Dr. Joel Salinas has the ability to feel in his body what other people are feeling in theirs. He thought this aptitude was normal- after all, it is normal for him and 1.6% of the population. Scientists who have researched this ability have labeled it a medical condition and called it called Mirror-touch synesthesia. All of us have mirror neurons in our prefrontal cortext and other areas of the brain. These mirror neurons mimic the feelings/sensations we see in others and we have a corresponding sense of them in our own bodies. Just think of any movie or situation where someone is moved to tears. Watching them be moved to tears causes tears to well up in our own eyes. Those are mirror neurons at work.
On a daily basis, Dr. Salinas needs to grapple with his own experience and feel the experience and sensations of everyone else around him too. He learned how to avoid being constantly overwhelmed by focusing on his breathing and staring at calm people. Just another creative way to be mindful, and to remain resilient- in his case- in the face of relentless stimulation. Read a fascinating article about his extreme empathy here.
Many creative people are familiar with the idea that they are more sensitive to the hardships of reality than others who wear life as a loose garment. Here is some research that connects a sensitive, artistic consciousness to increased suffering. Behavioral scientists call this propensity toward negative thinking and rumination “neuroticism.” All people exhibit a greater or lesser degree of neuroticism. As a group, however, creative people possess more neuroticism than the average bear. Apparently the negative thinking and ruminating worry correlate with an ability to focus. When creative people stay focused on a problem despite their internal discomfort and negativity, they eventually create something new, and we all benefit.
A key takeaway from this research: “The creativity of Isaac Newton and other neurotics may simply be the result of their tendency to dwell on problems far longer than average people.”
As Newton once commented about his problem-solving method:
‘I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light.’
Meditation was created to help us identify less with our thoughts and feelings, and to realize that our thinking and feeling habits reflect broader social conditioning. By disidentifying with habitual thoughts and feelings (which takes hard work and long-term discipline and comitment), we become able to discern better the still small voice within. And to choose which thoughts are worth thinking, and those that are better let go. Meditation was designed as a spiritual tool to bring us closer to unfiltered reality, and to God. As our species evolves, it is not a surprise that business would become interested in techniques that develop concentration and focus. All the research on various forms of meditation confirms that. The question is, where is your concentration and focus best applied? As Fortune reports here, the business of meditation in business is booming. No one is saying it’s good for business, just that it’s good for individuals in business.
The company has taken its licks in recent years and has a reputation for long hours and intense competition. But scary-smart colleagues, sweet perks, and a commitment to giving back still make Goldman the ultimate career destination for the truly type A. (Okay, those bonus checks don’t hurt either.)…
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