The Path of Well Being | Richard Davidson

The Path of Well Being | Richard Davidson

Wisdom 2 0 | Emergence | April 2022
The Path of Well-Being

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Foreign Hello Hello everyone We're here Still feels great to say that we're here Live in person guys hello hi everyone This is so exciting everybody's chatting So it's been so loud have you guys Noticed it's been wonderful to hear all The human voices chatting it really has Been beautiful thanks for coming back Thanks digital audience we see you Multitasking at homes doing something Artworks doing something cool uh and Thanks you guys for being present it's Really lovely to see you in person All right We're ready uh Thorin will be discussing Now uh with Richard Davidson the path of Well-being Richard Davidson is the Founder and director of the center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is likely the Foremost researcher in the world on Mindfulness and well-being he is a Friend and Confidant of The Dalai Lama He just got back from a trip to the Vatican and he's a leader of Cutting Edge conversations on well-being around The globe clearly so Richard and Soren Come on up Thank you So you got a lot to live up to wow That's impressive I'd be nervous if I

Was you I am It's really great to have you back I Think it's wonderful to be here Especially in person We were speaking backstage and you've Taken a couple trips I know you Mentioned in covid but I was really Really honored that you were willing to Kind of come out and be in person with Us so thank you so much well I we have I Think lulled ourselves into thinking Zoom is an effective substitute and it's Certainly okay but this is much better Beautiful Um so we're here to talk about Mindfulness we're here to talk about Well-being and I know there's like 10 000 different directions we could take This but I thought we would start with Early on uh there was a meeting with This Holiness I believe was that the Moment that kind of launched you into Bringing your interest in contemplation And interest in science Together to help uh show the world or Describe to the world what is beneficial Or was it before that what was it what Was the hook that kind of like set your Life Path Well I had been interested in meditation Before I met his Holiness for the first Time which was in 1992 uh but it was That meeting in 1992 where he asked me Uh really uh in a such a simple uh and

Yet Um profoundly disruptive way he said why Can't I use the same tools of Neuroscience that I was using at that Time to study depression and stress and Anxiety and fear and use those tools to Study kindness and compassion and it was You know a simple question and I had no I couldn't give him a good answer other Than that it's hard Um but uh that was really a pivotal Moment for me and I knew that I could Not go back to my life as it was That something needed to change and that Event eventually gave rise to our Center For healthy Minds which his Holiness Came out to Madison to inaugurate in 2010 and it was in uh the around 2000 That we first began to study long-term Meditation practitioners at his Suggestion beautiful and that's really The beginning of where all this work so You've had 30 years after that meeting Roughly if I'm doing my math right so What can you give us as some of the Surprises and the highlights in the last 30 years of Discovery pretty much your Full-time life is now dedicated to this This inquiry what are some of the things You've learned you've noticed that Surprised you Well a few things one is that um Human beings are wired To flourish

This is part of our core DNA and the way I think about it is like Language it's not controversial to say That human beings are wired for language However in order to express that Propensity we need to be raised in a Normal linguistic community and there Are actually case studies of feral Children raised in the wild they don't Develop normal language and similarly if A human being is not raised in an Environment where they have the inputs That allow them to flourish they too Will suffer and so that's one of the First things that I think is really Important and and this is not an opinion This is hard no scientific fact there Are really good data to show that Infants come into the world with a Propensity for pro-social behavior for Kindness for cooperation this is the Default uh and if they grow up to be Something different it is because of the Inputs that they've received but this is Our our initial starting condition Um and so this is really important and Uh uh and so when we do practices to Cultivate our heart to cultivate Kindness those practices are not Creating States and traits de novo but Rather they're actually reminding us of Our true nature And and nourishing that true nature so I That's I think really an important

Insight beautiful beautiful and now I Know part of what has been discovered Through that is you have these pillars Of well-being if you will and I'm Wondering if we could just touch on Those because I find them quite Fascinating and it seems like you've Tried to kind of culminate your research Into these four kind of areas and I Wonder if you could just kind of touch On those because I find it very Fascinating yeah so thank thank you for Asking and yes so we have developed this Framework For understanding what we consider to be The plasticity of well-being Um uh and what we try to do in coming up With this framework is use the very best Of modern science but also a have it be Deeply informed by the contemplative Traditions and to discern what the core Minimal elements are for human Flourishing that exhibit plasticity that Can be trained Uh and here are the four uh the first is Awareness and awareness is where Mindfulness would be It importantly includes this capacity That is uh certainly present in humans To a much greater extent than in any Other species and that is meta awareness What is meta awareness Med awareness is The capacity of a person to know what His or her mind is doing

Now that may sound a little strange but I'm sure you've all had experiences of Not knowing what your mind is doing no So one of the favorite ones that you Know I think all of us can relate to is Uh We might be reading a book and reading Each word on a page and we might be Reading one page and a second page and After a few minutes we have no freaking Idea what we've just read our minds are Lost and that's an example of an absence Of Med awareness but the moment we Recognize the moment we come back is a Moment of Med awareness and that can be Trained so and and Med awareness is a Critical Fulcrum if you will a leverage point for All other kinds of transformation The second pillar is connection and Connection is about qualities that are Important for healthy social Relationships qualities like gratitude Kindness appreciation compassion are all Part of connection the third pillar is Insight and insight is a curiosity Driven self-knowledge and literally Knowledge of the self uh the self is This entity that we have that we Construct it's a narrative And Part of well-being is having a deep Experiential understanding of this Narrative it's not so much changing the

Narrative It's changing our relationship to the Narrative and so can you go so the Example of a narrative would be I'm a Successful person or I'm an unsuccessful Person or I'm the best person or I'm the Worst person yeah and so unfortunately There are a lot of people who have a Negative narrative who have negative Self-beliefs and they actually hold Those beliefs to be a vertical Description of who they are and Um so this strategy is uh uh not so much Initially changing the narrative but if We can see the narrative for what it is And we can appreciate how the narrative Is constraining our construction of Reality and literally our realities are Constructed as a consequence of this Narrative yeah uh and so when we have Insight into that it's liberating and it Can really free us from constraints that Are imposed by this narrative and the Last pill of well-being is purpose and Purpose is again not so much about Trying to find something quote more Purposeful to do with our lives but Rather how can we derive meaning and Purpose in that which we do even in Presumably or so-called pedestrian kinds Of things daily routine things can Taking out the garbage be deeply Connected to your sense of purpose and The answer is yes

So your wife tells you that probably a Lot right Well actually during you know it's been Interesting during covid because I've Been home much more than I was before Covid and it's actually enabled me to do Those kinds of things on an everyday Basis and I always every single day I Reflect on this wow um and it's really Cool and it the the so another Insight You asked about these insights is that It doesn't take much to actually get These systems associated with Flourishing active and influential in Our experience in our lives and that's Because we're we're wired to flourish Well wow and the neuroplastic plasticity Will lean towards flourishing if we can Just train it is that the understanding Yes although we're about to come out With a high profile paper so stay tuned I'm sure you'll hear about it but um the Uh the neuroplasticity is super Important and it's also complicated it's Complicated it because don't assume that The structure of our brains is going to Change just like that it won't but the Key thing is staying with it really Having this be something you do day in And day out and that kind of regularity Of practice even if it's for a short Time is really important one of the Things I like to remind people is that When human beings first evolved on this

Planet none of us were brushing our Teeth and I'll bet everyone here brushes Their teeth this is not part of our Genome this is something that we've Learned to do and it's kind of amazing When you reflect on it that virtually Everyone on the planet does it yeah and If we spent even as short a time as we Spend brushing our teeth nurturing our Mind And we do it every day this world would Be a different place One of the things we were talking some Time back ago and you said um you know One of my practices if I remember you Correctly says I go through my calendar And I look at my calendar through the Day and I just stop for a moment and I Just send loving kindness to everybody Who I'm meeting with that day so I open Up my calendar this morning and I see an Interview with Richie I'm like oh Richie's sending loving kindness to me Right now It was really sweet but I was like I Must send loving kindness to him and Then so when I saw you I was like ah and I probably would have done that anyways But it was such a sweet moment to know That like I imagine you looking at your Counter and I'm looking at my calendar I Thought what a lovely thing too because Most of us look at our calendars they're Just to take like a 60 seconds two

Minutes to be like may you be free of Suffering XYZ person I'm meeting on this On this time and then when you see them And I thought that's just a lovely Practice so thank you for that thank you Do you have more things like that Well you know I think it's these short Moments and um you know I I I I love to Do an appreciation practice around Meal Time all of us eat we all eat several Times a day and simply reflecting on all Of the people that it took to actually Have a meal Um you know it's this extraordinary Interdependent web And uh and and devoting even 30 seconds To appreciating Uh this opportunity that we have is an Elixir for the soul yeah now is it okay So if we because I know there's this Whole kind of question of longevity and Longevity practices are now kind of in In Vogue and and there's these things That's like oh be loving it's good for Your skin or something Um So when you do the studies How much does intention or motivation Matter so if I'm doing things because Does it does it matter why I'm Meditating every morning or why I'm Doing XYZ is the intention behind it Matter or the fact that you're sitting There inquiring or appreciating a matter

For example I'm going to do this Depreciation because I want the the People I'm to make better food for me or Something so there's some other Incentive around it Um how have you studied that in the lab And what's your sense it's a wonderful Question we've thought a lot about it uh There is really no good scientific Evidence one way or the other but it's a Really important question and Um uh one of the things that I have Learned from the Dalai Lama is I mean he Always asks everyone when they're Talking to him about whatever it is They're doing what's your intent what's Your motivation for doing what you're Doing And uh and it it invites the possibility That intention and motivation really is Endeared yeah and um uh and and it also You know one of the things we think About these days is Hybrid interventions so I'll introduce a New idea some of you can take and run With it contemplative aerobics Um So if you Cultivate the intention just before You're doing physical exercise that I'm Doing this physical exercise not only For my own health but so I can be Healthy and have Vitality to serve Others yeah beautiful uh and and one of

The really interesting questions is Whether the biological consequences of The exercise may actually be alter Enhanced by the this altruistic Intention wow we don't know the answer To that right but it is an empirically Tractable question right it can be Answered so some maybe it's so much what You do matter is but maybe more the Spirit of what you do matters the the Practice of your waiter waitress in the Restaurant you delivering that meal with Love and and generosity could have an Impact it's so it's not whether you're Delivering the meal or not but it's the How of how you're delivering that Absolutely yeah absolutely I think it's It's really important and so what have You what have you because what have you You understood about like what brings Happiness or what doesn't bring Happiness because this seems to be Connected to the sense of like Well-being Um do you have do you have a sense of Like are these four pillars of Well-being do they create a happy life Are they content life is it just a life Of health healthy body healthy mind how Do you what's the what's the gauge I Guess if I'm making any sense at all Yeah no totally and what and we prefer To use terms like well-being and Flourishing rather than happiness for

Some important reasons uh and so just to Give an anecdote I have had the blessing Of being able to spend a lot of time Around his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kind of a model example of a person who I think most people would agree has high Levels of well-being and flourishing and I've seen him not I've seen him in States where he's not happy where uh for Example he was told about A situation with the Tibetan being Tortured in a Chinese prison and he was Crying He was deeply sad And yet He I would say still at that very moment Had very high levels of well-being and He was flourishing yeah but he wasn't Happy so it's not about being happy all The time But what it does what flourishing does Is it changes our relationship to Emotions our dynamic range of emotions And our capacity to exhibit emotions in A context appropriate way and so you Know in that instance his Holiness was Deeply sad but in the next moment he saw Something funny and burst out laughing Uh and having that fluidity yeah is Really a marker of flourishing beautiful And how has technology impact all of This Because I know that technology can both Be this source of news and information

And meditations and talks and it can Also be this source of overwhelm and Distraction Um do you get a sense what's your vision Of how technology can Aid in this Process of human flourishing yeah I mean I um uh I think technology is neutral it Um I I don't think it's evil in Inherently uh and uh I think it can be Harnessed for the good and you all have An app we should mention the healthy Minds yes which we're very happy to say That the New York Times wire cutter Named it as one of the three best Meditation apps and the only one that's Free entirely free Thank you so any yeah any sense of where Technology is going or what you would Like to see technology do to guide us in This flourishing because if you look at The data from at least the data I see There's increasing despair increasing And happiness increasing distraction Increasing loneliness like the the National movement is not positive some Of that's covid but some of that was Even before absolutely and so um Whatever we're doing doesn't seem to be We're working on a large national scale Maybe even a global scale and so I'm Curious if you have thoughts of how to Make this well-being uh movement if you Will or effort expand to more and more People and what are the what are the

What are the what are who's not the Enemy so to speak but who's our Competitor in this yeah no these are Really really super important questions And of course all of you are Believers in some level but there are Vastly larger quantities of people who Are not in this room uh who may really Critically need strategies to improve Their well-being who don't even know That it exists don't don't know that Well-being can actually be trained Um and so we have a big task in front of Us and I think here's where technology Can really be helpful first I think Technology can be enormously helpful in Measuring well-being and we are super Excited about that possibility and we're Devoting a lot of our energy to these Measure measurement strategies the sort Of gold standard today is for a person To fill out a retrospective Questionnaire about basically how Satisfied they are with their life but We know that that's subject to terrible Biases if you ask a person the same Question on a day that's Sunny versus a Day when it's raining and cloudy you get Totally different answers even though You're asking them about their life in General right Um and so uh there's a problem and we Know that there's a problem yeah so we Need better strategies and here is where

Technology I think can be enormously Helpful we know for example that there's A lot of information communicated in the Face in the voice in the words we use All of that can be harnessed and uh for For measurement and then if we can Measure it in this way we can also Deliver Um sort of in the moment micro Interventions we call it the micro Dosing of well-being And uh you know you can have a simple 30-second appreciation practice uh you Can for one of the things we've learned During covid is that we've worked we've Done a lot of work with public school Teachers who have been one group highly Stressed and one of the things that they Found most helpful in our approach is Purpose that many of them said that for The first time since covid they're Reconnecting with with their purpose in Becoming teachers in the first place and That is hugely beneficial for their Resilience and so if we can if they can Do a 30-second practice to remind them Of their purpose before they go into Teach for the day that's the kind of Thing that I think we really can use Technology for that it will be Tremendously effective beautiful and Then how about the the part around Connection and human connection because You I think you use the word connect

With it what was the the second pillar Was it connection connection now it Would could we translate that for Community or no sure absolutely okay and Then what is the purpose of the need What what makes can we have a sense of Community on Zoom or is enhanced by in Person and what does science kind of Tell us about can we live a meaningful Community connected life living through A screen and what's the what what is the Value of coming together like we're Coming together Yeah those are great questions and uh You know certainly I think that uh we Are fortunate to have had the technology That we we do have to help us through Covidia and I think connecting through Zoom and other video platforms uh has Certainly in many cases been incredibly Helpful and it would have been more Challenging had we not had that sure Um and yet I also am firmly convinced That being together in person adds yet Many other nuanced layers of connection That are extraordinarily important yeah Uh and so Um you know we know that there are all Kinds of signals that we provide to each Other and to groups that some of which Are processed non-consciously some of Which we're aware of but all of which Contribute to this precious Connection that we have with others and

With other species and with the planet Uh more generally and um uh and so I Think that uh there are ways to nurture This uh and I frankly think that the the Extraordinary deep challenges that we're In with climate change in part reflects This disintegration of connection uh and So I think this is relevant to many Different issues Um so we're going to have a few minutes That we're gonna have probably time for A couple questions if you want to stand Up there's a microphone there I don't Know if we'll get to everyone but um Briefly while they're lining up Longevity Are were you doing a workshop on Longevity or did I misunderstand Somebody a while back ago and how do you See that what do we need to do or not do Should we just be happy uh yeah so Longevity so I'm not sure I may have Participated in a workshop but Um so one of the things we've been very Interested in is brain aging yeah uh a Few of us are interested in that too Yeah so it turns out that um if you look At the relationship between brain age And chronological age in a very large Population you'll see that they're very Highly correlated not surprisingly and By the way brain age is something that Can be Quantified completely objectively Based on structural MRI scans so it's

Not like holding up a scan and reading It like tea leaves or like a Rorschach It's it's totally objective Um so we did some work and we actually Published a case study of a very famous Meditation teacher Who uh has been in our lab on multiple Occasions and this allowed us to compute His brain age over the span of 12 Years Wow um and he's been multiple times over The course of these 12 years and we Compared it to a normative database With thousands of participants and uh Looked at the rate at which the brain is Aging so here are the two important Conclusions one is that minger and Pache's brain does age So uh anyone who tells you that you can Reverse aging is feeding you snake oil The second is that his brain is aging Much much more slowly than 99 of the Population Uh and so he is in the most extreme tale Of the distribution in terms of the Slope of his brain aging over the course Of this 12-year period so um we we can Do things and the kind of practices that He does and and Um you know at the first time that we Tested him the very first occasion he Had already logged by conservative Estimates 62 000 hours of Lifetime Practice Um and so he's extremely rare we have

Some work to do yeah Yeah so you can see real structural Change in the brain with a lot of Practice great wonderful thank you Please Hi Richard I am Rita Marie Johnson I'm CEO of a global non-profit that teaches The connection practice And earlier we were asked how did we Grow love And I'd like to share my answer to that And get your feedback I have to ask you to be very brief Because we have two minutes for both of You so it's brief So Um in my experience Uh what we need to do to grow love is to Know exactly When life comes at us with something That triggers us How to efficiently get to our wisdom And how to efficiently get to our Compassion And how to synergistically combine our Wisdom and compassion so that we can Respond creatively and peaceful to Whatever has triggered us yeah that's Beautiful you have any problems with That no okay all right But the problem has been historically When I look at High ideals and all of the knowledge That we have all the Neuroscience down

To the level where we're using it with Youth offenders which is what I'm doing Actually right now in my county in Santa Clara How we get that practical how we get it Grounded so that they know exactly what To do when life comes out of them thank You thank you thank you so we'll let's Let's see yeah thank you I'd like to Hear your thoughts about it Well uh we're I think those are Important questions and uh uh we're Doing as much as we can do to bring this To many different sectors there's a lot Of I would refer you to our website We've done work with very challenged Populations as well and have some ideas About how that might be done thank you Thank you for the work that you're doing I think we have time for maybe one more So thank you so much all right we have a Digital version so we could do exactly What I told you thank you that needs to Be done Hi Dr Davidson Arun sardana good to see You here again good to see you I want to first uh thank you and Congratulate you for bringing to the World the wisdom of thousands of years And making it freely available to the Largest populations thank you thank you I think all of us need to applaud that The quick question after reading this Wonderful book Noise by Daniel Kahneman

And you touched on the biases that come Into our wall into our world The world of mindfulness is the world of Silence Where answers arrive in silence How can we take that at a community Level and not use words to convince to Cajole to impress to move they're Necessary but how can the practice of Mindfulness in meditation at a at a Societal level use silence to lift our Consciousness Yeah it's a beautiful question and I Would say that we need to do the work Ourselves so that we embody the Qualities that we wish to promote in Others and through our demeanor not by Talking about it But through our demeanor through our Presence To Simply convey them and we know that a Lot of learning occurs at that Non-verbal level so we don't have to say Anything it can simply be through the Exemplar of our demeanor and our being So the next time you answer a question He's just going to be silent Goes back to the question you asked Earlier can that Zoom environment Deliver that same exact Vibration I I don't think so That's all of you watching live stream Though enjoy

It's better than than not better than Not Dr Richard Davidson thank you so Much Wow So everybody else is blown away by that As I was wow three things man go home Think about three things from that talk And then go do it like go make change in That area number one for me purpose for Teachers number two for me Micro dosing Of well-being and then right why not Right and then number three was globally Let's make meditation as habitual and Ubiquitous as brushing our teeth right Right and mindfulness so all right Changing it out okay here we go

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