Mini-Update, Links and AWESOME Video

- - Thought

So, I don’t have a ton to say in this post other than a few things I wanted to share that’s happening in my 30-day experiment as well as a video my friend Jon turned me onto.

Cool Things Happening In JC’s Life, Internetz Edition

1. Today over coffee, my best friend made a comment that I wasn’t checking my phone – I hardly looked at it the whole time. In the past, he mentioned that I was pretty stuck to it, constantly checking messages, social media, and emails. In the back of my head, I was aware of this, for months even – but I couldn’t seem to hack the habit.

Since I’ve been meditating, I notice that I’m more present in any given moment, especially those I’m spending with others, than I was before meditation. He said he was intrigued by it, and my response actually, ummmm, surprised me.

I said something along the lines of “dude, I just want to take in as much of this moment as I possibly can. I don’t know when/if I’ll see you again, so this time is important to me.”

Reading that back to myself makes me feel all weird, but I like where this is going.

2. I’ve made the decision to seek out a meditation group here in Nashville. I believe this is the place I’m going to start: Nashville Zen Center. Another place I may try is actually a Buddhist Temple. I don’t know if this will last, but I want to try it out at least.

3. Here’s a neat article on ScienceDaily titled Meditation Reduces Loneliness. As some of you may know, one of the main reasons I do meditation is to reduce stress. Part of that is reducing inflammation. Here’s a really cool quote from the article:

Remarkably, the researchers said, MBSR also altered the genes and protein markers of inflammation, including the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) and a group of genes regulated by the transcription factor NF-kB. CRP is a potent risk factor for heart disease, and NF-kB is a molecular signal that activates inflammation.

So what does this mean? Who knows… but I hope scientists continue to look into the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, though I feel this stuff is a bit hard to quantify.

4. One of my favorite entrepreneurs/speakers did his own video about meditation. Apparently, he’s been practicing for 6 years, which now that I know what I know about meditation, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

NOTE: Keep in mind, if you watch the video, Owen Cook’s target audience is guys who are trying to get laid. Remember that the stuff he talks about is applicable outside of that realm, but some of the examples he makes, and things he alludes to are centered around getting chicks into bed.

Nonetheless, it’s a very good explanation of what meditation is, why you should do it, and how there really is no right way of going about it. The main things he emphasizes is consistency, practice, and being willing to forgive yourself for not getting it perfect at first. He also talks about the idea of being outcome dependent, which I hope to write about more later.

Enjoy the video and I hope you’re doing well on your 30-day experimentation.

I have a HUGE week coming up as per this post. Oh yeah, here’s the cover image.  ;)

 

1 Comment to Mini-Update, Links and AWESOME Video

  1. JC,

    The cover to your book looks great. If you haven’t already, why not make the cover into a poster and distribute it to promote your work?

    My brother, my son, and I have reviewed and summarized much of the literature on the influence of mindfulness meditation. The summary is in short section and nontechnical language so it may appeal to those who don’t want to review hundreds of research studies and anecdotal information. Unfortunately, the summary is pretty long so read it in short segments.

    “May the jewel of the lotus descend into your heart.”

    Jake
    1.58 Research on the Effects of Meditation
    Summaries of the research literature on meditation consistently demonstrate that the practice of meditation results in positive psychological and physiological effects. Compilations of experimental studies are especially impressive in demonstrating the positive effects of mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness have been employed in a number of areas. We will briefly review some of their applications.
    1.58a Medicine
    Jon Kabit-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which includes meditation practice, has been used at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center for over 30 years. This mindfulness based treatment has helped more than 16,000 patients to deal with the stress of serious illness, and it has been adopted by 250 medical centers in the United States. Research studies have demonstrated that MBSR is effective in reducing pain, anxiety, stress, and depression, and in promoting coping and healing.
    1.58b Brain Functioning
    Until fairly recently, the view held by almost all brain scientists and neurologists was that the brain did not change much after a certain point in growth and development. The conventional view was brain neurons were not generated and redistributed after the brain reached full maturity. This is no longer the prevailing view.
    In the late 1990’s, advances in measurement techniques and the efforts of brain researchers like Dr. Richard Davidson changed everything. There has been a radical shift in the view of the brain. Neuroplasticity or the brain’s capacity to continue to develop and restructure is now the scientifically accepted view.
    In the past decade or so, researchers at some of the most prestigious American universities and medical centers have used the latest brain measurement techniques to conduct research on meditation and the brain. This body of research consistently demonstrates that meditation positively influences brain structure and function.
    1.58c Mental Health and Recovery
    Mindfulness practices have been incorporated into in to mental health treatment programs that help people with problems ranging from mild to moderate psychological difficulties to debilitating psychiatric disorders. There has been widespread growth in the application of mindfulness in the mental health field.
    Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and other mindfulness-based approaches, e.g. mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), have been supported by research studies and observations by clinicians as effective in the treatment for anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
    1.58d Business
    According to an article in Business Week, “Zen and the Art of Corporate Productivity”, an increasing number of businesses are supporting meditation programs to reduce employee stress and increase productivity. A Time Magazine article mentions meditation instruction as one of the perks increasingly offered by businesses to attract and retain qualified employees and enhance their physical and psychological health at relatively low cost. Many corporate executives consider meditation programs an effective and relatively inexpensive way to reduce absenteeism and increase efficiency. Companies like Google, Hughes Aircraft, and Deutshe Bank provide meditation classes for their employees, lending support to the potential of mediation in the corporate world.
    Meditation is practiced even in the sonic-paced world of institutional investing.
    Walter Zimmerman, who writes daily advice on investing, which costs subscribers up to $3,000 per month, starts his day with 40 minutes of mindfulness meditation. He considers mindfulness meditation essential for top performance. It helps him with quick and insightful analysis of large amounts of financial data while maintaining clarity and composure.
    1.58e Sports
    As noted in the introduction of this book, mindfulness practice has even found its way into professional sports, a world of mega-salaries and giant egos. The prime example is the effort of Phil Jackson, one of the most successful NBA coaches in the history of professional basketball. Coach Jackson has practiced meditation for years and he has firsthand knowledge of its effects. In his book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, Phil Jackson observes that there are great benefits for professional athletes in the practice of mindfulness: “When players practice what is known as mindfulness – simply paying attention to what’s actually happening – not only do they play better and win more, they also become more attuned with each other.” Professional basketball is not the only team sport where players have been taught to meditate. The Caerphilly Rugby Club, a Welsh team that has been in existence for 117 years, has engaged a Buddhist monk to teach the team meditation as a way to enhance team performance. Meditation has also become a component of high school athletic programs. In his book, Boyz to Buddhas, David Forbes describes meditation as part of a program for high school football players.
    1.58f Learning and Practicing Law
    Meditation instruction is offered for both students and professors at law schools, including Yale, Columbia, Harvard, and Berkeley. Also, attorneys in some firms have taken courses in mindfulness meditation and participate in meditation groups. Steven Keeva of the American Bar Association Journal published a book on incorporating meditation and other ways of developing attention or awareness into legal work, and articles on full attention or mindfulness and legal education have appeared in legal journals such a the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.
    1.58g Education
    The central topic of this book is, of course, mindful education. For many years, a number of astute observers ranging from the influential American philosopher, psychologist, and educator William James to Japanese Zen Master Yasutami have pointed out that Western education emphasizes the content of learning at the expense of the process of paying attention or the development of mindfulness.
    Dr. Ellen Langer of Harvard University was among the first to give a book-length treatment to the application of the principles of mindfulness to learning with the publication of her book The Power of Mindful Learning . According to Professor Langer, our schools are primarily results-oriented rather than process-oriented, which inhibits student attention, interest, and learning. The emphasis on outcomes or results and other features and assumptions of our typical approach to learning can undermine appreciation of the learning process and limit intrinsic satisfaction. A potential consequence of diminished intrinsic satisfaction is relatively poor performance, which means less chance of securing external rewards or attaining goals (e.g., good grades and a college degree).
    This doesn’t mean that no one learns, enjoys, or benefits from the typical Western education. Many do. You may be one of them. However, more attention and focus on process or more mindful learning will benefit everyone.
    1.58h The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
    Developing the ability to pay attention and take a process-oriented approach has received growing attention as an educational topic in recent years. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society (CCMS), for instance, provides financial and other support to professors who are developing courses and programs to introduce students to meditation and mindfulness “…as a way of developing concentration and deeper understanding.” Many of the courses developed by professors who are fellows of the program employ the practice of mindfulness as a way to enhance learning and creativity. Today, there is an Association of Mindfulness in Higher Education (AMHE), which is supported by CCMS.
    AMHE promotes mindfulness among college professors through training and dissemination of information.
    To date, more than120 contemplative fellowships have been awarded to professors at over 80 colleges and universities. The program has provided support for course development to professors of literature, mathematics, art, philosophy, business, medicine, religion, music, dance, art, and many other disciplines. These professors teach in a wide variety of institutions ranging from large research universities to small liberal arts colleges. There are even military colleges included among those who have benefited from the program.
    The strongest evidence supporting the incorporation of meditation and mindfulness into higher education is presented in a report commissioned by The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society – Toward the Integration of Meditation into Higher Education: A Review of the Research. The report reviews and summarizes the research on meditation and higher education to date. Hundreds of studies were reviewed and summarized by experts in the area – Shauna L. Shapiro, Kirk Warren Brown, and John A. Astin. Their findings are based on combined samples of thousands of participants, mostly tested in experimental designs of various kinds and quality. Study subjects represent a wide range of students. They include research on undergraduate and graduate students in various majors and a relatively substantial number of studies of medical students.
    Their findings confirm much of what we have already presented on the connection between meditation and mindfulness practice with higher education. The result indicate that meditation and the practice of mindfulness can improve (1) meeting traditional academic objectives, such as grades and cognitive skills; (2) stress reduction and favorable psychological states; and (3) creativity, understanding of others, and compassion for self. All these findings suggest that Right Effort, including attention to the present moment, can create a positive internal environment that translates into a better chance of accomplishing extrinsic or instrumental academic goals.
    1.58i The Implications of Mindfulness Research for Students
    The findings that mindfulness practice can generate positive emotions and enhance attention are directly relevant to your life as a student. Your brain influences your learning capacity and your mood. Schoolwork will go much better when you are feeling positive or your state of mind is favorable to learning. Everyone is sometimes taxed by the amount of work and/or nature of assignments. The ability to deal with such conditions without suffering debilitating mood decline is important for performing well in school and all of life.
    1.59 On to the Second Effect of Meditation
    The practical results of mindfulness documented in systematic studies and practical applications are for many of us reason enough to practice meditation. However, as LeShan notes, there is a second result of meditation, i.e., we develop a higher level of consciousness or a broader, clearer view of reality.
    A different view or comprehension of reality is commonly referred to as a higher stage of consciousness, mind, or being. Level of consciousness or mind represents our awareness, appreciation, and understanding of both our interior (e.g., thoughts) and exterior (physical) worlds. It reflects our view of things or our perspective on the world. It shows how we frame or think about things, including the problems and challenges we encounter.
    Peter Matthiessen, a Zen adept and winner of the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction, describes one of his extraordinary experiences of awakening to expanded consciousness (called satori in Zen): “…this immense hush swelled…, as if this “I” were opening out into infinity…, to a joyous belonging so overwhelming that tears of relief poured from my eyes… Wounds, anger, ragged edges… were all gone, all had been healed; my heart was the heart of all creation”
    Who wouldn’t observe a few zillion breaths and sit until their legs atrophied for such an enlightenment experience? Peter Matthiessen’s illumination or enlightenment episode was presented to give you an idea of such a fantastic result of meditation. But don’t expect to have such a radical experience of consciousness the first time you follow your breath. You may not experience it in a lifetime of mindfulness practice. But don’t despair, as we’ve seen, practicing mindfulness has many less magnificent benefits. Master Yasutani describes less extraordinary, more practical aspects of the high level of consciousness that meditation can produce. These include “… a transformation of… character…rigidity, and self-centeredness give way to…resiliency, and compassion… self-indulgence and fear are transmuted into self-mastery and courage. The state of mind expressed by Matthiessen and Yasutani as well as innumerable others reflects what many consider the upper reaches of human mind, consciousness, or being. The few who consistently experience this level of mind are considered enlightened, perfectly aware, or fully realized beings.
    There are, however, multiple levels of mind development. The good news for us is that no matter what our current level of development, meditation will help us move up on what is typically called the spectrum of consciousness or mind. Studies based on a variety of measures of mind development used by psychologists and others demonstrate that consistent practice of meditation can result in a substantial increase in the level of mind at which we operate.
    1.60 The Importance of Level of Human Consciousness or Mind Development
    Most experts on human development agree that the levels of human consciousness or mind are hierarchically and progressively arranged. Each of us progresses, as has humankind as a species, from an infantile and self-centered view to higher levels of mind, although few reach the highest levels of consciousness. The rational or modern level of consciousness is several stages above the self-centered infantile level. At the rational level of mind, human reason and abstract thinking emerge. Reason, including the scientific method and conceptual thought, has resulted in scientific and medical advances, democratic government, accumulation of wealth, a high level of production of goods and services, and many of the other benefits of modern life.
    Based on his extensive review and integration of existing work on human consciousness, Ken Wilber points out that each level or stage of human consciousness is built upon the previous level, integrating and surpassing it. At each higher level, we can do more and understand more than we can at the previous level. However, each lower level or stage must be experienced and adequately mastered before we can go on to the next level.
    A way to understand the development of the human mind is to think of the development of any human skill or capability. Developing your ability in a particular sport, for example, baseball, requires that you first learn the basics. Of course, to learn even the rudimentary aspects of playing baseball (throwing, catching, and hitting) requires that you have acquired a minimal level of hand-eye coordination, muscular and skeletal development, and cognitive ability. Once you have developed a basic level of skill in various aspects of the sport, you build on them. You move up in level of play by becoming increasingly sophisticated in ability. But, it all rests on the foundation of learning the basics. If you never develop the basic throwing motion, you’ll never learn to throw a baseball the right way, and you’ll never be able to move through stages of increasingly faster and more accurate throwing.
    In developing baseball ability, there are differences in how quickly individuals develop and how far they develop. It is evident that some individuals move to higher levels of development than others do. How far and fast players progress depends on a number of factors including physical endowments, motivation, interest, coaching, and practice. However, no matter what the speed and extent of development, a player must learn the basics before moving on to the intermediate level, and then learn the intermediate level techniques before progressing to the advanced level.
    In the development of human mind, as in baseball, the individual starts at a basic level. Under appropriate conditions, the self then transcends that level of consciousness, awareness, or perspective, and includes, incorporates, or integrates it into the next level of mind development.
    In baseball, there are areas of development (e.g., hitting, throwing, catching, and running) that are integrated to constitute overall baseball ability, and these skill areas can develop at different rates. Similarly, levels or stages of human consciousness or mind represent a combination of different lines of development that can grow at different speeds. Examples of lines include intellectual/cognitive, emotional/affective, social/interpersonal, and moral/ethical.
    At higher levels of consciousness or mind, we generally have a broader view and see the world differently than at lower stages. The material world has not changed. What has changed is our perspective, the way we frame the world, or the way we look at things. We have an expanded and different view (“fresh eyes”) at higher stages than we do at lower stages. The great benefit of progress on the spectrum of consciousness is that problems that were insoluble at a lower level or stage can be solved at a higher level.
    Imagine that you’re lost in a cornfield. When you are at ground level all you see are corn stalks and ears. If you suddenly ascended into the sky above the field, you would reach a perspective from which you can clearly see the best way out. Your vantage point above may even show you that at ground level you were walking in circles.
    Anything that can move us up in level of consciousness, e.g., meditation, is important. Currently, on both the collective and individual level, we face serious challenges that require an increase in our individual and collective level of consciousness to adequately address them. Just a few of our current difficulties include environmental degradation, economic failure, genocide, terrorism, international conflict, unprecedented rates of depression and anxiety, and adapting to an ever-increasing pace of economic, technological, social, and political change.
    Albert Einstein observed, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” The implication is that solutions to problems experienced at our current level of development require the application of a higher (and broader) perspective or level of mind.
    1.61 Preferred Level of Mind or Consciousness Development
    The level of mind that is valued by most people in our society is the rational or modern stage. Rational thinking and inquiry, such as the scientific method, represent this level. It’s a mindset that asks “what if” and “why,” and it explores alternatives. Investigating possibilities and posing questions using reason and empirical proof as the criteria has brought us unprecedented technological, medical, and scientific progress along with material wealth and political liberties. Many in our society believe this is the highest level of mind attainable. As far as some are concerned, it’s hard to imagine that there’s anything of value beyond it.
    Industrialized and post-industrialized nations have reason at their core. Today, all societies that are part of the global economy have a critical mass of individuals operating at the rational level.
    Research shows that meditation is related to rationality. In one study, it was found that in comparison to non-meditators, those who meditate make more rational decisions when faced with a decision-making situation. MRI scans of the brain indicated that rational rather than emotional areas of the brain are engaged for meditators. It was just the opposite for their non-meditating counterparts.
    1.62 Average Level of Development
    Even though rational thought has had a tremendous influence on the world in which we live, the evidence suggests that most of us do not operate exclusively at the rational level, and only a small fraction of humans have achieved a very high level of rationality. This is despite the facts that (1) rational thinking originally emerged among humans about 3,000 years ago, (2) rationality has served as the basis of our economic and political systems for more than two centuries, and (3) for the most part, we are fully capable of rational thought by the time we are teenagers. Most people operate at the conventional or traditional level, which is the level of consciousness one step below the rational level.
    According to Wilber, less than a third of the world’s adult population has attained the rational level, between 40 and 50 percent of adult Americans operate primarily at the rational level, and only four percent of American adults have achieved the highest level of rationality. The average level of development in our society is a mix of the higher end of the traditional or conventional level and the lower end of the rational or modern stage of development.
    1.63 Relationship Between the Conventional and Rational Stages of Development
    While reading this section and the next, please keep in mind that most of us function at the conventional level at least some of the time and the rational level the rest of the time. We may approach a specific problem at the conventional level or the rational level, depending on a number of factors.
    At the conventional level of mind, we are capable of what is known as rule-role thinking or concrete operational thought. Our thinking and approach to problems is limited to the methods and worldview sanctioned by our group.
    To attain the rational or modern stage, we first must function adequately at the traditional or rule-role level. We must develop the ability to learn norms and conventions that regulate life in our group (e.g., our family, tribe, or society) before we can develop to operate at the rational level. Once we can learn at the rule-role level, we can step up to the rational level, if conditions are favorable. At this level, we can reason our way through problems and consider alternatives that go beyond the prevailing way of seeing things in our group. We see possibilities that would not occur to us at the conventional level. At the rational level, we are not as limited by conventions, which can range from the established myths of a group to traditional social, economic, or political views.
    1.64 Approaching A Problem From The Conventional and Rational Perspectives
    Here’s an example of how agricultural challenges are approached at the conventional/traditional versus rational/modern level.
    The conventional view of agriculture might be “the way we’ve always done it.” Even when it’s not working as well as in the past, we keep at it. We just do more of it or work harder at it. Alternatives may not occur to us even when we are failing. We stick to the method of farming that was passed on to us or the prevailing view, and we use it no matter what the conditions.
    Here’s an example of conventional thinking. Say, in a certain group members have been planting and harvesting the same crops on the same land for many generations. The group places a high value on using traditional methods as a way of honoring their roots. In the face of crop failure, this group would not change how they farm. Their solution to the problem would be to continue to practice traditional methods but intensify their efforts. For example, one solution based on their conventional or traditional thinking would be to plant more of the same seeds in the same fields.
    If something such a method of growing food isn’t working, the rational mind looks for alternative ways of farming that are more effective. The rational mind also tests different approaches using the scientific method such as experimentation to determine the most successful approach.
    Rather than sticking to traditional approaches, modern agricultural experts will conduct an experiment by comparing the convention approach (e.g., planting the same crop year after year on the same plot) to a rationally based approach (e.g., rotating crops annually).
    To most of us, it seems unlikely that we would take a traditional rather than an evidenced based rational approach to the farming problem. However, there are areas in most of our lives where we stick to tradition or convention despite minimal chances of success.
    1.65 Rationality and Higher Education
    Other things being equal, the higher the level of mind or consciousness individuals reach the better will be the world we inhabit. Higher education should contribute to a better world because one of the purposes of college is to promote the use of reason. As noted in section 1.62, most of us do not consistently demonstrate a high level of rationality in our lives. We all could use a boost in our ability to reason.
    One purpose of higher education should be to prepare students to adapt to life in the modern world, which is defined by reason and rationality. Many leading thinkers consider raising student levels of rational thinking among the primary objectives of higher education.
    Rational thought used appropriately for rational ends is good for individuals and society. The more people we have in the world at the rational stage of development and the higher the level of rationality they achieve, the better for all of us. As we move up the spectrum of consciousness or human mind, our perspective broadens, our compassion and concern deepens, and our problem-solving ability expands. More people reaching higher levels of rationality is also beneficial because attaining an adequate level of rationality is a necessary condition for moving on to even higher stages of consciousness.
    1.66 Higher Consciousness, Higher Education, and Mindfulness
    Because we can understand more and lead lives that are more meaningful at higher levels of mind, it seems reasonable to see our purpose in life as advancing along the spectrum of consciousness. It also seems reasonable that one of the purposes of higher education should be to assist students in progressing to their highest potential in mind development. This will benefit individuals and society.
    Where does mindfulness practice fit into all of this? Meditation helps us develop our capacity to pay attention, which assists in learning no matter what we are trying to learn at any level. Most of the content we are required to learn in higher education in the modern world is the product of reason, and the methods for generating information and problem-solving we learn in most professional and academic disciplines are based on rational procedures and techniques. In other words, the methods and content of most of our college education will reflect the rational level, and there is little doubt that increasing our mindfulness can help us learn better at this level.

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