Date Tags advice

One of the largest professional groups that attempt to forecast the future are investment advisers. There are about two hundred thousand investment advisers, and nearly half are stockbrokers. Most all of them are involved in the $71 billion industry that attempts to predict the future movements of investments.16 Stock analysts are on TV, writing newsletters, and calling their clients to clue them in on the next hot stock pick. Do people listen to them? Just consider how you would react to the following information. You get a letter in the mail saying, "Accurate stock predictions! Professional stock analysts have recently developed a groundbreaking technique, based on years of research, that's proven successful at predicting stock price fluctuations. These stock predictions will be published in a new financial newsletter that comes out every month." The letter doesn't ask you to subscribe, but it gives you the newsletter's latest pick and asks that you check it out. It says that Macrotech's stock will go up next month. You don't think much of it, but at the end of the month, you notice that Macrotech did rise. Of course, your first reaction is "lucky guess!" The next month you get another letter predicting that Macrotech will go down in the following month. When you check the price that month you find that the stock did fall. A third letter predicts that Macrotech will increase next month, and, amazingly, it does go up. Now you're getting intrigued. You then receive a fourth letter predicting that Macrotech will rise again in the following month. A check of the price reveals that it increased once more. Unbelievable! At that point you get a letter asking if you're interested in subscribing to the newsletter for a mere $400 a year. It sounds like a good deal, so you jump on it. Now just imagine how those letters could have been generated.

Someone sitting in their kitchen could have sent out two thousand letters to different people in the phone book. Half of the letters said that Macrotech would go up and half said it would go down. After Macrotech went up that month, the writer sent letters to only those 1,000 individuals who were initially told that Macrotech would rise. Once again, half the letters said that Macrotech would go up and half said down. When Macrotech went down, letters were sent to the 500 people who were told it was going down, half saying it would rise and half saying it would fall during the following month. The next letter was sent to only the 250 people who received the last correct prediction, with half saying Macrotech will rise and half saying it will fall. Now, you happen to be one of the 125 individuals who received four correct letters in a row. With that track record you figure the newsletter is worth the $400--so you write a check. If the other 124 people feel the same way, the writer sitting in her kitchen has just made $50,000 by sending out a number of cheap form letters! Sitting on the floor may not be feasible for you because of pain or some other reason. No problem. You can always use a chair instead. Pick one that has a level seat, a straight back, and no arms. It is best to sit in such a way that your back does not lean against the back of the chair. The furniture of the seat should not dig into the underside of your thighs. Place your legs side by side, feet flat on the floor. As with the traditional postures, place both hands on your lap, cupped one upon the other. Don't tighten your neck or shoulder muscles, and relax your arms. Your eyes can be open or closed. In all the above postures, remember your objectives.

You want to achieve a state of complete physical stillness, yet you don't want to fall asleep. Recall the analogy of the muddy water. You want to promote a totally settled state of the body, which will engender a corresponding mental settling. There must also be a state of physical alertness, which can induce the kind of mental clarity you seek. So experiment. Your body is a tool for creating desired mental states. Use it judiciously. The meditation we teach is called insight meditation. As we have already said, the variety of possible objects of meditation is nearly unlimited, and human beings have used an enormous number down through the ages. Even within the vipassana tradition there are variations. There are meditation teachers who teach their students to follow the breath by watching the rise and fall of the abdomen. Others recommend focusing attention on the touch of the body against the cushion, or hand against hand, or the feeling of one leg against the other. The method we are explaining here, however, is considered the most traditional and is probably what Gotama Buddha taught his students. The Satipatthana Sutta, the Buddha's original discourse on mindfulness, specifically says that one must begin by focusing the attention on the breathing and then go on to note all other physical and mental phenomena that arise. We sit, watching the air going in and out of our noses. At first glance, this seems an exceedingly odd and useless procedure. Before going on to specific instructions, let us examine the reason behind it. The first question we might have is why use any focus of attention at all? We are, after all, trying to develop awareness. Why not just sit down and be aware of whatever happens to be present in the mind?

In fact, there are meditations of that nature. They are sometimes referred to as unstructured meditation, and they are quite difficult. The mind is tricky. Thought is an inherently complicated procedure. By that we mean that we become trapped, wrapped up, and stuck in the thought chain. One thought leads to another, which leads to another, and another, and another, and so on. Fifteen minutes later we suddenly wake up and realize we spent that whole time stuck in a daydream or sexual fantasy or a set of worries about our bills or whatever. There is a difference between being aware of a thought and thinking a thought. That difference is very subtle. It is primarily a matter of feeling or texture. A thought you are simply aware of with bare attention feels light in texture; there is a sense of distance between that thought and the awareness viewing it. It arises lightly like a bubble, and it passes away without necessarily giving rise to the next thought in that chain. Normal conscious thought is much heavier in texture. It is ponderous, commanding, and compulsive. It sucks you in and grabs control of consciousness. By its very nature it is obsessional, and it leads straight to the next thought in the chain, with apparently no gap between them. Conscious thought sets up a corresponding tension in the body, such as muscular contraction or a quickening of the heartbeat. But you won't feel tension until it grows to actual pain, because normal conscious thought is also greedy. It grabs all your attention and leaves none to notice its own effect. The difference between being aware of the thought and thinking the thought is very real.

But it is extremely subtle and difficult to see. Concentration is one of the tools needed to be able to see this difference. Something else that is largely within your control to manage is how overcommitted you are. Granted, sometimes situations impose themselves on our lives and schedules, and we can find ourselves overwhelmed as a result. If we're not careful, we can grow accustomed to the feeling and continue to live in a familiar state of overload by never learning to say no. Protecting your time from overcommitments that are within your control to refuse may not be easy, but it's arguably one of the most effective things you can do to reduce the stress in your life. When we are stressed, it's tempting to turn to excessive eating, spending, or alcohol consumption. That's because we want to do something to change our mood! Of course, the list of unhelpful and unhealthy escapes could go on and on. Legal and illegal substance abuse, gambling, pornography, and infidelities may help us temporarily forget about the stress of our lives but will eventually leave us even more stressed--and depressed--than ever. I'm not saying that finding ways to escape stress is a bad thing. In fact, taking a mental and emotional break from whatever is making you feel overwhelmed is a powerful tool that can improve how you cope, transform your perspective, and even help you identify long-term solutions. But being intentional about how we escape is critical, and what we choose can determine not only how long we stay stressed but how much damage we sustain in the process. What are some examples of healthy mini-vacations? An escape could be as simple as spending an hour with an enjoyable book in a backyard hammock or as elaborate as planning a trip to a bed-and-breakfast in another state. You can also take an hour and try something brand new. For example, drive around a part of town you're unacquainted with until you find an unfamiliar coffee shop, go inside, and order something you've never tried before. Plan a staycation and go camping in your backyard. Spend an afternoon at a local zoo or art museum. Visit a tourist attraction in your city that you've never been to before.