• Pre Class Orientation
  • Post Class Roadmap

Welcome

Thanks for visiting Id8TE’s pre-class orientation page. It’s likely that you’re here because you’ll be joining one of our public classes or a corporate training soon. You may be a complete newcomer to mindfulness – or you may have tried it once or twice, or have a friend who meditates, or you’ve seen the Anderson Cooper special on 60 Minutes, or were introduced to it in a Yoga class — Or you may have years of formal training and your own daily practice. 

Whatever the case, it’s important to know that we focus on the science and application of mindfulness as neural training that physically changes the structure and function of the brain. Everything we teach is grounded in science and confirmed by journaled research. Through this lens, mindfulness is a process we can use to consciously alter the states and behaviors that determine our mindset — and ultimately our health, wellness, performance and productivity.

Meditation and mindfulness practices have evolved over tens of thousands of years. A Google search will return over 300 million web pages, discussing them in historical, philosophical, spiritual and religious terms. But only a small fraction of those pages are relevant to a scientific understanding of mindfulness — and even fewer are aimed at applying the science as a force multiplier for human potential and performance.

This new and rapidly expanding body of knowledge constitutes what we call Modern Mindfulness — A step-by-step neural process, independent of spirituality or metaphysics — that relies on secular, performance-focused practices with measurable results. The information, research, tools and resources you’ll find here in the Student Portal are curated specifically for this new paradigm.

Share Your Objectives

As you’re getting started, please share your objectives with us. This helps us understand your experience, your challenges and the reasons you are the most interested in mindfulness training – which then helps us align the course as closely as we can to your goals. Please click here to complete our 5 minute form

Start Learning

Pre-Class Study is completely optional – but if you have the time and interest, the kinds of resources below can add invaluable background and nuance to the course.

To help you get underway, we’ve curated an assortment of videos from the early days, and the leading voices of the Modern Mindfulness movement. These basic clips provide a good (and sometimes fun) overview of how science-based modern mindfulness has emerged, been positioned, and evolved over the past decade.

 

Just 10 Mindful Minutes | Andy Puddicombe

Andy is a former Buddhist monk, an acrobat with the Moscow Circus, and now the founder and voice of Headspace, a brilliant guided meditation app, with 6 over million users, worldwide (9 minutes, 24 seconds).

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Mindfulness Is a Superpower | Dan Harris

Dan is well-known journalist and anchor for ABCs Good Morning America. In 2014, in the middle of a broadcast, Dan suffered a sudden, debilitating panic attack, and melted down in front of five million people. Long story short, that was the catalyst for a long journey of discovery that led him to mindfulness. Dan is also the author of 10% Happier (How I Tamed the Voice in my Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story). (2 minutes, 30 seconds).

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Science and Mindfulness | Anderson Cooper

A brief snippet from the 2014 segment on Mindfulness, graphically demonstrating the immediate impact of meditation on stress. The program features Anderson Cooper profiling Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the early pioneers of secular, science-based Modern Mindfulness, and the creator of “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction”, the first curriculum to apply mindfulness as an intervention for pain management in a clinical environment. (1.25 minutes). Watch the entire 25 minute segment here (25 minutes).

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Mindfulness at Google | Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is arguably the founder of Modern Mindfulness, and remains one of the most articulate voices at the intersection of mindfulness and science, medicine, education and the workplace. This is a very interesting presentation and meditation class led by Kabat-Zinn at the Google campus in Mountain View. One of the leading authorities on mindfulness, at one of the most progressive companies in the world (1 hour, 10 minutes).

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Wellness is a Skill | Dr. Richard Davidson

Dr. Richie Davidson is a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, and was the first researcher to take a close look at the impact of mindfulness on the physical structure and function of the brain. His work literally launched the Modern Mindfulness movement by validating meditation as a replicable and measurable form of neural training. (25 minutes).

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How Meditation Reshapes Our Brains | Dr. Sara Lazar

Dr. Sara Lazar is a neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and is also conducting ground-breaking research into mindfulness, the body and the brain. This is a presentation of some of her very early work (2012) around the physical impact of neural training. (8 minutes, 30 seconds).

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Happiness is a Trainable Skill | Dr. Matthieu Ricard

Dr. Matthieu Ricard was a prominent French molecular geneticist, when he decided 40 years ago, to travel to the Himalayas and become a Buddhist monk. Today, he’s an author, a close aide to the Dalai Lama, and has been named “The Happiest Man in the World” as a result of fMRI results that have recorded his “off the charts” capacity for love, kindness and compassion. Here, he makes the case that Western science is simply proving what Buddhist scholars have been saying for millennia – Happiness (or say, wellness) is a trainable neural skill. (20 minutes, 54 seconds).

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Mindfulness as Secular Meditation | Dr. Sam Harris

Dr. Sam Harris is a neuroscientist, philosopher – and is one of the most lucid, rational voices of our generation. He’s also an author, and is well-known for his sometimes-controversial New York Times best-sellers Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) and Waking Up (2016). In this presentation, Sam makes the case for separating mindfulness and meditation from the religious context of Buddhism (or in fact, religion in general), and to acknowledge that the practice and benefits stand on entirely secular, scientifically validated proofs. (6 minutes, 57 seconds).

Download The App

There are dozens of meditation phone apps out there (Headspace, Calm, The Mindfulness App, and many more). They’re all valuable, and we’re pretty enthusiastic fans (and users) of the top tier.

Most of these apps offer scheduling and timing features, and a library of guided meditation sessions. We work closely with several meditation app companies, and recommend them for various reasons, to various populations of our clients. For beginners and students in our online classes, we recommend Insight Timer — one of the most venerable, fully-featured and popular apps out there.

Insight Timer is FREE – It hosts the largest community of regular meditators on the planet, and their global community generates more daily meditation minutes than any other app. Every day, the world’s best meditation teachers upload new content, including guided meditations, beautiful meditation music, talks and podcasts.

Insight Timer is a great starting point for Apple IOS or Google Android devices. We encourage you to download it now, and start experimenting with the thousands of guided meditations and lessons from over 1,000 of the world’s best teachers.

Get Help

Please feel free to contact us anytime you need help. We’re here to assist with logistics of any sort – and will be happy to patch you through to our team of expert facilitators, if you’d like to learn more about science-based mindfulness, or need advice on getting started, or integrating mindfulness into the fabric of your life at home and work. 

Give us a shout at support@id8te.com

90-day Roadmap

A 90-Day Roadmap

Welcome to our 12-week “getting started” program for science-based mindfulness. This program offers a framework, guidelines and best practices for establishing an effective mindfulness practice aimed at improving health, happiness, personal performance and productivity.

There are many paths up this mountain — Historically, mindfulness has been experienced through the lens of religion, spirituality or new age belief. Today, science-based mindfulness offers a new paradigm based on observable physical outcomes, rather than faith or metaphysics. Science has proven meditation to be a process of neural training that literally changes the structure and function of the brain — and has shown that it can be applied systematically to change mindsets and behaviors.

Developing a durable practice (whether mindfulness, music or sports) is a synthesis of continuous learning, repetition and habit. Over the next 12 weeks, we’ll be sending you a series of weekly markers that introduce you to mindfulness concepts in a logical order. But there’s no magic in the sequence – The real key is to bring mindfulness into your life and practice daily, however briefly.

We encourage you to design a practice that incorporates some level of daily formal practice, along with mindful awareness and informal situations exercises. The practice you’ll be introduced to are all science-based (proven to result in positive and predictable changes in states and traits) and performance focused (proven to positively impact physical and mental fitness, cognitive skills and emotional intelligence). 

A Four-Stage Process

The program introduces concepts and practices across an overarching four-stage framework

         (1) Understand the CONTEXT of science-based mindfulness

         (2) Develop a healthier, happier, more authentic, engaged, focused and productive SELF

         (3) Understand, care about, communicate effectively with, and have compassion for OTHERS

         (4) Strengthen your most important leadership, functional or technical COMPETENCIES

Week 1: The Breath

Mindfulness of Breath is the foundational practice of traditional mindfulness meditation. It is the principal instrument of informal practices of calming, centering , acceptance, and overcoming mental challenges – and is the entry point for Buddhist formal practices that include Loving-Kindness, Body Scan, Just like Me and Open Awareness.

Breath meditation reduces stress, anxiety, impatience, frustration, anger and aggression – As it strengthens neural circuits associated with awareness, attention and emotional control — the three superpowers of mindfulness.

 

A Neural Training Process

Breath Meditation is a simple, four-step process that trains neural circuits associated with attention control and emotional regulation. Here are the steps:

(1) Focus all your attention on the sensation of your breath as it passes through your nostrils, or the rise and fall of the chest of belly as it passes through your body

(2) Within seconds you will be distracted by thoughts that rise naturally into your consciousness

(3) You will notice that you’ve been distracted, and so can

(4) Gently bring your attention back to your breath.

From the UCLA Mindfulness and Awareness Research Center

Here is a guided breath meditation facilitated by Diana Winston, the Director of Mindfulness Education at the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. You’ll find a whole series of streamable, downloadable guided meditations from Diana and UCLA MARC, here.

 

The breath is always there. Science has proven that patterns of breathing can trigger the relaxation response, regulate the physiology of the brain and body, help encode memory, and alter our cognitive abilities. You can use breath meditation for a few minutes or much longer, anywhere, anytime – to calm the mind, gain greater clarity and perform at a higher level.

Start Breathing

There are a zillion or so iterations of breath meditation out on the web, and several hundred or more guided breath sessions on the Insight Timer mobile app. We recommend you start with a guided mediation of 3 to 5 minutes, and gradually work your way up to a ten minute practice. This level of investment, once daily (or nearly so), will return measurable results in reducing stress and anxiety, while increasing positivity, health and well being, self awareness, clarity and concentration.

Week 2: Awareness

Mindfulness is simply a clear, non-judgmental awareness of our inner and outer worlds. The dictionary definition of awareness is “to directly know and perceive, to feel or to be situationally present”. Even more broadly, it is the state of our conscious sensation. Mindful awareness is the ability to pay deliberate attention to our internal and external experiences, from moment to moment in an open, curious and non-judgmental way.

When we are mindfully aware of something, we are observing it, not caught up in it, and not identified with it. The psychological term, “the observing ego” – considered to be essential for healthy functioning – refers to this capacity (i.e., mindfulness) to detach from the stream of consciousness and observe it.

Recognizing that our minds are unconsciously wandering, or perseverating (locked into rumination or worry), so that we can return to awareness in the present moment…is the first superpower of mindfulness

Awareness of Thoughts

This is a guided meditation from Elisha Goldstein and Mindful.org that encourages us to relate to instead of from our thoughts. When we engage in this practice, maybe starting out for five minutes a day, we begin to notice the storylines that drive our instant and unconscious reactions. When we notice that automaticity, and train our brain to regard thoughts with equanimity – we create a space between stimulus reaction, where we have the freedom to choose a more strategic response.

A Simple Awareness Meditation Text

1. Begin by getting comfortable in a seated position, one where you’re sitting up straight but you’re not sitting up rigidly straight. It’s a position of ease. You can close your eyes or lower your gaze toward the floor.

2. Take a few deep breaths. As you’re doing this, get a sense of your body sitting here and also a sense of where you’re starting this moment from physically, emotionally, and mentally. At this time of the day, how is the body physically? Is there any tension or tightness anywhere? What emotions are present? Is there a neutral feeling or a sense of anxiousness or calm? Also, is the mind busy or calm? Begin to recognize this body naturally breathing.

3. As you breath in, bring a beginner’s mind to this inhalation, noticing it as if for the first time. Breathing out, bringing that same attitude toward the exhalation. Just resting awareness on the breath.

4. Begin to get a sense of this body sitting here—instead of just noticing the positioning of the body, feel into the entirety of the body in this moment. This body is full of sensations from warmth to coolness, achiness, pressure, holding, pulsing, itchiness…perhaps some areas don’t have any feeing at all. Just spend the next minute feeling the sensations. Whatever is being experienced, just allow it and let it be, being curious about what’s here.

5. If at any point the mind wanders, just see where it wandered to. Touch that thought for a moment, as if it was your own reflection in the water, and gently go back to the sensations in the body.

6. Expand awareness from the body to sounds. Because of this mind and these ears, we have the gift of audibility, this gift of hearing. Not everyone has this gift, but here we have it now. Take a moment to notice the rising and falling of sounds—like in my voice—and whenever the mind wanders, see, touch, and gently go back to sounds.

7. Just like with sounds, we can also notice our thoughts, as if we were sitting in a dark movie theatre, noticing the dialogue and the images come and go on the screen. So beginning now to bring awareness to thoughts themselves. Even the thought, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” is a thought. Noticing an opening up, being aware.

8. Breathe in, and breathe out, and as we gently come back to the breath, notice how the whole body expands on an inhalation, contracts on an exhalation. We can genuinely thank ourselves for taking this time out of our day just to engage in our own practice for our health and well-being.

Awareness, Attention and Acceptance

Here’s a very comprehensive presentation on mindfulness and awareness, attention and acceptance from Diana Winston, the Director of Mindfulness at the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.

Be Aware in the Present

Mindful awareness is an everyday psychological capacity, not a lofty mystical state. It is a simple awareness of the flow of experience in our consciousness – an alert observing of our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, desires, memories, images, personality dynamics and attitudes.

With mindful awareness, thoughts, emotions and feelings are recognized to be temporary mental phenomena that rise and fall, and are to be regarded without attachment or reactivity. The nature of the mind is to be swept away by our thoughts, or be lost in rumination about ourselves, or to wander unconsciously through the default mode network.

Simply noticing this mindlessness, and returning to awareness in the present-moment gives us the opportunity to re-center, reset, and intentionally redirect our attention.

Week 3: Attention Control

Attention control is a keystone mental skill that underlies virtually every positive human state, trait and competency. In fact, amid today’s information overload, digital distraction, six-second attention spans and workplace ADHD, attention control is a superpower.

The Attention Economy

The scarce resource in today’s always-on, open 24/7, technology-rich, global knowledge economy is no longer talent, ideas or innovation… it’s simply attention. Attention control is the discipline to ignore distraction, to halt self-referential rumination and worry, to exit the mindless wandering of the default mode network – and to consciously direct attention and sustain concentration.

Focus and attention control enable cognitively demanding deep work. They enable us to master complicated information and produce better results in less time. But equally important is knowing that what we pay attention to really matters. At this very moment, we are exactly the sum of what we’ve chosen to pay attention to since birth (or before) – and as we go forward from this moment, what captures our attention (whether consciously or unconsciously), will determine the content and quality of our lives.

Strengthening Attention Control

What we pay attention to physically shapes the brain, by wiring together networks that reflect the objects and outcomes of our attention. Which is why a mind that spends 46.9% of its time wandering compulsively through the negativity of the default mode network, produces a brain mired in chronic stress, anxiety and depression.

Mindful awareness trains us to notice this unconscious drift — it reminds us to regain consciousness and intentionally direct our attention — and it strengthens the networks that sustain it. Control of focus, attention and concentration in this manner is not only a critical competency for knowledge work, it is central to executive functioning and cognitive performance overall.

The simple four-step process of breath meditation is like taking your brain to the gym. Just as various cardio and resistance exercises predictably strengthen specific muscles and systems in the body – mindfulness meditation strengthens specific neural networks and firing patterns associated with attention control in the brain.

From Dr. Bruno Cayoun and MICBT Institute

Here is a comprehensive presentation of the positive impact of mindfulness practices on distraction and attention deficit (in children, in adults, in the workplace). The discussion includes study data on ADD/ADHD, attention control, mind-body integration, emotional regulation and behavior change.

From Dr. Daniel Goleman and Big Think

Dr. Goleman is a Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, and author of the seminal best-seller “Emotional Intelligence”. Increasingly, he has published insights into his 40-year mindfulness meditation practice, and its impact on his experience and teachings. In this brief video he makes the argument for practicing mindfulness to  strengthen the neural circuitry associated with focus and concentration.

Attention Control and Performance

(1) A man is sitting in his living room, in front of a chessboard. Classical music plays in the background. The man is focused, thinking about the next move, about his chess strategy, and about the future possibilities of the game. His neural networks are optimizing, making him a better chess player.

(2) A man is sitting in his living room, in front of a chessboard. Classical music plays in the background. The man is focused, thinking about the music he hears, listening to the chords and anticipating the sounds still to come. His neural networks are optimizing, making him better at understanding music and hearing subtleties within a melody.

(3) A man is sitting in his living room, in front of a chessboard. Classical music plays in the background. The man is focused, gritting his teeth as another flash of pain comes from his bad back. His neural networks are optimizing, making the pain more intense, easier to feel, harder to ignore.

We don’t become better at things we do – we become better at things we pay attention to while we’re doing them. Mindfulness strengthens the neural circuits in the brain that enable us to consciously direct, deeply engage and sustain our concentration. This process is at the heart of elite performance — and is part of daily training for the U.S. Olympics Team, the Navy Seal Teams, elite athletes and performers, and many professional sports teams, worldwide.

Week 4: Emotional Control

Emotional regulation is the complex process of initiating, amplifying, inhibiting, or modulating states and behaviors in response to one’s own thoughts, emotions, feelings – or to situations and circumstances – or to the states or behaviors of others.

Emotional Regulation is a Superpower

In a world of information overload, overwork, chronic stress and frayed nerves – the ability to apprehend and respond consciously to thoughts, emotions, feelings and circumstances as they occur, is a superpower.

Mindfulness creates the conditions for emotional control by training the brain to:

(1) Create the conditions for calm, awareness and meta-cognition.

(2) Observe thoughts, emotions and feelings with equanimity, as they rise and fall in consciousness.

(3) Regard these phenomena as temporal, and without reacting or attaching to them.

(4) Consciously choose to ignore automatic reactions, in favor of the most strategic response.

Mindfulness keeps us from unconsciously attaching, and being swept away by our thoughts – and creates the mental space between stimulus and reaction, wherein we can consciously choose our most strategic response.

Here’s a brief perspective from Andy Puddicombe, former Buddhist monk and founder of meditation app Headspace:

Reactivity and Bias

As a species, we’ve evolved to react automatically to events as they occur — This happens so quickly that we rarely question the fuzzy memories, faulty assumptions, or unexamined biases that color or skew our reaction.

Unconsciously, we tend to answer anger with anger, aggression with fear, and trauma with sadness. These types of automatic response patterns make the brain more efficient, but can result in prejudice, unpleasant feelings and poor decisions. Mindfulness delays this impulsive reaction, and triggers the process of metacognition.

Here’s a great real-world perspective on how bias affects our critical thinking, decision-making and performance in the workplace. It was produced at Google University, where over 26,000 people have taken the Unconscious Bias at Work workshop:

Mindful Metacognition

The uniquely human capability that allows us to “think about what we’re thinking about” is called metacognition. It is a process and state of awareness that allows us to assess our own thoughts and actions, compare concepts and strategies, identify bias and understand the minds and motivations of others. The metacognition of mindfulness is what enables us to actually examine our unconscious reactions, assess them, and correct course as necessary.

Emotional Tolerance 

As a society, we’re generally overworked, sleep deprived and distracted — and our levels of chronic stress, anxiety disorders and depression continue to increase year over year. As a result, our tempers are frayed, we’re more impatient, frustrated and easily angered — triggering automatic reactions that can be compulsively negative.

Emotional Distress

Fight, Flight or Freeze, and Amygdala Hijack are terms that describe states of emotional distress that subconsciously trigger extreme physiological response in the brain and body. These are early survival mechanisms that have been hard-wired through evolution, but are highly problematic in the modern world. Today, we are bombarded with information, constant change and chronic stress — and so live in a near-constant state of readiness that clicks into emergency mode, relatively often. This exacerbates mental anxiety, worry, panic and depression, while damaging our body’s immune system and resilience.   

Week 5: Self Awareness

Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of our character, motivations, desires, aversions, strengths, weaknesses, emotions and feelings. As Dr. Daniel Goleman, Harvard Professor Emeritus and author of Emotional Intelligence puts it: “Self-Awareness is knowing one’s internal states, preferences and intuitions”.

But self-awareness is more than simply understanding who we are — it’s also the knowledge of how we show up in the world — and how others perceive us.

Mindfulness Strengthens Self Awareness

Mindfulness practices that direct attention to our current experience in a non-judgmental way (as in breath meditation), strengthen our self knowledge and help us understand our patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Mindfulness can also help us recognize the physical signals that arise from our bodies. Interoception is the clinical term for the ability to sense our heart rate, muscle tension and other phenomena. Studies confirm that mindfulness sharpens interoception through mind-body practices like the Body Scan:

Why Self Awareness?

Stanford Graduate Business School, ranked the number one B-school in the world for 2018, recently published a study that concluded: “Self Awareness is the most important competency for business and career success today”.

And a 4-year study of Self Awareness, conducted by the Universities of Colorado and North Carolina and supported by meta-analyses of over 8000 scientific papers, and surveys of nearly 5,000 participants, concluded:

“When we see ourselves clearly, we are more creative and more confident. We make better decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We are better workers, who get more promotions. And we’re more effective leaders, with happier people, more productive teams and more profitable companies.”

Data show that most (in fact, above 90% of) people believe they possess a high level of self awareness – but this recent presentation by Dr. Tasha Eurich, offers a some research-based push back:

Those Who Lack Self Awareness tend to…

Reject Ignore, or react defensively to feedback

Display a lack of empathy or compassion for others

Be “controlling”, or micromanage others

Miss or disregard important social and emotional signals

Have an inflated opinion of their own contribution or performance

Take credit for success and blames others for failure

Be hurtful to others without realizing it

Feel entitled to greater recognition and reward

Openly display anger, frustration or impatience towards others.

Highly Self Aware People tend to… 


Step up and take responsibility

Be kind, caring and courteous

Be positive and fun to work around

Be open to input and new ideas

Be authentic, trustworthy and fair

Be able to influence and mobilize others

Have strong attention control

Have strong emotional control

Have strong beliefs, values and purpose

The State of Self Awareness



We’re consciously interested and engaged in the present

We’re aware of our thoughts and emotions, as they arise

We know them to be temporary mental phenomena, not reality

We can observe them with perspective and equanimity

We understand our emotional triggers

We’re aware of our automatic biases and reactions

We’re in conscious control of our emotions

We’re attuned to others and the situation

We’re acting in congruence with our beliefs, values and purpose.

Self Awareness and EQ

Self-awareness is a measure of alignment with our purpose and values, a competency for building positive relationships — and the foundation of emotional intelligence. Over the past two decades, multiple studies have proven that emotional intelligence (EQ) is a significantly stronger predictor of career success than intellect (IQ). It’s proven that Individuals with high emotional intelligent scores:

(1) Are healthier and happier

(2) Are considered more trustworthy and likable

(3) Build more successful relationships and networks

(4) Perform better in the workplace

(5) Have stronger leadership competencies

(6) Are routinely promoted past their higher IQ peers.

Recent studies show that the major building blocks of emotional intelligence (self awareness, self management, empathy and social competence), align almost exactly with the outcomes of mindfulness practice.

Week 6: Mind-Body Integration

Science has proven that physical conditions affect our mental health, and that mental conditions affect our physical health. The body comprises our technical ability to function, while the mind comprises our motivation to function.

Understanding the mind-body connection is fundamental to practicing mindfulness and an important building block for self knowledge and awareness.

The Brain and Body

The brain is the hardware that allows us to experience mental states that are labeled the “mind.” This concept of the “mind” encompasses thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. Different mental states can positively or negatively affect biological functioning. This occurs since the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems share a common chemical language, which allows constant communication between the mind and body through messengers like hormones and neurotransmitters.

For example, neurological pathways connect parts of the brain that process emotions with the spinal cord, muscles, cardiovascular system, and digestive tract. This allows major life events, stressors, or emotions to trigger physical symptoms. You may have experienced this aspect of the mind-body connection when you feel butterflies in your stomach when you feel nervous, or when you heart feels like it is pounding out of your chest when you are under intense stress.

These intersecting systems help to establish the mind-body connection that influences the maintenance of health or the development of disease. For example, emotions like anxiety can trigger increased stress hormones, which may suppress the immune system and set the stage for the development of infections or cancer.

Here is a brief panel discussion on mind-body science, featuring Dr. Ritchie Davidson, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin and one of the founders of the modern science-based mindfulness movement:

And here is a presentation by Dr. Catherine Kerr, at Brown University, that explores the intersection of the mind, the body and mindfulness meditation:

Mind-Body Outcomes of Mindfulness

Three decades of journaled studies in neuroscience, micro biology, medicine and psychology confirm that mindfulness produces measurable physical changes in the body. Some of the most prominent benefits include:

(1)  Higher brain functioning

(2)  Improved immune function

(3)  Improved sleep

(4)  Improved awareness

(5)  Improved attention control

(6)  Improved emotional regulation

(7)  Improved cognitive performance

(8)  Improved emotional intelligence

(9)  Improved social intelligence

(10) Improved motivation

(11) Improved engagement

(12) Lowered blood pressure

(13) Lowered heart rate

(14) Reduced anxiety levels

(15) Reduced chronic stress

(16) Reduced chronic illness

(17) Reduced agitation, anger and aggression

(18) Reduced headache and migraine

(19) Reduced depression and PTSD

(20) Reduced attention deficit

(21) Reduced obesity

(22) Reduced addiction

Here’s a presentation on mindfulness outcomes for health and wellness, from Diana Winston, the Director of Mindfulness Education at the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.

Practicing Embodied Mindfulness

Our traditional theory of cognition is that we represent what is “out there”in the world in abstract symbols and then think by manipulating them. In this model, thinking can be done by a human, a computer or by a disembodied brain in a vat.

Increasingly though, researchers in psychology, linguistics and AI are embracing the notion that knowledge is grounded in bodily states and in the brain’s modality-specific systems. In this model, physical actions or anatomy (e.g., posture) play an important causal role in cognition (and emotion).

Embodied mindfulness shifts our attention from a present moment containing thoughts, emotions and environmental stimuli (sounds, smells, etc) – to attend specifically to our embodied experience. This is based in the belief that present-centered awareness is indeed body-based – a theory now supported by the latest neuroscience, which shows that when we are present in the moment, areas of the brain light up that are responsible for noticing the “felt sense” of the body.

Week 7: Journaling for Self Awareness

Meditation is a path to understanding thoughts that simply appear in consciousness — Journaling prompts thoughts in our subconscious to rise into view. Both are important lines of query for self-awareness.

The Subconscious Reservoir

Self-awareness emerges from meditation through a process of contemplation and inquiry. Using Mindfulness of Breath or a guided practice, we calm our minds and direct our attention inwards with an intention to understand our purpose, values, desires and aversions — and as thoughts, emotions and feelings appear, we examine them with curiosity, self-compassion and equanimity.

But meditation can only observe what rises into consciousness. We don’t have the faculty to dive into the reservoir of memory and sensation buried in the subconscious, and so it remains for the most part, unseen and unexamined — and yet, it’s the source, and often most powerful driver of our beliefs and behaviors.

Journaling for Self-Awareness

Journaling is a meditative practice that surfaces subconscious insights. The mind works continuously, 24/7 — regulating bodily systems, processing interior dialogue, solving background problems and making sense of stimuli. This creates the conditions for moving towards and achieving our goals.

What happens on the subconscious level shapes our relationship to events in the conscious world — in fact, it’s said that “the subconscious will translate into its physical equivalent, by the most direct and practical method available”.

The process of journaling is a tap into our inner world — where we conceive creative ideas, see patterns, and unlock answers hidden just below the surface. It prompts unexamined thoughts and emotions into our consciousness, so that we can see them with dispassion, understand them rationally, and reflect on their relationship to our purpose and values.

How it Works:

Journaling for self-awareness is a simple process. We start with a question, or sequence of questions that prompt us towards an area of inquiry that we want to explore. Here are a handful of suggestions aimed at various facets of self-awareness:

(1) What are my most important core beliefs?

(2) What do I value most in my life?

(3) What am I doing when I’m feeling happiest?

(4) What are my greatest fears and why?

(5) What would I like to change at home?

(6) What would I like to change at work?

(7) What would I like to change in my relationships?

(8) What would I like to accomplish in the next 5 years?

(9) What’s top of mind for me right now?

To start, be calm and take a few relaxing breaths. Then begin to think about a single prompt and begin to write… Budget in at least 5 to 10 minutes for the exercise if you can. You can journal on one prompt, or toggle to several.

We’re Writing for Ourselves

With journaling, we’re not communicating our thoughts to others — we’re surfacing them, recording what comes up and all of the memories, thoughts, emotions, feelings and projections that come up with it. The purpose of the exercise is to encourage our thoughts to flow, and let them flow right onto the paper. We’re opening a channel to our subconscious and recording what comes up in a stream of consciousness.

We’re writing for ourselves, and recording what we think with transparency and honesty. We don’t have to think about what we’re writing — we just write. It doesn’t matter if we stay close to the topic, what’s important is to let the mind go where it wants to go.

What the Pro’s Say

(1)  Journaling for self awareness is asking yourself about yourself. Pretty soon you get to know who you really are: your motives, your values, the way you think and the way you feel. When you put it on paper, you are free to see it – embrace it – discard it – and proceed.

(2)  Journaling is a beautiful way to make sense of all the senselessness; to reflect on this world, yourself, and examine the way you are living. When you feel unsteady, journaling gives you an outlet to vent and make change. It becomes a safe place to hold your thoughts, remain present, and face any worries or anxieties. All you have to do is start.

(3)  Journaling is the time to confront your thoughts, explore your curiosities, and face your feelings head on. Reflection is such an enormous part of your growth, and when you journal, you get out of your head and become present.

(4)  Journaling is the act of tapping into your stream of consciousness – where there is no right or wrong – just find your flow.

(5)  Journaling can be meditative writing in the present – Simply asking yourself why you feel a certain way (anger, happiness, frustration, love) can deliver very surprising insights.

(6)  Journaling will help you to discover who you are, what you want, and who you really want to be. It will not only highlight the insignificance of the things in life you hold dear, but also how you can allow yourself to release that which does not serve you anymore.

(7)  Be honest with yourself in your journal; confront your ugly thoughts, embrace and elaborate all your beautiful hopes and dreams and don’t be afraid of what is written.

(8)  Do not censor yourself in your journal. It is the one place you can go to speak freely without any judgement.

(9)  Remember that thoughts are not truth – But whether they are beautiful and bright or ugly and dark, seeing them in front of you will help you discover more of who you are and where you need to be.

Week 8: Self-Compassion

Self-compassion leads us to treat ourselves with kindness, as we would any close friend we cared about. It helps us accept that we’re all imperfect humans, so we can weather the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease.

Here are some recent data on self-compassion, presented at Google University by Dr. Kristin Neff, Professor of Human Development at University of Texas, and the leading researcher and expert in the field:

The Science of Happiness

Some form of meditation is practiced in every major world religion today. For ten thousand years, it has promised a path to nirvana, bliss, enlightenment, salvation… What we might consider to be “happiness”, in modern secular terms.

Neuroscience has proven the connection between a mind that is systematically trained through meditation, and physical changes in the brain that result in feelings of fulfillment, happiness and joy. The act of meditation provides the operating system for neural training – and runs the software of loving-kindness, gratitude, compassion and forgiveness.

Happiness is a keystone mental state that broadly impacts our health, our sense of self, our relationships and our performance. And, according to neuroscientist Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, it is an important key to fast-tracking our personal and professional success:

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-Kindness is a foundational, formal mindfulness meditation practice. It develops and strengthens feelings of empathy, goodwill, kindness, gratitude and forgiveness towards others, while extending compassion, care and kindness to ourselves.

“Metta”, the Pali word for Loving-Kindness practice means benevolence, friendliness, amity, goodwill and active interest in others. In Buddhism, it is the first of the Four Sublime States, and is one of the most-researched and most-powerful mindfulness meditation practices.

Studies have identified a range of beneficial outcomes of practice, including: decreases in bias, stress, chronic pain, migraine, schizophrenia spectrum disorders and PTSD — and increases in self-reported wellbeing, positive emotions, empathy, compassion and self-compassion, the relaxation response and social connection.

Self Compassion on Demand

When you’re feeling stress or emotional pain— perhaps you are caught in a traffic jam, are arguing with a loved one, or are feeling inadequate in some way— it’s helpful to have a set of Loving-Kindness phrases memorized to help you remember to be more compassionate to yourself in the moment. You can take a deep breath, put your hand over your heart, and repeat the following phrases:

This is a moment of suffering

Suffering is a part of life

May I be kind to myself

May I give myself the compassion I need

These phrases capture the essence of the three components of self-compassion. The first phrase helps to mindfully open to the sting of emotional pain. (You can also just say “this is really hard right now” or “this hurts.”) The second phrase reminds us that suffering unites all living beings and reduces the tendency to feel ashamed and isolated when things go wrong in our lives. The third phrase begins the process of responding with self-kindness rather than self-criticism. The final phrase reinforces the idea that you both need and deserve compassion in difficult moments. Other phrases you might try are: May I forgive myself,” or “May I learn to accept what I cannot change.”

And a final thought… Get some rest:

Week 9: Empathy and Compassion

Empathy and compassion are the most fundamental building blocks of a positive relationship, and extending love and caring to others is proven to correspondingly increase measures of self-love and self-worth.

Empathy Triggers Compassion

Empathy is an observable, measurable neural process that reflects a visceral sensation of the feelings and emotions of others. It is a hard-wired firing of mirror neurons that mimic, not just the expression of emotion, but the physical feelings associated with what’s being observed. It is the most fundamental structure of our ability to understand others, and is a trigger for compassion.

Compassion is the urge to relieve that suffering — the neural state of compassion is accompanied by a flood of neural reward chemicals, including dopamine and serotonin. The saying “It feels better to give than receive” is literally true. There is warmth and positive emotion associated with helping others — and this motivates prosocial behaviors in general (caring, kindness, generosity, etc)

Empathy and Compassion have always been considered to be intrinsic traits, not trainable skills. But researchers have now proven that it can be developed and strengthened through the neural training of mindfulness meditation.

Here’s an interesting perspective on the genesis, physiology and global impact of empathy, from best-selling author, economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin:

Loving-Kindness Meditation

For 2,500 years, the process of Loving-Kindness meditation has been an engine to strengthen the networks, pathways and firing patterns associated with empathy and compassion.

Through Loving-Kindness practice, we learn first to extend unconditional love, compassion and kindness to others – loved ones, those around us and beyond – and to ourselves  The practice has been studied extensively, correlates with a shift in daily experience – and an array of positive emotions and behaviors.

Here is an interesting class on Loving-Kindness and compassion, presented by French microbiologist and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard at Google University:

The Neuroscience of Compassion

Tania Singer is a social neuroscientist and psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences – known for research showing that the plastic brain can be trained to dampen selfish behaviors and increase empathy and compassion.

In this presentation at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Singer shows that our decision-making is driven by a set of psychological motivations – from power to fear – that can be altered through meditation to help us make better decisions for our health and society.

Week 10: Conflict and Forgiveness

Workplace and domestic incivility and conflict (as well as the more extreme forms of bullying, harassment and violence) have increased year over year since the early 1990s. While 25 percent of employees surveyed in 1998 reported being treated rudely at work at least once a week, that figure rose to 55 percent in 2011 and 62 percent in 2016, according to Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Conflict (in the workplace and beyond) is disruptive, emotionally challenging, and leaves emotional pains in its wake. Choosing to forgive is a way to release the distress that arises again and again from the memory of these incidents—but forgiveness can be a difficult process.

We’re 99.9% Identical

Realizing that a person who seems so different, is in a fundamental way “just like you”, can become the basis for real connection, empathy and forgiveness. People we don’t know very well, people with whom we’ve had some difficulty or a cultural difference, or people who we feel are doing us harm, or who we see as an enemy — or those we’re in conflict with.

Mindfulness helps us develop a sense of compassionate understanding, by strengthening our sense of shared experience as human beings. Scientists have long recognized that despite physical differences, diverse human populations are genetically similar.

In fact, recent research shows that humans are 99.9% identical and, of that tiny 0.1% difference, 94% of the variation is among individuals from the same populations and only six per cent between individuals from different populations.

We’re Fundamentally Connected

As humans, we all experience social pain that is as real and tangible as physical pain. Science tells us that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. We are profoundly shaped by our social environment — and we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. This social pain is wired into our operating system, suggesting that we’ve evolved to need connection for existential survival.

Forgiveness is among the most fundamental social competencies. The capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is as critical in the workplace as it is in our personal relationships. In the past decade, researchers have begun to investigate forgiveness as a dynamic that leads to improved mental fitness, resiliency and performance.

According to Aquino, Grover, Goldman, and Folger (2003), “Forgiveness should be an important concern of both organizational theorists and practicing managers because it is a way for individuals to repair damaged workplace relationships and overcome debilitating thoughts and emotions resulting from interpersonal injury”

They argue that humans working together have endless opportunities to offend or harm others, intentionally or unintentionally. An organization is a melee of continuously changing relationships – and the quality of healing broken relationships can profoundly influence how well an organization functions, as well as the nature of work life within organizations.

You’re Just Like Me

Despite this genetic need for connection, our ego insists that we are separate, apart, fundamentally different and unique. This unconscious belief feeds and magnifies anger, conflict and blame.

But in fact, most everybody is doing the best they can, under less than perfect conditions ~ Just like me

They experience pain and suffering ~ Just like me

They are anxious and under stress ~ Just like me

They get frustrated and impatient ~ Just like me

They make dumb mistakes ~ Just like me

They want to be right ~ Just like me

They want to be recognized ~ Just like me

They want to be loved and accepted ~ Just like me

The formal meditation practice “Just Like Me” is a way to direct attention to the 99.9% of humanity we share with the person we may be angry or upset with. That creates empathy, which creates compassion, which can lead to forgiveness.

Forgiveness and Emotional Control

Health, happiness, performance and productivity all suffer when we can’t let go of resentment. But forgiveness requires a conscious shift in perspective — it can be our realization that we are the ones needlessly suffering, or a realization that the other is simply a human being doing (perhaps mistakenly) what they hope will bring them happiness.

This acceptance gives us back the power of choice that comprises the superpower of emotional regulation. It frees us from being attached and swept away by our reactions or resentments, and gives us the power to choose a more strategic response.