The Compassionate Brain – FREE seven-part video series

The Compassionate Brain— Activating the Neural Circuits of Kindness, Caring, and Love – Practical Neuroscience for Transformation is a FREE seven-part video series with Dr. Rick Hanson, exploring the effective ways to change your brain and heart and life through the power of self-directed Neuroplasticity. Each week, Dr. Hanson and his seven guests will explore the profound implications of this cutting-edge science—and how you can use it to guide your own transformation.

“Perhaps the most valuable result of our new discoveries about neuroplasticity is that it helps us bring our brain into harmony with the greatest virtues of our heart.” (Dr. Rick Hanson)

The series begin TODAY, October 8, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –4), but on-demand streaming videos will be available a few days after each session’s conclusion. The host is SoundsTrue – I truly trust and recommend their work. I love the Insights at the Edge podcast, Tami Simon’s in-depth interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries exploring their latest challenges and breakthroughs. Check it out!


Each week Dr. Hanson will be joined by a world-class scholar/teacher, including Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dacher Keltner, Kelly McGonigal, Kristin Neff, and Jean Houston. They’ll discuss different ways to use the power of neuroplasticity—how the mind can change the brain to transform the mind—to open the heart, build courage, find compassion, forgive oneself and others, and heal the world.

Session 1: How the Mind Changes the Brain
Monday, October 8, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –4)
With Dr. Richie Davidson, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin and co-editor of The Asymmetrical Brain

Session 2: Mindfulness of Oneself and Others
Monday, October 15, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –4)
With Dr. Daniel Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute and author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation

Session 3: Cultivating a Forgiving Heart
Monday, October 22, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –4)
With Dr. Tara Brach, founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha

Session 4: The Evolution of Compassion: From Gene to Meme
Monday, October 29, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –4)
With Dr. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

Session 5: Balancing Compassion and Assertiveness
Monday, November 5, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –5)
With Dr. Kelly McGonigal, senior teacher and consultant for the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

Session 6: The Power of Self-Compassion
Monday, November 12, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –5)
With Dr. Kristin Neff, professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin and author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

Session 7: Compassion in the Wider World
Monday, November 19, 2012, from 8–9 pm Eastern Time (GMT –5)
With Dr. Jean Houston, co-founder of The Foundation for Mind Research and author of The Possible Human: A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities


Awareness and its many manifestations beyond the brain

The location of the mind – our centre of awareness and consciousness, the “self” – remains a mystery and as elusive as ever, despite advances in functional neuroimaging, says Douglas Heaven puts it in the New Scientist, on commenting the challenges posed by “a patient who is self-aware – despite lacking three regions of the brain thought to be essential for self-awareness”.

According to the models based on neuroimaging, “patients with no insula should be like zombies”, explains David Rudrauf, University of Iowa in Iowa City. But patient R, who lost brain tissue including the chunks of the three ‘self-awareness’ regions following a viral infection, is in no way a zombie:

But patient R displays a strong concept of selfhood. Rudrauf’s team confirmed this by checking whether he could recognise himself in photographs and by performing the tickle test – based on the observation that you can’t tickle yourself. They concluded that many aspects of R’s self-awareness remained unaffected. “Having interacted with him it was clear from the get go that there was no way that [the theories based on neuroimaging] could be true,” says Rudrauf.

Journal reference: PLoS ONE, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0038413

"Thinking about thinking, the brain, mind, and consciousness". Image: Sharon Brogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“Thinking about thinking, the brain, mind, and consciousness”. Image: Sharon Brogan/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I think the mind is not in our physical body at all but in the reality of the soul, and our brain is an instrument for the mind, not the cause of it.

Consciousness Confirmed in Non-Human Animals

This is very exciting news: experts and scientists admit non-human consciousness exists and signed a declaration publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012. I only learned about it today – has it been reported in the mainstream media?

In short, it means that now it is official: they reached a unanimous decision that humans are not the only conscious beings in the universe, and animals – specifically mammals and birds, but also insects and mollusks – have same brain-mind functions develop a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness, with similar states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making.

The implications of this finding are huge – and may change for good the way we relate to animals. It is hight time we develop a more respectful and less exploitive relationship with our fellows in evolution.

Check the videos of the conference out: and the full text of The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, from which I republish the conclusion:

We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non- human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Also, a very good post on Earth in Transition (my source), by Michael Mountain, who says:

“It’s a really important statement that will be used as evidence by those who are pushing for scientists to develop a more humane relationship with animals. It’s harder, for example, to justify experiments on nonhumans when you know that they are conscious beings and not just biological machines. Some of the conclusions reached in this declaration are the product of scientists who, to this day, still conduct experiments on animals in captivity, including dolphins, who are among the most intelligent species on Earth. Their own declaration will now be used as evidence that it’s time to stop using these animals in captivity and start finding new ways of making a living.”

Update: Saturday, Aug 11

As I watch the silence in the mainstream media, I was glad to see this piece just published in Psychology Today: Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings. Marc Bekoff says:

It’s said that repetition is boring conversation but there’s now a wealth of scientific data that makes skepticism, and surely agnosticism, to be anti-science and harmful to animals. Now, at last, the prestigious Cambridge group shows this to be so. Bravo for them! So, let’s all work together to use this information to stop the abuse of millions upon millions of conscious animals in the name of science, education, food, amusement and entertainment, and clothing. We really owe it to them to use what we know on their behalf and to factor compassion and empathy into our treatment of these amazing beings.

For my part, I have recently started my journey in vegetarianism, and I really hope to turn out nicely a vegan. Yet, last week I could not resist eating a piece of squid. Now I know it was the last time. Causing any type suffering to animals is against my principles and since I woke up to the fact that eating them is also a way to cause suffering, not only by filling but by feeding an inhumane and greedy food industry where very few profit. With the Declaration, I am now aware that even octopuses and squids are conscious – and like me, suffer too.

Update: August 24

While I have been tracking (non) media reactions and finding plenty of interesting pieces on this:

Katherine Harmon, in Octopus Chronicles, Scientific American, a post that was quickly mentioned in the Atlantic Wire:

What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in “attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus). Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their “neural substrates”) are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and “are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals,” the scientists noted.”