Would you like Emotional Balance?

Cultivating Emotional Balance is a research project, which arose from a dialogue between the Dalai Lama, biobehavioral scientists studying emotion and Buddhist monks, and scholars at the Mind and Life Institute in Dharamsala, India in March of 2000. This meeting was one in a series sponsored by the Mind and Life Institute to foster an interchange between Buddhist tradition and Western science.

At this meeting, the Dalai Lama asked scientists if they could conduct research to determine whether or not secularized Buddhist practices would be helpful to Westerners dealing with “destructive” emotional experiences. In response to this request, Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. B. Alan Wallace, developed a training program that integrated Buddhist contemplative practices with Western techniques for dealing with negative emotional experiences. The training’s purpose is to reduce emotional responses that are destructive to self and others and enhance compassion and empathy. This research project, “Cultivating Emotional Balance In Challenging Times” (CEB), is the result of that interchange.

Over the centuries, Buddhism has refined meditation methods which probe the nature of the mind and promote positive states of mind, including compassion. Decades of scientific research has been conducted on altruism, empathy, pro-social behavior, and other concepts that relate directly to compassion. However, there are almost no studies in scientific literature that have found any form of training or intervention that can increase compassion. In fact, there is no agreed upon definition of compassion in the scientific literature.

In these challenging times, the development of methods for “cultivating emotional balance” and promoting compassion for others is a tremendously important scientific and humanitarian goal. By integrating wisdom derived from two very different traditions, the CEB project investigators hope to contribute to this important goal.

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