Buddhist Websites 

 

The Dalai Lama's own website can be found at www.dalailama.com

There are a number of websites that are working in Buddhist traditions and/or looking at the interface between Buddhism and western psychology.

Here are some websites that are related to compassion:

This website has been developed jointly with the Dalai Lama and western scientists exploring the nature of compassion and how to develop more compassionate life-styles. www.mindandlife.org

Padmaloka is a Buddhist Retreat Centre located in East Anglia and has been running retreats since 1976 with a special focus on compassion. www.padmaloka.org.uk

An interesting series of talks on compassion and mindfulness. www.dharmaseed.org

Gaia House is a non-sectarian Buddhist retreat centre in Devon which also offers several retreats with an emphasis on compassion as well as mindfulness retreats. www.gaiahouse.co.uk

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education (Canada) can be found at: www.dalailamacenter.org

This website gives details of Buddhis retreat centres in the U.K. www.goingonretreat.com

Anyone interested in actively supporting the meditative practices of prisoners could try contacting Ray Olson through the Upaya Prison Project, an outgrowth of Roshi Joan Halifax's Upaya Center for Being with Dying. www.upaya.org

There are various websites which provide information on the approach of Thich Naht. These can be found at www.spiritualityandpractice.com

There are also various courses that can be undertaken via email and these can be found at www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/ecourses.php?id=24

There is a very interesting magazine on Buddist issues that you can view at www.thebuddhadharma.com/index.php Recently Sharon Salzberg and Daniel Goleman have discussed compassion issues for a transcript see: www.tricycle.com/issues/editors_pick/3675-1.html

You can find a video introducing Jon Kabat-Zinn at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc

This is Daniel's Siegel's website, a leading researcher on neurobiology mindfulness compassion and clinical issues. A very useful and important website for those interested in integrating neurobiology and compassion in therapy. www.mindsightinstitute.com

This is a link to a talk that goes into ideas of how visualisation practices work. It is by the author of Meeting the Buddhas. www.freebuddhistaudio.com/talks/details?num=OM676

This talk looks at our movement's system of meditation it goes into how compassion practices and practices around positive emotions and also visualisation practices fit into this system. www.freebuddhistaudio.com/talks/details?num=135 "Access to insight" (www.accesstoinsight.org/) has translations of many of the original Buddhist texts including a page speaking to many of the issues around the body: www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/bodymind.html

 

Evolutionary Approaches Websites 

 

 

Evolutionary functional analysis (understanding the evolved functions behind particular kinds of dispositions for motivation, emotion and behaviour) has been moving along at a fast rate. One of the outstanding theorists and developers of evolutionary approach to medicine is Randolph Nesse and he has continued to inspire with his work. Randy Nesse has written a lot on evolutionary approaches and in particular on themes of altruism and commitment. Some of his papers are downloadable. 

http://www.randolphnesse.com/

This will take you to an interesting audio of an Australian discussion on evolutionary approaches to psychotherapy. It is a very helpful introduction by my friend Dan Wilson.  All very de-pathologizing. www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/stories/2008/2217264.htm 
 

One of the developments has been to consider how different environments give rise to a different organisation of evolutionary strategies. This is called life history approach. It links to epigenetics in ways that have not been fully articulated yet. One key basic idea is that in unstable, high threat environments the best survival and reproductive strategies tend to be those focused on threat and self-advancement. These are called fast strategies. They are associated with individuals who are vulnerable to mental health problems particularly associated with experiences of low rank or disconnection such as social anxiety and depression but those associated with moving up the social rank such as also narcissistic and ruthlessly ambitious folk. Psychopathy is clearly an exploitive non-investing phenotypic strategy. The phenotypes for so-called slower life strategies are rooted in more cooperative and compassionate approaches to relationship building, better suited to stable safe, reciprocal investing social living. Also, these phenotypes are less vulnerable, though not of course invulnerable, to mental health problems. Part of the reason is because both from an epigenetic point of view and how our brains mature, there is much more regulation through a positive and affiliative social processing systems.

Del Giudice, M. (2014). An evolutionary life history framework for psychopathology. Psychological Inquiry, 25, 261-300.

Hengartner, M.P (2017) The evolutionary life history model of externalizing personality: Bridging human and animal personality science to connect ultimate and proximate mechanisms underlying aggressive dominance, hostility, and impulsive sensation seeking.  Review of General Psychology, September 2017  DOI: 10.1037/gpr0000127 

 

Forgiveness  Websites 

Forgiveness is now recognised to be a key process in facilitating positive relationships.  It is an outcome of developing various compassion qualities.  There are some interesting websites below www.cyberpauken.com/forgiveness.ppt

www.forgiving.org/

Enwright has set up the Forgiveness Institute, which offers very useful ideas and resources for studying forgiveness.  

www.forgiveness-institute.org

 

Happiness  Websites 

Happiness and wellbeing have been linked to the cultivation of both compassion to others and self-compassion.  Hence compassion focused work is very influenced by research on happiness and wellbeing.

The Society of Quality of Life Studies.  www.cob.vt.edu/market/isqols

A European site with a large and useful directory of happiness research and related materials.  www.eur.nl/fsw/research/happiness 

Another European network which is focused on positive psychology is www.enpp.org

An organisation that is developing fascinating conferences can be found at www.happinessanditscauses.org

There is a research group in Cambridge that is focusing on wellbeing. www.cambridgewellbeing.org

A website that links compassion and happiness can be found at:  www.essential-education.org

Martin Seligman's Research Alliance on Positive Psychology can be found atwww.positivepsychology.org See also his website: www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu which offers various measures of happiness and other questionnaires on positive psychology that one can take for oneself.

The BBC have developed a series of programmes called The Happiness Formula and can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/

The following link is to Barbara Fredrickson's work on positive affect. www.PositiveEmotions.org

The Hawn Foundation are working towards bringing together different groups to focus on various aspects of happiness.   www.thehawnfoundation.org

 

Therapy Websites 

 

Dr Steve Hayes has developed commitment acceptance therapy which is based on behavioural principles.  The focus and work around acceptance and also how to develop goals we commit ourselves to have clear contributions to make to compassion focused work.  www.acceptanceandcommitmenttherapy.com

Dr Masha Linehan pioneered work in the combining of behavioural and Zen Buddhist philosophies and techniques.  This approach is called Dialectical behaviour therapy and has accumulated extensive research evidence for its value.  http://faculty.washington.edu/linehan

Compassionate Mind Training, developed Paul Gilbert emerged out of using CBT approaches.  The new International Journal of Cognitive Therapy is sponsoring a special issue devoted to compassion which will appear within the next few years.  The website for the International organisation can be found at  www.the-iacp.com

Whilst we have done our best to ensure the appropriateness of websites, they are for information only.  We are unable to take responsibility for any information contained therein.

This link will take you to a fascinating one-hour documentary on neuroplasticity. The documentary  starts with an exploration of brain scanning studies of meditators, looks at how training can affect memory and cognitive processes in old age and also in recovery from strokes. The basic story is  that training can change the way neurons connect; we can change our brains.

This link will take you to the conference held in April on the seeds of compassion which brought the Dalai Lama together with a number of neuroscientists discussing their work on brain scanning  child development and many other areas

 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4846933362481486227&pr=goog-slnew

www.seedsofcompassion.org/webcast/index.html

 

                                            Epigenetics 

 

We now know that genes can be turned on and off and hence express their instructions through us as a result of our environmental experiences. This area of studies is called epigenetics; the way modifications occur to DNA expression is extraordinary. Using an example, I have used before, if I had been kidnapped as a three-day-old baby into a violent drug gang my genetic scripting of my phenotypes will be quite different to what I am today. I would have the brain for a person who was inclined to violence and very threat and self-focused. Not only this but epigenetic changes can be passed from generation to generation. As this information lands more and more in our consciousness the implications are absolutely clear. We must pay more attention to the environments in which all children are growing and we are all living. It is one more nail in the coffin of this idea that we have individual souls and there are good or bad people. Rather we understand that there are biological patterns that give rise to harmful or helpful behaviour

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvB0q3mg4sQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AfBsTAQ8zs

 

                                                      Brain, Mind, body and the environment

 

It is sometimes said that we only use a small percentage of our minds. That is true in a way because for example a thousand years ago no human as far as we know could get their minds around quantum mechanics. They had the same basic infrastructures but nowhere near the same neuronal development that neuroplasticity (connections grow and develop according to how the brain is stimulated) makes possible. Before the invention of musical instruments, no human had developed areas of the brain for fine motor activity and musical ability; nor could they have sat down and composed or played Rachmaninov concerto. The reality of neurogenesis (we are actually creating new brain cells all the time) and neuroplasticity (our brains are constantly wiring and rewiring themselves according to how they are being stimulated) has been a stunning development over the last 20 years. Laura Boyd gives a wonderful introductory talk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHBMFCzznE

Not only does she point out the different ways in which the brain changes itself through experience but also that because of genetic variation different practices suit different people. Therefore when we develop practices to change our brains we should pay attention to our personal phenotypes. More of this later

Part of this advance of understanding in regard to our interdependency and the way in which our environments, particularly our social relationships, pattern the way our brains work as major implications for psychotherapy and education are well articulated by Dan Siegel out of Los Angeles. Dan set up the MindSight Institute which is dedicated to using scientific understandings of the illuminating the connections between social relationships and neurobiological states. He calls his approach Interpersonal Neurobiology to highlight the ways in which the physiological architectures of our brain are influenced by the relationships all around us. He has many wonderful books and talks you can explore

https://www.mindsightinstitute.com/

His most recent book is on the nature of mind itself and outlines how our minds are dynamic, reciprocal information sharing and processing systems. In a sense, we are all part of the field of consciousness that is co-regulating each other’s minds and bodies right down to our epigenetic core via the reactions and interactions we have with each other.

This is discussed in his new book Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, 2016) (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology).

Another major researcher and writer who has written extensively on the way in which our brains are choreographed and patterned through experience and the implications for psychotherapy is Alan Shore who also happens to be from Los Angeles.

http://www.allanschore.com/

Alan pioneered conceptualising and integrating neurological insights into emotion processing in regard to psychopathology and psychotherapy work; with a particular interest in right and left brain interactions. In addition, he has pioneered work in helping us understand how the newly created industrial chemicals are having potentially major, harmful impacts on our brains and genome.

There are now some wonderful writings on the linkage between environments and biology. For example, a truly outstanding book that has just appeared is by Robert Sapolsky’s (2017), Behave: The Biology of Humans As at Our Best and Worst. Vintage. It clarifies very clearly how environments interacting with physiological systems produce helpful or harmful behaviour. You can see one of his talks:

https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_sapolsky_the_biology_of_our_best_and_worst_selves

Another outstanding book which is a little older is by the Philip Zimbardo, well-known for his Stanford experiments in the 1960s. His book The Lucifer Effect How Good People Turn Evil 2006: Rider.

https://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil

It is a book also of hope in the sense that a lot of cruel behaviour is socially contextualised. Important too is his more recent work on how compassion can stand against the Lucifer effect.

http://heroicimagination.org/

For all of these major advances we are still catching up with the implications of how we should begin to think about the human mind as - and indeed as many of these exceptional researchers say we are basically energy and information flows and that co-regulate each other around the scaffold of genetic evolved potential.

 

                                                                         Cultivating our minds

 

Understanding the Mind Movements of Psychotherapy

Part of our despair but also our potential liberation comes from the fact that we are actually fundamentally different from other animals because we have a new type of mind and consciousness that allows for ‘knowing awareness’ and ‘insight’. We can think, reason, plan with a sense of self, sense of purpose, sense of meaning. And we have a deeply questioning mind; we want to know. What the hell is this process called life? We have a consciousness of consciousness; we are conscious that we are conscious These are game changers in terms of life on earth. The problem is not we are not really aware of the implications for this and certainly very rarely use it. Rather we are often passive experiencers, on a kind of automatic pilot of feeling and acting according to what is stimulated in us. Some of the most profound developments in recent years has been how we use our consciousness, our ability to observe and get to know our own minds in ways that can be helpful to us rather than harmful.

The psychotherapies: Psychotherapies are not only to help us with psychological difficulties but to help us understand our minds better, to have insight into how they work and why we feel and do what we do. Desires to help people with mental stress and ways of doing so are thousands of years old, clearly articulated in the contemplative traditions for example. In the immediate post-Darwinian period a range of psychodynamic therapies were developed based on the idea that many of the processes that shape and control are evolutionary in nature and are often unconscious to us. Indeed, Freud regarded himself as working out Darwin’s ideas for the mind. It was the unconscious that directed many of our drives. Jung argued archetypes rather than drives as we have seen. Another evolutionary theory was John Bowlby’s in the 60s and 70s who argued that it was not so much innate drives but attachment dynamics -and the need for styles of close relating that underpin mental health problems.

https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment.html

Another therapy development in the last 20 years linked to psychodynamic therapy but differs from it, has been mentalisation. This is teaching people how to pay attention and make sense of what goes on in the mind, to develop a kind of self-empathy but especially important is the ability to understand the minds of others. Many people with mental health problems struggle with empathy mentalisation

http://www.annafreud.org/about-us/

The Greek philosophies argued that reason should always be their basis for the regulation of emotion and desire. A simple but very insightful piece can be found here

https://greenskyatnight.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/notes-on-ancient-greek-philosophy-plato-on-emotion-desire-reason/

Cognitive behaviour therapies, that have proliferated expansively in the last 20 years, adopted this basic approach and gave up concern with unconscious processing in favour of helping people learn how to pay attention to what arises in the mind and then to choose and think differently. Basically to come off automatic pilot and to start acting in ways that are helpful to oneself according to one’s values. Very stoic. Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck are the key players

https://www.beckinstitute.org/

Cognitive therapy is now proliferated into a number of different schools such as dialectical behaviour therapy and acceptance commitment therapy, although increasingly evidence suggests that outcomes are as much based on the relationship as it is on the approach.

Although the psychotherapies can be very tribal (they are competing for research money, career opportunities and reasons to treat patients) and there is resistance to losing their identity, today many theories and therapies are moving towards integrative approaches that utilise interventions from different schools. Second increasingly, different tribes are understanding that psychological processes need to be understood in terms of how the brain evolved and how it now works. In my edited book Genes on the Couch a number of authors from different schools of therapy explored the evolution processes that underpin their models. So, there are increasing approaches that are rooted in basic brain science. Thirdly therapies are becoming what we call multimodal, partly after the work of people at Arnold Lazarus, although they do not always want to acknowledge this.

For me one of the major developments has been compassion focused therapy which tries to tick all those boxes. It is an evolutionary and neuroscience-based approach that pays particular attention to the fact that we are an eusocial species and highly open and regulated via social relationships, particularly affiliative ones. It is also a multimodal therapy that integrates interventions from other approaches but pays particular attention to body states, motivation and intention. It also uses many of the contemplative practices for compassionate mind training. What we are moving towards more and more however is developing interventions that change physiological systems even gene methylation and phenotype. That is likely to be the future and also to match interventions with phenotypes.

                                                          

                                            Mindfulness 

 

While many psychotherapies seek to improve our ability to understand and pay attention the content of our minds of particular note over the last 20 years has seen considerable development and research into two areas that have been inspired by the contemplative traditions especially but not only Buddhism. Meditation practices in the West have existed for quite a while now and were significantly brought to the general public by the Beatles and the Maharishi with transcendental meditation, something that took my fancy in the early 70s. ‘Om’ to you all.

Jon Kabit Zin was one of the foremost clinicians to bring mindfulness into the clinic to help people with chronic pain. Mindfulness is slightly different to transcendental meditation because there are two elements to it. One is observing our sensory experience (what we can see, hear, smell in all its detail) in the present moment. You might also focus on the experience of the breath coming in through the nose and out to those and so on. This is called focused mindfulness. The other is observing the arising of thoughts, emotions, motives and desires as they arise in the mind which is open and mindful. Both forms of mindfulness are partly to help us to disengage from the stream of archetypal energies that can drive us into harmful actions or keep us locked in painful states of mind. Since that time mindfulness training has proliferated and there are now many forms of it. You can find about Jon Kabit-Zinn’s extraordinary contribution on his homepage.

https://www.mindfulnesscds.com/

There are however different approaches to mindfulness and my own has been more in Mahayana traditions which focuses on compassion cultivation

http://www.samyeling.org/

Paul is  currently a patron of the Mindfulness Association.

http://www.mindfulnessassociation.org/

The explosion of mindfulness into many aspects of life has been extraordinary including for therapists to become more mindful in their reactions to their clients, to help clients with depression, anxiety and stress, to help management and organisational structures. A useful review can be found at:

Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical psychology review, 31(6), 1041-1056.

Dan Siegel too has also been very active in integrating mindfulness and awareness training with therapy and for children for example see books 1.  The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician's Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration 2.  Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness. 

A very helpful and fascinating book that links our understanding of evolutionary biology with Buddhist contemplative practices has been by David Barash (2015). Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science. Oxford University Press. He moves easily between Buddhist concepts of emptiness through to how different viruses change the way bodies and brains work.

One reason that mindfulness and attention awareness training are so important is because it helps us to pay attention to the chaotic and multidimensional nature of our minds. It gives us an opportunity to learn how to pay attention to the different archetypal forces playing out within us, and rather than passively allowing these archetypal dramas to act through us, we can start to choose how we want to operate in the world. So, mindfulness is a way of paying attention on purpose so that we become much more ‘mind aware’ and therefore are able to choose our behaviour. The Dalai Lama once gave an example of how, when he was young he used to like to fix watches that he took from the travellers to Lhasa. Nearing completion of one watch he dropped a screw in the mechanism and in his frustration, took a hammer and smashed the watch. The point he said was that in that moment he had lost mindfulness and therefore had done exactly the opposite of his true intent which had been to make a beautiful watch, work. Now there was no chance at all of meeting that intention. Mindfulness is a first stage to choosing action - and of course we would argue that allied to compassion and prosocial training we are more likely to choose those compassionate actions.

It is therefore wonderful to see mindfulness being taken to schools to help children become more mind aware and learn mindfulness skills.

https://mindfulnessinschools.org/

Certainly, when I was growing up, and even when my children were growing up, there was nothing like this available to help young people recognise that our minds are very tricky and full of all kinds of wonderful but also very destructive potentials. Few would have predicted these amazing developments 20 years ago.

 

                                                  Focusing on strengths and positive experiences 

 

The last 20 years has seen a fantastic increase in studies on the importance of positive and particularly affiliative experiences.

One of the big changes was the development of what is now called positive psychology, pioneered by Martin Seligman. This does indeed highlight the importance of focusing on strengths and competencies, virtues and values.

http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/?gclid=CN2juoPOrNYCFe2_7QodXNoGVQ

Positive psychology includes kindness and compassion as one of the core qualities to cultivate. This does not mean that other psychology was negative psychology. It is more about the focus on how to cultivate happiness, meaningfulness and prosocial behaviour.

In addition, people like Rick Hanson who wrote the fascinating book called the Buddha’s Brain has shown ways in which we can link neuroplasticity and how we can train our minds holding onto the feelings associated with positive events. The reason, to use one of his expressions, is because our minds are like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. Hence negative events are more likely to be held in the brain and influence the wiring of the brain but we can train to hold positive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LDDzhDIqcM

So basically, the more we practise and rehearse a focus on the positive, without being simply in Lala land of ‘all is wonderful regardless’, can help to change our brains in particular ways.

Another major contributor to this research endeavour has been Barbara Fredrickson. For many years she has been exploring the evolutionary function of positive emotions (as broaden and build) and recently, has been focusing particularly on what you might call micro moments of affiliative relating.

https://fredrickson.socialpsychology.org/

See one of her fascinating talks - which will link to many others.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKggZhYwoys

You can also catch her in conversation with Dan Siegel in their chapter in my recent compassion book.

Fredrickson, B.L & Siegel D.J. (2017). Broaden and build theory meets interpersonal neurobiology as a lens on compassion and positivity resonance. In, P. Gilbert (Ed). Compassion: Concepts, Research and Applications. (p. 203-217). London: Routledge.