Meditation for empathy and insight

Rick Hanson, Ph.D.…integrating thinking and feeling is a desirable mental state, but many people have a hard time reasoning clearly when they’re upset, or bringing emotion into conceptual activities like planning.

Researchers have recently found that the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is very involved with weaving thought and feeling together. They’ve also shown that the conscious control of attention is centered in the ACC, which is measurably strengthened by activities that train attention such as meditation. In another example, studies have shown that tuning into the emotional states of others–a central component of empathy–depends on the activity of the insula. The insula also handles interoception, the sensing of the internal state of the body, so mental activities such as sensory awareness activate and eventually thicken the insula, and thereby increase empathy.

In effect, investigators have found that a method used for one purpose (meditation, or sensory awareness) can stimulate and strengthen brain regions that are also involved with another purpose (integrating thinking and feeling, or empathy).

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, and teacher with
a great interest in the intersection of psychology, neurology, and Buddhism.

He has written and taught extensively about the essential inner skills of personal well-being,psychological growth, and contemplative practice–as well as about relationships,family life, and raising children. A summa cum laude graduate of UCLA,Rick did management consulting before earning his Ph.D.

See free, easy Meditation Instructions on this blog.

Meditation for Managers video


Time for Public Companies to Evolve


Does your job trigger primitive survival instincts? My book presents alternatives.

Those best equipped to compete mercilessly for food, ward off any threat, dominate territory, and seek safety naturally passed along their genes, so these self-centered impulses could only intensify. But sometime after mammals appeared, they evolved what neuroscientists call the limbic system, perhaps about 120 million years ago. Formed over the core brain derived from the reptiles, the limbic system motivated all sorts of new behaviors, including the protection and nurture of young as well as the formation of alliances with other individuals that were invaluable in the struggle to survive. And so, for the first time, sentient beings possessed the capacity to cherish and care for creatures other than themselves.

Although these limbic emotions would never be as strong as the ‘me first’ drives still issuing from our reptilian core, we humans have evolved a substantial hard-wiring for empathy for other creatures, and especially for our fellow humans.

–Karen Armstrong
Fields of Blood and the History of Violence
Knopf, 2014 page 7



How to Apologize. And, Why.



A measure of a child’s maturity is progress from selfish self-justification toward compassionate empathy; from “I didn’t do it,” through “It’s not my fault!” and the teenager’s favorite, “I’m sorry you think it is my fault,” up to “I’m sorry you are hurt. What can I do to help?” Even experienced business people often revert to the most childish responses when stressed, threatened, or distracted (meaning, much of the time!). Each rung up this ladder makes our relationships stronger and our results better. Let’s explore each step and learn some even higher ones.

First, consider for a moment the results you want most. Review the outcomes you dearly wish to create, the aspects of life that deeply matter to you. Whether it is wealth, health, love, respect, ease, impact, or whatever else you yearn for, whichever measures of success you prefer, chances are that most if not all of your heart’s desires require the actions of other people.


You cannot achieve your most important results by yourself.



The quality of your interactions largely determines the quality of your life. This is particularly true in business, a game of producing specific, measurable results with and through the actions of other people.

The good news is, although our goals require help from others, most of us also try to contribute to the success of other people. We want to matter, to mentor, to nurture, to contribute, to belong, to be safe and appreciated. Much of human energy and attention is directed toward helping and getting help. To cooperate is human. It may be fundamental to all life on earth; it certainly is for mammals.

The bad news is, the more (more…)

Similarities of Soldiering and Selling


On Killing:
The Psychological Cost of
Learning to Kill in War and Society

by Dave Grossman


Capsule Review

I read this book and I review it here not because of any particular interest in sanctioned killing, rather because of my interest in institutional means of getting people to do difficult yet important tasks. I train salespeople and other business leaders.

I first heard the author, Dave Grossman, on a radio interview promoting this book. I heard him say that that in the history of combat from Alexander the Great through World War II only about 15% of soldiers in battle were trying to kill the enemy. He’s not talking about the long administrative and logistical tail of the army. Only 15-20% of the people with guns or swords in their hands, who were facing a threatening enemy, were willing to kill that enemy. I know this is hard to believe. I first heard this statistic from a pacifist and I called him a liar. Then I heard it from this author, a former US Army Colonel and military historian, who references the research of the US Army’s official W.W.II historian as well as many other scholars.


Why I review novels on a blog for business owners


Herman Melville

Fiction, like religion, takes us to a strange world to which we nevertheless feel a connection.

–Herman Melville

To enter another person’s world, to see things as they see them, to allow for different reactions to similar circumstances is to connect with people in a powerful way. Such empathy, compassion, and insight are essential for succeeding as a leader, salesperson, or an executive coach and to living a fulfilling life.

Reading the stories of people in circumstances different from your own is entertaining exercise that develops this important skill. Good novels offer intimate and immersive experiences of worlds most business people never encounter, yet the practice they offer with escaping our own narrow versions of reality can help us to be more receptive to the various worlds of the people we manage and sell to every day. [For more on individual worlds, see The Santiago Theory of Cognition on this blog.]



See these recommended novels on my blog:

The Razors Edge

Closers: Great American Writers on the Art of Selling

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

When the Sons of Heaven Meet the Daughters of the Earth

His Dark Materials

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Spidertown by Abraham Rodriguez, Jr.

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street

And, of course, the one I wrote:

Crimes of Cunning: A comedy of personal and political transformation in the deteriorating American workplace.

Crimes of Cunning 3D on sale now