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Altered Traits

Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

By Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson
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Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson
Synopsis

Altered Traits (2017) takes an empirical look at the art of meditation and details the benefits it has on our mental well-being. It also looks at different types of meditation, as well as the effects of meditative practices on different groups, including experienced meditators, students and even a yogi.

Key idea 1 of 9

Two types of meditation include focusing on a singular thing and not reacting to thoughts.

When he was a Harvard graduate student, Goleman, one of the authors, traveled to India to learn about meditation. There are many different types of meditation, but Goleman was advised by one of his meditation teachers, Anagarika Munindra, to study one found in an ancient text called the Visuddhimagga, or Path to Purification.

This type of meditation focuses on a single thing.

Written in the fifth century, the Visuddhimagga is the principal text of Theravada Buddhism, a branch that is widespread among many Southeast Asian nations. It’s also the source of mindfulness, which teaches you to develop your concentration by focusing explicitly on one thing.

Typically, you begin by focusing on your breath. In the beginning, it will be hard to concentrate on one thing as your mind zips back and forth between thoughts. However, with practice, your thoughts will calm and your mind will become quiet so that the only thing you are paying attention to is your breathing.

Another type of meditation is based on not reacting to your thoughts.

It comes directly from the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, who lived during the sixth century BC. In contrast to the type of meditation mentioned earlier, this one encourages you to remain cognizant of all your thoughts. What’s important here is to refrain from reacting to them.

You need to instantly let go of thoughts as they pop into your mind, instead of hanging on and becoming consumed by them. Over time you will develop equanimity, meaning that it won’t matter whether the thoughts you have are self-hating or romantic fantasies – they’ll simply become passing musings that bear no impact on your core consciousness.

Regardless of whether you prefer the first or second type of meditation, both are equally respected. The main thing to consider is which type will benefit you the most. In the following blinks, we’ll take a look at what those benefits are.

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