A while back I finished the book Buddha’s Brain that explains the neuroscience behind happiness, love and wisdom. It’s a fantastic read. I want to share one aspect of what I’ve learned about mindfulness and how it improved my quality of work, gave me laser-like focus and overall made me more productive.
I’ve always been a student of the human brain. I’m fascinated by it. This piece of machinery does things our computers can’t do and it’s still a mystery to most scientists on how it actually works.
Over the years I’ve read tons of books on the brain, neuroscience and productivity (get a full list of our book recommendations here). It’s one thing to know something, it’s another thing to be able to implement it. While reading about the brain is very interesting, the challenge is usually “how do I implement this?”
As I read Buddha’s Brain (which really isn’t about Buddhism but about how the brain works) I started to learn more about how ancient old wisdom can be explained with neuroscience.
Around this time I also just started meditating, living a minimalist lifestyle, and learned more about spirituality. If you know me, I’m far from woo-woo as I like things factually and backed by research, which is why I really liked this book because it explains all the ancient wisdom through a scientific lens.
The biggest takeaway for me was understanding mindfulness. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot and for years I never fully understood it until I finished Buddha’s Brain.
Here’s how the book defines it:
Mindfulness just means being fully aware of something, in the moment with it, and not judging or resisting it. Mindfulness involves the skillful use of attention to both your inner and outer worlds. Since your brain learns mainly from what you attend to, mindfulness is the doorway to taking in good experiences and making them a part of yourself.
Most of us, including myself in the past, live our lives without any conscious thought and we lost control on how to direct our attention. Have you ever noticed that it’s almost impossible to sit still for just 2 minutes and do nothing at all?
We always feel like we need to be doing something.
That’s the opposite of what you want. That’s when you don’t have control of where you attention goes which is the precursor to being easily distracted. Hence, why you aren’t productive as you could be. (Sidenote: creating that connection took me years to figure out but it explains everything.)
So it’s important that you learn to control your attention and become more mindful. When you can control where your attention goes and flows, you have the power to focus in on what you need to do, get it done and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The book explains it better than I can:
Virtue relies heavily on regulation, both to excite positive inclinations and to inhibit negative ones. Mindfulness leads to new learning—since attention shapes neural circuits—and draws upon past learning to develop a steadier and more concentrated awareness. Wisdom is a matter of making choices, such as letting go of lesser pleasures for the sake of greater ones. Consequently, developing virtue, mindfulness, and wisdom in your mind depends on improving regulation, learning, and selection in your brain. Strengthening the three neural functions—which you’ll learn to do in the pages ahead—thus buttresses the pillars of practice.
At this point you’re probably wondering, “that’s great but how do I get started?!” I got you grasshopper.
1. Pick up the meditation habit
Meditation is the first habit you should incorporate in your life. We’ll be writing more about this habit but a great book to help you get started with this is 8 Minute Meditation. This book has helped me learn how to meditate (it’s really simple but takes practice).
2. Stop multitasking
Just stop it. Trying to do multiple things at the same time makes you ineffective (even though it feels the opposite). It also doesn’t allow you to focus on one thing, do it extremely well and get it done faster. So stop multitasking.
3. Mindful eating
Related to no multitasking, for today try to eat your lunch and dinner by yourself and without any distractions. No phone, no conversations, no TV. Just you, your food and your taste buds trying to figure out what you’re actually tasting.
This is also called mindful eating and it’s a habit that will help you mentally recover faster and give your brain a break. By the time you’re done with your break, you’ll be better prepared to focus for your next task and get a lot of things done.
4. Read Buddha’s Brain
If you implement those three habits into your life you’ll be Asian Efficient in no time. Then you’ll want to read Buddha’s Brain so you’ll understand why it’s so effective what you’re doing, fine-tune the habits and really make them part of your life.
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