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What is Mindfulness? A Lesson from Joseph Goldstein

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There is a body…

That might be the simplest meditation there is. Last week I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture by mindfulness teacher Joseph Goldstein, one of the first American vipassana meditation instructors. His sold out talk focused on a core question as mindfulness comes into the mainstream: What is mindfulness? Below is a summary from my notes:

There are pillars that are all necessary but not sufficient to achieve mindfulness. Any of the items mentioned below are not enough on their own to complete mindfulness:

1. Being Present

The basic definition of mindfulness is “being present.” This means having your attention in the current moment. Many publications use this definition to get people into mindfulness, but it is insufficient. Why? Look at your pet dog, she’s always only in the present.

2. Observation

The next step is taking a step back and observing the thoughts of the present. Just thinking in the present is not enough, you must be aware that you are thinking. When we are unaware of our thinking we are slaves to our thoughts.

3. Recognition of Filters

As you observe your present thoughts you must account for your biases. There are a lot of ways we filter our reality to match what we seek. One example is the “Filter of Wanting” –  where our thoughts are biased to find something we “want.” His term for it, “catalog consciousness,” is when you flip through a catalog without intention, just to find something you “want,” though you really had nothing in mind. With the plethora of content on the internet, it’s easy to fall into that trap online at any moment.

Another  filter is “In Order to,” which is doing something just for the end result. An example is observing tightness in a meditation just so that you can get the release. Essentially, with any thought you observe, you should ask if there is wanting, aversion, or any other intention present.

4. Wholesome Thinking

A final point is to not just be present but to seek that which is wholesome, that which is ethical. The key is to not identify with negative thoughts, but to acknowledge them. Develop discernment as opposed to an aversion to negative thoughts.

In Closing

He emphasized that this is not about belief. You are encouraged to do you own observation, and come to your own conclusions. Use your conclusions as your guide in determining what is wholesome thinking and developing your ethical code.

At the end of the lecture I asked Joseph if this framework marked the completion of defining mindfulness, if he’d figured it all out by now. His response? He feels like he’s not even close, and every day is a new beginning, making it exciting each day to live, learn, and explore.

Cheers to that!

P.S. – Thanks to Insight LA for hosting this great event and to Rochelle Calvert of New Mindful Life for telling me about it.

P.P.S – On the opening quote – he opened the lecture with a meditation, but instead of starting with connecting with the breath or one of the other intentions, he simply said, “There is a body.” Before going on to all of the other concepts and means to connect to achieve mindfulness, he starts us with this core concept. There was no need to expand beyond that, simply repeating that phrase over and over. I loved it!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

NG2014 Clarity Demo

Hundreds of Demo Sessions Later, Clarity Pro Pre Orders Are Now Available

By | Clarity, Mindfulness | No Comments

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to do live demos of Clarity while talking about the brain, mindfulness, and technology. Some of the highlight events include the mHealth Summit, the LAUNCH Festival, UCSD Center for Mindfulness Annual Conference, and the NeuroGaming Conference.1 In this wide range of populations – health professionals, tech early adopters, school teachers, neuroscientists – I’ve found a common thread – people are excited about the potential of new technology to gain more insight into our brains and our selves.

The field is very new – providing consumer priced EEG (brainwave sensing) solutions was not accessible until a few years ago. Consumer comfort in wearables beyond the medical context has only started to grow significantly in the past few years, and the Google Glass backlash shows it is not completely there.2 There is a lot we need to learn – we including product developers, academic researchers, clinicians, and the general population. It will be an exciting ride, and I look forward to sharing more details about the work being done at ThreePound and elsewhere that help improve lives and advance science.

So click the button in the header to pre order the Pro version of Clarity, and go to the Headset Showcase to purchase your brainwave sensing headset. I look forward to you joining me on this adventure into our brains, and our selves.


1. I’m grateful to these conferences and others for supporting ThreePound in a number of ways. Special thanks are due to Startup Health, the LAUNCH team, Steve Hickman and NeuroSky.

2. I specify “non medical wearables” because hearing aids, among other wearable health products, have been around for a long time.

P.S. Look below for some photos of some of the conferences. It’s clear you can achieve clarity anywhere!

Boy and girl playing

Gender Differences in the Brain

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Gender stereotypes, like males perform better at math and map reading than women perform, are often credited to how the brains of each gender are “wired”. This belief gained popular attention recently due to reportedly shaky conclusions in a published article that the general media took and spun out of control. A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes how the researchers used diffusor tensor imaging – an MRI method – to look at the connectome (the neural connections in the brain, how the brain is wired) of over 900 men and women. The differences observed were significant on average, but as researcher Christian Jarrett’s column in Wired’s “Brain Watch” explains, there are numerous concerns in the interpreted results of the published study and the subsequent media takeoff, which are two regular challenges with science journalism.

Male and female brains are different, but the amount of overlap in the connectome between genders is large. That is something the science community can agree on. Like most areas of our understanding of the brain, what it really means in practice is something we are still figuring out. Communicating research findings in a way that is easy to understand is hard. On our blog we plan to do our fair share of research reporting as well. But we can’t let attention grabbing headlines get in the way of providing proper context for and acknowledgement of the incremental gains that do lead to those rare paradigm shifting breakthroughs.

Read the article on Wired

Image: Simon Blackley, Flickr

MBSR Three Pound Clarity Word Cloud

Why Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction?

By | Clarity, Mindfulness | No Comments

Some have wondered why we’re focused on pairing brainwave reading headsets with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). With the high level of pressure placed on “living in the moment” and “looking inside oneself” people mistakenly associate mindfulness as a fly-by-night, new age fad. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re excited about mindfulness for a number of reasons, and you should be too: Read More