Tag Archives: Meditation

You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter by Joe Dispenza

Summary
  1. A placebo affect is when we believe in some external stimulus which changes our body condition socks or something else. This book is about how to harness and use this amazing power of the placebo effect but without external stimulus in order to our achieve our goals and health
Key Takeaways
  1. 3 elements:
    1. Conditioning
    2. Expectation
    3. Meaning
  2. Mind and matter truly are the same thing and this understanding is key to unlocking your power
  3. Information leads to transformation
  4. Beliefs need to feel more real than current reality. The ability to touch, feel, totally embody yourself in your vision or goal before it is manifested in reality is key
  5. Change can only occur when you become conscious of your unconscious thoughts, feelings, reactions and other habit patterns
  6. You have to rise above these to be your own placebo: Body, Environment, Time
  7. Attitudes are temporary beliefs and most beliefs are made up from past thoughts and experiences. They are addicting and habit forming so be very careful about your thoughts. Perception is an elongated state of being which is formed by your beliefs, attitudes, thoughts and feelings. You don’t see reality as it truly is. You fill in the gaps with your beliefs and attitudes. The only way to change your perception is to change your state of being, recognizing your faulty and incomplete beliefs for what they are. This process is so difficult because we are addicted to our beliefs and take them to be truth almost all the time
  8. As soon as we expects, believes and surrenders to an outcome without consciously thinking about it or analyzing it, then we’ll become vulnerable to that particular reality. Imagine how your life would change if you were able to change your beliefs to one which wholeheartedly believed the universe was conspiring to help you at all times
  9. The quantum model shows that at the subatomic level matter is here one second and gone the next. This can indicate that all future scenarios already exist in some alternate universe and is a candidate to how we can affect and change our future by holding a clear and firm intention. This is how the mind can affect matter by collapsing all potential energy fields into a single focus day after day
  10. Another way to think of disease is as a down regulation of your energy. You have become a material list because you are putting greater emphasis on matter that is painful or hurtful then energy. You lose energy and consciousness through this path and it becomes your body or not are trying to change matter which is hopeless
  11. Cells are 100 times more susceptible to energy chemicals which is why being in the state of coherence is so important
  12. The author believes that deep down every human believes in their greatness in the potential to make the future better than the present
  13. Truly understanding intellectually what is happening drives home the power of this meditation and belief system. It is like hard coding these police into our system
  14. The most conducive times to meditate or right when you wake up or right before bed
  15. Meditate in a similar place without distractions and wear comfortable clothing
  16. Living too rigid and scheduled of a life doesn’t allow space for spontaneity and inspiration to enter. In order to affect lasting change you have to be fully in the present moment and not thinking about or worried about the next task on your schedule. You have to become the unknown or pure consciousness where you don’t attach to any faith, idea, belief, disease or anything else
  17. Change or belief meditation – determine want to to perceptions about yourself that you want to change and then what you want to believe and how that will make you feel
    1. Open focus meditation is one where you focus more on space and the unknown send any particular mantra idea or thought. Enhances our energy by focusing on energy
    2. In this next part fully detach from your identity and become 100% immersed in the present moment. This is the sweet spot as the present moment can lead to any future
    3. You should allow yourself just to linger the street parts should be about 15 minutes each
    4. Your job is not to figure out when or where or how to make your fish and happy simply to see it and feel it wholeheartedly
  18. The author’s definition of genius is the ability and willingness to get uncomfortable
  19. A clear intention with uncompromising trust and belief is what is needed to dive into the unknown and to take steps into unleashing the power of the placebo
What I got out of it
  1. You really get an appreciation for the power of your mind, your thoughts, your intentions after you hear some of these stories

10-Day Silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat

In June 2017, I went on a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Kathmandu, Nepal. This kind of retreat has been on my bucket list for some time and I finally had enough space and time to make it a reality. It was one of the more difficult, inspiring, impactful and enlightening experiences of my life. My aim is to learn and do things which I think have a good chance of being helpful throughout my life (nothing short-term or ephemeral) and across boundaries (nothing siloed) – be it work, building great relationships, athletics or any other piece of the “well-balanced life mosaic.” I think this challenge perfectly suits this criteria and while 10 days is a very short stint to dive into your consciousness and work on self-discovery and self-mastery, it has served as an incredible impetus to make meditation a more regular and focused part of my every day life. Below are some of my takeaways and thoughts on my 10-day retreat…

 

Vipassana: Its Goals and Theory (as I understand it)

  • Vipassana means understanding reality as it truly is and not as you want it to be, through the framework of the body.
  • It is a totally non-secular, universal approach as there are no images of dieties tied in, chanting, mantras or other typically religious aspects involved which can isolate or polarize people from different backgrounds. It is simply non-judgmental, non-reactive, equanimious observation and awareness of ever subtler bodily sensations, breath and thoughts with the understanding that all of it is impermanent – Anitya. True understanding of this impermanence, whether the sensation is typically considered desirable or not desirable helps develop a balanced mind as one gradually gets less attached to pleasurable sensations and slowly starts despising less the pain or tension or wandering mind or misery which accompanies long sits and of course life in general. However, if and when misery does occur, its magnitude and duration is considerably less.
  • By simply observing your bodily sensations and thoughts without judgment or reaction, you will slowly retrain your thought and habit patterns to one of observation and action rather than of judgment and impulsive reaction. One begins to notice the changing nature of body and mind which leads to the understanding of the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth realization by direct experience is the beginning of the path towards liberation from suffering. Thus, staying equanimious for long periods of time allows old sankharas (deep rooted “5 big enemies” of craving, aversion, drowsiness, hesitation and doubt) to arise in body or thought and if you can simply observe rather than judge and react, they will slowly weaken and eventually disappear. Your non-emotional observation takes away the fuel they rely on and is why they gradually burn out. You will remember them but from a detached and non-reacting place

 

The Technique

  • Days 1-3
    • These days are to focus on Sila or proper morality and include: abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, wrong speech and all intoxicants
    • On the afternoon before the retreat officially begins, Noble Silence is put in place. This means silence of speech, body and mind – no talking, gestures, reading, writing or any other form of communication. This may seem strange or difficult but it really helps you be able to focus on your own path without worrying or comparing yourself to others. Questions and requests can be made to the teachers and volunteers if need be
    • You start with focusing solely on the breath, specifically on your nose, nostrils and upper lip. This meditation where one only focuses on the breath in this area is called anapana meditation. If one has trouble feeling any sensations at first, take a couple hard breaths. Your mind will soon still, adjust and be able to feel the subtlest of breaths
    • On days 2 and 3 you narrow down the focus even further to even smaller areas of the nose such as the outer nostrils. The purpose of these 3 days is to focus, calm and still the mind, improving one’s concentration and subtlety of awareness. Without this time, the mind is not focused or prepared to be able to notice the incredibly subtle sensations in the rest of the body which starts with full body scans in the afternoon of day 3
    • Other rules: Segregation of men and women, exercise is limited to walking and stretching, religious rituals or objects should be done away with during these 10 days, food is simple and vegetarian with only a light meal of fruit for dinner, clothing should be modest and comfortable, reading and writing and music are prohibited
  • Day 4
    • Today we did our first full day body scans instead of just focusing on the sensation around the nostrils while breathing. Start at the top of the head with a 1 inch diameter circle, scan the scalp, then each part of the face, the throat, the arms, the chest and abdomen, the back and the legs and then repeat. Simply observe your sensations the whole time and if you can’t feel a particular area, stop for a minute and focus on it intently. If you feel something or not, move on after this minute has passed and over time you will build your subtlety of awareness so that you have no blind spots. Regardless, understand these sensations are ever changing phenomena, not to be tied to, excited by or upset by
  • Days 5-6
    • Starting today, in the three one-hour group sittings we try not to move at all in order to practice strong self-discipline or adhitthana and improve our experiential understanding of impermanence or anitya
  • Day 7
    • Today we started scanning the body in bigger chunks as our awareness and subtlety of attention have improved (i.e. doing both limbs simultaneously rather than one at a time)
  • Day 8
    • As much as possible maintain meditation in all that you do. When you eat, eat but must also always be aware of respiration and bodily sensations
    • Working with and observing of sensations puts you in touch with the deepest parts of the mind, the root, where real and lasting changes can be made
  • Day 9
    • Once start feeling really subtle uniform sensations throughout the body, can do 2-3 free flow body scans before going back to 1-2 part-by-part scans. These free flow scans should feel as if someone poured water over your head and it’s running down your body. Once this practice becomes regular, you can start doing front to back and side to side ‘penetrating’ scans to start feeling the internal parts of the body. The teacher said that once you get this subtle form, the body may start to feel like it dissolves as you feel like there’s nothing solid
    • Then can scan the spinal cord for flow as well as trying to feel inside it as well
  • Day 10
    • Today is Metta Day. Noble Silence turned to ‘Noble Chatter’ after the 8-9am sit as we learned the Metta meditation technique or loving kindness meditation.
    • After finishing the regular meditation, first see if you have peace in body and mind. If not, do not do this meditation. Simply recognize your racing mind or whatever the case may be and wrap up. If you do feel quiet and peaceful, wish your self to find happiness, peacefulness, compassionate love and to be liberated from your own impurities. Then wish the same for all living beings. Then ask for forgiveness for what you have done, intentionally and unintentionally, knowingly and unknowingly. Then forgive others for doing the same. Finish by saying “I have no enemies, all are my friend.” Lastly, feel the flow of energy up and down the spinal cord.
    • Emanate this love and happiness from the heart to expand and fill the room and over time greater and greater spaces.
    • Do this at the end of every meditation but only if you really feel it
  • Additional info
    • They really emphasized the importance of doing a one hour sit in the morning and at night
    • Recommended meditating in the same place and time to build habits and good vibes in that spot
    • Join a meditation group as often as once per week
    • Simply observe every sensation without judging or reacting
    • Do 5 minutes of observing sensations and understanding Anitya upon rising and before falling asleep

 

The Timetable (minor changes on certain days)

  • 4am – wake up
  • 4:30-6:30am – meditate in the hall
  • 6:30-8:00am – breakfast and rest
  • 8:00-9:00 – group sit in hall
  • 9:00-11:00 – meditate in hall
  • 11:00am-1:00pm – lunch and rest
  • 1:00-2:30pm – meditate in hall
  • 2:30-3:30pm – group sit in hall
  • 3:30-5:00pm – meditate in hall
  • 5:00-6:00pm – light meal and rest
  • 6:00-7:00pm – group sit in hall
  • 7:00-8:30pm – Dharma Discourse
  • 8:30-9:00pm – group sit in hall
  • 9:00-9:30pm – Q&A with teachers if needed

 

 

My Learnings and Experience

  • Day 1
    • Extremely tough first day. Body is in a ton of pain and can’t get into a flow, mind is wandering and am asking myself “why am I here?” The pain comes from inflexibility and not being used to sitting cross legged for such extended periods of time. I feel it in my knees, hips and back more than anywhere else
    • The Dharma discourse at the end of the day saved me and was very reassuring. I’m doing this to see things as they are, to better understand myself, to make the mind an amazing tool rather than a terrible master, to eliminate misery as much as possible as well as other mental impurities
  • Day 2
    • Much better day and I got into a great flow for the 4:30-6:30 meditation
    • Have some different postures for when body hurts and when pain arises I say, “I see you, I accept you and I thank you for being an obstacle for me to overcome.” Helps deal with the pain for some time and makes it clear that this is something that must be faced and dealt with rather than “pushed away”
    • Afternoon was tough physically but fought through
    • Dharma Discourse – narrow down focus on nose to become more aware of the smallest subtleties. Simply observe and do not wish to change or feel any particular sensation
    • Trying to develop: Quiet mind. Slow mind. Aware mind. Non-reacting mind. Observing mind. Equanimious mind. Subtle mind. Focused mind
    • Being aware and focused on such subtleties as the breath passing the nostrils really quiets the mind and sharpens focus
  • Day 3
    • This is the best mental training possible. Focus, awareness, sharpness, disregard the noise, see things as they truly are and not what you want them to be
    • One’s mind really gets so sharp, still and focused over these days. The little voice in your head quiets down and you go from a couple minutes of flow and quiet and deep focus to much longer stretches. While your mind invariably wanders, you are quicker to catch it and bring it back to center and the present moment
    • When get into flow I start feeling my mind slow, with few thoughts and every breath, thought or movement is thoughtful and slow and mindful. Calmness and slowing down is vital for me as I love thinking, doing, reading, being productive, having ideas. Paradoxically, slowing down ends up speeding things up in the end as my motor is supercharged and ready, I avoid noise and distractions and my wells of creativity are filled. Combine slow and fast!
    • Focus on Anitya (impermanence), narrow down focus to just outer nostril and upper lip
    • These first three days we focused only on breathing and the sensations in and around the nose and upper lip (anapana meditation) to sharpen our focus and improve the minds’s ability to sense subtle sensations
    • Sila or proper moral conduct is the foundation of Vipassana and these first three days set the foundation
  • Day 4
    • We did some group chanting but mostly it is a recording of SN Goenka’s chanting that we listen to. Find chanting music and/or the Goenka recordings. There’s something to this chanting which is very powerful, bonding, healing and soothing
    • Subtlety of focus and awareness definitely increased, especially around nostrils
    • Physical discomfort pretty high but have my different positions I can rotate through
    • Vipassana = to observe things as they truly are, the truth from moment to moment while understanding the impermanence or anitya of everything.
    • 3 tenets introduced today – 1 hour adhitthana or strong self-discipline where you try not to move whatsoever, eyes closed at all times and sit with a straight back
    • I really want to abide but working through this pain will be difficult. Curious, scared and excited to find out
    • Sankhara = craving or aversion or reaction which arises in the body through blind spots, pain, etc
    • Simply staying equanimious for long periods of time allows old sankharas to arise and if you can simply observe rather than judge and react to them, these suppressed cravings, aversions, grudges, etc. will slowly weaken and disappear
    • Every day napping less and at night sleeping like a baby
    • Today flew by as I got into a nice flow
    • Vipassana allows one to objectively experience bodily sensations, not wanting or wishing for any particular feelings or to not feel others
    • One’s mental base or volition is most important. What one intends always comes to fruition or is manifested in some fashion. Intention. Intention. Intention.
    • Vipassana teaches one how to die as it teaches one how to truly live
    • Subtlety, impermanence, mental stillness and discipline are increasing every day
    • Amazing how blind spots open up and you can really feel a broad array of sensations like tingling, heat, cold, shots of electricity, numbness, etc. in parts of your body where you didn’t feel a thing just a couple days before
  • Day 5 (my 27th birthday…)
    • Starting today the three one-hour group sittings we try not to move at all in order to practice strong self-discipline or adhitthana, impermanence or anitya
    • By viewing sensations objectively we can change our habits of mind and eliminate the good/bad dichotomy, clinging, suffering, preferences, craving, etc.
    • My routine – wake up at 4, breathing and exercise for 10 minutes, meditate, slow breakfast, meditate until 11, slow lunch and nap, meditate until 5, snack and lie down, meditate until 7, Dharma Discourse until 8:30, meditate until 9 and pass out
    • Got through no move session with only one move which was a big breakthrough
    • Breath and sensations getting so slow, subtle, refined
    • Working through objectivity where I can push through the pain and tension a little more every day where it is just another sensation, as is every blissful sensation
    • The afternoon session absolutely broke me. Incredible pain, mind wandering, impatience. Like Chinese water torture. Just you and your thoughts for 100+ hours. Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Mentally and physically just lost it. So hard to just observe sensations without reacting, body is in pain and couldn’t sit still and get into any sort of flow
    • The most important and meaningful things in life you have to do yourself. Nobody can walk the path for you
  • Day 6
    • You are training your mind to be equanimious, to observe all sensations, even pain and tension, as equal and merely observe and not react to them.
    • More than understanding intellectually, Vipassana helps you understand experientially how to observe and be aware and not simply react
    • Goenka has a lot of wisdom – find readings and discourses
    • Anitya, Anitya, Anitya – understand impermanence
    • What would the best version of Blas do? You know immediately and intuitively. Just follow through and do it
    • Laws of nature such that if can maintain equanimious mind for long periods, sankharas (cravings, reactions, aversions) will arise from unconscious and be eliminated at the root level by simply observing them
    • Had to be broken yesterday to deeper understand experientially the concepts of equanimious mind and Anitya
    • Finishing chant by Goenka – Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam (may all beings be happy)
  • Day 7
    • Wisdom is not learning new things, it is coming to understand, through experience, universal truths at ever deeper levels
    • 5 big enemies which keep from meditating – craving, aversion, drowsiness, doubt, hesitation
    • Today we started scanning the body in bigger chunks as our awareness and subtlety of attention have improved (i.e. doing both limbs simultaneously rather than one at a time)
    • I am “patiently and persistently, ardently and diligently” developing my equanimious mind which to me is a balanced, calm, slow, non-reacting, observing, curious mind with no aversions or cravings, recognizing all sensations, whether typically considered pleasurable or unpleasurable, as impermanent and the equanimious mind sees good and bad as false human constructs which bring misery. All sensations are changing phenomena – Anitya, Anitya, Anitya
    • Can ‘re-brand’ pain as throbbing, heat, inflammation, etc. By being equanimious to it, one can dive into pain, embrace it, observe it and you’ll find it isn’t nearly that bad and disappears occasionally. Was only able to take first steps into this but I now see and have experienced the path
    • I have realized I’m more tied to my body and health than I realized. How I feel, what I eat, etc. Be aware of this when overly concerned or when it brings misery.
    • When my mind drifts it tends to be towards the future and to things I’m excited about more than the past or mistakes. Natural I think but want to be even more present and perhaps crave things a little less. Being aware of this is first step
    • These 10 days are like a cleanse, a therapy, a mental training, a self-discovery, a self-discipline training, a mirror into oneself and more all in one. Attracts a fascinating group of people
    • I am discovering the value of knowing things at the experiential level vs. solely or at least mostly at the intellectual level. Of course I still want to combine learning from other’s major mistakes and successes as much as possible but experience so drives it home
    • When I get stressed and lose equanimity I rush things and don’t take enough time to think. I have seen this in sports, investing, making difficult decisions, eating, while meditating and more. It manifests itself in every area of life so set up hindrances, alerts and reminders to combat this
  • Day 8
    • As much as possible maintain meditation in all that you do. When you eat, eat but also always be aware of respiration and bodily sensations
    • Can slowly feel the habit patterns, the neural pathways, starting to change as I notice I can more quickly and nonjudgmentally and equanimiously observe my thoughts, cravings and aversions which lessens their power and slowly will reduce their frequency and magnitude as I come to deeper understand their impermanence
    • Level of equanimity is a good measuring stick for how far along the Dharma path you are
    • I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and am getting excited about the rest of my summer but am trying to balance it with being present and lessening cravings
    • Noble silence, no connectivity has been refreshing but ready to get back to real world soon
    • Definite burst of creativity though and energy increasing every day
    • Awareness and equanimity are the two wheels of Dhamma and they must be equally strong
    • Working with and observing sensations puts you in touch with the deepest parts of the mind, the root, where real and lasting changes can be made
  • Day 9
    • Find project to do with loved ones. Publish books, build things, learn things. This deepens and solidifies relationships and creates lasting memories and bonds. Will publish a cookbook with mamma, work on some investing and other business projects with papi, learn or do things with siblings…
    • I got to a really deep, peaceful, weird place with the internal penetration scan. Feeling buzzing energy inside very small internal parts of my body and feel like I can outline or 3D scan inside
    • The Dharma workers or volunteers are all incredible and have made this retreat special
    • Living in a community of strangers for 10 days with total trust and love is so unique
    • If I was worried or curious whether I had gotten soft post tennis I proved myself wrong throughout these 10 days but especially today. I got through one of the one-hour Adhittana self-discipline sittings without moving at all. Wouldn’t have thought this possible earlier on because of the pain in my hips, knees and back. Very proud and will have that accomplishment for life and can keep building off this base for longer and deeper sits. Nobody can walk the walk for you
    • Every day before bed or meals I would ask that it nourish my mind, body and soul and help me adapt and flourish. Sure enough it did. Keep up this short practice in day to day life
    • Vipassana is an art of life, helping to live a peaceful, harmonious, happy life. Positive or negative sensations are irrelevant. Simply observe and be aware of and act rather than judge and react. This mindset will help lessen the number of times when one is miserable and, if one does get worked up, it reduces the duration and magnitude
    • Vipassana gives us an internal lens which is so much more important than the external view nearly everyone employs. So important yet so neglected. The external view offers only a sliver of the whole truth but developing and being aware of one’s internal lens or feelings gives you a fuller, more complete and accurate view of truth. This vastly more important second angle helps us align with nature and make better decisions, be happier, more equanimious and more resilient.
  • Day 10
    • Today was Metta Day. This loving kindness meditation was really powerful. The ambiance of the hall totally changed and everyone left the hall with a big smile and a sense of peace. May be totally in my head but that was what I observed and experienced
    • Additional info at Dhamma.org

 

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Summary
  1. Peter Matthiessen recounts his travels to India, Nepal and the Himalayas and his spiritual and transformative journey along the way
Key Takeaways
  1. In India, human misery seems so pervasive that one can manage to only take in stray details
  2. Shakyamuni, The Buddha, never involved himself in efforts for social change for he believed the greatest contribution one could make to mankind was self-revelation
  3. The Buddhists he encountered all had the wonderful trait of doing their work for its own sake, to do it in the most beautiful way and to their best capacity, rather than for pay or the sake of the employer
  4. Ecstasy is identity with all existence
  5. To become one with whatever one does is true realization of the way
  6. One must go oneself to know the truth – others can’t travel or do any type of work for you in one’s spiritual quest for enlightenment
  7. Through meditation, he was able to transcend his ego and intuit truth immediately.
  8. Being calm regardless of circumstances is not fatalism but a deep trust in the universe in that things will work out
  9. It is better to be true than strong
  10. The point of meditation is to train the ability of letting go and to be wholly present in the eternal now
  11. It is meaningless to try to capture and hold onto experiences and things as one can never truly express reality
What I got out of it
  1. Vivid storytelling but honestly was a bit disappointed after having heard so much about it. However, looking back there are some gems and clear insight on meditation and enlightenment

Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das

Summary
  1. Really engaging book on the importance of mindfulness and meditation and the principal tenets and practices of Buddhism. About letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
Key Takeaways
  1. Enlightenment not about becoming divine, about becoming more fully human
    1. Eliminate ignorance, to be one with all things, to be present in the now
  2. Can only find fulfillment from within
  3. Truth is found by living truly – in your own authentic way
    1. “You become a Buddha by actualizing your own original innate nature. This nature is primordially pure. This is your true nature ,your natural mind. This innate Buddha-nature doesn’t need to achieve enlightenment because it is always already perfect, from the beginningless beginning. We only have to awaken to it. There is nothing more to seek or look for.”
    2. Buddha literally means awake. Awake from what? Awaken from the dreams of delusion, confusion and suffering. Awake to all that you are and all you can be. Awake to reality, to truth, to things just as they are.”
  4. Unconditional compassion and love is at the center of us all
  5. Waking up Buddha about letting go of fixed persona and becoming awake, liberated, aware
  6. Asking right questions more important than having the right answers
  7. We are all Buddhas with potential for enlightenment – spiritual living as well as conscious dying
  8. Cultivating spirituality and awareness a full time vocation – make every moment, action, thought sacred. Practice has to be integrated into our daily lives and culture
    1. “Intrinsic awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. Conscious living, contemplative self-awareness, is the means to becoming all that we are. Awareness is curative. Knowing ourselves and learning to let go is the method, the most skillful means. Spirituality is a matter of self-discovery, rather than of becoming something else.”
    2. Self-transformation implies self-transcendence
    3. Spiritual necessities – pray, meditate, be aware/stay awake, bow, practice yoga, feel, chant and sing, breathe and smile, relax/enjoy/laugh/play, create/envision, let go/forgive/accept, walk/exercise/move, work/serve/contribute, listen/learn/inquire, consider/reflect, cultivate oneself/enhance competencies, cultivate contentment, cultivate flexibility, cultivate friendship and collaboration, open up/expand/include, lighten up, dream, celebrate and appreciate, give thanks, evolve, love, share/give/receive, walk softly/live gently, expand/radiate/dissolve, simplify, surrender/trust, be born anew
  9. Can only find enlightenment and truth through your own experience
  10. Death was the Buddha’s primary guru – intensifies life and alleviates boredom, procrastination, sloth
    1. Come to terms with death by destroying ego and you shall live a full and happy life
  11. All about conscious living, self-transcendence and relinquishing control
  12. We all reap exactly what we sow, there are no accidents.
  13. Every single second is a (chance) for rebirth
  14. The self is simply not what we think it is. We are a self-fulfilling prophecy of what we think and believe. Often easy to see in others but very difficult to see in self (Galilean relativity)
  15. Better to know nothing than to know what isn’t so
  16. No eternal “I” – each of us is a process in motion
  17. Seeing through the antics of our monkey-like minds is liberating
  18. Honest investigation and inquiry are the most powerful tools for enlightenment
  19. Monkey-mind is a continuous stream of delusion – thoughts and concepts are delusions, awareness is wisdom
  20. Everything is seen through the filter of our personal concerns
  21. Self-denial (like self-absorption) simply a more subtle form of egotism
  22. Aim to see the Buddha in everyone
  23. Never bottle up emotions. Rather, recognize them, experience them and release them. “Ideally we should be able to be sensitive and aware enough not only to feel life fully but also to let it go.”
  24. Om Mani Pedme Hung – the jewel is in the lotus, the wisdom and compassion we all seek are inherently within us
  25. Stillness leads to clarity
  26. The 7 Points of Mind Training
  27. How we relate to things makes all the difference
  28. Learn from all, judge no one, be kind to all, say thank you
  29. All activities should be done with one intention
  30. Determine what / who pushes your buttons and dive deep into why
  31. Ability to maintain inner joy and larger perspective are signs of a mature mind
  32. “Enlightenment feels completely comfortable, at peace and at ease in every situation and every circumstance with a sense of true inner freedom, independent of both outer circumstances and internal emotions. This requires extraordinary self-knowledge and presence of mind. It means paying close attention to how you think and how you act, and it means making an ongoing commitment to searching inward for answers. Inward. Deeper. Beneath the surface of things, not just inside yourself.”
  33. Three reasons for dissatisfaction and unhappiness (Three Poisons or Three Fires) – ignorance of the truth (see things as we would like them to be rather than how they really are), attachment (possessed by possessions, jealousy, pride, attachments define compulsions), aversion (stems from ignorance of truth and attachments and resistance to change)
  34. There is nirvanic peace in things left just as they are. That is the innermost secret refuge. If you can reach this place within yourself, then you don’t have to do or undo anything. That’s the ultimate refuge, the ultimate practice of letting go – the art of allowing things to be as they are
  35. 4 Noble Truths – Dukkha (life involves suffering, changing circumstances, flawed nature of conditioned existence), tanha (incessant, never ending thirst or attachment which causes identification with what we crave and causes suffering, one word to end craving – wisdom), nirvana exists (inconceivable inner peace, cessation of craving and clinging, the end of suffering, liberation, ever lasting freedom, fulfillment and enlightenment itself; when we realize emptiness and perfect oneness with all, the fires of duality goes out, desirelessness means lacking nothing, enlightened people have preferences but are able to be in the world but not of it), there is a tried and true path that leads away from the dissatisfaction of conditioned existence towards nirvana
  36. 5 primary hindrances – craving, ill will, sloth and torpor (spiritual laziness), restlessness, doubt
  37. The eight fold path
    1. Wisdom training – right view, right intentions
    2. Ethics training – right speech, right action, right livelihood
    3. Meditation training – right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration
  38. Essence means knowing oneself and others, what is, how things work. Wisdom is seeing the truth nature of things. Wisdom is self-knowledge, Wisdom is truth manifested as clarity of vision. Wisdom sees that light and dark are inseparable and that shadows are also light
  39. “Think of what you want, and realize that all beings want and need the same things. They are just seeking it through different ways.” (love, trust, happiness, fulfillment, the world works by reciprocation!!)
  40. Tonglen – sending and taking practice – send all your love and take other people’s difficulties – helps increase empathy
  41. Right speech
    1. Speak kindly, gently and dearly
    2. Don’t lie, be open and truthful about who you are and how you feel
    3. Speak only to help others, listen more
    4. Don’t gossip or tell tales
    5. Don’t speak harshly – no one can make us angry if we don’t already have sparks of anger inside
    6. Mantras and chanting help you attain Buddha nature
    7. Mere words are weak translations of what we really mean to say
    8. Inner solitude and noble silence is a way to empty, cleanse, heal and renew the heart and mind. This is a voluntary way to start the process of simplification and personal downsizing. The peace will help you purify your perceptions and make presence of mind more acute, clear, spacious, and even luminous. Incredible satisfaction is available when you begin experiencing the timeless truth that less can be more; that the most elegant solution is often the simplest one. Set aside one day per week/month to escape all forms of communication, spend some time alone in nature, communing with yourself
  42. Right action
    1. Life is an art form and we are the creators (Toltec = life artist)
    2. “Right” behavior is helpful rather than hurtful
    3. We develop an attitude of cherishing life when we learn to yield, to give in, to let go and soften our hearts and souls
    4. The nongrasping heart is naturally open, accepting and able to say thank you for whatever is. It is the threshold of an unconditional way of being, the supreme spiritual value
    5. Don’t steal – only use what you need, live simply, don’t grasp
    6. Give what you can (money, prayer, support, empathy, time) to all
    7. Even the briefest experience of unconditional love can be transformational
    8. Tantric practice – imagine self and partner as deities (page 211)
    9. No personal hell exists but all have hellish thoughts and experiences
    10. Inner peace, light, enlightenment helps free others too
    11. Enlightenment requires two forms of merit – from virtuous acts and from wisdom, insight, awareness and understanding
    12. Virtuous living a boon to the entire world
    13. Craving – Is there anything or anyone you crave so much that it clouds your judgment or vision?
    14. Desire only begets more desire. Desirelessness is nirvanic peace
    15. Perform random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty
    16. Must try to give what others truly need and not what easiest for us to give
    17. Meditations on Right Action (pg 228)
  43. Right Livelihood
    1. Work is love made visible
    2. Real work involves putting one’s beliefs into actions
    3. Right livelihood helps us make a life and not just a living
    4. Always do the right thing but don’t expect notice or praise
    5. Simplicity, streamlining, downsizing, lives/things key to happy life
    6. The value of anything is always the value we vest in it
    7. Happiness Quotient – balance between what we have and what we want
      1. Contentment is true wealth, wealthy is he who enjoys what he has
      2. Right livelihood is work that develops us as we develop it
    8. True vocation is knowing self and being self
    9. Meditation includes right effort, mindfulness and concentration which leads to mental discipline
    10. Awareness is the common denominator of all sentient beings. meditation is the most direct and effective way to cultivate that innate awareness; it is the essential ingredient on the path to awakening the Buddha within. We meditate in order to purify and discipline our minds
    11. Thought/intellect good servants, great tools but poor masters
      1. A disciplined mind brings happiness
    12. 4 things conducive to happiness – to be skilled, efficient, energetic, earnest and learned in whatever profession one has; to conscientiously protect one’s income and family’s means of support; to have virtuous, trustworthy and faithful friends and spiritual aspirations; to be content and to live within one’s means
    13. The whole thrust of mind-training is to be able to become naturally more loving and compassionate without expecting or hoping for anything in return
  44. Right Effort
    1. The 4 Great Efforts
      1. The effort to avoid any new unwholesome, negative thoughts or actions
      2. The effort to overcome any existing unwholesome thoughts or actions
      3. The effort to develop only good and wholesome thoughts and lead an enlightened life (generosity, virtue, patience, effort, meditation, wisdom)
      4. The effort to maintain the goodness that already exists
    2. The sole incentive to continue meditation is the confidence and inner conviction that develops though one’s own authentic experience. Meditation is not merely a program of mental gymnastics. In the art of meditation, simplicity is the key: the simple necessity of unburdening oneself of all excess baggage, and turning the searchlight inward. For everything is available within our own intangible spiritual core
    3. Trained, dynamic inner life required for effective external existence
    4. Balance between effort and effortlessness is the essence of impeccable effort and self mastery
    5. Renunciation of compulsive preoccupations and intense emotional attachments is vital
      1. “If we get even the smallest glimpse of liberation and what it means to experience freedom from want, we see where our happiness truly lies. This is the arising of inner certainty. When that occurs, we begin to renounce and give up the unfulfilling thoughts and behaviors that create negative karma. The heart of renunciation implies allowing rather than controlling.”
    6. You truly do get back far more than you give
    7. 4 Divine abodes – loving kindness and friendliness (metta); compassion and empathy, joy and rejoicing, equanimity and peace of mind
  45. Right Mindfulness
    1. Mastery of mind comes from constant awareness of thoughts and actions
    2. Simple, conscious presence of the now
    3. Every moment a miracle and when you realize that, all life becomes a meditation
    4. Knowing things as they are, as they function is enlightened wakefulness
    5. Prefer quick mediations 25x per day over 1 long session
    6. As we practice meditation, we peel away layers of our persona
    7. Train self by embracing and breathing in things you fear – simply be present, fully there, without judgment or prejudice, with whatever occurs; see difficult circumstances or happenings as learning experiences; enjoy the spectacle and watch the show as if you’re an outside observer, above the system
    8. Must prepare for death bardo – remembering the inevitability of our own mortality and impermanence of all things can be the most liberating of meditations
    9. Contemplating mortality helps us focus and prioritize – the tenuousness of life helps us to be totally awake in the present moment
    10. Dream yoga can have many great real world benefits –
    11. Pure mindfulness is relaxed, open, lucid moment to moment, present awareness. It is like a bright mirror: nonclinging, nongrasping, nonaversive, nonreactive, undistorting. It is a skill which can be learned like any other
    12. Through meditation we can enter directly into more intimate, immediate engagement with our experiences in a way that reflects simplicity and a deeper, more authentic connection to life. This is not just about being more consciously alive. It’s about being itself
    13. 4 Foundations of mediation – being aware of our bodies, aware of our feelings and emotions, aware of our thoughts and aware of events as they occur, moment by moment
    14. Paying attention and the ability to really be present pays off in so many ways, giving us enhanced satisfaction, broader vision, greater mastery and effectiveness in everything we do
    15. Meditation gives you so much mental clarity and spaciousness that it actually adds time to the day. We become more effective, more relaxed as we can more effectively deal with our feelings and develop our emotional intelligence. Meditation allows us to be more in touch with our feelings without being driven or controlled by them
    16. A mirror doesn’t pick and choose what it reflects. In this way, our natural state of mind is complete lucid awareness, being able to see things as they are, with total clarity
  46. Right Concentration
    1. Right concentration implies a unification of spiritual intentionality, focus, mental discipline, energy and attention. In right concentration, we skillfully collect and harness all of our energy so that every part of our being is integrated and focused, working together toward our goal of enlightenment. Once you have arrived at this point, concentration in this sense is not forced, restricted, or fixated but instead rests naturally where it is placed
    2. 5 T’s of Concentration – taming, training, testing, transforming, transcendence
    3. Concentration training – breath counting, awareness of breath (without counting), walking meditation, walking-breathing-synchronization meditation, standing and walking backward meditation, chewing meditation
    4. A good meditation session simply a microcosm of a well lived life (fractal!)
    5. Investigation/inquiry central to enlightenment
    6. Metaphysical fitness as important as physical fitness
    7. Concentration helps us love and be grateful for every moment without changing anything
    8. Rushen – analytical contemplations that employ the rational powers of the mind, use the well-honed, focused mind like a sharp tool to penetrate further into reality. This special self-inquiry helps us recognize the essential nature of mind. Helps us to discern the difference between what we seem to be and think ourselves to be, and our original nature, what we really are. Who or what is experiencing my present experience? Where is the experiencer, the perceiver? What is the essence or nature of this mind? Does it have a shape or form? A color? A size or weight? Who is experiencing your experience right now? And then let go of thinking. See what comes up. Sense directly
    9. Five different meditations – surround self or imagine water, fire, earth, air and space
    10. Candle meditation – pg 368
    11. Buddha light meditation – pg 369
    12. Why compare?
  47. Great reading list provided on pg 397
What I got out of it
  1. Thought this was a very actionable, interesting and profound book which helps show the benefits of mindfulness and meditation training for all aspects of your life. Highly recommend

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Summary
  1. Beautifully written book which strongly advocates for mindfulness in everything we do – from washing our hands to how we interact with others. Thich Nhat Hanh uses beautiful examples from both Jesus’ and Buddha’s lives to reinforce his points.
Key Takeaways
  1. Reality is free from all notions and it is our duty to transcend words and concepts and be able to encounter reality
    1. “When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us.”
    2. “Things cannot be described by concepts and words. They can only be encountered by direct experience.”
  2. Avoid attachment to present views
  3. Meditation – stopping, calming, looking deeply
  4. Dialogue and deep listening is vital – must first have peace within before can reach deeper levels or help others
  5. Buddhists aim to be mindful in every moment. Conscious breathing helps with this practice (mindful walking, eating, cleaning, reading, breathing, etc.)
  6. Most precious gifts we can offer others is our presence
  7. Our true home is in the present moment
  8. Being fully aware and present gives you a sense of gratitude
  9. Aim to be like Buddha and Christ where your life becomes your teaching, your sermon in action
  10. Living dharma – mindfulness manifested in daily life
  11. Can’t have true love without understanding and can’t understand without true love
  12. Must begin with self – aim to live as Buddha and Jesus lived
  13. Anger is hell
  14. Our enemy is not the other person, no matter what they have done
  15. Make your life prayer in action
  16. Can come to love our enemy only by understanding him
  17. Whatever happens to the body, happens to the mind and vice versa
  18. People today tend to lack the art of deep/mindful speaking and listening though we have more means of communication than ever before
  19. Mindful breathing – ability to be aware of and manage emotions. Being able to accurately and deeply know what we are sensing allows us to deal with it early and in a positive way before it manifests as anger, frustration, etc. “If we can learn ways to touch the peace, joy and happiness that are already there, we will become healthy and strong, and a resource for others.”
  20. Only compassion and understanding on a collective level can liberate us
  21. Practice the essence over the form
  22. Don’t allow notions or concepts be obstacles to development or realizing ultimate reality
  23. A life that is too comfortable makes spiritual growth more difficult
  24. One day of mindfulness per week is essential. Set aside any day to spend with loved ones, turn away from work/email/distractions and just be
  25. Best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment
  26. The concept of interbeing (non-self) is fascinating – everything is connected and made of elements from everything else – “a flower is made of all non-flower elements.”
    1. “To take good care of yourself and to take good care of living beings and the environment is the best way to love God. This love is possible when there is the understanding that you are not separate from other beings or the environment. This understanding cannot be merely intellectual. It must be experiential, the insight gained by deep touching and deep looking in a daily life or prayer, contemplation and meditation.”
  27. The Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism – reverence for life, generosity, responsible sexual behavior, speaking and listening deeply and ingesting only wholesome substances
  28. The Fourth Precept – not telling the truth, exaggerating, forked tongue (saying two different things to different people/parties), filthy language
  29. Be an island unto yourself – being able to find refuge wherever you are just by turning inwards is one of the most powerful tools one can possess
  30. “God made humans so that humans can become God.”
  31. “The ultimate dimension is a state of coolness, peace and joy. It is not a state to be attained after you “die.” You can touch the ultimate dimension right now by breathing, walking and drinking your tea in mindfulness.”
  32. “When we touch one thing with deep awareness, we touch everything.”
What I got out of it
  1. Mindfulness in all that we do and interbeing (everything is interconnected and impermanent which leads to the conclusion that we are all one) are two amazing concepts which should be central to one’s daily routine, life, meditation practice

The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Summary
  1. Mukunda experiences a miraculous recovery at a young age and after that is set on pursuing a spiritual life. This book walks us through that journey, what he learned from his master Sri Yukteswar, the benefits of meditation/yoga and striving to attain enlightenment. Beautifully written and inspiring book
Key Takeaways
  1. Born in 1893 near the Himalayas
  2. Since childhood his family followed a guru. He was miraculously saved by this guru when he had a fatal illness and after that he sought to be a yogi. He later learned this same guru had spiritually baptized him and predicted he would book a yogi
  3. Plants have feelings and respond to how we treat them
  4. True love has no boundaries, no conditions and does not change
  5. The wise treat all as equals as they see the striking similarity amongst all men
  6. Staring fear in the face dampens or removes that fear
  7. Be comfortable with your money and situation. Extravagance will only bring discomfort
  8. Speaks about his guru’s influence on him, how he worked in the spiritual realm and how much he taught him
  9. The unfailing composure of a saint is impressive beyond any sermon 
  10. What one cannot find from within one will never find from the outside
  11. Wrath springs only from thwarted desires
  12. The more bliss one feels during meditation the closer one is to God. Desire for material things is endless but this bliss would never be given up. Outward longings drive us from bliss within and these false pleasures only impersonate true happiness
  13. Tells of the incredible works his master confers
  14. Following yogic principles does not require one to be a recluse. It can actually enhance performance, relationships, happiness and more by helping you focus on what’s important, removing fleeting pleasures and attains mental detachment from things and results
  15. Complete unity with spirit and total awareness is the goal
  16. Kriya yoga helps unite the body, mind and spirit and accelerates this process through deep breathing, focus and mantras
  17. Devil = maya = illusions
  18. Yogananda was told early on in his journey that his purpose was to bring kriya yoga and his master’s other teachings to the west
  19. Humility is god-like
  20. Spent time in America in 1920 to spread the teachings of his master and established the Self Realization Fellowship
  21. Describes some of his time with Mother Theresa and Gandhi
  22. Speaks to the importance of forgiveness, universal and uncompromising love and nonviolence in Gandhi’s and everyone’s life
What I got out of it
  1. Very powerful book which inspires one to reach for one’s full spiritual potential. The descriptions of some of his, his master’s and other spiritual sage’s feats are hard to believe but point to a higher plane that is available to everyone if one is devoted to reaching it

The Art of Smart Thinking by James Hardt

Summary
  1. The Biocybernaut institute helps you increase your alpha waves through highly specialized neurofeedback training. Raising alpha waves and suppressing beta waves (the rational, thinking mind) helps increase creativity, IQ, meditation, helps emotional healing and a lot more
Key Takeaways
  1. Most people not accessing their alpha/theta waves which are associated with creativity, joy and higher intelligence
  2. Anxiety negatively affects learning, creativity and memory – alpha and anxiety negatively correlated
  3. Don’t deny or repress emotions. They will only build up and burst out at a later point
  4. Being able to turn brain off leads to more alpha which leads to more creativity and happiness
    1. Theta rarer but can lead to access to Akashic records (collective unconscious)
  5. Edison was famous for his power naps which helped him boost alpha/theta state (tap Akashic records?)
  6. Oxygenating brain helps greatly with creativity. Dr. NakaMats who has over 3,000 patents including the floppy disk, hard disk and digital watch coined the term “brain bubble” where he oxygenated his brain to a great extent and then held his breathe underwater until he simply couldn’t do it anymore. This allows more blood flow to the brain overtime as the carotid arteries that feed your brain expand over time (mammalian diving response increases blood flow to the brain and every other organ as well)
  7. Ego dissolution is the goal of mystical practices and helps lay the foundation for mystical experiences
  8. Neurofeedback one of the best ways to train the brain to reach alpha/theta states. When the brain can become the subject of its focus it has tremendous effects on your ability to reach these states as it creates a virtuous feedback loop
  9. Leaders must lead through a premise of love, never punishment
  10. Mystical/intuitive knowing closer to truth than rational knowing
  11. Different brain waves
    1. Delta- slowest, mainly deep sleep
    2. Theta – creativity, problem solving, Akashic
    3. Alpha – relaxed/effortless alertness, creativity, higher IQ
    4. Beta – effortful thinking, where most people are most of the time
    5. Gamma – fastest, linked to meditation, “eureka” moments
  12. Being able to alternate, switch on/off waves leads to a successful, blissful life as you can rise to whatever occasion you come up against
  13. Non thinking doesn’t mean non awareness.
  14. Higher alpha often leads to ego dissolution and the ego will fight back vehemently to remain in control
    1. Five Hindrances – doubt, drowsiness, distractibility (worry), boredom, aversion (any form of ill will) and forgetfulness
  15. People can train brain waves which leads to control of their central nervous system which has many physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits
  16. Reduce stressors (caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, garlic, onions, lack of sleep, worry/anxiety/fear, anger/hostility, sadness/depression, apathy) helps raise alpha and suppress beta
  17. Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper
  18. Deep forgiveness vital to overcome anger, depression, fear and reach a higher consciousness
    1. Determine you will forgive self/others, bring to mind the person or situation, create a loving space in your heart, feel the hurt and pain and make it real again, come back to the present and become aware of something good that came from the event, based on this good change your attitude about the past event, forgive the other person and yourself using the alpha tones, see the event again but from the other person’s eyes, feel love in your heart for the other person
  19. Ways to increase alpha – avoid regular exposure to violent shows, TV, video games; meditate, pray (see feelings of flying and floating, feelings of light, lightness and vast space, lavender scents, slow breathing, focus on breathe, slow breathing exercises)
  20. One Biocybernaut feedback session equivalent to 20-40 years of zen training
  21. Don’t let the brain overuse the same neural pathways/mental habits. Keep it guessing, keep learning and trying new things
  22. Youthful brain has a lot of alpha and is a great indicator of overall health
  23. Creative rooms – have a “static” room where you can develop ideas and be calm (plants, rocks, running water) for a sense of peacefulness and alpha waves. Free association, churning over ideas at random and spitting out whatever comes to mind. “Dynamic” room is dark with black and white striped walls, leather furniture and special audio/video equipment. End with swimming pool and “bubble brain”
  24. The zone – nonrational, thoughtless, egoless state where time vanishes
  25. Aim to merge with any activity so completely you lose yourself in it
  26. People have an almost endless capacity to learn and remember things about themselves
  27. Every attachment is related to fear
  28. With training, awareness/consciousness continually expands
  29. Hindrances – attitudes, attachments, aversions, self conceptions and thought processes ingrained in us since childhood. Mood scales during training helps clear the awareness of these inner obstacles which are often subconscious
  30. 80% of illnesses/addictions stem from dysfunctional central nervous system stress response
  31. Alpha spawns insights
  32. Pride (ego) destroys alpha
  33. Neurofeedback democratizes spiritual experiences
  34. Shared feedback almost a merging of people and can be very powerful
  35. “There is nothing more powerful and empowering than honoring your true nature, standing in your truth, becoming your authentic self. When you uncover and express your authentic self, you allow your inner light to shine. You are in touch with your higher guidance, truth and wisdom and can live your highest purpose with joyful creativity.”
What I got out of it
  1. People rely on clear, immediate feedback in any area of their life in order to improve. Meditation is no different. The Biocybernaut institute has some proprietary technology to help you get decades worth of meditation work done in a week through their feedback systems, mood scales and other processes. Really interesting read and does a good job highlighting human potential (note – a lot of it is pretty out there and “woo woo”)

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan

Summary
  1. Meng is an early Google-er and is known as the jolly good fellow. His ultimate goal is world peace by making the habits necessary for it accessible. Self-awareness at the center of it all
Key Takeaways
  1. Knowing yourself lies at the core of emotional intelligence, and that the best mental app for this can be found in the mind-training method called mindfulness. 
  2. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) classes at Google that Meng instituted there and that have been ongoing now for years.
  3. Along with it and much more importantly, a taste for what it is pointing to, a taste of your own deep interior resources for acting in your own best interest by realizing that your interest is best served by recognizing and nurturing the interests of others at the same time. This is what mindfulness-based emotional intelligence is all about. This is why it is so important, in so many ways, to literally and metaphorically search inside yourself. What is here to be discovered, or uncovered, is the full spectrum of who you already are as a person and the realization of how embedded you are in the multidimensional warp and woof of humanity and all life. And because mindfulness is not about getting someplace else—but rather about being fully where you already are and realizing the power of your full presence and awareness right now, in this moment—Meng’s program is really about finding rather than searching. It is about dis-covering, re-covering, and un-covering that full dimensionality of your being that is already yours and then developing and refining it through systematic cultivation and practice. From there, in combination with what you most love and with your imagination and innate creativity, it is bound to manifest in the world in any number of hopefully skillful ways, in the service of our mutual well-being and happiness.  
  4. The Search Inside Yourself curriculum rests on an ocean of meditative wisdom practices that cultivate mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, embodied presence, emotional intelligence, and many other fundamental aspects of our minds and hearts and bodies that are also available to you once you enter through this portal.  
  5. Once one has tasted the practice for oneself, the motivation is very likely to be there to extend the time of formal practice, not to achieve a special state, but to simply rest in awareness itself, outside of time altogether. This is the practice of non-doing, of openhearted presencing, of pure awareness, coextensive with and inseparable from compassion. It is not an escape from life. On the contrary, the practice of mindfulness is a gateway into the experience of interconnectedness and interdependence out of which stem emotionally intelligent actions, new ways of being, and ultimately greater happiness, clarity, wisdom, and kindness—at work and in the world.  
  6. Matthieu Ricard – became the first person known to science able to inhibit the body’s natural startle reflex—quick facial muscle spasms in response to loud, sudden noises.  
  7. Matthieu also turns out to be an expert at detecting fleeting facial expression of emotions known as microexpressions. It is possible to train people to detect and read microexpressions, but Matthieu and one other meditator, both untrained, were measured in the lab and performed two standard deviations better than the norm, outperforming all the trained professionals.  
    1. Te methods for developing such an extraordinarily capable mind are accessible even to you and me. That’s what this book is about.
  8. He learned to listen a lot better, gain control over his temper, and understand every situation better by, in his words, “learning to discern stories from reality.”  
  9. “I have completely changed in the way I react to stressors. I take the time to think through things and empathize with other people’s situations before jumping to conclusions.  
  10. You will learn how to calm your mind on demand. Your concentration and creativity will improve. You will perceive your mental and emotional processes with increasing clarity. You will discover that self-confidence is something that can arise naturally in a trained mind. You will learn to uncover your ideal future and develop the optimism and resilience necessary to thrive. You will find that you can deliberately improve empathy with practice. You will learn that social skills are highly trainable and that you can help others love you.  
  11. Search Inside Yourself works in three steps:         
    1. Attention training
    2. Self-knowledge and self-mastery         
    3. Creating useful mental habits  
  12. The idea is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. That quality of mind forms the foundation for emotional intelligence.  
  13. Use your trained attention to create high-resolution perception into your own cognitive and emotive processes. With that, you become able to observe your thought stream and the process of emotion with high clarity, and to do so objectively from a third-person perspective. Once you can do that, you create the type of deep self-knowledge that eventually enables self-mastery.  
  14. Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy.  
  15. emotional intelligence is one of the best predictors of success at work and fulfillment in life, and it is trainable for everyone.  
  16. They define emotional intelligence as the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.  
  17. Goleman adds a very useful structure to emotional intelligence by classifying it into five domains.
    1. Self-awareness: Knowledge of one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions
    2.  Self-regulation: Management of one’s internal states, impulses, and resources
    3.  Motivation: Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals
    4.  Empathy: Awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns        
    5. Social skills: Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others  
  18. In the context of the work environment, emotional intelligence enables three important skill sets: stellar work performance, outstanding leadership, and the ability to create the conditions for happiness.  
  19. The top six competencies that distinguish star performers from average performers in the tech sector are (in this order):         
    1. Strong achievement drive and high achievement standards     
    2. Ability to influence         
    3. Conceptual thinking         
    4. Analytical ability         
    5. Initiative in taking on challenges          
    6. Self-confidence
  20. Ricard defines happiness as “a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind . . . not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being.”  
  21. The skills that help us cultivate emotional intelligence also help us identify and develop the inner factors that contribute to our deep sense of well-being.  
  22. The aim of developing emotional intelligence is to help you optimize yourself and function at an even higher level than what you are already capable of
  23. Emotional skillfulness frees us from emotional compulsion.  
  24. The greater the neural activity in the parts of their brains associated with their pain, the greater the fire became. By using that visual display, he could get people to learn to up- or down-regulate that brain activity and, with that ability, participants reported a corresponding decrease in their levels of pain. He calls this “neuroimaging therapy.”  
  25. Self-awareness depends on being able to see ourselves objectively, and that requires the ability to examine our thoughts and emotions from a third-person perspective, not getting swept up in the emotion, not identifying with it, but just seeing it clearly and objectively.  
  26. “response flexibility,” which is a fancy name for the ability to pause before you act.  
  27. Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”  
  28. There is a simple technique for self-regulation called “affect labeling,” which simply means labeling feelings with words. When you label an emotion you are experiencing (for example, “I feel anger”), it somehow helps you manage that emotion.  
  29. There are two very good reasons to work with our bodies: vividness and resolution.  
  30. Every emotion has a correlate in the body
  31. a useful reason to develop a high-resolution perception of the body is to strengthen our intuition. A lot of our intuition comes from our body, and learning to listen to it can be very fruitful.  
  32. Most evenings, before we sleep, my young daughter and I sit in mindfulness together for two minutes. I like to joke that two minutes is optimal for us because that is the attention span of a child and of an engineer. For two minutes a day, we quietly enjoy being alive and being together. More fundamentally, for two minutes a day, we enjoy being. Just being.  
  33. I think mindfulness is the mind of just being. All you really need to do is to pay attention moment-to-moment without judging. It is that simple.  
  34. The creatively named Easy Way is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to your breath for two minutes. That’s it.  
  35. Mindfulness trains two important faculties, attention and meta-attention.  
    1. Meta-attention is attention of attention, the ability to pay attention to attention itself. Huh? Simply put, meta-attention is the ability to know that your attention has wandered away.  Meta-attention is also the secret to concentration.  
  36. beginning stage, is it gets you to a state where your mind is relaxed and alert at the same time. When your attention and meta-attention both become strong, something interesting happens. Your mind becomes increasingly focused and stable, but in a way that is relaxing.
  37. You get where you need to be, and you actually enjoy the experience of getting there because it is relaxing.  
  38. When the mind becomes highly relaxed and alert at the same time, three wonderful qualities of mind naturally emerge: calmness, clarity, and happiness.  
  39. relaxed concentration (a practice known as shamatha).  Happiness is the default state of mind. So when the mind becomes calm and clear, it returns to its default, and that default is happiness. That is it. There is no magic; we are simply returning the mind to its natural 
  40. happiness is not something that you pursue; it is something you allow. Happiness is just being. That insight changed my 
  41. The process starts with an intention. Start by creating an intention, a reason for wanting to abide in mindfulness.  
  42. Every time you create an intention, you are subtly forming or reinforcing a mental habit.  
  43. become aware of your attitude toward yourself. See how you treat yourself and how often you engage in nasty gossip about yourself.  
  44. Traditional Buddhism, for example, defines four main meditation postures: sitting, standing, walking, and lying down, which seems to cover just about everything.  
  45. The best meditation posture is one that helps you remain alert and relaxed at the same time for a long period of time.  
  46. This traditional posture is sometimes called the seven-point meditation posture. In brief, the seven are: 
    1. Back straight “like an arrow”          
    2. Legs crossed in “lotus position”         
    3. Shoulders relaxed, held up and back, “like a vulture”         
    4. Chin tucked in slightly, “like an iron hook”         
    5. Eyes closed or gazing into space         
    6. Tongue held against the upper palate         
    7. Lips slightly apart, teeth not clenched  
  47. The more we are able to create space between stimulus and reaction, the more control we will have over our emotional lives.  
  48. attention is not the end goal of most meditation traditions; the true end goal is insight. The reason we create a powerful quality of attention is to be able to develop insights into the mind.  
  49. The theory is that with mindfulness meditation training, one’s brain can learn to process stimuli more efficiently,  
  50. The mind of calmness and clarity you experience while sitting in mindfulness meditation is very nice, but it only becomes life changing when you can bring up that mind on demand, in day-to-day life.  
  51. you can think of it as extending, or generalizing, mindfulness along two dimensions: one from rest to activity and the other from self to others.  
  52. All is a miracle.  
  53. pleasant experiences become even more pleasant because our attention is there to fully experience them.  
  54. the object of meditation is the task at hand rather than the breath.  
  55. A beautiful way to practice mindfulness, which is almost guaranteed to improve your social life, is to apply mindfulness toward others for the benefit of others. The idea is very simple—give your full moment-to-moment attention to another person with a nonjudgmental mind, and every time your attention wanders away, just gently bring it back.  
  56. “Listening is magic: it turns a person from an object outside, opaque or dimly threatening, into an intimate experience, and therefore into a friend. In this way, listening softens and transforms the listener.”  
  57. Our attention is the most valuable gift we can give to others.  
  58. There are three key components to mindful conversation. The first and most obvious one is mindful listening, which we have already practiced. The second is something Gary called “looping,” short for “closing the loop of communication.” Looping is simple. Let’s say there are two people involved in this conversation—Allen and Becky—and it is Allen’s turn to speak. Allen speaks for a while, and after he is done speaking, Becky (the listener) loops back by saying what she thought she heard Allen say. After that, Allen gives feedback on what he thought was missing or misrepresented in Becky’s characterization of his original monologue. And they go back and forth until Allen (the original speaker) feels satisfied that he is correctly understood by Becky (the original listener). Looping is a collaborative project in which both people work together to help Becky (the listener) fully understand Allen (the speaker). The third key component to mindful conversation is something Gary called “dipping,” or checking in with ourselves. The main reason we do not listen to others is that we get distracted by our own feelings and internal chatter,  
  59. Do not sit for so long that it becomes burdensome. Sit often, for short periods, and your mindfulness practice may soon feel like an indulgence.  
  60. Having a relaxed mind is very useful in meditation. Relaxation is the foundation of deep concentration.  
  61. Open attention is a quality of attention willing to meet any object that arrives at the mind or the senses. It is open, flexible, and inviting.  
  62. You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.  
  63. Deepening self-awareness is about developing clarity within oneself.  
  64. There are two specific qualities we like to develop—resolution and vividness
  65. Firstly, we can increase the resolution (or precision) at which we perceive our emotions, so we can see emotions the moments they arise and cease, and subtle changes in between. Secondly, we increase their brightness and contrast so we can see them more vividly than before. This combination will give us very useful high-fidelity information about our emotional life.  
  66. self-awareness goes beyond insight into one’s moment-to-moment emotional experience; it expands into a broader domain of “self,” such as understanding our own strengths and weaknesses and being able to access our own inner wisdom.  
  67. Self-awareness is the key domain of emotional intelligence that enables all the others.  
  68. There are three emotional competencies under the domain of self-awareness:  
    1. Emotional awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and their effects     
    2. Accurate self-assessment: Knowing one’s strengths and limits         
    3. Self-confidence: A strong sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities  
  69. Self-confidence isn’t egotism. . . . When you are truly self-confident, you are flexible with regard to ego: you can pick up ego when necessary, but you can also put it down when necessary in order to learn something completely new through listening. And if you find that you can’t put ego down, at least you know that this is so. You can admit it to yourself. It takes profound self-confidence to be humble enough to recognize your own limitations without self-blame.
  70. I am able to project that confidence not because I make the effort to look confident, but because I have a sense of humor about my ego, or my own sense of self-importance.  
  71. In my experience, however, the only highly sustainable source of self-confidence comes from deep self-knowledge and blatant self-honesty.  
  72. The type of deep self-knowledge and blatant self-honesty needed for sustainable self-confidence means having nothing to hide from oneself. It comes from accurate self-assessment. If we can assess ourselves accurately, we can clearly and objectively see our greatest strengths and our biggest weaknesses. We become honest to ourselves about our most sacred aspirations and darkest desires. We learn about our deepest priorities in life, what is important to us, and what is not important that we can let go.  
  73. The first one, Body Scan, functions at the level of physiology and works best for developing emotional awareness. The second, Journaling, functions at the level of meaning and works best for developing accurate self-assessment.  
  74. The practice itself is very simple: we just systematically bring moment-to-moment non-judging attention to different parts of our bodies, starting from the top of our head and moving down to the tips of our toes (or vice versa), noticing all sensation or lack of sensation.  
  75. The exercise itself is very simple. You give yourself a certain amount of time, say, three minutes, and you are given (or you give yourself) a prompt, which for our purposes is an open-ended sentence such as “What I am feeling now is . . .” For those three minutes, write down whatever comes to mind. You may write about the prompt, or you may write about anything else that comes to mind. Try not to think about what you’re going to write—just write.  
  76. As we deepen our self-awareness, we eventually arrive at a very important key insight: we are not our emotions.  
  77. emotions are simply what you feel, not who you are.  
  78. may begin to see emotions simply as physiological phenomena. Emotions become what we experience in the body, so we go from “I am angry” to “I experience anger in my body.”  
  79. Self-regulation goes far beyond self-control. Daniel Goleman identifies five emotional competencies under the domain of self-regulation:     
    1. Self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check  
    2. Trustworthiness: Maintaining standards of honesty and integrity   
    3. Conscientiousness: Taking responsibility for personal performance     
    4. Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change       
    5. Innovation: Being comfortable with novel ideas, approaches, and information  
  80. There is one commonality that underlies all these competences: choice.  
  81. Self-regulation is not about never having certain emotions. It is about becoming very skillful with them.  
  82. while we cannot stop an unwholesome thought or emotion from arising, we have the power to let it go, and the highly trained mind can let it go the moment it arises.  
  83. “The Great Way is without difficulty, just cease having preferences.”2 When the mind becomes so free that it is capable of letting go even of preferences, the Great Way is no longer difficult.  
  84. The key is to let go of two things: grasping and aversion. Grasping is when the mind desperately holds on to something and refuses to let it go. Aversion is when the mind desperately keeps something away and refuses to let it come.  
  85. The first important opportunity is the possibility of experiencing pain without suffering.  
  86. If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.  
  87. The second important opportunity is the possibility of experiencing pleasure without the aftertaste of unsatisfactoriness.  
  88. Four very helpful general principles for dealing with any distressing emotions are:  
    1. Know when you are not in pain.       
    2. Do not feel bad about feeling bad.  
    3. Do not feed the monsters.          
    4. Start every thought with kindness and humor.
  89. Mindfulness helps our thinking brain and our emotional brain communicate more clearly to each other, so they work better together.  
  90. You can think of mindfulness as increasing the power output of the regulation systems in the brain so it works even better.  
  91. The practice has five steps:          1.  Stop          2.  Breathe          3.  Notice          4.  Reflect          5.  Respond  
  92. Do not react for just one moment. This moment is known as the sacred pause.  
  93. perhaps this is an opportunity for self-discovery. For example, if you already have a mature meditation practice and something your boss says suddenly makes you feel very vulnerable (“like I’m five years old again”), you have just received valuable education on which aspects of your meditation practice you need to focus.  
  94. The final piece of the framework is creating a willingness to experience and accept the emotions—in a way, opening up the heart and mind so they become big enough to effortlessly contain any emotion, like the sky effortlessly containing any cloud.  
  95. You are the world’s top expert at figuring out what motivates you. You already know your deepest values and motivations.  
  96. three types of happiness: pleasure, passion, and higher purpose.
  97. We should be spending most of our time and energy working on higher purpose, sometimes enjoying flow, and every now and then, savoring rock-star pleasure.  
  98. If we know what we value most and what is most meaningful to us, then we know what we can work on that serves our higher purpose.  
  99. In this chapter, we will introduce three practices for motivation:         
    1. Alignment: Aligning our work with our values and higher purpose  
    2. Envisioning: Seeing the desired future for ourselves      
    3. Resilience: The ability to overcome obstacles in our path  
  100. Work of this nature has at least one of these two qualities, very often both:    
    1. The work is deeply meaningful to you     
    2. It generates a state of flow in you  
  101. The three elements of true motivation are:     
    1. Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives  
    2. Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters      
    3. Purpose: The yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves  
  102. Traditional monetary incentives work well for routine, rule-based work: jobs that do not require a lot of creativity. For the type of work that requires creativity or other cognitive skills, monetary incentives do not work well; they can even be counterproductive.  
  103. Michael Jordan says, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”  
  104. The basic idea is to envision, discover, and consolidate our ideal future in the mind by writing about it as if it were already true.  
  105. When I first started talking to others about my aspirations for world peace, I was pleasantly surprised how few people thought I was crazy (only two, so far). As it became more real to me, I began speaking about it with increasing confidence and, after a while, I noticed that people wanted to help me or introduce other people to me who could help me.  
  106. Nathan Myhrvold and Bill Gates, innovating involves being “confused, upset, think[ing] you’re stupid.”  
  107. friendships with “admirable people” are not half of holy life, but the whole of holy life.  
  108. Some scientists suggest that mirror neurons form the neural basis of empathy and social cognition.  
  109. empathy works by having you physiologically mimic the other person.  
  110. in many situations, the best way to make tough decisions is with kindness and empathy.  
  111. kindness is a sustainable source of happiness—
  112. Empathy helps us build trust. When we interact with empathy, we increase the likelihood that people feel seen, heard, and understood. When people feel those things, they feel safer and more likely to trust the person who understands them.  
  113. Trust is the foundation of a coaching/mentoring relationship. It is very simple: for you to work with your mentee, he must be open to you. The more he opens himself up, the more effectively you can work with him, and the more he trusts you, the more likely he is to be open. It is that simple. If there is no trust, this mentoring relationship will just be a waste of time  
  114. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt:  
  115. Remember that trust begets trust:  
  116. it’s better to praise people for working hard than for being smart.  
  117. If you understand people and you understand the interactions between them, you will understand the whole organization. That is organizational awareness.  
  118. Maintain rich personal networks within your organization, especially with allies, mentors, and groups who will support and challenge you.  
  119. Practice reading the underlying currents of your organization. Understand how decisions are made. Are decisions made by authority or consensus? Who are most influential in making them?  
  120. Distinguish between your own self-interest, the interest of your team, and the organization’s interest—everyone  
  121. Utilize your self-awareness to better understand your role in the web of personalities and interactions. Make frequent use of empathic listening to understand how people feel about situations and about each other.  
  122. Another mental habit is being open to understanding how other people can seem reasonable, at least from their own points of view, even when you disagree with them. Having this mental habit enables you to view social interactions with more clarity and objectivity.  
  123. being liked may be the most effective way to get things done in the long term.  
  124. compassion is the happiest state ever  
  125. “Open awareness,” a state in which the mind is extremely open, calm, and clear.  2961     
  126. Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for the suffering of others and aspiration to see that suffering relieved. Specifically, he defines compassion as having three components:    
    1. A cognitive component: “I understand you”      
    2. An affective component: “I feel for you”    
    3. A motivational component: “I want to help you”  
  127. in addition to being highly capable, also possess a paradoxical mix of two important and seemingly conflicting qualities: great ambition and personal humility. These leaders are highly ambitious, but the focus of their ambition is not themselves; instead, they are ambitious for the greater good. Because their attention is focused on the greater good, they feel no need to inflate their own egos. That makes them highly effective and inspiring.  
  128. 1.  Seeing goodness in self and others          2.  Giving goodness to all          3.  Confidence in the transformative power of self (that I can multiply goodness)  
  129. SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.  
  130. When you gain increasing mastery over something that matters to you, you activate a status reward, at least when compared against your former self.  
  131. never underestimate a person’s sense of fairness;  
  132. there are five steps to conducting a difficult conversation. Here is my brief of those steps:    
    1. Prepare by walking through the “three conversations.”  
    2. Decide whether to raise the issue.  
    3. Start from the objective “third story.”    
    4. Explore their story and yours.      
    5. Problem solve.
  133. In every conversation, there are actually three conversations going on. They are the content conversation (“What happened?”), the feelings conversation (“What emotions are involved?”), and the identity conversation (“What does this say about me?”).  
  134. impact is not the intention.  
  135. beyond the content and emotions in every difficult conversation, there are, more importantly, issues of identity.  
  136. When the brain receives insufficient data about others’ feelings, it just makes stuff up.  
  137. because e-mails seldom contain sufficient information for the brain to recognize the emotional context of the sender, the brain fabricates the missing information, often with a negative bias, and then unconsciously assumes its own fabrication to be the truth
  138. The Dalai Lama, for example, despite his busy schedule, said, “I don’t do anything.
 
What I got out of it
  1. Really good read on happiness, emotional intelligence and being successful by meshing the two

The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer

Art of Stillness

Summary
  1. Can travel thousands of miles to the most beautiful of locations but if not happy and satisfied with self, no distance will make you happy
Key Takeaways
  1. Making a living and making a life can take you in different directions
  2. Going nowhere not about austerity so much as about coming closer to one’s senses
  3. Sitting silently not about turning away but stepping back from time to time to see and love yourself and the world more clearly and deeply
  4. Those who are busiest are the ones who need to give themselves a break the most
  5. The point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or mountaintop but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world
  6. In an age of speed, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still
What I got out of it
  1. Impossible to distance yourself from your problems if your problems lie within. Appreciate stillness and the profound benefits it can have.

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Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel

Zen in the Art of Archery
Summary
  1. Eugen Herrigel was a German philosopher who moved to Japan in order to teach and learn the ways of Zen. This book describes his six year path of learning Zen through archery
Key Takeaways
  1. Herrigel describes the process and mentality required to truly master something – until it becomes an artless art with purposeless detachment
  2. The true experts are always humble as they realize how little they truly know
  3. Proper breathing is crucial and ties together any exercise as it provides rhythm and unity
  4. Must experience total failure before willing to give in, listen and accept teachings fully
  5. “You know already that you should not grieve over bad shots; learn now not to rejoice over the good ones. You must free yourself from the buffetings of pleasure and pain, and learn to rise above them in easy equanimity, to rejoice as though not you but another had shot well. This, too, you must practice unceasingly – you cannot conceive how important it is.”
  6. The master is as unselfconscious as the beginner
  7. Must get to the point where you trust yourself so completely that you know you do not need to think consciously about your art
  8. “He [the master] lives – and this is thoroughly characteristic of Zen – happily enough in the world, but ready at any time to quit it without being in the least disturbed by the thought of death.”
What I got out of it
  1. Beautiful book. The dedication and frame of mind one needs to become a true master of any art is daunting but admirable. Must read.

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