Friday, June 7, 2013

Compassion and Reframing Reality

Some months ago, I began musing in this space about literacies that leaders today, and just about anyone else, need to navigate our time of non-stop complex change, and yes, even transformation.  I've listed them before, but here you can see them arranged again.   The compilation of literacies came after years  of trying to make some sense of all this data coming at me about leadership--what's important for leaders to focus on, what's needed in the 21st century, what beyond strong knowledge about one's industry or sector is imperative.  The six above are what emerged from about five years of study.  More about that another time.

I have been wanting to begin an inquiry into each one of the literacies and howo they weave together.  As I have worked with them, I realized that one of them, R2: Reframing Reality, is foundational to the rest, so I'll begin there.

For two weekends this spring in Atlanta, I participated in a course called Cognitively-Based Compassion Training [CBCT], part of the program offerings for the Emory-Tibet Partnership at Emory University.

The course’s focus was training the mind for greater compassion, something neuroscience research has confirmed the human capacity for. But, in general, we have not taken the time to consciously increase that innate capacity.

Research pouring out of universities and institutes around the world is showing that humans are just as prone to goodness as we are to defensiveness and aggression.  Our species depends on cooperation, which takes a certain level of empathy and compassion for others.   According to research, goodness, compassion, kindness, and ability to play well with others is a “core feature of primate evolution.”  [p.6, The Compassionate Instinct]

So, how do we train ourselves to develop our sense of identity and empathy for others? This wonderful training, based on 2000 years of Buddhist insight and meditation practice, I noticed, was largely about consciously and conscientiously reframing our reality, training our minds, through meditation, to do that.

It struck me that reframing reality is the place to begin when learning any new set of skills, especially as we move from a culture based and focused on individual excellence and knowledge to a sense of co-created, convergent knowledge  and the need to increase our sense of and agility with working as a “we”.  We reframe and retrain ourselves to more fully explore that space between  us where there is so much juice and available intelligence.  Not in me, not in you, but in the space between.

To reframe reality we have to become aware of where we place our attention and to train ourselves to focus. Alan Wallace in the Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind  notes that most of us lack attentional quality.  He says we have to tame and stabilize our attention.    

In training our minds, we can cast the net of our perception out and catch a new way of looking and seeing.  We can do it intentionally.

R2 provides us with a lifetime of practice, not only within a meditation discipline but also in everyday situations where we get the chance to look from another perspective, to train and discipline ourselves to stand back and relook.
We can shift our stance, mentally [and perhaps emotionally] shifting our weight from one foot to another.

More on this to come.

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