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Abstract. We explore the role of meditative practice in cultivating experiences of compassion, empathy, and altruism and address an apparent paradox: Meditation often is associated with solitary retreat, if not preoccupation with one's own concerns. How, then, does such a practice promote compassion for others? We propose a two-stage model. The first stage involves disengagement from usual preoccupation with self-reinforcing, self-defeating, or self-indulgent behaviors and reactions; the second involves a focused engagement with a universal human capacity for altruistic experience, love, and compassion. Reference is made to the limited research literature and to clinical applications of loving kindness (metta) meditation in cultivating these processes.

Decentering has been proposed as a potential mechanism of mindfulness-based interventions but has received limited empirical examination to date in experimental studies comparing mindfulness meditation to active comparison conditions. In the present study, we compared the immediate effects of mindful breathing (MB) to two alternative stress-management techniques: progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and loving-kindness meditation (LKM) to test whether decentering is unique to mindfulness meditation or common across approaches. Novice meditators (190 female undergraduates) were randomly assigned to complete one of three 15-min stress-management exercises (MB, PMR, or LKM) presented by audio recording. Immediately after the exercise, participants completed measures of decentering, frequency of repetitive thoughts during the exercise, and degree of negative reaction to thoughts. As predicted, participants in the MB condition reported greater decentering relative to the other two conditions. The association between frequency of repetitive thought and negative reactions to thoughts was relatively weaker in the MB condition than in the PMR and LKM conditions, in which these two variables were strongly and positively correlated. Consistent with the construct of decentering, the relative independence between these two variables in the MB condition suggests that mindful breathing may help to reduce reactivity to repetitive thoughts. Taken together, results help to provide further evidence of decentering as a potential mechanism that distinguishes mindfulness practice from other credible stress-management approaches.
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Previous voxel-based morphometry (VBM) studies have revealed that meditation is associated with structural brain changes in regions underlying cognitive processes that are required for attention or mindfulness during meditation. This VBM study examined brain changes related to the practice of an emotion-oriented meditation: loving-kindness meditation (LKM). A 3 T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner captured images of the brain structures of 25 men, 10 of whom had practiced LKM in the Theravada tradition for at least 5 years. Compared with novices, more gray matter volume was detected in the right angular and posterior parahippocampal gyri in LKM experts. The right angular gyrus has not been previously reported to have structural differences associated with meditation, and its specific role in mind and cognitive empathy theory suggests the uniqueness of this finding for LKM practice. These regions are important for affective regulation associated with empathic response, anxiety and mood. At the same time, gray matter volume in the left temporal lobe in the LKM experts appeared to be greater, an observation that has also been reported in previous MRI meditation studies on meditation styles other than LKM. Overall, the findings of our study suggest that experience in LKM may influence brain structures associated with affective regulation.

On the basis of the proposition that love promotes commitment, the authors predicted that love would motivate approach, have a distinct signal, and correlate with commitment-enhancing processes when relationships are threatened. The authors studied romantic partners and adolescent opposite-sex friends during interactions that elicited love and threatened the bond. As expected, the experience of love correlated with approach-related states (desire, sympathy). Providing evidence for a nonverbal display of love, four affiliation cues (head nods, Duchenne smiles, gesticulation, forward leans) correlated with self-reports and partner estimates of love. Finally, the experience and display of love correlated with commitment-enhancing processes (e.g., constructive conflict resolution, perceived trust) when the relationship was threatened. Discussion focused on love, positive emotion, and relationships.
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The role of contemplative practice in adult education has a long history if one includes traditional monastic education in Asia and the West. Its use in American higher education is, however, more recent and more limited. Nonetheless, on the basis of evidence from surveys and conferences, a significant community of teachers exists at all levels of higher education, from community colleges to research universities, who are using a wide range of contemplative practices as part of their classroom pedagogy. In addition to existing well-developed pedagogical and curricular methods that school critical reasoning, critical reading and writing, and quantitative analysis, this article argues that we also require a pedagogy that attends to the development of reflective, contemplative, affective, and ethical capacities in our students. The significance of these is at least as great as the development of critical capacities in students. The rationale for the inclusion of contemplative modalities is articulated within this context. On the basis of considerable experience in teaching at Amherst College, I present an "epistemology of love," which emphasizes a form of inquiry that supports close engagement and leads to student transformation and insight. This approach to knowing is implemented in the Amherst College first-year course, Eros and Insight. It includes a specific sequence of contemplative exercises that are practiced by students and integrated with more conventional course content drawn from the arts and sciences. Our experience shows that students deeply appreciate the shift from conventional coursework to a more experiential, transformative, and reflective pedagogy.

This article discusses how loving-kindness can be used to treat traumatized refugees and minority groups, focusing on examples from our treatment, culturally adapted cognitive-behavioral therapy (CA-CBT). To show how we integrate loving-kindness with other mindfulness interventions and why loving-kindness should be an effective therapeutic technique, we present a typology of mindfulness states and the Nodal Network Model (NNM) of Affect and Affect Regulation. We argue that mindfulness techniques such as loving-kindness are therapeutic for refugees and minority populations because of their potential for increasing emotional flexibility, decreasing rumination, serving as emotional regulation techniques, and forming part of a new adaptive processing mode centered on psychological flexibility. We present a case to illustrate the clinical use of loving-kindness within the context of CA-CBT.

Recent studies have shown that the presence of a caring relational partner can attenuate neural responses to threat. Here we report reanalyzed data from Coan, Schaefer, and Davidson ( 2006 ), investigating the role of relational mutuality in the neural response to threat. Mutuality reflects the degree to which couple members show mutual interest in the sharing of internal feelings, thoughts, aspirations, and joys - a vital form of responsiveness in attachment relationships. We predicted that wives who were high (versus low) in perceived mutuality, and who attended the study session with their husbands, would show reduced neural threat reactivity in response to mild electric shocks. We also explored whether this effect would depend on physical contact (hand-holding). As predicted, we observed that higher mutuality scores corresponded with decreased neural threat responding in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and supplementary motor cortex. These effects were independent of hand-holding condition. These findings suggest that higher perceived mutuality corresponds with decreased self-regulatory effort and attenuated preparatory motor activity in response to threat cues, even in the absence of direct physical contact with social resources.
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Drawing on recent claims in the study of relationships, attachment, and emotion, the authors hypothesized that romantic love serves a commitment-related function and sexual desire a reproduction-related function. Consistent with these claims, in Study 1, brief experiences of romantic love and sexual desire observed in a 3-min interaction between romantic partners were related to distinct feeling states, distinct nonverbal displays, and commitment- and reproductive-related relationship outcomes, respectively. In Study 2, the nonverbal display of romantic love was related to the release of oxytocin. Discussion focuses on the place of romantic love and sexual desire in the literature on emotion.
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This article opens by noting that positive emotions do not fit existing models of emotions. Consequently, a new model is advanced to describe the form and function of a subset of positive emotions, including joy, interest, contentment, and love. This new model posits that these positive emotions serve to broaden an individual's momentary thought-action repertoire, which in turn has the effect of building that individual's physical, intellectual, and social resources. Empirical evidence to support this broaden-and-build model of positive emotions is reviewed, and implications for emotion regulation and health promotion are discussed.