Monday, January 13, 2014

Meditation and Compassion

Dr. David Steno, director of the Northeastern University Social Emotions Group, wrote an interesting article in the New York Times this summer titled The Morality of Meditation.

Meditation has gotten a lot of good press in recent years, with research indicating benefits in everything from lower blood pressure to improved job performance.

Dr. Steno's recent research addressed a very different question than health or work improvements: Does meditation increase our level of compassion - and therefore our moral choices? The very cleverly designed study indicated that the answer is yes.

Participants who had been meditating as part of the study were tested against a control group who were merely on a waiting list. The researchers wanted to see if they would offer their seat to a person on crutches (even though two others in the room didn't). The participants thought they were waiting for the research activity to start; they didn't know this was the research.

The results: Those who had been meditating were three times more likely to offer their chair than those who hadn't. Dr. Steno speculates that this may be because meditation tends to increase the experience of being interconnected.

An impressive result.

Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
New York City Counseling

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