Is she busy working with disaster victims? No. But let us examine her motivation. Why is she doing this? The meditator's intention is to purge her own mind of anger, prejudice, and ill will, and she is actively engaged in the process of getting rid of greed, tension, and insensitivity. Those are the very items that obstruct her compassion for others. Until they are gone, any good works that she does are likely to be just an extension of her own ego, and of no real help in the long run. Harm in the name of help is one of the oldest games. The grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition spouted the loftiest of motives. The Salem witch-craft trials were conducted for the "public good." Examine the personal lives of advanced meditators, and you will often find them engaged in humanitarian service. You will seldom find them as crusading missionaries who are willing to sacrifice certain individuals for the sake of a supposedly pious idea. The fact is that we are more selfish than we know. The ego has a way of turning the loftiest activities into trash if it is allowed free range. Through meditation, we become aware of ourselves exactly as we are, by waking up to the numerous subtle ways that we act out our own selfishness. Then we truly begin to be genuinely selfless. Cleansing yourself of selfishness is not a selfish activity. Wrong again. There are certain systems of contemplation in which this sort of thing is done. But that is not vipassana. Vipassana is the practice of awareness, awareness of whatever is there, be it supreme truth or trivial trash.

What is there, is there. Of course, lofty thoughts may arise during your practice. They are certainly not to be avoided. Neither are they to be sought. They are just pleasant side effects. Vipassana is a simple practice. It consists of experiencing your own life events directly, without preferences and without mental images pasted onto them. Vipassana is seeing your life unfold from moment to moment without biases. What comes up, comes up. It is very simple. Sorry, meditation is not a quick cure-all. You will start seeing changes right away, but really profound effects are years down the line. That is just the way the universe is constructed. Nothing worthwhile is achieved overnight. Meditation is tough in some respects, requiring a long discipline and a sometimes painful process of practice. At each sitting you gain some results, but they are often very subtle. They occur deep within the mind, and only manifest much later. And if you are sitting there constantly looking for huge, instantaneous changes, you will miss the subtle shifts altogether. You will get discouraged, give up, and swear that no such changes could ever occur. Patience is the key.

Patience. If you learn nothing else from meditation, you will learn patience. Patience is essential for any profound change. Many of our body's repair processes occur during slow-wave sleep. Muscles, bones, and joints heal assorted injuries and micro-traumas. Skin and other connective tissues regenerate or repair themselves largely during Stage 3 sleep. During Stage 4 sleep, the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland synthesizes between 70 percent and 80 percent of our total daily allotment of growth hormone [which] helps us maintain normal muscle mass, strength, endurance, and stamina. Without adequate levels of growth hormone, you feel like a dishrag! Many neurotransmitters are synthesized in Stage 4 sleep, including acetylcholine, critical for memory and learning, dopamine, vital for staying focused and alert, and serotonin and norepinephrine, essential for well-being. No wonder sleep deprivation feels so miserable. When we spend inadequate amounts of time in deep, slow-wave sleep, we deprive our brain of what it needs to produce normal levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. The link between sleep patterns and depression is so prevalent that at The Center our team performs a sleep study with most of our incoming patients to help determine just how much their sleep quality has deteriorated. But the data is a tricky business. That's because it can be difficult to determine whether a person's sleep issues are symptoms of their depression or whether trouble sleeping has contributed to the rise of depression. It's a chicken-and-egg kind of dilemma: Does a person's depression cause sleep disruption, or does lack of sleep cause depression? The answer is yes, both. What's more, I have concluded that it doesn't matter which came first, sleep disturbances or depression. Each fuels the other, creating a vicious downward spiral. The critical issue is to improve sleep quality so that depression levels will improve as well. Don't worry; I'm not going to get too carried away unloading theories behind social psychology on you.

But I do want to share with you some of the more interesting ideas that have been posited in the last hundred years or so about why we do the things we do and what people actually expect from one another. For example, how often to you make judgments about your own abilities based solely on what someone else can do? Children with overachieving older siblings do this all the time - feeling like failures because they don't live up to big-bro or big-sis in every possible category. It's called social comparison theory and it has been around since the 1950s. Another popular theory that I've studied a lot is Observational Learning. It states that our behaviour is acquired through observation, by following the lead of others instead of through reinforcement or negative reinforcement. It's how our children learn to walk and talk and it's how I'm going to show you to be more sociable and cut out those unfriendly tendencies you've developed that hinder social interactions. In some situations, you might even come across social exchange theory - the idea that people will only put as much into a relationship as they feel they will benefit. It's a business- like way of approaching love and friendship and while it may sound silly, it's all around you. How many times have you thought to yourself "what's in it for me" when someone asks you for a favour? How often have you been given the third degree about your intentions when you ask someone else for a favour? Not everyone does this, and honestly I wish no one did, but it's a very real part of most relationships and something you need to take into account if you're going to be successful - especially when you first meet someone. Innovations and new technologies are another frequent target of blame. In 1474 Venetian monk and scribe Filippo di Strata issued a polemic against another handheld information device, stating, "the printing press [is] a whore." An 1883 medical journal attributed rising rates of suicide and homicide to the new "educational craze," proclaiming "insanity is increasing . with education" and that education would "exhaust the children's brains and nervous systems." In 1936, kids were said to "have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the [radio] loudspeaker," according to Gramophone, the music magazine. It seems hard to believe that these benign developments scared anyone, but technological leaps are often followed by moral panics. "Each successive historical age has ardently believed that an unprecedented `crisis' in youth behavior is taking place," Oxford historian Abigail Wills writes in an article for BBC's online history magazine. "We are not unique; our fears do not differ significantly from those of our predecessors." When it comes to the undesirable behavior of children today, convenient myths about devices are just as dubious as the blame parents deflect onto sugar highs, underdeveloped teen brains, and other technologies like the book and the radio. Many experts believe the discussion regarding whether tech is harmful is more nuanced than alarmists let on. In a rebuttal to the article that claimed children are on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades, Sarah Rose Cavanagh wrote in Psychology Today that "the data the author chooses to present are cherry-picked, by which I mean she reviews only those studies that support her idea and ignores studies that suggest that screen use is NOT associated with outcomes like depression and loneliness." Our expectations also affect how we judge others.

Consider the following description of a person called Jim: When people respond to this task, about 75 percent to 95 percent think Jim is generous, happy, good-natured, and humorous. However, when the word warm is changed to cold in Jim's description, only 5 percent to 35 percent think that Jim will have these traits.9 Other researchers have found that if army supervisors think subordinates are intelligent, they also see them as having better character and leadership ability. If people are thought to be attractive, we typically think they are happier, have a good personality, and produce better quality work. Why? If we think a person has a good quality on one dimension, we expect that she will have good qualities on other dimensions. In essence, we attribute characteristics to a person that are consistent with what we already believe about the person. This phenomenon, known as the halo effect, can affect many of the decisions we make concerning others. For example, Jerzy Kosinski was a well-respected author of many acclaimed books. At one point in his career, he wrote a novel called Steps, which won the National Book Award for fiction. Someone retyped the book and sent it with no title and a false name to fourteen publishers and thirteen literary agents, including Random House, who actually published Kosinski's book. Not one of the publishers or agents recognized that the book had already been published--and all twenty-seven rejected it! Without Kosinski's name to create a halo effect, the book was considered to be a fairly mediocre piece of fiction. Does something as seemingly irrelevant as the color of one's uniform affect our expectations, and hence our perceptions and judgments of others? We tend to associate the color black with evil. Black Thursday ushered in the Depression. When the Chicago White Sox deliberately lost the 1919 World Series, they were known as the Chicago Black Sox. Psychologists Mark Frank and Thomas Gilovich found that people think black uniforms look more evil, mean, and aggressive, as compared to nonblack uniforms. But will this negative perception actually affect our judgments about the people wearing black? Frank and Gilovich analyzed the penalty yards and minutes given to professional football and hockey teams between 1970 and 1986. Amazingly, they found that all the teams in the NFL and NHL who wore black uniforms were penalized more than the average of the other teams.