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Mindful : February 2014
The Oasis Institute has offered mindfulness teacher training to more than 12,000 health care professionals globally. 12,000 More than 740 academic medical centers, hospitals, clinics, and freestanding programs offer MBSR worldwide. Source: Center for Mindfulness 740+ health care professionals worldwide MBSR sites February 2014 mindful 39 health projects, funded by the Gates Foundation, is to study the effects of computer games that train children in attention and pro-social behaviors, such as recog- nizing others’ emotions. Ma ny young scientists are now taking up this field, many with the support of the Mind & Life Institute’s Varela Grants and summer research institute, where contemplative practice is integrated into a scientific meeting. Young neuroscientists and behavioral scientists are building their careers in what’s now called contemplative neuroscience. Ten years ago that may well have been a career- ending choice. One of the Va rela resea rchers whose work I admire is Paul Condon of Northeastern Univer- sity. His g roup designed a study to determine what different results might arise from training in mindfulness meditation and training in meditation that emphasizes compassion. In the study, pa rtici- pa nts received eight weeks of either mindfulness or compassion training or no training at all. Afterward, the resea rchers set up a scena rio in which a study pa rticipant was directed to sit in a waiting room with only three chairs, two of which were occupied. After a minute, a fourth person entered on crutches wincing a nd sighing, a nd the two people originally in the room pretended not to notice. The study measured how many participants would, during a two-minute period, overcome the bystander effect—if others are ignoring something, so should I—and offer their seat to the person on crutches. The people trained in mindfulness and the people tra ined in compassion were both five times more likely to give up their seat as the people in the control group. There was no difference between training in mindfulness and tra ining in compassion. This raises some very interesting questions, and to my mind it underscores the fact that mindfulness is compassion and vice versa. Certainly, in MBSR, where people bring every kind of pain imaginable, compassion is naturally part of the atmosphere. → “There are tremendous benefits that arise from mindfulness practice, but it works precisely because we d on’ t try to attain benefit. Instead, we befriend ourselves as we are. We learn how to drop in on ourselves, visit, and hang out in awareness.” ILLUSTRATIONBYILSURAPTUKOV,FROMTHENOUNPROJECT