Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Nov

A Beginner’s Guide: Why You Should Practice Meditation and How to Get Started

meditation2In response to last week’s “Rethinking Stress” article, a number of readers noted the relevancy of meditation to the insight. Meditation, of course, isn’t something that changes our outer circumstances. It’s an inside job, so to speak. It can change our processing of stress by shifting our relationship to ourselves and to our own cognitive responses and emotional patterns. The result? We over time come to view our own reactions and feelings from a more grounded distance. We learn to observe our emotions instead of letting them run the show. We learn, in essence, to talk ourselves down from our own trees.

Meditation can seem like such a lofty thing, but it doesn’t need to. Anyone can do it, and everyone can benefit. So today I’d like explore meditation; the health benefits it confers, how it may fit into an ancestral framework, and how to get started. Let’s jump right in.

Fancy pillows and various techniques aside, the crux of meditation is this: being present. Fittingly enough, that’s pretty well in keeping with one of the 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers. The modern disconnect, I’ve said, is rampant distraction. This isn’t just about smart phones and media screens everywhere. It’s about what goes on in our own minds – all the mental blah, blah, blah that taxes our brains and frays our nerves. When you consider meditation as a spiritual practice in one regard or another, being present is meant to reclaim our own “spirit” – the self or deeper humanity that exists behind the barrage of biographical happenstance, cultural identifiers and ongoing story lines. It can be a real trip to peek behind that, let alone throw the curtain aside. What you feel is something so essential and simple you can feel like you’ve come home. The experience, you could say, is the ultimate slap in the face to Facebook cultivation and all the other individualistic stylization we participate in/attempt to dodge in modern daily life. Maybe that’s why it feels so comfortably Primal.

Benefits to Body and Brain

As with all things good and Primal, meditation isn’t just a good idea in theory. Research has demonstrated time and again that a regular meditation practice imparts striking changes to our physiological functioning and even our brain structure. Several studies have shown that meditation can lower blood pressure and reduce the activation of certain brain regions associated with worrying and anxiety. Likewise, meditation over time thickens the brain and increases the connectivity within the brain. Insular gyrification (the folding of the brain’s cortex), the researchers found, increased with added years of meditation practice. Associated with these structural changes are benefits like faster processing, better memory formation, and more integrated decision making.

Plus, there’s my personal favorite. Yes, all you epigenetic junkies out there, this one’s for you. A recent study examines the epigenetic profiles of those who received eight weeks of meditation instruction and practice. In less than two months, meditation was enough to upregulate several genes related to “energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance.” Likewise, genes related to inflammation and the body’s stress response were downregulated.

Primal Sense and Modern Context

With all these great physical bonuses, our ancestors must have meditated, right? It would only make sense – by evolutionary logic – that an activity this rewarding played a role somewhere, no? While hunter-gatherer societies certainly experimented with altered states, there’s no real evidence that formal meditation as we see it today had any part in human cultural activities more than a few thousand years ago.

That said, let’s break it down further. When we get to the bones of it and examine meditation as a practice for staying present, we’re onto the real Primal trail. There’s the necessity of being in the moment for survival sake. More than that perhaps is the nondirective attention of meditation. In contrast to the focused ruminating and analyzing we often engage in (directed attention), the casual, detached observation inherent to the nondirective meditation experience, so to speak, is akin to the nondirective attention we experience when outdoors. Sure, we can bring our mental chatter to the most beautiful trail hike, but what does it feel like when we don’t? As Rachel and Stephen Kaplan theorized many years ago, the soft fascination we experience outdoors restores us. So, in a sense, does the “soft” observation we cultivate in meditation practice.

Beginning a Primal Meditative Practice

Okay, so maybe you’re convinced. But where’s the time? How do I make this happen without becoming deranged by the random itches and distractions that inevitably creep up whenever I sit down to “quiet” myself?

First off, let me say that I’m no guru. Let’s just say it doesn’t come naturally to me. But, influenced by my wife, I have picked up a few things over the years, and do have enough experience to feel comfortable offering up some advice.

To start, set a low threshold goal. Don’t expect to do an hour “sit” in at the beginning. Longer times yield deeper peace, sure. It’s not for everybody, however, and that goes double for beginners. Remember, small wins… Carve out as much time as you can – when you can. Even if it’s only ten minutes, make them ten solid minutes. Once you begin to feel the benefits, you’ll likely prioritize meditation in a new way and create more time for it. Think of it this way: meditation can allow you greater peace, concentration and sleep. This all means you can be more efficient. Just those gains alone will bestow upon you the extra time to invest in your practice. Kinda like exercise, no?

While you likely can’t make it to the local meditation center every day, consider trying a weekly group practice to develop the discipline. You’ll learn a great deal from the instruction and just absorb the good energy of a group sit. (Yup, there’s something there, however woo, woo it sounds. I wouldn’t label it anything mystical. Call it community.) Plus, it’s human nature to understand we’re more likely to stick with the sit if we’re in a group. No one wants to be the jerk who got up in the middle of the session or who makes a ton of noise scooting around. We’re on our best behavior with our fellow cavefolk. With time, that behavior sets in as the “normal” default come meditation time. From there, we can transfer the discipline to our home practice.

Use the power of habit to your advantage. After you’ve attended a a group setting for a while, when the teacher says, “Prepare to receive the bell,” you can begin to slip under in the same way Pavlov’s dog began salivating. You will associate the space, the cushion, the set up, the bell, the time of day and any other salient details with the meditative relaxation response. Create the same associations at home by trying to practice at the same time of day or in the same space for a while at least. Make a calming space in your home or yard. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – no specialty catalog shopping required. That said, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, there’s no need to save meditation for home or your nearest Zen center. I know a bike courier who needs to hang around downtown all day and finds spots in local parks for some meditation time each afternoon.

As for technique, start simple. Sit up straight on a folded blanket or comfortable pillow. Use a chair if you prefer, or even lay on the floor if you think you can stay awake.

You’ve likely often heard to focus on the in and out breath. Do it. Don’t try to manipulate the breath or do it any special way other than breathe into the abdomen. Otherwise, just follow it. Do this alone for a few minutes to try and empty the mind. Notice thoughts come and go. If one starts to take hold, release it without self-judgment. Notice your body’s sensations. Feel where the tension is bound up. Release it progressively, using the breath as a center point and rhythm for the release if it’s helpful. The concept here is to let go of all you can – mentally and physically. With practice, you may not need to focus on the breath. You’ll be able to come back to that clear, silent awareness, but the breath can always recenter you. Again, group instruction or even a good CD recording that allows some instruction time with some silence can be helpful for many people.

Other techniques assume the ability to get beyond the restlessness of the moment and focus more on emotional distance and equanimity. If you’re up for it, bring an “intention” to a particular sit. You’re not there to pull anything apart cognitively. Just present the intention and let it go. The process is still about getting underneath the mental chatter, letting the scripts of our feelings fall away and sitting with the “raw energy,” as Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron (among others) explains. With time we can learn to more casually observe the emotional energy and how it feels in our bodies.

Meditation, when we give ourselves time to explore it, can be a progressive means to getting out of our modern hyper-rational minds and letting something deeper, more instinctually and solidly Primal fill the space. In meditation, we let ourselves dwell there for a short time, but the experience can dramatically change what we bring back to daily living.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Hands – meditators? What’s been your experience with meditation, and how do you see it in relation to your Primal living?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Ohhhmmm

    Groktimus Primal wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Noohhhmmmmmmm

      the meditative snacking sound! haha

      Matthew wrote on November 7th, 2013
      • Meditative snacking sound – haha! Clever! Sounds like my kind of meditation group!

        Katie wrote on November 21st, 2013
  2. my meditation is 5 mins in the car after work. I breathe deep and let the stress of the day leave before going to play with my kids. better than grabbing a whiskey…

    MattyT wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • That’s funny….my meditation place is at the “water cooler” in the storage room. Take a step back, breath in, and distance myself from all that is going on outside of the halls.

      Matt wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Ok, that’s some good advice! I’ve been lamenting that I don’t have time to meditate like I used to, with having two small children and no quiet time at home, but five minutes in the car before picking them up is actually doable. Thanks!

      Sally wrote on November 8th, 2013
  3. Wow this post came at a good time. Empty mind? That’s the hard part for me. I have a huge problem letting it all go! Today is a new day, why not use it to better myself?

    Cajungrokgirl wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Meditation is not about emptying your mind. It’s about being aware of but separate from the constant flow of thoughts and emotions in your mind.

      Thornton wrote on November 8th, 2013
  4. Meditation has never worked well for me. I either fall asleep or find myself getting stressed by trying too hard. When I concentrate on my breath I usually end up trying to control my breathing. Some forms of meditation I’ve tried are too intricate and labor-intensive, resulting in anything but a relaxed mind. Taking a walk usually works better for me.

    Shary wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Don’t know if you’re looking for suggestions/advice, but if you are:

      I used to always have the problem of trying too hard as well. Pema Chodron suggests a technique in one of her books that really helped me with that. Whenever you notice yourself thinking something, or your mind wandering, or whatever, label it as “thinking” in a non-judgemental way, and *then* let it go. The idea being that you accept your brain’s thoughts as normal and natural, and then just return to your breath or whatever it is you’re focusing on. That helped me to not get wrapped up in feeling like I was bad at it (and this would initially happen every few seconds throughout most of the meditation, until I got a lot of practice in!)

      Another thing that helped me was accepting that I wasn’t looking for any end goal or miraculous feelings or transformation–my only goal was to return to whatever I was focusing on every time my mind wandered. And that’s it. It became much more relaxing once I could accept that.

      Finally, if focusing on your breathing is problematic, you might try focusing on feeling your heart beating in your chest instead. I haven’t tried it, but it’s definitely a thing people do.

      That’s my two cents!

      Erin wrote on November 7th, 2013
      • Thanks for these tips! :-)

        D wrote on November 10th, 2013
    • There’s a book called One Moment Meditation that teaches you to meditate in the moment. I’m half way through it, but it might be something that could work for you. Also, yoga is a great way to ease into meditation. Sometimes focusing on the movement of the body and breath helps you stop focusing on everything else, and then you can sit in stillness.

      Casey wrote on November 7th, 2013
      • Yes! I could not mediate no matter how hard I tried. After a month of Bikram yoga, one day I realized that I had actually been present in the last 90 min. I was so happy, I cried!

        Kiki wrote on November 8th, 2013
    • Yes that was me when I started. Or even worse, feeling stressed because I was doing nothing.
      If you are like that you can even start with just sitting quiet in a quiet place, with a cup of tea. just sit and be still. Let the world pass while you sip your tea.

      Have a good cup,
      Petra

      Petra wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Thanks for all the good suggestion. I will give them a try.

      Shary wrote on November 8th, 2013
  5. This is a great beginners guide. I never realized there were meditation groups. I like the idea of using the time you have rather than trying to set aside an hour each day.

    Captain Comptition wrote on November 7th, 2013
  6. meditation is so essential for healthy living- i just wrote out a whole long comment on it, but its essentially exactly everything you already hit upon in your post, no need for redundancy :) i will add though that wim hof is a big fan of meditation, need i say more?

    Charlotte wrote on November 7th, 2013
  7. Google “Oprah and Deepak 21 Day Meditation” They do periodic free 21 day meditations during the year and the next one starts on Monday! There’s some discussion and instruction in the beginning followed by a meditation. Total time is about 15 minutes.

    Jules wrote on November 7th, 2013
  8. I believe that there is some good insight in the following video. It offers a perspective on sitting from a Soto Zen perspective. There’s nothing at all mystical or inaccessible about it. Hopefully it will be of some help to someone.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBAHU-K0RU

    Bob Crason wrote on November 7th, 2013
  9. http://www.edgarcayce.org/are/spiritualGrowth.aspx?id=2874

    Edgar Cayce has a great meditation understanding & very in depth been following these techniques for awhile I also feel more of a sense of relaxation,serenity,calm,well being & one with myself

    Andrew Urgo wrote on November 7th, 2013
  10. Beautiful, thanks for the perspective on this.

    I’ve struggled with sitting meditation, but have found qi gong and tai chi to be wonderful. Not sure they really classify as meditation and have the same benefits, but I suspect so. Same with yoga practice?

    Tom B-D wrote on November 7th, 2013
  11. My meditation is twice daily walks in the woods around my workplace. I like to stop by the pond and watch the waves, fish, herons, or anything else that happens to be there. I also run into deer, squirrels, hawks, lizards, snakes, mice, opossums and other critters on a regular basis. If you clear your mind and become aware of your surroundings, all sorts of things become visible that were previously invisible.

    Damien Gray wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Thanks for your comment, Damien. This might be why taking a walk works better for me than the planned formality of a sitting meditation session.

      Shary wrote on November 8th, 2013
  12. If you can’t pry yourself away from the computer, try http://susanpiver.com. I have found it useful.

    Gail wrote on November 7th, 2013
  13. I live in Transcendental Meditation Central but, taking a certain amount of pride in being a very grounded, down-to-earth, no b.s. kind of person, I didn’t jump on the band wagon for the first two years I lived here. I had tried meditating so many times before with no success (sitting for even two minutes was damn near impossible for me), so I didn’t see the point. But eventually I decided to give this particular type of meditation a try and for people who have a really hard time with meditation, this is one form that is truly wonderful. By no means is it the “only” or the “best” meditation, but it helps a lot of people like me actually learn how to sit. And it has a profound effect on my day. Yes, I do find many other things very meditative, but the act of sitting in silence opens the door for being present in everything we do. I love it.

    Lauryn wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • I also struggled with meditation, I took classes and tried a lot of different kinds (breath focused, body scans, compassion/loving kindess, visualization). All of these were helpful to a degree, but it still felt like something was missing and I wasn’t compelled to be consistent. Then I tried Vedic meditation, I think that’s what it’s called where your teacher assigns each student a specific sound to repeat in your head. I think it’s very much like transcendental. The first time I did it, I felt like I was FALLING because it took me so deep so fast, I had to open my eyes because I was afraid. It’s so powerful and so much deeper for me than the breath ones ever were. So I agree with Lauryn, check out this type of meditation for anyone struggling to meditate or really looking to go deeper. It’s SO much easier. I used One Great Find, much cheaper than TM which appealed to my budget- though I’m sure TM is more comprehensive and in person.

      Kirstin wrote on November 8th, 2013
      • Actually, I guess what I practice is technically “vedic” meditation, because I couldn’t afford the TM training either!! But it is the very same technique, and that was what I was interested in learning (again, not so interested in becoming part of any kind of movement or group think) … and I was lucky to find an amazing teacher here. Glad you were able to find someone to teach you because it IS very powerful and a wonderful technique and should be available to everyone, regardless of one’s pocketbook.

        Lauryn wrote on November 11th, 2013
  14. Yes! Our ancestors meditated. I realized this over the summer, at a bonfire at Coast Guard beach in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. We threw frisbees, we told jokes, we ate, we yelled at the kids to get out of the water. We ate again. And then, for a few minutes, we all fell into a bit of a meditative trance, staring at the fire, becoming intensely interested in the way it flickered and changed. I believe this is why television has taken such a hold on us as people. We are programmed to stare at moving lights in the evening. Staring at the bonfire is the most ancient form of meditation, and our ancestors did it every night.

    Jane wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • +1

      Nocona wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • I remember my dad saying the same thing about tv when I was 10 or so and it stuck with me. A real trip to hear someone else saying the same thing here. I would rather watch and tend to a fire than watch tv anytime.

      Dan wrote on November 7th, 2013
      • I wonder if there is something about sitting around a fire that we *should* do. Every time I’ve done it, it seems incredibly peaceful and soothing. I wonder if we should make an effort to crank up the fire pit as often as possible.

        Jane wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • We go camping primarily to stare into the fire. For a few years we quit going camping as much because we bought a house with a fireplace, now I want another one so we can watch the fire instead of TV. Or maybe I could see if there is a channel that has an actual fire that I can watch?

      2Rae wrote on November 7th, 2013
      • Around here, the local weather station broadcasts a 24 hour fire. It’s quite fun. It’s repeated every 20 minutes or so, and someones hand reaches in to stir the fire.
        I was in another province for a while a few years back, and I missed it, so I bought a ‘Fireplace In A Box’ dvd, which runs for about an hour and can be set to loop.

        cndnrose wrote on November 8th, 2013
        • Try the Presto channel on your Roku.

          framistat wrote on November 9th, 2013
    • That is so true. I have spent a lot of time outdoors, both alone and in company with others and have come to call the fire “wilderness-TV”. Of course it goes much deeper than that, as you point out.

      I find staring into a fire on a cold, dark night (especially outdoors) to be one of the most relaxing things there is.

      I’m sure there could be a huge amount of analysis to be made in this area!

      This is the first time I have commented on this page so I would also like to say thanks a lot to Mark for this fantastic resource.

      Peter wrote on November 8th, 2013
  15. My problem is, I can’t really think of anything I feel like I need to let go of….

    Maybe I should focus on a goal or something instead?

    Kevin wrote on November 7th, 2013
  16. Can I recommend Headspace?

    http://www.getsomeheadspace.com

    They have a fantastic app, and offer a free 10 day trial so that you can see how you get on. They offer mindfulness meditation – I did it last year and loved it, I found it surprisingly easy to get to grips with.

    Becky Aris wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • Agree. Love it. And Andy’s great.

      Graham wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • I tried meditationwith a book and a CD before, but it never really worked for me. Then I discovered Headspace and it made a big difference! I love it, it works for me so I signed up and the daily meditation keeps me going.
      Try the free meditations and have a look at their animations. They helped me a lot. And the book is good, too.

      Turnstone wrote on November 8th, 2013
    • Can’t recommend Headspace enough!

      It is just 10 minutes a day and as you can have the app on your phone you can do it pretty much anywhere! Definitely would work for the in the car/in the store room examples above and gives you some guidance.

      I started using it over a year ago and the difference it’s made in my awareness of my thoughts and emotions and my ability to ‘sit back’ from them and be less stressed or affected by them is really noticeable … up there with the improvements I saw when I went paleo :-)

      LondonPaleo wrote on November 9th, 2013
  17. I think there is evidence for primal meditation in the Australian aborigine Dreamtime. It seems to be more than just myth and stories and the usual “primitive” explanation of the world, which is what the early Europeans thought. A Google search turns up a lot of interesting sites that have a more sensitive understanding of the mystical and spiritual Dreamtime.

    This blog entry was very interesting and useful (and the comments are fun, as usual). Thanks.

    Pen B. wrote on November 7th, 2013
  18. Songlines: by Bruce Chatwin. The whole book is about the Aboriginal Australian and it’s a damn good read.

    Nocona wrote on November 7th, 2013
  19. If you can spare $18 per month, Yogaglo.com is awesome. There are many pre-recorded pure meditation classes in addition to varying levels of yoga classes. I’m in the military, so it’s nice to have the option of a 10 minute class or an hour long class, depending on the predictability of my schedule.

    Ariathne wrote on November 7th, 2013
  20. I have been meditating regularly now for about four years, and it has been absolutely transformative for me. I highly recommend it as a permanent fixture in your life. I love it so much.

    Stacy wrote on November 7th, 2013
  21. I meditate each evening in the bath after work, and find it very relaxing….

    But I also find that my work itself is almost a form of meditation – I am a massage therapist, and need to be “present” the whole time I am giving a massage in order to be able to process what my hands are feeling, how the patient is responding to what I am doing etc…. Believe me, you can tell if your therapist “zones out” and their mind starts to wander!

    OK so it isn’t exactly a relaxing meditation, but it uses almost the same amount of intensity and mental focus as meditating, and I think that that is what helped me to improve in my meditation techniques… it can be tough though…. imagine using the same kind of mental focus as meditating for 60 or 90 minutes at at time several times a day… not surprisingly, I am mentally wrung-out at the end of each workday!

    salixisme wrote on November 7th, 2013
  22. Suffering insomnia, I picked up ‘Teach yourself to Meditate’ by Eric Harrison in the local library and found it to be an excellent explanation of the basics of meditation, especially for myself, a bit leery of the ‘new-agey – mystical’ element that can often be encountered.

    Ann LAU wrote on November 7th, 2013
    • I love Eric Harrison’s books on meditation. They’re the best in my opinion for real people living normal lives. Any of them are a good start. I wish I lived in Oz so I could attend one of his classes….

      But it’s so simple to do. The secret is not to expect anything. Just sit quietly and try to watch your thoughts without judging what turns up. That’s it. If you can find a group that is helpful – or start one – that’s what we did………and we meet for an hour a week and take it in turns to read a meditation – some we write ourselves. It’s fun – we don’t take ourselves too seriously!

      And even doing just an hour a week, I find I watch my thoughts all the time and I can choose the way I feel because I now get an extra moments pause to choose my reaction to events. It’s like such things are now in slow motion. And I can now sit alone for hours without getting one little bit bored. Life is just so interesting, who needs TV? So, so cool!

      kate wrote on November 10th, 2013
  23. I recommend that anyone worried about the thoughts which may pop into their head while meditating, listen to the song “My Mind has a Mind of its Own” beforehand. I recommend the Jimmie Dale Gilmore Trio version, easily findable on youtube. It will put your mind at ease and a smile on your face…

    Superchunk wrote on November 7th, 2013
  24. Something I find helpful when I can’t let go and focus is the Universal Breathing Room at Do As One. http://doasone.com/BreathingRooms.aspx?RoomID=1

    Totally free and I like to scroll down and see if there’s someone else in the room with me. It’s helpful somehow if I know I’m breathing with someone else.

    Elizabeth wrote on November 7th, 2013
  25. Jon Kabat-Zinn is another teacher of meditation and the importance of mindfulness to our physical and mental health. I have found his guided meditation CDs helpful, especially when I first started with meditation.

    Now my favorite time for meditation is immediately following yoga. Yoga is the best thing for quieting my inner motor-mouth and when she finally shuts up, meditation is easy.

    CJ wrote on November 7th, 2013
  26. My new favorite adjective: woo woo!!!! I learned to meditate when I was a teenager, and it helped me deal with the crushing depression and anxiety I was going through. It was the only thing that brought me peace. Nothing mystical or woo woo about it, just a very positive practice.

    Matt wrote on November 7th, 2013
  27. i love, love, love my daily 3 mile walk. i am fortunate to live in a rural area and my walk is on a dirt road that runs beside a lake. the only house on the road is an old farmhouse. i rarely see a car or another person. i try to focus on the sounds around me thereby turning off the “chatter” in my head while i am walking. it’s my version of meditation.

    allison wrote on November 8th, 2013
  28. Lots of input from many quarters, interesting, helpful, and instructional if you like, so many ways to make meditation a part of life…http://whatmeditationreallyis.com/

    vorteninmex wrote on November 8th, 2013
  29. Great post, Mark.

    For more information on mindfulness and meditation, explained in a very approachable way, checkout Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. For a more secular/westernized approach, check out Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

    Thornton wrote on November 8th, 2013
  30. I started years ago with a Kabat-Zin tape for an inflammation study he did. Played it/did it every night before bed. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t sit in the typical way, so I put a pillow under my knees and no pillow under my head and lay still and did the tape. Every night. Because there is no excuse for not using that time, I’m in bed anyway.

    Some nights I fell asleep long before the tape ended, I had no guilt about that, I often slept really well. Some nights I was buzzing along long after it ended, very interesting and calming. I still woke up rested and calm, could not lose.

    I learned not to drink before bed, that got in the way. Not that it ever was a problem, but it became obvious that it wasn’t helping to even have one.

    The biggest leap came from going to one of Goenka’s centers, dhamma.org will get you more info. Many rock stars and famous current meditation stars originally trained with him. I think his chanting sounds like heavy metal, he may have invented that as well by influencing some of the musicians. Here’s an interview with him…http://www.events.dhamma.org/presskit/tricycle-2000-en

    The retreats are intense, one focuses intently on the work, no philosophy needs being swallowed, and it gets the leaps started that encourage further work. The techniques I learned helped me do other internal work I needed to do, it is a great set of tools to have; I can’t feel more gratitude than I do as I write this. And it’s free, sponsored by the donations of people who went before you.

    Meditation is natural. As a kid I watched clouds or listened to the wind and felt some kind of calming. But no one makes money off people who are content, so this gets programmed away. We force drugs on “spacey” kids, it’s getting absurd how lost our culture is. Where would we be without people who dream up a new way?

    Some tips to get situated:

    -Keep as still as possible, find a position that will support that, and keep outside sensations to a minimum. Every body move unsettles the brain, and vice-versa, they chatter back and forth. You can observe this when you sit. You might be sitting there and suddenly your brain thinks of some task you forgot. Observe how your body jerks in response to the thought, and observe how the brain responds back to that with what steps to take. At first you’ll already be standing up before you realise you’ve been trolled by a brain that doesn’t want to be restrained. So keep that repartee from originating in the body while you work on the brain. A thin sheet/blanket or something to keep the breeze or drafts off the skin will help. Those robes the monks wear have a purpose.

    -Do it regularly whether you feel like it or not. You never know how it will go, just be there. Don’t kick yourself when you miss, but you did miss something when you did.

    -Have no guilt about performance or lack thereof, just show up and watch. Would you criticise a sky for having inadequate clouds? Don’t do it to yourself, the idea is to cease that kind of judgement thing, don’t let this become another venue for it. There are levels to this, signposts, but you’ll be a long way from that for a while.

    -You’ll get amazing ideas sometimes, that’s another troll, relax, they are infinite, plenty more and better to come along.

    speedyk wrote on November 8th, 2013
  31. Our primal ancestors had one big advantage over us, they were firmly rooted in nature whereas we have to fight the highly unnatural world that we have created. Almost all of the buzzing thoughts are about things that have happened in the past that are still bothering us, or things that are coming up that we’re worrying already. We don’t often think of what is happening “now”. Most of the time we let our subconscious mind handle the “now”.

    But is more natural for our brains to think about what’s happening now. I believe this is one of the reasons why meditation is so helpful, because it brings our minds into the present, into the “now”. As you say, just thinking of your breathing is a good way to start meditation – that’s because your breathing is a good example of what’s happening “now” and it stops you from thinking about all the things that have happened and are going to happen.

    The more I look into meditation, the more I’m amazed about the power of the mind over the body. Here’s one example – http://www.lifeintherightdirection.com/film_video/mind-power-the-iceman/

    Peter Whiting wrote on November 8th, 2013
  32. Glad to see meditation as part of the primal lifestyle. There are so many benefits they couldn’t be listed here, but one I like is it helps me create a deep sleep.

    Jack wrote on November 9th, 2013
  33. Like a lot of other people here, I began meditating and it helped, a lot, but then I found myself starting to feel tense and worried that I wasn’t doing it ‘right’ – which sort of defeats the whole object! Then I read a book called ‘The Joy of Living’ by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and have begun to learn not to panic. The author describes in detail how he himself suffered awful panic attacks when he first began his training, while still very young. He looks at how we can be happier from both a scientific and Buddhist point of view, and how, the two overlap. There are some really simple exercises to help reduce those feelings of panic and fear of failing when meditating. And, as an added bonus, the author describes some truly funny moments that not only help the reader relax, but (in my case) made me laugh out loud.

    Kirsti wrote on November 10th, 2013
  34. I get the farthest out by just remembering that “I am part of the whole” and that seems to expand my consciousness boundlessly.

    Bruce wrote on November 10th, 2013
  35. Thanks for the article. Teaching meditation is actually one of my passions, as it has totally helped transform my life. I have created a really great online meditation course that i wanted to share with everyone here. Its at meditateeveryone.com. (sorry for the promoting but i actually think some folks will find it helpful.)

    Lance wrote on November 11th, 2013
  36. I am so happy to see this post and discussion! I have many times put in a good word here for meditation. Having tried many flavors of meditation over the years, I will just add that trying different things (walking, cooking, etc can all have strong meditative qualities, you don’t have to sit full lotus) is worth doing. So many good leads in the comments! I just started learning yoga and find it is so far most helpful for me. Grateful to everyone!

    Juli wrote on November 11th, 2013
  37. Hey Mark,
    Great post.
    Why’s are so important to me.
    Inspirational- thanks!!

    Tim H. wrote on November 12th, 2013
  38. I don’t care about all the snickering I’ve heard in the last 40 years. People are finally waking up.

    Dave wrote on May 10th, 2014

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