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TEDxCambridge - Sara Lazar on How Meditation can Reshape our Brains

Neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s amazing brain scans show meditation can actually change the size of key regions of our brain, improving our memory and making us more empathetic, compassionate, and resilient under stress.

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Back To Meditation

The diet has been stalled a bit, and its not for lack of trying, but rather focusing on the symptom rather than the disease.  If you have never tried meditation, I strongly suggest you give it a whirl.  The point is to address the root cause of being overwight and eating too much or eating the wrong things.  Every one of us has some level of neurotic issues, and some of us self medicate with the pleasure of food.

This is my current meditation:

1. Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.  I need to sit upright in a chair with my feet flat on the floor. Set a timer for 15 minutes to start.

2. The point is to calm your mind by stopping the constant fireworks of thought, which is filled with angst, worry, fear, and all the other negative side effects of dealing with life.

3. I breathe deeply, just relaxing and constantly guiding my mind back to stillness and emptiness.  Its often been referred to as gently lovingly guiding a puppy that is  wondering all around your living room peeing on everything.  Don’t force it, just keep guiding yourself back to stillness gently.  Just the shift back to stillness is success, not necessarily keeping your mind still.

4. I then imagine my mind being a sponge, and all day (all week, all year, all life) long it has picked all kinds of negativity.  Fear, hate, self-loathing, anger, frustration, lonliness, longing, anxiety, just everything everyone’s mind keeps picking up.

5. I exhale and gently squeeze that sponge and all the nasty stuff runs out between my fingers.  I inhale and the sponge takes on fresh mountain spring water.  Exhale, and more dirt and grime flush out.  Imagine all the dirt and grime and nastiness flushing out, while the sponge comes clean and starts to show the beautiful colors it picked up during the day.  All the good things that happened have colored the sponge a beautiful pattern, and that can’t be washed out.  Colors of love, happiness, compassion, self-love, gratefulness, self-worth, character, courage, and sunlight.  I keep rinsing that sponge under that mountain spring and I revel in its beauty, because that beauty is in all of us, no matter how much grime we have picked up.  You just have to work at it sometimes.  Use all of your senses when imagining the sponge, how foul and slimy and stinky that dirty sponge is and as it comes clean how soft, fresh smelling, and even the sound it makes as all the soap suds come out and its just spring water.

This can take a little practice, when I discipline myself to meditate twice a day I can generally make great progress.  Then I take it for granted and start skipping and going backwards!  Good luck.

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The 10-Minute Hack

The hardest part of doing most things is just starting. We often think about how big of a project we have ahead of ourselves, and that’s what makes it hard to start. I know when I was writing my book, it seemed like most of my day was spent fighting the agony of just getting started. It was hard to ignore just how big of a project it was.

Thankfully, I’ve found a great hack for getting started. It’s called The 10-Minute Hack.

Each day, after I wake up, as soon as is possible—before eating, before showering, before checking email, (but not before meditating)—I pick one task, set my iPhone timer for 10 minutes, and work on that one thing non-stop.

How much work can you possibly get done within 10 minutes? A surprising amount, really, but that’s not the point.

The point is, you get started.

Sometimes, the 10 minutes seems like an eternity. I’m just waiting for it to end so I can eat something or go to the gym. But often—actually, usually—I don’t stop after 10 minutes. 10 minutes turns into 45 minutes, an hour—two hours—of non-stop work on one project.

The Beauty of Ten Minutes

Beautiful item number one about The 10-Minute Hack: once you get started, the trail has been carved. The rigidity of hesitation gives way to the fluidity of being in a project. Whatever second-guesses that had to be quelled to get started are knocked down by the possibilities introduced by being in motion.

This also sets a precedent for the rest of the day. Naturally, I get the urge to check email, to make some tea, or to check Twitter. But “I only have to do this for 10 minutes” I tell myself. The neural pathways that have to be exercised to suppress these urges—probably in the prefrontal cortex—get stronger.

Which introduces beautiful item number two about The 10-Minute Hack: you will feel like atotal loser if you can’t work on something for 10 minutes without stopping. Anybody can do that. It’s nearly impossible to fail at this.

Motivational Judo

And just after beautiful item number two takes effect, beautiful item number one is exercised. This motivational Judo is what makes The 10-Minute Hack work.

If I don’t get into the flow, hey, no problem. I did my 10 minutes, and I have permission to do some other things. Maybe I’ll be in the mood to get something done later.

If I do get into the flow—fantastic! If I’ve gotten 2 hours of solid work done at the beginning of the day, I feel much better throughout the day. Honestly, that’s probably more work than I would have gotten done futzing around for 8 hours.

This technique can be used a number of different ways, and it doesn’t always have to be 10 minutes:

  • Want to start meditating? Set a timer for 2 minutes. If you can’t meditate for 2 minutes, being busy isn’t your only problem. If you like meditating, you’ll look forward to longer sessions.
  • Want to start stretching in the morning? Start simple. Sit on the floor, and reach your toes. It’s easy because you’re sitting, but since you remember how good it feels to stretch, you just might try some more postures.
  • Starting a workout program? Pick something simple, like “30 minutes of cardio,” and commit to do it every day for one week. It’s easy to not make excuses for one week, and once you realize how good you feel, you’ll want to keep going.

(Source: Lifehacker)