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Skill Level Beginner
- This is an audio course, no need to watch, just listen. Welcome to the latest addition to LinkedIn learning, podcasts. We've curated some of the best business podcasts and made them even easier to listen to. Each episode is split into sections. Use the links in the contents area to skip to whichever section you like. We're always looking for new ways to help you learn and we'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks for listening. (upbeat guitar music) - Sounds True presents, the science of compassion. A modern approach for cultivating empathy, love and connection with health psychologist and Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal. Our program continues with session four on compassionate presence. (upbeat guitar music) - When I teach compassion, I always emphasize this, no matter who you're feeling compassion for, the first recipient of your compassion is you. You have the experience of love, of caring and connection, your body responds, your heart expands, your courage awakens, your perspective broadens. It doesn't matter who the object of your compassion is, you are always the first recipient of your own loving-kindness and compassion. But whenever I say that one question I often get is, "Okay, but does my compassion really make a difference "for the one who's suffering? "If I'm aware of a person suffering, "if I'm connected to my own compassionate intention, "if I'm wishing that that person be free from suffering, "does it actually benefit them, "even if I can't do anything to take away their suffering? "If I'm sitting with someone who's grieving, "someone who's in physical pain, "someone who's angry or afraid, does it really help, "if all I do is connect to my own compassionate intention "and try to share that compassion with them?" Let me tell you about one very unusual study that attempted to answer this question. This was a study that was conducted at the center for integrative medicine at Wake Forest University. And in this study, they asked an experienced compassion meditator to meditate for a stranger who was sitting in the same room with them but who did not know that they were being meditated for. It was these strangers the recipient of the meditators compassion who were the real participants and before and after the meditator was meditating for them they answered surveys about how they were about their stress, their peacefulness and they also were hooked up to a bunch of physiological machines that were measuring things like heart rate and breathing rate and the synchronization between heart rate and breathing. So here's how the study worked both the meditator and the object of that person's meditation were in the same waiting room and they were both asked to read from a book, but while the person receiving the meditation was actually reading, the meditator was only pretending to read and she was actually meditating, even though she would hold the book at her hands and turn a page every few minutes to make it seem like she was reading. And the meditation that she was doing was a classic loving-kindness and compassion meditation. She would connect to her own breath and for every breath she would repeat a phrase of compassion and the phrases in the study were, may you be safe and secure, may you be healthy, comfortable, and filled with vitality, may you be peaceful and happy, and may you be free from suffering. And the meditator repeated these phrases with the felt sense of directing them at the stranger in the waiting room for 10 minutes. Now, the researchers made the study even more interesting by having the meditator spend some of her time touching the recipient of the meditation and it was pretty funny how they made this work. They told the participant that they were interested in the effects of touch on how the body responds, the physiology, the heart rate. So they had the meditator sitting on a stool and she would place one hand on the recipient's foot and then leg and then hand and then arm and then shoulder and she would move her little stool around the stranger so that she could reach different parts of her body. And while she was putting her hand on the recipient of the meditation she was silently repeating in her own mind these same phrases of loving-kindness and compassion, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering, all the while intending to send that compassion, not just through meditation but through touch. And all the while the person who's receiving the meditation doesn't know that the meditator is meditating and she's continuing to just read her book. Okay so what did they find? Well, they found that when a person was the recipient of someone's loving-kindness and compassion meditation their own breathing rate decreased by an average of four breaths per minute suggesting that they were somehow being calmed or soothed by the meditators compassion. They also found that the recipient's heart rate variability or that synchronization between heart rate and breathing increased, which suggested again that they were entering that kind of balanced state of being both centered and also present and activated, that actually is the physiological signature of compassion itself. So that's what was happening in their bodies, somehow the compassionate physiology of the meditator was contagious. And they also found that being the object of someone else's meditation alter the participants levels of stress and peacefulness. They reported an increase in peacefulness and a decrease in stress. There were actually really impressive changes. So before the meditation and the experiment they'd rated their stress and their peacefulness on a scale of one to 10 and they found that the stress decrease from 5.5 to 2.2 and peacefulness increase on average from 3.8 to 9.0 on a scale of one to 10 suggesting that that being the recipient of someone else's compassion meditation or their compassionate presence through touch had a major effect on people's experience of stress and their experience of peace. So what does this study tell us? What it tells me and the reason I was so moved by the study is it suggests that when we are connected to our own experience of compassion, it really affects others. It's not just this study that shows, there are actually lots of studies confirming that when people intentionally take a compassionate point of view, when they are in the presence of another person particularly someone who is suffering it has real benefits on the recipient of that compassion. So for example, one study looked at whether having a compassionate mindset could reduce another person's physical pain. This study looked at the effect of a doctor's empathy on a patient's ability to heal. Some physicians were trained to have a particularly compassionate and caring presence with their patient as they diagnosed and treated patients who were suffering from colds. And then after the patients went through this encounter and went home, the researchers followed up to find out how severe their cold symptoms were and how long they lasted. And they found that patients who experienced that more empathic and compassionate experience with the physician, they actually had an enhanced immune response and that was shown by the number of immune cells that were present in their blood samples taken immediately after the visit as well as in reduced severity and duration of their cold after they went home. Somehow simply being seen by a doctor who demonstrated a caring and kind presence, it seemed to activate the patient's own ability to heal. These are just a few examples of how compassionate presence might have an objective benefit for the recipient of that compassion and that'll be the focus of this session on compassionate presence. How do we communicate our compassionate intention to others? How do we recognize compassion in others? How do we know that we are the recipients of another person's compassion? And what are the benefits of offering compassionate presence to someone who is stressed out or suffering? I hope that by the end of the session you will come to trust even more that your compassion can truly make a difference even in situations where you can't fix the problem or remove the source of suffering.