Tag Archives: Meditation

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

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

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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10% Happier by Dan Harris

Summary
  1. Dan Harris had a very public panic attack on air during an ABC news cast and this led him down a path he never thought he’d go. Harris helps demystify meditation and offers his own advice and steps to take in order to make meditation work for you. As the title suggests, meditation may not change your life, but it may just make you 10% happier.
Key Takeaways
  1. Learned how to realistically incorporate meditation in a “non-guru-like” fashion and this helps quiet one’s “monkey mind,” become responsive instead of reactive and realize that one’s inner voice are simply thoughts and not reality
  2. RAIN – Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification
  3. Acceptance is not passivity.
  4. Meditation helps quiet the “surge of habitual impulses” which so many of us simply fall prey to and obey
    1. Meditation can be as simple as sitting with your spine relatively straight in a chair, focusing on your breathing and when your mind wanders (which it inevitably will) simply to forgive yourself and get back to the breathing. Can start with just five minutes and feel the effects
  5. It is perfectly fine to plot and plan, but only up to the point of it being useful
  6. “The real superpower of meditation is not just to manage your ego more mindfully but to see that the ego itself has no actual substance.”
  7. Through meditation, you don’t feel different feelings, you simply learn to detach from them
    1. Detachment allows for space between stimulus and response
  8. When a feeling overcomes you, be aware and notice how it manifests itself (clenched fists, raised eyebrows, shoulder shrugged, etc.)
  9. The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness
  10. In the real world, “hide the zen” or else people will take advantage of you. Can feel the calm inside but don’t need to show others or be too conspicuous with it
  11. Nonattachment to the result, not the process. Be ambitious!
  12. Striving is fine, as long as you realize that the final outcome is ultimately out of your control
  13. Brain is a pleasure seeking machine and through meditation you can teach it that being present feels far better than worrying about the past or the future
  14. Meditation is not about feeling a certain way, it’s about being mindful of what you are feeling
What I got out of it
  1. More than anything, a realistic, practical and helpful book on meditation and how to implement it into your life

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Buddha Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

Summary
  1. Buddha Brain takes ancient Buddhist practices and scientific data to show us how to strengthen our brain in order to have stronger relationships and an overall happier and more fulfilling life.
Key Takeaways
  1. Thoughts literally shape our brain. With this knowledge, be mindful of your thoughts as over time they will be ingrained
  2. If brain is cause of suffering it can also be its cure
  3. Wisdom is applied common sense. Let go of things that hurt and strengthen what brings joy
  4. When you see your body as distinct, as what defines you, that leads to suffering, fear and weakness as you take the body’s weaknesses and frailties for your own
  5. Simulating an amazing evolutionary advantage but it brings us out of the present moment – present only place where one can find true happiness and often induces negative emotions. Most emotions in real life not as intense as what we simulate and usually contains limiting or simplistic beliefs. Simulating makes you chase carrots which aren’t as good as you think they’ll be and sticks aren’t as bad
  6. First and second darts – mental and physical discomforts unavoidable (first dart) but our reactions to them often amplify the suffering (second dart). Our reactions to situations are either positive or negative cycles as it is reinforcing either way
  7. When aware that brain doesn’t know the difference between a thought and reality, you realize how important it is to control your thoughts and reactions to situations. Thoughts are reality
  8. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional
  9. Consciously look for positive experiences. Look for and let positive events sink in and savor it. Can infuse a negative memory with a positive to one to slowly uproot it
  10. Craving something, more than simply desiring it, is what leads to suffering. Can desire something without craving it to happen or play out a certain way
  11. With equanimity, things have only characteristics, not demands. Can view things as unbiased and not react in a negative way. Engaged with world but not troubled by it. Not disappointed or ecstatic with charms of life, simply see things as they are – neither good nor bad. Not reacting to reactions
  12. Aim for a mind with no preferences, free from reactions
  13. Recognize that pleasures and rewards are fleeting and often not nearly as great as what we build up in our heads
  14. Respond, don’t react
  15. Be careful about attributing intentions to others
  16. You don’t have to be the justice system. Trust that others actions, good or bad, will be rewarded or punished respectively
  17. Being mindful simply means having good control over your attention. One of the most important steps your an take to shape your thoughts, actions and brain. Best way to improve mindfulness is through meditation
  18. Try doing just one thing at a time in order to cultivate mindfulness. When washing dishes, wash dishes. Use recurring, everyday events such as going to the bathroom as reminders to be mindful
What I got out of it
  1. Dr. Rick Hanson gives a lot of pragmatic tips that you can work into your daily routine in order to be happier and learn to detach from your “self.” I think the three biggest concept are: learning to respond and not react, try to be as free from preferences as possible, and “good” events are rarely as good as we build up in our heads and “bad” events nearly never as devastating. Also, Hanson’s weekly newsletter, Just One Thing, offers some straightforward and helpful insights.

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Buddha Standard Time by Lama Surya Das

Summary
  1. Surya Das walks us through how to live completely in the now, in “Buddha Standard Time.” We have the power to manipulate time by altering how aware and mindful we are of the present moment. The practices outlined within are increasingly important in today’s hectic day and age.
Key Takeaways
  1. Buddha Standard Time – timeless time, wholly now
  2. Issue trying to solve – how to wean yourself from the addictions that sap time and energy, to clear out all the debris and distraction. You have much more time than you think. In fact, you have all the time in the world
  3. The more concentration and awareness you can achieve, the more time disappears. It’s not time that we lack in our rushed lives, but focus
  4. Do not chase the small, ephemeral things that result only in loss and suffering if you become dependent on them (social media, fame, money, etc.)
  5. Become mindful of what you pay attention to and become more intentional, objective and observant to the minutiae of your life, the transient experiences. Increases self-control and mental discipline, transforms our attitudes and shifts more towards being more responsive, thoughtful, intentional and aware
  6. Nobody can make us angry if we don’t have seeds of anger in our own heart
  7. It is not what happens to us, but how we respond that determines our character and our destiny
  8. Smiling often is a great practice – it is free and spreads love and kindness
  9. People are terrible multitaskers
  10. Master the lost art of waiting and you’ll make friends with time and grow less bored, irritated or annoyed. Read, enjoy and appreciate the people and sites around you
  11. Take time to slow down – slow cooking, slow showers, slow walking, etc. All help you get back into the moment and appreciate the world around you
  12. The Sacred Pause – practice of creating a moment to respond consciously by breathing, waiting and considering things objectively before responding
  13. True realized masters are not beyond suffering and dissatisfaction but one with it
  14. Cultivate a beginner’s or “don’t know” mind – eliminates ego and wasteful thinking
What I got out of it
  1. Really got a lot out of this book and its tips, techniques and recommendations on how to slow down, be present and mindful. It’s not time that we lack, but focus.

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