While early contradictory evidence may blur our understanding, later work often brings the picture into sharper focus. When programs to help disadvantaged children, such as Head Start, were first studied, we saw headlines like "Early Intervention Raises IQs by Thirty Points," along with "Head Start a Failure." What are we to believe from such contradictory headlines? The problem is that the headlines were premature. While they appeared to be definitive, it actually took another decade of research to give us a scientific consensus. As it turns out, while short programs of early intervention do not typically result in thirty-point IQ gains, they do have definite beneficial effects. Children who participated in Head Start were less likely to go into special education classes or to be held back a grade, and they showed improvement in later educational work. In the first century C.E., an eminent Buddhist scholar named Upatissa wrote the Vimuttimagga (The Path of Freedom), in which he summarized the Buddha's teachings on meditation. In the fifth century C.E., another great Buddhist scholar, named Buddhaghosa, covered the same ground in a second scholastic thesis, the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), which remains the standard text on meditation today. It is our intention to present you with the clearest and most concise directions for vipassana meditation available in the English language. This book offers you a foot in the door. It's up to you to take the first few steps on the road to the discovery of who you are and what it all means. It is a journey worth taking. We wish you success. MEDITATION IS NOT EASY. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination, and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities that we normally regard as unpleasant and like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum up all of these qualities in the American word gumption. Meditation takes gumption. It is certainly a great deal easier just to sit back and watch television.

So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why? Simple. Because you are human. Just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life that simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time; you can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back, and usually when you least expect it. All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life. There you are, and you suddenly realize that you are spending your whole life just barely getting by. You keep up a good front. You manage to make ends meet somehow and look okay from the outside. But those periods of desperation, those times when you feel everything caving in on you--you keep those to yourself. You are a mess, and you know it. But you hide it beautifully. Meanwhile, way down under all of that, you just know that there has to be some other way to live, a better way to look at the world, a way to touch life more fully. You click into it by chance now and then: you get a good job. You fall in love. You win the game. For a while, things are different. Life takes on a richness and clarity that makes all the bad times and humdrum fade away.

The whole texture of your experience changes and you say to yourself, "Okay, now I've made it; now I will be happy." But then that fades too, like smoke in the wind. You are left with just a memory--that, and the vague awareness that something is wrong. As you can see, depression is not limited to what's happening in your head. Far from it! Numerous factors have contributed to the onset and severity of your depression, and each of these must be addressed throughout the healing process as well. That's what I call the whole-person model of treatment. To illustrate the idea, here's a story that's typical of many clients we see at The Center. John came to us in his early forties with severe depression. He'd been depressed for a long time, but his symptoms had grown significantly worse in recent years. By the time he checked into The Center, he rarely left his house, was a hundred pounds overweight, had major digestive upset, and was taking multiple medications--three for depression, one for anxiety, and a variety of over-the-counter meds to help settle his gut. Looking for help, he'd "done it all," he told us, like so many of our guests. But years of traditional therapy and visits to various medical specialties had led to disjointed and ineffective care. Based on a careful review of his files, it was clear he had gotten some good advice here and there, but in treating his diverse medical problems, the assortment of practitioners he'd seen had never asked this one simple question: "What's going into your mouth every day?" Yes, he talked to more than a few doctors about his rapid weight gain and the effect it had on other physical problems, but those conversations usually had gone something like this: "You know you need to lose some weight." "Yeah, I know I need to lose some weight." "You need to eat better." "Yeah, I know I need to eat better." Round and round it went. But circling an issue means you never get to the core of the problem, something the whole-person approach aims to avoid. What we found during John's intake assessment shocked us. He was self-employed and worked from home, a fact that allowed him to hide an incredible addiction: John consumed an average of twelve pots of coffee a day. Not twelve cups. Twelve pots. He shared with me that no one had ever asked him how much coffee he drank, so he had never thought to mention it before. So, in addition to his depression, John had evolved numerous other issues that were directly undermining his recovery.

All that caffeine had rinsed the B vitamins out of his system, severely upset the balance of "good" bacteria in his gut, and derailed his appetite, causing him to binge eat large amounts of sugar. That, in turn, caused hypoglycemia. Since coffee had become his only fluid intake, his body settled into a state of permanent dehydration, degrading his mental acuity and other bodily functions at the cellular level. And yet, despite how horrible he felt, he was seriously dependent on coffee. "I need it just to help me get through the day," he insisted. Over the next few weeks, we helped John to rehydrate his body. ("One bottle of water for every cup of coffee.") Eventually, his coffee intake dropped to three cups a day--and none after 10:00 a.m. Once a week he got an IV bag full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, which activated his brain chemistry. His cravings started to decrease, especially for sugar and caffeine. For the first time in years, John began eating a healthy breakfast and lunch. He steadily lost weight, and his energy levels and sense of well-being increased measurably each week. We practice "mindful walking" at The Center. When John arrived, he could not make it even halfway around the block, saying things like "It takes energy just to breathe." At the end of a month, he was walking six laps every day. The physical changes improved his self-esteem and sense of hope. He walked out of our clinic speaking with optimism, gratitude for being alive, and confidence in a better future. The last time I spoke with John, he reported doing remarkably better than just a year prior. He'd lost even more weight and sustained his increased physical activity through tennis, a sport he loved but had abandoned years ago when it became too difficult to leave his house. His business improved along with his mood, and he was down to one medication for depression. This is what whole-person treatment looks like in practice: working together on multiple healing fronts all at once. Often our patients have never suspected a connection between their depression and other factors like sleep quality, technology use, nutrition, lifestyle, and behavioral health issues.

It comes as a surprise when we ask them to think outside the traditional treatment box and address the whole mental health matrix, not just a single factor. It can be tempting to avoid addressing any areas of your life where you're not completely confident. But you'll never feel better about this unless you honestly identify these difficulties and invest time and effort in looking at them. Take a step today, however small, to improve one of your lessdeveloped skills. If you want to be less shy, say, make small talk with the barista when you next get a coffee. It might just brighten their day - and yours! The thought of exercise can be daunting, especially if your confidence is low. Joining a gym or going to a group class can seem like the last thing you would want to do. But exercise can be as simple as going for a walk. Just one 30-minute stroll each day can significantly improve your health and emotional well-being. You could fit this in on the way to work, at lunchtime, or whenever feels right for you. The best walks are in daylight, in natural surroundings. Not only will being outdoors offer you a natural boost, helping you feel better and lifting your spirits, but the exercise itself will also produce endorphins, making you feel great. If you happen to see your body shape improving too, that's bound to give your confidence an extra lift. As well as being essential for good health, keeping hydrated is good for your self-esteem as it helps your skin and hair look their best, boosting body confidence. Water also helps to flush out your system, keeping your bowels healthy and reducing feelings of bloating or puffiness. Drinking around two litres of water each day (more than this when you exercise) is generally recommended for optimum health. When you first start to exercise, you may want to opt for something gentle that doesn't put too much strain on your body, such as walking or swimming. But if you are feeling more adventurous, martial arts could help you to build your self-image in several ways. To start with, practising martial arts is more strenuous and can therefore help you to become stronger and fitter much faster than gentle exercise.