Dr. Amishi Jha, the acclaimed author of Peak Mind, and a professor of psychology at the University of Miami, joins the show to discuss the importance of teaching our brains to be focused, aware, and attentive. The big question being asked: what can we do to strengthen the brain’s function? This is an area that Amishi has been studying ever since she received her PhD from the University of California-Davis and received her postdoctoral training at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University in functional neuro-imaging.
On average, a person is paying attention 50% of the time. The number 50% is a consistent statistic across many studies. The human brain is built to be distracted, AND we live in a society filled with distractions. Attention is a precious commodity these days.
Learning to be a peak performer
But there are exceptions among us. Peak performers have taught themselves to remain attentive, stay in the moment, and be aware. Take for example professional tennis players. During a match, the announcers might commentate that the player is “in the zone.” Rather than be distracted by the crowd’s cheers, people wandering to their seats, or their opponent’s loud grunting noises, they are able to brush off these distractions and focus on each and every point. Despite incredible mastery and physical fitness, at the peak levels of athletics, winners are often decided based on these core abilities.
If you want to perform under pressure, when it counts, you need practice. Think about first responders who are called to the scene of a burning vehicle with someone inside or underneath. Experience and training allow them to focus their attention directly on the task at hand. In this case, lifting the vehicle off of the victim under chaotic circumstances like ambulance sirens, crowds gathering, or people crying.
The third example: game show contestants. The combination of answering questions both quickly and accurately is honed through realistic training. Memory and a wide breadth of knowledge are critical, but are often neutralized by external sounds, distractions and the pressure of the actual competition. Many past winner have referenced their own techniques for creating realistic circumstances to train in. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Why is it important to pay attention? Attention fuels success. It is the gas tank of your mind. Having a peak mind, says Amishi, provides you with the capacity to cultivate all of itself, to use that fuel wisely, stave off distractions, and have a sense of fulfillment. Think of those tennis players, first responders, and game show winners.
What can you do?
Are you willing to train and spend time practicing these skills? I’ve heard from thousands of listeners who want to. They want to live a richer life. As Amishi said to me: Go to the mind gym. But once you are there, you have to do the actual workout and train. For 12 minutes a day, focus, notice, and re-direct your attention. Think of it as a flashlight that you direct. Soon enough, your mind will wander away. But once you notice it, simply re-direct it back and keep repeating it.
All of us want to train our attention with mindful awareness and maximize our human potential. It’s no secret that anyone can do this. It’s available to all of us. The question is: can you squeeze 12 minutes into your day to become a peak performer?
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Listen to the Podcast
Chase Jarvis: Hey everybody, what's up. It's Chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis Live Show here on CreativeLive. This is the show where I sit down with the world's top experts and unpack their brain with the goal of helping you live your dreams in career, hobby, and in life. My guest today is the one and only Dr. Amishi Jha. Dr. Amishi Jha is a neuroscientist who focuses on meditation, mindfulness, and awareness. Now, if you know anything about the show or me personally, huge fan of this field of thought and I would remind everyone that of the hundreds of guests that I've had on this show, the most common trait of high performers is that they have some sort of an awareness meditation or a mindfulness practice, even if it's short. And in this episode, Dr. Amishi, she's got a new book called Peak Mind, and she has reduced the scientific compression of this down to you can do this.
If you can find 12 minutes in a day, your life will be remarkably, demonstrably, scientifically better. Also, if you want to do things like tap into peak performance, meditation awareness of some sort is required. If you want to combat monkey mind, just your mind racing and not necessarily helping you, this book will help. Dr. Amishi's episode will help. If you want to develop a mental armor against things like anxiety, destruction, and bias, then this episode is for you. I'm going to get out of the way and let you enjoy the brilliant thinking and insight dr. Amishi Jha from the University of Miami where she's the professor of psychology. Enjoy the show.
Chase Jarvis: Dr. Amishi Jha, welcome to the a show. Thanks so much for being here.
Dr. Amishi Jha: It's great to be here with you.
Chase Jarvis: All right. This has well, first of all, congratulations on your book Peak Mind, Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day. We're going to get to that. We're going to spend some time focusing specifically on the book, but I want to zoom way out and first declare personally that this is, I have been super fired up since we got you scheduled for the show, because this area of meditation, mindfulness attention is a personal passion of mine. I'm going to put all my stuff on the table here for a second. My wife is a meditation, mindfulness attention teacher, and I have been a part of her journey. I've had my own journey and I find it to be one of the most powerful and transformative things in my life. So qualifier is abound, if I'm a little bit too intense or excited on this show, it's because I'm very excited to have you here. And you, I know, approached this from a neuroscientists perspective rather than from a clinician. And so we'll keep that in mind as we talk, but for those who are unfamiliar with your work, I'm hoping you can pretend that no one who's listening knows you. And just give a little bit of an intro who you are a little bit of background, and then I will dive in.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Awesome. So thanks for the well wishes on the book and I've heard your show and you're always intense. So that's what makes it fun. It's great to be here. And yes. So you've already mentioned my name. I'm Amishi Jha. I'm a professor at the University of Miami and I am a what's called cognitive neuroscientist, which means that my broadest interest is in how cognitive functions in particular attention is instantiated within the brain. How is it take shape, what brain circuits, networks processes allow it to happen. So we use any of you want to come visit us at the lab we use functional MRI, we use brainwave recordings and then simple tasks that people can do, sort of like video games to test out and understand how attention works, but probably over the last 15 years or so my interest started broadening beyond just understanding how attention works to wanting to know more about what happens that makes it fail because unfortunately many of us are experiencing that sort of crisis experience.
And a lot of that came from frankly, my personal crisis where I became in this sort of paradox where I study this topic of attention yet I somehow can't hold my own. This was at a time in my life when my was my first child, very, very, he was very young, not even three years old. My husband was in grad school. We bought an old fixer upper in Philly, and I just started a faculty position, my very first lab. And it was sort of the culmination of all these great things, but all at once stressed me out and I could not keep my focus on anything. Yet here I was studying it in my lab. So my research expanded to include a little bit more about not just the power of attention in terms of its capacity to transform the way the brain functions, but it's vulnerabilities.
And what we found is that there are many vulnerabilities of attention, things that will happen to us in our life experience, sort of the moment that I was describing a moment ago, that's going to make it hard to function. And so now I was in a position where we understand on how it works. We understand when it doesn't work so well, what can we do to train it, to work better. And that notion of anything about our life, our brain functions being trainable just comes from my orientation as a brain scientist. It's like, we know there is this thing called neuroplasticity. We know that repeatedly engaging in certain kinds of mental behaviors will change the way the brain functions. The big question mark was what, what can we actually have people do that'll reliably strengthen the brain. And that's where connecting back to your topic of passion and mind to meditation and mindfulness meditation in particular ended up being an unlikely answer to the question of how to protect and strengthen attention. So that's the broadest level answer. We just study all kinds of groups in my lab who need to benefit and frankly, that ends up being essentially all of us.
Chase Jarvis: I was going to say, that's one of my favorite things about it is I haven't met a person yet who doesn't benefit and which makes me, if I can interject now just for a moment, I watched a video of you recapping a moment where I think were on stage with Jack Kornfield legend in the field. And you're saying something about I needed to do this work. And someone brought up the concept of meditation. I think as I'm recalling the story perhaps poorly, and you said, we here at Penn, we are, this is an Ivy league institution. And we do not use words like meditation and other fluffy, such things in neuroscience. And yet as I understand it, and maybe you can recount the actual story and, or your personal experience, which would be better. And so you put it into practice and if I'm not mistaken, you had trouble denying the results based on your empirical experience.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Wow. You've done your homework.
Chase Jarvis: I have.
Dr. Amishi Jha: That's absolutely right.
Chase Jarvis: I care a lot.
Dr. Amishi Jha: That thought of we don't use those kind of words here was a private thought. I didn't say that part out loud, but I certainly thought it. What ended up happening, yeah, just to get a little more detail on that. It was actually the same moment I was just describing to you feeling like a crisis point in my own life. And in any of the professional circumstances I was in, I was always curious, how do other people deal with attention slipping away and all the consequences of that, where your mood feels bad, you feel kind of out of touch. You feel like you can't quite get the right control over life in a way where you feel things are actionable and that you can hold your goals in mind and achieve them.
So I was always looking for that anyway. I was at this symposium by a dear colleague, actually a seminole figure in the field as what's called an affective neuroscientist. So he is interested in how emotions are taking shape in the brain, Richard Davidson. And he, that point early 2000s had not really come out regarding, come out sounds a little more dramatic than it is, but had not really started exploring publicly that he is bringing meditation to his own lab. He had done it in the '70s and then took a 30 year break and then was starting it out again doing some very, very exciting stuff that now many of us have heard about, putting monks in the scanner and seeing the impact of long-term meditation. These are Tibetan monastics affiliated with the Dalai Lama's monasteries. And he was starting to find that mindfulness training and other forms of contemplative practice were really transformative in terms of brain function.
I knew nothing of this, but he's in the seminar room and he is finishing up. And he ended with this set of images which I thought were really striking and compelling. And one was of a brain that he had, well sort of a composite brain, a lot of different participants that he and his students had manipulated to be in a very negative mood. Now that sounds like a terrible thing to do for the participants, but it's such a powerful way for us to learn about brain organization and brain function during these potent states of negative mood. So what you do is things like, remember some of the worst memories of your life, place the saddest music you can think of just really having this kind of potent experience and then putting them in the scanner and then seeing the brain networks that were active.
And then he did the same thing on the other side, which was essentially ask people to think of their happiest memories and play really nice music that would uplift their mood. So he had these two static images, one of a negative experiencing brain, one of a positive experiencing brain. And that was sort of the end of his talk, where he is making this point. The brain looks different under these two states. It's real, it's it in your head and it's literally in your brain. And at the end of it, I just raised my hand in the back of the room and this is after many questions had already been asked and I was a little bit sheepish about even wanting to ask, but it was such a powerful moment for me because I'm like, oh my gosh, what I really want to know, and this is what I asked him.
How do you get that brain, the negative one to look like that one, the positive one. And I didn't really know if he would answer, but he did. And he answered in the most sort of succinct and almost flippant way. He's like meditation. I mean, I think he might even take off his mic at that point. And the moment you described was my internal dialogue like what the heck? We don't use that word here. Did you forget temporarily where you are? And it was so almost crazy and offensive to me, it was like, you're talking to a bunch of astrophysicists and you're going to start talking about astrology or something. It's like, no, we don't do that, does not compute. And I, in addition to that actually had my own real biases against meditation practice, which from my, of course I'm for people that are just listening to my voice and can't tell from my name, I'm Indian. Not seeing me you probably couldn't tell, but I'm Indian and grew up in Chicago, but actually spent a lot of the summers in India and my family.
We practiced a lot of Indian practices and culture was that. And my parents both practiced meditation. And I always thought that that was great for them, but I'm like this hard nose, Western train neuroscientist and I'm definitely not interested in that. So I had a real chip on my shoulder about it after Richie said that though, I had to grudgingly say fine, I'll take a look. This guy I really respect is talking about it. And he is doing some very cool stuff. So that person Jack Kornfield that you described me being on stage with, I fortuitously walked into the pen bookstore and bought his book, didn't know anything about it. Didn't know who he was. And then yes, fast forward, 20 years later, I'm on stage with him. And it was a very gratifying moment because he had really helped me initiate that journey.
Chase Jarvis: So meditation it's very clear and I think maybe you can talk for a second because I use these maybe too fluidly, meditation, mindfulness, and attention. Maybe you can help orient the listener, watcher around those terms because I will throw them around. I think I tend to use them reasonably accurately, but it's a little bit of a soup. And especially if this concept may be new to you, so maybe you can walk us through meditation, mindfulness, and attention.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Sure. So let's start with meditation because that's sort of one of the broad categories. When I use that term and maybe you're going to say you do the same, it's a broad category. It's like the word sports. When you say sports to somebody, they get a general idea of what you're talking about, but obviously volleyball is very different than gymnastics. What you need to do to be in an Olympic level I don't know wrestler is very different than what you need to do to be a track and field person. So you get a sense, but it's not specific. And from a brain training perspective, I think of meditation as engaging in specific mental practices to cultivate specific mental qualities. And we think of what those practices are. And we use that term meditation usually when the practices and the qualities are part of some kind of wisdom tradition, eastern, western, whether it's philosophical or religious or spiritual, it has that sort of kind of quality to it.
And just like different sports can involve different kinds of training, different forms of meditation will involve different practices and cultivate different qualities. So for example, let's, before we dive into mindfulness, transcendental meditation, even the term gives it away. It's achieving transcendent states beyond just thinking of yourself as a lone individual, you may engage in practices that promote that or compassion meditation really cultivating the quality of caring for the suffering of others and acting on behalf of alleviating that suffering. So these are specific things you do. And we're not talking about what the practices are, but they're different. And then they produce these qualities. For mindfulness, it is a form of meditation, but it's also an intrinsic mental capacity we have, but let's just talk about mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation would be engaging in practices that cultivate this present centered non-elaborative orientation. So that's a lot of words.
Chase Jarvis: Those are big words too.
Dr. Amishi Jha: So basically cultivating the qualities of being in the here and the now without a story about it, without reacting to it and with the capacity to get the raw data of what's transpiring without laying a story on top of it.
Chase Jarvis: No judgment, is that fair? Is that-
Dr. Amishi Jha: That's right, non-judgmental is another way that people put it. It's really about not having the director's cut of your life experience. You're not sitting on the side and what's really happening in this moment is, I mean she's Chase is looking at her and wondering what she's going to say next is just, there's a face on the screen and this face's eyes are directed toward me and very different experience. So anyway, mindfulness, I would describe as a mental mode. So like I said, intrinsic capacity, we all have it. A mental mode of paying attention to our present moment experience without this judgmental, editorializing and emotionally reacting to it and with an awareness of what is happening in the moment. So just to connect the dots, the meditation practices allow us to on demand have more moments of mindfulness present in our lives. And I already use the term attention so we can unpack attention too. But I think just mindfulness and meditation are really good terms to parse that they're not the same thing, but obviously they're interrelated.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. So I'm playing dummy here. I think I have a perspective, but let's just keep pulling on this thread for any newbie or if there's a skeptic amongst us here listening or watching. So great, we can focus our attention, but I pay attention all the time. I have to drive and if I didn't pay attention, I would crash into something or if I have to write an email to a colleague or if I'm in the weight room training, I'm paying attention. So what's the big deal. I have the experience of paying attention, but why would I bother to train it since I already have experiences doing it?
Dr. Amishi Jha: Good job playing the skeptic. So let's talk about what attention is, because then we'll talk about whether it's actually true that you're paying attention as much as you think you are. And I'll just start with a real piece of data. And it's not just one singular study. It's study upon study. It's now meta-analysis of multiple studies, which is the number 50%. And 50% is the amount of time during our waking hours where our attention is actually in the task at hand. So just think about that. So we're going to have a, let's say we have a 40 minute conversation. You're going to be gone for 20 of it and you're not going to leave. I mean I'll still see you, you'll be standing there. I won't be able to tell. And it won't be 20 minutes in one continuous context, it'll be micro excursions that you're going to take away from the sound of my voice, comprehending what I'm saying, taking in the richness of the interaction and you'll be somewhere else.
So then the question is that's a pretty striking number. I mean that in and of itself suggests we question when we feel like we're paying attention, maybe we're not. And the way we know this number is that we've done studies now many, many, but I'll just describe a couple of versions of these studies people volunteer, they sign up, yes, I'll be in your study and you basically ask them to agree to be texted any time of normal waking hours and asked a couple of questions via text and then they answer. So the first question would be something like, what are you doing right now? Just whenever you get the text, what are you doing right now? Oh, I'm in an interview right now or I'm talking to somebody right now or I'm reading a book, whatever it is you just, you even had like little categories in some of these studies where you just click on what you're doing.
And it was literally all human activity. So the categories were rich. And then the second question was, where's your attention right now? And essentially that was, is it in the thing you just told me you're doing or somewhere else. And only about 50% of the time where people say yes, it's in the thing I'm doing. So that's kind of striking, but you're like, okay, look, it's just everyday life. You're not trying to always pay attention. So then you talk about studies where you bring people into the lab and you tell them, this is an attention experiment. And for the next 20 minutes, you're going to be doing an attention task. And then during this task, you stop the experiment every now and then, and you ask them, where's your attention right now? Is it on the task or not? Again, half the time, their attention is not on the task.
So then you can take it a level further. You're like, okay, but there's no motivation to, maybe there's a boring psychology experiment. So then they did versions and this is stuff I haven't done directly in my lab, but some wonderful colleagues have, you pay people. So be aware that your mind will wander. Now don't wander, okay, you're going to do this attention task. I'm going to pay you. And still people will wander away. So this we're learning is not just some strange odd thing that some people have. It is the human brain and this particular moment, it's built for distractability in this way. So the first challenge I'd have to the person who thinks I don't need to pay attention. I already pay attention. Okay, pay attention to whether you're paying attention a little bit more, knowing what I just said. And then we can talk about unpacking what we even mean when we use the term attention.
Chase Jarvis: There's I think I will do a layperson's version of what you just said. How many times have you gotten to where you're going while driving your car and have very little memory of the process that it took to get there? And if you then I think most people, if you drive, you can say that that has happened numerous times. And then you start to apply that same thought or process to lots of other things that you do during the day. And then it starts to become quite obvious that we are sort of moving through our day and to me 50% seems wildly generous for attention paid because we live in a culture that is dramatically seemingly I mean, all of time there have been distractions. You cite monks 400 years ago talking about not being able to focus about getting close enough to God or whatever, and shaming themselves, because that modern world that they were living in 400 years ago was so distracting.
And multiply that times infinity basically here we are in Western culture in 2021. So I'm here to say this, maybe I'm bearing the lead, but we all struggle with attention. And if you are a mindfulness or a meditator and you try and focus on something like deep breath, I will bet you that you cannot focus on 40 breaths in a row before your mind goes somewhere else to the grocery store or to, oh, what you forgot to do. Or maybe I might even wager that you can't get 10 breaths if you are listening right now. So feel free to pause and go do that exercise. And then you can Venmo me. I'm just @chasejarvis@venmo, but the punchline for me is-
Dr. Amishi Jha: [inaudible] is that what you're going to do?
Chase Jarvis: Yes, exactly. You want me a dollar of breath I just ching ching ching, it's just racking up. And we're [inaudible] but underlying all that is, if you can start to be the master of your attention, whether that is at first on your breath in meditation or most, I think vividly brought to life in being attentive to your life, to the moments. Of the hundreds and hundreds of guests that I've had on the show, there is a very strong correlation to all of the peak performers in the world at whatever discipline and their ability to pay attention. There's a famous, we had Malcolm Gladwell on the show, not too long ago. And he talked about LeBron James ability to recall in dramatic detail a three minute stretch during a basketball game. I mean, what every player was doing, where they were on the court, what mood they were all in, whether they're having a good game or a bad game, and this is incredible 360 degree image over a lot of time, over minutes.
And then you people wonder why someone like LeBron James is world class. They have this when you are in the moment and aware, it is whether you use the word transcendent or aware or just it's a very powerful spot. So this is a good time for me to bring in your book, which is called Peak Mind Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day so the question that I'm just laying here before you is, why? Why do it, why care, why train this thing between our ears, this multimillionaire organ? Why train it to pay attention? What's the punchline? 12 minutes a day is a lot, 12 minutes a day for 10 years, imagine to how many minutes that is. It's a lot. Why do it?
Dr. Amishi Jha: I would ask people that think that's a lot of to tell me, honestly, how long they've been scrolling on their phone without actually any agenda. That is a little more than 12 minutes. So let's see if we can cut down some activities and shift over to try something else. But to answer your question, I think it's a really good one. In fact, every as you know, from some of your snooping on me online, you know that the kind of work that I've done has been in these kind of incredibly demanding professions, military service members, first responders, leaders of communities. And it's a bras tax question. Why the heck should we do this? Why should I give you a single minute let alone 12 a day for what you're saying? And what I say most broadly is attention.
And I'm not even exaggerating. What you pay attention to is your life. It is your life and attention fuels everything you do. And to shorthand that attention fuels your success. So you probably want to pay attention to what's going on with the gas tank of your mind and cultivate it in a way that'll advantage you. And that's actually why I like the title that was the title of the book. It's a little bit of a play on this notion of a peak moment. Peak moment is like, I always joke about this, in my head, it's a woman on the mountaintop with her arms outstretched, like did it, and then it's over and then you got to climb back down the mountain. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about a peak mind as essentially exceptional, extraordinary and very, very transient.
I'm talking about a mind that has the capacity to cultivate all of itself, including all of its attention so that it can use that fuel to do everything we want to do and do it while staying off distractability so that we can meet the challenges that life has. And frankly, continue to have a sense of fulfillment. So I'm kind of talking around the notion of what attention is, but I hope that that at least is it makes you curious about why you might want to, I know you're already sold on doing it. You've already outed yourself as a practitioner of meditation, but I think it's a really good question to ask. And it's one that I get asked plainly often, why should I? I mean, yeah, you've done this work, but I don't care. Well, let me ask you something for anybody that's thinking that, I mean, have you met somebody where you thought their decision making is illogical, their emotions are highly reactive, they're disconnected and not able to be empathetic and thought that's a good leader, or I want to be aspire to be that person. Absolutely not.
So how do you go from being somebody or being in a state of having illogical decision making, to having more logical decision making from being reactive, to being regulated, from being unempathetic and disconnected, to really plugged in and able to touch into the heart of those around you. The difference between those two kind of categories of behavior is attention. And we know this, not just from thinking about it, but from study after study, it's the cognitive capacity that when depleted would lead you to being this person you don't want to be, and when available and strengthened the person you probably think is the best version of you. So we want to do that and we want to cultivate it. And the question big question mark as I said, at the outset has been, how do we do that? How do we actually get people to pay attention better? And it actually connects to what we were talking about with that 50% number. So maybe we can talk through connecting the dots there.
Chase Jarvis: Please do, please keep going. You're on a roll. This is why I'm here.
Dr. Amishi Jha: So I think that the first thing to do is maybe unpack what that term is, because we've been using it as a placeholder, but it's actually more than one thing. Attention ends up being, this may be obvious, but it's every mental capacity we have right now is the success story of our evolution. I mean, we didn't end up the way we are with the brains we have by chance, they were selected for and finally honed and anything along the way that didn't have these particular features, didn't make it. So oftentimes what may feel like is a flaw in the way we're designed is often truly a feature. And that's true with the same 50% number we were talking about, this distractability idea is actually a good thing. But even before that backing up even further, why do we have attention? Why do we have a brain that pays attention?
And it starts out with a fundamental problem that organisms that had brains had, which is the brain is actually guiding what the entire organism is doing to survive. And it's limited. It cannot possibly process every single thing or around it and every single thing within it, meaning generated within its own ability to generate whatever it was going to generate. So attention was the solution that allowed for kind of a sub sampling. It's like, okay, I can't get a picture of the whole thing, but what if I just get a little bit and then a little bit more and a little bit more and I'll use that to kind of piece together what's going on. So one of the first capacities of attention that was developed, I would say evolved. And we don't know the order by the way, but one of the capacities that was evolved because we're guessing. Whenever we're talking about brain evolution, frankly, we're guessing, but this makes sense that this may be one of the reasons that happened.
The capacity to what we are calling focus, narrow, restrict so that you can take a small sampling from the environment and use the entirety of your limited brain to fully process it. That's a win. I only have one brain. So I'm going to take little bit and use all of it to process what's going on. And that's actually what happens. So even in the course of this conversation, when I'm focusing on you and your facial expressions, my visual cortex is more active. My face processing areas are active. If you speak comprehension tune to your voice is going to be more prominent. Everything we pay attention to is more prominent in our brain, which goes back to this notion of in some sense it's our life in that moment. And so just to kind of speed this up, because I could go on and on but focus is very, very important.
And the metaphor I like to use for focus is it's like a flashlight. So think of the organism in this darkened space and wherever you direct this brain resource, you get information just like us in a darkened room with a little a flashlight to help us make our way to the door in Miami rainstorms, we get a lot of power outages. We keep our flashlights handy, but that's only one way we pay attention. This narrowing, restricting, I think all of us get that. And usually when you say to somebody, come on, pay attention. It's like direct your computational resources to me, but there are two other main ways that we pay attention that I think are worth talking about. Again, as it relates to that 50% number. The second one is the exact opposite of what I just said whereas we want to constrict and narrow with the flashlight.
This next system, something we call alerting formally. It's a brain system of alerting, broad, receptive, does not want to restrict anything. The only thing that actually privileges is the present moment. What is going on right now? And if you think about that term alert, that's what it means. I'm alert to what's going on right now. So if you want to place yourself in when in your life might you use the system, think of the last time you were driving or walking. And even if you were in that kind of zoned out state where you don't remember anything, if you encountered a flashing yellow light, while you're driving, you probably are going to have that feeling of ah, got to pay attention. Maybe it's a school zone, maybe construction site. I don't know what, but I got to pay attention what's going on right now because action may be required.
That's unusual. And so we know what that kind of feels like that readied state, but not restricted, not narrow, not like the flashlight. So one system's kind of pointing the flashlight, privileging certain content. One is privileging time and the third system just to round it out is privileging our goals. What is it that I want to do in this moment? What is the most important thing to me right now? And can I attend to the things that align with my goals and this we call executive control. Just like an executive of the company, this system's job is to ensure that whatever the goals are and whatever our actions are, are aligned and when there's a mismatch to course correct. So either you have to got to change the goal or you got to change what you're doing. So that might help us understand at least, okay, attention's not one thing it's actually much more than one thing. All three of those systems, by the way, are going to be vulnerable. They're going to be vulnerable to various aspects that will degrade them. So anyway, that's just, I think [crosstalk] now Chase, it's time for you to step in.
Chase Jarvis: No. Well, and if I was to put an exclamation point on your wisdom there, it's if you want to be able to direct your attention effectively towards those things I think what's going to peak the listener here is oh, executive function. Yeah, I want to achieve my goals. Yeah, that's the one. Other time, yeah okay but I want to win at life and win not just be successful, but fulfilled, which is a big part of our show. One without the other would be hell. So the exclamation point is that meditation is developing the muscles that allow you to direct that this is going to the gym. And what I find fascinating and it's, I'm scrolling back here to the intro of your book is if I asked people, if would you like to be stronger and healthier?
I don't know many people that say, no, I don't want to be stronger, I don't want to be healthier. I don't want to be more ability to handle. I want to have a lesser ability to handle what life brings at me. I don't think anyone says that. So by extension then, so do people want to train to be stronger, to be better? Yes. And to some degree, some people engage in that and some people don't. Now let's take that same, it's just like going to the gym. Well, are you willing if you realize that attention is truly all we have to give in this world and our attention, for example, determines our executive focus, which is how we make decisions is how we get things done. Would you want to spend time practicing being able to flex that muscle at will? And when again, I've asked 100 practitioners like yourself, masters, and I've heard from thousands of people, if not more in this community, that of course, this is the meaning, this is what we want. And if we can just agree to this for a moment, we'll park the neuroscience, we'll park the high flutton terminology and whatever people's preconceived notions of meditation, mindfulness and awareness are and say, do you want to be able to live a richer life, to live in the moment and to direct the actions that you take to affect the outcomes that you want in this world?
Everyone, I don't know anyone who says no to that. Therefore, I want to go to the gym and I want everyone who's listening to go to the gym. I want them go to the mind gym. And this is I think a great lens into your book. Your book is a mind gym. So let's assume we've brought our people with us. Everyone's standing around. Okay, Dr. Amishi, I got it. I want to go to the mind gym with you and Chase because this idea of combating addiction, this idea of my attention wondering, not being able to connect with people around me and empathy and all the things you said. You've got a bunch of raw subjects here. We're all focused on you right now. What's the first thing you tell us to do?
Dr. Amishi Jha: Okay. So everybody's bought in. Everybody wants to do this. That's great. And the first thing to know is that just wanting to do it is not going to be enough.
Chase Jarvis: I'm looking at the bold face on your book right here. You can't just decide to do this. That's not how the brain works. I love it here. I know.
Dr. Amishi Jha: It's true. And part of that is because of this 50% it's just going to be the default of the way that you function. So know that it's a win that you're at the gym. You want to do it. You got your right mindset and you're are committed, but it's truly not going to be about thinking about it or reading about it. Reading about it is a great way to get interested in what you do, but you have to actually do the workout. You've got to work it for it to work is another way that you can think about it. But the thing to remember, and I just want to actually talk about one thing you said before we talk about what we say to the people at the gym, because it might seem like, well, I want only the executive control thing.
I want to be better at my goals, maintaining my goals and achieving my goals very important, but what makes us not be a able to do that? Just think about the times when you have not been able to achieve a goal, usually that flashlight is not where you want it to be. It's somewhere else or you're unaware the floodlight is another metaphor I use for the alerting system of what the situation is to know if you need to do something differently. So these systems completely rely on each other. And I think that a really important thing to realize in terms of vulnerability is the flashlight is so powerful because it guides the input for information. We can direct it willfully, but it can get yanked. It can get pulled. And so if you're in a darkened room and you hear a strange sound, you're going to take that flashlight and try to figure out what it is.
Why? Because threatening information, novel information, information that's related to you if you're walking down the street and somebody says, "Chase," You're going to turn, why? You're not even going to think about it. You're just going to turn. All of that has helped advantage our survival. So the system, going back to why we're built to be distractible, we'll always have this sort of agility to move in other directions. The reality is, as you were saying about the medieval monks, you don't need to have external stimulation for threat, stress, and poor mood to have an impact on you. We generate all that content ourselves all the time. In some sense, we're competing. There is a little bit of an inner war going on. I want to be writing this email in a thoughtful way, but I'm thinking about that really disturbing conversation I had that really just kind of left a sting or I'm really worried about something.
And so the flashlight does get yanked around. It gets yanked around in time in some sense. So I just want to connect it back to why we'd even bother with this present centered attention. And it is a big deal. So not only can we get yanked around in time by mental time travel a thought about the past, a worry about the future, but we can actually even get yanked around into other people's minds. So I mean, I really think this is kind of interesting, it's time travel and mind travel. So now when we think about social evaluation, I'm thinking, oh, I'm in your mind. And I'm looking at myself thinking, oh, he's thinking, I didn't give a good enough answer to that question. It could have been better. Now all of a sudden, I'm not speaking with just my mind toward my content.
I'm preoccupied with your evaluation of me. And I did that all on my own, you said nothing. So this is all to say, these are the forces that are really going to derail us. It's the time travel and the mind travel. And that's what I realized in our work. When I was telling you that after we kind of got a basic understanding of how it works, we understood that it's vulnerable. And what is vulnerable to is this notion of stress, threat, poor mood, fundamentally is about hijacking of attention out of the present moment. So the first thing we want to do is train so that we're in the present moment. And literally that's when I was like a light bulb moment when I'm reading Jack Kornfield's book and he's talking about pay attention to the present moment, I was like, oh, genius idea, practice paying attention to the present moment.
So when your flashlight's somewhere else, you're actually reminding yourself to be here now. And the other thing you got to do is notice where the flashlight is, notice where you're at moment by moment or else you won't know where you are to know if you're in the moment and pointing it toward the right things. So both of those features of being able to direct your attention and being able to notice where your mind is. And both of those being privileged toward the present moment is all what mindfulness training is about. So all these people hanging out wanting to understand what they do for the mind gym. That's what we're going to be learning. We're going to learn a series of practices that are going to allow us with a dedicated amount of time working up to about 12 minutes a day, to practice mentally practice, focusing, noticing, and redirecting our attention when it's not where we want it to be. And then once we've cultivated that we can use it and apply it to all the other aspects of our life that will be served better from our ability to do that.
Chase Jarvis: That is such a powerful message. That is a powerful tool. That is a simple message, is the three things, pay attention, be able to redirect our awareness when we realize it's gone somewhere else and bring it back to the present moment. And one of the things that I loved among the book is incredible. I may editorialize for just a minute for those doubters, or if you are aware that meditation, because it's scientifically made a lot of covered a lot of ground in the last, I would even say 30 years, everyone now let's just assume that you're like, okay, cool. I'm at least bought in. One of the things that I loved about your book, Dr. Amishi is that there is a very, it's very practical. Here's what's happening, here's why, here is literally a recipe to do this every day.
And I think it's fair to say that there's lots of kinds of exercises we can do. And by extension, there are lots of different types of meditation. Meditation's about this exercise of focusing your attention. You are reasonably prescriptive in here. There are lots of different things. You can look up meditation, just freaking try it. You have a guide in your book that helps us do that. And so let's, we're still talking to this group of people, we're in the middle of gymnasium. We're all sitting around listening to you. And so walk us through what the practice looks like. You can give us a shortened version, but what's you got a five week training here. You only got about 80%. It's fine. You don't need to do 100% of the things. 100% of the time, it's like, you're dieting. It's you can't have the occasional carb. Okay, and you've missed one a week. It's okay. But by and large, you're going to the gym and you're eating healthy with Dr. Amishi here. So what does your five week program look like?
Dr. Amishi Jha: Yeah. Yeah.
Chase Jarvis: High level.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Say it again.
Chase Jarvis: High level. What does that five week program look like?
Dr. Amishi Jha: So let's just talk about one of the practices. So in the book, I talk about four practices. It's almost like a practice a week that you can kind of get introduced. And then there's one, that's going to be foundational. You're going to do it throughout the entire time. You're going to interleave these new practices you learn with those. And it just a foundational practice. Like I said, I didn't make this up. This has been around for millennia. The only thing we've done is connected the dots with attention and then studied the impact of if and how it affects attention. And then what's the least amount of time we can have people do this and still find beneficial effects. So let me just talk about that foundational practice and there's many different names given to it. You all already mentioned one aspect of it.
Mindfulness of the breath is something people call it. And in the book I call it the find your flashlight practice. And I do that for a specific reason, which I'll get into. So we're all here. We're ready to go. We're going to do our workout, sit down if you want, you can stand up if you'd like, but I suggest pick a kind of a specific time during the day when you're dedicating yourself to doing this, don't do it just in the middle of the most crazy busy time. You can do micro-practices later, but you're going to devote yourself to doing this in the same way you take seriously exercising. So sit down, comfortable posture. And really it's about, this is not about falling asleep, this is not relaxation. This is about waking up and paying attention. So we're going to take this sort of dignified posture.
I would say upright, but not uptight. We don't have to be so stiff and don't be too preoccupied about the posture. You just want to really embody what you are aiming to achieve. And then the very first thing we're going to do so fundamental is we're going to notice that our body is breathing, sitting, and breathing. And of course we've been breathing this entire time. We weren't breathing, we'd have other problems, but we are. And we're just taking stock of that aspect of our experience, breathing. And then we're going to do is actually go in a little bit of a hunt. What is most vivid regarding my breath related sensations? What feels prominent right now. For some people it may be coolness of air around their breath or their chest moving up or down. Pick something that you can say is actually vivid, I can really feel it in the sensory arena and then take that flashlight of your attention.
And for the short amount of time we're going to do this practice that's where you're going to direct the flashlight of attention. And oftentimes it helps to kind of lower or close your eyes because you really are thinking about now, not thinking, experiencing body sensations. So lower, close your eyes while you're sitting, you notice your body breathing, notice what's vivid. And then that's the target for your attention for the short practice. And then the intention the goal is keep my flashlight focused on those breath related sensations. So focus number one, part of the exercise. You're doing this for a while. Soon enough, your mind will wander away, which brings us to the second part of the instruction. Notice when your mind wanders away.
And by the way, I didn't say if you happen to be one of those really broken people whose mind wanders, the rest of us are fine just keeping our flashlight here. I'm not saying that, it's normal, normalize it, 50% of the time. When you notice your mind has wandered away, simply redirect it back. And you might even say gently redirect it back. There's nothing a big hub of about this. So essentially the three steps for our first exercise are focus, notice, and redirect, and the content for all of this is our mind and our body and our breath happening. And then repeat. So focus, notice, redirect, repeat. And if you noticed, we're actually exercising all three systems of attention in that one practice. We're exercising, pointing the flashlight. We're really receptive with the floodlight checking in on where our mind is.
And then that executive control is saying, what's the goal right now? Not thinking about the future, not making your grocery list, not even thinking about a great memory at the last time you meditated. Right now, pay attention to the breath, get that flashlight back. And a lot of times my military colleagues will say, this is the push up. You gave us a push up for the mind. So really like that you already talked about it as a mind gym but I hope that that gives a flavor for the present centeredness. You can't save up the breath for later. It's happening right now. And it's just a handy tool. There's really not anything about breath manipulation or changing the way you're breathing. It's just, it's a handy tool you can use, no props needed. Got it with you all the time. And you can exercise in this way and work up to about 12 minutes a day.
Chase Jarvis: This to me, one of the reasons that I was focused on asking you to do this is I'm speaking to everyone who's listening and watching right now. How simple is that? Now that is when you understand the simplicity of this is the rationale is like, can anyone do this? Yes. Do 100% of the people's minds wonder? Yes. It's not a, if you're super strong, even the best meditators if you've been doing this for 30 years, your mind will wander and your job is to gently bring it back to the breath. Now, there are all kinds of different types of meditation, but at its foundation, those three steps, the attention, noticing, and redirecting as you just walked us through.
It's difficult to understand the profundity. I don't know if that's the right word of that exercise. And if you get super strong doing these pushups and you can do lots and lots of pushups, how that translates into the rest of the world. So there are other exercises in your book that you build on, but that's exercise one. Let me break it to you, everybody. They're all that simple. They're all a simple pushup. And yet, Buddhist monks have been practicing this sometimes for 70 years of their life. And it brings about great potential power, awareness, ability to succeed, ability to regulate, ability to normalize, to connect, to empathize all this happens as a result of these little mental pushups. Now I'm saying this from someone who like I know it all to be fair, I've only been practicing for 10 years, so I am a novice.
And yet I would like to shift the conversation now to let's just assume that we've got everybody we're this, you're in the spotlight, dark circle of people around you in the gym. We've done this exercise together, people are like, okay, cool. I get it. A little bit of a blend of it, it's so simple. And yet it's so profound. So you asked me before we started recording about creativity and you gave an example of judgment of, oh, well, if I'm not in the moment and I think, oh, what's Dr. Jha going to be thinking about that I'm thinking about right now, and am I asking good questions or is this going off the rails? Am I doing a bad job? In that moment this judgment it is so preoccupying that it undermines the attention on the moment. And it's certainly, it's not a stretch to think this or to have this be obvious, is that when we're going to be doing our best at anything, specifically, I'm talking about creativity here, because you asked earlier, but it's obvious that LeBron James is not going to play his best basketball if he's worried about what X thinks or Y or the thing that if his attention is not in the present moments.
You have done a great job of breaking down some of the different aspects of the benefits I would say the stories that we tell ourselves. I like to think that the most important words in the world are the ones we say to ourselves and people who do not have control of their attention, does anyone here have monkey mind where they're saying, oh geez I wonder what they're thinking, does that help or hurt? I think it's terrible. So you go chapter by chapter here, the ability to stay in play, for example, to press record. If you are frustrated right now with life, something's not happening, if you are meditating, you will soon realize that you are in charge of what your experience is.
And most importantly, if you pay attention to your experience and multiply that times lots of experiences, that is your memory. You're literally in control of what you're remembering. So I would like you to talk to us a little bit about some of these specific benefits like the ability to stay in this joyful and playful state where we do our best work and we're our most creative and our ability to create as another example, the memories, the living, the life that we want by focusing on things that matter instead of the terrible things that happened to us. We got in a car wreck, we had an argument with our spouse or our coworker yelled at us. So staying in play and then choosing the memories that we create. How does what you know about these practices benefit? Just those two examples.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Yeah. So great question. I think that the first thing I want to say is I love that you're taking play in that way. That was not actually the way that I meant it, but it's actually related to that point. So really what I was talking about was related to something I said a few minutes ago. The notion of mental time travel that so much when we do this 50% of the time we are in the past or the future. So it's like the rewind button or the fast forward button. And in some sense, even the word play in that joyful spirited ever flowing flow state in some sense requires you to be in literally have the button on play. You're not in rewind and you're not in fast forward. I mean, if you think about the state of mind that you're in, when you're most creative, most generative, it actually is pretty present centered.
Now when you're evaluating creative product, you probably need to be in fast forward and rewind, which is fine. But the creative process is not singular. There's multiple steps so I think that we don't want to miss that generative component. We do need to stay in play. The problem is two things, we can't, we are going to be mind wandering. And two, we're not aware when we're mind wandering. So it might not have even occurred to us that the, especially if you got to be creative on a deadline. And there's so many professions where I see this and I really feel for, and frankly even as an academic, we've got to do that. Come up with a brilliant new experiment idea by the time the grant deadline comes around, it's like, oh, how am I going to do that? Usually what starts happening is the pressure of having to perform is all that you're paying attention to, what happens if I don't get the grant?
What happens if I don't succeed at this? So it's all the what ifs about the future or, well, the last time I had to do this under this time pressure, it didn't go so well, again, rewind. So in that moment, when there's performance pressure, when there's even a desire to be your most creative, you've got to be present centered. And that goes back to the practice we just did in our mind gym. So know that the vulnerabilities that we might have to creativity, especially this generative component, we can do something about it by staying in play. And the other thing is attention is the conduit. It's the gateway to memory. So if you do not pay attention, the chances of you remembering episodes and new information are much, much less. In fact, zero. Now I'm not talking about the kind of memory that's really motoric or procedural we might say like learning how to do something repetitive like practicing scales on a piano or something like that.
When you're initially learning it, you need to pay attention, but then you can execute kind of in an automatic way. I'm talking about learning and remembering things like episodes of your life and knowledge that you gain. So even if we think about students and as a professor, I see this all the time. They're sitting in the classroom, now everybody's got their laptop and they somehow think that if they're like Alexa or Siri and transcribing every word out of my mouth, somehow that's going to translate into them remembering it, not at all. What they need to do is have presence of mind to listen, attend to my words, comprehend them and turn that into some set of notes that'll actually jog that memory of what they understood. So just, I think that most people don't have that understanding. And when people complain, my memory's so poor. I don't remember that at all. Even if it's remembering somebody's name that you just met, were you paying attention when you heard the name, did you actually experience it hitting your eardrums, were you listening, not just hearing, were you observing not just even watching. With those added intentionally infused aspects of our experience, we will create richer memories and that will serve us, especially when we want to remember.
Chase Jarvis: This is sort of, it gets at the core of why I'm such a believer and it really does. It's like, I haven't heard you say anything that I don't want. Do I want richer memories? Do I want to be able to direct, to write the memories that I have into my hard drive such that in a future date, I can recall them as such? Do I want to be more present, connected, empathetic, and it really, it's part of the start that trips me out is it's all available to all of us and it truly is available. The connection that I think is fascinating is can you get this really in 12 minutes a day? Yes, is the answer. There are some traditions that want you to do 20 and maybe more is more beneficial, but in your work, you talk about the minimum effective dose. So for the folks out there who are like, okay, I don't want to be a monk chase. I don't want to live in the Zen monastery. And but I want these benefits so Dr. Jha talk to us about the minimum effective dose, why you ended up at 12 minutes. And if you think that's legit to get maybe the 80, 20 rule, like we get 80% of the benefit or something like that.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Yeah, because we wanted to help people preserve their attention when they were under very stressful circumstances because we started out talking about 50% as the default for mind wandering. We're not in the present moment 50% but if you have a profession that is filled with stress, threat, poor mood, and you're under extremely demanding circumstances for multiple weeks, that number's going to go up, you're going to mind wander even more. So part of my motivation was I wanted something that people that are time pressured and performance pressured, which frankly at this point is all of us, could do reasonably do. And when we started the work, we didn't start with 12 minutes a day. We actually started on the extreme. I was like, after hearing Richard Davidson as I described to you earlier, tell me about some of the results with the monastics.
I'm like, okay, nobody has yet really systematically studied attention and mindfulness. That's what I want to do. Again, back in the early 2000s, where should I start looking? And I'm like, let's go to sort of Olympic level meditation practitioners, people that are going to endure or undergo a month of solid meditation practice, 10 to 12 hours a day at a mountain retreat center. If we're ever going to see a change in attention due to mindfulness practice, we should see it here. And yeah, we did. I was very pleased to say we've seen improvements in various aspects of attention and even a kind of a related system called working memory. And frankly, a lot more research has been done that it improves long term memory as well. So all these things now in those retreat settings people have found, I can't go on a month long retreat.
I can't even go on a week long retreat or even a day long retreat. And even if I could, I don't know if that's what I would choose to do. So there's all these considerations plus there is no way I was going to even entertain the idea of talking to a bunch of Marines, special forces guys, firefighters, medical, and nursing students, and say, just leave your busy life and just go do that thing. So we had to incorporate it into "duty day". We got this time, do the work and it's a bras tax question. What's the least amount of time doc? Just tell me what to do and I'll do it. I didn't have an answer. In fact, the starting point was not the mountain retreat, it was a program that is available across the world now, something called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction developed by my dear colleague and friend Jon Kabat-Zinn.
And he developed it to help people based on sort of these Buddhist principles and practices in a secular manner, not tied to any particular worldview, offering practices in medical settings to help people that were essentially unable to be helped by any other kind of treatment. These were chronic pain patients and he developed this eight week 24 plus hour program. And these patients came in, they did the program. He asked them to practice these same types of practices that I describe in the book, 45 minutes a day. And the patients benefited. In fact, many many patients have benefited from doing this. And in some sense it's part of a goal standard of treatment for a variety of disorders, physical disorders as well as psychological disorders. 45 minutes a day is even a long amount of time. And two and a half hours a week is a lot of time to give.
But that was a great starting point because it was already in the kind of civilian setting. Didn't require people to go anywhere. And then what we did is sort of titrate it down. So we said, okay, maybe don't ask them to do 45 minutes. Let's ask them do 30 minutes. And we did, nobody did 30 minutes. Very few people did. And these were now pre-deployment Marines. So we were catching them at this very, very intense preparatory interval. And I was kind of not that surprised, but disappointed that we couldn't get them to do it. So then I just took a different approach. Let me let the data tell me something. And what the data told me is that people did benefit. And what we did is we told them don't tell me what I want to hear. Tell me how much you actually practiced.
Week by week, day by day, fill out this little form. Only, I'll see it as the researcher, your trainer won't know how much you actually did. It's private. Nobody's going to know about it. And they did. They were very honest. Some put zero, zero, zero some put five here, 20 here, 15 here, even though the recordings we gave them were all 30 minute recordings to help guide them. And then we kind of let the data tell us, okay, for those that benefited, what was the average amount of time daily that they were practicing. And it was about 12 minutes a day that they were doing over eight weeks. To me, that was very interesting, because that meant, okay, that's somehow a doable range. And the second thing we found is that the more they did beyond 12 minutes, the more they benefited. So as you were hinting at, there is this sort of dose response effect.
The more you do, the more you benefit. So just to tell you about one other study after getting this picture painted, okay, there's something about 12 minutes. The next study we did was actually with the University of Miami football team. So again, different kind of community of participants. They definitely want to see actionable, beneficial effects. We didn't even bother asking them to do 30 minutes now, we just said 12 minutes. We're going to give you all these recordings that are 12 minutes long. And we want you to do them every single day for a month. Did they do them every single day? No, they did not. But those that did them for about five days a week, benefited, those that did all seven days benefited more. So we continued to see this dose response effect. The thing that was categorically different was people were willing to do the 12 minutes so that's why that number became interesting. And so I think the two things that are takeaways are, yeah, you don't need to go away to a mountain retreat. You can do this every day, squeeze in 12 minutes, work up to it, to think of it as your daily dozen. And if you do more, you'll benefit more.
Chase Jarvis: Incredible. I find the way you've laid this out in the book to be exceptional. And again, I'll just for folks who are totally now committed Peak Mind Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day, highly recommended. I've been doing this again, I'm still a sophomore, I'm a neophyte 10 years in here, but I've looked at a lot of different I'll call it source code and what you've just the ability to articulate this, how you got to 12 minutes, I think is super valuable. And I'd love to me putting things in packages that people are actually will consume is half of the, if not more of the challenge and you've done an incredible job. Other sources that you find really valuable, do you want to prescribe some specific traditions of meditation that you found in your research were perhaps more easily adopted than others? Let's try and keep the barrier to entry here low and easy. Any advice on that front?
Dr. Amishi Jha: Yeah. I mean, I'd say the main thing is that me, because I wanted to offer this as broadly as possible to a variety of groups and I don't know anything about these people. I know what their profession is usually, but I don't know what their world view is or their particular flavor of religious or spiritual practice. So to me it was important because I'm coming from a brain training perspective that is accessible by anyone. So as you'll see, as you described about the book, every practice has that quality of, these are common things, you got a breath, you got a body, you can do this, but there is something I think that is important to mention. And you described, which I appreciate, there's a simplicity, there's an elegance to some of these practices. Again, I'm not the inventor of these.
I'm a communicator of these and really have reverence for a lot of the millennial worth world wisdom that allows us to even consider them. They're simple. But I think for the practitioner to keep in mind that they aren't always easy and that's a common phrasal here, simple, not easy. So that is an important thing to remember. And in fact, that's why I used the phrase, find your flashlight when I wanted to name that practice. Because oftentimes when you get to the point where you're there, you're focusing on the breath, got it. Here I am on the breath. Look at me, focusing on the breath. Then you have that insight of, oh my gosh, I just said that to myself. That was mind wandering. And that's even a complimentary mind wandering, but that is mind wandering. That's not focusing on the breath. That's thinking about you focusing on the breath.
You can get very frustrated like, oh, this flashlight is just not staying stable. It's just all over the place. And initially that can be very, very frustrating. So to me, I want people to really understand the win, the moment that you should get, like that little dopamine burst in your mind is finding your flashlight. It's not about keeping it steady. It's not about focusing. It's about refocusing and frankly you can't even know to refocus unless you know where you are. So I want people to really experience that part of the practice. You're sitting there, you're focusing on the breath. I wonder what I'm going to have for lunch, mind wandered, when realized I mind wandered, I didn't spend the whole next 10 minutes planning out my menu for the next week. I noticed it and got back. And that's what will happen.
You describe yourself humbly as a sophomore with 10 years of experience. You are nowhere near the same level you were as you started. And my guess is, and you can tell me if this resonates with you, what has probably gotten easier and better is the journeying away isn't as deep or as long. There's a more intimate or kind of familiarity with your own mind that you can kind of tell when you're getting tugged away. And even before you fully mind wander, you may be able to bring it back. Does that resonate with you at all?
Chase Jarvis: That does also, I would add to that. There's a kindness in the understanding that that is a part of it. That is not, I didn't do this right or well, or I'm not good or bad, or there's just an acceptance that goes with this, like, oh cool, here's my job. Bring the attention back. And so it is as you mentioned, it's not so hard and heavy, you start to get familiar in the environment. And there's what I find just a general compassion with one's self, which I think has huge implications across the landscape of the mind and the sort of self kindness. But I'm editorializing now going beyond your question. So yes, I do find what you say to be true.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's also really exciting. And the reason I'm saying this is because oftentimes when I've introduced these practices and I teach a course at the University of Miami for undergrads, and it's really interesting because we're learning the practices and they're also learning the science of all of these studies that are part art of what I describe in the book that are now a field, which is kind of amazing. When I started out, it was such a lonely place, but now there's an entire field called contemplative neuroscience. But what they come to realize, which within a couple of weeks is there's a little bit of dip in their mood because they kind of see the landscape before them. My mind wanders a lot, a lot. And it's not just wandering while I'm practicing, it's wandering all day long.
And some point get to the point where they start even saying things like is the practice making my mind wander more? Because I'm noticing my mind's wandering a lot more. And then we kind of pause and it's really fun when they kind of, guide each other, no, probably it's been happening all along. You just picked up on it and then they start trying to talk through and help each other, what's been the benefit of noticing your mind wandering? Well, if I'm thinking I'm going to play this video game for five minutes and then get back to studying, I realize I'm not doing that. I'm stuck here. Maybe I can do some something to shake myself out of continuing to play and go back to work. Or I'm in a ruminative loop. My mind is wandering to that to wake up in that moment and say, let's see if I can go for a walk, shake this off, or have a conversation with a friend. So they were starting to pick up on the reality that the mind wanders a lot and that changing our relationship to it because now we appreciate that capacity we have. And this tendency we have can actually start transforming things for the better. So we're not chasing happiness, but it ends up that with more practice, we can feel happier and more in control of our lives.
Chase Jarvis: Well, I don't know people who don't want that, that's not who the show's for so they can listen to other podcasts. But I've taken up a little more of your time than I promise. So I want to say thank you, Dr. Amishi Jha, professional psychology at the University of Miami. It's been extraordinary to have you on the show. Thank you for writing Peak Mind. I've recommended it a couple times throughout the show already. Just tripling down here. It's an incredible packaging of information. The simplification 12 minutes is an absolute doable thing for anyone. And if you don't have 12 minutes, I like to think that you're not doing this right. This thing called life. I want to help you find 12 minutes. Thank you so much for the work. I know you've said it many times that you've referenced the work is out there, you're just communicating it. It's a beautiful way of respecting the tradition, but truly your work is additive to the field and I'm very grateful and congratulations on such a beautiful book and a great piece of work.
Dr. Amishi Jha: Thank you so much. It's been a lot of fun talking with you.
Chase Jarvis: Oh, I will send this message out if they haven't heard it enough everybody, it's very powerful. My experience with people across hundreds of guests on the show, some sort of contemplative practice, most popularly mindfulness and or meditation is amongst the common response of all of the high performers. My good pal Tim Ferriss, many of you know, he had the same experience in writing Tools for Titans. That was the number one thing that was cited the most common thread for high and peak performers. Dr. Amishi, thank you for being on the show to all you all out there in the world, enjoy the book and happy to be answering your questions. And I bet if Dr. if you wanted to direct people to somewhere other than your book, let's say they've got the book. Do they have to come track you down at the University of Miami and go to school there? Or how where else can they tap [crosstalk].
Dr. Amishi Jha: I highly recommend the University of Miami, but you don't need to do that. You can just remember my first name, Amishi A-M-I-S-H-I and visit amishi.com
Chase Jarvis: Amishi.com, excellent, thank you so much for being a guest in the show and to everybody out there in the world, I [inaudible]
This transcript was exported on Jan 05, 2022 - view latest version here.
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