By: Alexa Hirschberg
CBCT’s reflective teaching employs mental restructuring, emotion producing practices, and developing calmness of the mind to foster acceptance and understanding of others. There are eight key components of the protocol:
- Developing attention and stability of mind
- Cultivating insight into the nature of mental experience
- Cultivating self-compassion
- Developing equanimity
- Developing appreciation and gratitude for others
- Developing affection and empathy
- Realizing wishing and aspirational compassion
- Realizing active compassion for others
The phenomenon of neuroplasticity indicates that because humans already have a biological basis for compassion, we can extend that process on a neurological level through training and practice. For this reason, compassion meditation is currently used in a number of research studies to address the potential of CBCT in a variety of clinical and educational settings.
Dr. Negi and a team of researchers at Emory University received a National Institute of Health grant to explore the effects of compassion training among adults. The results of this study indicate that there are meaningful links between engagement in cognitively-based compassion meditation and innate immune and behavioral responses to stress, as this mental practice had the immediate effect of decreasing stress and improving mood.
Another study Dr. Negi conducted addressed the longitudinal effects of meditation, when participants are in a non-meditative state, on the amygdala, a region of the brain that implicates emotional processing. The fMRIs of participants who took part in eight weeks of CBCT showed an increase in right amygdala response to negative images, which is significantly correlated with a decrease in depression score. This study supports the notion that the brain has neuroplasticity and that CBCT can induce process-specific learning that may result in lasting changes in mental function.
These findings point to the fact that further research is needed in this field, as CBCT holds the potential to play a tremendous role in education, healthcare, and society. The Emory-Tibet Partnership (ETP) is at the forefront of this movement.
Founded in 1998, the Emory-Tibet Partnership is a multi-dimensional initiative that brings together Western scholastic tradition and Tibetan Buddhist sciences to discover new knowledge. Not only is Dr. Negi the Director of and a Professor in this program, but he also is the Co-Director of the ETP’s umbrella programs, Emory-Tibet Science Initiative and Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies, which contribute immensely to CBCT’s influence both on campus and among the cognitively-based compassion community.
Through these programs, the ETP offers CBCT courses to diverse populations. They work with numerous organizations, providing classes to the public, to Emory undergraduate students, and at the Emory School of Medicine. Individuals can also become CBCT teacher certified with the ETP. Beyond these initiatives, the ETP launched a relationship with Emory Healthcare’s Spiritual Healthcare Program, training medical professionals in CBCT. The ETP not only promotes the practice of CBCT among the community, but supports a tremendous amount of research in the field as well.
Emory offers a variety of opportunities to learn and practice meditation, check out what’s being offered on campus!