How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist - Andrew B. Newberg, Mark Robert Waldman (2009)
CDs, Workshops, and Online Research
As described in Chapter 10, Compassionate Communication is a fifteen-minute exercise designed to neurologically undermine defensive behaviors that are inherent in normal dialogue and conversation. When practiced with another person, the technique enhances empathy and social awareness, thus creating an environment in which conflicts can be easily resolved. When practiced daily, it reduces stress, anxiety, and anger while improving the cognitive and emotional functioning of the brain.
In conjunction with Stephanie Newberg, LCSW, who is an assistant director at the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia, we are currently training individuals in the therapeutic use of Compassionate Communication. Under the direction of Andrew Newberg, MD, selected patients are participating in a brain-scan study at the University of Pennsylvania to track the neurological changes associated with the practice. Under the direction of Mark Waldman, Associate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Spirituality and the Mind, we are presenting Compassionate Communication workshops at religious institutions, public schools, and community groups to track improvements in social empathy. Our preliminary evidence also suggests that the exercise helps to deepen a person's spiritual and ethical values.
In Chapter 10 we describe the steps of this unique meditation, but it is easier to do when listening to a recording of the exercise. If you would like to obtain a CD version of Compassionate Communication, you will find ordering information at www.markrobertwaldman.com.
The forty-six-minute CD also includes three lectures on developing intimate dialogues, dealing with anger, and creating effective strategies for handling relationship problems. At the website, you will also find materials to help you track your progress, along with a link that will allow you to participate in an online research project. If you would like Mark to present a Compassionate Communication workshop to your organization, business, school, or religious group, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR
We invite you to participate in our online Survey of Spiritual Experiences, which we reported on in Chapter 4. You will be helping us gather comprehensive information on the varieties of spiritual and religious experiences that people throughout the world have had, and how they have shaped their personal beliefs. Go to www.neurotheology.net, which will direct you to the survey site (please note: only the suffix .net will take you to the correct location, whereas .org and .com take you to an unrelated site).
We are also continuing to gather data concerning adult drawings and conceptions of God, as we described in Chapter 5. The questionnaire and exercise is fun and simple to do, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to conduct with any size group. It encourages people to think more deeply about their religious and personal beliefs, and the information we gather helps us to track the diversity of spiritual beliefs among various groups, cultures, and societies. If you would like to facilitate a “Draw a Picture of God” survey with your religious, secular, or community group or school, please e-mail Mark Waldman at email@example.com for instructions and survey forms.
MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS
Books, CDs, and Resources
Today, “mindfulness” refers to the art and practice of bringing increased awareness to the daily activities in our lives. Originally, mindfulness-based meditations were derived from Eastern spiritual practices, but for the past thirty years they have become secularly integrated into Western medicine and psychotherapy.
Creating a personalized meditation and relaxation program is easy to do, and there are many fine books, CDs, and organizations that can guide you through the beginning steps. The following resources have been helpful to many of our readers, students, and patients.
Introductory meditation books include a variety of exercises ranging in length from five to fifty minutes, and the authors often describe many of the problems that a beginning practitioner encounters. We recommend that you look at three or four different books (or use Amazon.com's “search inside” browser) before purchasing, so you can sample the author's style and orientation. For example, Jon Kabat-Zinn's books and CDs tend to be more secular, focusing primarily on personal awareness and health, whereas books and CDs by Jack Korn-field and Sharon Salzberg reflect elements from Buddhist and Eastern traditions. If you wish to find a meditative practice that reflects your personal spiritual beliefs, many religious institutions can provide you with appropriate recommendations and books. However, it is also very easy to adapt the meditation techniques from one tradition to another without losing any of the beneficial health effects.
For beginners, we recommend Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living or Kornfield's A Path with Heart. Dr. Herbert Benson's original book, The Relaxation Response, is also a good resource, and if you are struggling with depression or chronic unhappiness, try The Mindful Way Through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn. It includes a CD that guides you through the stress-reduction training program developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The exercises in these books are the ones that have been most thoroughly researched in the scientific community.
For professionals interested in how meditation has been integrated into psychotherapy, see Mindfulness and Acceptance, edited by Hayes, Follette, and Linehan, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, by Segal, Williams, and Teasdale, and Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches, edited by Baer.
Since it is often difficult to “read” your way through a meditation, we recommend that you purchase a few CDs to guide you through the basic forms of practice. Check out Kabat-Zinn's Guided Mindfulness Meditation (three CDs), Kornfield's Meditation for Beginners (two CDs), or Kornfield's two-CD collection, Guided Meditation. Nguyen Anh-Huong's and Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Walking Meditation, includes a CD with five guided meditations and an instructional DVD. Contemplative Prayer, by Thomas Keating, guides you through the Christian-oriented Centering Prayer, which we described in Chapter 9, and Meditation for Christians, by James Finley, will introduce you to a simple contemplative practice that focuses on Jesus and God.
All of these recordings are produced by Sounds True (sounds true.com) and can be ordered online or from bookstores. On your computer, you can also listen to five introductory meditations created by Diana Winston at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: http://marc.ucla.edu.
PROGRAMS, CENTERS, AND ACADEMIC RESOURCES
Many academic centers have ongoing research programs focusing on meditation, relaxation, and stress reduction. There are also a growing number of centers throughout the country that specifically integrate spirituality and health—for example, the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania; the Duke Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health; the Center for Spirituality and Health at the University of Florida; the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota; and the Institute for Religion and Health, which is associated with the Texas Medical Center. Many of these centers offer classes and events that can provide support for developing your own spiritually oriented health program.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction courses and therapy programs can be located at universities throughout the world. These centers offer workshops, classes, retreats, and professional training to address a wide variety of health issues. See, for example: University of Pennsylvania Stress Management Program, Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts, University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness, University of Virginia Mindfulness Center, Mindfulness Practice Center at the University of Missouri, Duke University Integrative Medicine, Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota, Center for Health and Meditation at SUNY University Hospital, plus dozens of other university/hospital programs throughout the United States. For further resources, visit the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine website at www.imconsortium.org.