Early on in our practice of meditation, we need to rethink our underlying assumptions regarding conceptualization. For most of us, we have earned high marks in school and in life for our ability to manipulate mental phenomena, or concepts, logically. Our careers, much of our success in everyday life, our happy relationships, we view as largely the result of our successful manipulation of concepts. In developing mindfulness, however, we temporarily suspend the conceptualization process and focus on the pure nature of mental phenomena. During meditation we are seeking to experience the mind at the preconceptual level. But the human mind conceptualizes such occurrences as pain. You find yourself thinking of it as "the pain." That is a concept. It is a label, something added to the sensation itself. You find yourself building a mental image, a picture of the pain, seeing it as a shape. You may see a diagram of the leg with the pain outlined in some lovely color. This is very creative and terribly entertaining but not what we want. Those are concepts tacked on to the living reality. Most likely, you will probably find yourself thinking: "I have a pain in my leg." "I" is a concept. It is something extra added to the pure experience. When you introduce "I" into the process, you are building a conceptual gap between the reality and the awareness viewing that reality. Thoughts such as "me," "my," or "mine" have no place in direct awareness. They are extraneous addenda, and insidious ones at that. When you bring "me" into the picture, you are identifying with the pain. That simply adds emphasis to it. If you leave "I" out of the operation, pain is not painful.

It is just a pure surging energy flow. It can even be beautiful. If you find "I" insinuating itself in your experience of pain or indeed any other sensation, then just observe that mindfully. Pay bare attention to the phenomenon of personal identification with pain. To combat depression, you don't need to hire a personal trainer or spend hours at the gym (although I would encourage both options). You can improve your mobility and mental health by consistently choosing to move more in simple ways. For example, try parking a little farther from your workplace, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog after dinner, spending thirty minutes a day gardening, or meeting a friend several times a week for a stroll through a park. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry followed 33,908 healthy adults for eleven years and tracked data related to exercise, depression, and anxiety. The researchers concluded that sedentary participants were 44 percent more likely to develop depression than participants who exercised just one to two hours a week. In fact, that one-hour mark was particularly significant. Here are some of the conclusions of the study: When it came to protecting people from depression, most of the benefits were realized with an hour of low-level exercise a week. Low-intensity exercises were just as beneficial as high-intensity exercises. Future cases of depression could have been prevented among 12 percent of the study's participants if they had engaged in at least one hour of physical activity each week. The benefits of even moderate physical activity are widespread and substantial. According to Dr. Alpa Patel, strategic director of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study-3, "When you go from doing no activity to any amount, you see a marked decline in the risk of premature death from any cause."[4] I am struck by that amazing sequence of words: any amount . Of course, there are additional benefits from consistent workouts of higher intensity. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, your weekly activity goal should include two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) and two days of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abs, chest, shoulders, and arms). Meeting these guidelines can literally save your life, creating dramatic improvements related to diabetes, heart health, bone and muscle strength, and more.[5] But studies show that when it comes to mental health, increasing your activity level even a small amount--especially if you've been sedentary--matters. A lot.

Create a list of 3-5 skills you can work on immediately. Keep a log of your actions toward those skills on daily basis. I recommend working on one skill at a time and developing an hour a day to the development of your skills in that field. Create a list of 3-5 affirmations that you can repeat to yourself every day for the next 90-120 days. Analyze the people in your life right now. Make a list of the people who are a positive influence and all those who are a negative influence. Determine if you can spend more time with the former and less with the latter. Set aside at least 20-30 minutes a day in which you can meditate or exercise and develop a more successful approach to your problems. Start tracking your goals by writing down at least 5 of them that you'd like to complete in the next 4 months. I honestly don't care what other people think of me, but that doesn't mean I don't work to put on an affable, likable coat of armour whenever I go into public. You may not realize you do it, you may even deny you do it, but I'm here to tell you that almost every judgment you make of your fellow human beings is driven by their body language. It's a part of who we are, even when we don't realize it. So, when you want to be likable, you need to look, talk and act like a likable person. Don't worry; I'm not going to give you makeover and tell you to just "be comfortable" in those new clothes. We're going to go through specific body language cues and how you can shift your interactions with people so they see someone who is confident, cool, and most of all, likable. I've rambled on a few times now about how important body language is, but what does that actually mean? We know my dog would get upset when I grew angry, but what about other people and what exactly do they notice? Body language is nothing new. This isn't a secret that someone just discovered five years ago and we're just now uncovering the full extent of. It's been around since before written or spoken language and it's a fundamental part of who we are as human beings.

You may have heard the phrase, "Statistics don't apply to the individual." We may know, for example, that 70 percent of people with a certain disease will die within a year, but that doesn't tell us whether a specific person with the disease will die. Or we may hear that 60 percent of people coming from a certain socioeconomic background will commit a crime, but, once again, we don't know if a specific individual with that background will turn to crime. But remember, we have an inherent desire to predict things. As a result, many people, including professionals, believe they can use their intuitive insight to make predictions about an individual's behavior. Take, for instance, the field of clinical psychology. Some clinical psychologists claim that their training gives them unique insight into how an individual will act, beyond what we can get from general statistics. They're routinely brought into our courtrooms to provide expert testimony on an individual's psychological state--and they make their pronouncements with a great deal of confidence.45 The problem is, the field of psychology, and the social sciences in general, don't give us that kind of information. Psychology does not allow us to make definitive predictions about a single individual; instead, it indicates the tendencies that exist in a group of individuals.46 As a result, intuitive judgments about individuals are frequently in error. The best information we have available to make such judgments is, once again, general statistics. How do we know that clinical prediction is no better than just relying on statistics? There's no evidence to indicate that years of experience as a psychotherapist leads to a better patient outcome. Also, studies have found that licensed clinical psychologists do no better than unlicensed practitioners (e.g., social workers).47 In fact, psychologist Robyn Dawes argues that "the effectiveness of therapy is unrelated to the training or credentials of the therapist. We should take seriously the findings that the best predictors of future behavior are past behavior and performance on carefully standardized tests, not responses to inkblot tests or impressions gained in interviews, even though no prediction is as good as we might wish it to be."48 The bottom line is, we can be reasonably confident only in our aggregate predictions; that is, how a group of people will tend to behave. Any attempt to predict the behavior of a single individual is open to so much error and uncertainty that, either we should not do it at all, or it should be done with strong caveats.49 As Dawes states, "A mental health expert who expresses a confident opinion about the probable future behavior of a single individual (for example, to engage in violent acts) is by definition incompetent, because the research has demonstrated that neither a mental health expert nor anyone else can make such a prediction with accuracy sufficient to warrant much confidence."50 Yet such opinions are given every day in our courts of law. The general idea, however, is almost too simple. You want to really see each sensation, whether it is pain, bliss, or boredom. You want to experience that thing fully in its natural and unadulterated form. There is only one way to do this. Your timing has to be precise. Your awareness of each sensation must coordinate exactly with the arising of that sensation.

If you catch it just a bit too late, you miss the beginning. You won't get all of it. If you hang on to any sensation past the time when it has faded away, then what you are holding onto is a memory. The thing itself is gone, and by holding onto that memory, you miss the arising of the next sensation. It is a very delicate operation. You've got to cruise along right here in the present, picking things up and letting things drop with no delays whatsoever. It takes a very light touch. Your relation to sensation should never be one of past or future but always of the simple and immediate now. The human mind seeks to conceptualize phenomena, and it has developed a host of clever ways to do so. Every simple sensation will trigger a burst of conceptual thinking if you give the mind its way. Let us take hearing, for example. You are sitting in meditation and somebody in the next room drops a dish. The sounds strike your ear. Instantly you see a picture of that other room. You probably see a person dropping a dish, too. If this is a familiar environment, say your own home, you probably will have a 3-D technicolor mind movie of who did the dropping and which dish was dropped. This whole sequence presents itself to consciousness instantly. It just jumps out of the unconscious so bright and clear and compelling that it shoves everything else out of sight. What happens to the original sensation, the pure experience of hearing? It gets lost in the shuffle, completely overwhelmed and forgotten.