Search Within Yourself- The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)

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earch Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan is a very interesting book describing a meditative approach to relating to yourself and to others.  Tan, known as the jolly good fellow of Google, has the ultimate aim of creating the conditions for world peace in his lifetime through sharing the benefits of mindfulness.  A very lofty goal, but I think he will do it! Tan, an engineer, writes with logic using science but also with a great deal of humour.  Following, please find some information from Search Inside Yourself that I found most helpful and interesting.

The “Search Inside Yourself” program, which Tan developed at Google, works in three steps.  First, attention training helps to teach your mind to be calm and clear at the same time- this forms the foundation for emotional intelligence.  Second, your trained attention is used to increase your self-knowledge and self-mastery.  Third, by creating useful mental habits such as wishing for others to be happy, your sincere goodwill is increased and this is picked up by others subconsciously helping to create the trust needed to have good relationships.

Mindfulness is not an escape from life. Instead, it is seen as a gateway into the experience of connecting and living happily with others.  Through the practice of mindfulness, emotional intelligence increases, leading to new ways of being and greater happiness, clarity, wisdom and kindness.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is very important as it is the best predictor of success at work and fulfillment in life.  EI refers to the ability to be aware of your own and others’ feelings and emotions and to use this information to guide your thinking and action. It includes self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. The great news is that EI is not a talent you are born with- it is a learned quality. By improving your EI, you are able to develop the skills needed for your own long term happiness.

Many of us live by the belief “if nothing good happens”, we feel unhappy.  Through training, it is simple to change this belief to “if nothing bad happens”, we can feel happy.

A major goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to pause before you act.   By pausing, you have a choice to decide how you want to react in an emotional situation.  In that pause, you have the power to choose your response and this helps your personal growth and your happiness. You can also learn to recognize the beginning of strong emotions when they first arise in your body.  This knowledge allows you to choose (and not just react to) how you wish to respond to any person or situation.

The practice of mindfulness trains attention and meta-attention.  Meta-attention, the ability to know that your attention has wandered away, is the secret to concentration.  With mindfulness practice three desirable qualities emerge:  calmness, clarity and happiness!

Here is one version of how you can begin your mindfulness practice and help to improve your level of calmness and happiness with even just one breath.

  • Start with an intention. Do you want to reduce stress, reduce anxiety, feel more in control, feel happier, improve your relationships, etc.
  • Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight. You would like to be relaxed but also alert and you do not want to fall asleep during the practice.
  • Close your eyes and follow your breath. Feel the cool air enter your nose and the sensation of the warmer air leaving your nose.
  • When your attention wanders away from following the breath, notice this. Bring your attention back to your breath.
  • Start with a few minutes of watching your breath and gradually increase the time as you wish.

Each time you bring your attention back to your breath, your attention muscle grows a bit stronger. It is not a failure for your attention to wander.  It is part of the process of the development of your mental muscles and a useful part of mindfulness practice.  It is also important to become aware of your attitude toward yourself when you lose focus.  Are you thinking nasty things about yourself or being unkind? Shift your attitude and be curious about what is going on and be kind to yourself.  This part of the practice helps to form better mental habits.

When practicing mindfulness, adopt the mindset of a person who loves you, for example, a loving grandmother.  See yourself in the eyes of this person and then return to your breath. This self-directed kindness can become a habit and over time, mindfulness can help you to become your own best friend.

If you feel uncomfortable or need to scratch, try to take five breaths before you react.  This will help to create space between the stimulus and the reaction which is exactly the space we are attempting to enhance.  If there are sounds, thoughts or physical sensations you notice, acknowledge them and experience them without judging or reacting.

We are not our emotions.  Through mindfulness you can experience a shift that can lead to mastery over your emotions. This can help people deal with anxiety, depression, cravings and addictions.   Think of yourself as being the sky and emotions are like clouds passing through; some are beautiful and some are dark.  We can watch the clouds float by without getting caught up in the drama they bring.

A man is out one day riding his horse.   A passerby asks him “where are you going?”  The man answers, “I don’t know, ask the horse!

This situation can be seen as a metaphor for our emotional life.  The horse represents our emotions.  We may feel that we have no control over the horse and we let it take us wherever it wants to go. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can tame and guide the horse (our emotions) with understanding and eventually we can get the horse to take us where we want to go.  Self-awareness is about understanding the horse. We can make friends and attain mastery over our emotions.

Other topics covered in Search Within Yourself include self-confidence, self-motivation, empathy, leadership, self-mastery and many more. Reading this book  convinced me to commit to my daily mindfulness practice and I am very grateful for the changes that this has helped me to make.

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