Wouldn’t you know a Google engineer would write one of the clearest, most straightforward, easy-to-compute books on mindfulness that I’ve read in a long time. Actually it’s a book on mindfulness and emotional intelligence based on the seven week course being taught at Google called “Search Inside Yourself.” Mindfulness is like having a search engine for your body, feelings, and thoughts, as well as for the ability to understand and relate to other people.
Mindfulness, once again, is proposed as the key for harnessing your ability to respond to your life instead of react to it. In this book , the response you make to your life is one predicated on an increase of your emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, who pioneered work on emotional intelligence, broke it down into five domains: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Not hard to see how competencies in these areas would be useful.
Chade-Meng Tan (more informally known as Meng) who wrote Search Inside Yourself and developed the course by the same name had the good fortune of working with and learning from Daniel Goleman (who wrote the book on Emotional Intelligence), Philippe Goldin (a Stanford University scientist), Norman Fischer (Zen Buddhist priest and poet ), Mirabai Bush (co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society), Marc Lesser (CEO and Zen Teacher), and Yvonne Ginsberg (meditation teacher and professional coach ). That’s a pretty impressive line-up. And, I have to say, the results are FANTASTIC.
Buy the book and go to the Search Inside Yourself website and listen to Meng and his colleagues as they introduce the seven weeks on video.
I’d give you a money back guarantee (but I didn’t write the book). Darn!
Three years ago I found myself traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to be a part of the brain research being conducted by Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist who heads up the Center for Investigating Healthy. I had been identified as a “long term meditator” and asked to participate in some of the extensive research projects being conducted there to better understand what happens to the brain when you meditate. Over the next year and a half I was examined on three separate occasions in a sleep lab and in a Functional MRI machine using neuroimaging techniques that show which brain areas are involved in a task, a process, or an emotion. I was asked to respond to a wide variety of pictures and scenarios while being “stressed” by conditions such as heat applied to my arm and giving a speech or undergoing an interview with very stern looking people.
I just listened to a fascinating interview where Richard Davidson talks about some of his findings in his new book co-authored by Sharon Begley called “The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live-and How You Can Change Them.” The book outlines six categories of Emotional Style:
1. Resilience: How slowly or quickly you recover from adversity.
2. Outlook: How long you are able to sustain positive emotion.
3. Social Intuition: How adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you.
4. Self-Awareness: How well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions.
5. Sensitivity to Context: How good you are at regulating your emotional responses to take into account the context you find yourself in.
6. Attention: How sharp and clear your focus is.
If you’re interested in emotion, how different emotions map onto the brain, and how you can change your emotions by changing the way your brain functions, then this would be an interesting read (comes out December 24). While the “what do you do once you know this information” part of the book might be a bit slim, we do know from Dr. Davidson’s and other research that meditation can change our brain structures. Due to neuroplasticity of the brain, we can change. We just need to work at it.
The payoff for meditating? More resilience, better outlook, more social intuitive, greater self- awareness, better regulation of your emotional responses, and better attention. Those all sound pretty good to me.
Respecting your body is one of the concepts I often talk about in my classes. What does respecting your body mean to you? To me it means giving it healthy food. I recently had the pleasure of reading an article by Jillian McKee, a Complementary Medicine Advocate, about the importance of a healthy diet and how it not only relates to people with cancer but for those of us not carrying a cancer diagnosis (yet). According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 45% risk and women a 38% risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy diet does not make you bullet proof when it comes to cancer but it can help.
Here’s what Jillian has to say:
Good nutrition is important to the body because it helps it to grow, protects and repairs tissue, and it helps to keep a person’s body healthy. When a person is diagnosed with cancer their previous healthy eating habits will make it easier for them to fight their cancer. This includes dealing with their cancer treatment without as many negative side effects, having more energy to fight the cancer, and giving them more energy to fight their cancer diagnosis. People with a healthy diet in their daily lifestyle are more likely to have a healthier immune system, which means their chance of surviving cancer is greater than the chances of those who do not eat well.
I’m happy to announce that registration is open for my successful non-diet weight management approach to eating for health and enjoyment. This ten week class starts in September so you need to register soon. If you live in Columbia or Kansas City, you might enjoy taking the in-person class being held on the University of Missouri campus. Otherwise, you can take the Eat for Life class from the comfort of your own home, coffee shop, or office—wherever you have a computer. The online version of the class uses the same materials as the in-person class and includes video and audio recordings to help you understand and practice the philosophy of mindful and intuitive eating. Go to the “classes” link above to listen to the informational and testimonial videos and read more about the class. For more information and to enroll, please contact me, Dr. Rossy, at RossyL@umsystem.edu.
A few years ago Jon Kabat-Zinn and others within the mindfulness community were given time to spend with some members of Congress. The message seemed to take with Representative Tim Ryan and he now has a book out, A Mindful Nation, describing his belief in the power of “meditative mindfulness” to effect change in people’s lives on all levels. If it works, he says, “why wouldn’t we have it as part of our health care program?” Good question. There is a huge body of scientific research that demonstrates the positive effects of mindfulness in people experiencing a wide variety of mental and physical health problems. If we really want health care reform and to lower health care costs, we need to start personally taking care of our health. But wouldn’t it be nice to walk out of your doctor’s office with a prescription of “mindfulness practice” and actually be supported financially to take a program that works without drugs. Read more about Rep. Ryan in the recent Washington Post article.
Please note: This message is not intended to suggest that you should not follow your doctor’s orders if you need to be on prescription drugs. It is suggesting that sometimes there is a better way.