Down From the Mountaintop: Meditation in the Modern World

The Jan. 9 issue of Parade magazine says that meditation is the No. 1 health booster available.

And a recent NBC News story revealed that Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco falls quiet twice a day as the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students meditate for 15 minutes, with remarkable results. “Quiet Time” has decreased suspensions by 79 percent and attendance and academic performance has noticeably increased.

So, why is meditation just now being discovered (or re-discovered)?

All the evidence says quiet reflection creates greater awareness of your thoughts and feelings. It helps you to see things in a different way. It has a calming effect and can help relieve stress and frustration. In that space, you can make decisions with greater clarity and think more positively, creatively, and productively. It brings greater harmony between your brain hemispheres, which are often, if not usually, at odds with each other.

Personal reflection helps us to change our natural, default setting to a more aware and considerate state. It helps us conquer instinctual negative reactions and to become more proactive. In our reflection time, we can consider how we’ve thought, felt, and acted in past experiences and how we could have reacted differently. This then carries forward into how we act in the future.

Read More on The Huffington Post

Can Mindfulness Rewire Our Brains?

One of the most revolutionary and empowering insights coming from cutting-edge neuroscience is the fact that we can change our brains by thinking different thoughts. In her enlightening book, Train Your Mind, Change Your BrainSharon Begley explains that the paradigm in the scientific community for the past few centuries is that the brain is essentially fixed, hardwired, unchangeable. This view was summed up by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish neuroanatomist, when he said, “In the adult centers the nerve paths are something fixed, ended and immutable.” In other words, “the circuits of the living brain are unchanging, its structures and organizations almost as static and stationary as a deathly white cadaver floating in a vat of formaldehyde,” as Begley summarized.

But study after study is changing this view to fit the facts.

Read More on The Huffington Post

Your Emotions Influence Your Thoughts, and Vice Versa

Our thoughts influence our emotions, and vice versa. To truly achieve internal harmony, we must understand and manage both. And in order to do this we must engage in the practice of reversing our senses.

It’s clear that our emotions have a direct impact on our thoughts. Frustration and stress make it difficult to focus on our vision. Feeling jealous about someone else’s success makes it difficult to think positive thoughts about him or her. We get cut off while driving, and immediately our blood boils, our heart starts to pound, we want to hurt the jerk. Such a simple thing can seriously throw off our entire day.

Ronald Potter-Efrong, anger management expert and author of Healing the Angry Brain, explains that when we get angry, our limbic system gets activated and our body switches into “fight or flight” mode by increasing our heart rate, respiration, and blood flow to muscles. Here’s the kicker–usually, all this happens without our conscious awareness, meaning it inhibits our thought processes.

Scientists from the University of Valencia recently completed a study on the brain’s cardiovascular, hormonal and asymmetric activation response to when we get angry. The results, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects (“they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind”) and in different psychobiological parameters. When we get angry, the researchers concluded, our heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of the brain becomes more stimulated. Neus Herrero, main author of the study and researcher at UV, explains, “Inducing emotions generates profound changes in the autonomous nervous system, which controls the cardiovascular response, and also in the endocrine system. In addition, changes in cerebral activity also occur, especially in the frontal and temporal lobes.”

Again, the point is that it’s not enough to manage our thoughts; our emotions must be monitored and managed as well. And how do we manage our emotions? Why, by our thoughts, of course. This is the essence of reversing our senses–overcoming powerful negative emotions harbored by our subconscious mind.

Read More on The Huffington Post

Reversing the Senses

It’s one of life’s great ironies that many high achievers are unhappy and unfulfilled. Their ambition and drive has taken them to places at which few ever arrive. Yet it’s also that drive which leaves them perpetually dissatisfied, never pausing to enjoy the fruits of their labor or savor the essential moments in life. Instead, they continue an unfulfilling and unending pursuit of the next big thing. For high achievers, successes cannot live up to their lofty anticipation of “true success” or satisfy their ultimate ambitions to achieve “greatness.” In many situations, they are all but blind to the good already in their life, focusing instead on negatives and shortcomings. As a result, high achievers often put tremendous pressure on themselves and are even reluctant or unwilling to accept praise or recognition for their achievements. Haunted by a personal conviction that they are destined to fail, obsessing over the inadequacies in their lives and in those around them, yet driven by an overwhelming desire to achieve greatness, they have no time to truly live life. High achievers are consumed by visions of the future, while in the present, negative perceptions of the world and themselves control their thoughts and actions. In my own life, I’ve found that no amount of money or worldly acclaim can compensate for a deep and abiding sense of internal harmony–the irreplaceable feeling that comes from knowing you’re on the right track. Doing the right things for the right reasons and being the best you can. I’ve also discovered that all too often we “fish in the wrong ponds” in our quest to achieve more. We read business and leadership books looking for tips and strategies–things we can do, actions we can take. We believe we can get to the next level by revamping our business model, revolutionizing our marketing strategies, reaching the right people, getting access to more capital, etc. The truth is that while all these things may be useful, they are not keys that unlock new levels. They are not true solutions for the real issues we face. Read more on The Huffington Post

Thinking Inwardly. Learn How to Meditate.

I’m Martin Hubbard, Principal and Founder of the Core Group. I conduct a series on Leadership From the Inside Out, specializing in thought and emotional development. Last time, I presented on the notion of Two-Way Balanced Thought, and the benefit to engaging in that type of thought process. Today, I want to expound on that a little bit, and talk about the idea of Inward Thinking, and how to develop the habit of thinking inwardly. In order to do that effectively, I’ve found it most beneficial to engage in the practice of meditation. We’ve put together a video to help explain these ideas and show you the two basic types of meditation. Give them a try, see how it works. You’ll be glad you did.

Watch the Video on YouTube

Steve Jobs and Meditation

Clearly one of the most influential men of our time, Steve Jobs was a big believer in meditation to still the mind, access intuition, become more creative, stay focused, and make wiser decisions.

Jobs was a Zen Buddhist for many years. In 1974 he traveled to India in search of a spiritual guru. When he returned, he found one in his hometown of Los Altos, California: Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Japanese-born Zen master. Jobs studied at Kobun’s Zen Center and they developed a close relationship, discussing life and Buddhism during midnight walks. Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson, “I ended up spending as much time with him as I could. Zen has been a deep influence in my life ever since.” Continue reading

Consistency is the Key

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.

– Jim Rohn, Personal Development Guru

Focusing on our thoughts and emotions changes who we are. That internal change leads to smarter doing and better results in our external world. Going inside ourselves helps us to develop better thought processes. It helps us to access our intuition to make better decisions. It makes us more peaceful and happy, which then strengthens our relationships. We simply feel better all around, and that spreads to other people as well. People enjoy spending time with us and we create more value for them. As with anything worthwhile, you won’t see results with these mental disciplines for the first few weeks of implementing them. It takes consistency over time to get the hang of it, to start getting real value from your meditation sessions, to start seeing results in your life. Three things are absolutely imperative to make meaningful internal adjustments in your life: knowledge, application, and practice. 1. You must be able to see your situation clearly and understand the principles of thought and emotion that are constantly affecting you. 2. You must apply this knowledge on a regular basis by being aware of your thoughts and emotions. 3. You must practice some form of quiet personal reflection to allow yourself to calm yourself internally. As motivational speaker and personal change expert Tony Robbins says: “If we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” Consistency is the key.

Read more about these concepts in the book, Reversing The Senses.