Meditation is a popular subject that comes with many different connotations. For many, it is seen as a type of magical or esoteric tool that connects you with a supreme force of the universe.
However, according to The Mindful Geek: Secular Meditation for Smart Skeptics, meditation is simply a type of technology for your mind.
We often associate the word “technology” with machines and computers, but technology is any type of process, skill, or method that is designed to improve our lives and how we navigate through the world. In this sense, meditation is no more magical than a computer or cellphone.
Throughout the book, Michael Taft does an excellent job breaking down the basics of meditation in a realistic and practical way that doesn’t involve any type of religious or spiritual doctrine. It’s a technology that anyone can use without any supernatural belief.
Taft compares meditation to other types of technology – like a telescope or microscope – which are ultimately designed to extend our awareness toward sensations that we are otherwise unable to detect with the naked eye.
Just like a telescope can extend our sensory experience to distant stars and planets, or a microscope can extend our sensory experience to cells or atoms, meditation too can extend our sensory experience to our inner world of sensations, thoughts, and feelings.
Confidence is a very valuable trait to have, but an unhealthy ego is often an unjustified sense of confidence that can end up destroying us.
In the brand new book Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday shows how our egos can be a constant source of disaster no matter where we are in life. It can turn a good situation into a bad situation, and a bad situation into an even worse situation.
To protect ourselves from these damaging effects of “ego,” we must always be vigilant and aware of the pernicious influence it can have on our lives. In times of both failure and success, ego can rear its ugly head and make us miscalculate our choices and what we need to do next.
You can probably think of times when your ego got in the way and ruined you. Perhaps a person cancelled a date (for valid reasons), but you took it as a slight against you and decided to throw away the relationship altogether. Or you got promoted to a higher position at work, and it turned you into an entitled brat.
Ego is something we must always be on the look out for. It’s not just “confidence,” but an undeserved sense of self-importance that leads to delusions about yourself and your reality. Ultimately, it hinders your ability to be your best self.
Ryan Holiday’s new book is filled with insightful stories and wisdom on why you should destroy your ego before it destroys you. Here are some wonderful highlights from the book.
When many look at the world today, they see an existence that is fundamentally broken, corrupt, and meaningless.
We no longer have a strong center in our lives. And so many of us in modern society are driven to escape this meaningless existence in destructive ways – whether it’s overindulgences in consumerism, or drugs, or sex, or work, or fame.
In Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul, Italian philosopher Julius Evola shares this distaste for modern society and modern values. And he seeks to find a way to live in it as a free soul, while not succumbing to it.
He explains how our modern society has led to a general philosophy of nihilism. The values that exist in today’s world have failed to bring us satisfaction and happiness, thus we are motivated to throw out the idea of “values” altogether.
The metaphor to “ride the tiger” refers to how an enlightened or “differentiated man” can cope with modern society – not by running away from it, or trying to destroy it, but by getting on top of it and transcending it.
The goal isn’t to throwaway all of our values, meaning, or laws, but to stand from a more enlightened view where we can act out our own set of values and laws that resonate with us (even if they aren’t shared by the rest of society).
How does one escape modern values? How does one define their own “inner law” and ride the tiger?
Do you feel like you’re a part of your local community? If your answer is “no,” you’re not defective, this is actually how many people feel today.
According to sociologist Robert Putnam in his classic book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community, our sense of community has significantly declined for the past half century.
A central concept throughout the book is the idea of “social capital,” which is defined as how strong a network of relationships is within a given community.
Communities that are high on social capital tend to be more trustworthy and cooperative. Neighbors talk to one another and help each other out more. And citizens are highly active in their schools, churches, and government institutions.
Communities that are low on social capital tend to be less trustworthy and cooperative. Neighbors don’t feel as connected with one another and are more skeptical of each other. And citizens are less active in their schools, churches, and government institutions, sometimes choosing to not participate in them at all.
Robert Putnam shares a plethora of research in the book showing how “social capital” has been on a steady decline since about the 1960s. As a whole, across all demographics, people vote less, go to church less, and are less likely to have each other over for dinner or attend community events.
The title “Bowling Alone” is in reference to the specific decline of bowling leagues over the past few decades. Bowling leagues have traditionally been a great way to build social bonds, create connections with your neighbors, and feel like you’re a part of your community.
These types of opportunities to build social capital within our communities seem to be growing less and less. Why?
We don’t often think of it this way, but life is often like one big performance.
Whether it’s delivering a lecture, going on a date, or meeting a new person – we are often called upon to present our “best self” to others. And how we present ourselves can have a tremendous impact on how happy and successful we are in many areas of life.
This is also where “performance anxiety” comes in. We all feel at least a little nervous before giving a presentation to a big class or going on a job interview, because we want to look good to others. This fear is also completely natural – it stems from our common desire to be accepted and liked by others.
In Steal the Show: How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life, Michael Port gives a fantastic breakdown of how to become a better performer in both your professional and personal life. He gives you the tools to break through performance anxiety by ultimately teaching you how to become a more skilled and competent public speaker.
Throughout the book, Michael Port integrates his experiences as a trained actor, professional speaker, and marketing consultant into a fantastic guide on how to “steal the show” and nail all your performances in life, no matter what they are – a speech, an interview, a date, a music performance, or anything.
In this article, I’ll share what I’ve found to be his best advice for improving your public speaking and communication skills, from silencing your critics to using the power of “as if” thinking.