Author Archives: Hayley Grunebaum

Mindfulness in the Marine Corps

Back in September of this year, there was a Wisdom 2.0 event that took place is Silicon Valley. A Mr. Gordhamer started this event back in 2009 in order to consider how we can live in a world that is inundated with technologically and not let it “swallow us whole.” Thus this conference is about disconnecting with cellphones, computers, etc. and living in the here and now. In recent time, Mindfulness has become somewhat “trendy” so to speak. It has popped up everywhere. Actresses such as Lena Dunham have spoken about how meditation and mindfulness play a role in her life and powerhouse Ariana Huffington started an entire section of the Huffington Post dedicated to the topic. Huffington also started a conference series and has spoken at many events about the importance of turning inward. The importance of mindfulness has seeped into every facet of life.

And more importantly, mindfulness has become extremely prevalent in the field of psychology. Mindfulness and meditation therapies are being studied all over the country. Particularly, The Marine Corp has been testing Mind Fitness Training to help soldiers relax and boost “emotional intelligence.” Many people believe that mindfulness training may be able to decrease PTSD in soldiers. Mindfulness has been proven to lower stress levels and a professor at Georgetown University thinks, “it can work for soldiers dealing with the extreme stress of combat.” Stanley and others in this area of research believe that meditation should be part of basic military training because it may be as vital to soldiers as knowing how to fire a weapon.

A pilot study conducted by Stanley and her colleagues was done to test the effects of mindfulness training. It included 60 Marines who were in a two month long intense training program before being sent to Iraq. There was a control group that received no meditation training and another group that experienced mindfulness meditation instruction and were told to meditate for 15 minutes every day. Subsequent to the two months of training, the group that did meditate reported significantly less stress and and anxiety. Additionally, the study discovered that the mindfulness training made the soldiers smarter. Their working memories were considerably strengthened and they were found to have better ability to retain novel information.

One of the Marines reported that at first, all of the soldiers were skeptical about the mindfulness training and believed it to be a “waste of time.” Subsequent to tours in Iraq, however, several of the soldiers reported that they continued to meditate as a way to mitigate the stress of combat. They were later retested and the soldiers who continued meditating showed improved working memory and less stress and anxiety than those who did not keep up with the meditation.

This study is amazing to me. PTSD is a serious problem facing soldiers upon homecoming and it is amazing that there is something preventative that they can do to reduce the effects of combat. It seems as though these results and others have proven that it is vital to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into Marine Corps training. Millions of peoples lives could be saved as a result.

MIndfulness, Meditation, and Finding a Happiness in Your Career

I was on the phone with my sister today to catch up and I started telling her about my interest in mindfulness and meditation. We spoke for a while about the initial research I have done and about how some of the primary goals of mindfulness are to be able to observe your own thoughts and emotions, label what they are, experience them non-judgmentally, and make decisions based on that non-judgment.  I also mentioned the meditation class we all attended this morning at the Zen Buddhist Temple. A few things our teacher said really resonated with me. First, I loved when she spoke about how we see intellect as residing solely in the mind. Thus, we become totally disembodied and forget to be present in our own bodies. I really enjoyed the incremental mindfulness exercise in which we focused on various parts of the body and “awakened” them so to speak or brought our attention to them in order to truly relax. The teacher also shared with us the Indian scripture that went something like, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

This got me thinking about a similar idea that came up in my psychology of entrepreneurship class. In a book called, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” the author, Cal Newport speaks about two mindsets when going to start your career. He says there is a passion mindset one can have that is defined by the question, “what can the world offer me?” On the other hand, he describes a second mindset he deems the craftsman mindset that is defined by another question, “what can I offer the world?” Newport goes on to speak about how the three pillars of a satisfying career are impact, control and creativity. He says that we are better able to achieve these three things when we try to make a difference in the world and thus we should use the craftsman mindset when trying to find ourselves.

In life, sometimes you seem to learn similar lessons in very different places at similar times. I thought it was interesting to speak about these two intellectual experiences together because they are in direct conversation with each other. Both the teacher in the Buddhist Temple and my reading for a business class were telling me that service and social impact may create the most satisfaction and happiness in one’s life. Food for thought I guess while I continue the job search.


3/26 – TED Talk on Meditation

For this part of the semester I have decided to focus on meditation. Throughout my life I have suffered from anxiety and turned to activities like running and yoga to help with it. I have not, however, explored meditation directly and thus my interest stems from a curiosity about its practice and the potential it has to promote healthfulness and happiness.

This week I watched a few TED talks on the subjects of mindfulness and meditation. One that stood out to me was a talk by Andy Puddlcombe called “All it Takes is Ten Mindful Minutes.” Andy asks the audience when the last time was that they actually took time to do nothing. He articulates how we depend on our minds for everything — our happiness, performance, social interactions — yet we take no time to look after it. What happens as a result is stress. He touches upon the importance of being present and how we are so distracted all of the time by our phones, our work, our peers, that we do not take time to enjoy or be in the present moment.

Andy then reveals that he first tried meditation when he was eleven years old but saw it as “aspirin for the mind” rather than something that could be truly preventative. That changed, however, when he was twenty and a series of very serious things happened in his life that caused him to feel an overwhelming amount of stress.  As a way to cope, he quit his degree, went to the Himalayas, became a monk, and started studying meditation. He articulated that of course this changed things for him. The experience gave him a greater appreciation for being in the present moment and mindful in the here and now.

One thing that particularly stood out to me was how Andy voiced that it seems like such a simple task to appreciate the present moment but we actually spend barely any time doing it. According to research done at Harvard, our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time. Furthermore, mind wandering is directly related to unhappiness. When pondering this statistic, it is pretty depressing to think that we spend almost half of our lives unhappy and lost in the web of chaos that characterizes the mind.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to make the mind healthier so why aren’t we all doing it?! If one spends ten minutes a day being mindful it may impact ones entire life. Andy discusses how there is a common misconception that mediation is about controlling the mind or stopping thought altogether. In fact, meditation is more about stepping back from thoughts/emotions and seeing them clearly coming and going without judgment. It is about being relaxed and focused and letting go, without the usual all consuming involvement. In this way, we can learn how to watch story lines through meditation rather than stop them. Meditation allows new perspective to take shape.

I loved that Andy said, “we cannot change every little thing that happens to us in life but we can change the way we experience it.” This is the major takeaway for me. I am not going to be able to stop the thoughts that penetrate my mind and that I ruminate over on a daily basis, but I can control the experience of thought and learn how to truly let go. My project for this week is to take ten minutes a day to find focus and clarity.

Einstein Reading – Truth Chapter

Charles Einstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, was really fascinating to me. I was particularly taken with and drawn to the chapter about truth. This chapter attempts to answer the question, “what story shall I stand in.” He describes how just as we cannot achieve infinity by counting, we cannot reach a “territory behind the map,” with conceptual thinking. And in terms of truth, we will not find truth with our current ways of viewing or conceptualizing our world. Thus, we must change our methods of perception in order to see or find “truth” itself.

Einstein goes on to say that we as humans are storytellers and mapmakers. Everything is a story inside of a story. By using this tendency and skill of storytelling we are constantly striving to make meaning. Einstein believes that the new story humanity is slowly beginning will allow for “room to reconnect with what is prior to story, to draw power from the void that lies prior to meaning, where things just are. A story can carry truth, but it is not truth.” In other words, by telling stories, we are separating ourselves from actual truth. Einstein states that we find truth in the woods, water, and soil, and in music, dance and poetry where we are all truly connected.

This reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s defense of poetry that I read about for an English class last semester.  In this justification he writes that, “language is fossil poetry.” By this he meant that a word is, on its own, lifeless. It is an empty representation of a moment already passed, as a fossil is a preserved impression of an organism that previously lived. What was once vibrant becomes vacant as time elapses. Thus, in poetry, we use metaphor to juxtapose two prosaic words that have previously separated from their poetic etymology and create original, unexpected beauty. This is why poetry resonates with every reader. It has an unmatched ability to manipulate language and bring it back to its state of original brilliance that unifies humanity. Language and storytelling tend to dance over meaning. This is why Einstein is imploring us to find the “sacred space” between stories where truth really lies.

One Mind and my own experience

Dossey’s Book, One Mind, acts as a kind of link between all of the elements of this course that we have discussed this semester. The idea of one interconnected consciousness, not 7 billion separate entities, starts to get at why certain people have abilities to unconventionally communicate with others that they have deep emotional connections with or people who have crossed over to the other side. Dossey’s argument stems from detailed medical, psychological, physical and spiritual research. He provides anecdotes as well as research-based examples to prove his theory about the One Mind we all share. I believe the multi-faceted, meticulous nature of Dossey argument leads me not only to respect his theory, but also to truly trust in it.

I cannot help but think about my own life experiences in relation to Dossey’s theory. What I may have chalked up to be mere coincidence before, I find myself going back to and reevaluating. For instance, I have always felt like my sister and I share a very unique, emotional connection. We always call each other at the same time, share the same references, and generally feel what each other is feeling or think what each other is thinking. One recent story came to mind the other day when I was thinking about the idea of universal consciousness. This past holiday season, my sister and I had decided to get gifts for one another. I had requested a ring and she wanted perfume. We shook on it, decided that it was a fair deal, and went on to do our holiday shopping. A few days later I told her that I had picked her up a little something extra. She laughed and said she had done the same. When it came to opening presents, my sister and I, opened the gifts we had promised each other first. When it came to the second gift, we could feel that we had each chosen to get each other a book. It turns out, we had both chosen Joan Didion novels. Both of our minds were momentarily blown! It seemed uncanny that we would both have the same inkling to get each other the exact same gift. Looking back on this occurrence, I cannot help but consider the possibility of unified consciousness. Dossey has pushed me to reconsider my own life and think about how this idea can contribute to how I treat and relate to others. Rather than always deduce that coincidence is mathematical or merely an illusion, I want to broaden my own paradigms of thought and challenge myself to believe that something more intrinsic to humanity is at work.

Feb 19 – Allison Dubois

For this week, I grabbed one of Professor Mann’s books that happened to be about Allison Dubois. Allison Dubois is the woman who inspired the TV show Medium. I have always had an interest in this show and wondered how much of it was taken from Dubois’s actual experiences as a medium. Thus, the reading of her book, “Don’t Kiss Them Good-bye,” was so interesting for me.

Dubois described that as a child, her psychic experiences were confusing and somewhat scary. She explained seeing spirits and sensing an overwhelming amount of energy around her. In order to comfort herself, she decorated her room with stuffed animals and focused on the concrete rather than her abstract experience. However, she had voices, or as she called them “guides,” telling her to trust in the fact that she was different from others and would someday make a difference in the world.

When she was only six, Allison had her first true experience with the other side. After the death of her grandfather, he visited her and told her that he was okay. She relayed this information to her mother who feigned belief and turned the other way. Allison knew that her mother didn’t truly believe her and thus chalked up her remarkable experience to an overactive imagination.

However, after a lonely adolescence, Dubois began to harness and believe in her abilities. She interned at the homicide bureau and began using her talents to help families track down perpetrators of crimes (mostly with abducted children). She explains how it is easier to get information about a crime from the perpetrator rather than the victim because perpetrators run on adrenaline and process their crime solely in their minds. The victims on the other hand are processing the crime emotionally and it is harder to decode their confusion. She speaks about how draining it is to work on these cases due to the emotional investment and the flood of information she receives about each specific crime.

Allison’s story is fascinating. When she assists with a crime, she does not ask for a cent. She does not believe that her abilities are infallible and stresses the importance of good police work and DNA evidence. Although some of the information I have come across about mediums makes me doubt the practice, Allison’s work makes me more of a believer. She is so genuine and has only the best interest of the family’s of victims at heart. Dubois does whatever she can for police investigations when she is asked and has helped to solve countless crimes and to get the right people behind bars. I recommend Allison’s book to all skeptics because what she does is truly amazing.