Chandana Watagodakumbura

Interested/Insightful Websites
Can we make the world more sustainable by reforming education systems using appropriate policies and practices so that the following issues are accounted/addressed?
(This page is regularly updated with new insightful web links)

On Learning & Education:

Neuroscience of Learning and Development - (Path to Developing Creative Individuals with Wisdom Leading to Sustainable Societies)
  • Compassion for individual wellbeing and social sustainability  (An initiative from a Stanford University-certified teacher of compassion. The way to go for developing wellbeing in individuals devoid of envy, hatred and anger and creating sustainable societies. YES, IT IS SUPPORTED BY A WEALTH OF NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH/FINDINGS. Practices of compassion (which is empathy + action) lead to a relaxed mind (devoid of stress, fear, anger, hatred) that helps in achieving enhanced learning (forming lasting memories) and wisdom.)
  • The Center for Compassion And Altruism Research And Education at Stanford University (How would compassion and altruism help in learning and human development through the development of stress-free, relaxed minds)
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at University of Massachusetts Medical School (How do mindfulness practices help in individual wellbeing and development?)
  • Your Guide to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (Neuroscience of mindfulness as a means of staying healthy devoid of psychological conditions such as stress, depression and unhappiness. Such conditions essentially lead to enhanced learning and wisdom (i.e. to higher levels of human development as suggested by Abraham Maslow and Kazimierz Dabrowski) 
  • How Mindfulness Is Revolutionising Mental Health Care ( Neuroscientifically Redefining Mental Health through Mindfulness Practices.)
  • Benefits of Compassion (Neuroscience of compassion reveals us that it is about our health and wellbeing. It is about being more resilient/tolerant to the unavoidable and adversities. It is about enhancing learning, creativity and wisdom. It is about attention, emotion and cognitive self-regulation through which we become more productive individuals. It is not about spinelessness or negativity; rather it is about strength and empowerment.of character.)
  • The Neuroscience of Learning and Development: Enhancing Creativity, Compassion, Critical Thinking, and Peace in Higher Education (Excellent book on educational reforms! Just completed reading (08/04/2017) - just could not believe that the topic area has evolved so much to a level that makes it possible for direct implementation. It uses neuroscience and human development perspectives as the basis for reforms and discusses attention regulation (AR), emotion regulation (ER), cognitive regulation (CR), creativity, critical thinking, mindfulness and compassionate training practices, self-authorship, the essential need for a change in educational systems and how to manage the dramatic change involved and most importantly how individual learner development leads to peace in the world. A must read for those who are in educational decision-making/policy planning positions.)
  • Mindfulness practices that keep us away from inflammation and diseases (Neuroscience research reveals how mindfulness practices can help (in addition to helping in enhanced learning and wisdom) in managing inflammation and expression of diseases such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease (possibly by having an impact on the immunity system)).
  • Why do children need loving care for their development? ( Neuroscience research reveals that early-life chronic stress ( due to like poverty, neglect and physical abuse) can have significant negative lasting impacts on learning, memory and stress and emotion processing. In turn, they will negatively impact on behaviour, health and employment.) 
  • New Horizons for Learning(Recent developments in learning and teaching including perspectives from neuroscience)
  • Search Inside Yourself ( How true, to bring peace to this world! On many occasions, solutions to some of the most difficult problems are within yourself (especially within leaders if they look inside themselves). Practices such as mindfulness are in the forefront. They pave the way for developing qualities such as emotional intelligence, empathy, self-awareness/metacognition, resilience and wisdom, the fundamental characteristics leading to peace, individually as well as on the whole. If one of the top organisations such as GOOGLE recognised the importance, why shouldn't the others be keen to follow their way to success?)
  • Emotional intelligence leading to world peace - the roadmap (GOOGLE engineer Meng Tan, the founder of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), presenting his roadmap to peace in the world through the development of emotional intelligence. How we achieve that is through mindfulness practices.)
  • The book "Search Inside Yourself" describing the emotional intelligence/human development program running for many years at GOOGLE (I completed reading the book "Search Inside Yourself" last week (11/06/2017). What an incredible experience! Few things are simply amazing. The book is about the emotional intelligence/ personal growth/ human development program conducted at one of the tech giants - GOOGLE for many years. Who would expect tech giants are to be serious about emotional intelligence/human development and the like? We would expect them to be a place for a set of nerds to work mostly with machines. Considering this general belief, it is wonderful to see that GOOGLE is giving much-needed leadership to overall or holistic human development aspect. This is lead by the GOOGLE engineer Chade-Meng Tan, who has identified that the path to world peace is developing each individual on a personal growth/human development route. Another wonder is that he has correctly put forth that mindfulness practices as the key to this goal, in an evidence-based manner. I like to see and recommend every adult (possibly teenagers) read this book in order to get guided on the personal growth/human development path.)
  • Gamma Waves and Inspiration: How Is Your Brain Vibrating? (The relationships among Gamma brain waves (which can go even to levels of 250Hz compared to an average of 10-30Hz), meditation and inspirations/creativity/consciousness/wisdom.)
  • The Marvelous Properties of Gamma Brain Waves (The relationship among Gamma brain waves (at higher frequencies between 25-100 MHz), peak concentration, high cognitive function, compassion, memory, learning, incredible information processing and retrieval capacity, self-control, happiness, calmness, meditation and the like.)
  • Gamma - Brain Waves (Gamma brain waves and its relationship to empathy and compassion. At high Gamma levels above 40Hz, it appears that we are able to synchronise (or harmonise or in harmony) our brain operations leading to a high level of consciousness. In contrast, at high beta levels such as in the range of 20-35Hz (as typically found in daily lives), the brain operations are not synchronous (not in harmony) leading to high stress/anxiety levels.)
  • Changing your mindset could be the key to changing your life (The significance of paying constant attention (i.e being mindful) to what one wants or having a clear purpose in life (reminding us constantly where we are heading). This mindfulness can be contrasted with being robotic or switching the autopilot on to get our routine tasks completed. When we are mindful of what we do, our neural networks strengthen and grow, enabling us to learn and develop wisdom.)
  • Book Review on "Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness by Daniel Siegel" (24/07/2017)(In “Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness”, the author Daniel Siegel, a Harvard educated clinical Professor of Psychiatry, emphasises the need to integrate cognitive and emotional functions across various part of the brain along with memory types such as implicit and explicit in order to develop healthy minds with a MINDSIGHT or with higher levels of consciousness/wisdom/human development. Without such processes of integration that are well supported by the latest neuroscientific research, individuals tend to develop negative psychological conditions, become sick or would not develop to their full potential. The key neuroscientific concepts behind the above integrative processes are neuroplasticity and epigenetics that allow us to train our minds based on appropriate environmental stimuli. Professor Siegel has given some classic examples (using real counselling cases) of how mindfulness practices can be used to develop healthier minds through the processes of integration mentioned above. He has always used these therapeutic mindfulness practices as more lasting remedies ahead of alternative approaches such as prescribed drugs that usually suppress symptoms while on medication (along with any negative side-effects). The therapeutic practices he used were essentially based on developing critical characteristics of self-awareness and self-regulation. When these skills are practised and developed, individuals become more empathic and compassionate by extending integrative processes from individual to collective lives leading to harmonious and sustainable societies, following the concepts of interpersonal neurobiology.)
  • Building Relationships with your Child: Learning to LAUGH Together (The importance of parent-child attunement for the healthy development of the child. This appears to play a vital role in an individual's social intelligence development demonstrated later in the life. The well-known psychiatrist Daniel Siegel refers to this healthy relationship between two individuals as resonance that helps to develop the relevant neural circuits in the frontal lobes.)
  • Book Review on "Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life" by Jon Kabat-Zinn (One who introduced mindfulness practices to mainstream medicine in the USA). (16/08/2017)
    In “Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life”, the author Jon Kabat-Zinn highlights the message that the practices of mindfulness are not restricted to particular times at some locations, but it can be followed in anything one does anywhere. Further, he emphasises the fact that the mindfulness practices are not rigidly associated with a particular group or religion, rather it is a way of being that any individual can benefit immensely. The essence of mindfulness practices is the notion of getting one’s attention voluntarily on what he/she does in the present moment, non-judgementally. In other words, simply it is about not performing a task with the autopilot on, following the notion of automaticity – instead, it is about getting all the brain resources focused on it in a non-judgemental way. When we pay non-judgemental attention to a task or matter, we tend to see it more openly, in an unbiased manner or we become more receptive to the information per se that reaches us.  Such an open reception of information will help us to see the reality as is, instead of through coloured glass, as is the usual case in many situations. Just imagine the strength of the idea of possessing a mind trained with appropriate mindfulness practices with the acquired skills to see or sense everything one does anywhere, anytime clearly and vividly as is, as highlighted by the author, Jon Kabat-Zinn. In fact, Jon was an emeritus Professor of Medicine who himself had been practising mindfulness meditation since the age of twenty-two before introducing mindfulness practices to the mainstream medicine in the USA through programs such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

        As an educator, I see a great value for any learner in following mindfulness practices that enable achieving enhanced    learning constantly. Neuroscience research has revealed that most of our learning is implicit and it does not necessarily take place in a formal learning environment or classroom. In regard to this revelation, imagine the extent to which a learner can benefit, or can engage in learning per se if he/she can maintain a state of mindfulness constantly by paying voluntary attention non-judgementally in everything encountered and anywhere. In a universe of information that we cannot avoid as the transmission is enabled by various technologies and media cost-effectively, the best way to respond is to be receptive non-judgementally by keeping all our sense open rather than getting overwhelmed by it and closing our receptive sensors. We should also not disregard our internal body signals that help us develop a self-awareness by identifying and reflecting on our feelings, emotions and thoughts and the like in making our all-important decisions and in enhancing our well-being. Researchers have identified that such an awareness that can be developed through mindfulness practices is of prime importance in developing individuals with healthy minds or in achieving higher levels of human development. When we progress to higher levels in human development, we necessarily involve in an integration process of both external information as well as internal body signals that enable a "whole person" development learning path leading to wisdom. Further, we as learners/individuals become better-skilled in essential human functions such as attention regulation (AC), emotional regulation (ER) and cognitive regulation (CR) so that we develop the capacities required to be more effective, empathic, compassionate, resilient and productive social members. These members are better equipped and more capable of identifying and proper addressing of so called wicked problems. 

Finally, the author Jon Kabat-Zinn, who himself has been a practitioner of mindfulness for over forty years, put the readers on a path to developing wisdom. The benefits of mindfulness practices have a radiant effect on many facets of life – in enhancing learning, healthcare, self-awareness, emotional and social intelligence, interpersonal relationships, parenting, decision-making and in short overall well-being and productive human operations.

GOOGLE Talks on Emotional Intelligence/Healthy Minds/Empathy/Compassion/Optimal Performance/Productivity etc. (The tech giant invites leading researchers in related areas to talk to their employees to direct them to personal growth leading to productivity) 
  • David Rock on "Your Brain at Work" (Why we need to manage emotions (both positive and negative ones) optimally at workplace and how we ca do it. The role of prefrontal cortex (PFC) in the integrated operation of the brain ) 
  • Daniel Siegel on "Mindsight - The New Science of Personal Transformation" (How can we define mind? How can we develop healthy minds? The significance of the integrated operation of the brain)
  • Daniel Goleman on Emotional Intelligence ( Why does EQ value more than IQ (which is valued only at a threshold level)? Why do graduate study entry scores (such as GRE scores) only measure success in the first year of graduate school, but not career/life success (This appears to be true for almost all other academic examination barriers - getting through the barrier only means an entry to the next level, but not candidate's potential in life or career)? Why high internal standards and motivation to continuously work towards them are more important in career/life success more than anything else?)
  • Thomas Lewis on "The Neuroscience of Empathy" (Why does empathy play a significant role in human species evolution and survival? Since empathic processes involve modeling and projecting other persons' perspectives, they appear to be highly creative processes. Can we infer that creative individuals are more empathic and vice versa? Further, the neuroscientific definition of empathy explains why it is an essential trait of anyone in a leadership role. Otherwise, those leaders will be very ineffective in their roles. What is the neuroscientific difference between normal human beings and sociopaths/psychopaths?)
  • Philippe Goldin on "Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation" (How can we find the relationships between clinical psychological/psychotherapeutic practices and traditional mindfulness practices so that both fields can grow and extend in their perspectives? How would mindfulness practices help in achieving attention, emotion and cognitive regulation? How would self-concept (especially experiential fluid version as opposed to analytic fixed version) and language help in the cognitive control of emotions?  )
  • Philippe Goldin on "Neuroscience of Emotions" (Neuroscientific explanations of emotions related concepts such as emotional awareness, self-awareness, self-regulation, psychological flexibility and well-being, motivation, mindfulness, empathy, compassion, cognitive reappraisal and the like. Further, why neuroscientists and researchers are very keen on studying empathy and compassion (empathy + desire to act on it) as significant phenomena for human species survival)
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn (Professor of Medicine who introduced mindfulness practices to mainstream medicine) on "Mindfulness Meditation" (Mindfulness as raising awareness on the present moment non-judgmentally. It is about paying full attention(firing all cylinders) on an object in one's working memory. Since you do it non-judgementally, without an urgency to rush through (that is very much time insensitive manner), your mind is calm and relaxed (all senses, thoughts, emotions/feelings, actions/behaviours etc. are in harmony/synchrony), possibly helping to form new neural networks of knowledge, forming as many connections as possible in a coherent, meaningful manner. That is, one is able to identify new relationships with a flexible/open mind (being creative and insightful without being hampered by stereotypes) among pieces of knowledge held in working memory. Consequently, it should help creating lasting (long-term) memories. Further, a characterising ability of mindfulness practices is the development of self-awareness or self-knowledge. With this self-knowledge, one not only understands oneself better but also, using it as a reference, he/she tends to understand others better (possible more empathically).)
  • Charlie Halpern on "Practicing Wisdom in the Obama Era" (Mindfulness in legal practice - is it possible and is it necessary?. The need of mindful political leaders with empathy and wisdom to meet contemporary challenges. Are our societies suffering from empathy deficits (similar to budget deficits)? Is empathy a naive luxury?)
  • Richie Davidson on "Transform Your Mind, Change Your Brain" (The link between contemplative practices and science. How can empathy be trained and what are the benefits? Better capacities of immunity/healing for practitioners of empathy - realisation of true human features!)
  • Robina Courtin on  "Be Your Own Therapist" (How can one be one's own therapist to get rid of neurotic thoughts en route to developing healthy minds? In order to achieve this, one has to look into oneself. The famous psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski  held a similar notion of auto-psychotherapy, especially in relation to training "psychoneurotics")
  • Daniel Goleman on "Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence" (How is the term "flow" defined (as in positive psychology) in contrast to boredom and stressful conditions? It is a state in which thinker/learners engrossed in the matter at hand even losing track of time and space. Why is this ability to get to this state important for excellence in terms of creativity, productivity, wisdom and the like? Further, it appears that it is an individually identified characteristic in which one needs to recognise one's state of flow on his/her own, ideally)
  • Matthieu Ricard (regarded as the happiest man in the world) on Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions for Authentic Happiness (The relationships among happiness, inner conditions, outer conditions, mindfulness practices, neuroscience, wisdom, compassion (as the opposite of self-centeredness), loving kindness, well-being, Gamma waves in the brain and the like )

On the Outcomes of Competition in Education:
On Human Development:

On Gifted and Creative Individuals, Sensitivities, Misdiagnosis and Psychological Conditions:

On the Relationship between Mental Illnesses/Conditions and Sleeping Problems/Deprivations:
  • Why sleep could be the key to tackling mental illness (The interesting relationship between sleep problems/deprivation and mental illnesses/conditions (such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia) is worth noticing. Once again, we are reminded of the significance of living a balanced life towards overall wellbeing. Especially, those highly sensitive/overexcitable individuals would become susceptible to sleep problems and their consequences. As neuroscience research reveals, mindfulness/metacognitive practices could go a long way in developing more relaxed minds devoid of anxieties/sensitivities leading to a good night's sleep.)

On Globalisation:
On Inequality:

On Health & Wellbeing:

On Immigrants, Economic Growth and Quality of Life: 
On Employment, Job Market and Economic Status:

On Automation and Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Smarter robots put 50% of jobs at risk  (This is where automation leads us. Doesn't the solution lie in the way we educate our learners to meet the next generation challenges - a change in perspective of education and learning?)
  • Lawyers, accountants join list of workers who could lose their jobs to AI, warns report   (We need to better educate human beings to perform more creative activities instead of training them for performing routine tasks. The capacities of the human brain are infinite as defined by the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. What is needed is a paradigm change in the way we program/educate human brains.)
  • Artificial intelligence coming sooner than you think, experts say  (This is why we need a paradigm change in the way we provide education or program human brains. We need to encourage and enhance creativity/wisdom/consciousness/mindfulness in our learners instead of stifling them, relying on the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. The phenomena of neuroplasticity and synaptogenesis point towards infinite capacities of the human brain; these capacities need to be developed with purposeful and well-directed activities. )
  • How the automation revolution is set to replace white collar workers (It is the time we start teaching our future generations for creativity, mindfulness, wisdom and the like that are inherently human features.)

On Homelessness, Social Security and Housing Affordability:
  • The man without a home (Is homelessness a problem with the person without a home, society, governments or status quo?)
  • Finland pays unemployed citizens a monthly income in trial (Can we provide the basic needs so that individuals are better prepared to produce creative outputs?)
  • House prices: When will we get to the point that we just say NO? (Are we diligent enough to take all factors into consideration when making an important decision like this? Or, are we just giving in to our emotions? Are we metacognitive enough?)
  • Westpac: Landmark Federal Court case over lending practices sends message to other banks (Is this how financial institutes make record profits even when times of economic downturn? Are they accountable enough for their machine generated decisions? Is the liability only lies with the borrower, including the mortgage insurance? How just and sustainable is this approach or system? Will this create a mass scale social problem?)
  • Upcoming federal budget (and housing affordability around the globe): Leilani Farha (This is a classic example of how contemporary social problems are so entangled and integrated together - housing affordability, investment, safe wealth parking, inequality, foreign buyers, globalisation, narrow short-term economic development only perspective etc. Are these levels of increasing inequality and decreasing housing affordability (globally) sustainable? Are we heading to chaotic futures globally? What are the remedies taken by governments and policy-makers? Are they SENSITIVE enough to these issues or cannot picture out the real nature? Where can we find leaders SENSITIVE to these issues? Can our contemporary education systems produce such leaders? Or do they produce leaders of only narrow specialisations with single discipline views?  Can at least the UN provide right guidance and direction towards sustainability?)  
  • Home ownership in Australia in decline for three decades: Grattan Institute  (An interesting trend analysis in housing affordability in the country that holds the world record for the highest number of quarters without an economic recession! It good and appropriate to see mainstream media openly discussing permanent renting options in Australia similar to many other advanced economies.)

On Alcohol and Drug Reliance

On Domestic Violence
  • Australian police deal with domestic violence every two minutes (Is this where our society is heading to? Is it the outcome of our contemporary education system?)
  • WHO says violence against women is a 'global health issue' (Are these the outcomes of our education systems' inability to fulfil the essential need of "whole individual" development that addresses attention regulation (AR), emotion regulation (ER) and cognitive regulation (CR)? Education needs to be broadly defined beyond obtaining a limited set of skills in a specific disciplinary area. It essentially needs to incorporate generic attributes such as AR, ER, CR, critical thinking and creativity etc. Recent neuroscience research reveals that mindfulness and compassion training practices as part of the mainstream education system help us making appropriate positive changes (due to neuroplasticity feature) in our learners' brains.)
  • Vincent Shin: Australia's first school lawyer confronts family violence in his past (Some important lessons to be learned! How many of individuals in similar situations survive to be positively contributing social members? (How many will be sieved out of the system? Can human potential be portrayed accurately in an examination or under time-limited examination conditions?)

On Environmental and Social Sustainability

On "Everything is the Economy or Economic Management" (Narrow)Perspective
  • On International Women's Day, why do we ignore mothers?  Is "Everything is about economic development or management perspective" losing its steam day by day? Shouldn't we be more conscious and open-minded? Shouldn't we pay attention to human development aspects? Is economic development going to magically produce human development? 
  • Why you're about to pay through the nose for power (Why is it so important that our leaders take decisions leading to sustainability! How can a decision that appears so convincing, albeit narrowly, becomes a disaster at another time? How can we improve our decision-making capacities? How can we be mindful in our decision-making using creativity and critical thinking to avoid pursuing vested interests? )
  • Where the money laundering buck stops, the CBA faces record fines (Interestingly the same old wisdom - everything is related everything else or simply the connectedness of this universe. Senior management decisions on mere profit increases devoid of holistic views/sustainable development to the use of high tech for automation to turning a blind eye to regulatory body advice/warning to creating money laundering opportunities to creating avenues for funding terrorism to inflicting employee redundancies/layouts to pursue ever-increasing profits despite economic downturns. Where are the solutions for these so entangled problems? Shouldn't our education systems provide a starting point for possible solutions at the grassroots? Shouldn't our education systems take initiatives to promote "whole person" development instead of a single-sided, narrow focus? With a "whole person" development approach, we would be in with a chance to produce leaders with broader visions leading to social sustainability.)
  • The Commonwealth's top Execs hit with a pay cut over money laundering allegations (Interesting discussions and views on bank money laundering allegations! It is very interesting to wait and see where all these will end.)

On Big Data Impact: