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How Meditation Works

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Calm, non-new-agey explanation of how mindful meditation can help anyone get better control of their emotions.

This is good. I need more calm in my life. Thank you.

just read this on the wife's ipad...and when i come to put it on it is

It's a very helpful article. Worth saving to come back to later, too.

Meditation is a way to become familiar with your own mind:

In a practical sense, "sitting" is really all there is to the meditation aspect of mindfulness meditation. For anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour (or more) each day, whether alone or with a group, you sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath as it moves in and out. Your mind will inevitably wander, which is where the mindfulness aspect comes in. Instead of growing frustrated with your lack of focus or getting caught up in the web of your thoughts, you train yourself to observe the thought or emotion with acceptance and curiosity, and to calmly bring your focus back to the breath.

Mindfulness meditation operates through a combination of several distinct mechanisms: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and a change in perspective on the self. Each component is believed to assist us in various aspects of our lives, and when functioning together, the cumulative process claims to lend an enhanced capacity for "self-regulation" -- the ability to control our own "thought, affect, behavior, or attention" (The loss of which has been cited as the cause of much psychological distress and suffering).

In other words, the researchers suggest that the practice allows us to develop a stronger command over the machinery of the mind, a dexterity which, according to a study released this week, stays with you long after you finish meditating.

"It meant taking a thought of anger or fear, and 'dropping it like a boulder.'"

Bliss is a constant state of mind, undisturbed by gain or loss.

The process is counterintuitive:

A change in perception, from a moment of panic to one of peace, is the achievement of what the Justus Liebig-Harvard report calls "emotion regulation." This component of the practice suggests that by building on our renewed strength of awareness, we are able to train ourselves to observe our thoughts forming during a particular event, to accept the it without reactive judgment ("This is good" or "This is bad"), and to feel ourselves be affected by it, while refraining from our habitual response (i.e. terror, hyperventilating, anger, or throwing a punch).

As the leading Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield understands it, we learn to alter the relationship between our consciousness and our experience.

Or as Dr. Maclean characterizes it, we submit ourselves to a situation of "exposure," which we "prolong until the scary things aren't so scary anymore."

It's like Fear Factor for the mind, a contest few of us likely have any interest in entering upon first thought. The authors of the Justus Liebig-Harvard report recognize that "people who are new to meditation often initially find this process counterintuitive," but many find that the feelings of unpleasantness eventually dissipate, leading to either a situation of reappraisal (seeing something in a new light) or extinction (getting rid of our habitual response all together).


This is great stuff! I am a believer that we need to take advantage of these ways to improve our mental and emotional state. I learned much of this from my friend, Meng Tan, who started a mindfulness program at Google (called Search Inside Yourself). It's a pioneering effort to bring greater EQ to the corporate world...a place that would certainly benefit from it (I think we'd all agree)!

Rich, thank you for sharing! I just spent ten minutes researching Meng.

Chade-Meng Tan's Mindfulness talk is available in this video:

Here's his TED profile:

And an article he wrote for HuffPo, "Two Minutes to Mindfulness":

Adam, thanks for posting these. Meng is a great guy, and really funny too. The thing I  appreciate about him is that he has devoted his life to helping people increase their EQ in order to create the ideal conditions for world peace. (Yep, he shot kind of low on that one.) I have the privilege of working with him in this effort so it's pretty cool. It would be great if you guys could meet one day!

I'd love to meet him someday.

Wow, who can think so big as "ideal conditions for world peace"?!

I'm still looking for ideal conditions for inner peace!

Adam, you're wiser than you realize. Enough people with inner peace = world peace. As for meeting each other, I have a feeling that can be arranged! 

Awesome. I imagine he's busier than I am, so please let me know when would be best for him.

Consider it done. It will be later in the summer due to Meng's travel schedule. I am excited to make the introduction! 

Sounds great. Thank you Rich!!

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