Dr. Wendy Hasenkamp is the Science Director of the Mind & Life Institute. Her research in contemplative neurosciences focused on the impact of meditation on brain activity and was deeply influenced by her meditation practice and experience.
Interviewed by Scott Snibbe, Dr. Wendy Hasenkamp will talk about:
1. Reconciling a Christian background with a scientific mind-set and education
2. The joy and the challenge of communicating complex ideas
3. Neural circuits and recurrent behaviour: why it is so hard to break habits, and how contemplative practices can help
4. How a contemplative perspective can benefit scientific research in psychology and neuroscience and help us understand the human mind
5. What’s the difference between empathy and compassion?
6. Healing disconnection with others and with the planet: how meditation can nurture feelings of compassion, prevent othering and help to shift implicit bias.
From the interview:
“Brains are constrained by energy flow, and because of that we’re wired to do things in the most efficient way at the cellular way; that’s why we have habits and find it so hard to break habitual patterns because they are the energetically easiest things for our brains to do. When you’re sitting still and being quiet, you are cutting out a lot of the ‘energy suck’ of your life. So you’re able to access all this extra energy that can be used for mental and physical transformation, which are two sides of the same coin.”
“Science has such a tradition of being able to question everything and continually revise itself, but at the same I feel science doesn’t have all the answers so I continue to hold that spiritual interest and investigation”
“We’re trying to understand the human mind. To me, [science and spirituality] are two different and extremely complementary ways of doing that, and they inform each other in important ways.”
“If we understand how we construct our sense of ‘self’ and ‘other’ in our minds, we can then transform our self-concept to include others and realise what’s happening when we look at another person and we categorise them as ‘others’. “What our minds naturally do is categorise, but you can also see through that and create a more shared humanity. Up to the level of the planet: there’s a disconnection from the planet and the natural world, which is obviously a big part of climate change denial and why we’re not addressing the most major issue that we’re facing right now”.