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It just pops out of the deep mind, and you say, "Ah ha!" and the whole thing is solved. This sort of intuition can only occur when you disengage the logic circuits from the problem and give the deep mind the opportunity to cook up the solution. The conscious mind just gets in the way. Meditation teaches you how to disentangle yourself from the thought process. It is the mental art of stepping out of your own way, and that's a pretty useful skill in everyday life. Meditation is certainly not an irrelevant practice strictly for ascetics and hermits. It is a practical skill that focuses on everyday events and has immediate applications in everybody's life. Meditation is not "other-worldly." Unfortunately, this very fact constitutes the drawback for certain students. They enter the practice expecting instantaneous cosmic revelation, complete with angelic choirs. What they usually get is a more efficient way to take out the trash and better ways to deal with Uncle Herman. They are needlessly disappointed. The trash solution comes first. The voices of archangels take a bit longer. Incorrect. Meditation is running straight into reality. It does not insulate you from the pain of life but rather allows you to delve so deeply into life and all its aspects that you pierce the pain barrier and go beyond suffering. Vipassana is a practice done with the specific intention of facing reality, to fully experience life just as it is and to cope with exactly what you find. It allows you to blow aside the illusions and free yourself from all the polite little lies you tell yourself all the time. What is there is there. You are who you are, and lying to yourself about your own weaknesses and motivations only binds you tighter to them.

Vipassana meditation is not an attempt to forget yourself or to cover up your troubles. It is learning to look at yourself exactly as you are to see what is there and accept it fully. Only then can you change it. Another dynamic that must be considered is the rise in prescription drug use. A study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic revealed that seven out of ten Americans take a prescription drug, and one in five US patients is on five or more prescription drugs--many of which include insomnia among their side effects.[6] The fact that some medications disrupt sleep cycles is an important piece in the puzzle. Offending drugs can include medications related to past illnesses as well as concurrent illnesses and even a morass of depression medications that may have unwanted side effects. The list of prescription medications that can interfere with a healthy night's sleep includes heart medications, asthma medications, antidepressants, and nicotine patches, as well as medications for ADHD and hypothyroidism. Over-the-counter pain medications and decongestants have also been linked with insomnia. As if these outcomes weren't disruptive enough, when we consider what research continues to reveal about the link between inadequate sleep and depression and even suicidal ideations, we can no longer underestimate the healing power of sleep in the life of anyone suffering in a depressive state. If you've ever struggled--or struggle now--to get a good night's sleep, you know how frustrating and discouraging it can be. And you're not alone. If you ask virtually any depressed person about sleep, you will almost certainly hear about distorted and disturbed sleep patterns: Among people diagnosed with depression, three out of four struggle with insomnia, while 15 percent report symptoms of hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during the day, which can occur on its own or with insomnia). Nearly 90 percent of people with severe depression struggle with early-morning insomnia. Among people who are not depressed, the presence of insomnia indicates a higher risk for depression later in life.[8] In the introduction I mentioned my own experience with a major depressive episode. During that time in my life, a good night's sleep was rare. I remember lying awake for hours, ruminating on anxious thoughts or watching the numbers change on my bedside clock. Even when the substances I was abusing knocked me out for a night, I would wake up groggy and have a difficult time functioning during the day. Many years later, I felt so passionately about the power of a good night's sleep that I helped design a premium mattress, called The Serenity, along with a sleep-inducing supplement, At Ease PM. Why are sleep issues so prevalent among people suffering from depression?

Sleep studies done with depressed patients have shown that depression changes our sleep architecture. People who are depressed experience an altered sleep cycle, entering REM sleep more quickly and spending less time in sleep stages three and four.[9] Sleep stages three and four--the stages associated with delta, or slow-wave, brain activity--are often called "priority sleep" because they are so critical to our emotional and physical well-being. Sleep expert Mary O'Brien, MD, explains the power of these two stages in this way: We rarely think about the effects of a likable personality on our families, but consider this. How much easier would holiday dinners with your in-laws be or conversations with your parents if you were more likable, engaging and funnier in conversation? Yeah, they love you, but with the tips in this guide, you'll soon find that they will like you too. Relationships are tricky things. Even if you've been married for twenty years, what do you think will happen as you age and you grow even more introverted? Your spouse will grow bored and while love can persist, the excitement of marriage can grow stale. The same can be true for your friendships and family connections - all of which can grow brittle and drift apart. The tips in this guide are going to reinvigorate how you talk to people you know and love and create a new personality that they will absolutely love to be around. But, it takes some work on your part. There isn't a switch in the back of the human brain you can just flip and instantly become that person at every party you attend. Psychologists, anthropologists and biologists have been studying the interactions of human beings for as long as we've been able to observe, write, and discuss all the silly things we do. It's become an area of special interest to me in recent years because it represents so many theories and possible solutions for how we actually become likable. My wife and I needed to help our daughter develop a healthy relationship with tech and other potential distractions, but first we needed to work out what was causing her behavior. As we've learned throughout this book, simple answers to complex questions are often wrong, and it is far too easy to blame behavior parents don't like on something other than ourselves. For example, every parent obviously knows children become hyperactive when they eat sugar. We've all heard a parent claim the reason behind their kid's bratty behavior at the birthday party was the ominous "sugar high." I must admit I've used that excuse on more than one occasion myself. That is, until I learned that the concept of a "sugar high" is total scientific bunk. An exhaustive meta-analysis of sixteen studies "found that sugar does not affect the behavior or cognitive performance of children." Interestingly, though the so-called sugar high is a myth for kids, it does have a real effect on parents.

A study found that mothers, when told that their sons were given sugar, rated their child's behavior as more hyperactive--despite that child having been given a placebo. In fact, videotapes of the mothers' interactions with their sons revealed that they were more likely to trail their children and criticize them when they believed they were "high" on sugar--again, despite the fact that their sons hadn't eaten any. Another classic excuse in the parental tool kit of blame deflection is the "common knowledge" that teens are rebellious by nature. Everyone knows that teenagers act horribly toward their parents because their raging hormones and underdeveloped brains make them act that way. Wrong. Studies have found that teenagers in many societies, particularly preindustrialized ones, don't act especially rebelliously and, conversely, spend "almost all their time with adults." In an article titled "The Myth of the Teen Brain," Robert Epstein writes, "Many historians note that through most of recorded human history, the teen years were a relatively peaceful time of transition to adulthood." Apparently, our teenagers' brains are fine--it is our brains that are underdeveloped. Of course, our perceptions are often quite accurate (or at the very least, they're good enough). It would be difficult to lead normal and productive lives if they weren't. But when we do misperceive, we can form some pretty weird and erroneous beliefs. Research has found that two factors significantly influence how we perceive the world--we see what we expect to see and what we want to see. That is, we often see things because our prior experiences have led us to expect them, or our desires have led us to want to see them. If you're like many people, you read the phrase as "Paris in the Spring."3 But look closely--the word the is stated twice. We don't expect to find two in a row, so we see only one. As another example, when people were quickly shown a playing card that illustrated a black three of hearts, many of them were sure it was a normal three of hearts or a normal three of spades. Why? We don't expect to see a black heart, so we interpret it to be consistent with our expectations.4 As these simple examples illustrate, we can misperceive our world when reality doesn't match our expectations. Our expectations can actually make us see things that never happened. For example, when a researcher told people that the light in a room would blink at random intervals, many said the light blinked, even though it never did.5 Other research demonstrates that people can experience electric shocks or smell certain odors when they don't actually exist.6 These misperceptions also occur outside the lab. When a panda bear escaped from a European zoo, people called from all over to say they saw the bear. However, the bear traveled only a few yards from the zoo before it was tragically hit by a train.

All of the reported sightings were products of overactive imaginations--people expected to see the bear, and so they did.7 Expectations can lead to hallucinations! What if you thought that a full moon caused people to act strangely? You would expect to see weird behavior on nights with a full moon, and would likely be on the lookout for such behavior. Many studies have systematically shown that there is no such thing as a "lunar effect"--full moons do not cause abnormal behavior. However, when nurses were asked to note any unusual behavior in their patients during a full moon, those who believed in the lunar effect said they saw more unusual behavior than those who didn't believe.8 If we expect to see something, we'll interpret our world to see it. Well, yes and no. Meditation does produce lovely blissful feelings sometimes. But they are not the purpose, and they don't always occur. Furthermore, if you do meditation with that purpose in mind, they are less likely to occur than if you just meditate for the actual purpose of meditation, which is increased awareness. Bliss results from relaxation, and relaxation results from release of tension. Seeking bliss from meditation introduces tension into the process, which blows the whole chain of events. It is a Catch-22: you can only experience bliss if you don't chase after it. Euphoria is not the purpose of meditation. It will often arise, but should be regarded as a byproduct. Still, it is a very pleasant side effect, and it becomes more and more frequent the longer you meditate. You won't hear any disagreement about this from advanced practitioners. It certainly looks that way. There sits the meditator parked on a little cushion. Is she out donating blood? No.