Meditation and this Human Body: Two Recent TED Talks

These are two talks that are really about ‘everyone’ – everyone social that is. Everyone that has to deal with people, and stress, and stuff, and managing all of that people-stress-stuff on a daily basis. The first, with some remarks below the video, is:

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

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Not only do you get the great (funny, memorable) examples – such as President Obama shaking a British police officer’s hand and then (then Prime Minister) Gordon Brown going up to the officer, the officer raising his hand for a shake, and Brown just blithely walking by - but you also get the solid social science experiments showing that e.g. people’s ratings of a physician’s niceness after a 30-second video (with no audio) clip of various physicians could be used to predict whether said physician would get sued.

But more important to how nonverbal communication affects others is how our nonverbals (as they call them in social science) affect how we feel about ourselves. That is, can our bodies – our posture, our motions, our facial expressions – change our minds?

To the Buddhist meditator, the answer is obviously ‘yes’! Perhaps the whole reason for the postures that meditators put themselves in is the effect it has on our minds.

But of course it goes far, far beyond that (you’ll have to watch the talk for the real meat). In the end she states – and I believe this because I have experienced it countless times in my own life – that ‘tiny tweeks –> BIG CHANGES’. As with meditation – try it (then share it!).

Next is a talk that is suprisingly good to me because it comes from a TEDx (which generally have very good talks, but rarely quite so good, imho). (Don’t worry that the video is over 40 minutes long, it’s two talks – you can focus on just the first one)

Alan Watkins – “Being Brilliant Every Single Day” – TEDx Portsmouth

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The chart itself is worth copying out. If you want to improve behavior, change how you think. To change that, get to feelings. And below those even, are emotions, which he describes as ‘energy in motion’ that we are not yet aware of (once we’re aware, it’s feeling). But beyond emotions, ‘down in the basement’, is physiology.

He goes on to explain all of that.

And then, to bring it home, he brings a volunteer on stage, clips him to a heart-rate monitor, and shows how deeply interconnected these all are. When the volunteer’s heart-rate variation (HRV) is regular, he can think clearly and do complex tasks without much worry. But once Alan disturbs the HRV by adding enough stress, the volunteer’s ability to process cognitively simply shuts down. As above, I’ve experienced this plenty of times – those stressful moments when you just ‘blank’… I’ve also enjoyed the experience and training flowing out of calm that follows a sturdy body and deep, intentional breathing. Understand – this is how the brain is built. It’s not our fault, but it is something we can learn to master.

To see more about just how to do this – watch the talk.


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