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Every mental state has a birth, a growth, and a decay. You should strive to see these stages clearly. This is no easy thing to do, however. As we have already noted, every thought and sensation begins first in the unconscious region of the mind and only later rises to consciousness. We generally become aware of such things only after they have arisen in the conscious realm and stayed there for some time. Indeed we usually become aware of distractions only when they have released their hold on us and are already on their way out. It is at this point that we are struck with that sudden realization that we have been somewhere, daydreaming, fantasizing, or whatever. Quite obviously this is far too late in the chain of events. We may call this phenomenon catching the lion by his tail, and it is an unskillful thing to do. Like confronting a dangerous beast, we must approach mental states head on. Patiently, we will learn to recognize them as they arise from progressively deeper levels of our conscious mind. Since mental states arise first in the unconscious, to catch the arising of the mental state, you've got to extend your awareness down into this unconscious area. That is difficult, because you can't see what is going on down there, at least not in the same way you see a conscious thought. But you can learn to get a vague sense of movement and to operate by a sort of mental sense of touch. This comes with practice, and the ability is another of the effects of the deep calm of concentration. Concentration slows down the arising of these mental states and gives you time to feel each one arising out of the unconscious even before you see it in consciousness. Concentration helps you to extend your awareness down into that boiling darkness where thought and sensation begin. I have to admit that when I'm talking with our clients, I often substitute a different term for the word exercise. Some people associate the word with such grueling discomfort or past monumental efforts and failures that they immediately put up resistance to the idea. Instead, I use the phrase "physical movement." Instead of telling depressed clients to begin an exercise program, I talk to them about moving more and increasing their activity.

Many depressed individuals have such low energy and low motivation that exercise is the last thing they want to do. One of my clients found exercising such a daunting challenge that she discovered a very gradual way to get started. She simply made it her daily goal to get dressed in her gym clothes, drive to the gym, and stand on the treadmill. That was all. Well, it was a start. If she did those three things, she considered her goals met for the day. This effectively eliminated the "I'm too tired" excuse. Whenever she had that thought, she reminded herself that she didn't have to actually do anything; she just had to stand on the treadmill, which of course took little effort. Her strategy also took care of the "I don't have time to work out" excuse. Whenever she had that thought, she reminded herself she didn't have to spend much time at the gym--she just had to stand for a moment on the treadmill, which of course took little time at all. You can imagine what happened next. More often than not, by the time this woman drove to the gym and stood on the treadmill, her next thought was, As long as I'm here, I might as well walk for ten minutes. In the weeks ahead, ten minutes became twenty, then forty, and by the end of the year she had lost twenty pounds, had improved her eating habits, and was sleeping better at night. Her energy level had rebounded, along with her self-esteem. Her symptoms of depression did not magically vanish altogether, but she felt the renewed vitality and optimism to begin addressing other aspects of her life that would lead her toward healing. This woman was wise in discerning that she needed to train her schedule and her willpower before she began training her body. And it worked. By starting slow, we give our bodies, routines, and self-discipline time to catch up to what our brains know we need to do. The important thing is to begin doing something, no matter how small or simple. Another easy way to cut down on stress is to outline and visualize all of your goals and strengths on paper (or e-paper as the case may be).

One of the leading causes of stress is scheduling. You have too much to do and don't feel like there is enough time in the day to complete it all. So, instead of pushing yourself to the limit and then feeling inadequate for not getting it done, step back and think "what can I really get done today?""? Goal Tracking - Number one on the list; keep track of the goals you have from day to day. Be realistic about how much you can get done from one moment to the next, and use goal setting software to create an outline of your day's necessities. Every goal you set should have actionable tasks you can complete, and specific tools you can use to generate successful results. Develop Strengths - Everyone is good at some things more than others. Human beings are unique in every way from each other and therefore are able to do things that others cannot. If you're not an athlete, you learned in school early that you should focus your energies on something more suited to your talents - academics, creativity, or something more immediately practical like shop. The same is true in your adulthood. Relax and find a way to recognize and then replicate your strengths in every part of your life. Automate and Relax - Put it on autopilot and watch as your world becomes infinitely easier to manipulate and remain relaxed at the same time. Outsource tasks you don't have time to complete, delegate tasks at work, ask for help at home - whatever you need to do, ask yourself if there is a faster, more efficient way to do it. If there is, you'll save a tremendous amount of time and make your life infinitely easier. Stress is a natural part of your life. It always will be. When your child breaks their arm or you lose hours at work, you will be stressed out about it. It's only natural. But, when you're able to sit back and relax - understanding the purpose of that stress and why it is unnecessary, life becomes a lot easier, and you become a much more likable person to be around. Even the intuitive predictions of medical doctors can be poor when compared to statistical predictions.

One study had doctors estimate the life expectancies of 193 patients with Hodgkin's disease. Although the doctors thought they could accurately make the prediction, their judgments were totally unrelated to a patient's survival time, and a statistical model performed considerably better.41 One area in which statistical prediction is used extensively is in loan applications. About 90 percent of consumer loans and all credit card issuances are based on statistical models, which is probably a good thing, because when experienced bank officers rated the creditworthiness of clients, more of their selections resulted in defaults as compared to those chosen by a statistical model.42 In effect, considerable research indicates that the intuitive judgments of professionals often don't add much beyond what we would get from just relying on statistics. In fact, for most of the decisions investigated, intuitive judgments are worse. But we are still very confident in our intuitive decision making. Why are these expert judgments so poor? Some things are difficult to predict because the information we have isn't very good. For example, there may be no reliable test available to determine if a person has a certain psychological or physical disorder (of course, we usually try to make the prediction nonetheless). In other cases, the information we have is useful, but we may misinterpret or misuse that information (e.g., we often overvalue less important information and undervalue more important data). In addition, if we have to make a large number of decisions, as in the admissions committee case, we may not apply our decision strategy consistently. We're not machines--we have our days. Sometimes we're bored, sometimes we're distracted, and sometimes we're tired. As a result, we may make different decisions at different times, and that inconsistency increases our decision errors.43 Statistical models, on the other hand, don't get tired, bored, or distracted--they always apply the same decision rule, time after time. And so, many of our decisions would be more accurate if we relied on statistical prediction rather than intuitive judgments. Of course, I'm not advocating that we never rely on professional judgment. We obviously need the advice of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals for many of the decisions we face in life. Doctors have expert knowledge of current medical practices that can save our lives. But we have to recognize the limits in our ability to predict. As we've seen, predicting many different types of future events is very difficult, especially if they involve human behavior. The research indicates that intuitive judgments do not provide great insight into these decisions.

While many professionals believe they have expert insight that allows them to make these predictions, the fact is, relying on statistical prediction would result in better decision making. As psychologist Stuart Sutherland has said, "Suspect anyone who claims to have good intuition." As your concentration deepens, you gain the ability to see thoughts and sensations arising slowly, like separate bubbles, each distinct and with spaces between them. They bubble up in slow motion out of the unconscious. They stay a while in the conscious mind, and then they drift away. The application of awareness to mental states is a precision operation. This is particularly true of feelings or sensation. It is very easy to overreach the sensation. That is, to add something to it above and beyond what is really there. It is equally easy to fall short of sensation, to get part of it but not all. The ideal that you are striving for is to experience each mental state fully, exactly the way it is, adding nothing to it and not missing any part of it. Let us use pain in the leg as an example. What is actually there is a pure, flowing sensation. It changes constantly, never the same from one moment to the next. It moves from one location to another, and its intensity surges up and down. Pain is not a thing. It is an event. There should be no concepts tacked on to it and none associated with it. A pure unobstructed awareness of this event will experience it simply as a flowing pattern of energy and nothing more. No thought and no rejection. Just energy.