“Be Present” for the Cognitive Revolution

The first records of meditation come from ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts, as well as Taoist China.

The practice began as a way to reach salvation; nowadays it is being adopted by Westerners who want peace and are willing to take a compassionate look at themselves.

Mindfulness — or “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” — can be achieved through practicing meditation. It goes something like this: sit down in a comfortable position; make sure your spine is straight. Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. While you notice that your abdomen is rising and dropping, or that air is entering and escaping your nostrils, you will be allowing sounds, smells, itches and other distractions to pass in the background. The key to mindfulness meditation is to accept what comes, whether it is a thought (this is boring), feeling (hunger), or loud car horn (BEEP!), and then let it go, and return your attention to breathing in and out.

The point of meditation is basically to put you directly in touch with the moment — metaphysically speaking.

Just 5 or 10 minutes a day is guaranteed to alleviate cognitive habits like rumination and worry, which contribute to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. This happens by literally re-wiring our brain to perform better in the face of emotional regulation and that of other mental objects. Then, when faced with a new experience, we might think twice about our usual response.

Short-term practice has been scientifically proven to increase self-control, willpower and patience, and decrease feelings of loneliness; physiological benefits include lower blood pressure, a boosted immune system and improved cardiovascular health, to name a few. Because of this the practice has inspired new types of therapies that are now being used not only by psychologists in clinical settings, but also in rehabs, day cares, prisons and hospitals.

Take a look at yourself. What are you experiencing right this moment? Noticing it matters.

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