Lady Gaga interviews his holiness the Dalai Lama to discuss the benefits of compassion and mindfulness meditation
"Change in humanity must start from individuals," said the Dalai Lama. "We created this violence, so we can reduce this violence."

"We are unified in our humanity, and the only thing that we all know and we all appreciate in one another is kindness, and this has to come before all things," Lady Gaga said.

Photo: Gaga

To get to that kindness, His Holiness and pop star Gaga both engage in a practice that's become popular with celebrities including Oprah, Paul McCartney and Kobe Bryant as well as corporate titans and industry leaders, too.

It's called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a concept rooted in Eastern spiritual practice that, in the West, has transformed into a secular one. It essentially means not letting your emotions hijack your brain. It is a form of meditation, and it is a mindset.
Lady Gaga:
Hello your Holiness. It's so nice to be with you.  We're so happy to have you here today and so very grateful to hear your perspectives and your philosophies on the world.  I have some questions here that were taken from young and old people all over the world from social media.  We've asked them to give us their thoughts and questions about humanity that they would like to ask you.  Bridget Wilson asked 'How do you help young people address issues of poor self-esteem, managing eating disorders, addiction, self harm and suicide.
Dalai Lama:
Basically, I have the view and also the involvement of the societies way of life.  I feel there is too much materialistic life, too materialistic a culture.  And then most important in our education system. Not much talk about our inner value.  So in spite basic human nature according to scientists, more compassionate. Compassion is part of our life.  Not cultivated from birth.  That's there.  But existing education system is very much oriented about external values so I think societies and generations who come through from education will eventually create a more materialistic life and culture. So I think maybe I am wrong, I cant say my view is 100% right.  I don't know, thats for young people to check and investigate according to their own experiences.  These problems I think are due to a lack of humility about compassionate feeling part.  Too much self centred.  Their life not free from problem.  Problem always there.  But their own mental attitude is the key factor.  Your mental attitude is sound with self-confidence and fore-sightedness.  But then these problems, are on the surface of our mind, or emotions.  Yes we feel uncomfortable about something.  But on the deeper level, we have the ability to keep calm. So the youth, the young people, like you, the future is on your shoulders.  Not my shoulders.  I'm ready to say bye bye.  So, the future depends on the younger generations.  And the other thing is the past, nobody can change.  Future is yet to come so existing environment I feel unhealthy.  So we, the younger generation, have to create a more healthy environment.  Through that way, the younger generation, the future generation will be more complete in their thinking as a person.  By that I mean physical comfort, material facility, mental comfort from our inner strength - thats mainly compassion, as I mentioned earlier.  So our beautiful brain and our own heart must combine.  Then that person can be very happy, calm and no need to rely on drugs or some other things.  So then I think, when you show more concern for others well being, then you get the feeling that you are adding something useful to others.  That brings more self confidence and meaningful life.  Otherwise, lonely.  Look here, you cannot trust.  Look there, cannot trust.  Then you sometimes feel helpless and discouraged and then suicide.


Lady Gaga:
So what your saying is that caring for others and having compassion, gives you a sense of purpose so it helps you to feel less alone.  And Alienated because you know that we all belong together.

Dalai Lama:
That's right.  Basically we are social animals.  So the individuals future is entirely dependant on interacting with the community.  No matter how intelligent, rich...Every place can be lonely. Even just for one week can be very difficult.  So our very life sort of depends on the rest of the community.  Now, today, reality, everything is interdependent, interconnectedness.  So we need a sense of oneness with humanity.  Think of other people.  Otherwise there is too much we vs they.  That breeds violence.  The community level, the national level, the violence, it comes.  And on the basis of too much feeling of we vs they.  And then, short sightedness.  And also ignorance, I feel and lack of compassion, then its fear or destroy your enemy.  Thats your victory.  The enemy is a human being.  That is part of humanity.  That's my view.  If it's of interest or not, is up to the individual.  But my interest is to express the experiences of an 81 year old person.  Quite a lot of experiences.  So I think my experiences are much bigger than your experiences.

Lady Gaga:
So then, would it be fair to say, that if one person is sick that the whole body of humanity is sick and that it is important to keep us healthy and detoxify humanity in order to clean and purify our future.

Dalai Lama:
Yes, we are social animals.  Some are mentally sick then it spreads easily.  So its a problem of human being  Must be solved by ourself.  Not alone by prayer or these things.  Then also, the problem, related to physical problem which relates to mind, the problem related with physical compared to problem of mental state, the physical level is not superior.  The mind is superior.  Obviously!  According to our own experience mentally happy, sound.  Physical illness you can subdue.  Mentally, too much weight, anxiety.  Physical comfort will not subdue.  So therefore the time has come and we have to pay more attention to our inner value and should know the method or the right approach to strengthen our inner value.

Lady Gaga:
There is a sense of protection of one another in our human dignity.  This is our responsibility to care for one another.

Dalai Lama:

Lady Gaga:  
This question is from Joshua.  Which meditation practice have you found to be the most fruitful and what can you say about creating effective meditation practice?According to Indian tradition. Meditation, two types.
1 is single pointed focusing on a certain thing or just remain in that clarity of mind.  Just remain there.


Another meditation is Analytical meditation.  Analyze, analyze.
These meditation although the information, explanation comes from religious texts, but it's something applicable into our daily life.
The scientists, the researchers they are actually implementing analytical meditation.   Investigate, investigate, investigate.  So the subject analytical meditation about what matters, analytical meditation about our inner world.  So for me, I must say I'm a poor practitioner of meditation.  I'm now 81 years old but progress not much, very little but better than none.

So therefore, for me, analytical meditation is much more powerful.

The single pointed meditation, sometimes I describe as being like a tranquilizer.  For a short moment, peace.  But then after that, again you see the problem.  The restlessness comes.

The analytical meditation, you see, analyzes what the cause is of the suffering.  External thing or internal thing, then you will realize ultimately your own mental attitude, I think two persons.  They have the same problem.  But the feeling could be big differences.  One person has the same illness, the same problem. But mentally they have the ability to deal with that problem.  Much happier.

Lady Gaga:
Do you believe that meditation is also a way to calm humanity?

Dalai Lama:
Yes, yes.  We all have the potential. Whether its warm heartedness is the foundation of human survival, including our health.  More healthy mind then ultimately a more healthy body.  In that respect I can tell you, according to my own experience, like age as I mentioned earlier, 81 year old, and my life going through a lot of problems.  A lot of causes of anxiety or fear or anger even.  But my mind is always calm.  That is a result of the analytical meditation.  According to, I am Buddhist practitioner, according to Buddhist technique or method. I think you can judge my face, nothing special medicine, a little yoga, not much.  But maybe I found peace of mind.  It really makes a difference.

Lady Gaga:
This is important for people to hear because they associate meditation and yoga with religion or political background or race or colour, but what you're saying is that it's a state of mind where we're returning to the inner peace that we're born with as children.  And I think it's important for everyone to remember during such inflammatory times, violence, lots of illness, people becoming angry and full of fear, that we have to cool the system down.  It's about less heat and more cooling.

More relaxation, but also thoughtful and strategic.

Dalai Lama:
That's right.  I believe, and also accordingly, I'm telling and sharing with other people, that the ultimate source is already here <motions to his chest> .  The only problem is wether we recognize that or not or exploit that potential within ourself, from birth.  We already have this potential there.

Lady Gaga:
This question is from Udra Fortner. How can I feel at peace with all this horror in this wonderful world?  I need peace of mind.  I'm losing it.

Dalai Lama:
It's understandable and again, according to my own experience. Once you have this philosophy and a tragic situation happens, then, not a void, but look at it in a deeper way, in a wider way, then there are some tragic things there.  But at the same time on this planet many positive things, many happy things there if you look with a wider perspective and then frustration from the tragic situation, that becomes something part of that, not all.  So when some problem you see happen, if you look real closely, then it appears unbearable.  The same problem, looked at from a distance, with a wider perspective then yes its a problem I have to face but ok there are other very positive things there so I should not have a loss of hope.  If there is no hope then humanity is really negative.  Then we don't need any worries about population increasing!
Lady Gaga:
So we need hope to keep the world going?
Dalai Lama: Hope is very essential.  It's self confidence!  Thank you.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine emeritus who started the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and is often considered one of the founders of this Western approach.  He defines mindfulness as paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

Most people take a class or two to get started, but a simple mindfulness exercise could involve only 10 minutes of your day.

To begin, eliminate distractions that might jeopardize your focus.

This means being without your phone for a few minutes, and to begin the practice of quieting your mind and focusing on your breathing: Focus on your breath and how it goes into and out of your body. If your mind starts to wander, bring your focus back to your breathing. Focusing gets easier the more you do it.  Starting might be the most challenging because that is when our minds are likely to be the most active and full of internal dialogue and self-talk.  As you begin to quiet that down, it does get easier not just in that moment but also with repeated practice like a flexing a muscle. Most people in North America aren't as mindful as they could be and this can make it all the more challenging and all the more beneficial.

Whatcha' Thinkin'?
Technology frequently fractures our attention. The boss can message us anywhere, at any time, and even the bathroom isn't safe. We are one distracted bunch.
Scientists have proved it, ironically, by using smartphones.
Researchers set up an experiment showing that human beings "spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them."

In their 2010 study, they created a computer program that sent questions at random moments to people by iPhone. The program asked,

"How are you feeling right now?"
"What are you doing right now?"
"Are you thinking about something other than what you're currently doing?"

Of the 2,250 adults who answered the pings, 46.9% were not thinking about the task they were doing at the moment. This was the case for 30% of their activities, with one exception: during sex. That, apparently, had their full attention.
Otherwise, what they were doing had little impact on their depth of focus.

You may be thinking, what's wrong with autopilot? Multitasking may be your go to default form of functioning, but those in the study who reported regular mind-wandering were unhappier in that state than those with laser-like focus.

That may be one reason why the mindfulness movement -- or "revolution," as a Time magazine cover story named it -- is so popular.

Making Mindfulness Great Again

To remain mindful, the Dalai Lama said, he sleeps a lot: about nine hours a night. He also gets up at 3 a.m. to meditate. He has another session in the afternoon and one more right before bed.
In total, His Holiness spends about five hours meditating each day.
"These meditations not just chanting or something,". He engages in "analytical meditation: thinking, analyze, analyze."
He finds it "very, very helpful to maintain sharpness of mind."

That sharpness is real, science has found.

Change your brain

Monks who've spent thousands of hours meditating show changes in their brains, studies show.
Scientists had Buddhist monks meditate while being scanned by an MRI machine. While strapped to a board and put in the huge, noisy machine, the monks calmed their minds, reduced distractions and paid attention to life moment-by-moment.
While they were being mindful, scientists noticed signs of neuroplasticity, meaning the monks' brains were reshaping to become more resilient.
The part of their brains connected to the body's overall well-being and immune systems activated, and the scans showed that these master meditators reached a deeper level of consciousness.
But you don't have to become a monk to experience beneficial brain changes.
Scientists studied meditation newbies enrolled in mindful attention training for eight weeks and found improvement in the region of the brain that regulates emotion.
"One shouldn't be too surprised. If you learn to juggle or learn another language, anything acquiring a skill changes brain pathways long-term," Tom Insel, former director of the federal National Institute of Mental Health, told a crowd of bigwigs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a couple years ago. "The evidence is pretty terrific."

Mindful Marines

The data may be strongest to support the idea that mindfulness helps people manage the negative consequences of stress.
One study looked at the impact of mindfulness on Marines going through basic training. Scientists split them into two groups: One got about eight weeks of mindfulness training; the other got none.
The participants were then subjected to a stressful day-long training exercise. Both groups had similar spikes in blood pressure and breathing rates during the test, but when it was over, the mindfully trained Marines' heart rate and breathing recovered much faster, as did their nervous systems.
"The data on stress reduction is pretty good," said Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has published hundreds of scientific papers about the impact of emotion on the brain and did some of the first MRIs of meditating Buddhist monks.
He started looking at the practice of mindfulness after the Dalai Lama challenged him to use the modern tools of neuroscience to study kindness and compassion in the 1990s.
When it comes to stress, his experiments have showed that the body has both physical and emotional reactions to mindfulness practice.
"People typically feel calmer and less anxious. There's a modest reduction in stress hormone, as well," Davidson said.

Focus People

There's good evidence to suggest that mindfulness improves your attention span, too. It might not help you resist looking at those cute cat videos your co-worker sends, but there are areas of basic research where the "findings clearly show that practicing mindfulness can result in improvement of objective measures," Davidson said.

Evidence suggests that mindfulness training can improve students' standardized test scores, attendance and discipline. But it also works for adults.

Several workplace studies found that employees who get mindfulness training become more productive and stable. They demonstrate more self-control and efficiency. Employees with mindfulness training also seem to pick up on things faster and can read group dynamics better.
One study even showed that mindfulness practitioners recognize facial expressions better, making them more emotionally intelligent and helping them to be more empathetic.

Depression and addiction helped, kind of.

Mindfulness also seems to help people who struggle with mental health issues such as depression.
Learning to live in the moment can't cure depression, but it can alleviate problems associated with it. It can reduce your anxiety, the feelings of hopelessness and the stresses that come from constantly worrying about the future or ruminating on the past.
Mindfulness puts this kind of mental anguish in perspective and can prevent relapses.
It can also help you break bad habits, studies show: It can prevent you from eating your feelings, it can help if you drink too much, and it can help you quit smoking.
Davidson suggests that the data are "much weaker and less convincing" as mindfulness relates to curing a specific disease.
It can't cure cancer or chronic pain, but the practice can help manage some of the symptoms. For instance, if you have chronic lower back pain, mindfulness may be as helpful as medication at easing that pain.

The future of mindfulness

There's a lot more research needed to determine the full impact mindfulness can have on your health. Several additional studies funded by the National Institutes of Health are underway.
The demand for mindfulness programs has gotten so huge, the number of trainers cannot keep up, according to Davidson. That's why he and several other scientists have been working on mindfulness-related video games, apps, podcasts, wearables and websites.
Davidson doesn't think the interest in the practice will go away anytime soon.
"Suffering is becoming increasingly recognized as a serious problem," he said. "There is also a real kind of divisiveness in our country and a kind of general distress too, especially lately. People are realizing if they can learn something from these simple tools they'll be calmer, less anxious and much more supportive of the others around them."


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