The Miami Book Fair will be presenting Daniel Goleman, The New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Intelligence at Wolfson Campus on October 16. His work has been widely hailed by many, including the Harvard Business Review who chose his article “What Makes a Leader” as one of ten “must-read” articles from its pages. Emotional Intelligence was named one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Books” by TIME Magazine. A psychologist by training, Goleman has also worked for the New York Times for many years, reporting on the brain and behavioral sciences. He has twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Scott Rogers, director of the University of Miami Mindfulness Institute, will moderate the conversation with Goleman as he presents findings from the research he and co-author Richard Davison undertook for the new book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.
As part of it’s In Conversation series, MDC News caught up with Goleman at his home.
GR: You make the point that there are around 60,000 peer-reviewed articles about meditation in the scientific literature of our day. For the new book, you researched and reviewed about 60 of them.
DG: Yes, we applied very rigorous standards and included 60, that’s 1% of those in our review. We compiled the list of demonstrable benefits into six groups:
- Attention improvements
- Stress management
- Less self-preoccupation
- Meditation and psychotherapy
- Helpfulness for people with chronic illness
GR: How does it help with illness?
DG: Meditation doesn’t cure disease so far as we know, but it does make the quality of life much better. It seems to shift your relationship with the illness itself, especially with things such as arthritis where you have chronic pain.
GR: It has been said that a little meditation can go a long way, but in your book, you seem to say that more meditation takes you even further. Is that right?
DG: Yes, the payoffs begin right at the start but they tend to be short-lived if you don’t keep at it. There’s a dose/response relationship as there is with medicine or physical fitness, the more you do the better the results.
GR: What sort of benefits are gained from meditation?
DG: There is a wide range of benefits in terms of how meditation transforms your mind, body and brain. The benefits include things like sharper attention and being better able to handle multiple tasks. It also seems to help with learning — college students who began a simple mindfulness meditation routine got an average of 16 points better score on their GREs. It’s a practice. As certain circuitry gets stronger, the benefits get stronger and more of them show up in your life, so with practice, there are even wider benefits for attention, for being present in the moment, for compassion and for handling stress — that’s a big one.
GR: What would you say to people who say they don’t have time to meditate or ask if meditation is even worth the time?
DG: First I would say, look at how much time you spend on social media or other distracting activities. There’s no reason not to start now. Meditation is a mental workout, it’s like mental fitness. Just as you make time to go the gym and do whatever routine you do to get your body in shape, this is a mental routine that puts your mind in shape.
GR: What are some of the obstacles for people who are new to meditation?
DG: Once they get past the time issue, then people start to say it’s too hard because their mind keeps wandering. But that’s actually a good thing, I tell them, because you are finally noticing what your mind is actually doing instead of just going along with whatever it wants to do.
GR: We’ve been experiencing a lot of natural disasters alongside the man-made ones such as hate. What do you want to tell people about dealing with all that?
DG: Whether it’s hate, hurricanes or earthquakes, it’s the same: understand your own reaction and manage it so that you’re not just being emotionally reactive, but calm and clear. Then, the other thing that is specific to hate, is to not hate back. Be calm and clear and then find a way to be kind.
GR: What’s the first step in understanding your reaction?
DG: Self-awareness — noticing what is going on inside you. Mindfulness meditation is a method for understanding in the moment your thoughts, your feelings and your impulses. Gaining that understanding gives you the chance to extend the gap between impulse and action. Cultivating that gap is one definition of maturity. The bigger that gap is the better, because then when you react you can do so from the most effective place.
GR: These days, people are constantly engaged with their hand-held devices, squinting, talking, walking around without looking where they’re going. Too much?
DG: We’re living in a time when people are more distracted than ever. That’s another argument for people learning to manage their attention with meditation, because much of what we do on our devices is just mind wandering, because it’s what’s promoted there, those devices are made to be seductive. I heard one of the members of the team that designed the first iPhone say that they were in their 20s at the time and they designed it to be as seductive as possible. Now that he’s a father, he’s regretting it.
Children are growing up with these things in their hands from toddlerhood on, they’re spending less face time with their families and more with their devices, but the brain is designed to learn social and emotional skills — how to be a good human being — from the people around you. And I worry. I see this as an argument for social-emotional learning, for teaching kids these skills in a developmentally appropriate way, because I’m not sure they’re getting it in the way other generations have.
GR: Your focus is on mindfulness meditation but there are many types of meditation out there. How do I find the best one for me?
DG: The best kind of meditation for you or anyone is the kind you’ll do every day.
ARE YOU GOING?
Daniel Goleman’s talk is free and open to the public. RSVP required.
October 16, 2017
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Auditorium, Building 1, 2nd Floor, Room 1261
300 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33132
The evening is co-presented by Books & Books and begins with a meditation led by Innergy Meditation, co-sponsors of the event.