I started meditating for at least 15 min/day about two weeks ago after reading The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (2016) by V. Lakhiani, CEO and Founder at MindValley.com.
And now I finished Stress Less, Accomplish More (2019) by Emily Fletcher. Not too long ago, I read How We Work (2018) by Leah Weiss, PhD. All of the above three books discuss meditation.
SLIGHTLY LESS BLIND TO MY BLINDNESS, AND RESPONSE-ABILITY
And… I can’t believe I didn’t start sooner. No magic here, just awesome usefulness. No wonder our top leaders use it.
There’s this quote on my wall by Viktor Frankl, “In between the stimulus and the response is a space, a space in which we can choose our response. In our response we find our growth and our freedom” (paraphrased from a Spanish language translation). He means specifically, I believe, that in becoming aware of our awareness, and less blind to our blindness, we realize our freedom to choose – I really like things that are meta.
I also finished reading recently, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and Nobel Laureate in Economics. Kahneman illustrates the nature of our two forms of thinking, with fast thinking representing our intuitive, automatic form, the form which happens to us; as opposed to the slow, deliberate, rational form that we choose to do.
Daniel Kahneman points out that we think that we make our decisions rationally, that our slow thinking stands at the bridge as the captain of our decision-making, yet careful scrutiny shows that our deliberate thinking proves more of a stowaway – our fast thinking steers the ship most (maybe nearly all) of the time. And this has worked well enough to allow our species to survive and reproduce.
It’s a powerful part of who we are and we should trust it most of the time. Better yet, we can and should train it.
If we understand its limitations and see where sometimes it may steer us astray, I believe there in that space between stimulus and choice is what Viktor Frankl means by finding our freedom; our freedom to choose, and our freedom away from our limitations.
Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to this concept as response-ability, meaning both our responsibility for our choices and our ability to choose how we respond.
HOW HAS MEDITATION HELPED ME?
The other day I was cooking eggs, sunny side up. I needed a spatula to pick up the eggs and place them onto a plate. The drawer that held our cooking utensils had a pair of salad tongs on top, open and tangled, blocking the spatula and other utensils.
My wife saw me fiddling with the salad tongs as I was cooking eggs sunny side up. We have another pair of salad tongs hanging by the range hood. She reached for those and kindly handed them to, saying, “Here, Babe.”
My initial thought was, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Salad tongs would not have been the right tool for the job. I didn’t say that.
Instead I responded with, “Thanks, Babe. I was reaching for a spatula, the salad tongs were just in the way.
“But,” with amusement, “I love how you chose to let me do me, with a very open mind, thinking, ‘Maybe he’s about to do something unique and interesting with salad tongs and sunny side up eggs.'”
We both laughed it off.
I’ve become just a little bit more aware of my awareness, and am starting to make it a habit to notice my thoughts rather than letting my thoughts automatically lead me.
I noticed my body automatically felt some mild upset on top of the mild frustration over having to untangle the drawer. I noticed the stimulus. And I chose humor and compassion rather than irritability.
DEFAULTING, BASELINE, AUTOMATIC THINKING
A famous study showed that that probability of judges’ deciding to grant parole decreased as time passed further away from when the judges last ate. Their default was to deny parole.
Emily Fletcher points out in her book that when we’re mentally depleted, we tend to default to our baseline level of stress.
Default behaviors tend to encompass those behaviors of survival and reproduction; in particular, survival, defensiveness, self-preservation.
I think my choice not to respond with irritability might have to do with meditation increasing one’s mental reserve, in addition to becoming more aware of awareness. Daniel Kahneman’s research reveals that the more mentally depleted one is, the more one defaults to automatic behaviors, a certain baseline. In and of itself, that’s neither good nor bad, but the default doesn’t reasonably fit all situations.