Adapted from the Costa Rican poem “Rasur” by Roberto Brenes Mesén

Rasur Foundation International aims to create a world where every person practices the art of connection and passes this gift on. This vision was inspired by the following story:

One day, ages ago, in the village of Quizur in Costa Rica, all the children suddenly disappeared!  A young teacher named Rasur had called them into a mountain and was teaching them about empathy and insight, the hidden treasures in their hearts.  He taught them to use these innate strengths to connect to their own inner lives, to enrich their relationships with others, and to care for nature.

After realizing the youngsters were missing, the parents searched the countryside, calling for them. They heard them singing inside the mountain, and they looked for a hillside entrance but didn’t find one.  Instead they had a timeless moment when their painful memories were erased and their innocence was restored.

At day’s end the children emerged, radiant with joy, and told their parents they had learned from Rasur that “empathy + insight = connection.” Now the adults were reassured that their children were safe and were having an extraordinary experience in this unique classroom. They allowed the children to go back every day and, in the evening, would hear what their sons and daughters had learned.

Before long, the empathy of the villagers created more harmony; now people walked arm in arm and sat beneath trees to listen to each other. Insights soon led to a wave of creativity – an artist was painting a magnificent landscape of the mountains, and the musicians were playing symphonies that could take your breath away. Young people were creating vegetable gardens that looked like works of art, and the women’s embroidery depicted the beauty of life.

At week’s end, Rasur said he had to teach other children in the world.  The children cried, “Oh no, don’t go!” Rasur replied, “Don’t worry.  Just bend your ear down to your heart and you’ll know I’m there, just like everyone else that you love.”

The children came out of the mountain one last time and told their parents that Rasur had traveled on.  They all began to talk about the meaning of this visit.  One of the men said, “Before directing the lightning in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.” The other villagers agreed.  And they remembered how to stay connected so that each new generation passed this skill on.

This tale illustrates the power of connection. While modern life is a far cry from this idyllic village, connection has been shown to be the most essential ingredient for a healthy society. If people were schooled in the art of connection, we could resolve challenges without unnecessary suffering and use our strengths to thrive.

This is now possible. Rita Marie Johnson developed the Connection Practice, a combination of empathy and insight that leads to greater harmony and creativity in daily life. Self-empathy and empathy for others is attained by identifying feelings and needs. Insight is accessed through a physiological state called heart-brain coherence. Three research studies validate this efficient, powerful method of building social-emotional intelligence:

1. Naming feelings reduces the reaction of the amygdala.
In a UCLA research study called Putting Feelings into Words, 30 participants were shown photographs of people who were emotionally upset, and then were asked to label the emotion (for example, “angry” or “fearful”) while the researchers measured the irrational reactions of their brains’ amygdalae. The researchers found that naming the feelings in this way reduced the amygdala’s automatic reactions. Naming feelings is the first step in the Connection Practice.

2. Identifying needs leads to empathy.
In a study on the Neural Substrate of Human Empathy, subjects were asked to imagine the feelings of someone who was receiving medical treatment. Behavioral measures and the brain responses of these subjects showed that when individuals had a context for understanding another person’s needs, it enhanced their empathic responses. Identifying needs is the second step in the Connection Practice.

3. Heart-brain coherence leads to insights.
A Brain Mechanism for Facilitation of Insight by Positive Affect showed that people in a better mood are more likely to solve problems by insight. Research demonstrated that positive affect of participants increased insight before and during the solving of a problem, as indicated by differing brain activity patterns. Generating positive feelings of appreciation to achieve heart-brain coherence, which provides greater access to insights, is the last step of the Connection Practice.

Success with the Connection Practice: Empathy + Insight = Connection

Rasur Foundation International’s mission is to teach the Connection Practice, which won the Ashoka Changemakers Innovation Award, chosen from 79 projects in 32 countries. Johnson taught it for graduate credit at the UN University for Peace. In 2015, her book Completely Connected became a #2 Amazon bestseller in Conflict Resolution and # 5 in Communication and Social Skills. In 2016, it won a Nautilus Award in Psychology.

In Costa Rica, the Connection Practice has been taught to approximately 40,000 students per year since 2007. The first US Connection Practice school pilot in the Houston area was hugely successful and is documented in a video available at http://rasurinternational.org/k-12-curriculum-in-service/. More than 120 trainers, called “Rasurs,” have been certified as trainers. For further information on courses or to support this work, contact info@rasurinternational.org or 214-458-4345.