Change the Brain for Good: Empathy and Compassion

This entry on empathy and compassion is the third in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. The second entry investigates resilience. One of the most popular and memorable … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Resilience 

This entry on resilience is the second in a five-part series. The series describes what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. The first entry introduces this series and describes the impact of meditation on whether we can respond effectively to disturbing events instead of reacting to them. Over forty years ago, I started dabbling with meditation because I … Read more…

“Duh’s” and “Aha’s”*

When do your best ideas come to you? Perhaps while you are walking, showering, or having a good conversation with people you trust? Or, do they come while you are studying an issue and trying to solve it based on your past experience with solving a similar problem? When faced with a difficult issue many of us try the latter and often come to an impasse or apply an ineffective solution. This happens for two … Read more…

Active Hope

“Active hope is a practice…it is something we do, rather than have.” Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone When I feel hopeful, I have some confidence that what I hope will happen is likely to happen. For example, I hope this meeting accomplishes what I want it to accomplish. Or, I hope people listen to one another’s perspectives. In this way, desire for a particular future is a part of hope. “Active hope,” according to Joanna Macy and Chis … Read more…

When Your Hair Is On Fire…

According to Stephen Covey, one of the seven habits of highly effective people is that they, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  It sounds so simple. Something you could embroider on a pillow. Or, make into a poster. Simple does not mean easy. When someone says something that sets your hair on fire, the temptation is to go tit for tat, tooth for tooth, measure for measure. We go round and round, getting … Read more…

Handling Hidden Emotions

A colleague was in a meeting recently with her counterparts from around the state trying to figure out how they might collaborate to improve each of their organizations’ individual performance. As they considered possibilities, one member of the group kept objecting to everything in a harsh tone. Basically the message was, this will never work, don’t even try it. So, on breaks and when the naysayer was not in the room, the group came up … Read more…

Effective Conversations Are a Critical Leadership Tool

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ve been conversing your whole life. There’s no mystery involved, right? Maybe. As a leader how do you use conversations to lead, to get stuff done? (I am distinguishing between a task-oriented meeting with four or more participants and conversations among two to three.) People often start conversations with present-day events or concerns. For example, imagine that as you walk back to your office after a meeting, you exclaim … Read more…

Why Can’t We Converse with One Another?

It’s a tough time for conversations. The toxic national political environment is infecting interactions among friends, colleagues and neighbors. We are having a harder time listening to one another and an easier time vilifying those who think differently than we do. Social media feeds the flames. Curiosity and compassion have gone AWOL. Conversations are fraught with fears about the future, anger about the past, and disbelief at how we got here. The challenge for each … Read more…

What’s at Stake

After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used Senate rule # 19 to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Marco Rubio* made an important speech that seems to have gone unnoticed. In it he said, “What’s at stake here tonight…is…the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before us.” He also stated, “We are reaching a point…where we are not going to be able to solve … Read more…

“Compassion” Our Way Forward

Compassion is a verb

After the November 8 election, I sent a dear friend an email asking about what he might be feeling or thinking. He began his response with, “I really believe we can only ‘compassion’ our way forward.” After astutely turning this noun into a verb, he continued, “We have to be the ones to try and make democracy compassionate and caring.” In previous postings, building on the work of Daniel Goleman, I have described various types of … Read more…