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Mindful : April 2014
instrumental in aiding our rega rd of others, slowing down, and considering other people’s needs.” Keltner has been doing research on this bundle of ner ves and has found that when subjects a re shown images of suffering for 60 seconds, the vagus ner ve shows sig ns of activation. “ We all suffer pain and psychic distress, disease and death—we just have to remember that. In our lab, when people experience images of others’ suffering, they have a measurable neurophysiological reaction.” Studies on breathing have shown that taking the kind of deep breaths required in meditation and yoga can help lower anxiety and enhance compas- sion. Keltner suggests taking a few moments every day to do deep-breathing exercises, since research on the vagus nerve has shown a measurable, advan- tageous physiological effect from such exercises. Types of Empathy “The question is how to have more compassion, more of the time,” says marriage and family thera- pist Marga ret Cullen. She helped develop Compas- sion Cultivation Training, a n initiative of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). “Our aim is to notice what blocks compassion a nd what facilitates its fuller expression.” According to renowned psychologist Paul Ekman, whose work for more than 45 years has focused on identifying and understanding the expressions of human emotion, there are three kinds of empathy we need to be fluent in. The first is “cognitive empathy,” when we are able to identify how the other person feels and consider what they might be thinking. Then there is “emotional empathy,” when we physically feel what other people feel, almost as though their emotions → What is it exactly that blocks compassion and what is it that causes it to blossom? We need to examine that in our own hearts. 56 mindful April 2014 compassion