Connectedness to others, and to Nature...
Human beings as a rule don't do well in isolation. For example, a cruel experiment carried out in the 1200's took some babies away from their mothers, who were then brought up without touch or human contact - they died not long after. We all need love, attention, and fellow human beings.
First is a very interesting article on Compassion from the Center For Compassion and Altruism Research and Education website at Stanford. While referring to an American point of view, it expresses what is becoming common throughout the whole of Western culture.
It mentions that many people are getting increasingly lonely or isolated, and frequently have no-one close enough to them to share a problem. Not only that, but the article tells us that loneliness for a number of factors, increases the risk for disease and even death. It surmises that social connectedness is essential for long life.
The article also states that we have compensating mechanisms: altruism and compassion that can relieve our own pain, and even goes as far to suggest that compassion is regarded as a basic instinct.
So we can determine from this, that not only is Compassion necessary for the human race as a whole to survive, and indeed is hard-wired into us, but on an individual level, it can help prevent disease and extend our own lives.
Here's a wonderful talk by Brené Brown from TED on connectedness and vulnerability. It is really her story about how she let go of her fears to become who she really is. In case you wonder what a Pinto Box is, it's a storage box!
We are all connected...
We all need to be connected. It's the most natural thing for human beings to form relationships with others. We are hard wired that way.
Part of being connected is that we need not just friends and aquaintances, but we also need intimate relationships too. Relationships that involve touch and contact with another. Without this web of relationships we can literally become ill, or even die as stated above. This has been known a very long time.
For a dramatic example, the German emperor Frederick II in 1248 conducted a cruel experiment to find out what language children would speak if they were raised without hearing anyone talking. He took several newborn babies from their parents, and then gave them to nurses who were forbidden to touch or talk to them. The babies all died before they ever learned a language. The historian Salimbene at the time said of these babies: "They could not live without petting."
More recently in 1915, a study of babies in ten institutions found that all babies less than two years old had died, even though they had adequate nutrition and sanitation. The reason was that at that time there was concern about spreading infectious diseases, which led to a policy of minimal human contact with the babies.
There are now hundreds of studies demonstrating the very human need for connectedness and intimate contact with others.
It is known that the psychological effects of even just massage been found to be useful in treating asthma, autism, back pain, cancer, depression, developmental delays, dermatitis (psoriasis), diabetes, eating disorders (bulimia), heart disease, irregular heart beats, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and post traumatic stress disorder. A study over one month of HIV-positive men found that massage caused a significant increase in both the number and cytotoxicity of natural killer cell activity.
We mustn't forget the role of the heart in human connectedness. This is no fuzzy warm concept here. The Institute For HeartMath carries out research into the heart-brain relationship. The findings show that we must take the heart, its neurons and its capacity for memory into account when we are considering how we influence one another. The emotions are obviously influenced by heart activity too:
Another great resource is an online magazine created by Berkeley called Greater Good. It has as it's strapline "The Science of a Meaningful Life". It's mission is to show people how to implement positive research into people's daily lives. You can find many interesting articles, videos, and other resources there.
Jason Silva - Return To Awe: