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How Meditation Changes The Brain

Imagine 2 types of companies. In the first one there is a big sequence of hierarchical levels, in which every employee has 2 courses of action. He can receive requests from the level above and can delegate work accordingly to his subordinates. All the work is materialised at the leafs of the tree and all decisions are taken from the root, which is the executives. All communication is happening strictly through the hierarchical stairs and all information is flowing rigorously through the chain.

All seem sound and simple until.. issues arise. Inquires and sub-decisions need to be made before completion of tasks, for which the inspection needs to escalate further above. In some instances things escalate to the very top in some case not. It all depends on the chain, how they interpret things and how they have learned to operate.

In the case issues propagate to the top, the executive team receives a report of the problem. It contains the summary of the issue, as is understood by the reporting level in the hierarchy which they took from the summary made from the level beyond and so on.

In many cases the intermittent levels in the hierarchy avoid escalating issues and take the decisions themselves. Annoying their supervisor for varying small things is not the best idea after all and could get them in trouble.

In principle the company avoids escalating issues to the executives. And when it does, the escalation needs to be accompanied by a set of things:

  • There needs to be a good reason for why it was escalated. In case you notify your superior for the wrong reasons, there are consequences as you took precious time from important resources.
  • There needs to be a good historical review of similar issues that have occurred in the past and relate to the current one. From this historical context, there needs to be a report on how the previous issues planned out and what is the possibility of happening again.
  • There needs to be some analysis on how and why things happened the way they did to lead to the current issue. You need to interpret the facts at hand and come up with an explanation to ease the workload.

After this, the executive can make a decision based on the aforementioned facts.

The second company is doing something extreme and radical that from the outside perspective seems like a total waste of energy. Executives have open 24/7 direct communication with the leaf-employees. They can be notified directly for specific issues and they are going to have to look at them with their own eyes. There are very minor intermittent levels only for outsider jobs that are of less importance. It seems to work like a startup but not because of the lack of resources but as a conscious decision and style preference.

Sothe question is what kind of company would you rather run. The 2 mentioned models are nothing but the 2 patterns of functioning our brain has before and after meditation.

In the first approach you may save some energy but you rely your full decision-making processes on historical context and rationalisations. In the second case you cut out anything referential and look at whatever comes heads on. It feels unhuman that there would be enough energy to sustain the hustling but somehow magically, it seems to never run out.

Meditation is nothing but the executive team becoming conscious of every part of the system.

Memory And Emotional Brain

There is something inherently emotional to most memories we have for the simple reason that emotions were invented to influence and direct our attention. They give us a mechanism to rebound every distraction coming our way from the sphere of now, to make room for channeling our energy to what seems to be important from the evolutionary perspective. That mechanism of course was created million of years ago for things like tigers and snakes! It just happens to carry it with us contemporary as a special gift from our DNA. What a kind gesture.

What that means is that every time we search through our memories, we are navigating not only the mere facts, but the emotions we associated them with, at that particular moment in time.

Under that light it’s obvious why it is so dangerous to allow historical context to influence the decisions of the executive team. They will be too biased to make any good judgement.

All the good things don’t stop here with “historical context”. Our brain has also developed the capacity for stereotyping throughout the history as a means to save energy. We love to make categorisations and abstractions on how things work to save time from evaluating everything first hand. An unfortunate fact to many cross-national groups. But from our preservation point of view why bothering analysing anything if you can defer the evaluation to past, pre-established patterns.

It’s not surprising to find out that most of our everyday life runs in auto-pilot and pre-defined scripts that blanket our reality. What we experience is just the concept of things as created by our brain in the past instead of the actual thing itself.

Default brain Network

So what is the Default Brain Network? You have probably guessed it already. The default network is when the executives sit in their office sleeping all day while having people at their feet managing the show. They just trust everything on their delegates, and doing so, they get an excuse to relax. Only issue is that the people confided with that important mission lack a certain characteristic. The miss skin in the game and they win as long as everything seems relatively ok.

Although not immediately disastrous, what happens is that the departments of our brains are just doing their job directionless looking through historical files and exchanging information in an exaggerated and emotional manner.

Lacking the mark of a bigger direction and goals, they become pray of whatever turbulence comes from daily events that get them off their path and set them in a reactive mode of operating.

All signs of proactive functioning and manoeuvring having a clear set of values and standards through which to operate, are lost under the strong currents of immediate gratification and surface level success.

Stress and Anxiety

As an extreme case of office chaos, imagine an absent leadership over which disobedience and rebellion rules. Renegates are using demagogue and fear-inducing techniques as a means to control and the people previously responsible have lost all power.

Being In The Zone vs Being Present

There is a common myth that being in the zone equates being present and mindful, which is just plain wrong. Being in the zone happens when we use our short-term memory and problem-solving capacities to come up with solutions. It’s the pinnacle of productivity and the point we can generate our best quality of work. No question about it. But unfortunately it is not the same thing as being mindful or present. They constitute different modes of functioning.

Being in the zone means that given a task at hand, the office requested the executive to abandon his work and give his hundred percent on solving the problem at hand. Extremely efficient? sure. But there is no one looking after the ship. And mindfulness, as defined in the real sense, goes out the window.

As cool of a feeling it is “being in the zone”, it just contradicts the essence of presence.

How To Be Mindful When Working

Having a compelling and demanding work can be exhausting. It requires every fibre of energy from you and many times it feels like you juggle through a lot of things concurrently.

Is it even possible to keep a mindful state in such an environment? The answer is yes. But not by the means of juggling your attention in a 100 places.

You need to level up the power of awareness (as defined in the book “The Mind Illuminated”) to encompass the whole experience. Awareness can be understood separately than attention and refers to a different functional fingerprint in the brain. With practice, you can achieve the empowering of having strong attention while keeping a strong peripheral awareness at the same time. And this practice is what you can bring into your work and eventually every area of your life with an equanimity that is substantially hard to shake.

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