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Lions Roar : March 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 60 psychology makes no distinction between mood and emotion. Ekman explained further that emotions—both positive and negative—evolved in response to human needs for survival. Even difficult emotions such as fear and anger are not inherently destructive, he argued, because they could be used for good; for example, when anger leads to social advocacy. “Emotions are never destructive in themselves,” says Ekman. “It depends on how they are enacted.” Ekman found the Dalai Lama was a keen debater with an open mind, which impressed him. On the fourth day of the confer- ence, the Dalai Lama challenged those present to do something constructive as a result of the dialogue. Ekman took that to heart. “I decided to form a steering committee that very night,” he says, “to work on a program that would be a combination of Western and contemplative approaches. Alan Wallace volunteered to help.” This led to the Cultivating Emotional Balance project. Ekman and Wallace worked up a curriculum together and tested it with a group of teachers. The results of their study, soon to be published, show remarkable results. “People had decreases in depression and anxiety with effects as large as have ever been found in the psychological literature,” Ekman says. Ekman and the Dalai Lama made a strong personal and intellectual bond at the confer- ence that continues to this day. At the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala they have held a series of one-on-one conversations, falling into deep dis- cussion sometimes lasting many hours. In 2008 they co-wrote the book Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion, which is based on these conversations. The topic for their next get-together is compassion. Ekman says that’s not his area of expertise, but says he’s not worried, because he and the Dalai Lama enjoy challenging each other without much concern for who’s right or wrong. “We come from different tradi- tions,” he says, “so that helps give us new perspectives.” THE FIRST EIGHT Mind and Life dialogues were private gath- erings of invited scientists and contemplative practitioners. Now it was time to make a bigger impact—it was time to go public. Francisco Varela and Adam Engle saw the productive collabora- tions that were emerging from even these little publicized events. They felt there was much more potential to influence scientific thought and culture, and lobbied for the dialogues to become pub- lic forums rather than private affairs. They wanted mainstream audiences to hear about this unusual collaboration of first and third person research. The Dalai Lama agreed. The first public Mind and Life dia- logue was held at MIT in 2003. Tragically, Francisco Varela did not live to see it. After undergoing a liver transplant in 1998, an experience he described in the extraordinary meditation on the nature of embodiment titled “Intimate Distances: Fragments for a Phenomenology of Organ Transplantation,” Francisco Varela died of Hepatitis C in 2001. Richie Davidson took his place as the research director of the Mind & Life Institute. The 2003 public forum was called “Investigating the Mind: Exchanges Between Buddhism and Behavioral Science.” It focused on three areas under active investigation in the world of neuroscience: attention and cognitive control, emotions, and mental imagery. Mind and Life wanted to challenge the research 2000s The Dalai Lama challenges scien- tists to prove or disprove benefits of contemplative practice Mind and Life dialogue on “Investigating the Mind: Exchanges Between Buddhism and Biobehavioral Science” held at MIT Richie Davidson pub- lishes “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation” in Psychosomatic Medicine “Long-term Meditators Self-induce High-amplitude Gamma Synchrony During Mental Practice,” by Lutz, Davidson, et al is first paper on medi- tation published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Daniel Goleman’s Destructive Emotions brings science of mindfulness to a wide audience Current Directions in Psychological Science publishes “Buddhist and Psychological Perspectives on Emotions and Well- Being” by Paul Ekman, Richie Davidson, Matthieu Ricard, and B. Alan Wallace The Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman COURTESYOFTHEPAULEKMANGROUP