The ancient practice of meditation – particularly mindfulness meditation – has recently surged in popularity.
In fact, in the US about 8% of adults and 1.6% of children have tried it already.
This is because the health benefits of mindfulness meditation are incredibly impressive… and supported by scientific studies.
This article explores the health conditions and diseases it may help with.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
There is a range of different meditation styles, but the most popular are:
- Focused Attention (Vipassana)
Most techniques emerged from a religious or spiritual context, but most now practice outside of these traditional settings.
Mindfulness is a specific approach that can be used alone or with other meditation techniques.
It’s most commonly defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness meditation is the most well-studied in health research. Scientific literature may also refer to it as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) or Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which are types of mindfulness training.
I’ll refer to it as mindfulness in this article from here on.
Summary: Mindfulness is a form of meditation that is the most well-studied in health literature. It’s an ancient practice that emphasizes presence of mind and focus.
Reducing Stress is the Secret Sauce
Mindfulness appears helpful in a wide spectrum of health conditions.
It’s not understood why, but stress reduction appears to be the common link.
Stress is associated with decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, thought to be problematic. Mindfulness allows for conscious thinking in the prefrontal cortex, which may reverse this pattern of brain activity under stress (2).
Under high stress there are high levels of catecholamine release in brain, which weaken prefrontal cortex function. Click to enlarge. Image source.
For these reasons most experts suspect the ability of mindfulness to reduce stress is the key reason to its benefits.
Summary: Mindfulness appears to reduce stress and markers of stress. This is important as many health conditions are worsened by stress.
Mindfulness Meditation For Anxiety and Depression
Mindfulness has a direct effect on mental health.
Evidence is strongest for anxiety (General Anxiety Disorder) and depression, two of the most common mental health conditions worldwide.
Anxiety causes chronic, excessive, and often uncontrollable worry.
Studies show mindfulness can help.
In one clinical trial of 89 patients with anxiety, one group undertook an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), while the other group received 8 weeks of stress management education.
Members of both groups who participated in just one or more sessions showed symptom improvement, assessed by the Hamilton Anxiety Scale.
However, the MBSR group showed much greater improvement than the stress management group when additional anxiety symptom scales were used (5).
Other studies have found similar benefits, particularly when mindfulness is used alongside anxiety medication (6).
Clinical depression is complex disorder characterized by low mood and avoidance of usual activities.
Conventional care includes medication and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, many patients relapse with this protocol or are do not comply with medication regimens (7).
Research suggests that mindfulness can help prevent relapse for those who do not wish to use maintenance antidepressants.
In one study (7):
- One group of 28 patients with major depressive disorder in remission received maintenance antidepressants
- The second group of 26 patients gradually discontinued antidepressants while receiving an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program
- The third group of 30 patients gradually discontinued medications while receiving placebo pills under clinical supervision.
Compared to the placebo group, the mindfulness and antidepressant groups showed equally reduced likelihood of relapse. Keep in mind the mindfulness group were weaned off antidepressants.
Proportion of unstable remitters who survived without relapse during maintenance/follow up. M-ADM = maintenance antidepressant pharamacotherapy, MBCT = taper + Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and PLA+CLIN = taper + pill placebo and clinical management. Click to enlarge.
Data from several studies suggests mindfulness and antidepressants are comparable for treating mild to moderate symptoms of depression (8).
This certainly does not suggest those with depression should discontinue medications. However, mindfulness does show promise as an alternative, and certainly as therapy alongside antidepressants.
Summary: Studies indicate it’s useful for managing anxiety compared to conventional stress management practices. It may also be an effective alternative to antidepressants for those at risk of depression relapse.
Mindfulness Meditation and Weight Loss
Obesity rates worldwide have more than doubled in the past 36 years.
Research is now heavily focused on prevention and treatment strategies.
It can also increase awareness of hunger and satiety cues, a concept known as mindful eating (12).
A very large observational study showed a relationship between mindfulness and reduced risk of being overweight or obese. Although it was not able to prove that mindfulness causes lower body weight (13).
Average weight change by group condition among overweight versus obese participants. Mindfulness dramatically reduced cortisol awakening response in obese but not overweight subjects. Click to enlarge.
It makes sense that mindful eating is beneficial for weight loss given our modern, fast-paced, fast food lifestyles.
Summary: Research has shown a link between mindfulness and healthy body weight, but more research is needed.
Mindfulness Meditation and Metabolic Risk Factors
Metabolic syndrome is a group of symptoms that raise risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
You are considered to have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following symptoms:
- A waist circumference greater than 102 cm (40 inches) in men and greater than 88 cm (35 inches) in women.
- High triglycerides
- Low HDL cholesterol
- Elevated fasting glucose (sugar)
- High blood pressure.
Observational studies have shown that metabolic syndrome is less common among those who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness (16).
Smaller clinical studies have explored the cause-effect relationships between mindfulness and metabolic risk. Interestingly, improvements to metabolic risk were seen in studies that showed no significant reduction in body weight (15).
In one study of 194 obese adults, the first group received diet and exercise advice, and the second received that same advice plus an all-day mindfulness retreat.
Compared to the first group, the mindfulness group showed significantly improved cholesterol and triglycerides after 12 months, and better fasting glucose levels after 18 months (15).
Changes in weight, fasting glucose, and triglyceride/HDL ratio for mindfulness and control groups from baseline to 18 months. Lower values are better for all 3 measures. Click to enlarge.
Summary: Mindfulness appears to improve certain metabolic risk factors, even without weight loss. In particular triglycerides, cholesterol ratios, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Mindfulness Meditation and the Gut Microbiome
The human body is full of bacteria.
These bacteria make up the human microbiome, mostly located in the large intestine or “gut”.
Very small, early studies on humans have shown a correlation between psychological stress, stress hormones, and changes in microbial composition (20).
In theory then, mindfulness based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the microbiome.
Increased stress seems to dramatically alter the types of bacteria in a mouse’s gut, which has been observed multiple times.
Interestingly, this shift in bacteria does indeed increase inflammatory marker levels in the blood, which has huge implications for many common health conditions.
Summary: Research has linked psychological stress to changes in the microbiome, which could theoretically contribute to illness. But more human studies are needed to determine if mindfulness can help maintain a healthy microbiome.
Mindfulness Meditation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Considering the potential benefits of mindfulness on each of those triggers, it makes sense it helps with IBS management.
In one study of 43 IBS patients, the group who received mindfulness training showed significantly greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care (26).
These benefits were still noticeable after 6-months.
Summary: Small studies indicate that mindfulness may help relieve IBS symptoms. This makes sense given the suspected triggers of IBS are stress and psychological-related.
Mindfulness Meditation and Pregnancy
Small studies have shown that mindfulness may lessen pregnancy-related stress.
In one study of 74 pregnant Indian women, participants who received twice-weekly mindfulness sessions for 5 weeks showed significantly reduced perceived stress than the control group (32).
This suggests mindfulness could very well be beneficial in reducing day-to-day perceived stress during pregnancy, but much more research is needed.
Summary: A small study shows that mindfulness reduces perceived stress in pregnant moms at 12 weeks gestation. More research is needed though.
Mindfulness Meditation and Cancer
In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cases of cancer worldwide.
The number of new cases per year is expected to increase 68% by 2030.
Mindfulness has been shown to significantly improve symptoms and side effects from cancer and its treatment. This includes stress, anxiety, depression, vitality, fatigue, and sleep levels (33, 34, 35, 36, 37).
Newer studies suspect that mindfulness may also help to treat cancer progression in the first place. In particular, markers of cancer activity in breast cancer.
In one study of 128 stage I to III breast cancer patients who had completed standard medical treatment:
- One group of 53 patients attended eight, 90-minute mindfulness-based educational sessions, plus a 6-hour mindfulness retreat.
- The second group of 49 patients attended a 90-minute group supportive-expressive therapy (SET) sessions once a week for 12 weeks.
- The third control group of 26 patients attended single 6-hour stress management session.
Compared to the mindfulness and SET groups, the control group had significantly shorter telomeres following the intervention.
Although it could have exciting implications for cancer treatment, it’s important to remember this is an emerging area of research. Mindfulness should not replace standard cancer care, but instead be used alongside it.
Summary: There is potential that mindfulness can positively influence cancer progression, or at least breast cancer. At a minimum, mindfulness appears to improve certain cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners
The potential health benefits of mindfulness meditation are very impressive.
It’s a harmless practice that can only be good for us.
If you are a beginner looking to explore the benefits of mindfulness, many free resources are available online.
I personally use Headspace, which is a guided meditation app for beginners available on iphone and android. It’s free for 10 sessions, and is a great way to understand what it’s all about.
Featured image credit: Medscape
Article submitted and used here with permission from the author at DietvsDisease.org.
9-Year-Old Mexican Girl With Higher IQ Than Albert Einstein Already Studying to be Astronaut
Adhara Pérez may only be nine years old, but she already has big dreams – which is only fitting, considering the Mexico City native has an IQ of 162, a score even higher than quantum scientists Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Adhara has been taking IQ tests since she was only four years old, and has been applying her considerable brain power to studying advanced subjects that some of us could only dream of grasping.
At the age of seven, she was already ranked by Forbes magazine in 2019 as one of the most powerful women in Mexico.
The young prodigy is already studying for two degrees: one is systems engineering at the Universidad CNCI, and the other is industrial engineering at UNITEC.
She’s also been invited to pursue a master’s degree in atmospheric science from the University of Miami; as well as an offer to study physics at the University of Israel.
To top it off, she’s been invited to join the Aeronautics Program in Alabama and to study Space Science at NASA, reports Telemundo. She hopes to eventually become an astronaut.
However, the youngster is aiming to continue her studies at the University of Arizona and is quickly learning English in hopes of preparing to pursue her dreams.
“I have to stay there for three months to learn and get accustomed to hearing and speaking English,” Adhara explained to NBC San Diego.
At the age of three, Adhara was diagnosed with autism and bullied by neighborhood kids in the Mexican capital for being different. The youngster eventually fell into a deep depression, but this also began her journey toward a brighter future.
Upon being placed in therapy by her mother, she underwent various IQ tests and got a score of 162 – two points higher than Einstein and Hawking, who each scored 160.
Upon finishing high school at the age of eight, she began working on her degrees online. She’s also already written a book about her experience being bullied and the need for perserverence.
“Do not give up, and if you don’t like where you are, start planning where you want to be!”
7 Powerful Books That Will Unleash The Hidden Potential Of Your Mind
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.” ~George R.R. Martin
There it is: your mind –all leashed-up, bored, bookless and chasing its own tail in the corner. It’s time to unleash it. It’s time to toss it back into the shocking waters of wonder and awe. It’s time to distract it from the all too familiar tail (or tale, to wit), and give it a juicy carrot to chase around instead. Seven juicy carrots, to be exact.
So, store that leash, open up your mind, curl up with your best friend, and dive right on in to the following mind-unleashing books. But keep the light on. As Groucho Marx wittily opined, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
1.) “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsche
“We never know any data before interpreting it through theories. All observations are, as Popper put it, theory-laden, and hence fallible, as all our theories are.” ~David Deutsche
From epistemology and quantum fungibility to environmental ethics and societal evolution, David Deutsche takes us on a thought-provoking journey into answering a single question: Is there a limit to what can be understood? He comes at a mind-expending answer of “no” by diving deep into the expanding waters of epistemology and ontology. He profoundly claims that our understanding of anything is always at the “beginning of infinity” and there will always be an infinite amount more left for us to understand. Basically surmising that, with accurate and adaptable knowledge, anything is possible unless it is prohibited by the laws of physics.
Highly rational and integrating, The beginning of Infinity launches us into higher thinking on the path toward better and better explanations. He takes us from parochial, outdated ways of thinking to the concept of universality and updated ways of thinking about the universe as a thing to be progressively evolved into using ever-expanding technologies. Thus bridging the gap from man to overman. As he made clear, “There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that is the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism.”
2.) “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Thanks to Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of the “flow state” has become a vital aspect of our cultural awakening. The optimal experience is gained through deep discipline in a particular field/art/sport that provides intrinsic reward, challenge, and feedback, thus integrating confidence, concentration, control, adaptability, and connectivity. Time stops or slows down. Insecurities disappear. We stop caring about what others think of us. A creative unfolding of something larger manifests. Everything flows effortlessly in interconnected unison with us as its interdependent spearhead. In short: we stop thinking and just do.
By simply asking the question, “When are people most happy?” Csikszentmihalyi, through time tested research, pinpoints flow states as the answer. Athletes call it “being in the zone,” mystics have described it as “ecstasy,” and artists term it “rapture.” Unleashing optimal experience is about doing what we love as a pathway toward greater meaning, happiness, and a self of higher complexity. By doing what we love in challenging ways, we leverage optimal experience into our lives. This book powerfully explains the psychology of this vital process.
3.) “Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul” by Giulio Tononi
“Murky thoughts, like murky waters, can serve two purposes only: to hide what lies beneath, which is our ignorance, or to make the shallow seem deep” ~Giulio Tononi
Phi takes the reader on a mind-altering journey through the nature of consciousness. It interweaves science, art, and the imagination with golden ratios, Fibonacci sequences, and fractal cosmology. The reader has the joy of perceiving the world through such masters as Galileo, Alan Turing, Darwin and Francis Crick, among others. From neuroscience to pseudoscience, from deep introspection to mindful meditation, Tononi elucidates on how consciousness is an evolving, ever-deepening awareness of ourselves as finite, spiritual beings in an infinite universe.
We learn how consciousness is integrated information and how the power of that integration requires the utmost responsibility and credulity. It teaches how the brain is the seat of our perceptions, and is a creative force par excellence, and can even create new shapes and new qualia. It teaches how, by growing consciousness, the universe comes more and more into being, and synthesizes the one and the many, the ego and the eco, the individual and the interdependence of all things into a unified force of Nature.
4.) “The Art of Fear” by Kristen Ulmer
““Everything is fine” is actually a copout, a stuck place, an obstruction to the exploration of who and what you are expanding into higher and further, not to mention the evolution of humanity.” ~Kristen Ulmer
The Art of fear is about curiously embracing fear rather than conquering or repressing it. It’s about rebuilding our understanding of fear from the ground up. It’s about realizing that Fear is only one of 10,000 employees at You Incorporated, and how they all need a voice. But Fear most of all, lest all voices become repressed shadows. The key to fear, she explains, is being curious about it, thereby harnessing its power rather than conquering it. Between courage and curiosity is everything we need to be fearless.
Ulmer’s personal journey with fear eventually led her to study with Zen masters, from which she learned a mindfulness tool called “Shift” which shifts our perspective of fear from ignorant repression to proactive curiosity, thus aligning it authentically with our true nature. The basic tenet being this: Instead of repressing fear, empower it, by being curious and questioning rather than judgmental and accusing. Honor it with deep respect so it doesn’t operate covertly in twisted ways beneath the surface.
5.) “Endgame: The Problem of Civilization” by Derrick Jensen
“Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.” ~Derrick Jensen
Endgame will take everything you think you know about being a social being in a seemingly functional society and turn it on its head. Definitely not for the typical statist, nor the faithful law-abiding citizen. Endgame is about the imperative need to immediately dismantle the unhealthy civilization that surrounds us. Endgame is a scathing, raging critique against the unhealthy, unsustainable, and ecologically unsound man-machine that is our modern culture.
Breaking the book down into a series of simple but increasingly provocative premises, Jensen takes us on a mind-bending and convincing ride into the unhealthy belly of the violent, ecocidal beast that is modern day civilization. His basic premise is simple: Industrial civilization is unsustainable. It’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when” it’s going to fail.
He argues that the longer it takes civilization to fall, the worse the tragedy will be. In that light, there are two things we should be doing: Bringing about the fall sooner rather than later; and preparing to survive it. His attitude is caustic and cavalier, but all the better for the shock value it provides. This book really flattens the box we’re all so desperately trying to think outside of. A complimentary (and perhaps less aggressive) read is Beyond Civilization by Daniel Quinn.
6.) Trickster Makes this World: Mischief, Myth, and Art by Lewis Hyde
“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one’s way anew from the materials at hand.” ~Lewis Hyde
Trickster Makes This World is a mythological cornerstone for Sacred Clowns and practicing trickster-gods the world over, digging into the guts of the primordial importance of sacred play and rowdy behavior. Hyde explores how trickster figures represent the “disruptive imagination” that inverts, rearranges, and overturns conventional wisdom. From Raven to Coyote, Monkey to Crow, Hermes to Loki, Eshu to Legba, Hyde reveals connections between mythological tricksters that form a hidden network that connects cultural divides.
The best part about this book is its ability to show how mythology becomes reality. “Trickster consciousness’” is a vital component of human imagination. It reveals that we are the gods of renewal and rebirth, if we choose to be. We are the creators of mischief and mayhem. We are the trickster gods in training. Trickster is us, and we are Trickster. We are the ultimate boundary-crossers. No manmade rules or laws can contain us, unless we let them. Even cosmic rules and laws can hardly contain us. Trickster makes this world by tearing the old world down through high humor, moral ambiguity, foolishness, and strategic transgression and then dances in the ashes of its destruction. But it is precisely from the dancing, the kicking up of dust and ash, where brave new worlds emerge.
7.) “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them” by Joshua Greene
“We need a kind of thinking that enables groups with conflicting moralities to live together and prosper. In other words, we need a metamorality. We need a moral system that resolves disagreements among groups with different moral ideals, just as ordinary first-order morality resolves disagreements among individuals with different selfish interests.” ~Joshua Greene
Moral Tribes is hands-on moral psychology and a refreshing new take on utilitarianism. Greene wraps game theory, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience into a nice digestible package to bolster his theory of cognition, which builds elegantly into a theory of moral psychology. A sweeping synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes opens a can of psychosocial worms that takes the concept of morality to the next level, revealing how we are exceptionally well-adept at solving the dilemma between “Me” and “Us,” through the concept of the “tribe,” but how we are ridiculously less-adept at solving the meta-dilemma between “Us” and “Them.”
Greene’s concept of metamorlity squares this psychosocial circle by counterintuitively applying utilitarianism to our base, knee-jerk reaction to morality (evolved morality) by becoming aware of our apathy in order to become more empathetic. By reinforcing humanity instead of nationalism, and worldly patriotism instead of patriotic nationalism, we turn the tables on both xenophobia and apathy and we become more compassionate and empathetic toward others. When we celebrate diversity instead of trying to cram the square peg of colonialism into the round hole of cultural affiliation, we turn the tables on the monkey-mind’s one-dimensional moral tribalism and we usher in Joshua Greene’s multi-dimensional metamorality.
10 Things You Don’t Wan’t To Know About Yourself
“Freedom is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” ~George Orwell
Sick of all those self-affirmation articles? Tired of all the self-help gurus blowing sunshine up your skirt? Need something a little more grounding? More down-to-earth? More humbling? Here’s a fresh batch of wake-up calls and kicks-in-the-shin straight from the oven. Get it while its hot…
1.) You are an animal:
“What a chimera then is humankind. What a novelty; what a monster, what a chaos.” ~Blaise Pascal
This one is painfully obvious, but you probably need a reminder.
You are a naked ape. You are blood and bones and improbable apposable thumbs. You were born from the womb and you will one day be food for worms. In the womb, you went through all the phases of evolution: from a single-celled amoeba to a multicellular tadpole to a brain-wielding infant.
In your short life, you will piss and shit and bleed. You will rage and cry and sleep. You will go through all the profane motions of being a mortal mammal within an amoral universe. And here’s the real kick in the teeth: it’s going to hurt like hell. Hope you have a good sense of humor, because you’re going to need it.
2.) You are fallible:
“Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.” ~W.B. Yeats
You are terribly imperfect. You will make mistakes. More so, you are mistaken about a great many things. Most of which you will probably never admit to yourself, because admitting you are wrong is one of the most difficult things a human being can do.
But it goes deeper than that. There are fallibilities within fallibilities. It’s a veritable fractal forest of fallibility. A fractal wrongness, if you will.
You are more wrong about things than you can possibly imagine, and yet you insist. You force your wrongness. You are fierce with it, ruthlessly certain with it. You are so hungry for rightness that you bludgeon the Truth with your wrongness. All the while imagining that you are right.
As it turns out, you are more likely to be right by admitting that you are probably wrong than by declaring that you are probably right.
3.) You are a hypocrite:
“You have not learned to play and mock the way a man ought to play and mock. Are we not always seated at a great table for play and mockery? Learn to laugh at yourselves as a man ought to laugh. Learn to laugh beyond yourselves, and learn to laugh well.” ~Nietzsche
You are a hypocrite by nature. By the fact that you perceive an unfathomable reality with fallible faculties. It’s not even your fault. Just the fact that you are a “you” precludes hypocrisy. The self is smoke and mirrors, masks and mayhem. More akin to a chaotic theater of actors than a single personality.
Indeed, the self is masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. Hypocrisy was always inevitable. Merely the biproduct of a fallible self.
Amidst this mayhem of fallible selfhood, you will experience dissimulation and self-deception, dishonesty and deep pretension, inauthenticity and artificiality. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The rest is hidden beneath layer upon layer of subconscious/unconscious double-dealings, feigned sincerity, two-faced unctuousness, and the mealymouthed choruses of canting contradictions.
Your hypocrisy knows no bounds, so you might as well own up to it.
4.) You will fail:
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” ~Samuel Beckett
Failure is a given when you are merely a fallible, hypocritical animal going through the motions of living life in an uncertain universe.
But there is wisdom hidden in failure if you are keen to it. Setbacks can be transformed into steppingstones. Tragedy can be hardwired into comedy. Catastrophe can be whittled into accomplishment. You can build a ladder out of the shattered pieces of your life and climb out of the abyss.
But guess what? You will probably fail again. The higher you climb the farther you may fall. When it comes to failure, there is always a deeper abyss. Defeat, hard luck, and utter collapse are right around the corner. Disappointment is Accomplishment’s kissing cousin. Tragedy is Triumph’s red-headed stepchild. Today’s achievement could very well be tomorrow’s tripwire. So be it. Use it all as a sharpening stone for your all-too-mortal soul.
5.) You are never not broken:
“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ~M.C. Escher
Wholeness does not imply perfection. It infers embracing brokenness as an essential part of being human. There is never a state in which you are not broken.
You are a walking, talking broken heart going through the motions of breaking apart and coming back together again. This also applies to the mind, the body, and the soul. You are constantly in a state of repair.
Your suffering is sufferable. What’s insufferable is your ideal of perfection. There will always be pain. There will always be heartache. There will always be existential angst. We wreck ourselves against these. Then we knock out the dents, mend the cracks, and heal the wounds. We do this in the hope that it will make us stronger. But perhaps it won’t.
The wound may or may not become a sacred wound. All you can do is hurt, heal, and hope. Hurt, heal, and hope. From fragility to robustness to antifragility, you will always be in a state of falling apart and coming back together again. Embrace it.
6.) You have a dark side:
“There are no shortcuts to wholeness. The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around everything we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say, ‘I am all of the above.’” ~Parker J. Palmer
You have a shadow. Even your shadow has a shadow called the golden shadow. Your shadow is your repressed or unconscious self, struggling to be liberated and more conscious. Awareness is key. Becoming aware of our shadow side is shining a light into the darkness and giving our dark side permission to shine its blacklight back into the blinding light, which creates a unity of opposites.
An empowered dark side balances out the equation of the complicated human condition. Without this balance, you risk fragile one-dimensionality and a brittle ego terrified of taking responsibility for its shadow and thus fearful of the shadow of others.
You cannot fully know yourself without knowing your dark side and embracing your shadow. Such wholeness breeds wisdom and the ability to experience the full range of what it means to be human.
7.) Your beliefs limit you:
“If you adopt an idea or perception as the absolute truth, you close the door of your mind. Attachment to views, attachment to ideas, attachment to perceptions are the biggest obstacle to truth.” ~The Buddha
Your beliefs are incredibly restricting. You’ve been indoctrinated to think that you need to believe. Even worse, you’ve been brainwashed to believe more than you think.
In the battle against bewitchment, all beliefs, no matter how powerful or well-intended, are a hinderance to clear thought and self-improvement.
tter to think rather than believe. Thinking that something might be true allows for error, fallibility, and wrongness. Believing that something is certainly true cuts us off from all other possibilities. Belief is all or nothing, predicated upon faith despite facts or evidence. Thought is open-ended, taking beliefs, facts, and evidence into deep consideration and then using probability and validity to discover the truth.
More importantly, thinking rather than believing allows for skepticism and questioning. It is considered blasphemous to question a belief. Whereas questioning a thought is considered appropriate. Might as well just skip belief altogether and simply take things into thoughtful consideration.
8.) You are culturally conditioned:
“When war turns whole populations into sleepwalkers, outlaws don’t join forces with alarm clocks. Outlaws, like poets, rearrange the nightmare.” ~Tom Robbins
You are programmed to think a certain way. This programming has propped-up your identity into perceiving a particular worldview that may or may not be based in reality. It might not even be healthy. This identity tied up in your worldview is an abstraction of an abstraction, a story within a story that you’ve convinced yourself is true.
But you have the power to reprogram your programming.
We are all conditioned by culture. The key is to become aware of it and to weigh our conditioning against the truth of reality. Then recondition the conditioning. We each have our own Plato’s Cave to navigate.
The extent to which you can become aware of your own “cave” will be the extent of your flexibility, open-mindedness, and personal freedom.
9.) You know less than you think:
“Some people are more certain of everything than I am of anything.” ~Robert Rubin
You think you know more than you actually do. Your certainty about a great many things limits your imagination, creative thinking, and ability to question. It leads to dogmatic reasoning and close-mindedness.
ou are just so certain, aren’t you? Your certitude is so powerful that you cannot see past your beliefs. Hung up on what you’ve found, you have given up the search. Your journey has come to an end. Your certainty has led you to a dead-end. You are stuck. And the only way out is to question what you think you know.
The more you question, the more you realize that the only answer that makes any sense is to keep questioning. When you stop questioning the journey for truth comes to an end and stagnation, sloth, and dogmatism begin to rule your world. Keep things in perspective by accepting that you know less than you think you do and keep questioning.
10.) Your life is terribly inconsequential:
“Don’t slip on the banana peel of nihilism, even while listening to the roar of Nothingness.” ~Lawrence Ferlinghetti
When it comes down to it, your life is a flash in the pan. It’s dust in the cosmic wind. It’s an infinitesimally insignificant spark in an unfathomably dark, unforgiving, and meaningless universe. But it is a spark.
What you do won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But it’s very important that you do it anyway. Why? Because you are the universe attempting to become aware of itself. You are an awareness machine in an otherwise unaware cosmos. You are a meaning-generator in a reality void of meaning. You might be nothing more than a speck in the universe, but you are also the entire universe in a speck.
Either way, you will one day be dust. Your tiny insignificant life will end. Face that fleetingness with a fierceness. Laugh into the abyss. Face fear with fearlessness. Climb the highest mountain and kick God in the nuts. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Or not. None of it will matter in the end. You will still be the butt-end of the cosmic joke. It’s all laughable. So you might as well have a laugh.
Gary Z McGee, Self-inflicted Philosophy, republished here with permission.