• Thich Nhat Hanh and the Science of “Habit Energy”

    In the Western mind, habits can be described as connections between neurons–or bonds–that are strong and induce us to continue a behavior. The more that we do the behavior, the stronger the neural bonds, and the stronger the habit. Journalist Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business, (excerpt here) was interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air” a couple of years ago, and here’s a quick rundown on what happens when we create habits: Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also

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  • Yet More Evidence: Meditation Reduces Inflammatory Response

    It’s hard to keep up, sometimes–seems like mindfulness research data just keep piling up; a good “problem” to have, indeed. A recent study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France, indicates the first evidence of molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation, specifically, lowered cortisol. “The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels

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  • Daily Grateful: Winter Birds in Vermont

    February 7, 2014 The Daily Grateful is one way to “take in the good,” which is helps rewire yourself, especially if your brain has a negative bias. It helps to experience moments of beauty and really dwell in, or “internalize them,” many times throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a major event, it just has to a moment or series of moments that make you feel good or simply put a smile on your face. Take the time to embrace the many joys that are available to you; really dwell in those moments, and your brain’s neural wiring will reward you

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  • Mindfulness at Work: Free Webinar Series

    As the quote above tells us, Buddhism isn’t just for the practitioner and enlightened monks–it’s for real people simply living. As the Dalai Lama (along with other luminaries like Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and many others) have reminded us, the lessons of Buddhism (and mindfulness) are applicable in everyone’s real life, including at work. Mindful.org and the Huffington Post’s Third Metric have put together a Mindfulness at Work webinar series starting Monday, January 27. Janice Marturano, executive director of the institute and author of Finding The Space To Lead, will be on Huffington Post Live today at 1 p.m. E.S.T. to launch The

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  • Daily Grateful: A Visual and Aural Feast

    January 15, 2014 First, I just wanted to say that I’m a visual person: I love graphics, I love pictures, I love movies. I see art, literally, everywhere! The Buddha you see to the right was a bronze statue at my good friend’s house (thanks, Carol!) and I had to mess around with it. (Click here to see the original.) A Visual and Aural Feast, Indeed. So when I saw some amazing pictures from a Russian photographer earlier today (below), I had to share them. They’re absolutely brilliant. I also love music, and because I think the two senses go so

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  • Daily Grateful: A Close Encounter with a Beautiful Lion

    January 13, 2014 National Geographic photographer Mattias tells an amazing story of two creatures: one is human, one is a beautiful lion. Quite an experience (good thing she was probably full!). I absolutely love this mindful, very “zen” explanation from the photographer: “I’m an emotional person, sort of a vulnerable person in many ways. I don’t, for example, think that to do what I do, you sort of a ‘Tarzan”…because you have to be the contrary. You have to be soft, hopefully intelligent; you have to read the environment–you have to be modest. Otherwise I would have been eaten, I think,

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  • Why Do We Hate Ourselves So Much?

    I once had this pin, and put it up on a cubicle in my workplace back in the early ’90s. Not everyone thought it was funny or even understood the “joke,” but it seems appropriate today. Only in this case, I refer not to upper management, but to our own selves administering the beatings. Why is it that we beat ourselves up here in the West? Is it because so much is expected of us ? Is it because our culture is so focused on “winners” and “losers”? Enough already? I was reading a piece by Pema Chodron recently and

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  • Daily Grateful: Exercise and the Brain

    January 7, 2014 Not new news, but always a good, gentle reminder that exercise does the most amazing things for your body and your brain. According to Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. In SPARK, John Ratey, MD embarks upon a fascinating journey through the mind-body connection, illustrating

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  • West Meets East: Neuroscience and Buddhism

    I was watching this video from the wonderful “Greater Good Science Center” Web site the other day, and just today I was reading an interview in Shambhala Sun with Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield about mindfulness and Buddhism in the Western world. It’s not news that the world of Western science and the world of Eastern philosophy are coming closer and closer together, but what’s interesting to me is that the Buddha was apparently quite aware of the plasticity of the brain long before anyone actually knew the true functions of the brain. “Letting your frontal lobe support…non-judgmental, present moment

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  • Sensational Maps: Mind / Body Emotional Experiences

      Source: npr.org According to research conducted by Lauri Nummenmaa, a psychologist at Aalto University, “Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation.” Nemmenmaa led a team of scientists in Finland to ask ask people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies. The results, as shown above, were “surprisingly consistent,” even across cultures. “Say you see a snake and you feel fear,” Nummenmaa says. “Your nervous system increases oxygen to your muscles and raises your heart rate so you can deal with the threat. It’s an

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  • Dharma Punk: How One Angry Young Man’s “Rock Bottom” Journey Turned into a Mindfulness Movement

    For many (most?) people, the pain of existence requires some form of escape: for some, it’s food, for others, drugs or alcohol; for still others, it’s obsessive work or other obsessive behaviors and actions. But for all, these are attempts at escaping something that cannot be escaped–only accepted and “observed” as conditions of the world. For many, hitting “rock” bottom is the reason for changing, for attempting to improve themselves and trying something different. That was the case for me, and it was, as I found out, the case for a group of punks in California some years back. One

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  • A Thoughtful Argument for Mindfulness

    No Two Journeys are Alike, but We are all on the same Path When you stop and think about it, we have this moment, and then the next, and the next, but it’s inevitable that at some point, we will run out moments in this corporeal state. I remember reading Carlos Castaneda as a young man about the importance of living in the moment and the fact that death “is the only wise adviser that we have.” His was the argument for embracing all moments and that each day should be treated as one’s last, because it very well might

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  • Anxiety, Survival, and Wellness

    Anxiety and Survival: Genetically Complementary As it turns out, much of the negativity that humans experience–fear, anxiety, stress response–all are a a natural development in the brain. It’s all a survival mechanism that developed over millennia to “protect” us. But today, we don’t need to escape lions (for the most part) or tribes (for the most part), but the brain doesn’t know that–or much care. If there’s a threat, real or imagined (and most fears for the modern human are often imagined), the brain swings into action to “save the day.” And for the most unlucky people, it can wind

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  • Daily Grateful: Letting Go

    December 23, 2013 Western Medicine Acknowledges the Importance of Letting Go. The importance of letting go isn’t just an Buddhist belief or core tenet, it’s also increasingly understood in the west as critical to well being. Even the Mayo Clinic devotes an entire page to letting go of resentment and anger–feelings and emotions that serve no purpose other than to keep us in a negative feedback loop. They summarize it as lack of forgiveness: If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped

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  • Your Amazing Brain and What it can do

    Moken “See” People: Normally pupils dilate underwater to let in more light (but this causes everything to be blurry). The Moken’s brains have adapted to the sea by contracting their pupils–an ability that allows them to see cleary underwater. I remember when I was young, a popular saying was “People only use 10 to 15% of their brains.” Back then, I had no idea what that meant. My young mind thought “So, one day we might learn to levitate objects? Read other peoples’ minds? What’s in that other 85% to 90%?” I don’t know that these capabilities are in the

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