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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marshmallows in Potholes

In the late 1960s, Stanford researchers conducted a Marshmallow Experiment with 4-year olds. A marshmallow was placed on a table and a child was told the researcher would be right back and that if he or she could resist eating it, the researcher would bring back another one.

But only if they resisted.

There conclusions: gratification delayers were more successful in adulthood, had higher SAT scores and had fewer problems with addictive behavior.

I'm not sure I would've lasted long enough for the door to close.

Follow up research indicated that low-delayers, as they're called (sounds insulting, kinda: You're such a low-delayer), can change. Follow up research identified differences in brain activity between the two groups. High-delayers were more active in the pre-frontal cortex. Low-delayers, somewhere near the core where instincts take place.

In more recent studies, researchers have concluded the effect of meditation on brain activity and found measurable changes, including structural and dynamic processes. While they do not specifically link results to the marshmallow experiments, they concluded the changes could affect "addiction, mental disorders, and ADHD...".

You know, things a low-delayer can relate to.

We all have experience with low-delayer behavior, that moment when we say, Screw it, I WANT THAT NOW. That out of body experience where we don't feel in control, we eat 17 donuts, have just the one cigarette, the drink, a forbidden kiss, or something else. Fill in the blank.

Every day offers us an opportunity to work with that. To practice with I WANT. To notice the thoughts and experience the bodily sensations that accompany them.

To allow life to unfold. To not get in its way.

And if we practice, truly, it's not change that happens.

It's transformation.

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