We miss reality. We enter a world of fantasy. Here is another example: You are sitting in meditation and a sound strikes your ear. It is just an indistinct noise, sort of a muffled crunch; it could be anything. What happens next will probably be something like this. "What was that? Who did that? Where did that come from? How far away was that? Is it dangerous?" And on and on you go, getting no answers but your fantasy projection. Conceptualization is an insidiously clever process. It creeps into your experience, and it simply takes over. When you hear a sound in meditation, pay bare attention to the experience of hearing. That and that only. What is really happening is so utterly simple that we can and do miss it altogether. Sound waves are striking the ear in a certain unique pattern. Those waves are being translated into electrical impulses within the brain, and those impulses present a sound pattern to consciousness. That is all. No pictures. No mind movies.

No concepts. No interior dialogues about the question. Just noise. Reality is elegantly simple and unadorned. When you hear a sound, be mindful of the process of hearing. Everything else is just added chatter. Drop it. This same rule applies to every sensation, every emotion, every experience you may have. Look closely at your own experience. Dig down through the layers of mental bric-a-brac and see what is really there. You will be amazed how simple it is, and how beautiful. Why is moving so important? John Ratey, MD, author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, calls depression a "physical alteration of the brain's emotional circuitry." Here's how he explains what is happening in the depressed brain: Norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are essential messengers that ferry information across the synapses, but without enough good connections in place, these neurotransmitters can only do so much. As far as the brain is concerned, its job is to transfer information and constantly rewire itself to help us adapt and survive. In depression, it seems that in certain areas, the brain's ability to adapt grinds to a halt. The shutdown in depression is a shutdown of learning at the cellular level. Not only is the brain locked into a negative loop of self-hate, but it also loses the flexibility to work its way out of the hole. He adds, "If your prefrontal cortex has been offline for a while, you need to reprogram it, and exercise is the perfect tool."[6] When it comes to reprogramming the depressed brain, why is exercise so invaluable? When you exercise, your body increases the release of critical chemicals and hormones that have a major impact on brain health and mood. Here are five brain chemicals and hormones that are impacted by exercise.

Both a hormone and a brain chemical, norepinephrine makes you more alert while improving focus, memory, and concentration. This is why exercise was proven to improve cognitive control in children with ADHD in a study conducted at the University of Illinois. In this study, children who participated in just twenty minutes of exercise performed better on tests and had an easier time focusing.[7] This is a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and motivation. It also helps you plan ahead, concentrate, and experience feelings of joy and accomplishment when you reach your goal. Physical movement is one of the most effective natural methods of increasing dopamine. What's more, if your activity takes place outside, you're even better off, since sunlight also helps by increasing the number of dopamine receptors and creating vitamin D, which aids in the release of dopamine. This brain chemical is a natural mood stabilizer that significantly impacts your emotions, but it also helps regulate appetite, sleep, memory, sexual desire, and social behavior. Exercise not only increases serotonin production, but it also improves how your body utilizes it. This chemical promotes the growth of new connections between brain cells, making it extremely crucial to overall brain health. Exercise can triple the production of BDNF in your brain. People were grunting, shaking their heads and standing up to show off their dominance to one another when they were still batting each other with sticks - and while a lot of the context has been lost in the last few hundred thousand years, we still say a lot with our bodies. The people who can catch on to the subtleties of body language and reciprocate the conversation are the ones that do best in social situations. To illustrate my point, go into any bar or club and try to have a detailed conversation with someone. Can they even hear everything you're saying? Eventually the goal is to separate a romantic interest from the herd and talk to them in a quieter setting, but at the outset, you'll notice that there are too many distractions for a strictly verbal conversation. So you have to lean in, open your body language, smile and laugh to make sure they know you're interested. Without the common signs of romantic interest, where would you be? Alone in that bar, that's where. You're an open book. If we were talking in person right now, I'd know more about you than you'd feel comfortable saying, and you're broadcasting it to everyone you meet.

But, what exactly do people see when they watch you? Is it the cool confidence of someone without anything to hide, or a nervous, uncomfortable person unsure of their place in the world? How other people see you will have a pretty big impact on how likable you are, but I don't want you to think about that just yet. In fact, stop thinking about it at all. Since psychology finds general tendencies in groups of people and doesn't allow us to accurately predict what an individual from the group will do, the conclusions discussed here relate to our general tendencies. When I say we're risk avoidant for gains and risk taking for losses, we search out confirming evidence, or we see associations that are not there, I mean that there's a tendency for us to act in these ways. But we can't predict with certainty how any one of us will act, no matter how hard we try. The best we can do is make probabilistic assessments based upon general statistics.51 While statistics don't apply to the individual, they allow us to say things like, "Based on past statistics, there's a 70 percent chance that a person with this disease will die within a year." It's not perfect, but it's the best we can do. Anything else, and we're just fooling ourselves. Do you remember the repressed-memory example discussed earlier? A policeman comes to your door, reads you your rights, and slaps on a pair of handcuffs. As you're carted off to jail, you learn that your twenty-eight-year-old daughter has accused you of molesting her when she was eight. Why does she believe it? She recently started therapy for some emotional issues, and the therapist thought that childhood abuse might be the cause of her current problems. Your daughter had no prior recollection of abuse, but when the therapist put her under hypnosis, she started to remember a number of vivid instances when you sexually molested her. The police were called in, and on the testimony of her twenty-year-old memory, you're sent to prison for thirty years--even though you know you didn't do it! It sounds crazy, but similar events have occurred in the United States. How can this happen? It all has to do with how our memory works. Many of us think that our memory is a permanent store of past experiences.

For example, which of the following two statements best reflects your view of how memory works? If you chose the first option, you're not alone. When psychologists asked people from various parts of the United States this question, approximately 75 percent selected the first description. We seem to think that our memories are literal snapshots of our experiences. Of course, we can't remember everything; in fact, we often complain about our memories. But when we say we have poor memories, we typically mean that we can't recall things at the present time. We think the memory is stored somewhere--we just can't bring it to mind right now. And, when we do recall something, and are confident in that recollection, we think the memory is quite accurate. But this is not how our memory operates. There are times when a number of sensations may arise at once. You might have a thought of fear, a squeezing in the stomach, an aching back, and an itch on your left earlobe, all at the same time. Don't sit there in a quandary. Don't keep switching back and forth or wondering what to pick. One of them will be strongest. Just open yourself up, and the most insistent of these phenomena will intrude itself and demand your attention. So give it some attention just long enough to see it fade away. Then return to your breathing. If another one intrudes itself, let it in. When it is done, return to the breathing. This process can be carried too far, however.