Creating The Perfect Healthy Vegan Diet

With vegan diets becoming more and more the healthy alternative to the meat eating mainstream, health-conscious eaters are looking at how to make meat and dairy-free products a part of their daily lives without missing out on nutritional necessities. Whether you want to lose weight or help control your blood sugar, the vegan diet has a lot to offer and isn’t as hard to follow as you might think.

Not One Size Fits All

Not everyone who follows a vegan diet will enjoy nuts and seeds, and others will definitely opt for fried tofu over raw plants any day, but that’s fine and is indeed the secret to a healthy vegan diet: eat what you like, not what you think you should like.

Blogger at Writemyx, Kim Gordon explains: “With veganism there is a lot of thinking that you ought to stick exclusively to one type of food or other but if your tastes tend toward vegan cheese and vegan meats, then eat them. If you want to steer clear of one type of food, that’s completely fine. Obviously you need to check that you are getting all your vital nutrients from somewhere but that doesn’t mean you have to eat food you dislike”.

The best way to start a vegan diet is through careful planning.  Think ahead to what you’re going to eat for the week and start there with a trip to your local health food shop or supermarket, if it has what you need. Planning will also help you see where you might need to boost your intake of calcium or fibre, for example.

Live A Little

If you’re swapping in vegetables for meat, you may need to completely re-think your eating styles. Don’t just leave a gaping hole where your sausages once sat but instead look at cooking up completely different meals and experimenting a little bit with flavours and cuisines.

Thankfully, there are literally hundreds of recipes online for you to peruse and try out. If you’re missing your spicy Mexican food, try a vegan jackfruit taco and see what difference a little extra effort can make. You should find that rather than shrinking, and your dishes become a whole lot more interesting not to mention colourful.

Check out some top vegan restaurants near you and take ideas from their menus, the more tasty recipes you have in your personal vegan cookbook, the less likely you are to feel you’re missing out on meat and dairy.

Alejandro Garcia, a health writer at 1day2write said: “Rather than feeling like you’re giving up or losing something, look at going vegan as an opportunity to become more creative and adding more colour and flavours to your palette. Incorporating unusual and exotic plants, fruits and vegetables can open up a whole new world and if you’ve never been much of a cook, might inspire you into the kitchen”.

There’s no doubt that cutting out all animal products from your diet is a big challenge . However, it’s well worth it, living a more ethically conscious lifestyle and the reported health benefits make the challenge of going vegan a battle worth fighting.

Clearing out your cupboards and stocking up on vegan-friendly ingredients will signal the start of a new you and a lifestyle where the advantages far outweigh any of the perceived problems. Get planning and set that new vegan to discover a whole new world of colour and flavour.

Going vegan for any of the reasons above can also be a part of the online self development program , where you can learn how one can combine a cruelty-free existence with personal well-being.

What would you do if you witness an act of violence?

A few days ago, a very good friend of mine talked to me through WhatsApp and sent me a voice note crying, feeling frustrated and bad about herself, because she was a witness of an act of violence against a young woman and she didn’t do anything to help the woman.
 
Risk or help?
The minute I heard her voice, I felt the same feeling of frustration. What happened was that a young woman was being mistreated by her husband and nobody did anything to help, not even my friend because she didn’t know how to react. So, she saw the fight and didn’t understand why she didn’t act. She was angry, frustrated with herself and sad about the young woman. My friend asked me: what would I do in a similar situation? Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell her, maybe I would try doing something, trying to find some help, but the fact is, this happens every day, and we have no control over it. Sometimes trying to help can make things worse, and we can put ourselves at a risk.
  
I started to think what I could possibly do to help that woman, to help my friend, to help anybody if I do not have control over the situation. First, I would need to see the situation from a distance, not getting involved or trying to make justice at that moment. I can start by sending loving kindness and compassion to the young woman and the person who was acting in an abusive way.  Sometimes we need to be neutral in situations like this not to add more reasons to fight.
  
We all are going through something
Loving kindness and compassion mean to be gentle to ourselves and to others, no matter what kind of experiences we are going through. Loving kindness and compassion refer to unconditional love and the motivation for others to be happy, to be able to accept the different circumstances that happened in life with calmness, not being overwhelmed by them.
  
Sending loving kindness to another person helps to deal in a better way with their current experience. We all are energy so we can send love energy to someone who is suffering and help them in their process. Like me, I was sending loving kindness to my friend, not to be so hard on herself, and to the young woman – sending her love energy to make her pain lighter, to make her feel that she wasn’t alone, to help her find peace in some way.
  
Practicing sending loving kindness and compassion will help us develop patience and understanding, first – accepting the situation, second – trying to act with calmness and not reacting by impulse and third – not suffering, because there is no point to suffer if we have no control over the situation.  I want to think in a free way, a loving way, realizing that we all are going through something and we need to start acting differently to build a peaceful society.
 
Thanks to this practice, we will become more empathetic with ourselves and others. Actually, it makes me realize that we have more power than we thought, that sharing loving kindness and compassion is always a great way to spread peace to others, and we have that power within us.
  
In the frequency of peace and joy
So, how we can spread loving kindness and compassion? First, we can think about something that gave us a feeling of happiness and love like a baby or a puppy. Can you feel love for them? Or maybe remember a place where you feel love and try to reproduce that feeling. It is important that the feeling becomes real because that is what we are going to send to another person. In this case, I  saw a young woman being at peace, being embraced with a big energy of love, I could feel that energy in me, and that calmed my mind, so I left behind all those feelings of frustration, because I could see through the act of violence, I could see a woman being protected and loved.
  
Practicing loving kindness and compassion will calm our mind and body, it will bring us peace and joy. And by practicing this we will help rather than fight against something because by sending love energy we are creating more love and peace, we are vibrating in this frequency, and we will integrate this in the way we act and treat ourselves and others.
  
If you want to practice loving kindness and compassion, you can start here.
  
Photo credits: Unsplash

Do you believe in unconditional love?

Unconditional love is the kind of love we can give unlimitedly without conditions; it is the presence of loving kindness in life for life.

In the first years of life, we learn that love is conditioned; used as a reward for good behaviour. Over time, we face relationships in which we doubt whether we are truly worthy of love and being loved. Every human being from birth must receive care, affection, kindness, respect, acceptance, and recognition. As soon as someone is deprived of these basic needs of learning and survival, he or she begins to form gaps and misconceptions of life, in some cases, they are irreparable.

We often demand a lot, we look for permanence and security in relationships, we pretend that others complete us and fill our needs and when we do not obtain it, they result in another failure. But the truth is that only unconditional love is permanent and free of ties. As the definition says, this type of love is not conditioned to something or someone. It simply is.

Some of the practices we can do to cultivate unconditional love for ourselves and others:

Self-love

It is the ability to love ourselves enough, to recognize ourselves as valuable, that we have things to give, and the pride of being who we are. It also includes self-esteem and the ability to be self-reliant. It is the freedom to develop individuality until we become people capable of creating and nurturing healthy and lasting relationships, starting with the relationship with ourselves.

We must understand that there is no limitation in the capacity to love, there are no limits to love, and therefore, we have the capacity to love ourselves and others. It is impossible to love someone if we don’t love ourselves.

Mistakenly, we tend to seek love and approval outside, rarely realizing that this feeling is born from within, in our heart. We must learn to cultivate self-love and prepare ourselves to expand unconditional love and kindness to others.

Self-compassion

People who are compassionate with themselves recognize that failures are experiences, so they take a balanced approach to negative emotions when they fail. Contrary to what we may think, when we treat ourselves with compassion, we encourage personal and professional growth.

By becoming aware that we are struggling with negative feelings, we allow ourselves to respond with kindness and understanding instead of judging and criticizing what is wrong with us. That self-compassionate attitude is a practice of goodwill towards ourselves.

Self-knowledge

At an early age, we discover ourselves as individual beings, that although we depend on each other, we have our own identity. Self-knowledge allows us to discover who we are, and how to differentiate ourselves from others. It is a personal work to discover what my strengths and weaknesses are; what I like and what I do not; what I want and what I do not want.

Taking the look inward can be difficult at times due to the traumas that we have faced. That is why it is important to develop methods and techniques that help us know who we really are and what we have to share. Once we understand and discover ourselves, we are able to understand and discover others, accepting the reality of life and the individuality of each one.

Metta

The word Pali Metta is a term with multiple meanings such as benevolent love, goodwill, and non-violence. Metta is also defined as a strong desire for the welfare and happiness of others. It is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as opposed to mere kindness based on self-interest, that is, it lacks personal interest.

Metta is, in effect, “the universal love that leads to the liberation of the mind”. (Philosophy and practice of universal love by Acharya Buddharakkhita)

By human nature, we are interested in the personal search for improvement, but what would happen if we learn to think about universal welfare and growth?

In a world threatened by so much destruction, greed, hatred, lust, and envy, Metta can be practised as a method of healing and liberation of the mind. So, it becomes a necessity for all activities to be designed in a way that promotes the welfare of all beings.

How to practice Metta?

(Philosophy and practice of universal love by Acharya Buddharakkhita)

Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Keep your eyes closed, repeat the word Metta for some time and mentally evoke its meaning – love as opposed to hatred, resentment, arrogance, impatience, pride and as a deep feeling of goodwill, sympathy, and kindness that promotes happiness and well-being of others.

Now visualize your own face with a happy and radiant mood. All the time observe your face like a mirror, contemplate yourself in a cheerful mood and put yourself in that same state during meditation. A cheerful person cannot get angry or harbour negative thoughts and feelings.

Having visualised yourself in a state of happiness, repeat the thought:

“May I be free from hostility,

free from affliction,

free from anguish;

May I live happily and at peace”

As you float with this thought, you become like a full container, whose contents are ready to overflow in all directions.

Then visualize your meditation teacher or spiritual guide, contemplate him or her in a happy mood and project the thought:

“That my teacher be free from hostility,

free from affliction,

free from anguish;

May he live happily”

And think of other people who are venerable and who are alive – monks, teachers, parents, elders – and with intensity, extend to each of them the Metta‘s thought in the same way.

The visualisation must be clear and the thought must be well “desired”. If the visualisation is done in haste or the desire is superficial or mechanical, the practice will be of little benefit.

Now take the time to visualise one by one of your loved ones, starting with the members of your own family, flooding each one with abundant rays of benevolent love. Spiritual love should be the same to everyone, even to your wife or husband, without involving the element of worldly love.

Then you should visualize neutral people, people who do not like or dislike you, as neighbours, colleagues at work, acquaintances. It radiates the same thought:

“That this person be free from hostility,

free from affliction,

free from anguish;

that he/she lives happily”

Having radiated thoughts of love to each one of this circle, you must now visualise people whom you may have misunderstood or whom you disliked. For each one, repeat mentally:

“I do not have hostility towards him/her,

that he/she does not have any hostility towards me.

That he/she is happy “

In this way, while visualizing all these people, the barrier is broken caused by likes and dislikes, attachment and hatred. When one is able to consider an enemy without malevolence and with the same will that he has for a dear friend, Metta, he acquires supreme impartiality, elevating the mind until it becomes unlimited.

* Visualisation means “calling the mind” or making certain objects visible in the mind, such as a person, an address, a category of beings. Imagine the people towards whom the thoughts of love have to be projected or extended. By irradiation is meant the projection of certain thoughts that promote the well-being of those people towards whom we direct the mind.

You can expand Metta in all directions and to all living beings, as much as you wish, covering everything with abundant thoughts of universal love.

What is unconditional love?

Unconditional love is the love that is born from the heart, the one that motivates us to give in an infinite way and that begins with our own love. The ability to value ourselves, compassionately accepting ourselves as we are. From the personal work of knowing ourselves, we managed to experience the satisfaction of focusing not only on the individual but also on the collective.

For this, 42 days Self Development Program can be very helpful.

“May all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace.”

¿Qué es el amor incondicional?

El amor incondicional es “el tipo de amor que podemos dar de forma ilimitada sin condiciones; es la presencia de bondad amorosa en la vida por la vida.”

En los primeros años de la vida, aprendemos que el amor es condicionado; utilizado como una recompensa a un buen comportamiento, con lo que al pasar del tiempo, nos enfrentamos a relaciones en las cuales dudamos si somos verdaderamente dignos de amar y ser amados. Cualquier ser humano desde que nace, debe proveerse de atención, cariño, afecto, bondad, respeto, aceptación y reconocimiento. En el momento que es privado de estas necesidades básicas de aprendizaje y supervivencia, se comienza a formar vacíos y percepciones erróneas de la vida, en algunos casos, irreparables.

A menudo demandamos mucho, buscamos permanencia y seguridad en las relaciones, pretendemos que otros nos completen y llenen nuestras necesidades y al no obtenerlo resultan en un fracaso más. Pero la verdad es que solo el amor incondicional está libre de ataduras y es permanente, como bien lo dice la definición, este tipo de amor no es condicionado a algo o a alguien. Simplemente es.

Algunas de las prácticas que podemos realizar para cultivar el amor incondicional para con nosotros y con los demás son las siguientes:

Amor propio

Es la capacidad de querernos lo suficiente, reconocernos valiosos y que tenemos cosas para dar, la auto valoración y el orgullo de ser quienes somos. Incluye también la auto estima, y la capacidad de ser auto dependiente. Es la libertad de desarrollar la individualidad hasta convertirnos en personas capaces de crear y nutrir relaciones sanas y duraderas, empezando por la relación con nosotros mismos.

Debemos entender que no hay una limitación en la capacidad de amar, no hay límites para el amor, y por lo tanto, tenemos la capacidad de querernos mucho a nosotros mismos y a los demás. Es imposible querer a alguien si no me quiero a mi mismo.

Equivocadamente, tendemos a buscar el amor y la aprobación afuera, pocas veces nos damos cuenta que este sentimiento nace de adentro, en nuestro corazón. Debemos aprender a cultivar el amor propio y prepararnos para expandir amor y bondad incondicional a los demás.

Auto compasión

Las personas compasivas consigo mismas reconocen que los fracasos son experiencias y asumen un enfoque balanceado frente a las emociones negativas al fracasar. Contrario a lo que se pensaba, cuando nos tratamos con compasión fomentamos el crecimiento personal y profesional.

Al volvernos conscientes de que estamos luchando con sentimientos negativos, nos permitimos responder con amabilidad y comprensión en lugar de juzgar y criticar por lo mal que la estamos pasando. Esa actitud auto compasiva, es una práctica de buena voluntad para con nosotros mismos. Deseando alcanzar así sentimientos de felicidad y paz interior.

Auto conocimiento

A muy temprana edad nos descubrimos seres individuales, que si bien dependemos los unos de los otros, tenemos nuestra propia identidad. El auto conocimiento nos permite descubrir quiénes somos, y cómo diferenciarnos de los demás. Es un trabajo personal para descubrir cuáles son mis fortalezas y mis debilidades; qué es lo que me gusta y lo que no; qué es lo que quiero y lo que no quiero.

Llevar la mirada hacia adentro puede ser muchas veces difícil debido a los traumas, por eso la importancia de desarrollar métodos y técnicas que nos ayuden a conocer quién realmente somos y qué tenemos para compartir.  En el momento que nos entendemos y descubrimos, somos capaces de entender y descubrir a los demás, aceptando la realidad de la vida y la individualidad de cada quien.

Metta

La palabra Pali metta, es un término de múltiples significados como amor benevolente, buena voluntad y no-violencia. Metta se define también como un fuerte deseo por el bienestar y la felicidad de los otros. Es una actitud altruista de amor y amigabilidad a diferencia de la mera amabilidad basada en el propio interés, o sea, carece de interés personal.

Metta es, en efecto, “el amor universal que conduce a la liberación de la mente”

Por naturaleza humana, nos interesamos por la búsqueda personal de superación, pero qué pasaría si aprendemos a pensar en el bienestar y crecimiento universal?

En un mundo amenazado por tanta destrucción, codicia, odio, lujuria, envidia, metta puede practicarse como un método de sanación y liberación de la mente. De modo que se convierte en una necesidad para toda actividad destinada a promover el bienestar de todos los seres.

¿Cómo practicar Metta?

(obtenido de: “Filosofía y práctica del amor universal” por Acharya Buddharakkhita)

Siéntate en una postura cómoda en un lugar tranquilo. Mantén los ojos cerrados, repite la palabra metta durante algún tiempo y evoca mentalmente su significado-amor como opuesto al odio, resentimiento, arrogancia, impaciencia, orgullo y como un profundo sentimiento de buena voluntad, simpatía y bondad que promueve la felicidad y el bienestar de los otros.

Ahora visualiza tu propio rostro con un feliz y radiante humor. Todo el tiempo observa tu rostro como un espejo, contémplate a ti mismo en un estado de ánimo alegre y ponte en ese mismo estado durante la meditación. Una persona alegre no puede enojarse o abrigar pensamientos y sentimientos negativos.

Habiéndote visualizado en un estado de felicidad, repite el pensamiento:

“Que yo este libre de hostilidad, libre de aflicción, libre de angustia; que yo viva feliz y en paz”

Mientras te inundas con este pensamiento, te vuelves como un recipiente lleno, cuyo contenido está listo para desbordarse en todas direcciones.

Luego visualiza a tu maestro de meditación o guía espiritual, contémplalo en un estado de ánimo feliz y proyecta el pensamiento:

Que mi maestro este libre de hostilidad, libre de aflicción, libre de angustia; que él viva feliz”

Y piensa en otras personas que sean venerables y que estén vivas-monjes, profesores, padres, ancianos- y con intensidad, extiende hacia cada uno de ellos el pensamiento de metta de la misma manera.

La visualización debe ser clara y el pensamiento tiene que ser bien “deseado”. Si la visualización es hecha de prisa o el deseo es de forma superficial o mecánica, la practica será poco provechosa.

Ahora tómate el tiempo para visualizar uno a uno tus seres queridos, comenzando por  los miembros de tu propia familia, inundando a cada uno con abundantes rayos de amor benevolente. El amor espiritual debe ser el mismo hacia todos, incluso hacia tu esposa o esposo, sin involucrar el elemento del amor mundano.

Luego debes visualizar a personas neutrales, personas que ni te agraden ni desagraden, como vecinos, colegas del trabajo, conocidos. Irradia el mismo pensamiento:

Que esta persona este libre de hostilidad, libre de aflicción, libre de angustia; que el/ella viva feliz”

Habiendo irradiado pensamientos de amor a cada uno de este círculo, debes ahora visualizar personas con las cuales puedas haber tenido un malentendido o te desagradan. Para cada una repite mentalmente:

“Yo no tengo hostilidad hacia el/ella, que el/ella no tenga ninguna hostilidad hacia mi. Que el/ella sea feliz”

De esta manera mientras visualizas a todas estas personas, se rompe la barrera causada por los gustos y las aversiones, el apego y el odio. Cuando uno es capaz de considerar a un enemigo sin malevolencia y con la misma voluntad que tiene para con un amigo muy querido, metta, adquiere una imparcialidad suprema, elevando la mente hasta volverse ilimitada.

*Por visualización se entiende “llamar a la mente” o hacer visible en la mente ciertos objetos, como una persona, una dirección, una categoría de seres. Significa, imaginar a las personas hacia las cuales los pensamientos de amor tienen que ser proyectados o extendidos. Por irradiación se entiende la proyección de ciertos pensamientos que promueven el bienestar de aquellas personas hacia las cuales dirigimos la mente.

Puedes expandir metta en todas las direcciones y hacia todos los seres vivos, tanto como desees, cubriendo todo con abundantes pensamientos de amor universal.

¿Qué es el amor incondicional?

El amor incondicional es el amor que nace del corazón, el que nos motiva a dar de manera infinita y que comienza con el propio amor. La capacidad de auto valorarnos, compasivamente aceptándonos tal y como somos. Desde el trabajo personal de conocernos, logramos experimentar la satisfacción de enfocarnos no solo en lo individual, si no en lo colectivo.

Para ésto, el programa de 42 días de Peace Revolution es de gran ayuda.

“Que todos lo seres sean felices, que todos los seres gocen de bienestar”.

 

The Power of Giving

Giving can have different motives. People tend to give out of excess, what they feel useless, or when they want to create space for new things and clean up the mess. They may also give because they feel uncomfortable keeping something. In these situations, the recipient becomes a dumping site, and no feeling of affection or love for the other is in this act. Others spend to give: they sacrifice what they wish they could keep, but they choose to let go as they feel it is for a higher purpose for both the giver and the recipient. This becomes a charitable act when giving happens unconditionally with no expectations of a future gain or receiving back the same gifts or other favours.

Do I have enough to give?

While some people give out of love, others may think they need to acquire more to be able to give. The feeling that they do not have enough to give creates hindrance in the act of giving. The complex human nature will never allow them to share as one will never have all he or she needs. In fact, there is always what to give to others – kindness or cash, time or affectionate care – as what many may need could simply be a feeling of being loved and cared for, not necessarily material stuff. In fact, giving helps the mind and inner wellness for our own self-development.

How can giving change our life?
Donating one’s earned things is one of the most regarded act of charity as we donate what has a value. It becomes help given to others with an aim to make their life conditions better. This comes in the form of cash, material stuff such as clothing and other useful items that once received will make the person relieved. We can donate time as well, a less valued asset, which is really a good gift. We can also give something very cheap, like a smile, which can transform someone’s life. A shiny face, a greeting full of kindness and affection can relieve the mind and that is what millions on earth are lacking: kind words and gentle smiles from those whom they expect the least.

You may disagree with me, but try to give money or a gift to someone with a gloomy face and see the difference. That echoes the beautiful quote from Kahlil Gibran who said: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Joy of giving

In our earlier posts, we explored how donating can help one be free from an ego mind. Yes, getting used to giving can make one’s mind free because even in many scriptures from various religious believes there is this popular saying: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving”. Shannon Perry said: “It’s worth burning myself out like a match so long as others receive the light and warmth I dispatch.” He probably meant that “others are because I am”. This is why those always in predisposition of giving are called generous: not only does this earn them a repute, they become our role models as well.

What if it’s hard to give?

In case you find hard to give, there may be so many factors in your life that have led you to this. No art can be performed to change it when there is no practice. We may start with just a little and make it a constant act to be a part of us till we feel like it is a duty for us to give out: volunteering has been one easy way to start with; it is where we offer our skills and time with no monetary value awaited. The mind will feel happy when we have managed to let others feel good from what we share with them. Would you like to try it today? Go ahead!

العطاء

يقول الله عز وجل: “لَن تَنَالُوا الْبِرَّ حَتَّىٰ تُنفِقُوا مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ”.
المعطي؛ اسم من أسماء الله الحسنى، ويروى أنّ رسول الله (ص) ما سأله أحد شيئًا إلّا وأعطاه.

للعطاء أنواع عدّة، ففي بعض الأحيان يكون المُعطَى علمًا أو مالًا أو جاهًا أو دمًا أو جهدًا أو وقتًا.  فالسلوك الإنساني والتعاطف مع الآخر وإعطائه الوقت لسماع شكواه ومساعدته هو عطاء سامٍ، ولو لم يتضمن منفعة مادية. فالابتسامة عطاء للآخرين وقد تتفوق في بعض الأحيان على العطاء المادي.

شاركْتُ في تحدي سكون وسلامالمتمثل بالتخلي كل يوم عن ثلاثة أشياء من خزانة ملابسنا لمدة اسبوع. في البداية كان سهلًا عليّ انتقاء الأشياء لأننا كنّا ننتقل من فصل إلى فصل. وبعد مرور حوالي الثلاثة أيام، أصبحت الخيارات ضئيلة وأصبح الموضوع أصعب. أخذ مني الانتقاء وقتًا أكثر ولكني أكملت التحدي. أحببت ذلك كثيرا وأتمنى أن ينتشر العطاء والسلام في مجتمعاتنا. 

تعلمت من هذا التحدي أهمية العطاء وهو ليس التبرع بمبلغ من المال أو إعطاء ما لا نحتاجه فقط، بل هو اقتناء ما نحتاجه والتبرع بما يزيد عن حاجتنا. كما أنّ له منفعة على الصعيد النفسي، فالعطاء يبعث المشاعر الإيجابية ويقلل من النزعات السلبية. أثبتت بعض الدراسات أنّ العطاء يعزز فرزهرمون “الإندورفينمما يؤدي إلى ارتفاع المزاج. فليس أفضل من أن تعطيَ شيئًا للآخر ومن دون انتظار أيّ مقابل.

إنّ العطاء يساعد على التمييز بين الأنانية ومحبة النفس. فالأنانية تتمثل بالإجحاف في العطاء بينما محبة النفس تتجلى بالرغبة في تطويرها والسعي إلى الكمال والعيش بوعي. والتطور وبلوغ الكمال يتعزز بالعطاء. فالذي يحب نفسه يعطي الآخرين وينشر المحبة في محيطه. لذا علينا تعزيز المبادرات التي تدعو إلى العطاء وتشجيعه وذكره خلال عملنا وخلال جلسات التأمل لنصل إلى عالم يملؤه التسامح والحب والخير والتعاون

يقول أبراهام لنكون: كلما تقدّم عمرك ستكتشف أنّ لديك يدان، واحدة لمساعدة نفسك، والأخرى لمساعدة الآخرينفلنمدد أيدينا للخير. وأختم بالقول أنّ تجربتي في هذه الحياة علمتني أن العطاء هو أجمل شيءٍ في الوجود.

Les arbres et les animaux peuvent-ils faire preuve d’empathie et d’altruisme?

L’empathie fait une partie intégrante de notre nature. En fait,  nous pouvons améliorer ces qualités en entraînant notre cerveau à travers la pratique de la méditation, de la pleine conscience et la bonté aimante. Les humains sont-ils les seuls êtres capables de montrer ces traces positives de gentillesse, de compassion et d’empathie les uns envers les autres? Qu’en est-il des êtres vivants, comme les animaux et les arbres? Quelles leçons pouvons-nous apprendre en observant le monde naturel qui nous entoure?

Empathie et altruisme chez les animaux non humains 

Les êtres humains ne sont pas les seuls à développer des sentiments positifs. Dans le règne animal, nous pouvons trouver de nombreux exemples. Dans son livre « Le temps de l’empathie », le biologiste Frans De Waal nous montre d’innombrables histoires de comportement altruiste et empathique dans diverses espèces d’animaux, selon des études scientifiques de grands primates tels que les chimpanzés et les bonobos, entre autres. Ces études montrent une véritable capacité d’équité et de réciprocité; aussi, à quel point ces espèces se soucient de leurs pairs et sont disposées à venir à leurs aides, même en mettant parfois leur propre vie en danger.

Certains comportements étudiés chez les chimpanzés par exemple, montrent aussi comment ces traits de l’empathie et la compassion sont ceux qui maintiennent la cohésion sociale et l’harmonie dans les groupes. Ainsi, les les hommes et les femmes qui occupent les postes hiérarchiques les plus élevés peuvent avoir un rôle clé dans la résolution des conflits au niveau des groupes. Ils interviennent souvent lorsque des différends entre les membres commencent à devenir plus agressif. Ils arrivent à aider par la médiation et la réconciliation. Ces individus sont donc extrêmement importants pour maintenir la paix et la survie des membres de leurs groupes.

Image : Selvan Tamilman, sur Unsplash

Mais qu’en est-il des plantes? – “The Wood Wide Web”

L’empathie est un trait ancestral qui caractérise les animaux et, récemment nous commençons à découvrir que les plantes aussi possède cette faculté. Des études conduites par Suzanne Simard, chercheuse et professeure à l’Université de la Colombie-Britannique, qui a passé plus de 30 ans à étudier la communication entre les arbres, raconte: «dans des forêts tempérées nous montrent comment les arbres ont un système de communication complexe dans le sol à travers leurs racines qui s’étend même sur des kilomètres dans la forêt, comme s’il s’agissait d’un immense « internet » souterrain secret. Ce réseau est appelez “large réseau en bois” ou en anglais, “Wood Wide Web”. Ce système de réseaux de communication et d’échange d’information est vraiment brillant: il est appelé «mycorhize» et se compose de la relation étroite entre les racines des arbres avec un champignon qui pousse autour d’eux. Ces mycorhizes favorisent la communication entre un arbre et un autre, leur permettant même de distinguer entre ceux qui sont leurs parents directs et ceux qui ne le sont pas.

Ce système de communication est si complet et efficace qu’il aide considérablement la survie des arbres, a travers des actions coordonnées dans des situations d’urgences et en montrant une solidarité remarquable. Ainsi, ces réseaux souterrains entre les racines des arbres et les champignons leur permettent de transférer des nutriments, de partager des informations sur les dangers comme les ravageurs, et aussi d’attaquer des plantes envahissantes ou des animaux prédateurs. Quand un arbre se sent menacé par des parasites (de l’attaque des insectes, par exemple) ou d’autres plantes comme les mauvaises herbes, il déclenche un signal pour les autres arbres et une «barrière» est réalisée sous la forme de substances volatiles qui modifient la production de protéines, donnant aux feuilles un goût désagréable.

Solidarité dans le règne végétal

Image: Wood Wide Web par “Hiking Artist”.

D’un autre côté, les arbres plus gros (appelés «Hubs» ou « arbres-mère») donnent une partie de leurs nutriments aux plus petits, étant chargés de favoriser et de protéger leur bonne croissance. Mais cette aide ne se produit pas seulement entre des parents de la même espèce, mais entre plusieurs espèces interdépendantes, ce qui serait des signes de solidarité entre les plantes.

Au suget, Suzanne Simard raconte: «Nous savons tous que nous privilégions nos propres enfants, et je me demandais si le cèdre pouvait reconnaître sa propre espèce. Alors nous avons commencé une expérience: on a planté des arbres-mère de cèdre avec des muettes « familières» (lié à l’arbre-mère) et d’autres non « familières». Dans tous les cas,  les arbres-mères on reconnus leurs descendants, et les ont favorisée en leurs donnant des réseaux mycorhiziens plus grands, en leur envoyant plus de carbone sous terre; et ont même réduit la concurrence de ses propres racines pour créer un meilleur cadre pour ses « enfants ». Lorsque les arbres-mères étaient blessés ou en train de mourir, ils ont envoyé aussi des messages de sagesse à la prochaine génération de jeunes plantes. En définitif, on peut conclure que les arbres ont aussi la capacité de se parler entre eux.

Image en vedette:  Valeriy Andrushko sur Unsplash.

Can Trees and Animals Show Empathy and Altruism?

Empathy is a genuine part of our own nature. Moreover, we can improve this quality by training our brain through the practice of focused meditation, mindfulness and loving kindness. But, are humans the only beings capable of showing these positive traits of kindness, compassion and empathy towards our fellows? What about other living beings, like animals and trees? Which lessons can we learn by observing the natural world around us?

Empathy and altruism in non-human animals

Photo credits: Zanna Clay

The answer is, we are not unique in this, and by observing the natural world we can find many examples. In the book The Age of Empathy, biologist Frans De Waal shows innumerable evidences of altruistic and empathetic behaviours in various species of animals, mostly based on his own scientific studies of great primates, such as chimpanzees, bonobos and capuchins. These studies show how they have a true capacity for fairness, and reciprocity; they care about their peers and are willing to help each other, in some cases even risking their own lives to do so. 

In the case of chimpanzees, for example, these traits of empathy and compassion have a determining role in maintaining the cohesion and social harmony of the group. Thus, males or females occupying the highest hierarchical positions can have the key roles in resolving conflicts, often intervening when disputes between the members of their group become more aggressive and helping to mediate reconciliation. As a consequence, these individuals on top of the chimpanzee social hierarchy, are extremely important in sustaining the peace and survival of the members of their groups.

But, what about plants? – The Wood Wide Web

Wood Wide Web by “Hiking Artist”

It’s been recently discovered that empathy, as an ancestral trait, characterizes not only animals, but also plants. Studies conducted by Suzanne Simard, who has spent more than 30 years studying communication among trees in temperate forests, have shown how trees have an intricate system of communication in the soil through their roots, that extend even for kilometres in the forest, as if it was an immense underground secret “internet”. This system of communication and exchange of information through a network is called Wood Wide Web and consists of mycorrhizas. The word mycorrhiza describes the mutually-beneficial relationships that plants have, in which the fungi colonize the roots of plants. The mycorrhizae connect plants that may be widely separated. This network promotes communication between one tree and another, even allowing them to distinguish between those who are their direct relatives and those who are not.

This communication system is so complete and effective that it considerably helps the survival of the trees, allowing coordinated actions in case of emergencies which lead to a remarkable solidarity between individuals. Thus, this underground network between roots and fungi allow them to transfer nutrients, share information about hazards such as pests, and also allow them to attack invasive plants or predatory animals. When a tree feels threatened by a pest (insect attacks, for example) or by other plants such as weeds, it sends a signal to other trees to produce a protective barrier in the form of volatile substances that modify the production of proteins, giving the leaves an unpleasant taste.

Solidarity in the vegetal kingdom

Photo by Ryan Wan on Unsplash

On the other hand, larger trees (called Hubs or Mother Trees) give part of their nutrients to the smallest, favoring and protecting their growth. But this help does not only happen between relatives of the same species, but also between different species that are interdependent, which would be signs of solidarity in the vegetal kingdom. Regarding this, researcher Suzanne Simard stated: “We all know that we favor our own children, and I wondered if cedar trees could recognise seedlings from its own species. So, we started our experiment by growing mother trees along with “kin” seedlings and “foreign” seedlings. As a result we evidenced that they do recognise their relatives, but not only that: mother trees colonised their “kin” seedlings with larger mycorrhizal networks, sent them more carbon underground, and even reduced the competition of their own roots to give more space to these seedlings to grow. So, mother trees created a frame for their children in order to secure their survival. In other words, we found that trees can really speak.”

Featured image: credits 

 

Can We Train Our Brain for More Empathy and Compassion?

We often hear that we have come to this world only to fight for our own interests and individual survival. But is this true or could it be possible that as human beings we have the compassion that moves us to worry about others as an instinctive characteristic? These are the questions widely discussed in various contexts of our society. 

In general, we live in a society that promotes competitiveness, individuality and a struggle fostering a misinterpretation of Darwin’s Law of Natural Selection: survival of the fittest. The artificial environments existing in large cities and accompanied by technological advancements have been favouring this competitiveness, largely fostered by the dominant political-economic system. This substitution for individual economic survival makes the empathetic, cooperative and altruistic spirit disappear that should instead lead us – as a society – on a more natural path.

We are altruistic by nature

Empathy is nothing but the ability to be in resonance with the feelings of another person. It is the ability to identify and understand the situation of the other, putting ourselves “in their shoes” and seeing things no longer from our own perspective, but from the viewpoint of the other. Being empathetic helps us understand why or how others react to certain situations, which in turn gives us useful information about how we deal with people. Empathy is an extremely positive characteristic to have, since it can help create better relationships and a more peaceful and harmonious world.

The biologist Frans De Waal in his book The Time of Empathy shows us how empathy and altruism arise in humans and animals. For example, it has been scientifically proved that human beings evolve in a group, not individually like other species do. In the following text, I will present evidence from the analysis of the behaviour of great primates, such as chimpanzees, bonobos and Capuchin monkeys, as well as dolphins and elephants, which show that many animals are concerned about their peers and are willing to help them, in some cases even risking their lives. Thus, empathy is an ancestral trait that characterises animals and men, which contradicts the sombre vision of human nature proposed by some (as noted by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud).

Is empathetic brain predetermined?

Nowadays evolution and the natural world show us that the condition of empathy and altruism towards others is something that is a part of our own nature. However, it is undeniable that some people have a greater capacity than others for expressing these traits and putting them into practice. So, is it that some of these skills are fixed and predetermined or can we develop and improve them throughout our lives?

From the neuro-physiological point of view, empathy is the ability to be in neural resonance with the feelings of another person. Studies carried out by the renowned Max Planck Institute in Germany have showed that some of the autonomous (unconscious) processes of our body undergo changes when a person “comes into resonance” with another. Examples of this are the fact that our eye pupils dilate or contract, our temperature increases and the rhythm of our breathing can be altered, among several others.

The responsible part of the brain for this is called right supramarginal gyrus, and is a part of the cerebral cortex that is located approximately at the junction of the parietal, temporal and frontal lobes. When this region of the brain does not function properly, or when we have to make particularly rapid decisions, our empathetic capacity and compassion are drastically reduced, as researchers have found. This area of ​​the brain helps us distinguish our own emotional state from that of other people, revealing something unusual: that the empathy could be actually represented by brain structures and cell populations

Because the neural circuits of our brain are malleable and can be reconnected through neuroplasticity, the tendency of empathy and compassion is not fixed. We must all practice “putting ourselves in the shoes” of another person to reinforce the neural networks that allow us connect in a positive way with the feelings and circumstances of others. Luckily, these findings provide us with an early evidence that compassion is a skill that can be trained, rather than a stable and a predetermined trait gained at birth, as previously thought. This could be applied in various areas in our society where it is necessary to improve relationships and communication skills such as, health care, education and business.

As easy as sitting down, closing your eyes and meditating

Various studies in the fields of neuroscience have showed that through meditation techniques we can actually “train” our ability to feel compassion and empathy for others, as if it were a muscle of our body. In this sense, areas of our brain change when we train it to be more compassionate through meditation, and as a result, the chemistry of our brain changes activating areas that were not active previously.

There are no easy answers on how to raise people’s awareness and empathetic response. However, by adopting new habits that change the mentality and behavioural choices made on a day-to-day basis, anyone can reconnect their brain to be more empathetic.

One of these habits that allow compassion training, as demonstrated more and more, is to practice a rigorous mindfulness training and loving kindness meditation. This practice, although powerful, is very easy to do. All you need is take a few minutes every day to sit quietly and systematically send thoughts charged with love, well-being and compassion to: (1) family and friends; (2) someone with whom you have tension or conflict; (3) strangers and all living beings around the world who may be suffering; (4) connect with the feeling of self-compassion, forgiveness and love towards oneself.

Doing this simple 4-step practice literally reconnects our brain by involving neural connections linked to empathy. We can feel that the vessels in our brain change and open up to empathy just by spending a few minutes going through this systematic practice of meditation.

How much lightness and joy it is to know that we can improve our capacity to love and interact positively with those around us every day! You and I are the result of four billion years of successful evolution. Let’s act as such! 

Photo by: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash.

Comment entraîner notre cerveau pour être plus empathique et compatissant?

Nous entendons souvent dire que nous sommes venus au monde seulement pour nous battre pour nos propres intérêts et notre survie individuelle, mais, est-ce vrai? Ou, sera-t-il possible qu’en tant qu’êtres humains, nous ayons comme caractéristique instinctive la compassion qui nous pousse à nous préoccuper des autres? Celles-ci sont des questions largement discutées dans divers contextes de notre société et dont la réponse (selon la façon qu’elle est interprétée) a créé des paradigmes sur notre nature en tant qu’êtres humains. J’apporte à travers cet article quelques pistes pouvant nous aider à savoir comment entraîner le cerveau, afin de le rendre plus emphatique et compatissant.

En général, nous vivons dans une société qui favorise la compétitivité, l’individualité et les luttes entre les gens, favorisant une mauvaise interprétation de la Loi de la Sélection Naturelle de Darwin de la survie du plus apte. L’environnement artificiel existant dans les grandes villes, accompagné de progrès technologiques, a favorisé cette compétitivité, largement favorisée par le système politico-économique dominant. Cette substitution de la survie économique individuelle fait disparaître l’esprit empathique, coopératif et altruiste qui devrait nous conduire, en tant que société, dans une direction plus naturelle.

Mais qu’est-ce que c’est l’empathie?

L’empathie n’est rien d’autre que la capacité d’être en résonance avec les sentiments d’une autre personne. C’est la capacité d’identifier et de comprendre la situation de l’autre, de nous mettre « dans leurs chaussures » et ne voir plus les événements de notre point de vue, mais du point de vue de l’autre. Être empathique nous fournit des informations utiles sur la façon dont nous traitons les gens. L’empathie est une caractéristique extrêmement positive à avoir, car elle peut aider à créer de meilleures relations, un monde plus pacifique et harmonieux.

Nous sommes altruistes par nature

Dans son livre «Le temps de l’empathie», le biologiste Frans de Waal nous montre comment l’empathie et l’altruisme se manifestent chez les humains et les animaux. Par exemple, il a été scientifiquement prouvé que l’être humain a évolué dans un groupe, pas individuellement comme les autres espèces. Dans un prochain article, je présenterai des preuves de l’analyse du comportement des grands singes comme les chimpanzés, les bonobos et les singes capucins, ainsi que les dauphins et les éléphants, qui montrent que beaucoup d’animaux prennent soin de leurs semblables et sont prêts à aller à l’aide de leurs pairs, en certains cas même en risquant leur vie. Donc, l’empathie serait un trait ancestral qui caractérise les animaux et les Hommes, ce qui contredit la vision sombre de la nature humaine proposée par certains (par exemple, le célèbre psychologue Sigmund Freud).

Un cerveau empathique et compatissant: est-ce quelque chose de prédéterminé où peut être développé?

L’évolution et le monde naturel montrent que la condition de l’empathie et l’altruisme envers les autres est quelque chose qui fait partie de notre nature, mais il existe des preuves indéniables autour de nous que certaines personnes ont tendance ou une plus grande capacité que les autres pour exprimer et mettre en pratique ces traits. 

Du point de vue neuro-physiologique, l’empathie est la capacité d’être en résonance neurale avec des sentiments d’une autre personne. Des études menées par l’Institut de renom Max Planck en Allemagne ont montré que certains des processus autonomes (inconscients) de notre corps subissent des changements quand une personne «résonne» avec une autre. Des exemples de ceux-ci est le fait que nos pupilles se dilatent et/ou contractent, la température corporelle peux augmenter et le rythme de notre respiration s’altérer, entre autres. La partie du cerveau responsable de ce mécanisme s’appelle « gyrus supramarginal droit» et c’est une partie du cortex cérébral qui est à peu près à la jonction du lobe pariétal, temporal et frontal. Lorsque cette région du cerveau ne fonctionne pas correctement, ou lorsque nous devons prendre des décisions rapides, notre capacité empathique et la compassion sont considérablement réduites, selon les chercheurs. Cette zone du cerveau nous aide à distinguer notre propre état émotionnel d’autrui, révélant quelque chose d’inhabituel: que l’empathie pourrait être représentée par des structures cérébrales et des populations de cellules. 

Parce que les circuits neuronaux de notre cerveau sont malléables et peuvent se reconnecter par la neuroplasticité, la tendance de l’empathie et la compassion ne sont pas quelque chose de fixe. Nous devons apprendre à « nous mettre à la place des autres» pour renforcer les réseaux de neurones qui nous permettent de connecter d’une manière positive avec les sentiments et les circonstances des autres. Heureusement, ces résultats nous fournissent une preuve que la compassion est une compétence qui peut être formé, au lieu d’un trait de naissance stable et prédéterminée, comme on le pensait précédemment. Cela pourrait être appliquée à divers aspects si nécessaires, notamment améliorer les relations et la communication, et dans différents domaines comme les soins de la santé, l’éducation et les affaires.

Entraîner notre cerveau: aussi facile que s’asseoir, fermer les yeux et méditer!

Diverses études dans les domaines des neurosciences, ont montré que grâce à des techniques de méditation, nous pouvons réellement former notre capacité à ressentir de la compassion et de l’empathie pour les autres, comme s’il s’agissait d’un muscle de notre corps. En ce sens, les zones de notre cerveau changent lorsque nous l’entraînons à être plus compatissant à travers la méditation, et par conséquent, la chimie de notre cerveau change les zones d’activation qui ne l’étaient pas auparavant.

Il n’y a pas de réponses faciles sur la façon de sensibiliser les gens et d’apporter une réponse empathique. Cependant, en adoptant de nouvelles habitudes qui changent la mentalité et les choix de comportements au quotidien, n’importe qui peut reconnecter son cerveau pour être plus empathique. Une de ces habitudes qui permettent l’entraînement du cerveau a développé la compassion, comme démontré de plus en plus, est la pratique rigoureuse de la pleine conscience ou la méditation. Cette pratique est très puissante et facile à faire. Elle demande juste un peu de temps, quelques minutes chaque jour pour vous asseoir tranquillement et envoyer systématiquement des pensées chargées d’amour, de bien-être et de compassion à:

1) la famille et les amis;

2) quelqu’un avec qui vous avez des tensions ou des conflits;

3) les étrangers et tous les êtres vivants dans le monde qui peuvent souffrir;

4) se connecter avec le sentiment d’apitoiement, pardon et d’amour envers soi-même.

Faire cette pratique reconnecte littéralement votre cerveau en impliquant des connexions neuronales liées à l’empathie. Vous pouvez sentir que les vaisseaux de votre cerveau changent et s’ouvrent à l’empathie juste en passant quelques minutes à méditer.

Combien de légèreté et de joie est-ce de savoir que nous pouvons améliorer notre capacité à aimer et interagir positivement avec ceux qui nous entourent chaque jour. Nous sommes le résultat de quatre milliards d’années d’évolution réussie. Agissons comme tels! 

Photo par: Mayu Gala en Unsplash.