Each neuron has a primary axon, which sends out information to many other neurons, and tens of thousands of branches, called dendrites, which receive information from other neurons. Neurons make contact with one another at points called synapses, and every neuron has from one to ten thousand synapses. As a consequence, a piece of brain the size of a grain of sand has about one hundred thousand neurons, two million axons, and one billion synapses, all talking to one another. If problems arise somewhere in these neural connections, our perceptions of external reality can be vastly different from reality itself. Don't expect anything. Just sit back and see what happens. Treat the whole thing as an experiment. Take an active interest in the test itself, but don't get distracted by your expectations about the results. For that matter, don't be anxious for any result whatsoever. Let the meditation move along at its own speed and in its own direction. Let the meditation teach you. Meditative awareness seeks to see reality exactly as it is. Whether that corresponds to our expectations or not, it does require a temporary suspension of all of our preconceptions and ideas. We must store our images, opinions, and interpretations out of the way for the duration of the session. Otherwise we will stumble over them. Don't strain. Don't force anything or make grand, exaggerated efforts. Meditation is not aggressive. There is no place or need for violent striving. Just let your effort be relaxed and steady.

Don't rush. There is no hurry, so take your time. Settle yourself on a cushion and sit as though you have the whole day. Anything really valuable takes time to develop. Patience, patience, patience. Don't cling to anything, and don't reject anything. Let come what comes, and accommodate yourself to that, whatever it is. If good mental images arise, that is fine. If bad mental images arise, that is fine, too. Look on all of it as equal, and make yourself comfortable with whatever happens. Don't fight with what you experience, just observe it all mindfully. Let go. Learn to flow with all the changes that come up. Loosen up and relax. Accept everything that arises. Accept your feelings, even the ones you wish you did not have. Accept your experiences, even the ones you hate. Don't condemn yourself for having human flaws and failings. Learn to see all the phenomena in the mind as being perfectly natural and understandable. Try to exercise a disinterested acceptance at all times with respect to everything you experience.

Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. You may not be perfect, but you are all you've got to work with. The process of becoming who you will be begins first with the total acceptance of who you are. Investigate yourself. Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don't believe anything because it sounds wise and pious and some holy man said it. See for yourself. That does not mean that you should be cynical, impudent, or irreverent. It means you should be empirical. Subject all statements to the actual test of your own experience, and let the results be your guide to truth. Insight meditation evolves out of an inner longing to wake up to what is real and to gain liberating insight into the true structure of existence. The entire practice hinges upon this desire to be awake to the truth. Without it, the practice is superficial. View all problems as challenges. Look upon negativities that arise as opportunities to learn and to grow. Don't run from them, condemn yourself, or bury your burden in saintly silence. You have a problem? Great.

More grist for the mill. Rejoice, dive in, and investigate. Don't ponder. You don't need to figure everything out. Discursive thinking won't free you from the trap. In meditation, the mind is purified naturally by mindfulness, by wordless bare attention. Habitual deliberation is not necessary to eliminate those things that are keeping you in bondage. All that is necessary is a clear, nonconceptual perception of what they are and how they work. That alone is sufficient to dissolve them. Concepts and reasoning just get in the way. Don't think. See. To be honest, research into the link between technology use and depression is a mixed bag. In some ways, that's to be expected when studying something that's so new. Widespread social media use, for instance, is still not yet two decades old. The hypothesized effects of too much screen time are also largely subjective and difficult to measure. It's hard to get definitive answers when we're still not entirely sure what the right questions are. Nevertheless, numerous studies point to adverse mental health effects on young people when they spend too much time engaged in online activity. Those include an increase in suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study on the effects of social media use, for instance, concluded that "exposure to highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and/or more successful lives"--which can cause depression, the authors wrote.[1] There is also an unresolved chicken-and-egg dilemma with some research.

Studies report a link between Internet use and emotional disorders like ADHD, borderline personality disorders, and anxiety, but they often can't reliably pinpoint which came first. In other words, does Internet usage impact the onset and severity of mental health issues, or does the presence of those disorders make a person more likely to overuse the Internet? These and other questions remain to be answered. And yet I can confirm from firsthand experience--after working with hundreds of clients over several decades--that the misuse of technology has a direct impact on the severity of depressive symptoms. It's why I have made addressing this behavior a key part of the whole-person approach to healing. When we welcome clients to The Center on their first day, we ask them to relinquish their electronic devices--anything with a screen--for a certain period of time. The reason is simple: to eliminate distractions. We want people to be as present as possible and focused on their recovery process. We store the devices in an office safe for at least seventy-two hours, and in some cases, for the duration of the clients' stay at the clinic. By the very next day, we notice something remarkable. Most of those people begin to exhibit classic signs of physical withdrawal from an addictive substance. Almost all become irritable and agitated, sometimes developing sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate. Their bodies are responding to the loss of connection via their devices in ways remarkably similar to quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey. Clearly, something is out of balance in the role technology is playing in their lives. If we go back to the research looking for a common thread that can help shed light on this experience--and that will suggest ways to alleviate our clients' distress--we find it easily enough. The key lies in the word misuse and in how we define it. In other words, we're back where we started, conceding that technology itself is neither harmful nor beneficial. It's our own choices about how we use technology that will determine our experience. This list won't just remind you that you're the kind of person who deserves to be well liked. It will become internalized in you, so that whatever limiting fears you may have about yourself, can virtually become eradicated (in order to give you the ability to attract better experiences to you!) Did you know that your body responds based on your social interactions?