselves and others with compassion.”Shauna Shapiro

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Hildebrandt, L. K., McCall, C., & Singer, T. (2017). Differential Effects of Attention-, Compassion-, and Socio-Cognitively Based Mental Practices on Self-Reports of Mindfulness and Compassion. Mindfulness, 8(6), 1488–1512. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0716-z

 

Abstract

Research on the effects of mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions is flourishing along with self-report scales to assess facets of these broad concepts. However, debates remain as to which mental practices are most appropriate to develop the attentional, cognitive, and socio-affective facets of mindfulness and compassion. One crucial question is whether present-moment, attention-focused mindfulness practices are sufficient to induce a cascade of changes across the different proposed facets of mindfulness, including nonjudgmental acceptance, as well as compassion or whether explicit socio-affective training is required. Here, we address these questions in the context of a 9-month longitudinal study (the ReSource Project) by examining the differential effects of three different 3-month mental training modules on subscales of mindfulness and compassion questionnaires. The “Presence” module, which aimed at cultivating present-moment-focused attention and body awareness, led to increases in the observing, nonreacting, and presence subscales, but not to increases in acceptance or nonjudging. These latter facets benefitted from specific cultivation through the socio-cognitive “Perspective” module and socio-affective, compassion-based “Affect” module, respectively. These modules also led to further increases in scores on the subscales affected by the Presence module. Moreover, scores on the compassion scales were uniquely influenced by the Affect module. Thus, whereas a present-moment attention-focused training, as implemented in many mindfulness-based programs, was indeed able to increase attentional facets of mindfulness, only socio-cognitive and compassion-based practices led to broad changes in ethical-motivational qualities like a nonjudgmental attitude, compassion, and self-compassion.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5693975/

Improve Emotional Well-Being with Mindfulness

Improve Emotional Well-Being with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness is about offering a warm, kind, friendly, accepting awareness to your moment-by-moment experience (all positive emotions), whatever that may be. For this reason, any practice of mindfulness, in the long term, develops your ability to generate positive feeling towards your inner (thoughts, emotions) and outer (world) experience.” – Anonymous

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to produce improved emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But, when they get extreme they can produce misery and even mental illness. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

Two types of meditation practices are the commonly used. Loving kindness meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. In mindfulness meditation, the individual either practices paying attention to a single meditation object, or the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. In both cases, the meditator learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, staying focused on the present moment, and filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. The meditator just observes the stimuli present and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

There has been very little research on the relative effectiveness of these two very different types of meditation practice. In addition, there has been little attention paid to the growth and development in the benefits of practice over time. In today’s Research News article “Positive Emotion Correlates of Meditation Practice: a Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Loving-Kindness Meditation.” (See summary below). Fredrickson and colleagues compare Loving kindness meditation to mindfulness meditation practice effects on the growth of positive emotions as practice continues.

 

They recruited meditation-naive adults between the ages of 34 to 64 years and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control group or to receive 1-hour once per week for 6 weeks training in either loving kindness meditation or mindfulness meditation. Participants were asked to practice at home 3 to 5 times per week. Beginning with the start of training, participants completed daily on-line reports for 9 weeks of their meditation practice and their emotional states of 10 positive emotions (amusement, awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, joy, love, pride, and serenity) and 10 negative emotions (anger, shame, fear, hate, disgust, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, scorn, and stress).

 

They found that the participants in both meditation conditions had significant increases in positive emotions and the groups did not differ. Negative emotions were not affected. Hence, both loving kindness meditation and mindfulness meditation improved the participants mood equivalently. The improvements in positive emotions increased linearly over the 9 weeks of measurement, with the emotional state becoming more and more positive every day. They also found that the more the participants practiced the larger the improvements in their positive emotional states.

 

These are interesting results that indicate that meditation, regardless of type, leads to greater happiness and the more practice, both in frequency and duration, the greater the benefit which grows day by day. It would be interesting in future studies to continue collecting data for a longer period of time to determine when the growth in benefits begins to taper off. The fact that there was no effect on negative emotions may have been due to the fact that these otherwise normal participants did not have very high levels of negative emotions to start with. Again, future research should include individuals with high levels of negative emotions. Regardless, it is clear that meditation practice incrementally improves mood with continued practice.

 

So, improve emotional well-being with mindfulness.

 

“Meditation gives you the wherewithal to pause, observe how easily the mind can exaggerate the severity of a setback, and resist getting drawn back into the abyss.”— Richie Davidson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Fredrickson, B.L., Boulton, A.J., Firestine, A.M. et al. Positive Emotion Correlates of Meditation Practice: a Comparison of Mindfulness Meditation and Loving-Kindness Meditation. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0735-9

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to uncover the day-to-day emotional profiles and dose-response relations, both within persons and between persons, associated with initiating one of two meditation practices, either mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation. Data were pooled across two studies of midlife adults (N = 339) who were randomized to learn either mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation in a 6-week workshop. The duration and frequency of meditation practice was measured daily for 9 weeks, commencing with the first workshop session. Likewise, positive and negative emotions were also measured daily, using the modified Differential Emotions Scale (Fredrickson, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 47:1–53, 2013). Analysis of daily emotion reports over the targeted 9-week period showed significant gains in positive emotions and no change in negative emotions, regardless of meditation type. Multilevel models also revealed significant dose-response relations between duration of meditation practice and positive emotions, both within persons and between persons. Moreover, the within-person dose-response relation was stronger for loving-kindness meditation than for mindfulness meditation. Similar dose-response relations were observed for the frequency of meditation practice. In the context of prior research on the mental and physical health benefits produced by subtle increases in day-to-day experiences of positive emotions, the present research points to evidence-based practices—both mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation—that can improve emotional well-being.

Improve Self-Compassion with Loving Kindness Meditation

Improve Self-Compassion with Loving Kindness Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“practicing 7 weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.” – Emma Seppala

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions. One understudied meditation technique is Loving Kindness Meditation. It is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being.

 

Although Loving Kindness Meditation has been practiced for centuries, it has received very little scientific research attention. In today’s Research News article “Does Loving-Kindness Meditation Reduce Anxiety? Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below). Weibel and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to practice Loving Kindness Meditation at 4 weekly, 90 minute sessions and were encouraged to practice at home. They were measured before and after the 4-week training period and 8 weeks later for anxiety, compassionate love, and self-compassion.

 

They found that following treatment, in comparison to the wait-list control participants, the Loving Kindness Meditation participants demonstrated significant increases in compassionate love, and self-compassion, including the self-kindness and common humanity subscales. At the 8-week follow-up, only the self-kindness subscale remained significant. Hence, the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation was found to enhance compassion and kindness toward the self.

 

These are disappointing results. Loving Kindness Meditation is a practice of directing compassion and kindness toward the self and others. So, these results only show that practicing compassion and kindness produces compassion and kindness. The failure to show any effects on anxiety suggest that Loving Kindness Meditation may not have effects beyond what it is designed to target.

 

There are a number of studies that show significant effects for Loving Kindness Meditation on a wide variety of physical and psychological issues. So, it would appear likely that the lack of effectiveness seen in the current study was due to the particular characteristics of this study. Perhaps, the brief, 4-week, duration of the practice was insufficient. Perhaps, other psychological characteristics than anxiety needed to be measured. Perhaps college students are not an appropriate group for Loving Kindness Meditation. Perhaps, placebo effects accounted for the differences in compassion and kindness. Regardless, it is clear that the current study does not demonstrate significant effects of Loving Kindness Meditation beyond what it practices; compassion and kindness toward the self.

 

“More than just a feel-good practice, compassion meditation leads to improved mood, more altruistic behavior, less anger, reduced stress and decreased maladaptive mind wandering, according to recent research.” – Stacey Colino

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Weibel, D.T., McClintock, A.S. & Anderson, T. Does Loving-Kindness Meditation Reduce Anxiety? Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 565. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0630-9

 

Abstract

Although loving-kindness meditation (LKM) has shown some promise as a psychological intervention, little is known about the effectiveness of LKM for reducing one of the most prevalent mental health problems: anxiety. To build knowledge in this area, we conducted a randomized controlled trial, assigning non-clinical undergraduates to either a four-session, group-based LKM intervention (n = 38) or a waitlist control (n = 33). Self-reported anxiety, compassionate love, and self-compassion were assessed at pretreatment, posttreatment, and 8-week follow-up. Relative to control participants, participants in the LKM intervention reported higher compassionate love and self-compassion at posttreatment and higher self-kindness (a component of self-compassion) at follow-up. Anxiety ratings did not significantly differ between conditions at posttreatment or follow-up. Study limitations and directions for future research are discussed.

Improve Social and Nature Connectedness with Meditation

Improve Social and Nature Connectedness with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Loving-kindness meditation is a contemplative practice focused on self-generated emotions of compassion, love, and goodwill toward oneself and others. . . individuals who regularly practiced loving-kindness meditation for approximately 2 months experienced significant increases in self-reported positive emotions, such as joy, awe, and gratitude. . .  they also reported a stronger sense of social connectedness. . . individuals in the loving-kindness meditation group perceived themselves as being closer and more “in tune” with others during social interactions.” – Laura Schenck

 

We are social animals. Alone we are weak and vulnerable and would not have fared well in evolution. But, in concert with others we have dominated our world. By working together in organized societies, we have not only been able to provide for a vast population but create technical wonders expanding interpersonal interaction possibilities. It is obvious that we are connected to and depend upon one another and that, in general, is a good thing. All that the species has accomplished resulted from the ability to work together cooperatively and build upon the work of others.

 

Beyond, the importance of the group, interactions with other people are fundamental to personal well-being. People need to be with and connected with others. Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. Some are better than others, but everyone struggles with human connections to some extent. Hence it is important for us to find ways to improve how we connect with other people.

 

Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is specifically designed to develop positive feelings toward the self and others.  In LKM the meditator focuses on repeatedly wishing positive things, wellness, safety, happiness, health etc. for oneself and toward multiple other people from loved ones to enemies. LKM and other mindfulness practices have been shown to improve positive mood and improve social interactions. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation.” (See summary below). Aspy and Proeve examine the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to improve connectedness to others and to nature.

 

They recruited college students who were occasional meditators and randomly assigned them to complete either a 15-minute recorded guided mindfulness meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), or relaxation session. Before and after the session they completed measures of positive and negative emotions, social connectedness, and connectedness to nature. The entire study was conducted over the internet. So, they included objective questions regarding the recordings to insure that the participants actually completed the appropriate 15-minute session. 24% of the original participants were excluded for providing incorrect answers.

 

They found that the two meditation groups had significantly higher social connectedness, and connectedness to nature than the relaxation group. But, there were no significant differences between the mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) groups. In addition, there were no significant differences between the three groups in positive and negative emotions. Hence, brief meditations appear to increase connectedness socially and to nature without altering mood.

 

It has been well established that both mindfulness meditation and Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotions. It is likely that a single brief meditation is not sufficient to improve mood. But, it is interesting that connectedness was improved. This makes sense for Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) as it includes thoughts about others. But mindfulness meditation does not, focusing on the breath and bodily sensations. But, mindfulness meditation has been shown previously to improve social behavior. So, although the two types of meditation have the same effect on connectedness, they may do so in different ways.

 

So, improve social and nature connectedness with meditation.

 

“Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others. . . compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that Loving Kindness Meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from benefitting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence.” – Emma Seppälä

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Denholm J. Aspy, Michael Proeve. Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation. Psychological Reports, Vol 120, Issue 1, pp. 102 – 117, 2017. 10.1177/0033294116685867

 

Abstract

An experiment involving 115 undergraduate students (74.8% females; mean age = 20.5 years, SD = 4.3) was conducted to explore effects of meditation on social connectedness, nature connectedness, and affect. Participants listened to one of three brief guided meditation Mp3 recordings via the internet, which involved mindfulness meditation (MM), loving-kindness meditation (LKM), or progressive muscle relaxation (active control group). Participants in the MM and LKM groups reported greater social and nature connectedness at post-test than those in the control group. There were no significant differences in connectedness between the MM and LKM groups, suggesting they are both effective for enhancing connectedness. There were no significant changes in negative or positive affect at post-test due to the interventions. Recommendations for future research are provided.

Increase Connectedness by Meditating in Pairs

Increase Connectedness by Meditating in Pairs

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Couples meditation provides a great way for you and your partner to tune your instruments to one another. By taking a few minutes to meditate with your partner, you greatly increase your chances of having meaningful conversation and intimate connection. Couples meditation is a way of bringing your emotional state and psychological rhythms into alignment.” –  John Wise

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions. Also, meditation occurs in a variety of social conditions. It is practiced, alone, with another, dyad, or with groups of varying sizes. It is not known what the effects, if any, of these different social conditions might be on the effectiveness of meditation practice.

 

Four types of meditation are the most commonly used practices for research purposes. In body scan meditation, the individual focuses on the feelings and sensations of specific parts of the body, systematically moving attention from one area to another. Loving kindness meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. On the other hand, in open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these stimuli and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Contemplative Dyads on Engagement and Perceived Social Connectedness Over 9 Months of Mental Training: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:summary below, Kok and Singer investigate the effectiveness of loving kindness meditation and open monitoring meditation practiced in dyads; meditating in pairs. They recruited normal adults aged between 20 to 55 and randomly assigned them to two different orders of conditions in a complex research design. Training in meditation began with a 3-day retreat, followed by 3 months of home-based breath focused attention and body scan meditations practiced in pairs, dyads. The first group of participants then spent 3 months practicing loving kindness meditation in combination with a taking turns for 5-minutes describing feelings and bodily sensations during a difficult situation. The next 3 months they practiced open monitoring meditation in combination with a taking turns for 5-minutes describing a recent situation from the perspective of a randomly assigned “inner part.,” e.g. “the judge” or “the loving mother.” The second group reversed the order to these home-based 3-month dyadic practices.  The participants reported daily on their feeling states, contents of thought, meta-cognition, closeness to their partner, valence, and arousal.

 

They found that the participants liked the loving kindness meditation segment best. Self-disclosures increased and became more personal over the training but this did not differ between conditions. Both conditions also produced significant increases in felt closeness to the partner, but the loving kindness meditation segment produced the greatest increase and the fastest rate of increase in this sense of connectedness.

 

These results suggest that meditating in pairs is an effective technique producing the usual benefits of meditation and also a social benefit of increasing felt closeness and self-disclosure. This could help in relieving loneliness that is often associated with depression. Loving kindness meditation appeared to be best in promoting these social benefits. Future research needs to investigate the impact of this improved social connectedness on the physical and mental health of the participants. This research is a step in the right direction of better understanding the consequences of different meditation types performed in different social conditions. Such an understanding should improve the targeting of specific meditation techniques to specific physical or psychological needs.

 

So, increase connectedness by meditating in pairs.

 

 “If you are partnered perhaps either you haven’t felt as connected as you used to or things are going great but you want to make them even better. In either case, meditating together daily, or as often as possible, could make a big difference in the quality of your relationship.” – Your Tango

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Kok BE, Singer T. Effects of Contemplative Dyads on Engagement and Perceived Social Connectedness Over 9 Months of Mental Training A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 28, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.3360

 

Key Points

Question  Can 2 newly developed dyadic contemplative exercises increase perceived social connectedness?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial of 242 healthy adults, social closeness increased during a 10-minute dyadic practice session for both the socioaffective affect dyad and the sociocognitive perspective dyad. Furthermore, predyad social closeness and self-disclosure increased significantly for both dyads over the 3 months of a given training module.

Meaning  Contemplative dyadic exercises may effectively prevent or reduce the detrimental effects of loneliness and the social deficits often observed in many psychopathologies by increasing perceived social connectedness.

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Loneliness is a risk factor for depression and other illnesses and may be caused and reinforced by maladaptive social cognition. Secularized classical meditation training programs address social cognition, but practice typically occurs alone. Little is known about the effectiveness of contemplative practice performed in dyads.

OBJECTIVE:

To introduce and assess the effectiveness of contemplative dyadic practices relative to classical-solitary meditation with regard to engagement and perceived social connectedness.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:

The ReSource Project was a 9-month open-label efficacy trial of three, 3-month secularized mental training modules. Replacement randomization was used to assign 362 healthy participants in Leipzig and Berlin, Germany. Eligible participants were recruited between November 11, 2012, and February 13, 2013, and between November 13, 2013, and April 30, 2014. Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted.

INTERVENTIONS:

Breathing meditation and body scan (the presence module), loving-kindness meditation and affect dyad (the affect module), and observing-thoughts meditation and perspective dyad (the perspective module).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Primary outcomes were self-disclosure and social closeness. Engagement measures included compliance (ie, the mean [95% margin of error] number of meditation sessions that a participant engaged in per week), liking, and motivation to practice.

RESULTS:

Thirty participants dropped out after assignment to 3 experimental groups; 90 participants were assigned to a retest control that did not complete the main outcome measures; 16 participants provided no state-change data for the affect and perspective modules (226 remaining participants; mean age of 41.15 years; 59.3% female). Results are aggregated across training cohorts. Compliance was similar across the modules: loving-kindness meditation (3.78 [0.18] sessions), affect dyad (3.59 [0.14] sessions), observing-thoughts meditation (3.63 [0.20] sessions), and perspective dyad (3.24 [0.18] sessions). Motivation was higher for meditation (11.20 [0.40] sessions) than the dyads (9.26 [0.43] sessions) and was higher for the affect dyad (10.11 [0.46] sessions) than the perspective dyad (8.41 [0.46] sessions). Social closeness increased during a session for the affect dyad (1.49 [0.12] sessions) and the perspective dyad (1.06 [0.12] sessions) and increased over time for the affect dyad (slope of 0.016 [0.003]) and the perspective dyad (slope of 0.012 [0.003]). Self-disclosure increased over time for the affect dyad (slope of 0.023 [0.004]) and the perspective dyad (slope of 0.006 [0.005]), increasing more steeply for the affect dyad (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Contemplative dyads elicited engagement similar to classical contemplative practices and increased perceived social connectedness. Contemplative dyads represent a new type of intervention targeting social connectedness and intersubjective capacities deficient in participants who experience loneliness and in many psychopathologies.

Improve Seeing Others as Like the Self with Loving Kindness Meditation

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By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Loving-kindness meditation does far more than produce momentary good feelings. . . . this type of meditation increased people’s experiences of positive emotions. . . . it actually puts people on “trajectories of growth,” leaving them better able to ward off depression and “become ever more satisfied with life.”” – Christine Carter

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. Empathy and compassion are essential for appropriate social engagement and cooperation. In order for these abilities to emerge and strengthen, individuals must be able to see that other people are very much like themselves.

 

Unfortunately, there is very little understanding of the factors that lead to and improve empathy and compassion. One method that appears to be able to increase these capacities is Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). It has been shown to amplify positive emotions, altruism, and compassion. This suggests that LKM may reduce the perceived difference between the self and other people. This is difficult to study, however, as these capacities are not easily measured and require length, indirect, paper and pencil, tests for assessment.

 

An alternative assessment technique is to measure the electrical response of the brain (electroencephalogram, EEG) as an indicator of empathy and compassion. This can be done by investigating differences in the brains processing of stimuli related to the self, relative to those related to other people. Upon presentation of these stimuli differences in the brain’s response can be seen called the evoked potential (ERP). The P300 response in the evoked potential (ERP) occurs between 3 to 6-tenths of a second following the stimulus presentation. It is a positive change that is maximally measured over the central frontal lobe. The P300 response has been associated with self-processing. It is larger in response to stimuli such as one’s own name, face, or information about the person’s history. So, the P300 response is often used as a measure of the processing of information about the self, with the larger the positive change the greater the self-processing.

 

In today’s Research News article “Decentering the self? Preliminary evidence for changes in self- vs. other related processing as a long-term outcome of loving-kindness meditation.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1441662135857708/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01785/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w48-2016

Trautwein and colleagues employ the P300 response in the evoked potential (ERP) in response to pictures of the self or a close friend to investigate the effectiveness of Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) to improve empathy and compassion in humans. They recruited adult long-term practitioners of LKM and a group of age, gender, handedness, and education matched non-meditators. The participants were asked to press a button every time a picture of either themselves of their friend was presented amid a series of other stimuli. This occurred on 20% of the time. They measured performed this task while wearing scalp electrodes to measure the EEG and the P300 response to these stimuli was recorded.

 

They found that, as expected, the LKM practitioners reported experiencing more compassionate love for strangers and all of humanity than control participants. They also found that, as expected, the P300 response in the parietal lobe of the brain was greater to the picture of the self than the friend. As a measure of the degree to which the participant viewed the self and other as similar, they measured the difference in the ERP response to the self vs. friend picture. They found that the smaller the difference between the self vs. friend P300 response the greater the levels of self-reported compassion. Importantly, they also found that the greater the amount of LKM practice the smaller the difference in the P300 response to self and friend.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) improves empathy and compassion by altering the brain’s response to self vs. others. In this way, individuals perceive other people as more like themselves, making them more compassionate and empathetic. It should be noted, however, that there was not a comparison group of meditators who did not practice LKM. So, it cannot be concluded that the effects were due to LKM practice specifically. It could be that any form of meditation practice would have similar effects. But, it is clear that meditation alters the brain’s response to self vs. others.

 

So, improve seeing others as like the self with Loving Kindness Meditation.

 

“The practice of LKM led to shifts in people’s daily experiences of a wide range of positive emotions, including love, joy, gratitude, contentment, hope, pride, interest, amusement, and awe. These shifts in positive emotions took time to appear and were not large in magnitude, but over the course of 9 weeks, they were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, and good physical health…They enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to experience fewer symptoms of depression.”  – Barbara Fredrickson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Fynn-Mathis Trautwein, José Raúl Naranjo, and Stefan Schmidt Decentering the self? Preliminary evidence for changes in self- vs. other related processing as a long-term outcome of loving-kindness meditation. Front. Psychol., 21 November 2016 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01785

 

Research in social neuroscience provides increasing evidence that self and other are interconnected, both on a conceptual and on an affective representational level. Moreover, the ability to recognize the other as “like the self” is thought to be essential for social phenomena like empathy and compassion. Meditation practices such as loving-kindness meditation (LKM) have been found to enhance these capacities. Therefore, we investigated whether LKM is associated to an increased integration of self–other-representations. As an indicator, we assessed the P300 event-related potential elicited by oddball stimuli of the self-face and a close other’s face in 12 long-term practitioners of LKM and 12 matched controls. In line with previous studies, the self elicited larger P300 amplitudes than close other. This effect was reduced in the meditation sample at parietal but not frontal midline sites. Within this group, smaller differences between self- and other-related P300 were associated with increasing meditation practice. Across groups, smaller P300 differences correlated with self-reported compassion. In meditators, we also investigated the effect of a short LKM compared to a control priming procedure in order to test whether the state induction would additionally modulate self- vs. other-related P300. However, no effect of the priming conditions was observed. Overall, our findings provide preliminary evidence that prolonged meditation practice may modulate self- vs. other-related processing, accompanied by an increase in compassion. Further evidence is needed, however, to show if this is a direct outcome of loving-kindness meditation.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01785/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w48-2016

 

Meditation Improves Well-Being but How You Meditate Can Make a Difference

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and text

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“science confirms the experience of millions of practitioners: meditation will keep you healthy, help prevent multiple diseases, make you happier, and improve your performance in basically any task, physical or mental.” – Giovanni Dienstmann

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions.

 

Four types of meditation are the most commonly used practices for research purposes. In body scan meditation, the individual focuses on the feelings and sensations of specific parts of the body, systematically moving attention from one area to another. Loving kindness meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. On the other hand, in open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these stimuli and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

These techniques have common properties of restful focused attention, but there are large differences. These differences are likely to produce different effects on the practitioner. In today’s Research News article “Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across 9 Months of Training.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1440840735939848/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0594-9

Kok and Singer examine the similarities and differences between the effects of body scan meditation, loving kindness meditation, focused attention meditation, and open monitoring meditation. They recruited normal adults aged between 20 to 55 and randomly assigned them to three different orders of conditions in a complex research design. Training in each meditation type was conducted for 13 weeks, including a 3-day retreat at the beginning. The participants reported daily on their feeling states, contents of thought, meta-cognition, and 2 minutes of free writing about their thoughts and feelings.

 

All four meditation practices contain a component of focused breathing meditation, so it’s effects can’t be separated from the other three types. They found that all four meditation practices, consistent with the published literature, produced significant increases in positive feelings, focus on the present moment, and body awareness and decreases in mind wandering.

 

There were also considerable differences in the effects of the meditation practices. Body scan meditation, not surprisingly, produced the greatest increase in body awareness and the greatest decrease in thoughts about past, future, and others, and negative thoughts, in other words less mind wandering. Loving kindness meditation produced the greatest increase in positive thoughts and warm feelings about self and others. Open monitoring meditation produced the greatest increase in thought awareness and decrease in distraction by thoughts. These outcomes are consistent with the targeted contents of the practices.

 

It appears that all meditation types have very positive consequences for the practitioner and at the same time each has its own strengths. These strengths then can be taken advantage of to affect targeted issues for the practitioner. If the problem with the individual is a lack of body awareness then body scan meditation is called for, if it’s negative feelings about self and others, then loving kindness meditation would be best, while if it’s with meta-cognition such as awareness of thoughts, then open monitoring meditation should be the choice. In this way meditation practice, can have even greater benefit for the individual.

 

Regardless, improve well-being with meditation.

 

If you have a few minutes in the morning or evening (or both), rather than turning on your phone or going online, see what happens if you try quieting down your mind, or at least paying attention to your thoughts and letting them go without reacting to them. If the research is right, just a few minutes of meditation may make a big difference.” – Alice Walton

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Kok, B.E. & Singer, T. Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across 9 Months of Training. Mindfulness (2016). doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0594-9

 

Abstract

Despite increasing interest in the effects of mental training practices such as meditation, there is much ambiguity regarding whether and to what extent the various types of mental practice have differential effects on psychological change. To address this gap, we compare the effects of four common meditation practices on measures of state change in affect, mind-wandering, meta-cognition, and interoception. In the context of a 9-month mental training program called the ReSource Project, 229 mid-life adults (mean age 41) provided daily reports before and after meditation practice. Participants received training in the following three successive modules: the first module (presence) included breathing meditation and body scan, the second (affect) included loving-kindness meditation, and the third (perspective) included observing-thought meditation. Using multilevel modeling, we found that body scan led to the greatest state increase in interoceptive awareness and the greatest decrease in thought content, loving-kindness meditation led to the greatest increase in feelings of warmth and positive thoughts about others, and observing-thought meditation led to the greatest increase in meta-cognitive awareness. All practices, including breathing meditation, increased positivity of affect, energy, and present focus and decreased thought distraction. Complementary network analysis of intervariate relationships revealed distinct phenomenological clusters of psychological change congruent with the content of each practice. These findings together suggest that although different meditation practices may have common beneficial effects, each practice can also be characterized by a distinct short-term psychological fingerprint, the latter having important implications for the use of meditative practices in different intervention contexts and with different populations.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0594-9

 

Build Altruism with Compassion Meditation

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A compassionate city is an uncomfortable city! A city that is uncomfortable when anyone is homeless or hungry. Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.” ~ Karen Armstrong

 

Homo Sapiens is a very successful species. In part its success has been due to it being a very social species. Members of the species form groups beyond the family unit and work together for the common good. Members also take care of one another. Individuals will sometimes sacrifice their own well-being and safety to help another. This is termed altruistic behavior. The fact that it sometimes actually reduces the likelihood of the individual’s survival appears to be a contradiction to the ideas of evolution that emphasize individual survival.

 

Altruistic behavior, however, is not rare. It is, in fact, often the rule and not the exception. Soldiers put their own lives at risk to save a buddy. Doctors and nurses risking infection, rush into ebola riddled villages to treat the sick and dying. Young adults leave their jobs and careers to tend to an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s Disease. These are rather extreme examples but altruistic behavior occurs in many simple ways on a daily basis. We routinely give to charities which benefit people on the other side of the world. We donate our time as volunteers to build houses for the disadvantaged. We roll down our car windows and hand money to a homeless person on a street corner. The list is endless.

 

So, why do we engage so freely in this behavior that contradicts evolutionary theory? One idea is that it is promoted by our compassion. This is our ability to identify with the difficulties of others, put ourselves in their shoes, and feel their suffering. Although reasonable and logical this interpretation needs scientific confirmation. A callous interpretation of this behavior is that this compassion makes us uncomfortable, makes us suffer, and we do things to reduce our own suffering and make ourselves feel better. A kinder interpretation is that we have been taught to be compassionate and this energizes altruism. This notion would predict that engaging in practices that develop compassion would increase altruism. This idea, however, needs scientific testing and evaluation.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Role of Compassion in Altruistic Helping and Punishment Behavior”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1208766975813893/?type=3&theater

Or see below, or for full text see

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4675554/

Weng and colleagues examine the relationship of compassion to altruism in the laboratory and test the effectiveness of a compassion amplifying practice on the likelihood of compassionate behaviors. They first measured the empathetic concern of the participants with a paper and pencil test and then had them play in the laboratory a 3-person game developed to measure altruistic behaviors, either altruistic helping, in which the participant gave to another thereby reducing their own reward, or altruistic punishment where participants took away from another resulting in an overall reduction in their own reward. They found that the higher the level of trait compassion (empathetic concern) that the participant had the more they tended to help another to their own detriment. They also found that the higher the level of trait compassion the less they tended to punish another to their own detriment.

 

In a second experiment, Weng and colleagues randomly assigned participants to either a compassion meditation group or to a reappraisal group. They were then trained for two weeks either to meditate on the suffering of others, wish them well, and visualize compassion emanating from their heart, or to a control condition involving training on reappraising situations to lower stress and emotional reactions to stress. The participants then came to the laboratory and played the 3-person altruism game. They found that the compassion meditation group provided altruistic help significantly more than the reappraisal group. In fact, they spent 87% more money to help others.

 

This experiment, although somewhat artificial, suggests that compassion is highly related to altruism and that training in compassion increases altruism. Hence, these results support the notion that altruism occurs because of trained compassion. It also shows that altruism can be encouraged and amplified with compassion training. So, we can create more compassionate people and thereby a more altruistic world by specifically educating people in compassion.

 

So, build altruism with compassion meditation.

 

“Compassion is natural; you don’t have to force it; just open to the difficulty, the struggle, the stress, the impact of events, the sorrow and strain in the other person; open your heart, let yourself be moved, and let compassion flow through you. Feel what compassion’s like in your body — in your chest, throat, and face. Sense the way it softens your thoughts, gentles your reactions. Know it so you can find your way back again.” – Rick Hanson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

Study Summary

Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Hessenthaler, H. C., Stodola, D. E., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). The Role of Compassion in Altruistic Helping and Punishment Behavior. PLoS ONE, 10(12), e0143794. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143794

 

Abstract

Compassion, the emotional response of caring for another who is suffering and that results in motivation to relieve suffering, is thought to be an emotional antecedent to altruistic behavior. However, it remains unclear whether compassion enhances altruistic behavior in a uniform way or is specific to sub-types of behavior such as altruistic helping of a victim or altruistic punishment of a transgressor. We investigated the relationship between compassion and subtypes of altruistic behavior using third-party paradigms where participants 1) witnessed an unfair economic exchange between a transgressor and a victim, and 2) had the opportunity to either spend personal funds to either economically a) help the victim or b) punish the transgressor. In Study 1, we examined whether individual differences in self-reported empathic concern (the emotional component of compassion) was associated with greater altruistic helping or punishment behavior in two independent samples. For participants who witnessed an unfair transaction, trait empathic concern was associated with greater helping of a victim and had no relationship to punishment. However, in those who decided to punish the transgressor, participants who reported greater empathic concern decided to punish less. In Study 2, we directly enhanced compassion using short-term online compassion meditation training to examine whether altruistic helping and punishment were increased after two weeks of training. Compared to an active reappraisal training control group, the compassion training group gave more to help the victim and did not differ in punishment of the transgressor. Together, these two studies suggest that compassion is related to greater altruistic helping of victims and is not associated with or may mitigate altruistic punishment of transgressors.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4675554/

 

 

Be My Mindful Valentine

“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.” – Bruce Lee

 

Valentine’s Day was invented for the greeting card and florist industries but it caught on because there are few things more worth celebrating than love. Valentine’s Day is usually considered a celebration of romantic love, but I prefer it to be a celebration of love in all of its magnificent manifestations. Mindfulness is an important part as there is nothing more beautiful than mindful love. It’s pure, non-judgmental, and non-contingent love. It’s a completely unfettered outpouring of the heart.

 

Mindful love is not necessarily expressed with romantic greeting cards, roses, and chocolates. There is nothing wrong with these concrete expressions of love except when they are used as a substitute for the real thing. Too often we go through the motions of buying symbols of love and believing that these are all we need to express our feelings. True expressions of love are not concrete and tangible. They are deep connections and feelings that flow direct from the source and, if the truth be known, are the source. Let this love flow first and if it leads to giving tangible symbols, wonderful. Let it flow in any and every way it wishes to express itself.

 

The great sage Thích Nhất Hạnh said that “When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” This sounds so simple, but it is not. What he means by “presence” is much more than being in physical proximity to another. It means to be really there for them, mindfully and totally, with the mind dedicated to them and not off thinking of something else. Rather the mind is totally focused and attentive to the other person. You are deeply listening to their words. You are deeply listening to their non-verbal messages. You are totally committed to them in the present moment. So, on Valentine’s Day offer the people you love your mindful presence. There is no greater way to express love.

 

Mindful love is non-judgmental. It is accepting the other person for exactly who and what they are. It is appreciating their humanness with all its flaws, physical, psychological, and social. It is encouraging their aspirations and supporting them in their pursuit of them. It is filled with loving kindness and compassion. Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.” In other words, there’s no clinging or holding on. If there is, then the love is not mindful love, it is needy love.

 

Before mindful love can be given to others it must first be given to the self. Each of us has to truly love ourselves before we can freely and completely offer mindful love to another. For many westerners this can be a real challenge as many do not even like themselves. This is frequently due to westerners having unrealistic models, and beliefs and expectations about themselves. It is imperative to overcome this as this lack of self-love is the foundation of needy, demanding, self-centered love. Learn to fully accept your humanness and to understand that what you see as imperfections are nothing more than expressions of your humanity. Begin to accept that you are extraordinary, beautiful, capable, and special; a one of a kind, never to be seen again, exemplar of what it means to be a living, imperfect, human being. Recognize that you are worthy not only of your own love but the love of others. Realize that you are just as capable and competent and simultaneously just as inadequate and ineffectual as everyone else. Learn to love yourself and then you can truly love others.

 

It is nearly impossible to divorce romantic love from sexuality. From an evolutionary perspective the feelings between members of the opposite sex are driven by the needs to reproduce, making sexuality an integral part of romantic love. Unfortunately, many people separate love and sex, but this is often due to religious morality or societal dictates. There is no need to separate the two, in fact, they both are best when they work together. When mindful love is accompanied with mindful sex, each reinforces the other, producing an upward spiral of positive feelings. Recent research discovered that people are the most mindful at any time in their lives when they are engaged in sex. So, the phrase “mindful sex” may actually be redundant. But, when combined with mindful love, sexuality is a shared giving experience. Each partner is not simply engaged to satisfy their own needs, but to give, be present, and be sensitive to the other, to be non-judgmental and accepting of the other, to share one of life’s extraordinary experiences, and to truly come to understand why the word intercourse is used to label it. With mindfulness sex becomes an expression of deep and satisfying shared love.

 

Mindful love includes but expands far, far, beyond romantic love. When practiced it extends to everyone around the individual, including family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances, and even enemies. As you practice mindful love it will slowly begin to become evident that deep in the core of your being is nothing but love. The more aware you become of this the more that love gushes and envelops you and everyone around you. It even extends to all of existence. Unless you are exceptionally blessed it will take a while to get to this level. But, it doesn’t have to be sought as it is a natural outgrowth of the practice of mindful love.

 

The words, practice mindful love, are so easy to say. But, it is not easy. It’s very hard. It, like most things about mindfulness, is a practice. We work at it and try to get a little better all the time, but knowing that the ideal is not humanly possible. But the effort itself, is a true expression of mindful love. The practice of loving kindness meditation is a method that can help in the development of mindful love. But, if you work at it, invest in it, and patiently practice you will be deeply rewarded. The more you love, the more you love, the more you are loved, and the happier you become, not just superficial happiness, but the deep and abiding happiness of being a mindful valentine.

 

“We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” – Sam Keen

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

Feel Better Emotionally with Loving-Kindness Meditation

“Metta is the priceless treasure that enlivens us and brings us into intimacy with ourselves and others. It is the force of love that will lead beyond fragmentation, loneliness and fear. The late Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba often said, “Don’t throw anyone out of your heart.” One of the most powerful healings (and greatest adventures) of our lifetime can come about as we learn to live by this dictum.” – Sharon Salzberg

 

In the past Psychology focused on negative states and emotions, such as mental illness and depression, anxiety, hate, anger etc. Although this resulted in greater understanding and better treatments for people who were suffering, it also resulted in a neglect of positive states and emotions such as happiness, love, compassion, joy, etc. But, in the last couple of decades it has dawned on the field that perhaps positive states may be important to cultivate. They could serve not only as antidotes and treatments for the negative states and emotions, but also could improve the existence of the mentally healthy. This new movement has been labelled Positive Psychology. It is dedicated to discovering ways to promote and enhance human flourishing; to develop better and happier lives.

 

An ancient practice of “metta” meditation has been promoted as a possible method to develop positive states and emotions. “Metta” meditation is also known as Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). It is a deceptively simple practice (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/26/meditation-techniques-loving-kindness-meditation/) that is aimed at developing kindness and positive regard for the self and others. But, as simple as it may be, it has profound effects (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/contemplative-practice/loving-kindness/). LKM has been shown to improve positive mood, improve social interactions. and the complex understanding of others. It has also been shown to decrease negative emotions and to be an effective treatment for depression. This suggests that LKM may be an important practice for not only the treatment of negative states and emotions, but also for the promotion of human flourishing and happiness.

 

In today’s Research News article “The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1150546504969274/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4630307/

Zeng and colleagues review the literature on the effects of Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) on positive emotions and well-being. The reviewed literature showed that LKM produced significant positive effects on the practitioners’ immediate and overall daily positive emotions with moderate effect sizes. These effects were seen both with short-term and long-tern LKM practice. LKM mainly cultivated peaceful or prosocial positive emotions. Thus, the published literature supports the use of Loving Kindness Meditation for enhancing positive emotional states.

 

There is a need to investigate the mechanisms by which LKM may be having its effects. One possibility that is supported in the research literature is that LKM improves emotion regulation. This allows the individual to fully experience the emotion yet respond to it adaptively and constructively. Hence, in part LKM may enhance positive states by allowing the individual to better deal with negative emotional states. It has also been shown that LKM reduces the psychological and physiological responses to stress. By feeling less stressed LKM practitioners may experience more positive emotions. Another possibility is that LKM enhances self-regard, allowing the individual to feel good about themselves as well as others. Regardless of the mechanism, it appears clear that Loving Kindness Meditation can be recommended as a practice to enhance positive emotions and states.

 

So, feel better emotionally with loving-kindness meditation.

 

For one who mindfully develops
Boundless loving-kindness
Seeing the destruction of clinging,
The fetters are worn away.

  • Buddha

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies