Meditation is an ancient and profound practice that can provide us with a whole host of mental and physical benefits. These benefits include reduced stress, improved resilience to stress, better sleep, a stronger immune system, increased neuroplasticity, and easier access to the brain and body’s natural flow state. With all these benefits laid out, many of us still find meditation a challenging activity to perform, let alone master. The good news is, there are several easily solved issues that commonly cause these challenges. Though the positive aspects of meditation are at this point quite well known, the art of how to meditate is certainly lagging behind as public knowledge. In this article, you will find a list of helpful tips that will undoubtedly help you establish a regular and effective meditation practice.
Why you are struggling with meditation:
You are trying to avoid having thoughts.
One of the most common misconceptions about meditation is that to do it successfully, we have to remove all forms of thought from our minds entirely. This is a common myth about starting meditation that keeps many of us at the very beginner level of our practice, struggling to make progress and find that mental clarity we so deeply desire. Meditation, especially at an introductory level is much more about focus than it is about. The practice of meditation is about actively exercising our ability to either focus on or be openly aware. In a state of pure awareness or pure focus, we are inherently shifting our mental energy to something more important than thought. During each of these kinds of meditations, thoughts will inevitably arise. The goal is not to be thoughtless, but to notice each thought that removes us from our intended object of focus, and gently bring ourselves back to this anchor of attention. The act of returning to focus is the mental ‘bicep curl’ we are looking for. Through time and practice, and thousands of mental ‘reps’ as we return to focus, we one day will become better at focusing in. For the early stages, and for most meditators in general, a successful practice is not one void of thought, it is a practice where we notice our thoughts and return to attention successfully. For myself personally, I still have plenty of thoughts pass through during each meditation session.
You are doing the wrong kind of meditation.
There are thousands and thousands of different kinds of meditations out there. Oftentimes, we make the mistake of sticking with a practice or a guided meditation that we are struggling with, trying hard to make it into something it is not. As a beginner to meditation, we want to find a practice that we understand and find relatively simple. We want to give ourselves a realistic starting point from which we can build upon, developing the skill to enhance our practice further. When it comes to meditation, progress, if any, is a slow practice. Meditation in and of itself is more about consistency than it is about progress. Each and every mediator has a practice they enjoy best, or a technique they are more proficient in than others. If you are finding yourself beating your head against the metaphorical wall, struggling with the meditations you’ve chosen, feel encouraged to switch it up a little bit. On the most basic levels, meditations fall into a whole variety of categories. These include; body scan, vipassana, breathwork, movement meditation, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, visualization, and the list goes on. Try switching up your practice for some variety. Trying new things inherently exposes you to new methods and new techniques that may be more enjoyable, or may even take you to the next level.
You are struggling with distractions.
Being distracted by outside noises or stimuli is a very common challenge when first starting meditation. One may feel like sounds or situations outside are ruining our practice, but that is actually only the perspective and story we choose to focus on in that given moment. One thing to consider is when a distraction or sound occurs, is that distraction coming toward us, or are we the ones moving toward that distraction? Inherently, distractions are part of the practice. It is an element that challenges our attention to focus, and truly, we get better and better at reducing their power with time and exercise. When it comes to distractions, my advice when teaching is to openly accept them. For my students, these sounds become a tool for us to work with. We can sit with the sounds, and take a moment to reflect on why we choose to give it so much power over us. Once using it for what it is able to provide us with, we are then able to bring ourselves back to attention on the anchor of our practice. In this way, distractions really do become one of the best tools we have for enhancing and improving our mental focus. Meditation is not about having no distractions around us, it is about having plenty of distractions, and still being able to consciously choose what we want to give out attention to. Real-life is the same, and that is why real life is where we see these techniques manifest in the best of forms.
You Are Meditating Too Long
One common misconception about meditation for those new to the practice is that to receive the powerful benefits of this practice, we need to meditate for hours on end. This is not true, especially for beginners. Just as in anything else in life, repetition is the mother of skill. When a runner first starts, they can’t run a marathon. That part takes time. When we first start meditating, it is way more important to be consistent with our practice than to go big. Most of the research out there suggests that meditating 15 minutes twice daily provides our brain with the majority of neuroscientific benefits available to us. Although, once we are more experiences, more time on the mat will indeed translate to more beneficial results. I recommend to my students to start out by meditating 5-10 minutes every morning. From there, with diligence and discipline, we can increase and diversify our practice however we choose. If we try and sit for one or more hours without a strong grasp on how the exercise is done, we are choosing to make things more difficult than they need to be.
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There will be more free resources to come, along with discounts and advanced notice for my major posts, courses, and events.
With a global pandemic at the forefront of world news, the global economy, and the minds of enormous amounts of people around the world, a great majority of us are facing a very new and foreign level of uncertainty. The unfortunate side of all this being that for many of us, uncertainty tends to bring with it a variety of other emotions. These emotional states often range from fear and anxiety to helplessness.
As a mindfulness and meditation teacher in Toronto, a city with millions of people living in close proximity, this is certainly the case that I have been witnessing on a daily basis, as well as throughout the global pandemic thus far. People across the country, as well as around the world are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress, and are seeking methods and modalities to help them work through their emotional tension as we move forward with a countrywide quarantine. Whether you may be feeling higher levels of stress as a result of job loss, social isolation, boredom, or lack of stimulation, there are many tried and true methods of handling our stress during unique times such as these.
Before we get started on the list, I just thought I’d share this podcast episode discussing a mindset shift for the situation at hand. In this episode I discuss why fear is the last place we want to be operating from during a time like this, as well as some of the really good things about the lockdown we are currently experiencing:
For anybody looking to improve their state of mind, or simply to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, here are some tips on how to foster mental resilience and manage stress during the coronavirus pandemic:
Change Your Relationship With Uncertainty
One thing that has come top of mind for me lately as a result of the pandemic is a certainty is, and always will be an illusion. Over the past couple of years, I have found myself planning my life out as if the experience of roaming the earth is something entirely predictable and certain. This experience has made me realize how false this really is. Over the past couple of weeks, this has been my main piece of advice for the students in my sessions. For many of us, fear and anxiety are nothing more than reflections of our lack of control over the future. We have grown up in a world that teaches us that control over our lives equates to comfort and happiness. Though there is definitely some level of truth behind this lesson, coronavirus has proven to us that certainty in itself is not necessarily the healthiest thing for us to rely upon. In fact, relying on anything for our comfort, confidence, or happiness is not the wisest choice. Reliance, in the end, is the crutch that limits our ability to self generate these same emotions from within. Uncertainty in and of itself can teach us a lot of good lessons. These lessons include adaptability, problem-solving, acceptance, and releasing the need to control what is so. Sometimes the world simply is the way it is. To quote someone who I can’t quite name, “sometimes, shit happens”. What makes us powerful in life is not how we control life’s challenges, but how we adapt to them.
Mindfulness And Meditation
Although there are many techniques that can help manage and reduce stress at the moment, there are few things that are better at doing so in the long term than meditation and other related mindfulness exercises. Although many of us are aware of how relaxing and calming meditation can be for the mind and body, few people know that this ancient practice actually helps thicken grey matter in the parts of the brain that control stress, memory, learning, and emotional regulation. In this way, regular meditation actually shrinks the amygdala where stress hormones are released, to begin with, and strengthens the other parts of the brain than control our ability to handle stress, cognition, and mental processing. It functions as a double whammy to both adapt and erase stress from our everyday existence. At the end of the way, meditation is calming and soothing and can help provide us quite a few lessons about the habits of our thoughts, our attachments, and the negative obsessions we give our power too freely and willingly. Taking a few moments for stillness can, at the very least, help us become aware of many of the mental filters we place on our everyday experiences to distort reality from our perceptions of reality. Mindfulness and meditation are habits that can truly change our lives, and there has never been a better time to give them a try. For anybody looking to start meditating, there is a wide array of apps and resources available online. Click HERE to browse some of the best apps available or sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of the page for some free audio clips to get yourself started.
Journalling & Self Reflection
When you really break it all down, the thoughts we think to ourselves are the root of nearly everything we do and have in life. Therefore, becoming truly aware of these thoughts can be one of the most powerful things any individual person can do to improve their mindset and mental health. Taking time to self-reflect on a regular basis reveals to us where we are not free, and more importantly, it provides a chance to contemplate why, and what we can do about it. Though stillness in all its various forms can help us acquire this knowledge, journaling is one of the most tried and true methods of bolstering self-awareness. Journalling is a key ingredient in the secret recipe for the success of many of the most influential business executives, creatives, and athletes of the modern era. This practice alone can help reduce stress through self-expression, improve happiness, and self-love through affirmations, and it can change the way we show up through self-awareness. With so much time on our hands, this is as good a time as ever to dive into the notepad and put some thoughts on paper. You just may come across something you never realized until doing so.
Mindful Art & Sketching
Though this may be the most surprising addition to this list, mindful art, and mindful coloring have recently become the subject of a wide range of scientific research. As unexpected as it may be, scientists are finding that artistic exercises are truly a meditation of their own, and provide a host of valuable benefits that include reductions in stress, blood pressure, and emotional reactivity. Finding presence at the moment is not only good for the soul, but it is good for the body. Through creative expression in art and sketching, we can exercise the often ignored right brain while simultaneously engaging in one of the most tried and true methods of relaxation. Depending on who you are, you might even find it pretty damn fun.
Yoga And Other Movement Meditations
For myself personally, the lack of activity has been the most challenging aspect of being in quarantine here in Toronto. As a very active individual, I would typically spend large amounts of my free time playing sports and finding other unique ways to exercise both inside and in the outdoors. With most outdoor spaces, gyms, and athletic facilities closed, I’ve been seeing this as a unique opportunity to get creative with my workouts and movement meditations. Although this has included a wide variety of home workouts and running variations, I’ve been particularly enjoying yoga, and have been experimenting with a wide array of online classes. Though it is indeed a form of exercise above all else, yoga certainly possesses quite a bit of mindfulness in execution. Through an exercise in focused awareness, presence, and tuning into the sensations of the body, we can turn any form of movement and exercise into a mindful activity. As long as we are fully present and focused, we can experience many of the benefits of mindfulness in the form of exercise. It is in focused attention on the craft at hand that we are able to access the flow states of acceptance and calm, leaving all sense of worry and emotional reactivity to drift away and disappear. This can not only be a momentary practice but a way of living.
Defining Our Intentions
Although being stuck inside during the coronavirus pandemic may not be the most fun experience, nobody can deny how great of an opportunity to rethink the way we currently live, and how it was that we got here. For many of us, this is actually the perfect time to think about diving into additional education, career planning, and intention planning. When it comes to designing a fulfilling life that truly excites us, there is one fact that will always remain true: you can’t get there if you don’t know what you want. Just as you can’t drive or bike to a destination you haven’t decided upon, without direction, our life becomes little more than a feather in the wind. One of the common similarities among happy people is the intentional purpose of their lives. Meaningful existences have a purpose, and this purpose is what propels us toward our goals. It’s what keeps us passionate throughout the ups and downs. It’s what motivates us through the process of expansion. When our intentions are clear, our awareness of processes and experiences that help us progress begin to stand out more clearly than ever. Declaring intentions are perhaps the first and most important step in the art of living well, accomplishing goals, and living a stress-free life of happiness and abundance.
If you are interested in a free set of guided meditations and audiobooks to get you started on meditation and mindfulness, subscribe to my newsletter below.
There will be more free resources to come, along with discounts and advanced notice for my major posts, courses, and events.
Although Mindfulness is, and always has been a part of the ancient lessons of Buddhist as well as other eastern and native religions, meditation and mindfulness are experiencing their second coming in the present day modern era. The re-emergence of this traditional practice is due in large part to the vast array of incredible teachers who have either come or returned to the western world to share the knowledge they’ve acquired through years and sometimes even decades of studying in the south eastern nations of our planet. From Dr. Deepak Chopra, to sound healers and Tibetan monk’s, today we are gifted with some of the best spiritual teachers the world has ever seen. Though the many highly respected Guru’s of the east are never to be forgotten on this list, here is a list of 16 of the most well respected mindfulness and meditation teachers in the western world. These individuals are thought leaders, and have paved the way for the rest of society to follow along in their footsteps.
Who is Pema Chodron?
Born in New York City in 1936, Pema Chodron is widely known as one of the first American women to become an ordained nun of Tibetan Buddhism. Currently leading as the headteacher at the Gampo Alleymeditation center in Nova Scotia Canada, she is well renowned for leading several of the world’s most well-respected mindfulness education centers. She is the former leader at the global Shambhala Meditation organization while having also written a collection of incredibly influential books on the topic of Buddhist philosophy in the west. She possesses an undying passion for Buddhist meditation that turns to learn with her into a unique and transformative experience. With powerful lessons paired with discipline and perspective, she is one of the most influential meditation teachers of the modern era. To learn more about Pema, visit her online at the link to her foundation below.
Click The Image Below To Browse Pema Chodron‘s Most Popular Books
Ram Dass aka Richard Alpert
Who is Ram Dass?
Ram Dass is the ex Harvard psychologist turned psychedelic science advocate, turned mindfulness and spiritual teacher who altered society for millions of people around the world throughout the last many decades. Originally pursuing high levels of education along the traditional path of western intellectuals, Ram Dass was initially a research psychologist at Harvard University where he stumbled across the wide range of mental-emotional benefits correlating to the use of psychedelic substances in therapy. According to him, the experiences he had while trying out these substances himself were the eventual catalyst for the spiritual awakening that eventually led him to India. Studying with his Guru, Maharajji was when his most noted transformation took place. Following his initial years in India, Richard Alpert re-emerged as the mindfulness and spiritual teacher currently known as Ram Dass. Since that time Ram Dass has been the educator responsible for bringing the lessons of Maharajji to millions of Americans. His books and lessons have been bought, followed and worshipped for their relatability across the western world. To learn more about Ram Dass, watch the new Netflix documentary about his last years called Ram Dass: Going Home, or visit the website for his organization below.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Ram Dass‘ Most Famous Book; Be Here Now
Who is Deepak Chopra?
For many westerners who are interested in or practicing mindfulness, Deepak Chopra is quite likely one of the first people you will come across. This modern doctor, author, and spiritual teacher has quickly become one of the most established meditation teachers globally with a collection of written works, documentaries, celebrity talk show appearances, and meditation centers to back up his impressive credentials. This man is one of the most influential ambassadors for alternative medicine in the west, having helped what is quite likely millions of people approach and resolve their health challenges utilizing holistic mind-body modalities for medicine. Deepak is most well known for his content around health and wellness, though his presence in the world of meditation is as well established as any of the other modern teachers. To learn more about Deepak Chopra visit his website below. Here you will find content, news, events, courses, meditations and more.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Deepak Chopra‘s Most Popular Books.
Who is Sara Auster?
As perhaps the leading voice in the western world when it comes to the masterful art of sound therapy, Sara Auster is one of the many women leading powerful and transformational mindfulness lessons in the modern era. Based in New York, she has traveled around the globe performing and teaching the many lessons of Buddhism and meditation. Having been featured by countless publications including The New York Times and Time Magazine Sara is as established as sound healers come. Sara’s interest in sound-based healing and therapy was originally sparked by a severe back injury that inhibited her blooming music career in New York at the young age of 23. Throughout that experience as well as the long recovery that followed, she found tremendous relief through the uniquely therapeutic vibrations from the marble bowls used. The relief she found through this experience inspired her to bring this underserved method to the masses. To learn more about Sara visit her online at her website.
Click The Image Below To Browse Sara Auster‘s Most Popular Books.
Who is Jon Kabat-Zinn?
As the man who many regard is the person who has made the largest contributions toward the scientific research of the ancient art of meditation, Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of today’s most important mindfulness educators. He is the author of some of the most influential modern literature on mindfulness, meditation, and the subconscious mind. As the founder behind Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) he has been widely considered to be one of the forefathers of the integration of mindfulness with care and treatment of mental health. In addition to his works on psychology and research, Jon Kabat-Zinn is a widely known meditation teacher with courses, training, and books on techniques and perspectives on the wide array of mindfulness approaches available. Although on the date that this is published he is resting at a hefty 74 years old, you can be sure that he is still teaching and training people and professionals on his learnings even to this day. To learn more about Jon Kabat-Zinn visit his Wikipedia page below.
Click The Image Below To Browse Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s Most Popular Book: Full Living Catastrophe.
Who is Jack Kornfield?
As a former Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield re-entered western society as a psychologist, a profession that has enabled him to bridge the gap between modern psychology and the transformative lessons, distinctions, and practices of the ancient philosophy of Buddhism. Jack first came across meditation in Thailand, where he first ventured as part of his experience working with the peace corps. Jack is a co-founder of the famous Insight Meditation Societywith Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. Since that time, he has also co-founded The Spirit Rock Meditation Centrein Woodacre, California. To learn more about Jack Kornfield, read one of his many highly rated and best-selling books, or check out his website at the link below.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Jack Kornfield‘s Most Popular Book: A Path With Heart.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Who is Thich Nhat Hanh?
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Thien Buddhist Monk. Having published well over one hundred books, this man has become one of the world’s most influential spiritual and meditation teachers. The lessons within his teachings and books range from vegetarianism to stillness and encompass a wide range of relevant patterns we are seeing in the world today. Born way back in 1926, this man was ordained as a Bhikku in 1951, a decade before many of even touched down on this earth. Thich has taught at conferences as well as educational institutions, even spending a large chunk of his life as a teacher of comparative religion at Princeton University in the U.S. Since his time, this man has returned home to Vietnam where he continues to teach and spread his lessons around the globe. He is known most for his part in the peace movement alongside his many works on mindfulness. To learn more about Thich, visit him online at the website for Plum Village, an organization founded by him several decades ago.
Click The Image Below To Browse The Many Books from Thich Nhat Hanh Most Popular Book On Amazon: Peace In Every Step.
Who is Kristin Neff?
Kristin Neff is a professor and educator on the practice of self-compassion within mindfulness. As an intellectual at large, she is most well known for her work in linking the evidence of meditations benefits when it comes to improvements in self-compassion. She is credited with the creation of a sliding scale of self-compassion, consisting of 26 units on the first scale and 12 on the next. These scales are designed to identify where someone sits, along with methods they may follow to slide into an improved area of self-love and awareness. Inherently, her work pertains largely to the practice of meditation, and she has since become renowned as an influential meditation educator across America. To learn more about Kristin Neff at her website below.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Kristin Neff’s Most Popular Book; The Proven Power Of Being Kind To Yourself: Self Compassion.
Who is Eckhart Tolle?
For myself as well as countless other meditation teachers in my social network, Eckhart Tolle was the cause of our introduction to the world of mindfulness and ego observation on the whole. His books are commonly known as the most popular modern pieces of literature on mindfulness, helping thousands of people wake up to the reality that thoughts are nothing more than what we make of them. For myself, The Power of Now was the first book I ever picked up on modern spirituality, the human ego, consciousness, and thoughtlessness on a whole. It was a book that truly changed my life and provided me with a newfound clarity I have never imagined prior. Originally born in Germany, this new york times bestselling author now resides in Vancouver, Canada where he continues to engage in further writing, speaking engagements, and spiritual retreats. This man truly has a gift at expressing thoughts so esoteric in nature that many of us would be hard-pressed to explain them on our own. Though his concepts are at times quite deep, they are consistently powerful distinctions with the power to shift anybody’s mindset, no matter how rigid they may be. For anybody interested in learning more about Eckhart, I would recommend reading his two most popular books: The Power of Now and A New Earth. These reads are timeline altering and after close to a decade since first coming across them, I continue to regard them as some of the best pieces I have ever consumed.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Eckhart Tolle‘s Most Popular Book: The Power Of Now.
Who is Emily Fletcher?
As the founder of Ziva Meditation and the recent author of her new book Stress Less, Accomplish More: Meditation for Extraordinary Performance, Emily Fletcher is a recent addition to the top meditation teachers list. After her recent publication, her name has launched into the front row of renowned mindfulness coaches. What sets her apart from most of the other meditation teachers you are likely to come across is the ethos behind her message; that meditation is actually a tool for high performance. This is the core theme of her lessons and written works. Both of these include a reference to a large number of scientific articles that emphasize the science behind her approach. For type A individuals like myself, Emily’s style is both relatable and enjoyable. Not only do her lessons bring calm to the mind of high performers, but she is also very careful to quote the science to back it all up. Her approach is not unique, but her angle certainly may be. Emily was the reason I boosted my practice to meditate for longer sits each and every day. Her lessons were captivating and educational and they definitely piqued my interest in a very unique way. For anybody looking to learn more about Emily, visit her website below.
Click The Image Below To Check Out Emily Fletcher‘s New And Amazing Book, Stress Less Accomplish More: Meditation For Extraordinary Performance.
Satya Narayan Goenka
Who is Satya Narayan Goenka?
Perhaps one of the most important people in the worldwide expansion of mindfulness and meditation beyond its roots in Asia is Satya Narayan Goenka. Many of today’s most influential teachers tote their spiritual awakening as being the result of a 5 to 10-day silent meditation retreat. In particular, Vipassana retreats, where lessons focus on this tried and true method of finding a special form of stillness rooted in focused awareness. Though this man may have not spent as much of his time in the public eye, he is perhaps the indirect catalyst for an enormous degree of the meditation education available in western nations today. To learn more about Satya Narayan Goenka visit his website or the information pages for his retreats at the link below.
Click The Image Below To Browse Satya Narayan Goenka’s Most Popular Reads Available On Amazon.
Who is Sharon Salzberg?
Sharon Salzberg is a best selling author and perhaps one of the most famous and well known spiritual teachers in the west. Born in 1952, Sharon has been one of the moguls paving the way for this eastern practice in North America, more specifically, New York City. After years of study from Asian meditation masters, Sharon eventually returned home, bringing her newfound expertise along with her. Though she teaches a wide range of lessons and has published many written works on the topic at large, much of her work takes focus on the specific Vipassana meditation techniques and their origins in Theravada Buddhism. In addition to all of this, Sharon is one of the well-respected founders of the ‘Insight Meditation Society’ near alongside the likes of Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein.
Click The Image Below To Browse The Written Works From Sharon Salzberg Available On Amazon.
Who is Andy Puddicombe?
For anybody who may not know his name yet, Andy Puddicombe is the voice behind the world-famous Headspace Meditation App. As a former Buddhist monk having trained all across southeast Asia, Andy returned home to once again pursue a western-like in the UK before founding Headspace with his business partner Rich Pierson. What started as a small idea has since turned into one of the most popular apps on the planet, taking the world by storm and introducing the calming effect of meditation to millions of users across the planet. Since first launching the app, Andy has become an influential author and speaker on the topic of mindfulness, continuing to share his passion for meditation with the greater world around him. In my experience, Andy is one of the most relatable meditation teachers to learn from while still retaining enormous amounts of expertise and high-level meditation training. To learn more about Andy, visit his page on the Headspace website where you can watch his Ted Talk and learn a little more about him along the way.
Click The Image Below To Browse Andy Puddicombe’s Published Books Available At Amazon.
Who is Susan Piver?
Susan Piver is an American meditation teacher most well known for her written works on mindfulness with the New York Times, as well as a hefty list of public appearances including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tyra Banks Show, CNN and more. As a student of traditional Buddhism since 1995, Susan has become one of the most well-known hosts of workshops and retreats, speaking around the globe on a wide array of topics regarding personal development, mental health, meditation, spirituality, and Buddhist philosophy. More recently, Susan has launched a new initiative called The Open Heart Project where she teachers lessons online, generating a massive community of followers. To learn more about Susan, her projects and her events, visit her website online at the link below.
Click The Image Below To Browse Susan Piver’s Books Available On Amazon.
Who is Jeff Warren?
Although possibly not yet a household name as far as meditation teachers go, Jeff Warren is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best (not that it’s a contest) meditation teachers I have ever stumbled across. As a Toronto local, Jeff first became renowned in his hometown as one of the leading meditation teachers province- and likely even, countrywide. Jeff is most well known for his books and workshops with Dan Harris, the rambunctious media personality and self-proclaimed “guy who had a nervous breakdown on national tv”. Dan and Jeff are the men behind the 10% Happier app and the Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics book. Dan remains the ambassador of the project, while Jeff teaches the mindfulness education portion of their curriculum. In addition to this project, Jeff is highly renowned for his Toronto based weekly meditation meetup known as The Consciousness Explorers Club. I’ve actually been a regular visitor of this group for the better part of the year, and have found it to be one of the most enjoyable communities I have ever meditated with. They are a welcoming group made up of a smorgasbord of different types of people coming together for one common cause, to calm and observe their mind through meditation. To learn more about Jeff visit his website below.
Click The Link Below To Check Out Jeff Warren’s Book In Partnership With Dan Harris: Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics.
Who is Michael Beckwith?
Far from a traditional teacher, Michael Beckwith is a spiritual teacher for much more than the aspect of meditation. Although mindfulness and meditation are core elements of his lessons, Michael is a thought minister with more than 8,000 members in his congregation, known as the Agape International Spiritual Center, founded in Beverly Hills California. This man is renowned for his unique view on spirituality, religion, and mindset. His lessons encompass many of those from formal religious literature, with a mix of both new and ancient spirituality. Reviews of his ceremonies range from life-changing to enlightening. If you ever do have a chance to visit a congregation of his in person, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better so-called ‘church’ experience elsewhere. To learn more about Michael, visit his website below.
In this episode, I had an incredible conversation with my new and good friend Augustto Javier. Augustto is well known in both the mindfulness and movement community throughout Toronto for his work with Mindset Brain Gym where he has taught and hosted a wide range of meditation and community events. More recently he has launched an incredibly popular alcohol-free nightlife series in Toronto called Urban Mystics. It is both a community and a movement around the appreciation of connection and community through music, parties, and celebration, free from the compulsive need to drink copious amounts of alcohol. From what I have witnessed so far, these events are amazing and feature well-known music artists as well as performances, breathwork, meditation sessions and a whole host of activities and healthy offerings to replace the liquor. Over the next year, he will be hosting a wide range of retreats and events to definitely stay tuned on what he is doing. Follow him @creativegeneralists on Instagram to stay tuned on the updates.
I initially met Augustto at a weekend retreat north of Toronto in Muskoka, well known to be one of the most naturally beautiful places to relax in North America, and certainly the best available for most people in Ontario. At this retreat, we connected on a wide range of topics and I knew immediately that this episode was immediately and subtly in the works. This episode is the first in what I am sure will be many more to come. Most importantly, Augustto and I share a common passion for both mindfulness, meditation, as well as the mostly forgotten art of understanding of proper, healthy masculinity. Contrary to what many of us are told, this is an incredibly important topic in today’s world, especially for the youngest generation of men growing up in North America. Just as most women truly need that connection with their feminine side, men need the same, though we are often told this is not ok. We are taught that this desire for masculine purpose is ‘toxic’ in numerous ways, which in reality, is kilometers from the truth. Masculinity is inherently good. It is purposeful, supportive, all the while remaining strong and reliable. Masculinity in and of itself is not toxic or negative. Bad men in the past, have no place in defining what this means for the rest of us, and they won’t. Spirituality, meditation, mindfulness, self-awareness, connection, whatever you want to call it is not so farfetched as we seem to believe. It is well known and documented that nearly every society on earth before us as well as a massive portion of existing societies regard these practices as essential and purposeful. Coincidence is not real, there was and is a purpose and a reason and an understanding and a shared consciousness shared by these people. Just maybe, there is more going on in this world than meets the eye. Just maybe, these people know something more. Just maybe the ‘esoteric’ we like to perceive as a phenomenon are the ‘norm’, and we are the ones with something backward. Are we happy, are we connected? is life the way it ought to be? We have certainly proven that our modern lifestyle does contain all the answers to life’s questions and trivialities, so we have no place in shutting down the world of possible realities that just may exist on the other side of what meets the eye. This is especially true in a world where science has already proven that there are roughly 6 dimensions that as humans, we are unable to perceive. With this discovery as a central theme of our passion-filled fireside chat, Augustto dive into a set of our favorite topics. Cutting this episode down from 4 hours to 2 was incredibly difficult, but I think this one will be filled with all the juicy goodness any open-minded person can handle for now.
Enjoy the episode!
As a side note, Augustto and I will also be sharing a set of men’s mindfulness & community evenings in downtown Toronto in the months to come (which will depend on the length and timing of our current Quarantine situation). If you would like to stay tuned on when and where these will be happening, the best way to do so will be to subscribe to my newsletter where I will be sharing all of the updates around my business, events & content. These events will include lessons from incredible men from around the province, as well as great opportunities to hone your practice within a community of like-minded individuals.
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The Muse Headband is a physical headband used for meditation and mindfulness. Both the Muse and the newer Muse 2 are worn around the head and are able to monitor the body feedback to provide the person in meditation with realtime information about their session. Depending on the model used, they provide charts on the feedback of heart rate, brainwave EEG patterns, breathing patterns and focus. This information is used to help meditators improve their practice by recognizing where they lost focus, why they lost focus and understanding via direct data & graphs how effective their session was in bringing calm and clarity to their mind.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Meditation is the ancient practice that in more recent years, is being understood as the total and complete workout for the mind that improves memory, focus, cognition, and problem-solving while decreasing anxiety, depression, stress, and reactivity. These benefits are widely studied and well understood in both the scientific as well as the spiritual community. Not only does meditation function largely as a figurative ‘bicep curl’ for the brain, strengthening it’s most important parts, it also serves the purpose of bringing much larger amounts of self-awareness into the minds of those who practice it. Meditation inherently involves quite a bit of solitude. In this regular solitude we become increasingly more attuned to our bodies and our minds. We learn and understand our ‘ticks’, learning more deeply where they come from and why they are there. This self-awareness can indeed help individuals make decisions in life that are more applicable to who they are as individuals. Each and every one of us is completely unique, and therefore shaping the unique lifestyle that is right for who we are is one of the most important things someone can do to be their best and most happy self.
The Benefits of Muse Headbands
The Muse Headbands offer a unique set of benefits that have never been available to everyday meditators until now. By bringing body sensing technology to a personal level, these headbands give everyday people the ability to track their brain waves and their heart rate before, during and after their meditation sessions. Just like all areas of life, this feedback is information that allows us to understand the performance of our practice without a coach or teacher in the picture to point out our pain points. We can understand what areas of practice we need to hone or work on by simply looking at the charts in the Muse app after each session. Analyzing our own meditation performance is a quantitative way to improve an activity that has traditionally been almost entirely based on results that have been more emotional in nature that scientific/data-driven.
The Cost of Muse Meditation Headbands
Right now the cost of muse headbands ranges from $259.99 to $449.99 per device, depending on whether you want the older Muse 2 Headband or the new Muse S Headband.
The Differences Between Muse, Muse 2 and Muse S Headbands
Firstly, it’s important to mention that the original Muse Headband is now out of production. Although it may be available at some retailers, it is no longer sold by Muse/Interaxon. The models that are currently still available are the Muse 2 Headband and the newest model, the Muse S Meditation. For myself personally, I’ve meditated many times using the Muse headband and the Muse 2 Headband. I am yet to try the Muse S headband, although I’m sure I will have the chance to test that one out soon through my local meditation group. Whenever that time comes I’ll update this article with my review. Below are features available on both of the versions of the Muse Headband that you can currently buy.
Made of comfort-fit fabric (90% rayon, 5% nylon, 5% spandex).
Meditation experiences include Muse essentials, mind, heart, breath, body, go-to-sleep.
My Honest Review Of The Original Muse Meditation Headband
This headband was the first tool I ever tried for enhancing my meditation practice. I tried and utilized this meditation headband both at Mindset Brain Gym here in Toronto for many sessions, as well as alone at my home. When initially putting the band on my head, this one synced quickly and remained stable throughout the meditation session. The EEG sensors did not seem entirely accurate, but the graphs displayed after each session always matched up with the experience I was having during my sit. I found this tool very good in observing the patterns of my mind after the fact but did not find it to be an essential part of my daily sit. The metrics it provided me with were not necessarily tidbits of information that would actually tangibly help me improve my meditations and were more so just interesting to look at after each session.
My Honest Review Of The Muse 2 Meditation Headband
This Meditation headband was indeed a great improvement on the original product. In comparison to the Muse 1, this headband was able to read EEG signals from the brain seemingly much more accurately and the inclusion of insights on heart rate and breath actually made it much more useful in improving meditative sits continuously through the biofeedback provided. This information helped in self-observation and in becoming breath aware during meditation sits the more I used the Muse 2. During setup, I did, however, find that this headband had difficulties syncing up and reading signals properly. In comparison to the original Muse Headband, I found that this headband actually did not stay connected to the biofeedback signals and I would often have my sits interrupted by the heart rate and/or EEG monitors losing their connection and halting the guided sit. Although I probably do actually have a larger head than most people which may have caused the sensors to sit more lightly than ideal on the surface of my forehead, this disconnection likely happened roughly one-quarter of the time I sat down to use the device. Overall, the Muse 2 was definitely a large improvement on the original. I am sure the disconnection issue was a large factor in the Muse team choosing to utilize a form-fitting headband for the newest Muse S Headband that just recently came out. Although I am yet to test this model, I am sure this would solve most of the problems with the shape of previous models.
How Muse Headbands Help Your Meditation Practice
Measuring Heart Rate
Breath and meditation are intrinsically tied to heart rate and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are calm our heart rate decreases, and measuring this patterning provides valuable biofeedback for meditation.
Measuring Brain EEG
Being able to observe your own EEG patterns after meditation sessions helps to better understand the parts of our practice we can improve on and how far, of course, they took us from our intended line of focus.
Muse headbands measure your heart rate, which allows you to later analyze your breath, and eventually become more breath aware in your meditation sits and regular practice.
By understanding our biofeedback mechanisms and partnering this information with high quality guided meditation sessions, Muse tools are excellent for meditative performance, if that is what we are going for.
The Muse Meditation Assistant App
One of the most important things to mention about the Muse, Muse 2 and Muse S Meditation Headbands is that to utilize guided them for guided meditation, you do have to download the Muse Meditation Assistant App. When you download the app, it comes with a small set of free guided meditations, and aside from these, the remainder of the sessions available require a subscription to unlock. The prices for the app are as follows:
Per month: $ 12.99 USD / $ 17.99 USD
Per year: $ 94.99 USD / $ 124.99 USD
This subscription unlocks more than 300 guided meditations from dozens of notable meditation teachers from around the world. This allows you to test out a wide range of meditation styles, techniques and routines to analyze your biofeedback and diversify your regular practice.
Summary of The Muse Meditation Headbands
Overall, I would say that Muse Meditation Headbands are easily the coolest technical tool I have ever tried when it comes to mindfulness and improving my own practice. The feedback aspect is incredibly interesting and actually provides a lot of great information about how my sessions went when all was said and done. These are the kinds of tools that truly helped me step up my game as well as my understanding of different techniques I often read and hear about on my own. In my sits, I was able to test techniques and later observe what kind of activity was occurring in my brain and body during each new aspect I tried.
Who the Muse Headbands are for:
In my opinion, the Muse Headband is a great tool for new, beginning or intermediate meditators. For those who are more advanced, it may be cool to try, but if you are anything like myself and others who I have asked, you may feel that this is not necessary or interesting for you in the long term. However, for those who are in the earlier stages of their meditation practice, these headbands are an amazing way to get interested and excited about meditation. Not only do they help you understand you, your body and your technique, they give new meditators a way of accessing a huge variety of different kinds of meditations from different teachers, countries and with different goals. The pairing of the headband with a paid subscription is quite likely the perfect tool for entry-level individuals, and though they may seem expensive at first glance, they hardly compare the cost of a full-fledged introduction retreat where you would likely be spending a couple of thousand dollars to partake.
Important Things to Consider if you are Looking at Buying one of the Muse Headbands:
The cost of the headband alone is not how much you will have to spend if you are looking for the full experience. If you are going to buy the headband, the reality is that you also may as well go all the way in, and buy a subscription as well. Add roughly $100+ per year you think that you will use the headphones when planning out the expense.
The first thing to consider is that these are an investment. Make sure you are aware that this is something that costs money, to supplement a practice that is inherently free. This is an investment in your own well being, which is in my eyes one of the best things you can possibly put your money toward.
These headbands are not the cure to your meditation challenges. The Muse tools are there to hone your practice, but they are not a solution. Challenges in your practice will only be overcome through dedication, education, and practice.
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There will be more free resources to come, along with discounts and advanced notice for my major posts, courses, and events.
In a world filled with endless books on every topic imaginable, how does one ever decide which books are actually worth buying a copy? Well, that is what the beautiful thing we know as the internet is for, where people like me share our favorites so you don’t have to take the time to filter through each and every one of them. I have been reading about mindfulness, meditation, personal growth, and reprogramming the subconscious mind for close to a decade now. Out of the dozens and dozens of physical and audiobooks I’ve listened to, this list of 14 is my tried and true favorites. Not only did I love, and re-read many of them twice, I have heard nothing but exceptional reviews of them from others. They are not in any particular order, although the first two mentioned are probably my two personal favorites.
Click on the book image or title to visit the Amazon.com page for each read.
This, for many readers, is the book that shakes their perception of thinking and mindfulness in general. Through my podcast and work in the personal development space, this book is the most commonly referenced as people’s entry point into the world of self-awareness and discovering their true intuitive voice. I first read this book in University while I was working in Northern Canada’s logging industry taking on hard labor to fund my education and adventurous lifestyle. This, as mentioned above, was my entry point. It was the very first piece of content I ever read around being a better version of why I was. This book was life-changing, to say the least. It woke me up and made me understand how to truly observe my thoughts. It forced me to analyze my world and the perceptions I was choosing for my world. It made me understand the concept of choice in general in a new and profound way. For anybody who does not know Eckhart Tolle quite yet, this man is one of the most amazing teachers of our time. This book will change the way you look at the world, and at yourself. Give this a read and get ready to dive into the rabbit hole of goodness.
I put this book up here in the first position because it was quite possibly the most awakening book I have ever read. Originally suggested to me by Tim Ferris in multiple episodes of his podcast, I finally gave this book a read this past fall and was pleasantly surprised. This read it about waking people up. About encouraging the reader to look at their life objectively, from that detached angle where they can truly understand that nearly everything they think and do is conditioning from their life experiences. Not only does it provide the opportunity to enhance this special sense of awareness, the book includes steps and lessons for how to live authentically, free and to think for ourselves as we move forward. I would recommend this is the most important book to read for anybody out there who is dabbling with information in the space of self-awareness, mindfulness, personal development or consciousness. In addition to all this, the book is less than 200 pages long, so it’s not the biggest time commitment either. A quick and easy read that has something in it for everyone.
Written by renowned psychiatrist and educator of Buddhist philosophyMark Epstein, Advice Not Given is a book about assessing, analyzing and dropping the excess of ego we carry with us in nearly every aspect of our lives. Though it arises more strongly in some areas than others, the book is a careful assessment of how the presence of this ego impacts our results, both professionally and personally. In addition to these lessons, in this book, you will find a wonderful explanation of Mark’s self analyzation in the early years of his mindfulness training and practice. He tells the story of how he first found meditation, what it has done for him, and shares the details of several examples of how mindfulness-based cognitive exercises have helped numerous of his psychotherapy clients over the years. For me, this was a very pleasant read. Mark’s blend of traditional Buddhist lessons mixed with information about the practical benefits of mindfulness for modern North Americans struck a chord with me. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing how a variety of mindfulness-based practices have helped his clients through harsh personal struggles of their own as well.
Emily Fletcher is a legend of meditation teaching in the modern era. This book along with a few podcast episodes where she promoted the new book is what influenced me to level up the regularity of my meditative practice to include sit multiple times each and every day. In this book, Emily dives into the scientific evidence of what exactly it is that the ancient practice of meditation does to the brain. What evades the understanding of most people, including many regular meditators, is that this exercise is incredibly good for the physiology of the brain. Regular practice improves the cognitive performance of the brain. It is like a bicep curl for the mind. This book lays out the facts, as well as the pointers for anybody who wants to understand the benefits or practice them. For myself personally, I enjoyed that this book is very factual, and less based on philosophy and origins. I would recommend this read for anybody who knows that understanding the benefits of meditation is sure to spark their motivation to remain consistent.
If you haven’t yet heard of Dan Harris, Dan is the American news anchor who famously had a quick but noticeable nervous breakdown on live television. Following this experience, he came to realize the extreme amount of stress and emotional repression he was prone to in his everyday living. To build his resilience against the demands of a high paced career, as well as a rebound from the anxiety attack on live television, Dan gave meditation a try. Starting with a long silent retreat of over a week, Dan dove in headfirst, enjoying all the noticeable benefits of doing so. This book is an excellent telling of his experience with chronic anxiety and stress, and how he found and integrated meditation to his professional and personal life. As the title suggests, his trademark phrase for describing the practice is that it makes you “10% Happier”. A statement I would say is modest for most people but certainly true. If you knew with complete certainty that one small thing could make your health better as well as make you 10% happier, why wouldn’t you do it? That is the premise of the book. Dan is an amazing writer in general, but this book is one of the best reads for anybody wondering or still deciding whether meditation is right for them. This book is relatable, readable, understandable and humble.
This book is an accumulation of stories and scientific examples about the science of truly “letting go”. In the information shared by Dr. Hawkins, he describes the physiological changes that happen in the body when the mind truly learns to detach from those things it holds on to so intensely. Surprisingly, this topic of the mind-body connection is actually well researched and has loads of evidence that there is something more to the relationship than modern medicine. For me, this book was an incredible introduction and guide to the concept of letting go of not only past emotional trauma, but of perspectives, grudges, and more. Through the art of letting go, we actually free our minds in ways that are more significant than we can possibly comprehend without explanation. It is only in letting go of the previous experiences that have shaped our perspectives and worldviews that we can look ahead with a truly open mind. The art of allowing something to be the way that it is or to have occurred the way that it did without trying to control, change, resist or dwell on it is a skill and a practice. This book is a must-read for anybody interested in the psychological and physiological benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
This book is widely known as the most famous written work of Shunryu Suzuki, one of the first great Asian teachers to bring his lessons to North America. This man is the cause of a large portion of the wave of mindfulness, spirituality and self-awareness lessons that have since flooded their way across North America as well. In this book, you will find lessons on the true and original intentions of meditation. It is a full review of zen practice, all the way from the posture, to the breathing, to the viewpoints of true nonduality. I was first given this book by a friend’s father. He gave me a brand new copy 5 years ago when first hearing that I was studying mindfulness. It was only recently that I finally busted it open, and I am glad that I did. This book is packed with lessons and perspectives to help anybody bring a more traditional sense of discipline to their meditative practice. The lessons I learned in this book have helped me level up my game noticeably and I would highly recommend this read for other avid meditators. The book itself is medium-small in size, so it is definitely an easy and low commitment read.
This book is all about taking control of our thoughts, to take control of our reality. Unbeknownst to most of us, the vast majority of our actions, emotions and therefore results, come from the depths of our subconscious mind. Our outer world is nothing more than a reflection of the thoughts we allow, and consciously choose to engage with. The beauty of this reality lies in the understanding that we are in fact capable of choosing which thoughts we want to think. In taking the time to observe and listen to the state of our thoughts we provide ourselves with the opportunity to choose which ones to allow and disallow. Just as with everything else in life, thoughts are, in the end, nothing more than habit. Teaching our minds to think in beneficial ways is how we reprogram our subconscious for better circumstances and output.
Unlike all the other books up until this point, it is a fiction story, though it is based on real experiences from numerous real people who have indeed existed. In this wonderful tale of a man reconnecting with his authentic purpose and passion in life, Robin Sharma gives us readers the opportunity to learn as a third party, witnessing the transformation of an overworked lawyer. His story is not only inspiring and relatable for many of us, but it is also jam-packed with lessons and opportunities for us readers to contemplate our own livelihood as professionals, family members, and creators. I personally loved this book for its easy reading quality in combination with the lessons it provides. I read this book right at the peak of my career obsession. It was a book that grounded me in who I truly am. It reminded me of what I truly want, and why I was doing what I was. I would recommend this book to anybody whatsoever who finds themself on the search for more meaning in their life, regardless of how fulfilled or challenged they may feel.
As described in many reviews of the book, A New Earth is “a profoundly spiritual manifesto for a better life”. This book is an uplifting, good vibe inducing guide to the definite and predictable ways our ego tries to mess up our passion and positivity for further comfort and control. This book is a powerful motivator for each and every reader to wake up to the true purpose of their life. Who are we? What are we here for? Why? All important questions, but many of us never take the time to even ask. For those who may not know where to start, I have a suggestion. Start with this book. It will take you on a wild ride of powerful perspectives of mindfulness, lessons, and methods from which you can begin. True transformation takes something. It takes dedication and commitment. If you are looking for a change, or just an amazing book to pick up for a few hundred pages, this book is a must buy.
This book revolves around a few key concepts: that we are all one, that we are more than enough just as we are, that we are all connected as one and that our way or perspective is entirely subjective. There is no one right way to be, think, or view the world. Each way is simply a different way of endless ways. Neale has shared on numerous occasions that this book was conceived during one of the darkest times in his life. During this time, he asked God his questions. Why? Why now? What did it happen this way? What came to him was serious about realizations. Whether it was indeed the words of God, or whether it was his own expanding understanding of the nature of reality and his place in it, the output is an inarguably fascinating book. This read is filled with esoteric and wise perspectives that can help anybody gain more clarity on who they are and who they are becoming. I would recommend this book to the intermediate or advanced student of mindfulness, meditation, and spirituality. This book is paradigm-shifting and is certain to open something new inside each of us.
In Paulo Coelho’s fictional tale of a young man deciding to pursue his true life’s path, you will find an enigmatic story filled with hidden meaning and lessons. This story describes in a fictional capacity, what it takes to live a life that is nobody’s but your own. A life that is defined by following your heart and soul, and most importantly how to overcome the challenges that inherently come along with that decision. This book is highly renowned for the enchanting simplicity of the teachings found when reading between the lines.
For those who are unfamiliar with the infamous Ram Dass, in his previous profession, Mr. Dass went by the name Richard Alpert. He was a well-renowned psychologist at Harvard University before including psychedelics into his research on the human mind and therapy. After becoming a strong advocate for utilizing natural psychedelic substances for mental healing and clarity, he was fired from the university. This moment ended up becoming the catalyst in a long spiritual journey throughout India and the rest of the world, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience into his teachings back home in North America. Many of my favorite thinkers and professionals including Aubrey Marcus have openly stated their consideration that Ram Dass may be one of the humans on our planet today who are the closest to so-called ‘enlightenment’. This book is in part, an autobiography of his life path, as well as an organized collection of some of his most impactful and memorable lectures. If you are ready for this story, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to dive in. You may have to re-read some of his statements, but they will hit hard when you truly comprehend the messages he is trying to tell.
Highly regarded as one of the most important meditation books ever written for modern times, this read is filled with concepts, guided sessions, meditation and mindfulness tips, as well as koans and other gems of wisdom. Rooted in Buddhist philosophy, this book links traditional Buddhist perspectives with the modern North American lifestyle and value system. A central theme of this read is on the inherent results that are present in a life of meditative practice, along with the transcendent benefits meditators often see, feel, and experience in all other areas of their lives. This book is a truly informative read that is jammed to the brim with inspiration and motivation to live a powerful life of love, acceptance and mental clarity. Jack Kornfield is known as one of the forefathers of meditation in modern times, having taught many of today’s most influential mindfulness authors and educators. Pick up this book to understand why all of them regard this man’s work so highly.
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One of the best ways to learn about meditation and make it part of regular self-care is to download and subscribe to one of the many apps available today. With the continued transformation of digital technology, digital mindfulness resources are proving to be making massive contributions to the world of mental wellness. Although there are tons of meditation apps available on both Android and Apple phones, there is a small list of apps that I would place on the elite level of quality. This is a list of all the best apps available on the market today. Each and every one of the apps on this list offers a wide range of benefits and tools to bring to your new or established meditation practice. No matter which one you choose, you really can’t go wrong.
For many of us, headspace was the first company paving the way for meditation to go mainstream. With a great trial option and an amazing library of guided meditations and lessons, many people would argue it is one of the very best mindfulness resources on the market. Headspace was the first app or meditation educational program I ever tried out and I can definitely say it was top notch. The intro lessons are foolproof and are sure to get anybody into the swing of a regular daily, or not so daily practice. All the lessons are hosted by renowned meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe, well known as one of the first people to bring mindfulness for clarity and cognitive performance to the world of business. This app is great for anybody looking to learn about meditation and how to hone in on both their routine and the quality of their practice.
Free to download.
Subscription Cost: $69.99 USD per year or $12.99 a month.
The next app I would recommend is Calm. This app promotes meditation for better sleep and living stress-free. As all meditators know, these are indeed the two main benefits of meditation that show their results in nearly all aspects of our lives. Most recently, Calm has partnered with daily meditator and professional basketball player Lebron James to further promote the practice and get more people started. Calm recently became an app unicorn, passing the 1 billion dollar valuation, so you know they have the resources to keep this app in the elite level of quality. From masterclasses to sleep meditations and visualization exercises, this app has everything you need.
Although not as big as the two apps before this, Insight Timer is another relatively big player in the meditation app space. With a huge variety of guided sessions from a wide range of teachers, this app is a little more like a guided meditation library than an educational app, although it includes lessons all the same. Browse the sections based on the practice of your choice and find the sessions, talks or lessons you need.
This app was created by journalist turned meditation teacher and advocate, Dan Harris. Dan is most well known for his famous nervous breakdown on live TV, after which he was drawn to meditation to cope with the decades of stress that was beginning to come unraveled at a key point in his life. After a couple of silent retreats and the adoption of daily practice, Dan became so enthralled he wrote two books, created an app, and traveled across North America to record content podcasts and videos for his projects. Partnering with Canadian author and mindfulness teacher Jeff Warren, this whole project is packed with character. You really can’t go wrong when you bring Jeff and Dan, put them in the same room, and see what they create together. Check out their website to learn more about Dan’s books and other projects as well.
For anybody who has used the Muse Headbands, this app is specifically designed to be used in partnership with the headbands. Muse creates headbands that use EEG and biofeedback technology to read the frequency of brainwaves and heart rate to create graphs based on your meditation session. Although tracking your brainwaves is entirely a bonus to any meditation routine, it can certainly be an interesting tool to test out to understand when your mental and physical relaxation have a correlation. When you start using their headsets, you will see a set of free guided meditations available in-app, in addition to a set of locked sessions available only for subscribers. If you are in love with your headset and using that as a tool for your meditations, give their subscription a try to unlock a wide variety of guided sessions and lessons for your choosing.
Free to download.
Subscription Cost: $94.99 USD or $12.99 a month.
Free Trial: Not for additional subscription package.
Personally, Waking Up is one of my favorite meditation apps out there. Founded and managed by neuroscientist and modern spiritual coach Sam Harris, this app is both highly educational and includes tons of resources to support your actual practice. The educational content consists of podcasts, talks, conversations and teachers around mindfulness, Buddhism, and almost everything else in the realm of mental clarity and cognition training. In comparison to many other meditation apps, the benefit of Waking Up is definitely the sheer volume of informative content available. This app has much more to offer than just guided meditation sessions.
Free to download.
Cost: $ 99.99 USD per year or $ 14.99 USD a month.
Founded by the amazing team at Mindvalley institute, Omvana is an up and coming meditation app with some serious backing. Recently winning an award from Healthline for being one of the best wellness apps of 2019, this app includes an expansive meditation library featuring lessons from a variety of unique and insightful teachers. Many of the fans of the app tote it as having one of the most diverse experiences out of any meditation resource out there. If you practice meditation daily utilizing guided sessions, this app may be your key to avoiding boredom or seemingly repetitive lessons in your practice.
Buddhify is a meditation app designed with the specific goal of polishing up your practice so much that you no longer have to use an app to meditate. As you may have noticed by now, many of these apps are quite similar in nature. What sets this app apart from the rest is that it only requires a one time charge to install the app, and everything past that point is completely free
In recent years, meditation has gained massive popularity amove the masses. It has gone mainstream among everyday people. While this is a new practice for many of is, the ancient mental exercise of meditation seems to have been a recipe int the success of many of the most influential people in modern society for decades. This list is just some of the endless and ongoing count of successful individuals who meditate daily. In his book Tools of Titans, Tim Ferris states that meditation is quite possibly the most consistently shared practice among high achievers.
One of the largest promoters of mindfulness in the mainstream media is Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has openly stated that she is a daily meditator, a practice that allows her to perform at a high level. Looking at just how productive this woman is, it’s not surprising she is receiving a little help from this powerful practice to help her accomplish as much as she does.
Another high performing executive and creator, there is no mystery behind the performance of Arianna Huffington. Again, the answer is her meditative practice. Arianna Huffington totes meditation and mindfulness for her ability to stay sane, rational and productive while diving into uncharted business territory on a regular basis.
As the newest face of advertising for the Calm meditation app, Lebron James is widely known as a meditator. As many athletes often find, Lebron has toted meditation for its benefits both on and off the court including rational decision making, cognitive performance and the ability to perform and persevere under pressure.
In his own words, Novak says he meditates because the practice provides him with the optimal state of peace and calm while simultaneously contributing to happiness and joy. The emotional balance has done wonders for his game and life both on and off the court.
Madonna reportedly subscribes to a daily dose of transcendental meditation. Between this and her distinctly ayurvedic diet, Madonna has said time and time again how she believes these two elements of health bring her the perfect balance of mind-body connectedness and balance.
Jeff Weiner – CEO of LinkedIn
Jeff Weiner has publicly recognized his daily use of the Headspace meditation app. This man has started one of the most successful resources on the entire internet, attributing much of his ability to perform under pressure to his newfound ability to think clearly through meditation.
The late Kobe Bryant was one of the most dedicated and talented basketball players to ever grace the court. His work ethic made him a high performer in nearly every aspect of his life, including business post-retirement where he was also well recognized for his contributions. Kobe was first introduced to meditation from the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson. In the words of Bryant, “I think it’s important because it sets me up for the rest of the day. It’s like having an anchor. If I don’t do it, it feels like I’m constantly chasing the day, as opposed to being controlled and dictate the day.”
Russel Simmons is the man behind Def Jam Records, the label that made larger contributions to hip-hop over time than any other. Since those days, Russel has become a huge ambassador of meditation and has published a book called Success Through Stillness.
According to Paul, “In moments of madness, meditation has helped me find moments of serenity – and I would like to think that it would help provide young people a quiet haven in a not-so-quiet world. It was a great gift that Maharishi gave us.”
As with Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, it seems most of Basketball’s greats were daily meditators. Michael Jordan reportedly stated to have meditated every morning because it allowed him to avoid distractions and focus on the court. This focus provided him with a flow state that made him virtually unstoppable when charging his opponents with or for the ball.
Jerry Seinfeld is most well known for his starring role in, as you’ve probably guessed, Seinfeld. As the star of the show and the executive producer, Jerry was handling a lot, to say the least. He reported utilizing meditation each and every morning to get through it all, keeping the practice alive long after the end of the last season.
On his personal blog, Gates reported that he recently started meditating after coming across the written works and Headspace app created by Andy Puddicombe. He was reportedly drawn in by the research shared in the lessons. It was the legitimacy of the benefits that encouraged him to take up the practice.
Kendrick Lamar has been known to drop hints about meditation in many of his songs and interviews, leading many people to the conclusion that he must indeed be practicing it himself. Here is one of the many lyrics you can find where he makes sure to pay his respects to the ancient practice: “Meditation is a must, doesn’t hurt if you try. See you thinking too much, worried about your career, ever think of your health?”
In 2013 Ellen Degeneres came out on her show stating that she has been practicing transcendental meditation daily for 3 years and that it has changed her life. Since that time she has interviewed many famous meditation teachers on her show.
In the past few years, Joe Rogan has become one of the most influential people on the planet. Interviewing a wide range of guests on his podcast, he not only discusses his own practice often, but he also pulls information about the practice of many other influential creators on a very regular basis. As it turns out, many of them have a practice of their own. Joe often totes the benefits of practicing meditation in float tanks, encouraging many of his guests to give his personal tank a try right after their recording.
Although best and mostly known for his acting, Will Smith has recently become a very large presence in the personal development space. With regular motivational and mindset/mindfulness tips videos, he has recently been promoting meditation regularly and strongly across YouTube as well as his other channels.
It has never been a mystery that Tim Ferris is a regular meditator. In his books, podcast episodes and articles he is very regularly found discussing his own exploratory meditation practices. Fun fact, Tim Ferris was the first person I ever heard talk about meditation in the public realm. He most certainly was not first, but he made major contributions toward the modern and public awareness of the benefits this ancient practice provides.
Katy Perry is a well-known advocate for transcendental meditation. In 2011 she first started openly discussing her practice and all of the personal and professional benefits that came with it.
In 2011 Scorcese shared the details of his practice in an exclusive interview with wellness personality Ray Dalio. He share the following sentiment among many others: “For the last few years, I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation. It’s difficult to describe the effect it has had on my life. I can only mention may-be a few words: calm, clarity, a balance, and at times — a recognition. For me, meditation has made a difference.”
In his biography, Jobs mentions meditation time and time again, discussing the subtle but critical contributions it provided in his thought process throughout the creation of his company. One of his most famous quotes was the following: “If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things – that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”
George Lukas has reportedly been meditating for almost 40 years. There are even rumors that ‘the force’ in his Star Wars series is a secret reference to the pure consciousness achieved when one has put in the work and time to become a master at meditating.
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One of the many joys of living in a big city is that you can find a community for anything. In Toronto, this is certainly the case. As the third-largest city and economic hub in North America, our city has a heck of a lot to offer, especially in the way of mindfulness, meditation and yoga. Although you can find meditation classes in almost all corners of the greater Toronto area, here are some of the top places to meditate in the city. These locations offer high-quality courses, resources, and classes, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. For anybody looking to explore meditation classes in the city, I would recommend giving several of these a try. Get to know what you want to learn more about, what kind of practice best suits you, and go from there in narrowing down your preference.
Consciousness Explorers Club
The consciousness explorers club is a nonprofit meditation organization originally founded by internationally renowned meditation teacher and author Jeff Warren. Since the groups founding over a decade ago, the club has grown tenfold in popularity, now hosting a wide variety of different meditation events and classes. Well known for their pay what you can (between $10-30 recommendation) “Monday night sits”, the CEC is well established as one of the best places to hone your practice in the GTA. If you are looking for a little more education on meditation than simply showing up for a sit and getting on with your day, this is definitely the place for you. Discussion, lessons, and experimentation are some of the best aspects of meditating with this group. Currently hosting their events at Mosaic Yoga in Brockton Village, the CEC is one of the most welcoming and open meditation classes you can visit.
Meditation has recently become a widely used and widely known tool to enhance cognitive performance. Utilizing concentration and focus techniques throughout a wide variety of classes, Mindset is the perfect place to train your brain for further peace, performance, and compassion. Mindset Brain Gym is one of the few and far between studios actively offering Wim Hof breathwork classes as well as classes harnessing the brainwave measuring power of Muse headbands. If you are curious about trying out some of the newest techniques and tools in the mindfulness space, visit Mindset Brain Gym in Yorkville and give their membership a trial run today.
Located right in the heart of the downtown core, Hoame Meditation is a studio with the aim of making meditation and mindfulness accessible to both newbies and gurus alike. Whether it’s a guided meditation class or a visit to their relaxing salt cave and sauna, Hoame meditation has you covered for all aspects of both relaxation and zen alike. In addition to their range of classes and services, Hoame offers training courses for both mindfulness and meditation teachers alike. Visit them online and sign up for their newsletter to receive 10% off your first purchase.
Good Space is a neighborhood meditation and yoga studio located in the Parkdale west end of the city. This place has loads of character while simultaneously running a whole set of great classes run by an amazing team of teachers and staff. Aside from their regular class offerings, Good Space also hosts regular workshops and one-off events for breathwork, new moon meditations, kundalini yoga/meditation and many more modalities than I can list in one sentence. Visit this space for a relaxing, comfortable environment and top-notch classes.
Although Meditation Toronto does not actually have a studio of any sort, this website and organization is an amazing resource for online tools, lessons and lists of events and classes one can find all across the city. If you are looking to explore the meditation community in your area, or any other neighborhoods this website is the resource for you. Find retreats, audio resources and anything else you need to get started on their website.
Hridaya Yoga is a studio in the downtown core focused on the ancient traditions of yoga and meditation, focusing on the expansion of spiritual power in our everyday lives. Subscribing and sharing the teachings of Yogini Mangala Anshumati, this studio offers a great variety of meditation and yoga classes. This studio is a great location to visit for anybody living downtown looking to not only practice but learn about the art of meditation on a whole.
The Shambhala Meditation Centre of Toronto is part of Shambhala, an international community dedicated to recognizing the innate goodness of all and manifesting that goodness in society. Although offering a wide range of meditation teachings from how-to classes to advanced techniques, Shambhala Meditation Centre mostly features teachings based upon the concept that enlightenment and the innate good of all people has the potential to truly solve most challenges. Visit Shambhala Meditation Centre for lessons and content with more of a historical origin than you are likely to see in most other studios across the city.
Although Soul 7 is not a full-fledge studio, their location in Yorkville is the home of the NeuroFit Bootcamp, a system designed by one of their founders to neuro-hack the mind for greater performance, resilience, and equanimity. Between sound therapy, the powerful experience of their solo meditation pods, or any of their other mind-boosting offerings, Soul 7 should be on top of the radar for anybody looking to enhance or understand their own cognition, or understanding of how their mind works. Visit their website to explore the wide range of services available.
Focus Mindspace+ is a relatively new studio in Toronto, located on Ossington near Queen in the heart of Trinity Bellwoods. This cozy studio is beginning to take off, hosting true Wim Hof breathwork classes, a whole host of meditation classes, events and yoga. Visit their website to learn about upcoming events and classes. While in the area, make sure to stop by one of the many one of a kind cafes and restaurants in walking distance. If it’s summer, cap off you class with a visit to Trinity Bellwoods park and keep your zen going into the night.
Although the current version of myself would hardly indicate such, I have always been one of those people who has discretely battled anxiety for most of my life. For years, it had a major say in the actions I took and held me back from my true potential in ways I certainly would have never realized until breaking free. In many ways, it was this struggle with anxiety that initially exposed me to the unique and incredibly helpful world of mindfulness and meditation. To some it all up, I was sick of allowing my anxiety to control how I felt, control how I acted and control what I was capable of. I knew there were people out there fighting their way free of this mental trap, and once I found them they led me exactly where I needed to go. Nearly each and every one of them was, and still are firm believers in mindfulness as a lifestyle practice, and, on my own timeline, I certainly learned why. Mindfulness and meditation have truly abolished 99% of my anxiety. Although there was more at play than simply inducting a few new practices into my daily routine, the contribution this approach has made for me is simply unmeasurable and what I want is to share my advice and my experience with others who may be going through the exact same thing.
Although I personally have found a great deal of stillness and progress in this form of self-work, I will absolutely acknowledge the personal nature of the experience of anxiety. Each and every one of us experiences life in our own way. And thus, each and every one of us has our own way of approaching, combatting and overcoming our personal demons.
If I had to sum it up as briefly as possible, the practice of mindfulness boils down to a few key principles:
Listening to our thoughts and feelings objectively before reacting to them. This allows us to then respond accordingly, free from an emotional and irrational reaction.
Working through our experiences, feelings, and thoughts. We do this so that we can bring more understanding into our lives, in the form of self-awareness, and external awareness. Awareness then brings understanding, intention, and possibilities.
Acceptance of the present moment. The world simply is the way it is. In this practice, we can be present to what is so, accepting that the need for control is nothing more than a conscious choice to be anxious. Control will always be nothing more than an illusion.
When it comes to achieving these three concepts, there are a variety of methods available. We can engage in sport to find that flow state of pure presence to the moment. We can dive into contemplation with people around us to work through experiences and better understand our view of the world. For myself personally, I have explored many ways of achieving these three elements, including and not limited to meditation, journaling, running, extreme sports and group gatherings. I learned about each of my approaches through research, and have reviewed them based on experience. All in all, the combination I chose completely erased the vast majority of anxiety from my life, symptoms and all. Because of how effective these tools were for myself personally, I’ve shared the list of practices that were the most powerful for me in the next section of this article.
This is my list of the tools I have found to be the most impactful when enhancing and healing my mental health.
This practice is first and foremost on my list of mindfulness techniques, and for good reason. Truly disciplined and regular meditation practice is a life-changing habit. Exercising the art of consciously observing our thoughts without allowing them to take a hold of our emotional, physical or rational response is powerful. It allows us to approach life from a solid, reliable and consistent emotional place. It allows us to respond before we react. And it allows us to strengthen our resilience to stress while we are at it. In more recent years, the science behind meditation has joined the argument behind it in a very convincing way. Meditation strengthens the grey matter within our brain, cuts stress dramatically and enhancing cognitive capabilities. Considering stress is among the largest contributors to disease as a whole, this is some pretty decisive evidence in favour of sitting for a vow of silence at least once a day. For myself personally, starting and ending my day with meditation has allowed me to virtually dissolve stress in my life and avoid letting my monkey mind take over throughout the day. Not to mention, it’d a pretty peaceful way to start your daily grind. The state I pick up in the morning tends to stick with me all day, and I certainly notice when I go without.
So often in life, we collect thoughts, feelings, and emotions without truly understanding what they are, or what they mean to us. This is where a journalling practice makes its contributions. Journalling as an exercise of self-awareness allows us to process the information we would normally allow to collect in our minds. It provides an opportunity to cut through the clutter of our experience and comprehend our emotions, our dreams, and really anything else we want or need to give some thought. Throwing thoughts on a piece of paper has a surprising ability to place us gently back in alignment with who we are. For myself personally, journaling has helped me lay out how I feel about the moments I am experiencing. It has helped me to see the consistencies in the way I look at things, allowing me to layout my value system with precise accuracy. And of course, it has helped me stir some more intentionality into the actions and the thoughts I choose to embrace in my life. It really is pretty amazing what each and every one of us is capable of when we step away from the auto-pilot way of living we are so used to.
Contrary to what many people may understand about them, the vast majority of our human thoughts are nothing more than habitual. At some point in our life, we experienced something, and then something else, and then something else. At each of these experiences, we chose to think a certain way. By the third or fourth time, that way of thinking is part of our programming. It is part of our subconscious response. This is why negative thoughts grasp us before negative moments even occur. It may be a wild concept to anybody first hearing this, but we CAN choose our thoughts. We CAN consciously add new programming to our mind’s automatic response. How do we do this? Affirmations. Affirmations train your mind on what to think, what to believe, and what to create as a feeling on the default level. If we make a very conscious and very consistent effort to tell ourselves the things we want to feel, we will start to feel more of them. Practice telling yourself how much you love who you are. Practice telling yourself you are confident. Practice telling yourself you are capable. If you practice the way the affirmations feel, and you daily for 50-100 days, you will almost certainly and inarguably experience drastic changes in your thoughts. For myself personally, I read my affirmations every night, every morning and sometimes, even more often. I have completely revamped my way of thinking for the better and the results are obvious. The birthplace of action is thought. If you want more results from the outer world, you need to start by working on your inner world.
I know this element will not apply to everybody, but if you are anything like myself, this one will pay itself back in dividends. For anybody out there who struggles with the same thing as myself, I have a common tendency to get all caught up in what I produce. My self worth becomes indiscriminately intertwined with my ability to create results and progress. When I stop for a moment, I feel guilty. I fill my mind with all the possibilities I am missing out on creating. I fall into the trap of attaching my value to some external means of validation, and that kind of mindset is not helping anybody be less anxious in their lives. Taking breaks is a very important aspect of mindfulness, and particularly for the self-work necessary when overcoming anxiety. Just like our legs need some rest after running a marathon, our minds need time to unwind, regenerate and recuperate. Not only is this necessary on a hormonal level, but it is necessary on a thought level. A major part of general anxiety that keeps it alive and well, is our habit of feeding unhealthy thoughts. The goal here is to give ourselves a break from those and break the habit once in a while. A healthy body needs rest and so does a healthy mind. Practice bringing more balance into your life. Work and relaxation need to come together in some sort of equilibrium for us to be at our best, and each of us has our own unique threshold for this. Take some time to unwind, and most importantly be happy about it. You deserve some time off, and you can rest easy knowing you will be even better when you return.
In complete honesty, modern society is not as great for this as many of us may think. Here in North America, we really do live in an era where much of society teaches us to cast the responsibility for the circumstances of our lives elsewhere. Our agency for creation is truly our largest and most real tool. The only difference between us and self-made millionaires with thriving relationships is that they simply chose to be that way. If you want an outstanding life, you need to apply yourself, because the universe likely has no plan on tossing you a lottery ticket down the line. Much of what anxiety inherently is, is the fear for the future. The fear that we will not be able to be alright. The fear that we will be incapable of influencing the outcomes of our lives. When I was at the darkest and likely weakest point of my life, a lightbulb finally turned on in my mind. I realized that I would feel better about the future if I simply made the future better. I knew that creating a comfortable future would provide my mind at least some form of ease, and it did. It was at that moment that I began working on a brand new career for myself, and I haven’t turned back once. It is never easy at the beginning, but applying myself has helped me feel more confident in what I am capable of as an individual. It has helped me embrace the future, knowing that I can rely on who I am, that I will always step up to take care of myself. And it has helped me rest my mind better in the present, knowing that I am indeed living more comfortably than I was before. Discipline and accomplishment are perhaps two of the greatest mental skills we can have.
Expanding My Comfort Zone
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, a dominating aspect of anxiety is an inherent fear of the future, and fear for situations we are uncomfortable with. With this in consideration, there are few ways to slowly diminish anxiety than to simply expand what it is that we are comfortable with. For myself personally, this was easier said than done, and I eased my way into this process. During the initial stages, I rarely took large steps, but I did take them consistently. I shared more articles, I shared more feelings. I said hi to more people. I smiled at more people. I became more vulnerable to the people in my life. I tried new things. I went for the things I wanted. As one might expect, these habits eventually became normal, and they are certainly no longer as scary as they once were. Expanded comfort has created expanded opportunities, expanded my sense of calm, and has truly helped me see my world in terms of possibilities instead of limitations. I’ve since come to realize that discomfort is the answer to all true expansion. Seeking discomfort creates more comfort for us on a whole. It’s a simple but powerful philosophy that has changed the lives of many.
Simplifying My Life
Lastly, there is a hidden power in simplicity, especially when it comes to our mind. When our minds are full of clutter, they are inefficient, and they operate poorly. A scattered life and a scattered mind often come hand in hand. One powerful way to bring more ease to our mental experience of the world, it so simplifies our experience of the world. So often we fall victim to the belief that busy is better. This is far from the truth. Cutting back on my commitments, or at least managing them more simply had provided me with a truly significant amount of relief. I’ve become a scheduling pro and a minimalism expert. I’ve found that the fewer things I own, the fewer thoughts I need to think about them. The fewer thoughts I need to think about them, the more stillness I am able to experience. I am still a high producing individual, only now I do it strategically. I still enjoy nice things, only now I consume very consciously. Without managing the stimulation in our lives, the reality is that we simply become a product of our environment. De-stimulating and turning inward is powerful.
“Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”
– Mary Hemingway
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness or meditation, consider subscribing to my newsletter. In doing so you will receive an ebook on journaling prompts, an ebook about how to start implementing mindfulness in your life and multiple full length guided meditations from renowned meditation coach Michelle Pound. I also have a podcast on Mindfulness which you can listen to on Itunes, Spotify, and all other platforms.
In this recent episode of The Mindful Steward Podcast, I analyze the comfort zone, what it is, and what is exactly is so comfortable about it? My conclusion is simple, the comfort zone is a myth, and here’s why.
For years of my life, I lived in my comfort zone. Even in the areas where I expanded, I did so mostly from good fortune, by poking around the outer regions of my comfortable space to see how much I could experience while remaining deeply within my personal boundaries. I had no desire to expose myself to the real world, and all the potential fears and failures that came along with it. Although I was comfortable, the harsh reality was unsatisfied. It took me years to realize this, and even more years to break free of it.
The comfort zone is not comfortable at all. It is a place filled to the brim with “what if’s”, fears and most detrimentally, regrets. For myself personally, the comfort zone was a place where I constantly thought about what my life would be like if I said yes to all of the things I was constantly retreating from. I was completely consumed by the considerations in my mind, instead of the end goal of the lifestyle I wanted. I listened to every doubt, I listened to every excuse and every complaint. This mental chatter is what dictated how I was living, my decision making seemed to have no say in the matter of what I was creating. The comfort zone was not comfortable, it was only risk-free. At the ripe age of 28 years old, I have finally come to realize how different these two things truly are. Comfort is much more closely related to ‘satisfaction’ that is it to ‘safe’, and there is no satisfaction in living a life where you back away from your dreams and hopes. It is in the trying, and the experiencing of challenge where true satisfaction is created.
As outlined in the episode, I was once an incredibly shy child. It was something that haunted me for years. It crippled my confidence and held me back in so many aspects of my life I probably couldn’t even count them on all my fingers and toes. It took me a very long time to understand that this tendency to be shy, to be quiet and to be reserved was nothing more than a choice I was making. I chose, accepted and believed the story that I could not talk to people. I allowed this to dictate my life until a set of books and readings finally created a fresh perspective in my mind: that my beliefs and thoughts were nothing more than a habit. That I could reprogram my subconscious mind to interact with people in the way I had always wanted. I had social anxiety, and I got rid of it through practice, through affirmation work, and through consistency. As human beings, we are creatures of habit in nearly every way. To create successful results in our lives we need to go all the back to our biological roots and create successful habits that will allow a given success to occur. This is the approach I took, and here are the steps I followed when I chose to overcome my shyness. I was never easy, but it was worth it in nearly every way.
I started small.
When first starting out, I chose to leave my comfort zone through small but consistent actions. For me, this meant speaking to strangers often. In the beginning, just saying hi to one new person a day was a win. Over time, I upgraded this goal consistently to the point where I was having small but easy conversations with strangers in grocery stores, restaurants or at the bus stop. What I learned was that as I made a simple habit of being open to conversing, the entire experience became easier. As it became easier, it simply became second nature. Saying hi to my waiters eventually led to saying hi old ladies in the condiment aisle. Soon after, I would initiate conversations with these same people. To make a small story short, we don’t need to torture ourselves with discomfort to progress toward our goals. Small but consistent action will manifest incredible results if we are dedicated.
I ignored my mental chatter.
Like many of us, what held me back most, was the tiny voice in the back of my head that constantly provided me with an imaginary case where the worst possible situation could occur. Rationally, this is probably not going to happen very often, but as humans, we often allow the hypothetical chance of something occurring to control our reality in the present. Although developing enough confidence and resilience to put this step into action required a lot of self-work on its own, this is a key to success. What to nearly all high achievers like Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates have in common? They do not have the habit of hesitating. They act, they create, they base decisions off feedback from the moment, and not on worst-case possibilities. They are profoundly related to reality in ways mental chatter could never interrupt. When the little voice in the back of my head started telling me not to talk to that person, I did it anyway. I developed a craving for those moments where I could beat my own doubts. The habit of facing fear head-on is one that turns us from passively mechanical beings into warriors.
Whenever my growth slowed down, I took a leap of faith.
Personal development is a process jam-packed with ebbs and flows. Eventually, times hit us where we have two choices: to stagnate where we are or do something drastic. These moments are both inevitable and important. The key here is to be aware of our internal state of affairs. Drastic results will certainly require drastic measures. When I felt my conversational skills were no longer improving, I did something crazy, I got a job where high-pressure interactions were critical to my success. When I hit my next social flatline, I did something crazy. I started publishing my conversations with strangers online, and launched my podcast. Both of these experiences were terrifying, but they forced me to grow in ways I could never describe, and I am incredibly grateful for both their lessons and proud of the courage I had in taking those actions. Giant leaps are how we hack truly exponential growth in our lives. These experiences are never comfortable, and neither should they be. To stand out in this world, we have to go through processes and experiences that stand out too. Our outer world is nothing more than a reflection of internal world. It is a simple rule that governs the universal reality we live in today.
“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease, and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Although there is a case to be made about living comfortably, the case for living abundantly, filled with excitement and passion for the future is likely doubly as strong. Pushing the boundaries of our human experience is simply a pre-requisite for a life filled with adventure and fulfillment. It is necessary for the internal satisfaction that truly ignites the human spirit. With that being said, I know from experience that the comfort zone can be a very difficult place to escape from, especially for someone who has made a habit of resisting the unknown such as the younger version of myself. The comfort zone is not something we have to leap out of in order to be competent. True growth is slow, and it is steady. It is in a commitment to improving ourselves that these potentials live. A fluid mix of accountability, discomfort, leaps into the unknown and small actions are a recipe for change with powerful results. Living mindfully and with our intentions for the future in mind is the cornerstone of true fulfillment. With these in mind, growth is simply inevitable.
In a world that is constantly vying for our attention, that very thing has come to be our greatest resource. It’s what advertisers want. It’s what TV wants. It’s what our employers want. It’s what our friends, family, and partners want. While using this precious resource for good cause has a utility in and of itself, do we really want to give every last ounce of it away? How much is too much? How can we manage this outflow to make sure there is an equally abundant inflow to keep us vibrant, healthy and aligned? I’ve recently gone through a stage of complete overstimulation that forced me to step back and contemplate these very questions myself. My personal answer and suggestion, as shared by many others before me is simple: stillness.
What I would like to propose here, is that just maybe, the true answers to our problems often lie less in the act of doing and quite literally, in the doing of nothing at all. In stillness, we pause the inflow of information from the world, providing the opportunity to truly process the experience we are having. It allows for a moment of listening when we can hear what our intuition is telling us, to hear how we truly feel about the circumstances in our life. In more esoteric terms, it gives us a chance to be who we truly are, and see how our outer reality reflects this. In a world that bombards us with stimulation from all angles, contemplation, reflection, and true solitude are certainly more important than ever. Without these moments for nobody but ourselves, we are vulnerable to the world around us. We become a product of our environment, instead of a product of our intentions and dreams. We are indeed able to create whatever reality we decide upon in life, but only if we are in a frame of mind that is capable of doing so. This is the true power of inner stillness.
“That space between your ears—that’s yours. You don’t just have to control what gets in, you also have to control what goes on in there. You have to protect it from yourself, from your own thoughts. Not with sheer force, but rather with a kind of gentle, persistent sweeping. Be the librarian that says “Shhh!” to the rowdy kids, or tells the jerk on his phone to please take it outside. Because the mind is an important and sacred place. Keep it clean and clear.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key
So, with all of these benefits and considerations in mind, how is it that we bring stillness into our lives? One thing to consider, is that there is no simple answer to this question. Each and every one of us will have our own means of experiencing the stillness that is uniquely our own. With a true intention of doing so, we can find the form of ‘pause’ that is right for each of us. This pause is whatever provides you with a moment of silence, while simultaneously giving you a chance to contemplate, reflect, and find clarity.
For those who may want a few more ideas on things they can do to bring more stillness into their lives, here are some of my favourite suggestions for anybody seeking a moment of silence for all the right reasons:
Taking some alone time to journal is quite possibly the perfect example of stillness. In doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to process our experiences through the written form. We can take account of the events of our life, journal through our desires, goals, and plans, or we can simply write for the pleasure of it. Sometimes, the whole point of this time is to simply be with ourselves, accepting whatever it is we are experiencing without resistance. I for one use journalling as a processing tool, often overlooking the power that lies in simply writing for the stillness of it. Sometimes an escape from all the processing is what we all really need to regain touch with our inner identity.
Meditation is perhaps the ultimate act of stillness. This activity is in its very essence, the art of focus on the present, ignoring all the considerations and chatter of our nagging monkey mind. Taking time to unwind, focus within and experience the moment at play, is an activity and a practice with far-reaching benefits. Not only does this ritual provide clarity and stillness in the moment, but it also enhances the capacity of our mind to bring this state of mindfulness to all aspects of our lives. Long term meditators have an enhanced brain capacity for focus, calm and clear thinking that they bring to every interaction and challenge. It is literally a workout for the mind with the added benefit of providing a much-needed escape from the bombardment of external stimulation.
Although movement, in general, can provide stillness in its own way, I believe there is nothing that can replace the power of exercise. Working out releases endorphins, hormones, and proteins that have the ability to enhance our ability to learn, while freeing our mind from anxiety and mental clutter. Not only does it keep our minds sharp and youthful, but it also keeps our bodies strong and fit. The inherent connection between mind and body is certainly undeniable, and a very real aspect of mental maintenance comes with physical exercise. Taking these moments to care for and connect with our body can provide our minds with a much-needed moment of pure presence. In this moment of exertion, our focus is internal, and can certainly be a valuable form of stillness.
Working on any form of self-expression that we are truly passionate about at our very core is an amazing form of stillness. For myself personally, I achieve are a rare state of flow when I am recording or editing a podcast, writing an article, or working on any form of personal creative project. As long as the creative activity is something I truly enjoy, I find myself able to completely detach from the external reality that surrounds me, focusing on the project at hand. This form of expression keeps us connected to who we are, what we enjoy and what we want for ourselves. At the very least, it is often quite meditative and helps us train our minds for creativity and self-expression in other areas of our lives as well. Find what makes you tick, and do more of that. This is what intuition truly means, and it really is quite simple.
Get the heck out of your comfort zone. See new things, meet new people, and collect some new and unique experiences. Adventures are something that puts us in the moment, simply because we have to be. When our brains and bodies are absorbing newness, they are sharp, aware and they are like a sponge, forming new neural pathways with each passing event. For myself, this is one major reason why travel has become a passion, or moreover an addiction of mine. Adventures allow us to see how we feel about new things. They allow us to understand the automatic responses that come up in new situations, which we can then contemplate, going ever the more deep in thought and awareness. Stillness comes in many shapes and forms, and living in the true present moment without any form of judgment or comparison is certainly one of these forms. Give this a try and you just may be surprised what you learn about yourself when placed in a situation that is either new or intimidating. It is here where our comfort zone truly expands, and this where unattached experiences takes place.
Family & Friends
This may not be the case for everyone, but for myself, my people are very grounding. They remind me who I am, what I care about and that I can kick back, have some laughs and enjoy any moment. When I take a day off to truly reconnect with friends and family, I find myself charged up for life with a gusto I don’t find many other places. Taking these moments to simply be where I am, with whoever I am with, allows me to enjoy some of the purest presence I know, free from contemplation, planning or organizing. If you haven’t found your people yet, simply set this as an intention for your life. From this place, you can find opportunities that will connect you with them. You will know they are the right ones if they ground you the way my people ground me. Always cherish your family and your friends because those people and your relationships with them are what life is truly about. Aside from our interactions with others, we are basically just walking meat bodies hanging out on a giant rock.
Read A Book
There is truly no better way to utilize the mind while simultaneously giving it a very real break. Reading can inform us, relax us or simply provide a momentary state of detachment. In many ways, reading is quite a meditative practice. For one, it slows the stimulation we allow into our minds. When we read we are tightening this stimuli filter, focusing on the words we are reading instead of what our friend Natalie posted on her Instagram story, or the broken coffee machine at the office. A secondary benefit of this is that a physical book is a really great break from the digital realm. So much of what we do in modern life relies on phones, computers, and technology. There has never been a better time to turn off the phone and pick up a physical paperback book. Diving into a great story is an age-old way of bringing some stillness into a busy routine. Taking these moments for ourselves have, and always will be important.
Spend A Day Alone
This is the art of the “me day”. We live in a world that tells us in so many ways, how we need to be. That we need to be with a partner, that we need to be with friends, or that we need to be successful to be valuable. We are inherently valuable at any moment when we are simply being ourselves, and this requires neither rules, expectations or external validation. We spend so much time doing things with the expectations of others in mind that we often forget what our own value systems truly are. We lose touch with what our inner guidance system is telling us. Self-days are one way we can remind ourselves of what we want, what we like, how we want to live. The premise here is planning a day where we do exactly what we would do if nobody else had a say in the matter. This is an exercise in individuality, stillness, and intuition. Do what YOU want to do, and do what feels right.
Find Yourself Some Nature
This is perhaps the oldest form of stillness known to mankind as a whole. We came from nature, and we will always get back to nature. Get outside, get near some trees, some water or something green. Nature has a calming effect on the mind that is irreplaceable. As humans, we often forget our direct connection to the natural world around us. We are part of it, and it is part of us. We came from this land, and we are evolved to be at peace in its presence. If you live in a big city like myself, this may be moderately more difficult, but you will likely come to cherish your parks more than you ever have before. Touch the grass, touch the trees and absorb their beauty. Be chill, be calm, be still. Enjoy the soothing experience nature provides, and be grateful for every moment of it. If we don’t learn to appreciate it, this could very well one day be gone.
“What do we want more of in life? That’s the question. It’s not accomplishments. It’s not popularity. It’s moments when we feel like we are enough. More presence. More clarity. More insight. More truth. More stillness.” – Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is The Key