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The Science and Practice of Presence – The Groundbreaking Meditation Practice




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  • Insider's Take


Clinical psychology professor Daniel Siegel’s exploration of the mind and meditative practices is not always an easy read, but offers valuable insight and guidance. While the practices he recommends may be helpful to some people, claims of their scientific basis should be taken with care. He discusses presence, mind training, mindfulness and how the mind functions. The first and the final sections are for readers vested in spirituality. They offer guidelines and techniques for increasing awareness and a sense of presence.

You can influence your consciousness through meditative practices.

Siegel contends that everyone can learn awareness and expand his or her consciousness by practicing specific skills, notably “attention, awareness and intention.” Becoming more aware helps people improve their lives by strengthening their minds, making their bodies healthier and helping them age more slowly. The positive physical effects of these practices, Siegel claims, include strengthening the immune function, optimizing telomerase enzymes that allow the body to repair itself and remain young, improving gene regulation, and strengthening aspects of the cardiovascular system such as blood pressure. It enhances “neural integration,” which helps people function better, regulate themselves, solve problems and adapt to change. “This wider view of who we are is sometimes challenging to communicate,” the author writes, “but it can be a matter of life and death.”

You can make this change regardless of your age or situation.

“Complex systems” are self-organizing – a term from mathematics that refers to how qualities in systems unfold. Optimizing these qualities creates a harmonious, energized and adaptive system. Poorly optimized systems generate chaos and sometimes also rigidity. People of all ages and in all circumstances, according to Siegel, can learn to shift from chaos to harmony by balancing and integrating their consciousness. Frustrated, stressed or traumatized adults – and children as young as kindergarten age – the author affirms, can become more aware of their reactions and distance themselves from negative impulses, such as violence.

About the Author

Dr. Daniel Siegel, professor of clinical psychology at UCLA, co-directs its Mindful Awareness Research Center. He also wrote Mindsight and Brainstorm.

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