At HuffPost, our convention efforts have four parts. First, our coverage of the conventions themselves. Second, our initiative to help make a dent in the jobs crisis by focusing on what is working, which includes a bipartisan panel discussion on jobs at both conventions, an entrepreneurship expo, and a HuffPost section dedicated to our job creation initiative. Third, the Shadow Conventions, spearheaded by HuffPost Live, which aim to put the spotlight on three important issues that are largely ignored by our two major parties: the influence of money on our political system, entrenched poverty in America and the disastrous war on drugs. And fourth, the HuffPost Oasis. All of these efforts are deeply intertwined.
The first and most obvious connection is that the better people are able to take care of themselves, the more effective they'll be in taking care of others, including their families, their co-workers and their communities. For instance, when you're on an airplane you are told to "secure your own mask first before helping others," even your own child. In other words, it's not easy to help somebody else breathe easier, literally or figuratively, if you're fighting for air yourself. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asked in "The First Circle": "If you wanted to put the world to rights, who should you begin with: yourself or others?"
The second connection is in the benefits of stress reduction itself, which, as science increasingly shows, does have society-wide implications. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon recently found that over the last 30 years, self-reported stress levels have gone up from 10 percent to 30 percent. The worst-affected are women, young people and the poor. And higher levels of stress lead to higher instances of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure.
Then there is the way that chronic stress becomes the mechanism by which poverty can actually cause destructive changes in brain development. According to Cornell University's Gary W. Evans and Michelle A. Schamberg, chronic stress can impair a child's capacity for working memory, which is crucial for learning and development.
Even more troubling are the findings by Rockefeller University's Bruce McEwen that, as Wired put it, "the effects of stress produce changes in genes that are then passed from parent to child." In other words, "poverty's effects could be hereditary." Stress is a vicious cycle, and intervention at any and every point will have multiplying benefits.
And more and more in the business world are recognizing the importance of reducing stress. Recently, David Gelles wrote in the Financial Times about the mindfulness program at General Mills, which has a meditation room in each building of its Minneapolis campus. Similar programs are popping up all over the corporate world, with one-quarter of large companies offering some sort of stress reduction services to their employees.
Steve Jobs talked with Walter Isaacson about the advantages of mindfulness for creativity: "If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things -- that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before."
Seeing things more clearly -- an incredibly important quality for anybody, including leaders at both conventions hoping to bring about change through politics.
Dr. James R. Doty, a professor of neurosurgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine, wrote on HuffPost that while mindfulness has many benefits in itself, for its true power to be realized it needs to be paired with compassion: "The recognition of another's suffering and the desire to alleviate such suffering."
So the thinking behind the HuffPost Oasis is to help people to better deal with the destructive effects of stress in their lives and to help them be their best selves so they can go out in the world and make a difference in the lives of others. Many of our Oasis volunteers are already deeply engaged in their own communities, offering free yoga to at-risk youth, returning veterans, victims of foreclosure -- anybody who needs it.
And as for the quest for the ever-elusive goal of bipartisanship, it has to begin with seeing the humanity of the other side. And it's hard to see another's humanity if we don't feel connected to our own.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)