Meditation

NCCAM: Meditation and the Dalai Lama

Meditation and the Dalai Lama

March 17, 2014
Josephine P. Briggs, M.D.

Director
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

View Dr. Briggs’ biographical sketch

The NIH community was delighted to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama on March 7 to present the annual NIH J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture, in which he discussed “The Role of Science in Human Flourishing.” Not surprisingly, the event—a conversation between the Dalai Lama and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins—drew a large and engaged audience.

While the Dalai Lama was here, I was privileged to be among a small group to accompany him for a visit with a child enrolled in an NIH Clinical Center study on rehabilitation for childhood cerebral palsy. Researchers at NIH are interested in learning how physical exercise and training in rehabilitation affect the neuroplasticity of the childhood brain. The Dalai Lama’s warmth, infectious laugh, and curiosity about the research completely won over both patients and staff.

NCCAM grantee Richard Davidson, Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison accompanied him during the visit and has worked with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan monks to examine how the mental exercise of meditation might impact the brain in order to improve health and well-being. Here at NCCAM, we have held a long interest in the research of meditation for health purposes and have supported a number of studies. Past studies have established an association with changes in the electrical function of the brain; more recent studies indicate possible neuroanatomic changes associated with the practice of meditation.

It was fascinating to hear the Dalai Lama’s insights on the connection between science and the human condition—for example, the biological impacts of a mother’s loving touch on her newborn’s development. I am intrigued and look forward to continuing our research on how the brain is changed by varying emotional states and how that affects our physiology.

Original post: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/blog/Dalai-Lama?nav=rss

Dr. Briggs meets with the Dalai Lama, escorted by Dr. Collins.

Is Mindfulness just another hype of the disconnectionist “artisanal crowd?” or is it as “a way to sabotage the addiction tactics of the acceleration-distraction complex that is Silicon Valley”

In yet another sign that the new age lingo of the 1960s is still very much with us, “mindfulness” has become the new “sustainability”: No one quite knows what it is, but everyone seems to be for it. It recently made the cover of Time magazine, while a long list of celebrities—Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Paolo Coelho—are all tirelessly preaching the virtues of curbing technology-induced stress and regulating the oppressiveness of constant connectivity, often at conferences with titles like “Wisdom 2.0.”

The embrace of the mindfulness agenda by the technology crowd is especially peculiar. Consider Huffington, whose eponymous publication has even launched a stress-tracking app with the poetic name of “GPS for the Soul”—a new app to fight the distraction caused by the old apps—and turned the business of mindfulness into a dedicated beat. Or take Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, who has warned that we need to define times when we are “on” and “off” and announced his commitment to make his meals gadget-free. There are also apps and firms that, at a fee, will help you enforce your own “digital sabbath,” undertake a “digital detox,” or join like-minded refuseniks in a dedicated camp that bars all devices. Never before has connectivity offered us so many ways to disconnect.

In essence, we are being urged to unplug—for an hour, a day, a week—so that we can resume our usual activities with even more vigor upon returning to the land of distraction. Here the quest for mindfulness plays the same role as Buddhism. In our maddeningly complex world, where everything is in flux and defies comprehension, the only reasonable attitude is to renounce any efforts at control and adopt a Zen-like attitude of non-domination. Accept the world as it is—and simply try to find a few moments of peace in it. The reactionary tendency of such an outlook is easy to grasp. As the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek once quipped, “If Max Weber were alive today, he would definitely write a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism.” And what a wonderful Kindle Single that would make!

CEOs embrace mindfulness for the same reason that they embrace all the other forms of the “new spirit of capitalism,” be it yoga in the workplace or flip-flops in the boardroom: Down with alienation, long live transgression and emancipation! No wonder Huffington hopes that the pursuit of mindfulness can finally reconcile spirituality and capitalism. “There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that these two worlds are, in fact, very much aligned—or at least that they can, and should, be,” she wrote in a recent column. “So yes, I do want to talk about maximizing profits and beating expectations—by emphasizing the notion that what’s good for us as individuals is also good for corporate America’s bottom line.”



Illustration by Jessica Fortner

But couldn’t the “disconnectionists”—asone critic has recently dubbed this emerging social movement—pursue an agenda a tad more radical than “digital detoxification”? For one, the language of “detox” implies our incessant craving for permanent connectivity is a medical condition—as if the fault entirely resided with consumers. And that reflects a broader flaw in their thinking: The disconnectionists don’t seem to have a robust political plan for addressing their concerns; it’s all about small-scale individual action. “Individuals unplugging is not actually an answer to the biggest technological problems of our time just as any individual’s local, organic dietary habits don’t solve global agriculture’s issues,” complained the technology critic Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic.

Note that it’s the act of disconnection—the unplugging—that becomes the target of criticism, as if there are no good reasons to be suspicious of the always-on mode championed by Silicon Valley, what is called “real-time.” Madrigal, for example, draws an intriguing parallel between our attitudes to processed foods (once celebrated for their contribution to social mobility but now widely condemned, at least by the upper classes) and processed communications (by which, he means all digital interactions). Like processed foods, social media and text messages are increasingly perceived as inferior, giving rise to an odd form of technophobic—but extremely artisanal—living. As Madrigal sardonically observes, “[T]he solution is to make local friends, hang out organically, and only communicate through means your Grandma would recognize. It’s so conservative it’s radical!”

There’s some truth to this, but in their efforts to reveal the upper-class biases of the “digital detox” crowd—by arguing, for example, that the act of unplugging falls somewhere between wearing vintage clothes and consuming artisanal cheese—critics like Madrigal risk absolving the very exploitative strategies of Twitter and Facebook.

So far, our debate about distraction has hinged on the assumption that the feelings of anxiety and personal insecurity that we experience when interacting with social media are the natural price we pay for living in what some technology pundits call “the attention economy.”

But what if this economy is not as autonomous and self-regulating as we are lead to believe? Twitter, for instance, nudges us to check how many people have interacted with our tweets. That nagging temptation to trace the destiny of our every tweet, in perpetuity and with the most comprehensive analytics, is anything but self-evident. The business agenda is obvious: The more data we can surrender—by endlessly clicking around—the more appealing Twitter looks to advertisers. But what is in Twitter’s business interest is not necessarily in our communicative interest.

We must subject social media to the kind of scrutiny that has been applied to the design of gambling machines in Las Vegas casinos. As Natasha Dow Schüll shows in her excellent book Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, while casino operators want us to think that addiction is the result of our moral failings or some biological imbalance, they themselves are to blame for designing gambling machines in a way that feeds addiction. With social media—much like with gambling machines or fast food—our addiction is manufactured, not natural.

In other words, why we disconnect matters: We can continue in today’s mode of treating disconnection as a way to recharge and regain productivity, or we can view it as a way to sabotage the addiction tactics of the acceleration-distraction complex that is Silicon Valley. The former approach is reactionary but the latter can lead to emancipation, especially if such acts of refusal give rise to genuine social movements that will make problems of time and attention part of their political agendas—and not just the subject of hand-wringing by the Davos-based spirituality brigades. Hopefully, these movements will then articulate alternative practices, institutions, and designs. If it takes an act of unplugging to figure out how to do it, let’s disconnect indeed. But let us not do it for the sake of reconnecting on the very same terms as before. We must be mindful of all this mindfulness.

Evgeny Morozov is a senior editor at The New Republic.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, popularly known for its effects on pro-social behaviors, like trust, generosity and affection.

All You Need is Love, Gratitude, and Oxytocin: the Science of Romance

By Lauren Klein | February 11, 2014 

A new study finds a biological mechanism behind “thank you”—and reveals one way that it bonds couples together.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, inviting us to think about what’s at the heart of our romantic relationships. Is there some sort of “glue” that binds us together with other people?

The GGSC’s coverage of gratitude is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation as part of our Expanding Gratitude project.

A recent study from GGSCGratitude Research Fellow Sara Algoe and colleague Baldwin Way, published earlier this month in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggests the answer may be gratitude.

It’s well-established that being grateful is a unique and powerful way to foster healthy relationships, but science is just now beginning to understand that there there’s a biological mechanism behind “thank you.”

The reason gratitude brings us together, the new study suggests, is because of its relationship to our big O. That’s right: We’re talking about our oxytocin system.

Gratitude will keep us together

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, popularly known for its effects on pro-social behaviors, like trust, generosity and affection. It’s involved in all kinds of human social interactions, from parenting to meeting a new acquaintance—but its baseline in the body is around zero and it needs a stimulus to cause its release.

So, the researchers, curious about the closer kinds of social bonds, sought out couples in ongoing romantic relationships and invited them into the lab, where they were given an opportunity to say “thanks” to their partner, a situation in which oxytocin would be particularly likely to reveal its influence.

These 77 couples—all heterosexual and monogamous—visited the lab twice, two weeks apart, and completed brief nightly questionnaires for each of the 14 nights between visits. At the beginning of the study, they were also asked to fill out a questionnaire on how satisfied they felt in their relationship.

Once in the lab, they were asked to choose something big or small—but something specific—that their partner did for him or her and for which he or she felt grateful. After he or she said thanks, both partners would privately rate their feelings of love, positivity, and responsiveness. While they filled out these self-reports, four “judges” submitted their own ratings on what they’d observed of these couples’ expressions of gratitude. Once everyone’s pencils were down, then the partners would swap roles and repeat.

Each partner, then, got to be part of two different interactions: one in which he or she expressed gratitude and one in which he or she received an expression of gratitude.

Then it was time to get physical. The researchers took a saliva sample, looking for a particular gene known as CD38—a key regulator of oxytocin release and therefore a big player in social interactions. Researchers were hoping to find a genetic basis for the pattern of effects they’d observed as their participants gave and received thanks. This step confirmed their hypothesis: CD38 is, in fact, significantly associated with a number of positive psychological and behavioral outcomes that are all intimately related to the expression of gratitude.

It means that participants reported that they felt more loving.  They also reported feeling more peaceful, amused, and proud. They perceived their partner as being more understanding, validating, caring, and generally more responsive. They were more likely to have reported spontaneously thanking their partner for something they’d appreciated on any given day. And they were more satisfied with the quality of their relationship overall.

CD38 is all you need

More on Love, Gratitude, and Oxytocin

These findings suggest there is something about the genes that control our oxytocin system, which systematically predicts our ability to experience positive moments with someone close to us.

Is there something specific about our oxytocin system, the authors wondered, that promotes social bonds? Or could it be the case that saying thanks, generally speaking, feels good enough to reinforce our relationship with the person with whom we’re sharing this joy?

The researchers ran a different study. They didn’t ask participants to say thanks. Instead, they asked for them to share a personal positive event. Like those in the first study, participants felt joy and enthusiasm. But, unlike in the first one, no pattern emerged at a genetic level. The presence of CD38, here, could not systematically predict the presence of these positive feelings.

Somehow, then, the oxytocin system isn’t just selective toward joy or feeling good. It’s really selective toward something about gratitude, perhaps to the extent that sharing gratitude—saying that my happiness is due to your role in my life—recognizes our interdependence. The authors say that the oxytocin system is associated with “solidifying the glue that binds adults into meaningful and important relationships.”

And while this study isn’t the first to suggest that we’re social creatures, it is perhaps the first to suggest that our emotional response to someone sharing a kind word or deed is deeply rooted in our bodies and is part of our evolutionary history.

What happened when I tried to be a ‘mindful’ parent

LEAH MCLAREN

Special to The Globe and Mail

When I had my son James, I tried to be mindful for the first time in my life.

I had practised yoga and meditation and read books on Buddhism and spiritual enlightenment before. I even did a 10-day juice detox during which I hallucinated colours while in a particularly intense reiki session. But I don’t think much of it sank in. I’d go through these phases of “being present” while half-starving on brown rice and spirulina tea and then return to eating canapé dinners and moaning about my charming commitment-phobe boyfriend of the moment.

But as I found out fast after my son came shrieking into the world, there is really no way of caring for a newborn other than to surrender to the experience. As the old gospel song says, you gotta walk that lonesome valley for yourself – ain’t nobody else gonna walk it for you.

Being alone all day with a baby, I quickly realized, is much easier if you can quiet your mind and go to “the baby place” in your brain. This is a state where you can spend several minutes, and eventually hours, simply laying on the floor and empathizing with your infant by feeling the sun on your face and occasionally thinking, “Oooh, look how my fingers move. I think I might do a poo now.”

Of course, many books will have you believe that to effectively care for a newborn you must spend your days sterilizing, pumping and swaddling according to a strict, incremented schedule, but I didn’t do any of that. I just sort sloped around braless for a few months, silently communing with James’s oceanic ego and changing an endless stream of diapers.

Eventually I went back to work and before I knew it I’d turned into that mother – the one in the supermarket lineup scrolling through work e-mails, snapping at the five-year-old to put down the candy NOW and nearly driving off leaving the baby in the cart.

So I started reading up on the practice of mindful parenting, which incorporates the techniques of mindfulness into family life. There was no shortage of material to choose from: In the past few months alone, several new books have come out on the subject. I started reading the daily tips on The Mindful Parent website and even signed James up for toddler yoga and meditation classes at my local wellness centre.

Much of the advice – effective breathing techniques, strategies to still the racing mind, tips for existing in the moment rather than ruminating about the past or fretting about the future – is stuff I’ve read before. Cultivating stillness is difficult, but it’s also simple.

After all this theory, it was time for practice. I decided to start with one of the most basic exercises on The Mindful Parent blog. The idea is to gather your family together and suggest a minute of silence, and in this way, “insert a pause at a time when everyone is otherwise caught up and engaged in the doing of things.” How sweet, I thought, imagining my stepson Freddie and James clasping hands around the kitchen table and doing cleansing breaths.

I decided Saturday breakfast was my best window of opportunity. First, I made sure my English husband had gone out to buy the paper because, although he is very good at being silent and calm, he has an admittedly low tolerance for what he calls “North American hippy bollocks.” Once Freddie and James were finished munching their muesli, I announced in my best Mary Poppins voice that we were going to play a game called “being silent for one minute.” The boys stared at me in confusion, but I persisted. “Doesn’t that sound fun? So on the count of three we all say nothing and keep very still for one minute. Okay, one, two …”

“BIRD!” James pointed out the window at a squirrel.

Freddie narrowed his eyes and let his spoon clatter in the bowl. “So what do I get if I win?”

“Win what?” I did the Mary Poppins smile again, hoping to dazzle him with my attentive enthusiasm.

Freddie: “The silent game. What’s the prize?”

Me: “The prize is that you get to live in the moment and experience the world without judgment. The prize is being silent. Isn’t that cool?”

Freddie: “The prize can’t be the same as the game, silly.”

Me: “Well the truth is there is no prize because it’s not actually not a game. It’s an exercise for living well.”

Freddie: “So you lied.”

Me: “Not really. More fibbed.”

Freddie: “Miss Mackie says fibbing is just as bad as lying. You have to go on a time out for it.”

Me: “And she’s right.”

Freddie: “Samuel went on a time out just for spitting in Ruby’s ear. He didn’t even fib and he still went on a time out.”

Me: “Thank you for honouring us with that story Freddie. Now could we just try being silent? Just for one minute? Please?”

Freddie: “No fair fibber, you make me go on time outs.”

James (pointing at a passing airplane): “CAR!”

And so I laid down on the floor and went to my baby place, where I felt perfectly present.

Namaste.

Meditation study links history to science: Light experiences during meditation similar to visualizations caused by sensory deprivation

By 

Staff Writer Brown Daily Herald

Practitioners of Buddhist meditation have reported seeing globes, jewels and little stars during meditation-induced light experiences. The neurobiological explanation for these visions was the subject of a recent study led by Willoughby Britton, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior, and Jared Lindahl, professor of religious studies at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology Jan. 3, connects first-hand accounts of these light experiences and reports of them from Buddhist texts to scientific literature on similar light visions that occur during sensory deprivation, perceptual isolation and visual impairment.

Sensory deprivation, or the lack of input to one’s senses, and perceptual isolation, a monotonous form of input, bear similarities to certain meditation practices and can therefore be used to investigate the biology behind these light experiences, Britton said.

Buddhist meditation, said Noah Elbot ’14, a leader of the Brown Meditation Community, includes practices such as breath awareness, repetition of a particular phrase, or concentration on an image in order to bring the mind to the present.

Because the blocking of sensory input is seen in both sensory deprivation and Buddhist meditation, the authors hypothesized that the light experiences may be caused by a spontaneous firing of neurons in response to a lack of input, a phenomenon referred to as homeostatic neuroplasticity, Britton said.

“Neurons have a point of activity that they fire at,” Britton said. “If there is no input, the neurons don’t like that, and they start to fire on their own, causing hallucinations.”

These visual hallucinations  induced by meditation practice suggest that meditation may lead to increased neuroplasticity, which has been linked to cognitive improvements in learning, memory and attention, according to the study. If this hypothesis proves true, meditation could have significant cognitive benefits.

This study is one of the first that attempts to connect data from historical texts and first-hand reports from current meditation practitioners with scientific research.

“While science has been studying meditation as a way of better understanding the brain, it often overlooks the rich information that religious texts have,” Lindahl said. If people examine meditation only from a scientific perspective, their understanding will be limited, he added.

“This is a paper that respects what the humanities have to offer to science,” Britton said. While meditation is being used increasingly as a clinical practice, the tremendous amount of knowledge on meditation is not being communicated to the scientists and clinicians using it, she added.

This sort of interdisciplinary research aligns with Brown’s values, Britton said. “Really bridging humanities (and) science is necessary in order for rich new dialogues to happen.”

Original post: http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/02/03/meditation-study-links-history-science/

Mind Over Matter Stressed out? Think it out

Maggie Flynn, CTW Features

Mind over matter is a difficult state to achieve, but according to a new study, meditation might provide some help in getting there.

Research from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, suggests that 30 minutes of daily meditation may help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, pain and depression.

This six-month study, led by Johns Hopkins assistant professor Dr. Madhav Goyal, found that those suffering symptoms of anxiety and depression saw “a small but consistent benefit” after an eight-week week training program in mindfulness meditation.

The research found that this type of meditation, which focuses precise attention to the present moment, had a tangible effect on symptoms of anxiety and depression, especially those associated with a clinical medical condition.

Dr. Goyal explained that while the study focused on the effect of meditation, it also examined the effectiveness of the meditation on symptoms of anxiety and depression. “We compared it to what other studies have found in similar populations using antidepressants, and the effect is about the same,” he says.

The beneficial results of meditation were consistent even when the study allowed for the placebo effect, wherein patients feel better because they perceive they are getting help. However more studies will be needed to determine just how powerful the effects of meditation are for those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Goyal says that one of the benefits of using meditation for medical therapy is that there are no side effects. For people who are already on a medical regimen, this opens up the possibility of treatment – as long as they have the time to learn and the willingness to practice.

Dr. Goyal stressed the importance of having a good instructor who can teach the appropriate techniques, and cautioned that while “historically in the eastern traditions from which these programs have evolved, meditation was not seen as a therapy for health problems – it was a means to gain an insight into one’s life.”

But patients from the study’s 47 clinical trials showed consistent improvement over the course of six months. From those results, meditation presents an intriguing option for those dealing with anxiety symptoms. And it’s open to almost everyone.

“I think future studies are needed to determine which patients would respond and which might not,” Dr. Goyal says. “But for the time being, I think anyone who is interested can try it out.”

© CTW Features

Maggie Flynn

Mindfulness Meditation Helps With Mild Anxiety And Depression, Finds Review

By News Staff http://www.science20.com/news_articles/mindfulness_meditation_helps_mild_anxiety_and_depression_finds_review-127250

A Johns Hopkins University of research suggests that about 30 minutes of meditation daily may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, without medication.

The scholars evaluated the degree to which self-reported symptoms changed in people who had a variety of conditions, such as insomnia or fibromyalgia. A minority had been diagnosed with a mental illness.

They were studying so-called “mindfulness meditation”, a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus precise attention on the moment at hand, and say it shows promise in alleviating some pain symptoms as well as stress. The researchers controlled for the possibility of the placebo effect but it should be noted that reviews of self-reported claims makes statistical reliability difficult.

To conduct their review, the investigators focused on 47 trials performed through June 2013 among 3,515 participants that involved meditation and various mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain. They found moderate evidence of improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain after participants underwent what was typically an eight-week training program in mindfulness meditation. They discovered low evidence of improvement in stress and quality of life. There was not enough information to determine whether other areas could be improved by meditation. In the studies that followed participants for six months, the improvements typically continued.
“A lot of people use meditation, but it’s not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything,” says Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the paper in JAMA Internal Medicine. “But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.”

These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.

“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” Goyal says. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

Mindfulness meditation, the type that showed the most promise, is typically practiced for 30 to 40 minutes a day. It emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind.

He cautions that the literature reviewed in the study contained potential weaknesses. Further studies are needed to clarify which outcomes are most affected by these meditation programs, as well as whether more meditation practice would have greater effects.

“Meditation programs appear to have an effect above and beyond the placebo,” Goyal says.

 

Published
in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Why Google, Facebook and Twitter Execs Are Meeting With a Monk

In an age when we’re constantly being distracted, being able to focus is the golden goose.

We may thank technology platforms like Twitter and Facebook for shrinking our attention spans down to nanoseconds, but the executives of those selfsame companies know that to grow their businesses, they need to put a priority on focus.

 

At the Wisdom 2.0 conference being hosted in San Francisco next month, a group of tech heavyweights will come together with yoga practitioners, mindfulness specialists and even a Benedictine monk to learn how to work and live within the demands of technology more effectively.

Related: 10 Trends for 2014: We Seek Imperfect, Human Moments. With Our Smartphones at the Ready.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and Huffington Post CEO Arianna Huffington are on the roster of speakers along with top executives from Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram and LinkedIn. Also on the 2014 speaker rundown is Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and author of New York Times best seller The Power of Now.

The annual conference, which attracted 350 attendees when it was first held five years ago, is expected to attract 2,000 attendees this year. The conference runs February 14 through 17 and tickets range from $500 to $1,500 depending on how early you reserve a spot.

Related: Let Go, Keep it Simple, Move Quickly: Secrets to Being a Productive Entrepreneur (Infographic)

The growing interest in the conference mirrors a growing trend in our relationship with technology: As we become increasingly dependent on mobile devices and social networks, we struggle to not feel controlled by them. These questions and struggles pervade both our personal and professional lives, but business leaders and executives at the Wisdom 2.0 conference will specifically address how to perform more efficiently in the workplace.

For example, last year, Gopi Kallayil, the chief evangelist for Google+, talked about how to integrate the fundamentals of a yoga-practice to be a more productive professional. Kallayil, who was born in India and grew up practicing yoga, has five fundamental rituals that he implements in every single day: focus on the essential, do one thing at a time, take time to listen to your own body’s needs, make at least one minute for mindfulness each day and set appointments for the activities that will help you stay mindful.

 

Need a 2014 Resolution? Take This “Think Clearly” Pledge with Bruce Kasanoff

The “Think Clearly” Pledge From Linked In Influencer Bruce Kasanoff

Yesterday I skied 10″ of fresh powder in Vermont, and as I neared my house at the end of the day, I simply took off my skis and lay down in the snow. After about 20 minutes of doing nothing but let snowflakes fall on my face, an idea occurred to me and I took this photo.

Here’s the idea: every day in 2014, I’m going to take at least 10 minutes to do what I did yesterday: stop, empty my mind, and do nothing at all.

In return, I hope to think more clearly the rest of the time.

Over the years, I’ve meditated off and on, and have often exercised or simply walked to clear my head. I’ve also observed that my best professional ideas come in the days right after a vacation. But I’ve never pledged to spend ten minutes in silent inaction every single day for a year.

Will you take the pledge with me?

I ask you this in the spirit of enlightened self-interest. The more people who take the pledge with me, the more likely I am to abide by it. But also the more people who abide by the pledge, the more people it will help.

Look around you, and you will see countless people who live in a fog. They don’t listen to what you say, they don’t understand what others are trying to communicate to them, and they don’t understand reality; instead, they operate within their own distorted sense of reality. As a result, they make a lot of bad decisions, and they miss numerous opportunities.

Here’s the really bad news: the same is true for you and me. We live in a fog, too.

Truth is, I’m not sure that ten minutes a day is enough to free either one of us from the fog, but this is a step in the right direction, and it is a modest enough commitment that – with the help of others – we can actually stick to it for this entire year.

To help both of us stick to the Pledge, I just created the Think Clearly group on LinkedIn. If you are taking the Pledge, please join the group.

Update, 3:45 p.m. Friday: Went back to the same spot today. This is the view. The temperature outside was -7 fahrenheit, but I still enjoyed the break. 425 people have already joined me to take the Pledge…

Related Post: http://karahpino.me/the-sacred-shadow-self/the-zen-of-going-to-the-rest-room/