The work of Awareness in Action is inspired by:
- The Secular techniques of Mindfulness, Meditation and Compassion.
- The work of the Mind and Life conferences which aims to establish mutually respectful working collaboration and research partnerships between modern science and Buddhism — two of the world’s most fruitful traditions for understanding the nature of reality and promoting human well-being.
- Current research into Neuroplasticity.
- The emerging Happiness Debate examining the the causes and conditions of happiness
Secular techniques of Mindfulness, Meditation and Compassion
My call … [is for a] a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupations with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.
This is an approach introduced by the Dalai Lama in his book Ethics for the New Millenium.
The most important take home message is we can change our brain by transforming our mind.
Twenty years ago neuroscientists believed that the adult brain had little margin for change but the research pioneered by Richard Davidson of Wisconsin University has led to these ideas changing considerably.
Now, neuroscientists are talking about neuroplasticity—the concept that the brain is continually evolving in response to our experience, through a continuous process of neural development.
Davidson has conducted a series of examinations of experienced meditators using EEG [recording changes in the brain’s electrical activity] and MRI [which provides a precise picture of cerebral activity]
These tests showed a remarkable range of results, such as:
- greater activity is displayed in the areas of the brain connected to empathy
- there is an increased capacity for inner peace
- there is a shift in activity away from the right prefrontal cortex [the area of the brain associated with negative emotions, and depression] towards the left prefrontal cortex [the area of the brain associated with positive emotions and feelings of well-being]
The catch is that we tend to look for happiness in the wrong places. What we believe would make a huge difference in our lives actually, according to scientific research, makes only a small difference, while we overlook the true sources of personal happiness and well-being. We think money will bring lots of happiness for a long time, and actually it brings a little happiness for a short time.
The emerging debate on the causes and conditions of happiness
It would appear that in the developed world income has doubled in the last fifty years but levels of happiness have not increased—in fact there is more crime, more depression and more alcoholism that fifty years ago.
Why is this? There is a large body of current research on happiness and well-being and its implications for society and government.
Happiness: lessons from a new science by Richard Layard, a leading UK economist and member of the House of Lords, is a ground breaking study in this area.
Mind and Life
Aims to promote the creation of a contemplative, compassionate, and rigorous experimental and experiential science of the mind which could guide and inform medicine, neuroscience, psychology, education and human development.
The Mind and Life institute has made great strides in catalyzing neuroscientific and clinical research on contemplative practices