Meditation Can Better The Brain. Are We Morally Obligated To Meditate



Studies have shown that meditation can change your neural circuitry in ways that make you more compassionate.Getty Images

A growing body of neuroscience research shows that meditation can make us better to each other.Finding the best ways to do good.Eight weeks ago, I started meditating every day. I knew I’d be going home to visit my family at the end of December, and well, I have a bad habit of regressing into a 13-year-old whenever I’m around them.

All my old immaturities and anxieties get activated. I become a more reactive, less compassionate version of myself. But this holiday season, I was determined to avoid fighting with my family. I would be kind and even-tempered throughout the visit. I knew that in order to have a chance in hell of achieving this, I’d need a secret weapon.

That’s where the meditation came in. Starting in 2005, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar began to publish some mind-blowing findings: Meditation can literally change the structure of your brain, thickening key areas of the cortex that help you control your attention and emotions. Your brain — and possibly, by extension, your behavior — can reap the benefits if you practice meditation for half an hour a day over eight weeks.

Just eight weeks? I thought when I read the research. This seems too good to be true! I was intrigued, if skeptical. Above all, I was curious to know more. And I wasn’t the only one. By 2014, there had been enough follow-up studies to warrant a meta-analysis, which showed that meditators’ brains tend to be enlarged in a bunch of regions, including the insula (involved in emotional self-awareness), parts of the cingulate cortex and orbitofrontal cortex (involved in self-regulation), and parts of the prefrontal cortex (involved in attention).

A host of other studies showed that meditation can also change your neural circuitry in ways that make you more compassionate, as well as more inclined to have positive feelings toward a victim of suffering and to see things from their perspective.

Further research suggested that meditation can change not only your internal emotional states but also your actual behavior. One study found that people made charitable donations at a higher rate after being trained in meditation for just two weeks. Another study found that people who get that same measly amount of meditation training are about three times more likely than non-meditators to give up their chair when they see someone on crutches and in pain.

Still skeptical, I fell down an internet rabbit hole and soon found many more neuroscientific studies. Looking closely at them, I did find that a fair number are methodologically flawed (more on that below). But there were many others that seemed sound. Taken together, the literature on meditation suggested that the practice can help us get better at relating to one another. It confronted me with evidence that a few weeks of meditation can improve me as a person.

I say “confronted” because the evidence really did feel like a challenge, even a dare. If it takes such a small amount of time and effort to get better at regulating my emotions, paying attention to other people, seeing things from their point of view, and acting altruistically, then … well … am I not morally obligated to do it?

The science behind mindfulness meditation and how we pay attention to others

The word “meditation” actually refers to many different practices. In the West, the most well-known set of practices is “mindfulness meditation.” When people talk about that, they’re typically thinking of a practice for training our attention.

Here’s how Jon Kabat-Zinn, a scientist who helped popularize mindfulness in the West, defines it: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

And here’s what mindfulness meditation practice often involves: You sit down, close your eyes, and focus on feeling your breath go in and out. When you feel your attention drifting to the thoughts that inevitably arise, you notice, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath.

This combination of attention training and direct observation is the basic practice. Sounds simple, right? But according to some studies, it can have profound effects on your brain.

In a 2012 study, people who were new to meditation underwent eight weeks of mindful attention training, practicing for around four hours each week. Before the training, they got fMRIs, scans that show where brain activity is occurring.

While they were in the MRI scanner, they viewed a series of pictures, some of which were upsetting (like a photo of a burn victim). After eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, when they viewed the upsetting pictures in the scanner again, they showed reduced activity in a crucial brain region: the amygdala.

The amygdala is our brain’s threat detector. It scans our environment for danger, and when it perceives a threat, it sets off our fight-flight-freeze response, which includes releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It glues our attention to the threat, making it hard for us to focus on anything else…

Read more…..

Source: Meditation can better the brain. Are we morally obligated to meditate? – Vox

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How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

Summary.    Of all the interview questions job applicants prepare for, the most obvious ones sometimes get the least attention. Yes, you came ready to share your biggest flaw, your greatest strength, a moment when you shined, and a concept you learned, but what do you do…

Sometimes the toughest job interview questions are also the simplest and most direct. One you should always expect to hear and definitely prepare for:

“Why do you want to work here?”

Like a similarly problematic interview question — “Tell me about yourself” — “Why do you want to work here?” requires you to focus on a specific answer without any clues, contexts, or prompting from the interviewer. It’s a blank space — but that doesn’t mean you can wing it and fill it with just anything.

How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

Drawing from my 16 years of experience as a communications coach as well as someone who’s sat on both sides of the interview table many times, I recommend three basic approaches:

  1. Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.
  2. Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.
  3. Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.

You can use any combination of these three approaches so long as you keep your answer concise. Here’s how to tackle each approach effectively along with sample answers to use as a guide.

1. Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.

Employers want to know you’re passionate about what they do, whether it takes the shape of a product, a service, a mission, or a brand. You can also connect your passion to the company’s core values, which can often be found on their website. Showing you’re passionate about the position is particularly important if you’re applying for a role at a nonprofit where the mission matches your personal values.

But how do you convey this enthusiasm? CEO consultant Sabina Nawaz offers useful tips in her HBR piece, “How to Show You’re Passionate in an Interview.” As she writes, “When you’re passionate about something, it tends to spill over into other aspects of your life.” Identify those examples in your own life and share them during your interview. Expressing enthusiasm is not about “display[ing] the kind of full-throated, table-thumping behaviors companies tend to equate with passion,” Sabina explains. It’s about conveying “what matters most to you.”

And remember to be clear about why you are passionate, not just that you are passionate. Simon Sinek has schooled us all on the importance of “why,” and it’s no less important in a job interview than it is in a sales call or CEO keynote.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that effectively connect passion to mission.

  • “For most of my adult life, I’ve strongly supported X because I believe that Y…”
  • “X is very important to me in both my professional and personal life because I strongly believe that…”
  • “I’m very passionate about X and would be thrilled to work for an organization that subscribes to the same core values…”

2. Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.

It’s no secret that we work harder, better, and longer when we enjoy the work, and what employer wouldn’t want that dedication from their staff? But it’s your responsibility to make that connection between job and joy clear. That connection can be as simple as “X is something I enjoy,” but expressing how or why you enjoy it makes that point even more valuable and memorable.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that connect job to joy.

  • “I always enjoy helping other people learn — from my tutoring work in school to the training experiences I had at my last job — which is why I feel so fulfilled working in L&D.”
  • “I’ve always loved to write and edit — from my days at the college newspaper to the web content I worked on as an intern — so I’m excited to see that writing is a big part of this job.”
  • “Analyzing data has always been fun for me — the challenge of using numbers to tell a story and convey an idea — and I look forward to the data visualization work we’ll be doing on this team.”

3. Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.

While the interviewer is hiring you for who you are and what you can do now, they’re also interested in what you can achieve in the future. After all, they’re not just hiring you; they’re investing in you.

Express confidence about your ability to succeed and grow in the role. Use phrases like “Given my experience in X, I can see myself succeeding…,” “I look forward to using my skills to…,” and “I think I will contribute by….” The key is to describe how your previous experience has prepared you to hit the ground running.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that paint a peek at what may be.

  • “I can see myself succeeding in this position because I’ve done similar work in the past and know what it takes to engage these particular consumers.”
  • “I’ve found I work best in a collaborative environment, so I look forward to working with several departments to align on and achieve our goals.”
  • “After learning more about this job, I’m sure I can help you find ways to manage projects more efficiently and effectively.”

Combining the Three Approaches: Sample Answer 

Here’s a sample answer using a hypothetical marketing position for a health care company where writing, creativity, and collaboration are key priorities:

I want to work here because, with physicians in my family, I’m passionate about helping people address their health challenges and make smart decisions about their bodies and their lives. I also love copywriting and diving into editorial strategy — especially in social media — and enjoy brainstorming with colleagues to come up with the best creative ideas. When I think about the needs of this role and the integrity of the corporate mission, I feel incredibly inspired and can see myself contributing in a big way.

Key Tip: Be Specific

As you develop your answer, understand that the more specific you are, the more powerfully your answer will resonate. Conversely, the vaguer you are, the more generic — or even canned — the response will seem.

In the example above, the writer alludes to health care professionals in their family, focuses on copywriting and editorial strategy — not just writing — and mentions brainstorming, a more specific form of collaboration. These are all examples of specificity that make the answer seem more personal and unique.

What Not to Say

It’s obvious how you shouldn’t answer the “Why do you want this job” question, but it bears repeating. Don’t say you want the job because:

  • You like the salary
  • You like the perks or benefits
  • You like the title
  • You want to work remotely or in a particular location
  • You couldn’t get another job you really wanted

Before your next interview, practice your response to “Why do you want to work here?” out loud, not just in your head. And keep in mind that the best answer is less about why you want them and more about why they should want you. If you convey passion, enthusiasm, and optimism with specificity, you’ll connect to the interviewer’s wish list in a way that will leave them thinking, “This is why we want you to work here.”

By: Joel Schwartzberg

Source: How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

Related contents:

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How Empathic People Can Set Effective, Loving Boundaries

You’re a highly empathic person. You fully and intently listen to others. You tend to focus on others’ emotions, often feeling them more so than your own. In fact, it’s like you feel someone else’s pain deep inside your bones. It’s that visceral.

And you frequently find yourself utterly exhausted because tending to others comes more naturally to you than tending to yourself, according to Joy Malek, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with people who are intuitive, empathic, creative and highly sensitive.

And this struggle includes setting boundaries. Your discomfort with boundary setting may stem from these three reasons, Malek said: You don’t know your needs in the first place—and only realize that a boundary was necessary after the fact. You fear that the validation you receive for being so caring and nurturing will disappear, and when you say no, others will no longer see your value. And many of the suggestions on boundary setting stress assertiveness, which to you might actually feel aggressive.

So you have a tough time ending conversations when you’re tired, or declining requests when you’re completely drained and desperately need downtime. So you remain silent when you’re uncomfortable, or don’t ask for help when you’re hurting, too.

When you do try to set boundaries, you might find yourself over-apologizing, and minimizing your concerns so you can again focus on the other person’s feelings, Malek said.Ultimately, you conclude that you’re just “bad at boundaries.” In reality, however, “you haven’t found a style that feels organic to your nature.”

Here, Malek shared invaluable insight for setting boundaries that protect your needs and boundaries you feel good about.

Identify your own needs. “Empathic people can especially benefit from boundaries that put limits around the amount of time and energy we give to others,” Malek said. “Without these limits, we often find that our needs are met last, or not at all.”

Take the time to think about your needs. How much space and solitude do you need to feel your best? What genuinely refreshes and recharges you? What tends to drain you? What people tend to drain you? When do you feel your best? When do you feel your worst?

Start creating boundaries around your responses, and check in with yourself regularly. Because our needs change and evolve. You might check in with yourself every hour or so for only a few minutes. Then you might do a more thoughtful check-in every evening, and journal about your thoughts and feelings for 15 minutes.

Pause before saying yes. When someone asks you to do something, you might blurt out, “yes, of course!” without even thinking about it. Your automatic response is to help—and you might feel awkward saying anything other than yes. Plus, sometimes the other person creates a sense of urgency that doesn’t exactly exist (or we somehow feel one).

However, Malek suggested simply pausing before committing. You can always say, “I’m not sure. I need some time to think about that,” or “I need to check my schedule, but I’ll definitely let you know tomorrow.” “In that pause, we can ask ourselves how we actually feel, and whether we have the time, energy and desire to accept the request.” Which means that it’s totally OK if you have the time and energy but simply don’t want to. Your wants count, too.

Shift your perspective. When you want or need to say no, think about how you’d like someone to decline your request, Malek said. For instance, this might include expressing empathy for the other person, and explaining that you’re unable to meet their request, she said. What does this actually look like?

For instance, Malek shared these examples of kind, empathic personal boundaries:

  • “I know you’re hurting and I really want to be there for you, but the truth is that I’m struggling right now, too. I’m looking forward to supporting you once I’m back on my own feet, emotionally.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and part of me doesn’t want it to end! I’m noticing, though, that I’m getting really tired, so I’m going to head home.”

Malek also shared these examples of professional boundaries:

  • “I’d really like to take that project on, but I know I’d be compromising the quality of the projects that are already on my plate. It’s my priority to do a great job with what you’ve entrusted to me.”
  • “I’m in the office during business hours Monday through Friday, and I return calls, texts and emails during those times. If you reach out in the evening or on a weekend, I’ll look forward to following up with you during the next business day.”

See reactions as valuable signs. Pay attention to how others react to your boundaries. Do they push against them? Do they have a hard time taking no for an answer? Do they make you feel guilty or bad about yourself in some other way? Do they take you seriously or think your boundaries are unreasonable or don’t apply to them?

All of this is helpful information about the quality of that relationship, Malek said. Of course, it really hurts when the people we love and care for don’t have the same consideration for us.

However, “It makes sense to invest more in relationships where our boundaries and needs are respected than in those where they are not.”

When you’re a highly empathic person, setting boundaries can feel impossible. But it can absolutely be done. The key is to find a style that works for you, and to keep practicing. Boundaries can be kind and loving—and remember, as Malek said, your needs are legitimate, too.

Also, don’t wait until you’re completely exhausted and overwhelmed to care for yourself and to protect your energy. Start setting boundaries that are respectful of yourself and your natural tendencies right now.

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IRS Temporarily Halts These 10 Scary Taxpayer Letters

Internal Revenue Service computers keep spitting out perplexing letters and notices to taxpayers, and today the agency announced that it’s going to stop the machines, at least temporarily, in an effort to help taxpayers and tax pros. The 2022 tax season kicked off on January 24 for filing 2021 tax year returns, but millions of taxpayers are still waiting for the IRS to process last year’s returns.

Example: You filed your 2020 tax return last April. The IRS cashed your check. Why are you getting an alarming CP-80 Unfiled Tax Return notice that says: “We haven’t received your tax return. What must you do immediately? If you’re required to file, please file today. If you’ve already filed, please send a newly-signed copy.”

Savvy tax pros know that the IRS is woefully backlogged, and the best response is to wait it out. A California tax preparer who filed on paper with a check attached last April emailed me that he got a CP-80 notice last month. The IRS cashed the check, but hasn’t gotten to his return—10 months later.

His plan: “IRS thinks I have overpaid; I can wait 6 months to see if they catch up on paper.” In the meantime, the IRS has updated its web site, Understanding Your CP80 Notice, to tell folks who are getting CP-80 Notices who have already filed their 2020 returns: “DO NOT refile.”

That’s all the IRS needs—more paper! As of the February 7 update to the IRS Operations page, the IRS has made some progress on whittling down the number of amended tax returns for tax year 2020 in processing (2.3 million as of January 8), but it hadn’t updated the number of outstanding individual returns for 2020 (6 million as of December 31).

“The IRS is opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual refund returns received prior (emphasis added) to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review.”

That backlog is causing problems down the line. Hence, the decision — after outcry from tax professionals and members of Congress — to stop sending some taxpayer notices and letters for now.

The IRS announcement notes that these automatic notices have been temporarily stopped until the backlog is worked through, and that the agency will continue to assess the inventory of prior year returns to determine the appropriate time to resume the notices. Some taxpayers might still get these notices and letters in the next few weeks. “Generally, there is no need to call or respond.” But watch out: If you believe a notice is accurate and you have a balance due, the IRS says that interest and penalties can continue to accrue.

Here’s the rundown of suspended notices and letters:

CP-80 Unfiled Tax Return(s) 1st Notice: This notice is generally sent when the IRS credited payments and/or other credits to a taxpayer’s account for the tax period shown on the notice, but the IRS hasn’t received a tax return for that tax period.

CP-59 and CP 758 (Spanish version): The IRS sends this notice when there is no record of a prior year return being filed.

CP-516 and CP-616 (Spanish) Unfiled Tax Return(s) – 2nd Notice: This notice is a request for information on a delinquent return as there is no record of a return filed.

CP518 and CP618 (Spanish) Final Notice -Return Delinquency: This is a final reminder notice that the IRS still has no record of a prior year tax return(s)

CP-501 Balance Due — 1st Notice: This notice is a reminder that there is an outstanding balance on a taxpayer’s accounts.

CP-503 Balance Due — 2nd Notice: This notice is the second reminder that a there is an outstanding balance on a taxpayer’s accounts.

CP-504 Final Balance Due Notice/3rd Notice/Intent to Levy: The IRS sends this notice when a payment has not been received for an unpaid balance. This notice is a Notice of Intent to Levy (Internal Revenue Code Section 6331 (d)).

2802C Withholding Compliance Letter: This letter is mailed to taxpayers who have been identified as having under-withholding of Federal tax from their wages. This letter provides instructions to the taxpayer on how to properly correct their tax withholding.

Two business notices are also being temporarily paused.

CP259 and CP959 (Spanish) Return Delinquency: IRS sends this notice when there is no record of a prior year return being filed.

CP518 and CP618 (Spanish) Final Notice -Return Delinquency: This is a final reminder notice that the IRS still has no record of a prior year tax return(s)

A coalition of taxpayer professionals, the Tax Professionals United for Taxpayer Relief Coalition, including the AICPA and H&R Block, is calling for more. They’ve asked the IRS to pause all automated compliance actions and provide relief from underpayment and late payment penalties. Stay tuned.

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I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997. Follow me on Twitter: @ashleaebeling and contact me by email: ashleaebeling — at — gmail — dot — com

Source: IRS Temporarily Halts These 10 Scary Taxpayer Letters

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