Category: Wellbeing Page 1 of 2

Everyone Should Sing

Sing, sing, sing all you want. We each grow up patterned by circumstance: each of us learned, not at one point but, at successive subtle points that there are singers and then there are listeners. Most of us are the listeners. Yet this listener and singer arrangement is abnormal, rare with all societies ever taken within ear view. (Consider Lesothans who sing as naturally as Americans speak: everyone has a voicebox.) Think of cooking, cleaning, sports, or any human pastime and anyone can, and is allowed, to do them. Granted, there are chefs, cleaners, and sportswomen, who are an elite class who perform for pay. Yet because we have cooked, cleaned, and sported ourselves we do not imagine that those professional people have magic—or soulful—powers. We may imagine, however, that someone is ‘born to sing’, like breathtaking Joni Mitchell, a song such as California where we would never imagine that Mary Berry was born to raise souffle, or Usain Bolt to run an arbitrary distance. There is, of course, some predetermination to who we become, which is based on what we are. (Who and what are different, I think, my reader.) Joni Mitchell was born with perfect pitch; Mary Berry was born into a posh family; Usain Bolt was born into an ultraltall body. In the competition for fame, power, and glory these persons had a circumstantial head-start few can catch up with—or even hope to.

But the competition for fame, power, and glory ought not to be the measure of experience. Sheer enjoyment and sheer edification ought to be the measure of the worthwhile. Oscar Wilde claimed the same, but he is deemed an effete and ephemeral philosopher. Yet Wilde foremost wanted Europeans to adopt in art what they had adopted already in morality. Kant claimed everyone should treat humans as ends in themselves, rather than as a means to a sinister higher cause (needless conflict for the nation, to the loss of lives, say) or selfishness (needless profit for the market, to the loss of livelihoods). The reception of artworks and treatment of artistic experiences are, however, rife with the notion that art should always signpost to the outside world—The Big Issues, The World, Politics Today, The Public, The Audience, and so forth. Reading The Picture of Dorian Gray for itself – to enjoy its sounds, its witty remarks, its satisfying neat tripartite structure, is somehow taboo. At least it has fallen out of fashion; at school children are handed questions about the plausible subtext rather than thetext. (I volunteer tutor disadvantaged pupils: I know.) These are interpretative horrors which would be reviled by Wilde. Much as they are reviled by Susan Sontag, in her sublime Against Interpretation.

The compulsion to reinterpret and revamp reeks of desperation: ‘Why X Matters’ shows how most people, if they give any thought at all, think it trivial. The trouble is that ‘mattering’ has come to mean if it – the art whatever form it manifests – teaches points, policies, morals, challenges the status quo—or most important, makes money. The tyranny of numbers is no joke. Online the first criteria of value is? How much money ‘content’ generates. The second criteria of value is? How much attention ‘content’ garners. It is vivid how Wilde, espouser of ‘those who know the worth of everything and value of nothing’ would be so appalled. Content has come to mean discontentful marketing, and pseudo-journalism burdened by click-to-buy writing. Content lacks content. The inevitably qualitative lived experience in-itself and the enjoyment of art in-itself are endangered. Frankly, the banality of evil has become incremental dominance of for-profit marketing, where ‘greed is good’ and ‘time is money’ have the genuine reverence of a faked science. You may say, why go on about art in general but not singing in particular – when singing is ‘the point’ of this post? No, no single take-away point is here. Reading itself is as much the point, more the point, than a bullet-point fact. Nonetheless, let’s get back to business.

The arrangement of singers and listeners arose from the consumerist arrangement of producers and consumers. And this is bad why? Because the producer-consumer dichotomy is bad for creators and enjoyers. And consistent pleasure is the most reliable measure of subjective-wellbeing, and pleasure is enhanced by creative participation in any artform. Literateur Borges said he always praised being a reader more than a writer, because he loved writing for itself, rather than the social status it offered (although he did enjoy plenty, he joked the Swedish had made a hobby of never awarding him a Nobel.)

Consider: everyone wants to have written a novel or a film; yet few want to be writing a novel or a film. It’s hardwork, though the hypothetical applause is a nice idea. While everyone has a novel in them, few consider whether it is worth getting out. Not so with poetry, which is remarkably less about any me or I. The reason few people read poetry is that few people write poetry. The reason few people write poetry is that few people read poetry. The ultimate reason is that poetry has lost its monetary exchange value and its social exchange value, thanks to the eclipsing authority of market labour and easier television. (Yet check out The Last Poets’ rap or Angelou’s memoirs or Hitchen’s Trotsky-to-Iraq memoir to appreciate how contemporary, dirty, frank and untweedy poetry can be.) If you can’t afford a home, you become committed to earning. If you can afford a home, you’ve become someone by now who would never entertain reading poetry. I stress poetry because it’s the most useless, yet lovely, art. And its shirked status neatly shows how our human ecosystem has changed overnights—the consumer model stifles the arts, because people are no longer happy to write badly, sing badly, or dance badly. All the while ignoring that to do these badly precedes ever doing them well; and that by merely doing them one advocates their merit and enjoys their feel and breathes artistic pleasure into life. Humans have many selves, the two most prominent to name are the experiencing and the narrating selves – contemporary status anxiety stresses the narrator over the experiencer. (As Susan Sontag once remarked, many people now get married for the photoshoot and holiday for the pictures.)

The totalitarian division of good and bad, and performer and viewer is pernicious because dancers, singers, and writers are kept in the job foremost by other dancers, singers, and writers. It has always been so. Divide, if you want, those who do these activities from those who deserve the titles – those who do and those who are – and you’ll see that there is still no art without an audience of crafters. How can one appreciate what one doesn’t know? Indeed, value-judgements in the arts and humanities are only ever qualified by those who know and by those who can, than by an external reference to tidier scientific discoveries. Yet there is the patience of poetry and the passion of science in any domain. There is the scientific fact that singing and, judging by our novelty thrived evolution, general creativity are good for us and tedium bad. You don’t need a study for that, just a long workshift yet I’ll quote a study on singing and wellbeing among amateurs and professionals nonetheless:

Serum concentrations of prolactin and cortisol increased after the lesson in the group of men and vice versa for women. Oxytocin concentrations increased significantly in both groups after the singing lesson. Amateurs reported increasing joy and elatedness (VAS), whereas professionals did not. However, both groups felt more energetic and relaxed after the singing lesson. The interviews showed that the professionals were clearly achievement-oriented, with focus on singing technique, vocal apparatus and body during the lesson. The amateurs used the singing lessons as a means of self-actualization and self-expression as a way to release emotional tensions. In summary, in this study, singing during a singing lesson seemed to promote more well-being and less arousal for amateurs compared to professional singers, who seemed to experience less well-being and more arousal.

It is obvious, then, that a community of crafters and artists is good for all. And that to simply consume and participate is as worthwhile as creating-to-earn; after all this study incidentally reiterates the Faustian bargain of success: professionals put so much into improving that they cease to enjoy as much as the amateurs. As an autistic, who only came into musical consciousness at 15, and despised school music classes, it may be odd that I recommend everyone sings. It isn’t for everyone, and I still resent my mother’s attempt to attenuate—or worse, fix—my autism. For most though, yes music and art are worthy. It is not doing oneself which manifests indifference or shyness or acted respect for art in galleries and tunes in albums. (‘I could do that! Well, you’re welcome to try!) I remember well how ‘noises’ bothered me, until one-day music took over my life, and on that day when I ventured to practice, it was condemnation from my autistic sibling—who hates any nonplanned noise—that impeded my progress. ‘Sounds horrible, horrible, horrible!’ A sad fact it is, that not having a space to sing or be who you want without teases and mocks, can preclude becoming someone you desire to be, someone whom you would more admire than the present version. Yet the point may be a personal one, it is a collective one too: everyone can benefit from more artistic creation as much as artistic consumption. Singing is the cheapest and most enjoyable way, that can get you, like Nina Simone and Memphis Minnie, through so much and give enough meaning, joy, and elation to life that you forget to ask the meaning or the point or the use – and that if anything is meaning in life, never the misleading ‘meaning of’.

This Is What To Eat Each Day

The longest-lived healthful people neither diet or workout. Those who live in Nicoya Costa Rica, or Okinawa, or Loma Linda California, for example. Instead of excluding a tableau of food, they eat what their (lucky) environment affords; vegetables and beans and wholegrains are common denominators. Instead of attending gyms, Nicoyans, Okinawans and Seventh Day Adventists tend their crops and gardens.

Contrary to prescribing a set-list of what to eat or how to workout, food and exercise for the body-healthy minded are recommendations, ancillary rather than compulsory. (Any ‘Instagram lifestyle’ is pernicious fiction.) Consider that natural foods or what we are ‘meant’ to eat, are not universal for everyone – those with allergies or taste aversion or eating disorders or nonabundant circumstances.

That said, the nutritional science is indisputable. Eating a plant-based diet is better. Better for health, animals, and the environment. Instead of excluding what should be eaten (problematic), what has the most utility is focusing on what is eaten, on eating more nutritious food than excluding so-called junk foods and meat. Rather than evade cookies, eat lots of kale to satiate hunger – so there is less desire for high-sugar foods and meat comes to feel far from inevitable. And comes to be a superfluous treat, not the core of each meal.

(I have been vegetarian on-and-off since I can’t remember when. I have managed a meatless year and am now limiting the dairy and egg in my diet with Dr Greger’s cookbook.)

I never reach all the targets in Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen – of 12 daily habits – but I do my best to.

Beans

Edamame, tofu, tempeh, peas, kidney, haricot, lentils, black, butter

Berries

Blueberries, barberries, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, goji berry, raspberry, strawberry

Non-berry fruits

Apples, dried apricots, avocado, bananas, clementines, dates, dried figs, kiwi, limes, nectarines, oranges, pears, black plums, pomegranates

Cruciferous Vegetables

Rocket, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, mustard greens, watercress and so forth

Greens

Rocket, collard greens, kale, spinach, swiss chard and so forth.

Other Vegetables

Artichokes, asparagus, beetroot, peppers, carrots, sweetcorn, garlic, mushrooms, okra, onions, pumpkin, sea vegetables, snap peas, squash, sweet potato, tomatoes, courgette and so forth.

A teaspoon of flaxseeds

Flaxseed is proven to be good for those who are premenopausal; but risky for those who are postmenopausal. For those who are not, it is an effective blood pressure reducer and provides a vegetarian source of omega fatty acids (honestly not as good a ratio of DLA to DHA as fish oils though, but vegetarian.)

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, brazil, cashew, chia seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame, sunflower, walnuts and so forth.

Those who eat three handfuls of nuts regularly tend to live longer. Eating walnuts has even been shown to halve the incidence of breast cancer. (Correlation does not mean causation, I know. But if it’s that eaters are healthy in many other ways, including eating nuts, that still recommends nuts and the rest of the daily dozen.)

Whole Grains

Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, popcorn, quinoa, rye, teff, whole-wheat pasta, wild rice and so forth.
The slow release of sugars is better for the bloodstream and mitigating insulin resistance.

Herbs & Spices

Allspice, basil, bay leaves, cardamom, chilli powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lemongrass, marjoram, mustard powder, nutmeg, oregano, smoked paprika, parsley, pepper, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme, turmeric, and vanilla.

The greatest concentration of antioxidants which mitigate free-radical damage (inflammation) are in herbs and spices.

Beverages

Tomato juice, teas, coffee and low-sugar mocktails.

And… Walking. Half an hour of walking each day is good for preventing disease, and encouraging improved mood. Perhaps the model of something one must do rather than something one gains or consumes leads to painful exercise. (The gentler the exercise the less likely to quit, I find.)

On The Meaning Of Life

The Meaning of Life is pretty unfashionable. Mention it and it will be received as a joke or a naivete. The notion is unfashionable because religion is in decline and science has explained away most of life’s mysteries as being the result of evolutionary survival or byproducts of survival and reproduction. The Meaning of Life, however, can be emptied of piety yet remain meaningful. Meaning can be both discovered in the world and created by humans, at the same time. (The belief in the dual creation and discovery of the world through humans’ is known as monism. A plausible doctrine given the world is a continuum humans parcel into categories by convention only.)

Each person is born to create patterns, and into a world with patterns to be discovered. There need be no division between the meaning of life as what humans ascribe to the world, and what humans discern from it. After all, there is no outside nonhuman perspective from which to evaluate or produce meaning. Though, in the very act of rejecting the meaning of life, or even in saying that science demasks the meaning, there is an implicit acceptance that the meaning of life at least subsists (rather than exists) as a pervasive notion – one we will never outgrow.

Claiming that life has no meaning is rather like the contradictions of saying God is dead, or saying that there are no truths, or that life has no meaning except what languages ‘gives’ it. Claiming that God is gone and no longer relevant while invoking God; saying that life has no meaning is a meaningful statement; or saying that there are no truths is a true statement. These claims are very common.

And they are contradictory, but neither the frequency of claims nor their contradictions matter. The meaning of life is in forgetting to question its meaning, not because it does not have one, but because enjoying and losing oneself is vital to its practice.

In December 1950, Albert Einstein replied to an admirer who had mailed him asking about the very point of it all. He replied that there was no point in asking. The infinite regression of “why, why?” has no resolution. Even invoking God or nature leads to why are God or nature like that? Questions may lead to irresolution and more useless questions. Here is Einstein’s reply:

I was impressed by the earnestness of your struggle to find a purpose for the life of the individual and of mankind as a whole. In my opinion there can be no reasonable answer if the question is put this way.
If we speak of the purpose and goal of an action we mean simply the question: which kind of desire should we fulfill by the action or its consequences or which undesired consequences should be prevented? We can, of course, also speak in a clear way of the goal of an action from the standpoint of a community to which the individual belongs. In such cases the goal of the action has also to do at least indirectly with fulfillment of desires of the individuals which constitute a society.

If you ask for the purpose or goal of society as a whole or of an individual taken as a whole the question loses its meaning. This is, of course, even more so if you ask the purpose or meaning of nature in general. For in those cases it seems quite arbitrary if not unreasonable to assume somebody whose desires are connected with the happenings.

Albert Camus said, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

Of course the advice is consoling, yet we will still fall into meaninglessness sometimes; when our life story or expectations go awry or life is rife with disappointment.

Say you are working to market more pepsi. You might find it meaningless to sell sugary soda which trades small pleasure for health.

Say you are studying floristry. You might find it meaningless to present flowers beautifully, for flowers are valued less than money.

Say you are writing a blog post. You might find it meaningless to write for as few as 420.

Say you are reading about the Islamic Renaissance. You might find it meaningless because so few rewards, be it work or rare conversation, come from an intimate knowledge of al-Kindi and ninth and tenth century Baghdad.

This is because the individual’s meaning of life is far from solely individual – it is made by social pressures. So these examples may feel meaningless because they do not translate into the prerequisites of meaning: communicating, money, pleasure, understanding or serving, tangibly enough.

That is not to say that they do not have meaning; communication, money, pleasure, understanding or serving give a life meaning. Communication for us social animals. Money for survival and the maintenance of relationships. Understanding for it satiates the curiosity of the large-brained. Serving for helping others is fulfilling. Pleasure, though, is its own reward; these prior rewards all give a kind of learned pleasure. The difference between ‘find’ and ‘give’ meaning is vital. Arguably, citizens of today have been trained to think differently, by virtue of the devices they use. Uploading, publishing, sharing, and even learned work aspirations are enacted in a search for social meaning—extrinsic rewards—rather than an individual’s own, intrinsic meaning or pleasure. If it isn’t recorded it didn’t happen. If it doesn’t earn it has no value. If it is modest it is pointless. If the job title is rare it is a meaningless name.

The social meaning of life, however, is debatable and unreliable whereas intrinsic rewards—pleasure, captivation—are not. There is an easy test of what is intrinsic and extrinsic. The intrinsic rewards are what you would do regardless of money, if you had all the time in the world to ‘waste’ on oneself, which you find pleasurable just for doing it. An activity you treat with the sanctity Kant accorded to people: as an end in themselves rather than as a means for something else.

The most consistent meaning of life is living for itself, and in its own right. The occasional anxiety and meaningless of life stems from seeking to give life the meaning recommended by others – not what we find in ours. The meaning, for example, of writing, singing, reading, dancing, studying, floristry, drinking, or blogging is pleasure and forgetting about an exterior purpose one makes – time again, actually – in the act of forgetting into immersion. Viktor Frankl, a psychologist survivor of The Holocaust, in the wonderful Man’s Search For Meaning discussed finding a ‘why’ to justify living. In the circumstances of every-day life, though, living without needing a list of pros, is exactly when one has the most meaning.

To rework Nietzsche’s phrase: the man who has enough ‘how’ for life can endure any ‘why’.

The Rise of Mindfulness Software

‘MINDFULNESS’ and ‘software’ are words rarely found together, yet smartphone applications designed for mindfulness proliferate. Computers and their software, fashionably shunned as the root of our distraction problem—our mindlessness—have been turned to its treatment. Satisfying an overbearing user-demand to help control and regulate our attention, applications like Headspace are making headway popularly and financially. With over 66,000 downloads on the Google Play Store in January 2018, the trend seems exponential.

But, the treatment of our ailing attention spans via our devices still maintains dependency on those attention dividing devices. And as Marketing Professor Adam Alter of New York University writes in Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked:

“There’s a study that was done asking people, mainly young adults, to make a decision: if you had to break a bone or break your phone what would you prefer? Forty-six percent of people would prefer to have a broken bone than a broken phone.”

The social-demand for such studies and books is in-itself revealing. As dubiously generalisable as its finding may be to the rest of us; it does represent a disturbing cultural shift. A shift that has a backlash from Justin Rosenstein, the Facebook ‘Like’ button creator, who The Guardian reports have abandoned Reddit and Snapchat. And from anti-“hijack” campaigns like Time Well Spent. A charitable organisation whose website describes them as: “former tech insiders and CEOs who intimately understand the culture, business incentives, design techniques, and organisational structures driving how technology hijacks our minds”.

At first thought, then, the attempt to remedy our compromised attention through the very device that captures our attention can seem misplaced. Because, in the context of holding a smartphone – a brain is bound to be triggered by desire and expectation for split and partial attention. Such triggers arise whether from an anxiety-inducing message, notification, or the mere presence of a dormant phone. Our brain structures and their reward systems have long-been altered, as neuroscientists like Daniel J. Levitin advocate; and studies repeatedly conclude.

Disturbing, yes. But while there is a distinct irony and a touch of naïve optimism in these mindfulness applications, arguably they do give hope. Partial attention results in impaired working memory. Partial attention is caused by an overextension of attention over time in feeds and updates and in visual-space overcrowded by multiple apps, tabs, devices, dormant in any handheld.

Even just holding a familiar feeling smartphone has the temptation to stray attention. And logic dictates that without the hazard – the phone – there is no risk of distraction. No phone means no opportunity to compulsively check our phone status.

However, it is precisely the overwrite of compulsively distracted attention, the therapeutic retraining and replacement of those distraction trigger through mindfulness applications, which offers a plausible treatment for smart technology-induced addiction.

We inevitably use our phone daily. So rather than impossibly demote technology from our hands and therefore minds, by integrating focused attention—where we only focus on one task, mindfulness—with our phones is the best course of treatment. Mindfulness applications offer the chance to train a less distractible, mindful, relationship with our smart devices,

Afterall, to convert people to mindfulness practice, it’s precisely the efficiency of enterprising software that can have (and is having) far-reaching effects at a lower price for busied consumers. Those who turn to a mindfulness app are those that most need some form of mindfulness in their lives.

If our relationship with devices is to blame for mindlessness, then reconditioning that relationship into feasible mindful mutuality rather than infeasible separation is surely a more mindful yet happily plausible future.

Where to Start With Meditation

‘Meditation’ is so general a word it is best defined by what it is not. Meditation now means a form of attention exercise for wellbeing. Mediation is not thinking through possibilities, judgements, opinions or even reacting to facts. The exercise is focusing on acceptance and being rather than on doing.

Instead of the common belief that mediation is about control, which denotes suppressing thoughts, it means distancing your thoughts from the ordinary chatter of the mind. It is about encountering the self that we tend to become too focused upon, as merely a series of thoughts and images that do not need any labelling or fixing or any other problematic cause of stress.

Meditation is about being as objective with the self as possible; to alter our flow of thoughts by playing a game with the mind – one where you practice relating to your thoughts and self generously, as though you were not you; but a friend. And as with any means of changing your habits brain and mind – it takes time. But time can, in a way, be added to our lives by the promising psychological benefits of meditation practice: the time spent on alleviating stress enables one to be more efficient and better at time management.

The point of meditation can be as diverse as experiencing oblique insights, blissful mind alteration, perceiving the world attentively. Even purely a letting-go into a relaxed free association. Meditation varies, there are innumerable kinds. The varieties include:

· Widening awareness
Contemplating the world as a whole, and your humble place within it
· Focus
Focusing on a single object in the room or a single idea and coming back to it whenever the mind wanders.
· Emotional Regulation
Separating oneself from negative self-chatter, the 300-1000 words the inner narrator narrates—labelling emotions as the peaks and troughs of being alive rather than definitive.
· Emotional Compassion
Compassion is good. Compassion for others is brilliant, and compassion for yourself is brilliant also.
· Repetitive Movement
Performing an action again and again as occurs in Tai Chi, dance or similar activities can warp and relax our minds into being ‘in the zone’. What psychologists call ‘flow’ where time pleasurably flows by.
· Mantra
Saying or chanting a phrase of encouragement or worship aloud again-and-again. For example, in Kritan Kriya you move your fingers to your thumb in sequence as you chant sa-ta-na-ma
· Prayer
You equip your voice to address God, the universe, the dead or whomever.
· Visualisation
You envision a thought experiment of what it feels like to be a rock, water, and try to ground yourself by that imagination—to gain their resilience. Similarly, you can visualise relaxation or yourself from afar in a pleasant third person.

The online conversation around meditation is just plain confusing. Instead of meditation people should expand their vocabulary of forms–to the ones above–in much the same way you would not invite or inform someone about a film by saying “it’s a film”, one ought to specify the genre and its qualities, its positives and negatives.

The reason mindfulness has become so popular – and the default genre of meditation online is because it was the first to demonstrate fMRI benefits in the brain after just a month’s participation. While any of these meditations can be fulfilling, after-all it is psychological as much as neurological, perhaps start there – with the proven mindfulness which is ergo more motivating.

From The Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age

Recently we uncovered an important mechanism by which a month of mindfulness (about 11 hours of practice, 0.5 per day, 5 days a week) improves attention and self-regulation. (Tang et al 2010; 2012). This mechanism is a change in the white matter that conducts signals into and out of the anterior cingulate gyrus. The anterior cingulate is an important part of the system by which we can voluntarily regulate behaviour. After two weeks of meditation, the improvement seemed to involve the number of fibres conducting information. This improvement was related to a more positive and less negative mood self-reports. After 4 weeks of meditation improvement in the white matter involved changes in the myelin that provides insulation to the fibres and thus further increases the efficiency of the network involved in self-regulation.

And:

Antoine Lutz (2004) have shown that in very experienced meditators (that is 10,000+ hours) there is a high degree of gamma activity in the brain and greater gamma power with greater experience. Gamma waves are related to focused attention.

And:

Work by Luders and colleagues in 2012 shows that in meditators there is an increased volume of the hippocampus, which is associated with memory functioning, as well as in other areas of the cortex. There is also an increased structural connectivity between regions and more gyrification (cortical folding). Interestingly, recent work by HOlzel et al (2011) shows that changes can be seen very quickly: anyone doing 8 weeks of meditation can increase cortical grey matter density.

And:

Recent evidence shows that a BSR program can lead to changes in one of the brain structures that dealt with emotions: amygdala. In this study, the brains of 26 healthy but stressed individuals were scanned before and after an MBRS intervention. Results showed that reported stress was lower after the intervention and that this reduction in stress correlated with a decrease in the density of an area of the amygdala.

The evidence is pretty indisputable now, right? Consider:

In the clinical world, one of the most studied techniques to alleviate symptoms of depression, stress, and unhappiness is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT or MBT). This therapy combines features of cognitive therapy and mindfulness meditation. The goal is to learn how to pay attention without judgement and to recognise feelings that are ineffective and mentally destructive so that one can respond rationally to these feelings instead of reacting to them impulsively. MBCT usually consists of eight weekly two-hour classes with assignments to be completed at home.

To reiterate: meditation is so general a word it is best defined by what it is not. Meditation for wellbeing is not solving your problems, it is not thinking through possibilities, judgments, beliefs, opinions, or reacting to the world and your social milieu. It is accepting, to solve them serendipitously exactly by accepting as perhaps irresolvable and not in need of so much of your mind, or attention.

The next time someone talks about meditation – maybe ask them what kind, as there are so many promising kinds. What kind d’you do, or will you choose? Some meditation enthusiasts do many, many forms. But, personally, I’ve settled for compassion and mindfulness—for now. And research encourages me to not quit when I’m feeling lazy (too often).

I began with Insighttimer, the free community app which offers guided meditations. But am considering doing yoga and Taiji (again) for the combined benefit of friend-making. Practitioners of both benefit from reduced stress, anxiety, depression. And according to The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, have had a positive relief on victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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