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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dalai Lama's Visit 2010: Compassion meditation

Monday, day 2, was the longest and the best day of the Dalai Lama's visit, because of the people I met and the information I learned will provide questions and answers for years to come.

The program included the Conference on Compassion Meditation. That title would indicate we would be taught what compassion meditation is and how to do it. But the key is in the second part of the title: "Mapping Current Research and Charting Future Directions." The program was split into two sessions: 9:30–11:30 a.m. and 1:30–3:30 p.m.

In the morning, we were introduced to some serious science, which included maps of the brain showing the effect of compassion meditation on the amygdala. I learned from another speaker about the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the heart.

The scientists updated the Dalai Lama on the progress of their studies and research, and then he would provide comments or ask questions. One of the Dalai Lama's many great comments that I wrote down in my new blue book is: “Compassion brings inner strength and that loving-kindness connects us to wisdom.”

Next was lunch at Cox Hall. The Dalai Lama ate elsewhere and then joined us for dessert. The security was intense. There was a long table at the front of the room where a panel sat with His Holiness in the middle. After the introductions, he pointed to the empty chair on his right, laughed, made eye contact with President Jim Wagner and said “your chair is empty.” President Wagner promptly moved from his table to the empty chair.

We saw examples on some of the work being done by the Emory-Tibet partnership as there were samples at each table. We saw a textbook with English on the left and Tibetan on the right.

One of the discussions was about how hard it is to translate Tibetan into English. The primers and texts have really helped the monasteries and future generations. His Holiness believes that the fruits of these collaborations will provide benefits for years to come. He also said that both sides of the partnership should learn both languages ... perhaps Western languages are best for science but Sanskrit is better for the mind.

The afternoon brought more information about future research projects. Everything was fantastic. All of the work being done is important; one project that stuck in my mind was a study of the children in London who were evacuated to the English countryside to escape the London Blitz during the Second World War. The study showed that the children were better off with their mothers.

There was also a pilot program for foster children ages 13-16 using the compassion meditation that has shown so much promise that it has been extended. The speaker gave a specific example of a girl who testified to the judge (related to her foster situation), saying that she practiced one hour every day and learned that she did not need to clamp down her emotions. The judge was so impressed by the girls that he helped to expand the program. All it took was one pebble in a pond to make a difference.

After learning about the various studies using compassion meditation (or something similar) it had made me want to learn more about it and how to do it myself. Study myself, do compassion meditation for six weeks and journal the before and after, could be interesting. At the end we were told to work on having more ethics based on secularism and to work hard to eliminate bias.

--Kathleen E. Hedrick 89B, past-president, Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Emory Alumni

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