Altered Traits

2nd November 2022

Cheery Almost Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Greetings from India!  If you happen to be in New Delhi, Barb has a meetup tonight (November 3rd) from 6:00 to 7:00 pm in the lobby of The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi. Her deep dive webinar into retrieval practice for Indian learners on November 5th is here.

Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman and  Richard J. Davidson.  Barb spent this past week teaching about the neuroscience of teaching and learning at the Tergar Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal.  The Lead Abbot of the monastery is Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, perhaps the best-studied yogi in the world (here is a recent paper, co-authored by Davidson, summarizing the extraordinary differences in how Rinpoche’s brain as compared to the brains of typical controls).  Altered Traits gives a careful guide into what is known, and some of what is not known, about the neuroscience involved in various meditative processes. (For those wishing to dive deeper, here is a synthesizing article, behind a paywall except for the abstract, about the neuroscience of meditation.) 

There is some evidence that focused types of meditation, such as those that rely on bringing back attention that wanders, may suppress the activities of the default mode network–the brain’s states of relaxation. This suppression can reduce anxiety, which is great.  But there is perhaps a concomitant trade-off of reducing the mind-wandering that can sometimes be at the heart of creativity.  

During his discussions with Barb, as well as in his book The Joy of Living, (a very informative book on Buddhist meditative practices), Rinpoche emphasized that there are many other forms of meditation, besides focused mode, with many different neural effects.  It does seem, however, that many meditative practices begin with practice through focus, so it may good to be aware of potential tradeoffs in the type of meditative mind-training you may select. Meditation is indeed brain-changing!

 The Science of Learning: 5 Ways to Make Your L&D Strategy More Successful

In this unique new e-book, Coursera for business has partnered with Barb to offer five best practice tips that support L&D leaders in building high-impact, learner-centric L&D strategies. With this resource, you’ll learn how to:

  • Help employees master new skills
  • Help employees learn successfully
  • Cultivate employee curiosity
  • Help employees retain the material taught
  • Encourage employees to go beyond passive listening!

This webinar with Barb gives a good underlying sense of key ideas in the new e-book. And here is a not-to-be-missed blog post that includes a clip of discussion.

An app for social learning in Learning How to Learn

We will be experimenting with small study groups (squads of 2 – 5 people each) for students who are getting started with Learning How to Learn. Give it a try! Group learning can increase your motivation and chances of completing the course.

To connect with a squad, you will need to:

  • Download the “WeAreSix” app to your mobile device, available in the AppStore (iPhone) and in the Play Store (Android)
  • Once inside the app, enter the code for this course: goLHTL
  • And last but not least: Only join a squad if you are committed to sticking with it 🙂

Can we rewire our brains to become more fluent in math?

Mindmatters News contains a nice summary about how we can become more fluent with math—even when we think we’re not a “math” person. We love Fred Bech’s concluding words about the vital importance of good teachers: “A study by the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based National Bureau of Economic Research found that a student can learn as much as three times more from a very good teacher as opposed to a poor teacher. In fact, good teachers can provide as much as a $400,000 lifetime bonus to a student’s income. If the bottom five percent to eight percent of teachers were replaced with average teachers, the added benefit to the economy would be over $100 trillion dollars. The country would simultaneously vault to near the top of international science and math rankings.”

Turning Phone Time into Math Time—An Idea for Parents

Lydia El Khouri, who we mentioned last week in relation to an extended interview with Barb ( Part 1, and Part 2) writes with an interesting new approach she has taken in her house to help her children get away from excessive cell phone use:

“You really inspired me to change something in our house. Every morning my two children generally sat at the breakfast table reading their phones, it bothered me immensely and I wanted to turn it into a more constructive time. After our talk, I told them from 07.30-8am they were to do maths before they go to school when they are fresh and after a couple of days of complaining, they gave in and it is a thing in our house now thanks to you. So thank you so much, my husband and I feel so happy about this small change.”

So, inspired by Lydia’s example, “math time in the morning” might be an idea for your family if you have time before school in the morning!

Support for women 50+ with resources for reinvention

Our friend Hiroyo Saito, who does life coaching as well as coaching about teaching, has a website for women who are reinventing themselves to be their own best version.  Hiroyo focuses on mindsets, habits, and learning. Check out her writing at

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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