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Inside the minds of monks and moms
Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles, Calif.
Subjects: Medical research; Parents & parenting; Meditation; Brain
Author: Ellison, Katherine
Date: Oct 23, 2005
Start Page: M.5
Section: Current; Part M; Editorial Pages Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

It's the neurology of love and compassion -- a little-understood aspect of parenting. Brain-scanning studies led by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson find that mothers gazing at pictures of their babies and Tibetan monks contemplating compassion both show marked activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area apparently tied to happiness.

Some critics imply that Davidson, a longtime student of meditation, is too close to the [Dalai Lama] (who is a co-founder of the nonprofit Mind and Life Institute that helped fund Davidson's studies). Others, charging research design flaws, say Davidson has failed to prove that meditation promotes compassion. The debate has even had political overtones because some of the opponents are of Chinese origin and may hope to squelch public attention to Chinese government repression in Tibet.

Let's face it: Parents have extraordinary motivation and endless opportunities to hone "skills" such as kindness. In Davidson's study on monks, the subjects concentrated on unconditional compassion, a pillar of the Dalai Lama's teaching and described as the "unrestricted readiness and availability to help living beings." What loving parent hasn't noted some improvement in this capacity?

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