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Once upon a time, we would be fearful of that strong negative - so much so that we'd avoid contact altogether. It's an actual phobia - that fear of instant rejection. Scientists call it Social Phobia and if you let it grow, it can cripple your ability to meet new people, talk to the people you already know and generally put yourself out there to be part of the greater discourse. In short, it's not good. But, what we're doing in this book goes beyond all that. We're creating a situation in which you know for a fact that you are being genial and likable, but more importantly, you will have the confidence to say "who cares" if someone has that strong negative reaction to you. Only people with low self-esteem get worked up when someone decides they don't like them. This is who you are - the whole person that you are proud of and confident in. If you decide to change that person and be someone other than who you have always been, what's the point of being a unique individual? When you're a whole, complete person with an interesting life and a likable personality, the last thing on your mind will be `what does this perfect stranger think of me?' How did the norms around smoking change so dramatically in the course of just one generation? According to Graham's theory, people adopted social antibodies to protect themselves, similar to the way our bodies fight back against bacteria and viruses that can harm us. The remedy for distraction in social situations involves the development of new norms that make it taboo to check one's phone when in the company of others. Social norms are changing, but whether they change for the better is up to us. The only way to make sure certain unhealthy behaviors are no longer acceptable is to call them out and address them with social antibodies that block their spread. This tactic worked with smoking, and it can work with digital distractions. Let's imagine you're at a dinner party when someone takes out his phone and starts to tap away. While you likely already know that spending time on a device in an intimate social setting is rude, there's often at least one person who hasn't learned the new social norm. Embarrassing him in front of others isn't a good idea, assuming you want to stay friends; a subtler tactic is required. To help keep things cordial, a simple and effective approach is to ask a direct question that can snap the offender out of the phone zone by giving him two simple options: (1) excuse himself to attend to the crisis happening on his device or (2) kindly put away his phone. The question goes like this: "I see you're on your phone.

Is everything OK?" Remember to be sincere--after all, there might really be an emergency. But more often than not, he'll mutter a little excuse, tuck his phone back into his pocket, and start enjoying the night again. Victory is yours! You've succeeded in tactfully spreading the social antibody against "phubbing," a word coined by the ad agency McCann for the Macquarie Dictionary. Phubbing, a portmanteau of phone and snubbing, means "to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device." The dictionary assembled experts to create the word in order to give people a way to call out the problem. Now it's up to us to start using the term so that it may become another positive social antibody in our arsenal against distractions in social settings. Modern technologies like smartphones, tablets, and laptops aren't the only sources of distraction in social situations. Many restaurants have wall-to-wall television sets, each with a different channel flashing headline news or a sports game that can easily disrupt conversations. Because of our acceptance of having televisions playing in the background in social settings, they can be equally, if not more, pernicious at distracting our attention away from the people we're with. Distraction among friends can take on other forms, including our own children. For example, during a recent get-together, just as a good friend began to share his personal and professional struggles, one of his children came to the table and demanded a juice box. The conversation immediately shifted to the needs of the child. So is there any value to psychic predictions? People point to some pretty amazing success stories. For example, Jeanne Dixon supposedly foretold the assassinations of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, while many people believe that Nostradamus predicted both world wars, the atom bomb, Hitler, and the 9/11 tragedy. When evaluating these predictions, a couple of things must be kept in mind. First, we have to ask ourselves, are the predictions unambiguous, and second, are the predictions more accurate than what we would expect from chance. It certainly seems applicable to the Twin Towers collapse in New York City, referring to "two great rocks" and "a new city." In fact, researchers found that 68 percent of people surveyed thought that the verses might have predicted 9/11.4 But is that because they were looking for such evidence? To find out, the researchers gave the same prophecy to another group of people and asked if it might have predicted the London blitz, where Germany bombed London for fifty-seven straight nights during World War II. It turned out that 61 percent thought the prophecy referred to the London blitz, where "earthshaking fires" and "tremors" were experienced throughout the city.5 The bottom line is that the prophecy is ambiguous enough to allow multiple interpretations.

To further prove the point, the researchers randomly selected lines from different prophecies. Amazingly, 58 percent of the people surveyed thought that this scrambled version accurately predicted World War II! Even Nostradamus experts can't agree on the meanings of his predictions. For example, two noted experts have interpreted the same verses in very different ways. One expert thought that a certain prophecy predicted the role of Emperor Haile Selassie in World War II, while the other said it referred to Henry IV and the siege of Malta in 1565.6 In effect, the verses are so ambiguous and open to interpretation that anyone can read whatever they want into them, and so, they are veridically worthless. In addition to considering their ambiguity, we also have to question whether psychic predictions are more accurate than what we would expect from mere guessing. Thousands of forecasters make millions of predictions every year. With such a large number, some of the predictions will be right some of the time. As we have seen, coincidences happen quite often because of the sheer number of events that occur. In some instances, a coincidence will take place when a psychic foretells an event and the event actually occurs. Many people interpret that happenstance as proof of psychic ability. Why? When we test the hypothesis--psychics can predict the future--we naturally attend to evidence that confirms the hypothesis. Thus, we focus on the few times that psychics may have been somewhat right, and disregard the vast number of times they were wrong. Psychologists Scott Madey and Tom Gilovich interestingly demonstrated this biased reaction to data. They gave subjects a diary of a student who supposedly had prophetic dreams. The diary contained a number of the student's dreams, along with events that occurred later on in her life. Half of the dreams appeared to come true, while half did not. When subjects were later asked to remember as many of the dreams as they could, they remembered many more that came true. When it comes to prophecies and fortune telling, we remember the hits and forget the misses.7 The practise of meditation has been going on for several thousand years.

That is quite a bit of time for experimentation, and the procedure has been very, very thoroughly refined. Buddhist practice has always recognized that the mind and body are tightly linked and that each influences the other. Thus, there are certain recommended physical practices that will greatly help you to master this skill. And these practices should be followed. Keep in mind, however, that these postures are practice aids. Don't confuse the two. Meditation does not mean sitting in the lotus position. It is a mental skill. It can be practiced anywhere you wish. But these postures will help you to learn this skill, and they speed your progress and development. So use them. The purpose of the various postures is threefold. First, they provide a stable feeling in the body. This allows you to remove your attention from such issues as balance and muscular fatigue, so that you can center your concentration on the formal object of meditation. Second, they promote physical immobility, which is then reflected by an immobility of mind. This creates a deeply settled and tranquil concentration. Third, they give you the ability to sit for a long period of time without yielding to the meditator's three main enemies--pain, muscular tension, and falling asleep. The most essential thing is to sit with your back straight. The spine should be erect with the spinal vertebrae held like a stack of coins, one on top of the other. Your head should be held in line with the rest of the spine.

All of this is done in a relaxed manner. No stiffness. You are not a wooden soldier, and there is no drill sergeant. There should be no muscular tension involved in keeping the back straight. Sit light and easy. The spine should be like a firm young tree growing out of soft ground. The rest of the body just hangs from it in a loose, relaxed manner. This is going to require a bit of experimentation on your part. We generally sit in tight, guarded postures when we are walking or talking and in sprawling postures when we are relaxing. Neither of those will do. But they are cultural habits and they can be relearned. Your objective is to achieve a posture in which you can sit for the entire session without moving at all. In the beginning, you will probably feel a bit odd to sit with a straight back. But you will get used to it. It takes practice, and an erect posture is very important. This is what is known in physiology as a position of arousal, and with it goes mental alertness. If you slouch, you are inviting drowsiness. What you sit on is equally important. You are going to need a chair or a cushion, depending on the posture you choose, and the firmness of the seat must be chosen with some care. Too soft a seat can put you right to sleep.