This story has been out for a few days: Empathetic Rats Help Each Other Out. Comments I have read from people who have cared for rats say that the points made in the study are obvious–rats are wonderful little guys with complex social sensibilities and generous emotions. The purpose of the study, of course, was to prove the matter according to the rules of science. In teaching and sharing FIML, we sometimes feel like one of those rats who got out of his cage. All we wanna do is show other people how to get out.
This study from Yale, Tuning out: How brains benefit from meditation, shows how widespread the value of meditation can be. Note that the study finds that experienced meditators have “decreased activity in areas of the brain called the default mode network.” In ways somewhat similar to meditation, FIML practice should change what our default interpersonal mode is because by doing FIML we learn to monitor and discuss default responses from a “meta” point of view. This has a profound and profoundly beneficial effect on FIML partners because not just their own minds, but their interactions with each other also benefit greatly from increased awareness and decreased default responses. FIML practice has the added benefit of both partners being able to confirm with great confidence their mutual understanding.
This article is about widening our understanding of psychopathy: Psychopathy: A Misunderstood Personality Disorder. This subject may not seem to have much to do with Buddhism or FIML, but there are some parallels. Good Buddhist practice does eventually produce a sort of distancing from the rough-and-tumble of ordinary emotions. This is not the same as being emotionless, but I do know of at least one famous Buddhist master who tells people it’s best to “have no emotions.” That is a challenging idea that I have rejected for years but am more inclined now to see as a valuable guide in many situations. In FIML practice, it is essential that partners have enough self-control to hold their feelings in abeyance until they can check them with their partner. None of that is psychopathy as we usually understand that word, but the linked article does provide some indication that some aspects of what we call psychopathy may actually be desirable.
This article–Is Doing Harm the Same as Allowing It to Happen?–touches on Buddhist morality in that it shows us that it requires extra thought to see the value in preventing harm. A “sin” of omission is as bad as a “sin” of commission, if you think about it. In FIML practice, you can see this truth happening right in the moment and right in your own mind. With FIML you can see how real data plays out. If you feel a bothersome interpretation forming in your mind and you say nothing about it to your partner, you will leave them with the mistaken impression that everything has been understood and all is well with you. This omission may then lead you to further engage in a longer private series of thoughts and additional interpretations. From a small omission, a large and long stream of selfish and probably erroneous consciousness may follow.