Why I Don’t Call the Dalai Lama “Your Holiness”

My Friend the Dalai Lama

My friend the Dalai Lama

My Friend the Dalai Lama

May 25, 2016

As many of you are already aware, Eve Ekman and I just recently released the Atlas of Emotions, a visual exploration of the human range of emotions. It was the Dalai Lama who asked me to make a map of emotions so people could navigate to a calm state of mind. This led me to think about my relationship with the Dalai Lama, a deep friendship that has been built over a roughly twenty-year period. I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on why I don’t call the Dalai Lama “Your Holiness”.

That is how the pope, whose statements are not to be questioned for they come to him from God, is addressed. By contrast, the Dalai Lama is eager to modify his beliefs to accommodate scientific findings. He is an explorer of ideas, flexible not dogmatic. (I should also note that I don’t regard anyone as holy.)

The Dalai Lama is extraordinary in many ways:

  • I have never met anyone who has such a good time, continually seeing the humorous side of nearly every situation, without sarcasm or ridicule, and never humor that diminishes another person.
  • The power of his focused attention is astounding.
  • There is transparency between the public and private Dalai Lama (which is not so for many charismatic leaders whose private lives are distinctly less attractive than their public persona).
  • He is devoted to compassion and to relieving the suffering of all human beings, which is what I call “stranger compassion”.
  • It feels good to be in his presence. Why? I believe, and I deliberately italicize that word, that he exudes goodness, perhaps not all the time, but much of the time. I suspect the goodness he exudes is related to the compassion he so strongly feels. Alas, science cannot yet study these phenomena.

The Dalai Lama is a Mozart of the mind, showing what we can aspire towards. It would be just as foolish for us to believe that through practice we can reach his level, as to believe music lessons would allow us to become the equal of Mozart. But we can all improve; the Dalai Lama not only illuminates the goal but a path to move towards it.

Since I cannot call the Dalai Lama, “Your Holiness”, what do I say? I call him “my dear friend”. What a privilege it is to be able to use those words when addressing this most extraordinary man.

 

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

Paul Ekman on The Takeaway

Paul Ekman on the Takeaway

Paul Ekman on the Takeaway

Listen to Paul Ekman on The Takeaway, a national public radio show, co-produced by WNYC, PRI, New York Times, & WGBH Friday May 20, 2016:

What is the Atlas of Emotions and why did the Dalai Lama ask Dr. Paul Ekman to create it?

The Atlas of Emotions entails making us aware of the complexity of this very intimate part of ourselves. The Dalai Lama’s belief is that by introducing awareness, we introduce choice. It’s only when we’re unaware of what we’re feeling that we act without choice or consideration in sometimes regrettable ways. If we had a map of our emotions, that might help us get to a more calm state of mind.

What did you begin studying that got you on your way to render this Atlas of Emotions?

I started in the mid 60’s research on specific emotions. The focus was on what we could see and face is our best tool. We can learn more about how someone is feeling from someone’s face than an MRI.

Listen above to learn more about the vision and purpose behind the Atlas of Emotions!

Learn more about Paul Ekman’s emotion research mentioned above and his tools to know how someone is feeling here.

 

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

How I Became Friends with the Dalai Lama

Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama

May 16, 2016

Friends with the Dalai Lama

Friends with the Dalai Lama

A Happy Accident

Like most other important events in my life, meeting the Dalai Lama was not a deliberate choice, but an accident. I avoided anything about him, regarding the interest in the Dalai Lama as just another bay area cult like Synanon. But when my then 15-year-old daughter Eve came back from trekking in the Himalayas for a month, the teacher that provided this trip placed each of the 15-year-olds with a refugee family in Kathmandu, Nepal. This lit Eve’s interest in the plight of the Tibetan refugees.

I knew that the Dalai Lama was meeting with small groups of scientists at his palace and if invited, you could bring a silent observer. Thinking this would be a treat for Eve, I submitted my name, we were invited and we went.

Déjà Vu

From nearly the first moment that we met, I had a déjà vu experience, as if I had known the Dalai Lama all my life, as if he were the brother I never had. This seemed very strange to me; I later learned from the Dalai Lama that he had the same feeling. He did not regard this at all strange because of his belief in reincarnation. We could have known each other in a previous incarnation.

Collaboration

Since that first meeting, we have met for a total of about fifty hours over the course of five meetings, for intense one on one conversations. They have been enormous fun, challenging, intellectually provocative, and have opened my mind to now believe that just because I can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Some of our discussions are reported in our book Emotional Awareness, others are contained on my website www.paulekman.com, if you click on the Dalai Lama drop down menu on my website you will be able to access our video discussions. You will also be able to see the project, which Eve and I completed at the Dalai Lama’s request, the Atlas of Emotions. Health permitting (mine, his is excellent) I expect to see him again at the beginning of the summer.

 

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

Introducing the Atlas of Emotions

May 10, 2016

Map of Emotions

Map of Emotions

Map of Emotions

I am pleased to announce the launch of our newest project, the Atlas of Emotions: www.atlasofemotions.com. The Atlas was featured on Saturday in the New York Times.

The Dalai Lama said that we needed a map to get to the new world and asked whether I could create a map of the emotions, to get a better understanding of our emotions. With the participation of my daughter, Dr. Eve Ekman, we have created such an Atlas. We have called it an Atlas because it contains more than one map that allows us to see features of our emotions that may not be apparent to us. It is our hope that the Atlas, available at http://www.atlasofemotions.com/, will be fun to use and people will enjoy engaging with it. Exploring the Atlas may increase people’s understanding of this vital feature in their life. We hope that teachers will use the Atlas in classrooms (it should be usable for people 9 years old+ without explanation) and that educators and therapists will use it with their clients to better understand themselves. Research to show the benefits of the Atlas of the Emotions is waiting for educators and scientists to perform, please do so. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts about the Atlas. Please forward your comments to info@atlasofemotions.com.

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

Atlas of Emotions Press Release

May 9, 2016

Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama

Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama

Backed by funding from the Dalai Lama, Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Eve Ekman announce the launch of the Atlas of Emotions

www.atlasofemotions.com

San Francisco, California – Dr. Paul Ekman and his daughter, Dr. Eve Ekman, have built the world’s first interactive mapping of how emotions influence our lives, titled the Atlas of Emotions. The creation of the Atlas of Emotions was funded by the Dalai Lama Trust. The Atlas represents five emotions as continents, further mapping a number of emotional ‘states’ within each of those continents.

The Atlas of Emotions arose as a result of the friendship between Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama asked Ekman to create a map that would help navigate our emotions in order to reach a calm state of mind, and to base this map on scientific knowledge. To create the Atlas, Ekman surveyed 248 scientists who study emotion and found that “more than 70% of emotion scientists believe that the evidence is convincing now for five emotions: enjoyment, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust.” The Atlas focuses on these five emotions, and also includes information on less well-established and partially charted emotions. It was constructed by Stamen Design.

“The Atlas of Emotions was created to help people navigate among their emotional experiences and to reduce destructive and regrettable emotional episodes,” said Dr. Ekman. “The Atlas will increase our understanding of the subtleties and complexities of emotional life, exposing features of our emotions that may not be apparent, giving us a deeper understanding of ourselves.”

The Atlas of Emotions is offered online at no charge. http://www.atlasofemotions.com/

About Dr. Paul Ekman

Dr. Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at UCSF, is the researcher and author best known for furthering our understanding of emotion and also deception. He established the universality of some facial expressions and in a separate line of research discovered how expressions and gestures may betray a lie. Ekman has authored more than 100 published articles and holds several honorary doctoral degrees. www.paulekman.com

About Dr. Eve Ekman

Dr. Eve Ekman is currently a Post-Doctoral Scholar at UCSF’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. Ekman’s research interests were inspired by her experience as a medical social worker in the emergency department of San Francisco General Hospital coupled with her training in the applied emotion regulation and mindfulness intervention: Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB).

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

Atlas of Emotions in the New York Times

A Map of Emotions

map of emotions

Map of Emotions

May 6, 2016

As featured in The New York Times (Inner Peace? The Dalai Lama Made a Website for That)

ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Dalai Lama, who tirelessly preaches inner peace while chiding people for their selfish, materialistic ways, has commissioned scientists for a lofty mission: to help turn secular audiences into more self-aware, compassionate humans.

That is, of course, no easy task. So the Dalai Lama ordered up something with a grand name to go with his grand ambitions: a comprehensive Atlas of Emotions to help the more than seven billion people on the planet navigate the morass of their feelings in order to attain peace and happiness.

“It is my duty to publish such work,” the Dalai Lama said.

To create this “map of the mind,” as he called it, the Dalai Lama reached out to a source Hollywood had used to plumb the inner workings of the human psyche.

Specifically, he commissioned his good friend Paul Ekman — a psychologist who helped advise the creators of Pixar’s “Inside Out,” an animated film set inside a girl’s head — to map out the range of human sentiments. Dr. Ekman later distilled them into the five basic emotions depicted in the movie, from anger to enjoyment.

Dr. Ekman’s daughter, Eve, also a psychologist, worked on the project as well, with the goal of producing an interactive guide to human emotions that anyone with an Internet connection could study in a quest for self-understanding, calm and constructive action.

“We have, by nature or biologically, this destructive emotion, also constructive emotion,” the Dalai Lama said. “This innerness, people should pay more attention to, from kindergarten level up to university level. This is not just for knowledge, but in order to create a happy human being. Happy family, happy community and, finally, happy humanity.”

The Dalai Lama paid Dr. Ekman at least $750,000 to develop the project, which began with a request several years ago.

“ ‘When we wanted to get to the New World, we needed a map,’ ” Dr. Ekman recalled the Dalai Lama telling him. “ ‘So make a map of emotions so we can get to a calm state.’ ”

As a first step, Dr. Ekman conducted a survey of 149 scientists (emotion scientists, neuroscientists and psychologists who are published leaders in their fields) to see where there was consensus about the nature of emotions, the moods or states they produce, and related areas.

Based on the survey, Dr. Ekman concluded that there were five broad categories of emotions — anger, fear, disgust, sadness and enjoyment — and that each had an elaborate subset of emotional states, triggers, actions and moods. He then took these findings to a cartography and data visualization firm, Stamen, to depict them in a visual and, hopefully, useful way.

“If it isn’t fun, it’s a failure,” Dr. Ekman said. “It’s got to be fun for people to use.”

Stamen’s founder, Eric Rodenbeck, has created data visualizations for Google, Facebook and MTV, as well as maps showing climate change and rising oceans. But he said the Atlas was the most challenging project he had ever worked on because it was “built around knowledge and wisdom rather than data.”

Not surprisingly, getting scientists to reach a unified understanding of human emotions was difficult.

Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, also counseled Pixar on establishing and depicting the emotional characters for “Inside Out.” He has even advised Facebook on its emoticons.

While Dr. Keltner took part in Dr. Ekman’s survey, the two are not in complete agreement on the number of core emotions. Dr. Keltner said that the findings the Atlas was based on were not without flaws, but that he saw the project as a good step.

“The survey questions could have allowed for more gray areas,” he said. “But it’s important to take stock of what the scientific consensus is in the field.”

Dr. Ekman emphasized that the Atlas was not a scientific work intended for peer review.

“This is not a science project,” he said. “It is a visualization for what we think has been learned from scientific studies. It’s a transformative process, a work of explanation.”

Whether science project or tool for self-enlightenment, the Dalai Lama wants to keep religion out of it.

“If we see this research work as relying on religious belief or tradition, then it automatically becomes limited,” he said. “Even if you pray to God, pray to Buddha, emotionally, very nice, very good. But every problem, we have created. So I think even God or Buddha cannot do much.”

The Dalai Lama said he hoped the Atlas could be a tool for cultivating good in the world by defeating the bad within us.

“Ultimately, our emotion is the real troublemaker,” he said. “We have to know the nature of that enemy.”

The Dalai Lama said he had been encouraged by President Obama’s reaction to the project when he told him about it in India.

“Obama seems, I think, to show more interest about our inner value,” he said. “In the past, compassion was something of a sign of weakness, or anger a sign of power, sign of strength. Basic human nature is more compassionate. That’s the real basis of our hope.”

While excited about the Atlas, however, the 80-year-old Dalai Lama will probably not be clicking around the interactive site. He is much more comfortable turning the printed pages of a version that was custom-made for him.

“Technology is for my next body,” he once quipped to the researchers.

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.