Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 21

Leo Babauta – USA

Medley Focus 2

How to live a single-tasking life

It sounds nice, but how do you live a life like this? Is it as simple as saying you’re going to do it, or is it impossible? Somewhere in between, of course, and like anything worth doing, it takes practice.

Here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Become conscious. When you start doing something, become more aware you’re starting that activity. As you do it, become aware of really doing it, and of the urge to switch to something else. Paying attention is the important first step.
  1. Clear distractions. If you’re going to read, clear everything else away, so you have nothing but you and the book. If you’re going to do email, close every other program and all browser tabs except the email tab, and just do that. If you’re going to do a work task, have nothing else open, and turn off the phone. If you’re going to eat, put away the computer and other devices and shut off the television.
  1. Choose wisely. Don’t just start doing something. Give it some thought – do you really want to turn on the TV? Do you really want to do email right now? Is this the most important work task you can be doing?
  1. Really pour yourself into it. If you’re going to make tea, do it with complete focus, complete dedication. Put everything you have into that activity. If you’re going to have a conversation, really listen, really be present. If you’re going to make your bed, do it with complete attention and to the best of your abilities.
  1. Practice. This isn’t something you’ll learn to do overnight. You can start right now, but you’re not likely to be good at it at first. Keep at it. Practice daily, throughout the day. Do nothing else, but practice.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 21

Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’

[The study challenges a growing trend that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively]

Medley Why 2

New research suggests that people are not ‘born believers’

Previous studies have suggested people who hold strong religious beliefs are more intuitive and less analytical, and when they think more analytically their religious beliefs decrease.

But new research, by academics from Coventry University's Centre for Advances in Behavioral Science and neuroscientists and philosophers at Oxford University, suggests that is not the case, and that people are not ‘born believers.’

The study – which included tests on pilgrims taking part in the famous Camino de Santiago and a brain stimulation experiment – found no link between intuitive/analytical thinking, or cognitive inhibition (an ability to suppress unwanted thoughts and actions), and supernatural beliefs.

Instead, the academics conclude that other factors, such as upbringing and socio-cultural processes, are more likely to play a greater role in religious beliefs.

The study – published in Scientific Reports – was the first to challenge a growing trend among cognitive psychologists over the past 20 years that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively.

The team started by carrying out an investigation on one of the largest pilgrimage routes in the world – the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain.

They asked pilgrims about the strength of their beliefs and the length of time spent on the pilgrimage and assessed their levels of intuitive thinking with a probability task, where participants had to decide between a logical and a ‘gut feeling’ choice.

The results suggested no link between strength of supernatural belief and intuition.

Read more: Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’

Yoga, meditation improve brain function and energy levels, study shows

Medley Yoga 2

[Practicing brief sessions of Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation can significantly improve brain function and energy levels, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo]

The study found that practicing just 25 minutes of Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation per day can boost the brain's executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions.

“Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain's conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” said Peter Hall, associate professor in the School of Public Health & Health Systems. “These two functions might have some positive carryover effect in the near- term following the session, such that people are able to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life.”


Read more: Yoga, meditation improve brain function and energy levels, study shows

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 20

Leo Babauta – USA
Single-tasking and productivity

Medley 8 alexander graham bell l
“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Many of us grew up in the age of multi-tasking, where you couldn’t call yourself productive if you weren’t a good multi-tasker. We learned to always have several balls in the air at once – while writing something on the computer, we had a phone call going, we were writing something on a notepad or paper form, we were reviewing documents, sometimes even holding a meeting at the same time. That’s the productive worker, the effective executive.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 20

How to be a Complete Success at Failure: An Esoteric Perspective

Tim Wyatt – England


Mistakenly, a lot of people who embark on some kind of accelerated spiritual development think it’s going to make life easier. The complete opposite is the case. When you step on to the path you find that the road gets narrower, steeper, more difficult and much more dangerous.

Rather than problems suddenly disappearing, they actually proliferate and intensify. And that’s why any self-conscious expansion of consciousness requires great courage. Embarking on the spiritual path effectively means being prepared to deal with higher quality – i.e. more challenging – problems. Because solving problems is what life’s all about. It’s why we’re here. It’s how we learn.

When you talk to people about their spiritual development one thing nearly always arises and this is that a lot of deeply negative from your unconscious mind gets dredged to the conscious surface. It’s sometimes referred to as The Dweller on the Threshold, a term coined by the English Victorian novelist Bulwer Lytton in his novel Zanone. It refers to all the accumulated negativities from many previous lives. A lot of this is profoundly unpleasant and disturbing – repressed memories, trauma, pain, conflict and other less than positive stuff. But you have to deal with it because that’s what you’ve chosen to do. The spiritual path means taking control of your own life as much as is possible.

Read more: How to be a Complete Success at Failure: An Esoteric Perspective

Spiritual retreats change feel-good chemical systems in the brain

[Changes may prime the brain for spiritual experiences]


More Americans than ever are turning to spiritual, meditative and religious retreats as a way to reset their daily life and enhance wellbeing. Now, researchers at The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University show there are changes in the dopamine and serotonin systems in the brains of retreat participants. The team published their results in Religion, Brain & Behavior.

“Since serotonin and dopamine are part of the reward and emotional systems of the brain, it helps us understand why these practices result in powerful, positive emotional experiences,” said Andrew Newberg, M.D., Director of Research in the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health. “Our study showed significant changes in dopamine and serotonin transporters after the seven-day retreat, which could help prime participants for the spiritual experiences that they reported.”

Read more: Spiritual retreats change feel-good chemical systems in the brain

It is really about ME, not YOU


People often use the word ‘you’ rather than ‘I’ to cope with negative experiences

Researchers say it may seem contradictory that a means of generalizing to people at large is used when reflecting on one’s most personal and idiosyncratic experiences. To cope with negative experiences or to share an insight, people often use the word “you” rather than “I.”

“You” is an overlooked word that people use to express norms and rules, new University of Michigan research found.

Researchers conducted nine experiments with 2,489 people to understand why people curiously use “you” not only to refer to specific others, but also to reflect on their own experiences.
“It’s something we all do as a way to explain how things work and to find meaning in our lives,” said Ariana Orvell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and the study's lead author.

“When people use “you" to make meaning from negative experiences, it allows them to ‘normalize’ the experience and reflect on it from a distance,” said Orvell.

Read more: It is really about ME, not YOU

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