The best years of our lives

Contrary to what many of my students are being told, these are probably not the best years of their lives – or at least, not the happiest. In fact, the people who are telling them this – parents and grandparents, one would suspect – are probably much happier now than they were when they were…

Let sleeping babies lie in peace

Most parents are probably cautious and quiet around a sleeping baby, worried that the slightest sound will jar them from their slumber. Now, there’s even more reason to watch what you say when a sleeping baby is around,¬†because we know that even if it doesn’t wake them up, they can still hear it – and…

In meditation, does 3 x 5 = 15?

A few years of following contemplative science research has given me a feel for many of the benefits of meditation, some of which I anticipated (improvements in attention and changes in the emotional processing) and some of which would never have occurred to me (light hallucinations¬†and improvements in balance).¬†Once we’ve settled on a benefit, the…

Let There Be Meditating Light

What do you see when you meditate? Is it the back of your eyelids, a boring spot on the floor just a few feet in front of you? Or is it perhaps something more startling, like little pinpricks of light, or a sense that the world is glowing? If you have seen those lights, don’t…

The Memory Cost of a Snapshot

When I had a chance to tour the Louvre a few years back, I have to admit to not being that inspired by the Mona Lisa. Perhaps it was something to do with the view, which was as much of the crowd and their cameras as it was of DaVinci’s famous portrait: The camera snapshot…

For Best Taste, Keep Your Mind on Your Food

My meals look like most of the ones eaten by a 21st-century American. It doesn’t matter what the meal is; you might not even see the meal, except perhaps as the occasional forkful rising from behind my laptop screen. The view will be less obstructed at a restaurant, where you can watch the intricate dance…

Concentrate Better With Chewing Gum?

Perhaps I should start chewing gum while I meditate. Today my students have brought to my attention the latest news that chewing gum helps when you need to concentrate, and is particularly helpful at the back end of a task requiring sustained attention. I’m not sure which shocks me more; that chewing gum is useful…

More Mindfulness in Progress: Alcohol Abuse and Texting

I spent the first weekend of March escorting a dozen Psi Chi students to the annual conference of the Eastern Psychological Association. A pleasant surprise awaited me: Wandering around an early poster session presenting applied research of various stripes, I encountered several posters presenting mindfulness-related research in progress. First, there was very intriguing research on…