Tag Archives: Meditation

Reflections from the Fast Lane: Let in the Silence

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a “fast” person. When I’m walking down a city sidewalk of a major street, there’s a 99% chance that I will have to walk around at least one person. More than that, if I can, sometimes I’ll jog to where I have to go — instead of walking quickly — because it’s a more efficient use of time. I prefer to pack as much into my time as I possibly can (in most cases).

So, it was a bit ironic a couple of weekends ago when I found myself sitting on a park bench, watching my son interact with some of the other children in the park (and some of the other parents in the park). In particular, I was listening to the conversation that some of the other parents were having and I noticed that they were from “outside of they city,” and so there was an urgency to their actions. That is, they had somewhere else that they needed to be, so that effected the way they interacted with their children (and other children, it seemed).

At this point, I should probably clarify: as much as I possibly can, I try not to have any “obligations” when it comes to doing things with my son. Trying to explain the concept of time to someone who’s only been alive for less than 30 months and who can barely even say his own name seems like a bridge too far. Don’t get me wrong, I still do try to explain concepts that might seem a little out there (for instance: this past winter, we learned about friction, but there was a very tangible reason — ice — anyways, I digress), but when it comes to time, I’ve found that it’s best for me (and for him) if I don’t have any “fixed schedule” to keep. In this way, he’s able to play for as long as he wants (within reason) and there isn’t some sort of power struggle when I think it’s time we stop playing. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this is a luxury I am afforded. For some parents, the idea of not having a fixed schedule is an impossibility.

Anyways, let’s get back to the parents in the park.

So, there was a parent who was interacting with their kid who was interacting with my kid. It appeared as though the other kid (let’s just call him John) wanted my son to fill up the dump truck with sand. Maybe it’s important to note at this point that this is simply a perception that outsiders may have projected onto the situation. We can’t actually know that that’s what John wanted (as John didn’t say anything). Instead, John’s mom interpreted this as John’s desire and then proceeded to ask my son a question related to filling the dump truck. The problem, however, was that she then asked him another question… and then another question.

Maybe it’s just a quirk I’ve noticed about my son (I’m all for the interpretation that everyone’s different!), but I’ve learned that if I ask my son a question and I wait for an answer, way more times than not, he will eventually answer. My interpretation here is that he has to reflect/think/cogitate before he can answer, both because he’s not sure what the answer is and then because he needs to figure out how to verbalize that answer.

In thinking about this interaction, it made me think about the way I am in just about all instances (except when interacting with my son) — fast. This mom was certainly in “go-go-go” mode, as she was thinking about the appointments that her family needed to keep and then she brought that same attitude to the interaction.

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My point in sharing this anecdote today is to remind you (and me!) to take the time to sloooow dooooown — at least a little bit — to bring a bit more intention to our interactions and even our way of being.

I’ve written plenty about meditation, but I’m not even talking about that in this instance. Sure, meditation can certainly help one slow down, but what I’m talking about specifically is taking some time to let the silence show you there’s music. If the “music” is always on, we don’t necessarily know that there is music (as we don’t know what it sounds like without music).

So go ahead, let the silence into your interactions and way of being.

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An Alternative to Coffee During the Afternoon Lull — Meditation

No doubt you’ve come across articles that explain that we have a tendency to fall into an afternoon lull. There have also been a number of article that offer a solution to beating this afternoon lull. However, I’ve yet to see any of these articles offer what could be the best use of that time, yet — meditation.

The benefits of meditation are endless not the least of which is mitigating the effect of cognitive biases. So, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, why not try doing a quick 2-, 3-, 5-, or 10-minute meditation when that afternoon lull comes along. In fact, to up the stakes, I’d be interested to see some research on this. My bet is that meditation would be more effective (and sustainable) than coffee in picking you up. Of course, researching this might prove a bit difficult, but I think it’s doable. Let’s break it down.

I’d want to see three groups: meditation, coffee, and control. Of course, we’d need to have a representative sample, controlling for people who already have a proclivity towards meditation and/or coffee. If at all possible, it’d be great to have two meditation groups, actually: one that already regularly meditates and one that doesn’t.

Initially, I hypothesized that meditation would be more effective. We’d need to determine how we were going to measure effectiveness. I suppose one could consider the remaining hours at work, as the pick-me-up during the afternoon lull is likely a way to get one to the end of the day. In that sense, we’d also want to control for the amount of hours that people continued to work after the meditation/coffee break. At a minimum, it’s something we’d need to measure to maintain internal validity.

I also hypothesized that meditation would be a more sustainable solution to the afternoon lull. Again, how are we going to measure this. My thinking would be including some sort of fatigue/health factor in the study. I suspect that those inclined to have a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up are probably already drinking coffee to start their day and as a result, might just be taxing their system by having that extra hit of caffeine in the afternoon. Conversely, plenty of research has been conducted on the health benefits of meditation. So, not only would some folks be eliminating the overtaxing nature of a second dose of caffeine, they’d also be reaping the benefits of meditation.

Meditation Mitigates Effects of Cognitive Biases

There have been thousands of scholarly articles written about the myriad benefits of meditation, but the one I came across recently was one of the first that confirmed one of my previously held beliefs: meditation helps you make better decisions.

The thing that struck me most about this study were the similarities to an experiment I conducted (on intuition and decision-making) as a research assistant. I had a condition where students would meditate for a short time and then use their intuition to make decisions. The results weren’t as I, (the research assistant I was working nor the professor), had hoped. I wrote it off as the the reluctance of undergraduates to meditate, but in this study, in particular, studies 2a and 2b, the researchers used undergraduates (approximately 200 combined) and they meditated!

In the second study, the researchers had the undergraduates listen to a 15-minute audio track, which was was specifically designed for this study. In one condition, students listened to a mindfulness meditation created by a professional mindfulness-meditation instructor and in the other, the students listened to a track, again, by a professional mindfulness-meditation instructor, that continuously instructed students to think about whatever came to mind. This second condition was called the “mind-wandering” condition and previous research used a similar method as a control for mindfulness experiments.

As I already mentioned in the opening paragraph, the researchers found that increasing mindfulness (i.e. meditation) reduced the effects of cognitive biases (i.e. the sunk cost fallacy). My favourite part of this study [Emphasis added]:

It is particularly notable in this set of studies that increased resistance to the sunk-cost bias occurred after only a brief recorded mindfulness-meditation induction. Many prior mindfulness-meditation interventions have involved 8 weeks of face-to-face training (Brown & Ryan, 2003); by comparison, our 15-min recorded manipulation is substantially more practical.

Many people have gotten it into their heads that the positive effects of meditation takes weeks to manifest. Here is tangible proof that — today — meditation can help you make better decisions. Also:

We also encourage research investigating how mindfulness practice might improve other decision-making processes and outcomes.

Absolutely! I would suspect that meditation would help guard against a whole host of other cognitive biases, but it would be fantastic if there were scientific evidence to back this up. For instance, years ago when I was the president of the student body, I once tried to begin a general assembly meeting with a quick 1-minute meditation, but the maturity level just wasn’t there. Even after 10 seconds, some of the representatives couldn’t handle the silence. I take the blame for that as I probably didn’t do the method justice by properly introducing it with the research. Can you imagine, if, before every semi-major decision, you took 10, 5, 2, or even 1 minute just to sit still and clear your mind of the previous discussion. I wonder how much lost revenue there is from not taking a moment to pause and reflect before a decision is made.

I should say, I’m sure that there is certainly time between major decisions (i.e. mergers & acquisitions, although, there is fascinating research on how big of a failure those can be), but I’m thinking about the mid-level manager who makes many decisions in a day that can affect the bottomline of a company. The managers that make quick decisions about whether to go with this contract or that contract, whether to make this purchase or that purchase. Maybe that’s a good place to start with more research.

ResearchBlogging.orgA. C. Hafenbrack, Z. Kinias, & S. G. Barsade (2013). Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797613503853

21-Day Meditation Challenge: UPDATE and Research!

So — we’re into day 8 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. How’s it going? Are you finding it easy to stick to meditating? Are you finding it hard? Are you noticing any benefits? Are you noticing any strange thoughts coming up? I’d love to hear about any/all of it! Let me know in the comments. If you’re finding it somewhat difficult to stick to the meditation, you might want to read about the importance of stillness and unplugging. This may (or may not) help to motivate you to stick with the meditations.

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I came across some research this past week that I thought you might find interesting, especially in the context of meditations. From the Daily Stat:

After just 5 weeks of daily 5-to-16-minute training sessions in focused-attention meditation (“Relax with your eyes closed, and focus on the flow of your breath…”), research subjects showed strong brain-wave changes associated with positive emotions, says a team led by Christopher A. Moyer of the University of Wisconsin. The findings suggest that the benefits of meditation may be more accessible than was previously believed, the researchers say.

Pretty cool, eh? Of course, the Daily Stat is a secondary source, so if you’re interested in reading the journal article, you can find it here: Frontal Electroencephalographic Asymmetry Associated With Positive Emotion Is Produced by Very Brief Meditation Training.

So, maybe this is more motivation for you to get back to (or start!) meditating.

 

21-Day Meditation Challenge: Join Me!

I just finished listening to Day 1 of Deepak Chopra‘s 21-day meditation challenge. Boy, did it feel good to meditate again! When was the last time you sat (and didn’t fiddle with technology or thoughts) for an extended period of time? I’ve written about the importance of stillness and unplugging before, but now I’m offering you an opportunity to follow-through on it.

Why don’t you join me and thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of other people and follow along with Deepak’s meditations for the next 21 days.

I really like being part of something bigger than “me” and this is certainly an opportunity to feel connected to an infinite number of people. As I’m listening to the meditation, I can be sure that there will be countless people who will also be listening to the same track as me (at some point during the day).

So, whaddaya say — let’s meditate together over the next 21 days.

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I will say that the meditations are couched in abundance. That is, the theme of the meditations have to do with abundance. Most folks think of abundance as an abundance of cash, but there are many other kinds of abundance. One can have an abundance of peace, joy, comfort, love, and the list goes on.

So — head on over to the landing page and listen to the first meditation because it started today. You can do it!

Finding a Moment for Stillness, Peace, Quiet, Calm, or Silence

How often do you find yourself (or maybe your colleague) moving quickly from obligation to obligation without regard for a second to sit still? In our fast-paced lives, rarely do you see someone take the time for themselves. That is, rarely do people take time out of their lives for themselves.

While I think this is important to recognize, I also realize that the way that life is structured, it’s not easy to take time for yourself. There are always those 4 or 5 things at the bottom of the to-do list. Usually, things you’d like to do, like: play my guitar; hit the links; start writing my book; etc. I realize that it’s not easy. There’s so much going on in our lives that we often go from task to task, just trying to get it all done. I’ve already written about the importance of , but I think it’s equally important to take time between tasks.

What do I mean by that?

Take, for example, the person who just gets out of an important meeting at work and realizes that they are a few minutes late to pick-up their kid from daycare. They race from the elevator to their car and fly out of the parking garage, anxiously looking at the clock. They get to the daycare center and end up being a few minutes late (as predicted). However, this lateness isn’t an issue as there are other children who are awaiting rides. More importantly, our main character’s child, the one who needed to be picked up at “just the right time,” is busy engaged with one of their schoolmates.

There are a few things we could glean from this example, but I’m aiming for one: think about the time that our main character was “rushing” and thinking about “being late” to pick up their child. During this time, our main character’s physiology was reacting. The adrenal glands were pumping adrenaline into the veins (as the body does when it encounters stress). This increased stressful state, however, was completely unnecessary. There was no imminent danger on the way from work to the daycare center for our main character. Our main character would have arrived (at the same time) and without the added adrenaline coursing through their veins. Most notably, our main character would have arrived much more relaxed had they taken even a few seconds to sit still.

There are millions of examples of this happening everyday around the world. I would hazard a guess that they are on the decline. With the growing prevalence of meditation in the western world (), people are learning how to be relaxed. They are learning to take things a little slower and set aside some time in the day for themselves. I think this bodes well for those people who do so, but also for the rest of the people in the world. As we lower our , we are better equipped to deal with the stressors of our daily lives (without overreaction).

So, do yourself a favor and before you engage in your next activity/task, take a minute (or a few seconds) to clear your thoughts and clear your head. You’ll be surprised how useful you may find this.

The Scientific Evidence for Distant Healing: Psi Phenomena, Part 5

: The Scientific Evidence for Telepathy
: The Scientific Evidence for Clairvoyance
: The Scientific Evidence for Precognition
: The Scientific Evidence for Psychokinesis

Finally, we’ve reached the last of the “.” Today’s post will be about the scientific evidence for distant healing. I struggled with what to title this post. Within the context of the “Big 5” as coined by , he refers to this psi phenomenon as “.” I think the word psychic can be a bit of a misnomer sometimes, confuse people, or even conjure up images of a psychic (who aren’t necessarily doing the healing at a distance [that is, “regular” people can do it, too]). I think this is a disservice to the phenomenon as there’s nothing “spooky” about it. Others refer to it as “.” While this is completely accurate (nonlocal meaning that the healing is taking place because of something that isn’t “present”), it could be considered too science-y and may not be as accessible as possible. This is why I’ve settled on distant healing.

The has a great . I like it so much that I’m going to use their explanation for :

Distant healing encompasses a broad range of healing practices, many of which are based in ancient spiritual traditions. Virtually all major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, endorse and encourage the use of distant healing among their adherents.

Two of the most common distant healing practices are offering prayers for those who are ill and using forms of meditation where the practitioner holds a compassionate intention to relieve the suffering of another. Some practices focus on curing a very specific disease state while others emphasize creating a compassionate environment that can have a healing effect. Virtually all distant healing practices are concerned with alleviating the suffering and increasing the well being of others.

As part of my master’s program, I read many of the studies (on healing prayer) that this quotation is referring to. In preparing to write this post, I was initially going to cite a number of them individually, until I found an , that reviews all of the studies that I had known about (and then some). It isn’t a meta-analysis per se, like I had been able to find for some of the other posts in this , but it’s the next best thing (an aggregation).

The first two studies that Benor addresses are what he calls the ‘two best studies’ that address distant healing for human physical problems. The first is a study that was conducted to .The concluding sentence of the abstract: “These data suggest that intercessory prayer to the Judeo-Christian God has a beneficial therapeutic effect in patients admitted to a CCU [coronary care unit].” The second study that Benor addresses is a follow-up the first study called: “.” The concluding sentence from that summary: “Remote, intercessory prayer was associated with lower CCU course scores. This result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care.”

Both of these studies are more than 10 years old, but one of my favorites on this subject that is just as old comes from the of famous scientist . Elisabeth did a study in conjunction with 3 others to tests the . The conclusion: “These data support the possibility of a DH [distant healing] effect in AIDS and suggest the value of further research.”

There’s no doubt that the sheer volume of studies that have been conducted on this topic should be enough to warrant more and more research. Even the studies that demonstrate the power of our words (on or on ) could be seen as support for distant healing. , along with [two of the more prominent names in the public dissemination of information on this topic], have curated a nearly 20 pages long! (It’s nearly 30 pages, if you include their introduction and answers to some questions about the research. IONS has also compiled a that’s over 10 pages. Daniel Benor has also published a that have compiled a number of resources on this topic.

One more quote I want to share from the Benor article I mentioned earlier in this post. I think it’s a very important point and I will expand upon this when I address healthcare in my . I really implore you to take some time to ponder the implications of this quote:

One would hope that the benefits of such an inexpensive intervention would appeal to those who are concerned over the high costs of medical care.

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If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.