How meditation makes you more powerful
A cellular biology perspective
In college, I was the teaching assistant for a class called Cellular Biology. By teaching the class, I developed an understanding of how chemical pathways worked, and why some human activities can feel so good — like runners’ high, flow, and meditation. But you don’t need to take the class to understand it. Here’s what you need to know.
Two types of power — hard versus soft power
Humans can display two types of power, hard power and soft power. These come from two parts of our brain — reptilian brain and frontal cortex, respectively.
- Hard power (reptilian brain) approaches life through toughness, dominance, and competition.
- Soft power (frontal cortex) uses diplomacy, collaboration, compromise to motivate power.
One type is not more powerful than the other. You need to know how to use both, so you can pick the one that’s appropriate for the situation.
Alpha dogs and queen bees
Alpha dogs and queen bees, exactly what you think they are, are people who assert authority and control over their peers. They assert hard power. For example, with eye contact in a high-stakes business negotiations —they will not give away power by diverting their eyes. Simply put, they “steel up” to succeed.
Why do some people become alpha dogs and queen bees? Temperament, education, and upbringing determine this. For example, I grew up in the heart of Beijing, a hyper-competitive and extremely capitalistic city. The people of Beijing regard money and success as important life values. While I’m naturally quiet and sensitive, I quickly learned to emulate the competitive behaviors of my peers. To me, playing hard power is just a game — a game that I became good at. Here in Silicon Valley, my friends and I play on the varsity teams of hard power.
Hard power is not bad, it’s often necessary for your environment. The problem is, many people stay steeled up and guarded even when that won’t get them to where they want to be.
Neurochemicals of Hard Power
These are chemicals that fire you up for competition. You can release them through striving for success, asserting effort, and competitive sports.
- Adrenaline — fight or flight hormone
- Testonerone — power hormone, drives the competition and aggression
- Dopamine — pleasure hormone, drives activity like sports, action, activity
Neurochemicals of Soft Power
These are the chemicals that calm you. They can feel great and be addictive, in a healthy way.
- Endorphins —euphoria hormone, drives runner’s high
- Oxytocin — cuddle hormone, drives bonding and connection
- Serotonin — happiness hormone, alleviates stress and makes you feel at peace. work, exercise and chocolate increases this
Gain Soft Power through Meditation
You can release soft power through meditation. Meditation will help you live your life in the moment, by connecting with your breath. It’s good for you. As my favorite poet Rumi says:
Rumi says — Give your life to the one who already owns your breath and moments.
Sure you can become more powerful through tactics of hard power. But as I learned from life in Beijing and Silicon Valley — eventually life gets tiring when you’re always trying to use hard power. Sometimes hard power just doesn’t work. In those times, you’ll need to play soft power to get what you want.
And once you learn to play soft power, you’ll discover a new set of feelings you’ve never experienced before — like deep connection, true euphoria, and finally feeling at peace with yourself.