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#98: Daniel Goleman, Dr. Richard Davidson, 'Altered Traits' (Bonus!)

2017-09-08
Dan Goleman and Richie Davidson, both titans in their respective fields and best-selling authors, have co-written a new book out now entitled, "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body." Goleman, a renowned psychologist and science journalist, and Davidson, a prominent neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, talk about their cutting-edge research in this new book, comparing brain activity of "Olympic level" meditators (such as monks) to meditation beginners and how mindfulness can be restorative for brain health.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Not to brag where we ve had lots of the big shots on this path. Cast. Today, though, in this bonus, podcast we'll get to big shots any government or Daniel Gilman, as he's known professionally wrote a huge book called emotional intelligence many years ago. He's a renowned science, journalist, has had some experience as a scientist as well and is a long time. Meditate her He has a new book along with a co author by the name of Richard Davidson. He goes by Richie Davidson the to our old old friends. Richie is one of, if not a premiere neuroscientist who looks at what meditation does to the brain and to have been friends as you'll hear, and they have a very interesting serve joint story about how to both got interested in in meditate, in an science and the intersection of two and in this boy, What they do is really take a kind of dry I'd, clear, eyed, look at the big body
research, that's been generated in recent years as it pertains to meditation and they can it. They try to tell you what's what's body, science and when what's nod, and they even take a hard look at some signs that Richie himself has done and they also would they really do that's fastenings, they sort it. They tell you. What we'll can you expect as a beginner meditate or what will can result? Can you expect same thing for intermediate and where things get really interesting is what happens when you start looking at what they call olympic level meditated? The book is called altered, traits and the authors again Richie Davidson and Danny Gomin, and here they are for maybe see the ten percent happier vodka in her disable to be here pleasure I be here then, so I want walk through the bullets and enjoy
as both been on the show before so people. If they go, they should go back and listen to those in interviews to get more of a sense of of your brilliance and and back story, but I was still a little back story here because I want to know how you met and how this whole thing got started to Jimmy. Did us therewith? Okay, so I'm in a gradual sooner Harvard and you were a graduate, I was up- and this is back in nineteen- sixty eight ancient history- it's christmas- I'm writing a term paper and suicide and feeling pretty depend. Woman knocks on my door very attractive, woman turns out and says I just come from Kathmandu. Do I met a friend of and he gave me a letter that he wanted me to deliver to you. So I say oh come in and have some tea and I end up bringing her to New Hampshire where's. The next place she wants to,
and there is a guy all in white, with these fantastic hindu gods and goddesses paper in the wall of the room, he's hitting it, and it doesn't say anything whenever you want in it was very creepy for me, then, after a while, he speaks, and it turns out, he's proud and has wronged us. I knew was Richard Alpert. He had been in the program I was Van in at Harvard and had been fired, because him lyrics we're going around giving people advice to do psychedelic Leary TIM Larry, yes, TIM Larry luggage it up to now with that back, I am then turn on would drop out at so around us had been in India and had become the student. all yogi who gave him the name around us.
And showed him that there are other ways to change your experience of the world, and that may be these last longer than a trip, and I got very interested in the hat and managed to get a predictable travelling fellowship to go to India, where I met his teacher new courtly barber, who was quite amazing to me. He was very present very loving kind of an unconditional love you felt from, and you also felt that for the people you are with that was the real miracle was that it was contagious, and I met a few other people like that rare, but still present in India came back to Harvard and said: hey guess what there's an upside to the human potential, not just psychopathology horizon clinical psych. It was like going to bring us somebody and we'll tell you what's wrong with him, and this was how right you can be, and
They were really disinterested, except for my friend Richie, who was a graduate student so my very first day as a graduate student Harvard, I attended my first class in cycle physiology and who is in I started nineteen. Seventy two: this is before the days of the internet and I knew that there was this guy named Engelman at Harvard, because he had published, he's really obscure papers in a journal which is not one of your premier, but one that nevertheless contains some wonderful information and he had written. These it was on meditation. I knew that he was there and I went into this class in the sky sits down next to me, and I turned him, and I said your damn government now, it's not because I had Some unusual psychic abilities then had just come back from India and he looked like he had just come back from
I had one pair of pants. They were bright, perplexed pajamas speaking, Gordo every those pay. Figure into for the story is that that Mark Epstein, Doktor, Mark Epstein, told I believe on this by castle, where he was one of your students doktor Mark Epstein. Just for those who don't know should know, is this amazing writer who talks about the overlap between Buddhism and psychotherapy and and Happens in the way of karma I guessed to have been asked. Then a class where you were the tea airs and need fell over your pants because they were unusual Yet they were very bag either pajamas, that's how they make them in India I own impair warm everyday like the bottom of a shall work, kind of thing, Well, you know you had a lot of votes in India and Pakistan where it was called the shall work amounted along dripping, Sheridan and baggy pants. That's what you're like a kind of a one size fits all gotcha. So
that was my first encounter with Dan and then that night? He offered to drive me back to my place, which was just a few blocks away and normally at walk, but I say of course, had loved her go with you, and so when he took me into his vehicle, which was a do you to view all derby, W Micro bus with pictures plastered from for the ceiling of holy people. Yogi s- I ended this kind of blue my mind to see this. And that was my first encounter with Dan. and we thought for several hours that night and that was in situ, bird nineteen. Seventy two, and our lives have been linked in really, quite strawberry ways ever since then, and the writing of this book is
in many ways. A celebration of this amazing arc that we have, I think, both been so grateful to be part of. Let me say that the title altered traits was really harking back to conversations we had in those days where we were pondering the fact that there seem to be the lasting qualities that worthy act and maybe the goal of meditation practice and that people were pretty enamored have altered states in those days. But we thought there was something more to look at, and that is how does this change you in a way that you have to know the characterizes you day to day tat, just when you're sitting on your cushion? What spills over the last
so the author traits, so we called the book author and then in nineteen, seventy four or two years after I started graduate school. I went to India and Sri Lanka for the first. Time and Dan was living that summer, in Sri Lanka and Susan, who was not my wife then, but is now my wife was with me: We went in lives with Dan in his family in Sri Lanka. and when we were in Sri Lanka writing about in practicing meditation. We wrote this article, which add a sentence in it that we included in publication and only many years Later really did we appreciate its forces?
the Africans in the sentences the after is the before for the next during better unpack. That, after is that, before for the next during and so what that means is that the quality of being that you who are displaying after a period of practice, presents your new baseline, which is the before and the during is during the actual practice. And so this is really the process by which a trait becomes established and enduring when they are, are a repetitive sequence or practices where the baseline state becomes transformed, So I so let me to see if I can put them to their everyday terms of practicing fifteen minutes of meditation day I
gradually get more and more self aware, let's say as aware, but over time through this process, you're describing that self awareness becomes more of an established trade as opposed to a passing state that I might be able to access some exactly exactly, and so what we are really interested in these practices is not the buzz or experience that we have one we're sitting on the cushion or sitting in the chair. But it's the impact on everyday life. It's how the every Looking cranny of everyday life is impact it end that is really what this notion of Walter traits is about, who was piece of science. The came along that helped us enormously when we is tat. This idea back in Cambridge and those that we didn't know how it could happen, then
slowly? The idea of neural plasticity was established, which means that the more you practice or exercise a neural circuitry, the stronger it becomes, the more connected it becomes. This is for me, neuro plasticity is for me the heart of what got me interested imitation and what fuels my ongoing. What I like to call evangelism because basically what it saying that the mind the brain and the mind can change that. We are not stuck with, Factory settings, when it comes to compassion self awareness, patients focus it. Actually, these are skills that can be trained that is what I always out meditation, was for people who drive and micro bus and have pictures of holy men pasted on the inside and where purple it's like- I was not going to Meditate- did Ben nineteen, seventy version it Danny Golden would have confirmed or My aunt, I meditation sentiment but now
RO plasticity, does it for me, because that is a game. Changing life changing proposition right, absolutely, and that was really the critical scientific foundation and The insight about the enduring change really occurred before we had a mechanism that we can hang it on end neuroscience was nodded developed field at the time that we first started. It wasn't until the MID nineteen. Seventy is that the first night, signs. Meeting for the society for neuroscience was actually hills, and so it really I'm took quite a bit of time for thee, the facts of neural plasticity to be established, and I and but really, I think, is the single most important scientific development that has enabled this work to go forward there. Others, but that clear,
The is the most important before that the receive dogma was that, after a certain age saying you re twenties, your brain is what it is and you can't change and its decision play slowly. You lose brain cells. yeah, that's kind happening anyway as well. That part was it turns out that they didn't know that you make ten thousand new neurons everyday gotcha and that those who are important distinctions the wheel. Basically taught his students that the brain is different from other organs in the body, because it did this with the dog was at that time that it does not generate new cells, and so, unlike your skin, for example, where, if you injure it, it will heal and it here because new cells are formed, we were instructed to brain is different, but we now know that that simply not true and there's incontrovertible evidence
A new brain cells are generated every day of our lives and they play an important role in higher mental functions and we believe that meditation is one strategy for promoting Neuro plasticity, but it's him to say also that nerve plasticity in and of itself is now necessarily good or bad. If, if You stimulate Neuro plasticity and you are in a toxic environment, for example, or your mind is filled with unwholesome fought if you're binge watching a series on on your computer. depends what the series is depicting, but But that's a real issue, and so on one of the interesting things about meditation practice is, it may do two things it may both stimulate Neuro plus and also fill your mind with more wholesome thoughts. There
will enable more positive characterised. So that's like a self reinforcing cycle, even exact, but I would say The data that we review in alter traits demonstrates very clearly that meditation is a kind of metal fitness exercise that moves that nor plasticity in the better direction was a new bride of the book, just would spell out the conceit of the booty trying to do in this book. Why, right it? Why now well, initially, when we did our dissertations at Harvard, despite the resistance to it, they like to peer review articles, we could cite on meditation an entire literature one from India one from Japan. Now there are more than six thousand peer review, the articles there more than a thousand a year. It's a huge explosion of interest scientific when we used the standards of an
level journal top most rigorous review of you sit down to about one percent of those six thousand are actually good. I have to say reaching our own dissertation. Research would not make the cut That's because you know methods of evolved a brain imaging, is much more precise. There wasn't brain imaging. Hadn't thought it when we are doing so the state the art has moved on and it's the first time to write the, but because it is a critical mass of a interest be hype. a lot of the bad studies, hurry cited as reasons you should meditate, but actually there bad studies there, good studies you could cite. We wanted to show that there is no evidence, meditation trains. Your is helps you stress, handling stress. It helps in innumerable ways that have been shown by rigorous studies, and you can
I think it an invitation for people to try it and also encouragement to keep going because the more you do, the better it gets. I really like the book- and I just, see. If I can restate the the point just to ensure correct me if I'm wrong, but he's a point, was ticket of the book. Is to sort the wheat from the chaff. You know just as showed there is a lot of science that may be is in strong as it should be when we're gonna talk about why people should meditate, but also you systematically go through and look at what are the effects of meditation on beginners people have been sort of doing it a wild, but not necessarily are our monks and then finally, at them, the monk level, what you called the olympic level people who have done north of ten thousand hours of meditation restating the starting point of the book- well, yeah, absolutely absolute,
There there's a corollary to this, which is also about what meditation is not No, it's not about fixing things. It's not about clearing your mind, it's not about getting rid of thoughts. Those pleasure poppy! misconceptions about what meditation is and so Corollary of doing this is to help our readers appreciate, but medication may be useful for, but also what it. What it really is not designed to do want to get into these three areas that you look at the mask you Richie as the hands on scientists in the room. Why have been so much sub par science done on meditation and what's the damage. Ah, I think that there are that there is really a couple reasons. One is that there is a positive funding in this area and there are lots of people who, I think would be doing
much better work if they are more funding available. It's really costly to do very well designed studies with Lord sample sizes and the appropriate number of control groups. It's not for the faint hearted and it's not it's not cheap. So I think that's one reason. The second reason is that in any field very beginning, its very early on its it's really at a kind of immature stage, and There are reasons to try thing, Even if we know that those studies are support. One of the things we talk about in the book is a study that that we did in my lab. That actually is. According to these statistics out there on publications, it's my most cited scientific paper of any paper. I've done have published overthrew and your papers. This is the most cited and honestly it's a I
give it may be a be minus in terms the quality of the science and it wasn't published? I mean it was published in a in a kind of Bee level Journal and their many deficiencies, and it it just happened be extremely well cited, because it was the very first randomized control trial of Mindfulness Bay, stress reduction that was published, legists explain, but both those terms mean my vote is based stress reduction invented by this goes back to the how intertwining of how sir weird this situation is but is amended by a friend of yours, John, then who is also dates back to Boston in the sixties. You aunt em at MIT, wears a molecular biologist and went on to design this, called mindfulness based stress reduction, which is derived Buddhism, but takes away a lot of the metaphysical claims, religious lingo, and he just rotation in a very secular environment he doesn't like the word secular, but I'm using in any way
Eighty eight created this eight wheat protocol that allowed for nice Replication of the teaching in litigation which are then allow people like you, did a study. What happens when people take this ain't we course now. You said randomized control trial. This tell me with that mean. So what we mean by that is that we took a large group of people and He told them that they by signing up would be participating in a research project where they be randomly assign were one group would get mindfulness based. production immediately and another group would have to wait six months before they would get. It So that's what we call a weight list design and we truly randomize people in this way. and so they knew that they can get it immediately or they would have to wait. Six months and part of the signing up was that if
they were assigned to the weightless control group. They really didn't, do any meditation for this first six month period, but we then really did give the envious, or course when they were finished with that six month period, that's not good enough by the standard you impose, Miss Boil then Richie when another step in ITALY. Study, I think, with chinese cooperation hit. Him designed whichever country over you tell, MR ah. Well, we did it didn't go far enough in it didn't go far enough because one of the things that is so clear or when you just even think, about you don't have to be a scientist to appreciate them. Is that when you take a course in mind, the space dress reduction, which, as you said Dan, is an eight. We programme. Were you come for one class a week for eight weeks together with a group of people with an inch doctor who really beliefs in the value of what she or he is teaching
and there's a lot of group cohesion and sharing, and ah in positive incentives to participate and that in love itself, very beneficial without any practice, and so what we did is we spent a lot of time in a lot of money creating this Hocker Mamie Programme that we call the health enhancement programme. It turns out not to be so cockamamie, but it has every element of Embryos SAR except mindfulness, I it has the same process, its focused on activity which genuinely we believe our health promoting and well being promoting. It includes some whitefish, collectivity nutritional information relaxation, but it has no mindfulness component whatsoever. The other thing
we match, though, is the enthusiasm of the instructors so that the fee sure teaching the health enhancement programme believed genuine. We believed that it was going to. be as effective in promoting well being as the envious are instructors believe that embryos are would be so then you can make a real comparison. Grains of people who took his two courses in what the differences there tell you so that trade in and also one of the things we found these dead on every self report measure on anxiety on depression On our well being that we did have typically been used in studies of Mindfulness Bay, stress reduction, the folks who took our health Hence we programme which had zero mindfulness did exist It is well known, statistical difference whatsoever and they both significant improvement raises lots of questions about all these other studies we ve been citing at don't do what you did the exact.
Exactly, but we did find some differences between them but they were much more specific and refined. Then you would be led to believe from looking at the early studies, including our study, which use an inadequate control group? So what is the Danny? What is that? because there's the sub optimal sites out there. What why wise at a problem? It's a problem, because people are hyping meditation based on so palpable science there. look, there's this family, the study done by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. It's his most cited study by the I wrote a book called destructive emotions. It was one of the first to praise the study in an publicize it and
you ignore the fact that there's no, you know that it's not really a randomized control, cuz, there's no active control groups like help and health enhancement program, and I think that this sets up mindfulness or meditation for a counter movement which says hey. This is all hype, Look at the research does take a hard look at it. It's not that good. So one of the reasons to look at the rock solid research is to contrast it. So, for example, one take home from the study which he did comparing the active control health announcement was members are: is it if you want to look for the real differences? Don't ask yourself reports, look at technological may look at a brain man. Look at a measure of how much courtisolles in the saliva things, people can't control eggs right exactly lie to you about, or they can the light we ourselves about whenever it is trying to look good. You know they said said it.
Speaking now an evangelist. If we believe- and I think everybody in this room does believe that mental exercised mindfulness meditation can and should be one of the next big public health revolutions. the science needs to be rock solid. We got and make the case for this. We need to be able to point to science that is bulletproof you got, and so what this book does is say: here's the stuff. You can point to a coffin. Absolutely, and I do think that its appropriate to think about it in that kind of public health needs. these are practices which we think can contribute to the collective public health and it's a kind of urgent problem tell me at this point in time and are they previous surgeon general. Who was really his duties on April, seventeenth of this year there murky this. in general, the United States talk to.
well being as an urgent public health need and talked about the fact it's dead, in addition may be very helpful in this regard, but we need be honest about what it can do and what it can do in one of the one of the important points, is that meditation was not originally develop to cure illnesses, and so there's been a lot of hype about its role ensuring this illness in that illness in it it is very important as an adjunct in helping us change our relationship to symptoms, and it could be very useful in that way, but it's too if it as a primary therapeutic agent to cure illness is probably misguided. On the other hand, if you have a chronic disease like arthritis, it's very painful every day your men don't help anymore, medicine doesn't know what to do turns out empty Azhar, which helps you change your relationship to the experience of the pain, help you live
a better quality of day, so there's a there there, you just need to know. Where exactly did I say what so, let's go through the three kind of levels that you examine in the book. You start with regular folks and what what what we can get out of meditation. So just a start with you in an and railway and what are the headlines well so for beginners that save never done it before you gonna. Try it one of the things it surprised us is that if you do what you call a kindness, meditation, sometimes compassion, loving kindness, those terms are used where you simply wish yourself. Well people, you love well, people you don't know ever expanding circle. We know that they be happy healthy, whatever it turns out that that immediately benefits you, people seem to be happier, but also mention more likely to notice and help people who need your help make sure.
or altruistic, makes you more generous. So that's one of the findings right at the beginning and surprisingly quickly, and if I can just add one element, another really important finding with that kind of meditation is that reduces implicit bias. An implicit bias is a kind of non conscious bias. So we can say in a questionnaire, for example, that we're we're not biased against the certain out group but certain aspects of their behaviour may really undermine that that that report that we might give huge issue- and we have talked about on this podcast- we ve- talked about the impact. Dental impact of meditation bias and prejudice in society, and we will continue to soak is that it's the hue
issued such a hopeful avenue for this practice out at a time in the same way as much by and is really good evidence to suggest that the doesn't take much just just a couple of months of meditation, using this kind of loving, kindness and compassion practice to shift hard core objective measures of implicit bias. However, the springs up another point, which is the kind of meditation you do, determines what benefits you get so, for example, mindfulness, which doesn't necessarily include this loving kindness practice where you just watch your breath. For example, are you notice what's happening as the and the passing emotions and thoughts? In your mind, it turns out
one of the things you do as part of that. His notice, when your white mine wanders and bring it back, the mine wonders on average fifty percent of the time one of the things people say it to get going. Meditation often is oh, my god. I can't do this because my mind wanders on the top wrong you just noticing. How often does that so every time you bring it back, you are creating the ability or strengthen their ability to concentrate focus, and that's another variety benefits at the beginning. Is intentional, so one a steady, you see Santa Barbara where they do very good research on this should, for example, that mind wandering lessened the people became better focused. They also found it helped. A lot
was called working members working memories, a technical term for what you hearing are experiencing right now. Are you going to remember it later seeking drawn it for students? This is called learning, and actually these were college students. Did it with their scores on the graduate school entrance. Exam were sixteen percent higher than a group that didn't do this, which means a they learned and had a practical pay off solely the kindness, the attention. Another big benefit is handled. Stress people who just beginners and meditation, become more relaxed, restricts situations and aren't triggered so easily, which is makes you,
I think I have much more pleasant life else. Improve the lives of the people haven't come into our not to mention that anyone who knows you yeah another element of stress reactivity is this quality recovery from adversity, and we think about that in terms of resilience, and we can define resilience is the report with which you recover from adversity, and there is some evidence to suggest that simple mindfulness practices can help you recover more quickly and we can actually measure that track, that in the brain and in the body and the ability to recover quick He is so important. To paraphrase the bumper sticker stuff happens and what we can offer ourselves from it. But what we can do is change our relationship to it so that we experience it, but then we can recover more quickly. What's the matter As for the boosting of resilience, is it that in meditation you close your eyes, you sit and watch her breath.
and then, when you get lost, you start again in that moment, did you notice you ve gotten lost and you let it go you let that storyline go and you dont, hopefully dont be up to much and you go back to your breath and you do this ad infinitum. Is that the process by One booths resilience its. I think it's a key contributor, and you know it we are all born with. This man real estate in the form of our brains, that we call the prefrontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex is the most it. answer evolution eerily of the other cerebral cortex, the highest part of our brain and it confers all kinds of amazing abilities and most particularly, it allows us to reflect on the future and also to contemplate the past,
and what we can do: mental time travel, because the prefrontal cortex, which clearly confers all kinds of benefit, but what it also does. Is it banks near us. It takes us out of the present moment, and so we can be ruminating about something that happened in the past and we can be worrying about something that may happen in the future, all of which is taking us out of the present moment and contributing If you will a second arrow of Pain- or suffering, which will add whatever the the actual adversity might be and dumb lead or triple it as a consequence of anticipating and then ruminating theirs. Verily know that process. There is a very well known, biologist at Stanford, Robert Suppose, key who wrote a wonderful. called why zebras don't get ulcers and the reason why zebras don't get ulcers is because they view puny, prefrontal cortex. They
into do the mental time travel that we could do, I do getting by lions Aleppo. They do so they're downsized. That's a little upsetting, but what he means by time. Travel is thinking about what happened in the past, all that, They said to me that email I got there was so upsetting. But it's two in the morning, and that was two weeks ago and you're still thinking about it or thinking in the future. About, oh, my god, how am I going to handle that? Or what's going to happen now, the upside of courses we can plan? We can envision what the possibilities. That's the positive thing. On the other hand, it's the amygdala that's the trigger point, four fighter fight her free occupied in regular, whereas as its in the mid brain kind of between the ears produce say, did the tent lobes or on each side of the of the head in the. Full din and Amelia portion in the Interior closely medial, enter. I've also tried, so the the temporal Lobe
on the same game. Doing my job from Hell, me? Why is it so? The day the this is a part of the brain that then falls into the middle and in the middle portion inside. You cannot see it from the surface of the brain, it's in the interior and theirs. What'll structural, each side, the brain each of us has to a middle. Ah, ah, in its the about the size of a thumbnail in a human brain, it in furs of confers threat. Ah, its part the threat response, but it also plays a more general role in what we can think of is labeling things that are important that are emotionally important. it's a salient detector and it Also is the part of the and which will hijackers, win
she'll stuff happens? The amygdala gets trigger when the middle gets triggered it kin, it can also, recruit many other parts of the brain because of its connectivity and that can wreak havoc on her ongoing? whatever ongoing activity might be, for example, a paralyzes prefrontal cortex when it gets really hygiene and takes off us over and drives us memory hierarchies shift. So what salient or easiest remembers? What is relevant to the situation at hand? I dug its very small portion of the incoming sensory signal, so it can make mistakes. It has it hair, trigger decision rule I'd rather be safe than sorry others of Russell in the bushes we better run, even if it's not a lion. This is a hold over from our ancient past, but it works today. The problem is its react.
into a complex, symbolic reality. So we can make a lot of mistakes. You can get hijacked it for all kinds of reasons that you regret him and then you'll do something that you regret later. So it's probably never happen. You you're you, it's nothing so anyway. The MID July is what recovers. Would you say the prefrontal cortex has circuitry designers calm down the irregular glare help combat rightly say: no, I'm not gonna. Do what you want me to do, and it's this connection between specific regions of the prefrontal, cortex and middle of which actually get strengthened with certain condemnation practice which kind simple mindfulness will strengthen the connection between the prefrontal cortex in the middle. The first group you'll get was beginners. What was the next group? They look that sort of mid range people, people of day jobs, but still meditate alot
But in doing this we be me Charlie. eight years, and I do a couple hours a day. I M a retreat once in a while. You probably have somewhere between food in ten thousand hours of practice were now You'd be surprised. How can five thousand maybe at an I have never dive narrated, but yes, it definitely nothing. So that's our second group. Ok, and I am particularly interested in this and there are some really interesting findings with this group. This is where you beat you begin to see real trade effects. That rate effect defects and what we mean by a trade effect is where we can test a certain quality, were you when you're, not meditating, and we can compare group of people like yourself who ve done say five thousand hours of practice group who are matched on all kinds of socio demographic characteristics, but have not done any meditation and here, we
begin to see differences in the so called baseline state when you're not act. We meditating in this. implies that these are qualities which are beginning to infiltrate into everyday life. Those quotas. So let me give you one example: one has to do with attention we're in. civically. Phenomenon that we know of as the attention blink, which is we all about noticing very small changes in the environment, particularly when you're looking at things that are changing very rapidly. So if you are, for the for the listener. It would be helpful to know what what's a typical everyday situation like that. A typical everyday situation is to people, sitting down in having a conversation, particularly if they are spouses
ah interrelationship. If you look at a videotape of two of Mary couple, for example interacting where they're talking about activities, it happened during a typical day hears it there's a lot. Typically, a lot of interaction is a lot of stuff going on. I The ability to notice those really small changes turns out to be important for healthy, successful interpersonal communication and the attention of blink is when you noticed something. Initially, I you then go into refractory period, where the thee- my in the brain is insensitive for a certain period of time, cause you're thinking she made that facial expression. What is that, in other words, your preoccupied right exactly exactly and in in when you look at the average person whose meditated. Most p
all show evidence of this phenomenon that we call unintentional blink and it's so prevalent that scientists have talked about as an obligatory refractory period of the nervous system, refrain remaining your offline offline and that this is just something that is an intrinsic part of the brain. I it's the way the brain operates. It turns out there. Not the way the brain necessarily operates its tradable. You can actually do simple practices of the sort that we're talking about and modify the intentional planks of the the magnitude of that really changes. Way that we think makes a difference. they won't do less. I will say that in my own experience, because his we're talking about a cohort into which I slot
The attention. My attention on blink has improved now started from pretty low baseline, very destructible, very self. Centered But I do a lot of listening to people talk as my part of my job, and I find that I'm better at staying engaged. Not and it's not so much like forcing myself this day and I'm actually cottages. It's also pleasurable, I guess would be the right way to describe. It was now that we're in this again we're on this kind of second bucket of people here Danny what are the other things that you see from the science about these people? or not? I will become intermediate level. Sure
all of the benefits we talked about the beginner level, the attention all distress, recovery, the kindness amplify, the stronger, consistently there's a dose response relationship, the more you do it, the better it gets- and this is under plasticity- makes sense of that. Why would that be it's because you ve practice more hours? The same thing there's another finding, which was quite a surprise: riches lab did it and sighing other scientists sissy genomics finding people in genetic sciences impossible, and that is that, if you do one day of mine from this practice or insight practices, it's called at the higher level are more advanced level. If you well, something surprising happens to your genes for inflammation those genes. You know.
are at cos, are part of the development of a wide range of diseases from diabetes and heart disease and cancer. You name it and what happens rich or what we see is that There is an epigenetic genetic changing. What epic means is the science of how genes are regulated and so, while we are all born with a fixed compliment, base pairs, that is, dna and, for the most part, that's not gonna change. What does change is the extent to which a gene is turned on returned off and we can think of genes having little volume controls and they intermodal high and it turns out that there is a lot of dynamic change of the volume of the genes, and we were specifically looking at a group of genes that is dead, said, have been implicated in inflammation that DR inflammation and what we see is that a day of intensive practice,
down regulates. These genes so? We actually see over the course of just eight hours that There is a measurable change in the extent to which these genes are expressed. But his inflammation inflammation is cause by Spain, If it molecules which, ah, deal with typical. a foreign agents to control them in. So we win when you, if you get a cut in it, become swollen this. selling, is information in the information is. Typically, a lot of white blood cells which are generated to basically get rid of foreign sucks,
This is why would I care they? My information was in any because the this gets out of work and the body start producing inflammatory son molecules and saw with theirs nothing to heal. Well, so so we need information to live and to deal with the challenges of the right kind of the right kind. but where it gets us into trouble, is when those inflammatory processes last longer than they need to. I n r, chronic overtime and that's when they can really require and so in its and it turns out there are some really knew very new, interesting things going on that have looked at notches, cremation in the body, but also information, the brain so the same continent, amatory mechanisms are occurring in the brain. So, for example,
he's like Alzheimer's disease. We know something about what its primary care as is with plaques, entangles, specific ways, some damage and specific ports, the brain, but then what happens? There is an inflammatory response, so here's inflammation which develops around this primary problem and when that inflammation persists, for a long period of time that can actually produce, many of the symptoms, we associate with these diseases and an adds to the problem. So Could you so? In other words, the history of meditation prior to, The onset of Alzheimer's might make the symptoms less noxious right. That's exactly! We believe it is lacking a cure Alzheimer's I it's not going to in all likelihood effect the primary cause of Alzheimer's, but
I'm there is reason to believe it will impact the inflammatory response around Alzheimer's, which will very much impact the symptom picture, so both my wife and I have both AL Farmers and the jet demand in the family so you would argue, there's a pretty strong case to be made to resettle TAT, a reasonable dosage minute. Absolutely no. I should just make clear that what we now for the very first time have methods to, directly measure inflammation the brain in living, human beings, not invasive lily and it's only been developed in the last couple of years with using positron emission demography, that has never been used yet with meditation. so there's no study published in the site Rick literature that has looked at noon
information. I end its potential chain with meditation where beginning those studies. Now, for the first time that caveat is appreciative, it informed conjecture is allowed on the debts of the form conjecture is absolutely one. Try and by the way the data shows that meditating on retreat seems to have even better benefits than doing it daily in Bailey is more like a maintenance and retreat is more like a dream you know, you're producing a certain amount inflammation of my end because our another mutual friend of ours that Joseph Goldstein, her old friend of yours, also dates back to the sixties. It isn't going to India and other stuff who my meditation teacher, his on my rear and all the time about going up to do retreat and it's been a couple years and I've got one schedule a couple weeks, but I'm actually not sure and be able to make it so
like your calendar. Maybe it's important. I believe it's important little. It's hard with young kids, which I very much appreciate, and in my own life, when, the kids were young. That was a period of time in my life, when I stop doing retreat, and but in later years after they ve gone, often did their thing, it's time to return as another version of work life balance- it's not worth rightly hang on actually, but the did the retreat data are really amazing was so we published a paper very recently looking at simple measure of respiration rate breathing rate and it turns out that this is a in important index, which relates to all kinds of things. Health, wise and in terms of emotional balance and equanimity, and long term, meditate might say slower the better slower, the better and- and we said
the people in the intermediate category folks like Herself- and it turns out that on average, you guys have a slower breathing rate than age. ginger match control in this house or what we also see is that the direct should have time on retreat. Practice is the single, most significant predictor of respiration rate? in it. We have very careful measures of daily practice and it turns out that the retreat practice trumps daily practice quite significantly in predicting the magnitude of decline in respiration get thrown it. I want to get onto the Olympics level gasped, but I was having cartesian my wife recently, who generally is genuinely he's dead. I meditate because I was a real pain in the, but for a long time continue to be on many levels, but less so
as she was saying that that one of them downsides in meditation- is that she answered even she says you can't tell really whether em my might be mad her heart, nursing, some sort of resentment. Actually she asked the look really closely and then actually there times is a bit unsettling for her. Have you guys her? Well, you know this is of of common phenomenon, marital therapy, where one person changes and then the prisoners to adjust to the change tat. Yes, but that's not bad! No objection! complaining about it too vociferously again, because the upsides are much much they the way, this particular downside and by a long shot. But it's an interesting thing. Nonetheless, I do I mean I know, what's going on in my own, had in fact there's an ex there's one of meditation clean, sl, I love is hurt more suffering there is. I, when I get angry, actually feel it more acutely, but I'm less likely to act on it, and I should goes away faster
I can see how of from the outside. It may all seem a little bit flatter. yeah, although I think that one of the interesting things is that it may appear flatter, but it really is primarily due to recovering more quickly because, as you said you there, there are aspects of the experience where you express it even more strongly. Do yes, absolutely when she says I'm gonna drive me not. I am but the old me probably either would have reacted in a hair trigger or would have gotten upset. But it would have been like a game of Wakeham all, and I would have responded a half hour later, because I was nursing, the grudge and unconsciously whereas Now- and she says in the drive me crazy- I actually feel pretty quickly strong and actually kind of almost hurts physically but I'm less likely to say the thing? That's gonna make the next forty eight hours horrible yeah, I dont, that's not business foolproof.
talking in general is that you know I've also in being around the Dalai Lama. Lot. I've seen him a few times actually get angry. Does up and often, but I have witnessed it a few times and what you want. I witness is that it comes right out and then the moment later he starts laugh he may noticed something funny and it's completely gone. There's absolutely nothing linger like my metabolizing yeah. That's it Came the yogi that's a kind of real characteristic, where there's just Montenegro. We called a lack of sticking this so there's expression of whatever is occurring in the moment. But there is absolutely no sticking this occasion what the yogi. Now there s a deal, MPEG level meditation. Let's, let's talk about them. What are the primary findings and you ve done much of that of the several research on these guys.
And then they are most guys, oddly enough low there. Actually in error in the samples that we most recently published. optimally. Half of them have been women to correct, to correcting misconception, some good good so on these men and women. What are we finding? What can we say with certainty about the impact of tens of Dozens of ours of meditation well Let me give you one example, which is really a very telling example. One of the things that we studied in them is their reaction to physical pain, Isn t use physical pain. Is it's really a compelling stimulus and all let us know what it is and why we do in the laboratory. Is we use something really quite really they can. We use heat and the way we can generate this is we have this crazy device that we call Thermo food, which is basically a very thin middle played that gets taped to the wrist and through, we can circulate very rapidly water, whose
temperature is very precisely controlled and so we can very very carefully controlled the temperature of that middle plate and we can change. This picture very rapidly, because the waters circulating extremely quickly through it and it allows us to very safely in a very concise, old way to produce real burning sensation, and when you have this thing on in his on for ten seconds and its at forty degrees centigrade. You really feel like your skin is burning. and it's very real and it is real, and but we can just a joke Did so, let's just below the threshold of producing tissue damage and so we did this with the expert military. These really want her meditative, some of whom have given us
mission to identify who they are. One of them is me, your impish, who is previous guest on its path, predates the EU and someone who has average life I'm practice based on our estimates of somewhere around at this point, it would be somewhere around seventy five thousand hours. so when we should make this guy's a monk and then We are setting. Our law are largely monks and nuns, their professional meditated for families, so that the right these are people whose day job it is to right now I end so another that he react in a pan. So the woods he hears thing. What we did in this experiment. What we did is we gave initially every participant ASEAN but the pain, so they knew exactly what it was that we are going to be presented, and then in the actual experiment, we give them a cue that occurs to, seconds before they get the pain in the queue says there.
Either get a warm sensation where they're gonna get the burning sensation, so it tells them what they are about to get an they get whatever they told and the stimulus occurs. The heat occurs for ten seconds and then there's a recovery period. So there are three periods here: there's an anticipation period. Were there told her about to get the pain? Then there is the actual pain, painful stimulus and then there's a recovery plan. So when you do this with a typical personal, The street is never meditated, you give them an initial zap, so they know what they're getting you then presented tone which tells them that they are about to get the pain. Their brains react as if they are getting the actual heat stimulus even before they get even before they getting it. So there the there- and we know a lot about these circuits in the brain that are associated with pain. It's called the pain matrix. It's very well studied
most of the circuitry gets triggered immediately with just the tone. I end like out audio tone there here, I'm just the tone, so this absence. Nothing you know about paying this occurring just the tone signalling that their in ten seconds about to get sat Then the actual pain occurs in they showed bigger response. The pain then, in the controls, in the ten seconds covering period it's as if the pain is still continuing. This is among the Non Medical and on Yogi moment Le Nonmilitary. There still continuing to reverberate with that ruminate about it, and so in some sense they're getting a triple. Don't yes, yes And in the yoke ease in the expert meditated, what happens is during the anticipation period?
essentially nothing there auditory cortex activates when they get the instruction of the tone, but there almost no elements of the pain matrix they get activated during this time. It's like a flat one, then, when they get the heat itself, they actually show huge response and in certain areas of the brain. To our surprise, they actually showed a greater response, significantly greater. In the controls, particularly in this century regions, which real your processing, the fine century details the tingling thee Sometimes you noticed some vibration in the skin all of these century qualities are processed in the cement, a century cortex and that the brain actually shows a stronger response: and then, in the recovery period they come right back down to baseline, so in things
about this. It's like a sharp inverted v that the expert practitioners show and this is in contrast to the controls, were showing strong activation across this each of these three period and so this is one difference? That's just dramatic and we think is really important off, not just for pain but in terms of how they respond to all kinds of things. The info- yeah. Can you run through some of the other headlines when it comes to the Olympic or one for, and then I found it really impressive has to do with what called the gamma wave. It's a very unusual part of the brain wave not seem very often we all get it for maybe a half second are less. When we have a bright idea. Creative insight solve that problem
it's good feeling, and then it goes our when we imagine biting into an apple and all of a sudden, the taste in the sound and the smell, and all of that come together get again if it shows up now and then the advance meditations these of lumping level men and women have lots of game in the brain with all the time it's a trait, so they just walk around as Amy. I love the feeling of having a good idea. It doesn't happen all that often, but I love that feeling infected. What's read a quote from a great writer, I think was friends and Johnson. who said that who was ass, you know what's better a camera, the question was always quote exactly so: monopoly manga. Listen! Hopefully I talking about the right guy, but he was asked what feels better, having hit book or what's, if you like, having a book- and he said, I would much rather
I have the feeling of solving a problem during a book or writing problem than the feeling of of having a hit. So yet what a great feeling to be with ease gamma ways, if your, if that was your trait Debbie Awesome, yeah so that there is a trade. There is no question that they show, the prevalence of these games oscillations when they're not meditating, when they're not doing be formal meditation, and this is one of the key indications of a trade effect Where you see a biological difference that is present, the so called baseline state when they're not doing informal meditation. What about their levels of generosity compassion that are these good people will Oh that's important and difficult question to answer so, on certain measures that We and other scientists used to measure pro social behaviour they certainly
social behaviour justify generosity, altruism, They certainly score high on those The measures but the honest truth, is the science and in that area is not very well developed point in time. The boy say, but the subjective experience of these people is. They are very nourishing some people you run into or toxic aft, when you're with them are. After with them, you feel down these people in terribly. My experience. Leave you feeling up ya mean one of the best sort of anecdotal findings something happened to us with one of our long term practitioner. So when onto our lab. We put him up at a hotel, that's right on the border of campus so that they can walk to the lab from where their staying and day after this practitioner left town I get
call from the general manager of this hotel. I thought all new must have screwed up something with bill cause the the bill gets directly sent us so. I get on the phone with him and he said pardon me for interrupting your day, but I just wanted to thank you for the kind of people you have said so till there are three species, EC staff members that commented on this since generosity and kindness, the last day, and he just wanted- Thank me and encourage keep sending these people, but then that doesn't happen all know. I suspect it doesn't dead. Why? Why does it matter what these proof? What's going on in their brains and bodies of these olympic level? Creditors mean nothing,
sir I'm not getting seventy thousand hours of what remains of my life. So why do I care so there's a couple of reasons? One is. It shows all of us, particularly psychology in science, neuroscience what the potential upside is. It shows that their particular brain systems that can be bought up that can be amplified that can be improved. That itself is big. It also shows us that what we can derive from this process that we can use. Generally, for example, we talked about how beginners are able to focus and have less,
I'm wondering I went to a class of seven year old, second graters in Spanish, Harlem and every day they do this practice. They call breathing buddies, they take a little stuffed animal and they lie down on a rug and they put the animal on their belly and they want to rise on in breadth and fall on the breath and count one two three- and this is a minor mindfulness for seven year old, and it is ample finer, strengthening capacity, called cognitive Control card of control is the ability to focus on one thing and ignore distractions. Lord knows there are more distractions than ever in the whole history of you
Kennedy who would put our tech devices we're doing its enormous. So I think this is a skill. Kids need more and more. There was a study done in New Zealand, where they measured cognitive control. Forty eight year old in tracking down in the thirties. They found it this capacity. The ability to keep focused was a better predictor of the income level and health appeasement, their thirties than their iq or the wealth of the family. The grew up in a completely independent factor and something we could give every kid, and this is the kind of thing we can extract from this area of science to see how could generalise. What can we learn from this? That we could spread around, we could take to scale on shore choice. We can you scale the stuff you're fighting among the yogi, given that in order to Will he be a yogi as you describe it. You
really live a very specific lifestyle. Well, you know we weave. We asked the same question before the intermediate practitioners. Folks, like yourself and it turns out that we see the presence of gamma awesome. Additions to a much greater degree than in people who have not practiced, and so there does seem to be. the relationship between the amount of practice in the presence of these cam oscillations, We also showed that in the intermediate level, practitioners Zis gamma oscillations, begin to show up during sleep, which is the first time anyone has shown is in that's very unusual and may I'm playing important role in some of the restorative mechanisms that occurred, particularly during deep sleep when there's a lot of bodily restoration that occurs. We know that he's got oscillations play an important role generally neuro plasticity and are the kind of thing talking about role tree
the brain to help reduce or both bird, the severity of the genetic risk for a disease like Alzheimer's. It may be, and certainly we we don't have any firm evidence for this yet, but it may be that these processes are influential in that, and these guys, oscillations may be important indicator of the presence of these kind of restorative effects. So this is all in all, I think, really important, and I also think for people, particularly in the kind of culture we live in today, having this kind of scientific, evidence I'm can be real motivator in even Dolly. Lama himself has told me that there are times in the morning when he'll be practising and he'll actually think about the fact that, based on everything that we ve
whom he knows that he's changing his brain and that that's actually motivating and that he thinks about that, and so I think that it could be very, very helpful. So the book is great I really enjoy reading. I also thank actually it's at an important contribution in it nice mix of your personal stories and a good red when it comes to just her to going the science and what it says and what it doesn't say before we close, I just didn't any closing thoughts from either or both of you, Daniel, MR with you. Well, I think that
you know. The reason we wrote altered traits is the so someone like you would say something like that. We feel that base of the Sciences, Richie said is very encouraging, not just for the Dalai Lama, for anyone for people who are just starting out of thinking of starting here's, some hard science. That tells you what are the good things that could happen, and I would add by saying that most middle class people in western countries these days believe that his exercise is good for their health, and many of us have incorporated some physical exercise in our weekly routine. It's our aspiration that this book can help promote the kind of mental exercise that we are talking about his meditation. And that mental exercise will become is commonly practised in the future as physical exercises today, and I think if we took our minds and brains are seriously in the way that the evidence suggests we should
We would all be doing these practices. It would be like brushing your teeth. There'd be absolutely no second thought about it. This something that I think we need as a culture and as a civilization and other varies very Downside to doing it. I've been saying what you just said for years, and I stole it from you, but why can people go if they want to learn more about either of you? Well, you could go to the altar traits website. Ok book you could go, do were Daniel. Gorman died in full for me and for Richie you can go to centre for healthy minds, dot org our organization at the university Wisconsin, and also you can go back and listen to the Pike S we ve done with both of you in the past for much more on on Richie individually and also books mentioned in this package, including linger route, shape and junk evident and
still can't believe Joseph girls do not come on this bycatch. Touching my fault, it's ridiculous! Thank you both what a pleasure thank. Thank you. Ok for another edition of the ten percent happier podcast, if you liked it, please take a minute to subscribe rate us also. If you want to suggest topics, you think we should cover or guests that we should bring in hit me up on twitter at Danby. Harris importantly, I want to thank the people who produce this podcast Lauren Efron just go ahead and the rest of the folks here at ABC who helped make this thing possible. We have tons of other broadcasts. You can check them out at ABC podcast dot com. I'll talk to you next Wednesday, there's not a person in America who hasn't been impact it in some way by the corona, I was pandemic, but it every community there are pockets of people who were soon.
Every day. This is my last day of the cylinder stretch of photos from one of our or America's essential workers, the people who are keeping moving. I turn into a home mom and now in a new plants from Ebay, see news you gonna hear from damage. Was she went back to my office on cybercrime because he is not here and making sure that our community has found faintly Lorraine. This is essentially inside the from the emergency room, the police cruiser to the Czech outline yoke. You want this pandemic sounds like the people putting themselves ones where there's always a risk. Brain is home to re. Kids are my husband or my parents, listen to the essentials inside the curve on Apple podcast, river, pod, costume.