Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health

Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health

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Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health by Daniel Goleman, The Dalai Lama

Can the mind heal the body? The Buddhist tradition says yes—and now many Western scientists are beginning to agree. Healing Emotions is the record of an extraordinary series of encounters between the Dalai Lama and prominent Western psychologists, physicians, and meditation teachers that sheds new light on the mind-body connection. Topics include: compassion as medicine; the nature of consciousness; self-esteem; and the meeting points of mind, body, and spirit.

This edition contains a new foreword by the editor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780834824249
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 01/14/2003
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 480 KB

About the Author

Daniel Goleman, PhD, has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of numerous books, including Emotional Intelligence, Working with Emotional Intelligence, The Meditative Mind, and Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.

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the mind

the body? How are the brain, immune system, and emotions interconnected? What
emotions are associated with enhanced well-being? How does mindfulness function
in a medical context? Is there a biological foundation for ethics? How can
death help us understand the nature of the mind? In summer 1991, ten Western
scholars from a broad range of disciplines gathered with the Dalai Lama in his
personal meeting room in Dharamsala, India, to grapple with these questions as
the focus of the third Mind and Life Conference. This book is a compendium of
the presentations and dialogue that occurred at this meeting.

from the fields of psychology, physiology, behavioral medicine, and philosophy
presented the quintessential discoveries of their fields and discussed the
connections among these findings with the Dalai Lama and with prominent
practitioners of Buddhist meditation. The purpose of this cross-fertilization
was to increase mutual understanding and facilitate the emergence of new
insight into the relationship between health and emotional experience.

is only in the past twenty years that Western physicians, biologists, and
psychologists have begun to comprehend the interrelationship between emotional
states and mental and physical well-being. Buddhist thinkers, however, have
been aware of the mind's healing capacity for more than two thousand years. The
presence at this conference of the foremost leader of Tibetan Buddhism provided
a unique East/West synthesis. The Dalai Lama served as a touchstone for the
recent scientific discoveries reported by the other participants.

Mind and Life Meetings

Dalai Lama has lived in India since he led thousands of his people to freedom
from Chinese oppression in 1959. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989,
he is universally respected as a spokesman for the compassionate and peaceful
resolution of human conflict. Less well known is his intense personal interest
in the sciences; he has said that if he were not a monk, he would have liked to
have been an engineer. As a youth in Lhasa, it

he who was called on to fix broken machinery in the Potala Palace, be it

clock or a car.

in October 1987, the Dalai Lama has met regularly with select groups of
scientists to discuss bridges and interfaces with what can broadly be called
the sciences of mind and life—biology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and
psychology, as well as philosophy of mind—the disciplines of most immediate
relevance to the Buddhist tradition. The spirit of these meetings has been one
of candor and mutual respect on both sides, as seen from the careful selection
and preparation of the meetings, their private nature, the attention given to
excellent translation, and the extensive time devoted to them by the Dalai
Lama. The books that emerge from these dialogues—including this one, it

hoped—offer readers a sense of immediacy and spontaneity in an unprecedented
exchange between a spiritual path and state-of-the-art science, between an
ancient wisdom and the modern quest for answers.

series of dialogues was initiated in 1985 jointly by Adam Engle, a U.S.
attorney and businessman, and Dr. Francisco Varela, a Paris-based
neurobiologist working with the National Center for Scientific Research who was
aware of the importance of a serious dialogue between science and Buddhism. The
first Mind and Life Conference was held over a period of a week in Dharamsala,
India, and dealt with neuroscience and cognitive science more generally. A book
based on this first conference, edited by Francisco Varela and Jeremy Hayward,
has been published as

with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind

(Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993). Since that first meeting, there have
been four others, each bringing the Dalai Lama together with different groups
of scientists in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Topics have included emotions
and health (represented in the present volume); sleeping and dreaming, to be
represented in the forthcoming book
Dreaming and Dying

(Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997); and the most recent conference, held in
1996, on altruism, ethics, and compassion. (For a full account of the history
of the Mind and Life Conferences, see the appendix.)

day began with a presentation on a scientific topic, such as the neurobiology
of emotions, and was followed by dialogue and debate with His Holiness, who has
consistently displayed both a keen scientific mind and a breadth and depth that
stretches the borders of science. For example, in this dialogue, the Dalai Lama
suggests there may be subtle levels of consciousness, which Western science has
yet to learn about, that do not depend on the function of the brain, unlike
grosser levels that are directly related to brain activity.

exemplar of open-minded and bold inquiry, the Dalai Lama has taken the lead in
opening a dialogue between Buddhism and modern science. He sees clearly that if
Tibetan Buddhism is to survive into the future, it

do so only to the degree that it is not baldly contradicted by the findings of
modern scientists; he has said that if the scientific method should prove that
some tenet of Buddhism is incorrect, then Buddhism would have to change

the other hand, the dialogues have also shown that Western science has much to
gain from these insights from the East. Tibetan explorations into the psyche
have yielded a sophisticated phenomenology of mind that could guide modern
scientists, if scientists would listen. These dialogues are a beginning of that
conversation. One fruit of these dialogues is an ongoing research project that
stems directly from this third round of the Mind and Life meetings: a
neurophysiological study of brain states in adept Tibetan yogis to better
understand the potentials of attentional training.

and Science, Emotions and Health: the Dialogue

has as principal aims the goal of transforming perception and experience and
synchronizing mind and body. According to Buddhist teaching, the process of
harmonizing mind and body and transforming experience is a gradual one. This
path is based on the practice of various forms of meditation, coupled with a
moral imperative to engage in virtuous action. Such action is based on the
awareness of the interdependence of all life and the universal compassion that
emerges from this awareness.

Buddhist thinkers have long been concerned with psychophysical health and have
produced numerous medical treatises that date from as far back as the eleventh
century. The four main Tantras (explanations) were translated from Sanskrit
into Tibetan by the Lama Vairochana in the ninth century and have been handed
down from teacher to student until the present day. According to this
tradition, illness is the result of an imbalance in the psychophysical body
which is produced by conflicting emotions such as anger or greed. Using modern
experimental methods, the scientists who attended the Mind and Life Conference
considered some of the same issues raised by Buddhist thinkers over the

begin with Lee Yearley's overview of Western ethical systems and an enquiry
into the possible foundations for an ethical system not based on religion. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his sense of the need for such a system,
which could appeal to the billions of people on the planet who hold no strong
religious belief. Daniel Goleman then proposes that the workings of the body
might offer such a basis, organized around which states of mind foster health
and which make the body more vulnerable to disease. He reviews findings
suggesting that distressing emotions can undermine health, whereas positive
states may be protective.

section on biological foundations considers some of the experimental research
central to emotions and health. This section begins with a discussion on the
immune system and its cognitive implications by Dr. Francisco Varela. The field
of immunology is awakening to the realization that the immune system is almost
a kind of "second brain," a network of specialized cells that give
the body a flexible identity. Further, this somatic identity has very specific
links with the neural networks underlying cognitive life, and makes up the
basis of the new field of psychoneuroimmunology.

Varela's presentation, and the dialogue that accompanies it,

followed by Clifford Saron's discussion of how the brain regulates emotion. His
and Richard Davidson's research elucidates how patterns of electrical activity
in the brain are correlated with facial expression and other measures of mood

Brown's discussion of how stress affects the body details the biological
foundations of the impact of emotions on health. Dr. Brown catalyzes a
discussion of posttraumatic stress disorder and how it is treated; the Dalai
Lama suggests that, unlike other victims of torture who then suffer from
posttrauma symptoms, the experience of many Tibetans with torture by the
Chinese suggests that faith and beliefs that give meaning to suffering may
offer an inoculation, to some degree.

a careful attention to moment-to-moment experience, is a classic Buddhist
contemplative practice. Sharon Salzberg explains its basics as an introduction
to the application of mindfulness in health. Cultivating beneficial emotions
has a role in the treatment of disease across the medical spectrum. Jon
Kabat-Zinn discusses the ways in which mindfulness meditation is being used,
with good effect, to help patients develop an awareness that is less prone to
being swayed by emotionality—an application of meditation practice that
alleviates symptoms and facilitates healing.

medicine uses psychological techniques to prevent or treat chronic illnesses.
Daniel Brown describes how many medical symptoms are the result of
physiological systems that are under stress and so out of equilibrium.
State-of-the-art behavioral medicine techniques offer patients ways to regain
control over the biological systems that are causing their symptoms. This new
approach to healing includes modern methods such as biofeedback and ancient
ones such as meditation.

the West, psychologists readily assume pathologies of the self, especially low
self-esteem, are rampant among modern humans. However, for the Dalai Lama, the
very concept of low self-esteem is unknown; in Eastern cultures, where the
"self" is a very different construct than in the individualistic
West, there may not be such a problem. The roots of self-esteem are explored in
a dialogue that suggests the self in the West may face unique problems rare in
the East.

sticking point between modern science and Buddhism is the relationship between
mind and brain. Western science sees mind as an emergent property of
consciousness that depends on the brain, while Tibetan Buddhist thought
postulates a subtle order of consciousness not dependent on brain. Does the
failure of Western science to identify mental processes that do not reduce to
brain function mean there is no consciousness independent of brain? The Dalai
Lama contends that extremely subtle levels of consciousness that have yet to be
discovered by the West are accessible for advanced meditators, who can use them
for lucid dreaming and conscious dying. If confirmed by science, such a
realization would mean radically altering the paradigm of Western neuroscience.

there is a wide-ranging dialogue on the need for compassion and for an ethical
system that can appeal to the billions of people who hold no particular
religious faith. And so the dialogue ends with the question of whether
science's new understanding of the links between mind, brain, and health might
one day offer part of a basis for an ethic—guidelines for living—which
upholds the values of the great world religions.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Introduction 1


1. Three
Views of Virtue
Yearly 11

2. Afflictive
and Nourishing Emotions: Impacts on Health

Daniel Goleman 33

TWO: Biological Foundations

The Body's Self

Francisco Varela
The Brain and Emotions
Saron and Richard J. Davidson
Stress, Trauma, and the Body

Daniel Brown


Mindfulness as Medicine
Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn
Behavioral Medicine


8. The
Virtues in Christian and Buddhist Traditions

Lee Yearly
9. The
Roots of Self-Esteem: Differences East and West


Mind, Brain, and Body in Dialogue
Subtleties of Consciousness


Medicine and Compassion
Dalai Lama

Appendix 251
Acknowledgments 261
the Contributors

Index 269

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