The ideas and possessions we accumulate in our lifetime are a key component to our overall happiness, but according to Indian yogi Sadhguru, these very same things can cloud our perception of our true natures.
Sadhguru, who is also the founder of the Isha Foundation, recently told HuffPost Live host Nancy Redd that achieving contentment starts with separating ourselves from what influences us.
"What you accumulate can be yours, it can never, ever be you," said Sadhguru. "What you call as my body is an accumulation of the food that we eat a certain way. What you call as my mind is an accumulation of impressions and information that you have gathered... So right now people are going around with this fundamental flaw in their perception of who they are. What they have accumulated has become them, who they are has been lost."
According to Sadhguru, our tendency to think we're immortal when we are young also affects our ability to reach fulfillment. When we recognize that our time is precious, Sadhguru said, we will then gain insight on how to enjoy life to the fullest capacity.
"It is very important that all of us understand and every day be conscious that we are mortal," he said. "If you understand that you are mortal, there is no time to do stupid things in life. You will do what matters to you and nothing else."
Check out the video clip above for more, and watch the full video on how Sadhguru defines success and spirituality on HuffPost Live.
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You can change the brain's structure and functioning.
Neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson's groundbreaking research on Tibetan Buddhist monks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that years of meditative practice can dramatically increase neuroplasticity -- the brain's ability to use new experiences or environments to create structural changes. For example, it can help reorganizing itself by creating new neural connections. "The findings from studies in this unusual sample... suggest that, over the course of meditating for tens of thousands of hours, the long-term practitioners had actually altered the structure and function of their brains," <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/" target="_blank">Davidson wrote in IEEE Signal Processing Magazine in 2008.</a>
You can alter visual perception and attention.
In 2005, <a href="https://eprints.usq.edu.au/2552/1/Carter_Presti_Callistemon_Ungerer_Liu_Pettigrew_CB_v15n11_PV.pdf" target="_blank">researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia and University of California at Berkeley</a> traveled to India to study 76 Tibetan Buddhist monks, in order to gain insight into how mental states can affect conscious visual experiences -- and how we might be able to gain more control over the regular fluctuations in our conscious state. Their data indicated that years of meditation training can profoundly affect a phenomenon known as "perceptual rivalry," which takes place when two different images are presented to each eye -- the brain fluctuates, in a matter of seconds, in the dominant image that is perceived. It is thought to be related to brain mechanisms that underly attention and awareness. When the monks practiced meditating on a single object or thought, significant increases in the duration of perceptual dominance occurred. <strong>One monk was able to maintain constant visual perception for 723 seconds -- compared to the average of 2.6 seconds in non-meditative control subjects.</strong> The researchers <a href="https://eprints.usq.edu.au/2552/1/Carter_Presti_Callistemon_Ungerer_Liu_Pettigrew_CB_v15n11_PV.pdf" target="_blank">concluded</a> that the study highlights "the synergistic potential for further exchange between practitioners of meditation and neuroscience in the common goal of understanding consciousness."
You can expand your capacity for happiness.
Brain scans revealed that because of meditation, 66-year-old French monk Matthieu Ricard, an aide to the Dalai Lama, has the largest capacity for happiness ever recorded. University of Wisconsin researchers, led by Davidson, hooked up 256 sensors to his head, and found that Ricard had an unusually large propensity for happiness and reduced tendency toward negativity, due to neuroplasticity. “It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” <a href="http://india.nydailynews.com/newsarticle/7b470adb0a9b6c32e19e16a08df13f3d/buddhist-monk-is-the-worlds-happiest-man" target="_blank">Ricard told the New York Daily News.</a> Davidson also found that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his brain produced gamma waves <a href="http://india.nydailynews.com/newsarticle/7b470adb0a9b6c32e19e16a08df13f3d/buddhist-monk-is-the-worlds-happiest-man" target="_blank">"never reported before in the neuroscience literature."</a>
You can increase your empathy.
Research at Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education made some incredible findings last year. Neuroeconomist Brian Knutson hooked up several monks' brains to MRI scanners to examine their risk and reward systems. Ordinarily, the brain's nucleus accumbens experiences a dopamine rush when you experience something pleasant -- like having sex, eating a slice of chocolate cake, or finding a $20 bill in your pocket. But Knutson's research, still in the early stages, is showing that in Tibetan Buddhist monks, this area of the brain may be able to light up for altruistic reasons. "There are many neuroscientists out there looking at mindfulness, but not a lot who are studying compassion," <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Stanford-studies-monks-meditation-compassion-3689748.php#page-1" target="_blank">Knutson told the San Francisco Chronicle.</a> "The Buddhist view of the world can provide some potentially interesting information about the subcortical reward circuits involved in motivation." Davidson's research on Ricard and other monks also found that meditation on compassion can produce powerful changes in the brain. When the monks were asked to meditate on "unconditional loving-kindness and compassion," their brains generated powerful gamma waves that may have indicated a compassionate state of mind, <a href="http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.02/dalai.html" target="_blank">Wired reported in 2006.</a> This suggests, then, that empathy may be able to be cultivated by "exercising" the brain through loving-kindness meditation.
You can achieve a state of oneness -- literally.
Buddhist monks can achieve a harmony between themselves and the world around them by breaking the psychological wall of self/other, expressed as by particular changes in the neural networks of experienced meditation practitioners,<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12661646" target="_blank"> the BBC reported.</a> While a normal brain switches between the extrinsic network (which is used when people are focused on tasks outside themselves) and the intrinsic network, which involves self-reflection and emotion -- the networks rarely act together. But Josipovic found something startling in the brains of some monks and experienced meditators: They're able to keep both networks active at the same time during meditation, allowing them to feel a sense of "nonduality," or oneness.