Can Mindfulness and Compassion Save the World?
They just saved the Thai boys in the Tham Luang cave.
Posted Jul 12, 2018
Amidst all the rancor and incivility of the day, the world stood transfixed on the story of the 12 Thai boys and their coach trapped in the Tham Luang cave by rising floodwaters. They were finally rescued, each one pulled by two Thai Navy SEAL divers through a 3 km treacherous and narrow underwater passage with choke points and dangerous sharp edges, while divers from the U.S., Australia, China and Europe lined the route to support them. One Thai diver died during rescue preparation. This was a massive team effort, emblematic of the best kinds of masculine energy–protective, skillful, knowledgeable and focused. If only all our military and masculine power were used to save the world. Well, maybe we didn’t quite need Elon Musk’s masculine energy, though–he proposed a mini-sub to get the boys out, something my junior high brainstorming club might have thought of. Well, at least he got a New York Times article out of it.
Twenty-five-year-old Ekapol Chantawong was the coach trapped in the cave with the boys. He was initially derided for leading the boys into the cave to explore after soccer practice. However, he is now being hailed as a hero. Ekapol used the Buddhist monk training he received as a boy to teach the boys to breathe, stay calm and stay connected. He meditated with the boys. Mindfulness has been shown to have many positive effects. From the chapter entitled “Buddhism in a Nutshell” in my book Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks:
“Mindfulness is ‘awareness of present experience with acceptance and compassion,’ and is turning up in many settings, from sports to education to health care to the prisons. Myriad benefits of mindfulness have been described and are being discovered: to reduce stress and chronic pain, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, relieve anxiety and depression, break free of addictions, improve productivity, improve relationships, decrease stress and increase resilience and self-awareness for police officers and others, and on and on. Even without all the philosophical underpinnings of Buddhism, the basic practice of mindfulness meditation has much to offer. Many people feel some relief immediately, and the practical benefits increase over time, as the brain learns a new way of being, and helpful neural networks are cultivated. (Mindfulness meditation, like anything, is not for everyone. If you have any mental health issues, you should consult an experienced meditation instructor or your health care provider before attempting these techniques on your own.)”
You can read more about the science of mindfulness in this Business Insider article.
The other quality that mindfulness helps us tap into is what I call our “social being." As human beings, we have what’s called an “open limbic loop.” We catch feelings from each other, and we are soothed by presence and connection with other human beings. Part of what I think happened in the Tham Luang caves was that the group of thirteen formed a limbically bonded unit. Ekapol’s cooler head prevailed, and the boys took their cues from him and tapped into stillness, peace and tranquility.
The provisions for the rescue of the Thai boys was knowledge of mindfulness, the compassion and skill of all parties involved, and the deep relationship formed by presence. You can read more about Mindfulness, Compassion and Relationship (These Three Things) on my website.
You can also watch this four minute video of my S.F. Love Dojo series, in which I discuss the social being, the open limbic loop, the American Identity Crisis and the self-compassion break. Now all we need to do is get Elon Musk, the Twitter celebrity, to meditate…