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Balancing Meditation: A Mind-Body Exercise


Balancing Meditation

Often times, individuals begin their meditation practice by using the breath as their main object of focus. But I’ve also written about how we can meditate on other senses, such as meditating on sounds, by making note of the different auditory sensations, as well as meditating on vision, like a sky gazing meditation during a sunset, or looking up at the stars on a clear night.

A big theme of this blog is to take awareness that we have cultivated during meditation and apply it to different senses, different experiences, and different actions. In truth, you can take any sense and use it as an object of meditation. And this includes our sense of balance.

I was messing around in my backyard the other day and I discovered a brick and a plank of wood. I laid down the brick on its side and then put the wood on top of it. Then, I stood on top of my new apparatus and tried to maintain my balance.

I became really focused on how difficult it was for me to keep a still posture. And as I became more aware, I noticed the subtleties of my weight shifting across the board. From one side to the other, and back again. I noticed when my feet were closer together it was easier for me to keep my composure, but when they were further apart it became more difficult. I kept experimenting, exploring, and discovering new aspects of my body and muscle control.

It fascinates me how taking our awareness and applying it to something as simple as balance can reveal new complexities about our conscious experience. I usually take my balance for granted. I get up everyday, walk around, and hardly ever think about how my weight is distributed throughout my body or how my body and muscles work together to keep me upright. But this is hugely important for someone who practices yoga, gymnastics, likes to skateboard, or maybe someone who is getting older and more clumsy.

Being more aware of our balance and practicing balance can have health and fitness benefits like:

  • Improving muscle control.
  • Improving posture.
  • Improving blood flow.

It can also strengthen our mind-body connection by:

  • Increasing concentration.
  • Increasing body awareness.

It’s a really simple and easy thing to practice. It’s not hard to just come up with some kind of “balancing apparatus” and begin playing with it. I personally find it really fun and a good exercise in self-awareness. I recommend giving it a go.

For some reason when I first started thinking about “balancing meditation” I didn’t make the connection that it was in fact a kind of yoga practice. Haha. Either way, this is something I want to keep practicing and integrating into my health routine. Being able to hold my body more still and calmly (and improving my muscle control) seems like a really desirable trait for long-run health and fitness. It also requires an interesting one-pointedness between both mind and body.



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Personal Branding and Social Media



Personal Branding and Social Media

I’ve been making a really conscious effort to personalize “The Emotion Machine” brand. When I first started this blog, I was very hesitant to talk about myself or to put my face on this site. I can’t explain it, maybe a part of me was shy and was afraid to be judged. But now I’ve realized that being transparent and showing myself (flaws, shortcomings and all) is exactly the kind of thing I want to implement into The Emotion Machine more.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

That’s why I’m on social media, like Twitter and Facebook, so frequently. I want to show myself more, share my thoughts more, dive into personal conversations more, and build meaningful relationships. Especially with people who actually give a shit about what I write here – because, for all intents and purposes, they are the ones that keep me going. Thank you.

And that’s also why I’ve started recording videos on my YouTube channel. I want to show my face. I want to be more engaging outside of just digital text. That’s why I started recording videos a little over a month ago (now I’m up to 10) and that’s why I am going to continue with it. And even though I’m not the best public speaker, it strengthens my message. I think most people will watch me talk about this stuff and believe that I’m being honest and genuine. Mostly because I really do believe in what I say, so why should more transparency be a problem for me? It’s not. I’m ready to be judged. I’ve had people tell me I run a “shit blog” and that I believe in hocus pocus nonsense. I didn’t always have thick skin, but it grows thicker everyday.

And this “thick skin” actually plays a big role in what Gary Vaynerchuk has been advocating in his new book The Thank You Economy. Many business still don’t have the “thick skin” to use social media for anything more than a mini press-release. They are too afraid to read what their customers are saying about them, let alone actually respond to problems.

Any smart businessmen or entrepreneur should understand the goldmine of having access to what people say about your company. What better way can you find opportunities for growth and innovation? Not only that, but social media gives you the opportunity to solve problems in a public domain. If people can see you are putting in the extra mile, it matters. And as more and more companies begin utilizing social media, a new level of customer service is going to be expected.

Vaynerchuk’s book is captivating, thought-provoking, and strengthens a lot of the convictions I’ve had while trying to build “The Emotion Machine” (which is, yes, still a huge work-in-progress).

In the book, he talks about how business is coming around full circle. In the early days of markets and capitalism, there weren’t many corporations, but mostly “Mom and Pa” businesses – small and local businesses that thrived on building relationships and communities with their customers. But in today’s corporate world, businesses have become more depersonalized and detached from their consumers. People, in a sense, have been reduced to numbers. And the quality of relationships in business has declined. But social media is beginning to change that again:

    “I believe that we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and the world that we live and work in operates in a way which is surprisingly similar to the one our great-grandparents knew. Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strengths of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.”

Books like Wired to Care have also emphasized a similar transformation in business. The author Dev Patnaik gives numerous case studies on the importance of empathy (or as Vaynerchuk refers to it -”currency of caring”) and how building a community around your brand is crucial for long-term success. This means, of course, listening and responding to the needs of the people in your community. Social media now gives us the tools to apply these principles at a scale never before possible.

According to Vaynerchuk, social media is now even more important than search engines or SEO – because search engines lack the social context needed for long-term businesses to succeed. Often we Google something, we click on a relevant link, get the information we need, and never visit the site again. But sites like Twitter and Facebook allow us to build a social context around our content and products. Social context builds trust and relationships. And when a product is referred to you by someone who you like and trust, the impact is much greater than when you receive that information from a site you just visited for the first time. Social media is changing the way consumers make decisions:

    “A few months ago I was at Best Buy, and I watched as a teenager used his Facebook status to request recommendations on a Nintendo Wii game. He got feedback in real time, and used it to decide what to buy. Recommendations and contextual social search are the future. Is it any wonder I’m not bullshit on search engine optimization’s (SEO) long-term potential?”

In The Thank You Economy, Vaynerchuk also predicts that social engines are going to begin integrating sites like Facebook and Twitter. In the future, when you search “Nintendo Wii games” on Google, you are going to see tweets appearing at the top of your screen by people you follow who recently mentioned “Nintendo Wii games.” This is going to add tremendous social context to the information we now get off the internet. As a business, imagine how important it is today to start developing these relationships.

As I mentioned before, a lot of business still don’t have the slightest idea what social media is or how to use it. Gary mentions a recent article on Ad Age called “Most Brands Still Irrelevant on Twitter: Marketers Are Certainly Tweeting, but Users Are Barely Listening.”

    “The article actually explains the problem: ‘While marketers such as Dell, Comcast, Ford, and Starbucks have been, at times, clever participants on Twitter, the majority of marketers use it as a mini press release service. Only 12% of messages from marketers are directed at individual users, meaning marketers still see it as a broadcasting medium rather than a conversational one.’ So you see, it’s not that Twitter doesn’t work; it’s that most brands aren’t using Twitter correctly. It’s like saying a trumpet is broken because the first hundred people who try to play it suck. You can’t have a relationship with someone if you won’t shut up and let him or her get a word in edgewise. Brands have to realize that it’s not all about them. When they do nothing but push product, there’s no reason for the consumer to say anything back. It’s like that friend you have who always talks about herself and never asks how you’re doing. Eventually, she gets tiresome, and you lose interest in keeping the relationship.”

Holy shit does this message ring true for me! I find so many businesses and brands on Twitter are not using it correctly at all. After reading the Thank You Economy, I’ve made a conscious effort to go through everyone I’m following on Twitter – and if I don’t see that “@” sign being used, I unfollow them, because they completely miss the point of social media.

When I use Facebook and Twitter, I try to respond back to anyone that shows the slightest interest in what I do. And if someone shares a link I say “thank you,” because the point of social media is that businesses need to start listening to other people and showing appreciation toward those who support them. Remember, we’re going back to a word of mouth economy, and simply broadcasting your message (jamming it down people’s throats without listening or engaging) is going to become more and more irrelevant. Again, consumers are going to start expecting more from the companies they do business with.

In business, it’s so important to start listening to people. Not just for closing sales, but for doing research into what people want and adjusting your business accordingly. The other day someone critiqued something I wrote in an article, I thought they had a good point, so I went in and edited my post. Hello? Social media is a tremendous tool for improving your content. Sometimes I ask people, “What do you want to know about X?” And I get replies and then shape my next blog post according to those demands. That’s also why I post polls on my sidebar and on Facebook. I want to know what other people think. As I mentioned before, social media gives you the chance to correct and improve on things within a public domain; and people will begin to notice that you take notice. It matters to them.

Yeah I know – I’m not the best “public speaker.” Actually, for most of my life I’ve hated it. But this blog isn’t about staying within the boundaries of the past, right? It’s about exploration, making mistakes, and learning to overcome those boundaries. This is just as much true for personal development as it is for professional development, working on your career, or running a business. I’ll get better (I promise)!




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The Psychology of Laughter


“There are two things that don’t have to mean anything; one is music, and the other is laughter.”

Immanuel Kant



The psychology of laughter

UCLA professor of cognitive neuroscience Sophie Scott explains the psychology behind laughter. She starts off by explaining how during states of high emotional arousal (whether joy or pain) we often use non-verbal sounds to communicate our feelings.

For example, while angry we may scream or yell. Laughter is another one of these non-verbal sounds. It is typically seen as an expression of happiness, joy, surprise, and sometimes even stress. It has also been shown to play a very universal role throughout other cultures to facilitate social bonding, as well as within other species. For example, scientists have found laughter among chimpanzees, bonobos, and some argue even rats (and as you will see below: penguins too!)

Tickling is one of the most basic stimuli that causes laughter. Dr. Scott explains that it may be an evolutionary mechanism designed to facilitate social bonding between mother and child.

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50 Tips to Maximize Productivity

productivity


Here are commonsense yet practical tips on how we can maximize productivity in our daily lives. Try out some of these for yourself and discover which ones work best for you.

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Equanimity, Impermanence, Non-Duality, and Emotional Balance

A stream-of-conscious contemplation into the nature of equanimity and emotional balance.

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