Daniel Goleman is a psychologist, lecturer, and science journalist who has reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year and a half.
Goleman is also the author of Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. The book argues that new information technologies will create “radical transparency,” allowing us to know the environmental, health, and social consequences of what we buy. As shoppers use point-of-purchase ecological comparisons to guide their purchases, market share will shift to support steady, incremental upgrades in how products are made – changing every thing for the better.
His latest book is Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, which he has co-authored with Richard Davidson reveals the science of what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.
22 September, 2018 Transcript
Daniel Goleman: One of the strong benefits of meditation generally has to do with the ordinary ways in which we suffer depression, anxiety, the angst of life. It turns out that meditation generally makes people feel more positively, it helps diminish anxiety, but it becomes particularly powerful when it’s combined with a psychotherapy. The way this is usually done is with mindfulness on the one hand and what’s called cognitive therapy on the other. Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience. Instead of getting sucked into our emotions or our thoughts, which is what happens when we’re depressed or anxious, we see them as “those thoughts again” or “those feelings again,” and that disempowers them. There’s actually research at UCLA that shows when you can name that feeling, “Oh, I’m feeling depressed again,” you have shifted the activity levels neurologically in the part of the brain which is depressed to the part of the brain which notices, which is aware—the prefrontal cortex. And that diminishes the depression and enhances your ability to be able to understand it or to see it as just a feeling. So if you combine that ability with cognitive therapy, cognitive therapy helps you talk back to your thoughts. The basic realization in cognitive therapy is: “I don’t have to believe my thoughts.” This is extremely important in people with chronic anxiety or chronic depression because it’s our thoughts that trigger the anxiety, that trigger the depression. The depressive thoughts are classic; “I’m no good; my life is worthless,” whatever it is. Those thoughts actually make us depressed. So if you use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on the one hand you can see, “Oh, there’s that thought again.” On the other hand cognitive therapy lets you talk back to that thought, “Oh I’m not so worthless, I’ve done some pretty good things in my life; there are people who love me,” whatever it may be. You can develop a habit of not letting those thoughts take you over, but countering them with actual evidence from your life that says “Oh they’re not true. I don’t have to believe them!” And that is very relieving. The first study that used mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with depression it was pretty spectacular. It was done at Oxford University and it was done with people whose depression is so severe that nothing helps, no medication helps, electric shock doesn’t help, psychiatry doesn’t know what to do. People get depressed very deeply, they recover, and then they get depressed again. So with that group they use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and they found that it cut the rate of relapse (of having depression again) by 50 percent. If this were a drug some pharmaceutical company would be making billions of dollars, but it’s not a drug. It’s free basically. So mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works very well for depression. Better-designed studies afterwards shows that it wasn’t 50 percent, but still the impact is palpable and it turns out that mindfulness and other meditations, particularly combined with cognitive therapy, work just as well for anxiety or depression as the medications do, but they don’t have those side effects.
Being mindful of depressing thoughts disempowers them
Meditation becomes particularly powerful when it’s combined with a cognitive therapy
Mindfulness and other meditations can work as well as pills but without the side effects
Meher Baba on Independence on 4 September 1931,
“Baba remarked, “If Gandhi comes to meet me, it would be very good for him and good for all concerned.”
About the Round Table Conference, Baba explained to Chanji and Rustom:
Even Gandhi will have no influence there, in spite of his presence. He should have gone at first with other representatives who, in a wavering mood, left for Multan; but at that time, Gandhi hesitated on account of certain grievances. Then he suddenly agreed to participate in the conference, though most of their grievances were not redressed.
The point is that once Gandhi refused to join in the conference on certain grounds, he ought to have refused to the end. He should not have suddenly consented to take part in it unless and until all his grievances were redressed and removed, and he should have stayed in India. But being inconsistent, he consented to attend the conference at the eleventh hour. He has lost his prestige and now he won’t succeed there. At the Round Table Conference, differences of opinion will prevail among the parties and no one will agree, and Gandhi’s influence will not make a difference. His influence will be ineffectual.
“Why?” asked Chanji.
In reply, Baba spelled out:
Gandhi’s influence has already waned. He wants to keep every party pleased and there[in] lies his weakness. How could he keep everybody pleased when they all are opposed to one another and have conflicting views, extremely opposite to each other?
In India, the many political parties and creeds all have one common aim: to attain independence. But there is not a single party among them who can come to terms with another party about details. Even the [Indian National] Congress, the party considered strongest, is affected by the foul odor of religious differences.
Its influence on others is gradually failing. With the weakening of its influence, the influence of Gandhi is also waning. Not only are the two greatest and largest parties and communities, the Muslims and the Untouchables, out of the influence of the Congress, but they also oppose and fight tooth and nail against Gandhi and the Congress.
Even among his own followers, or those who at least agree with him on the question of independence, their objectives differ. Observe how Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Malaviya act. Gandhi preaches the use of khadi [handspun cotton cloth] to all and sundry, yet Mrs. Naidu wears silks, though she is a colleague in his fight for independence. Gandhi preaches and advocates the abolition of caste and religion, particularly in abolishing Untouchability, and his lieutenant in the Congress Party, Malaviya, does not adhere to it. Malaviya takes his cook to England with him, thinking that eating meals prepared by foreigners is irreligious. There are thousands in the Congress who do not accept this dictum of Gandhi’s at all, and that is why the party is not strong; the result of which will bode ill for the future.
Gandhi also advocates celibacy, though he himself is married and has children, and recently he arranged his son’s marriage. There are so many things like these which he recommends, but does not put into practice himself. Why preach such things which he himself can’t or won’t do?
It is this trait in his character, combined with two other great defects — vanity and inconsistency — which causes Gandhi to lose his influence gradually, and leads those who once admired him to oppose him today. Shaukat Ali was once Gandhi’s closest companion and he is now his staunchest opponent. Why? Because of that great dividing factor: the religious animosity and enmity between the Hindus and Muslims. The religious fanatics on both sides have nurtured and fostered this hatred to the extent that even in Congress there are the orthodox who color every political activity and action with their religious bigotry, and it is all authorized, approved and practiced by and with Gandhi. This leads to great antagonism which is now weakening the Congress party.
What can I say about [Gandhi’s] vanity? Too much of a thing always spoils a man. To raise one to the seventh heaven and to cry out “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai” has made him vain and brought him down.
Shaukat Ali has caustically remarked, “These things have gone to his head and made him [Gandhi] mad!”
Besides, his immediate attendants put up a great show and fuss in every activity, which shows that Gandhi has a taste for it. But it is the natural outcome of too much praise and adulation. This daily exhibition in all functions, public and private, has reached the limit. It is too prominent to conceal from a shrewd observer or a sincere soul, who never likes or desires such a show. Hence, there is the dislike of him by many who, in spite of their admiration for him at one point, have left and are leaving him in [droves].
The Perfect Master of Spirituality can do anything and everything. He can preach about things which he himself does not practice, and for his spiritual purposes he can do things according to the prevailing conditions and circumstances, because he is eternally free of all things and can undo their effects. This is something an imperfect person can never do, much less one who has no “wind” [breeze] even of spirituality [such as a political leader, like Gandhi].
The reactionary effects of all these preachings, fuss, sham, show and vanity are disastrous, causing a gradual erosion of any influence Gandhi has among his admirers and followers, however great. If Gandhi’s influence goes, the rise of youth will take place, which in its activity will resemble Russian communalism. The signs are already there, as we find them assassinating people in high places and assaulting them in broad daylight.
Although Jawaharlal [Nehru] sides with Gandhi in his objective for independence, his views, creed and activities are quite different from Gandhi’s.
On the 5th, regarding Britain, Baba said:
The British government will not grant anything more than what was settled on in the last Round Table Conference. There is a change of government and, except for [Prime Minister] MacDonald, no one has any sympathy for our cause. Gandhi, too, will not gain anything more by his presence than what has already been decided to be given. His personality and influence will have no effect at all. And if Gandhi tries to give in again to avoid a conflict, the Congress will not accept it.
Baba predicted a civil war erupting in India between Hindus and Muslims. “There will be a terrible massacre and slaughter of one another,” he stated. “It will also have its reflection on Europeans.
There will be an equally strong civil war between the Indians and foreigners, particularly the Europeans and more particularly the British.”
On the 7th, Baba said:
The common cause of nationalism and the objective of achieving independence are sacrificed for want of unity between the Hindus and the Mohammedans, and they are harming their own cause by bringing religion into the matter. No one understands religion, and all this strife and squabble is born of irreligiousness.
Gandhi, who goes to England as the chosen leader of the Congress and the spokesman for India, this time will have no influence, unfortunately, owing to various reasons of conflicting ideals and party politics. Not only will his influence fail with the British people, but his influence will fall considerably even with his own people, the Indians, to the extent of failure. And with Gandhiji’s influence gone, and “communalism” coming in, civil war will follow.
This is all very sad for poor India and for Britain, too. But sadder times are still to come before the sun of the New Era of peace and prosperity dawns on the world, for such is ordained.”
Revised Lord Meher, pp. 1237-1240, copyright AMBPPCT
photo: Meher Baba, 1931
copyright Meher Nazar Publications or MSI Collection
The heart without love is entombed in unending darkness and suffering.
But the heart which is restless with love is on the way to realisation of the unfading light and the unfathomable sweetness of life divine.
——-AVATAR MEHER BABA
[From- LESSONS FOR SPIRITUAL ASPIRANTS, Complied by: BIRENDRA KUMAR]
[Copyright © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust Ahmednagar (M.S.) India]
Spirituality is to get rid of your false self. And when your false self goes, you know what you are in Reality.
When nothing upsets you, you are at the beginning of path.
When you desire nothing, you are halfway on the path, when nothing becomes everything, you are perfected.
.On spiritual path, hypocrisy is the only sin. Be honest
——-AVATAR MEHER BABA
[From- LESSONS FOR SPIRITUAL ASPIRANTS, Complied by: BIRENDRA KUMAR]
[Copyright © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust Ahmednagar (M.S.) India]
Your mind isn’t deep at all. In fact, it’s flat.
August 9, 2018 by DEREK BERES
Photo: Getty Images
A box of crackers features the tagline, “Conscious eating.” An artistic subgroup embraces the Burning Man ethos: “Conscious music.” This self-declared genre arises from the same set that talks about techniques for “higher consciousness.” In every instance, the sentiment is obvious: my product is better than yours because there’s something deeper going on over here.
Consciousness, from their perspective, is like a ladder descending into an unfathomable abyss. This depth can be penetrated, through meditation, through breathing exercises or austerities, through faith or sheer willpower or a combination of the two, or through, apparently, eating crackers. For some, higher consciousness is handed down at birth, from a past life, or bestowed by a teacher, as in the Indian idea of shaktipat. Whatever the method, everyday consciousness only scratches the surface. Something deeper exists, waiting to be mined by the steadfast observer.
A deep sigh of relief washed over me when reading that Nick Chater called the notion of higher consciousness “nonsense on stilts.” The British behavioral scientist doesn’t mince words in his new book, The Mind is Flat. While many believe consciousness to be a hidden mystery few can access, Chater’s take on this evolutionary phenomenon is quite pedestrian. What you see is effectively what you get.
No amount of therapy, dream analysis, word association, experiment or brain-scanning can recover a person’s ‘true motives,’ not because they are difficult to find, but because there is nothing to find. The inner, mental world, and the beliefs, motives, and fears it is supposed to contain is, itself, a work of the imagination.
This is not shocking if you consider consciousness in its most fundamental regard. By definition, consciousness is simply what you’re paying attention to at the moment, which can amount to no more than four or five things. You can refine from there: the goal of meditation, for example, is to focus on one thing—a mantra, a candle flame, your breathing, something basic and accessible. Whether you’re an expert meditator or chronic multitasker, the effects on consciousness are physiological, not mystical.
Yet that’s not how we feel, which is why Chater’s book is likely to rattle many mental cages. An emotion, he says, is an interpretation of a physiological change in your body. He’s not the first thinker to posit this; Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote an entire book on this topic. While this will not square well with those who claim they know something to be true because they feel it, Chater’s point should not be dismissed. Anecdotal interpretations have the habit of often being wrong.
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We actually have a limited set of feelings. Think about the innumerable issues that cause a stomach to churn. Context matters, and in this sense, our brain contextualizes the physical sensations based on past experiences. Memory is fluid but based on prior events. Essentially, Chater states that we’re just making it all up as we go along.
We crave narrative and go to great lengths to fill in incomplete stories regardless of the validity of assumptions being made. This is why Chater thinks the role of psychotherapy is dated. He calls the Jungian notion of a collective unconscious “the astrology of psychology,” rather fitting given that Jung speculated that UFOs are psychic projections from our hidden collective drive. To Chater, comparing Jungian analysis to psychology is akin to relating astrology to astronomy. One exploits patterns of thought and behavior in an attempt to derive coherence, while the other relies on data to pinpoint exact locations and predictable patterns.
Chater believes psychotherapy feeds the illusion of a hidden depth and claims the industry is on the outs.
[Psychotherapy is] doomed by the fact that there is not a deep inner story that is hiding from you. Rather, you’ve got the first draft or a set of incoherent notes for a novel. You’ve got an incoherent muddle. And we’re all incoherent muddles to some degree. But when some of those incoherencies cause us problems, when we’re terrified of something we very much want to do, even something as narrow as a fear of spiders, these are conflicts in our thinking and reactions.
In his latest book, The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes that feelings are “for” life regulation. They provide essential information to help us remain in homeostasis. If something is out of whack a feeling lets us know. Again, context matters. Our stomach gets jittery if we’ve eaten something rotten and when we’re courting a romantic partner. As Damasio states, feelings alert us to potential danger as well as potential opportunity. There is nothing metaphysical about the process.
But we perceive it to be other, as Chater writes. Instead of a perception refined by years of experiences, we come to feel that the deep well of the unconscious is simmering below the surface, like the famed kundalini energy at the base of the spine. Hyperventilate enough and you unleash its fury. Well, true, Chater might say—hyperventilate enough and your nervous system is certainly going to react in peculiar and dangerous ways.
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Does this make psychotherapy useless? Not so fast, Chater concludes. First off, talking to another is proven medicine. Chater also says creativity is an important aspect of our humanity. Ingenious solutions can be worked out between a therapist and patient, provided it’s understood as a metaphor. His contention seems to be assuming metaphor to represent reality as stated. Constructing new patterns of thought and behavior has therapeutic utility; uncovering unconscious motives or beliefs is not only counterproductive but dangerous:
The reason I think the unconscious is a dangerous metaphor is because it gives you the impression that mental things that are unconscious could be conscious. This whole idea of uncovering things from the unconscious and making them conscious has the presupposition that they are of the same type.
He compares this yearning for a hidden depth to Freud’s iceberg: consciousness at the top, the real story under the surface, which Chater says is a mistaken analysis of how our brains actually work.
The things we’re conscious of—experiences, thoughts, fragments of conversation—are completely different in type from the things we’re unconscious of—all these mysterious brain processes, which lay down and retrieve memories, piece fragments of information together, and so on. The brain is doing lots of unconscious work—but it is not thought in any way we understand it.
What is unconscious can never be made conscious because the information is inaccessible by design. I’ll never be conscious of my liver detoxifying my blood, but if something goes wrong in that process I’ll certainly feel the result. If the unconscious could be made conscious, we’d never need a doctor to diagnose an illness; our body would tell us.
We’re just not as deep as we think, which is fine: we have plenty of work to do on the surface. Perhaps if we stop taking so many metaphors as reality, we’d get along much better, with ourselves and those around us. There’s plenty to see when we open our eyes. Closing them to seek a treasure causes us to miss the treasure right before us.
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