by Jack Kornfield
from Medium Website
can strengthen our
emotional responses, our minds
and our tech...
In a recent article for Medium, Adam Gazzaley, MD, PhD, a brain expert at the University of California, San Francisco, brilliantly outlined the current state of the human condition:
Etymologically, cognition is derived from the Latin cognosco, a compound of com, meaning together with, and gnosco, which means to recognize or comprehend.
True cognition must connect:
Writing from the perspective of a Buddhist teacher and a psychologist with a strong connection with the world of technology, I know this much:
The source of these
sufferings is in the human heart.
greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance
That is true for us
humans, and it applies to all the technologies we develop and
Our heart feels their plight and whispers to us:
The reality is we have
enough food but not enough love. We know this truth as
surely as we know our own name.
Gazzaley explains, the
increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern
environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected
from our own self and from one another.
As Einstein reportedly once said,
Part of the solution,
Gazzaley articulates, is the deliberate and conscious development of
our cognitive capacities. What is important to recognize is that
these are capacities of heart as well as mind.
Over the past 20 years, neuroscientists have published thousands of papers showing the benefits of mindfulness and compassion. What's more, the two appear to work best together.
The work of Richard
Davidson, professor of psychology at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, has provided initial evidence that when
mindfulness and compassion are practiced in concert, the measurable
changes to our nervous system occur 10 times faster than they do
with mindful attention alone.
published thousands of papers
showing the benefits of
In recent research, Nobel
Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and her colleague
Elissa Epel found that after eight weeks of mindfulness and
compassion training, subjects saw a lengthening of their
telomeres, which are often
described as protective caps on our chromosomes that get shorter as
Those living in areas of
poverty or conflict, for instance, have shorter telomeres than those
who live in comfort and peace. There is even evidence that the same
shortening happens in those who simply live near poverty and
Our heart knows this.
Every breath we take has
dusted Hawaiian waterfalls and the Fukushima nuclear reactor. We
come most alive in the times when our sense of separateness drops
away. We remember the times walking in the high mountains, making
love, losing ourselves in music, witnessing the birth of a new
child, or sitting at someone's bedside at the moment of death, when
the gates to mystery open.
To curtail violence and hate and to foster human well-being, we need to spread widely, in person and online, the trainings and tools of,
By growing empathy and inner courage, we expand what neuroscientists call our window of tolerance.
Without this wisdom, we blame society's ills on others, whether the immigrants, the Muslims, the Communists - it's always someone else.
Back in 1955, the author James Baldwin wrote,
His words ring true, even today.
Our hate is a mechanism so that we don't have to blame ourselves, face our insecurities, our difficulties, loneliness, and our upset at the losses and injustice around us.
But we must...
heart work is an
As part of this, like South Africa, we need a national Truth and Reconciliation process to come to terms with our denial of the Native genocide and African American slavery, so we are not continuing to refight the Civil War.
On the other side, some
of us are so loyal to our suffering that we also need heart wisdom
to honor and express our love, our creative hopes, our delight and
We learn to judge less,
to let go, to hold things lightly, to forgive and start anew.
Over the past few years, our fight-or-flight-or-freeze response has been triggered by politicians, pundits, and search algorithms alike - they all aim to grab our attention by sparking our anxiety. And it's taking a toll.
Dr. Vivek Murthy,
a former U.S. surgeon general, has suggested that that half of all
the medical problems in the United States are related to problems
with emotions. The good news is that humans can also learn to shift
from the primitive brain's fight-or-flight circuit and engage in
considered responses from
the neocortex - and wisdom from
But positive psychology
reminds us that for each racist act, each killing, or unkindness,
there are a million acts of respect and goodness. The heart knows we
are more than our worst actions.
People will help and move among one another
in the United States
are related to problems
Only when we are linked together, connected as a group devoted to the common good, can we create a wise society. Though they can be problematic, technology and business can help with this.
There are encouraging signs.
The capacities of modern technology
are among the most potent
We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations.
We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:
What this suggests is that there are things we can do. We are not powerless. Modern public discourse is almost designed to leave us overwhelmed and disheartened and, frankly, resigned to the state of the world.
Don't fall for this...
It's up to us which one
we let create our future.
Intention is the key.
Like an inner compass, we
can set the direction of our life with the deepest intentions of the
heart. But the secret is to act without attachment to the results.
We get to plant seeds based on our best intentions, but we do not
control how or when they will sprout. They will, in their own time.
I remain hopeful despite the many painful current events, because we know how to do this.
It's in us to help one another and create a better world. In Zen, they say there are only two things:
You quiet your mind and
open your heart. And then, naturally, you get up and tend the garden
of the world...