Meditation Journey is Simple

Woman Breathing Clean Air

The meditation journey is simple. The final destination seems remote and hard.

Beginning with a single step is easy. That step is to focus on the breathing. Stay with it a half breath at a time. When you get lost, begin again. Consistency is the key. Credit goes to George Mumford who explains it well on the 10% Happier with Dan Harris show. As he puts it, the reward is to be “in the moment.” You can slip into the zone easier. You can be Bowl Bottom Centered. As opposed to a heads-on push, it’s a slide into position kind of effort.

It is not about forcing the attention onto the breath. It’s about letting go and beginning again. You let go of the frustration, pain, anger, self hate, and place your attention again on the breath.

Finally, the final destination or goal is to keep going. There is no end point. Just like dividing one by two forever, you are making a difference. Yet, striving for zero is not the point.

The method is simple. The journey is simple. One step at a time will keep you on the path and zone ready.

Bowl Bottom Centered

There is an easy approach to relaxing into focus and thus calm. It’s a concept I created called Bowl Bottom Centered.

Imagine a curved bowl. The center of the bowl is balance. It’s the calm and focus you seek.

As George Mumford says in the 10% Happier app, the goal of mindful meditation is to be “Resting in the body. Resting in the breath.” It is to slip into focus.

If you see yourself off track and off task as George might say, observe that you’re crawling up the side of the bowl and out of focus. You’re not in the bottom of the bowl. So, let it all go. Begin again.

Allow yourself to slide back down the side of the bowl and be centered. Observe yourself sliding down the side of the bowl into the center. Be in the center.

Everything slopes down to the center of the bowl. Harmony, goodness, peace, tranquility, and focus is in the bottom of the bowl. Let it all go and rest. Be “Bowl Bottom Centered.”

Bowl by Rebecca Siegel

FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom

The FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom framework empowers one to take action and live with freedom in one’s heart.

FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom

  1. Feel Freedom – Choose to see this freedom.
  2. Flow Like Water – This was inspired by a Bruce Lee quote.
  3. Fantasize about the possible – We’re only limited by our imagination.
  4. Forgive yourself and others – Lose the emotional luggage.
  5. Faith – Have faith that there is a lawfulness to the universe. This was inspired by George Mumford. See George Mumford: “The Mindful Athlete” | Talks at Google video and the 10% Happier app that has George Mumford in it.

We choose to see by AM Renault

How to Mindfully Take Risks and Joseph Goldstein

Oh, Joseph Goldstein. I wish I knew him decades ago. He always generously shares his wisdom about mindfulness, meditation, and living a good life. Recently, I finally got to thank him!

I first encountered Joseph in the Waking Up With Sam Harris podcast episode titled The Path and the Goal. Listening to that podcast episode and a followup episode titled Questions Along the Path, led me to the iPhone app known as Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier.

How ironic that 10% Happier made it possible to thank Joseph!

10% Happier holds video events and in March they had the Joseph Goldstein Live Q&A by 10% Happier event. (Logistical side note: If you don’t have a Crowdcast account, you can create one for free and then see the video using the link.)

Since this was a Q & A event, I felt it proper to ask a question on my mind first. 50:10-ish into the event, I asked “How does one mindfully take risks?” In other words, how do you take big leaps of faith in a career or elsewhere with “right action” in mind? His generous wisdom flowed forth.

My takeaways from Joseph were to explore:

  • Fear – Relationship of oneself to fear. He has worked with fear a lot. Favorite phrases of his are “If this fear is here for the rest of my life, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel this.” It’s important to work with the fear.
  • Letting go of attachment – Act without attachment to the outcome. There are too many variables at work in life. So, work with what you have, try your best, and accept the outcome.
  • Checking the motivation – The value in the action is based on the motivation behind the action. As he said, “Is this a wholesome motivation or not?”

So, if you deal with the fear, let go of outcomes, do a motivation check, and they all checkout OK, you can “go for it!”

At the end, I gave him the FinneyCanHelp thumbs up of approval which made him chuckle. That’s from the heart. If all of humanity took his lessons to heart, the world would be a better place.

Finally, I was able to share my gratitude with Joseph. I said:

I just want to conclude by saying it’s an honor and thank you for everything you have done.

His lessons and the lessons of other wonderful meditation teachers are in the 10% Happier app. I recommend you download the iPhone app and give it a try. Subscribe if you want to explore it further. Use the coaching feature!

No iPhone? You can go to 10percenthappier.com and checkout the Web App.

My 10% Happier subscription is the best ROI I have ever had! If you have any questions about my personal experiences or just want to share your excitement, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @finneycanhelp. Also feel free to checkout my other posts about 10% Happier and meditation.

Wondering about the Wandering Retreat on 10% Happier?

Is the “Wandering Retreat” the most ambitious and craziest course on the 10% Happier meditation app? I say yes!

Dan gave us a preview tweet tease back in December with this picture of Jeff Warren and Dan Harris:

Since then, I have been waiting for this release with great excitement! It has arrived and I am overwhelmed with how good it is. The course is heart warming, insightful, pragmatic and frankly a work of art.

It's a work of art.

Discussing the Plan and Working on Dan’s Face

The course begins with seeing a little bit of Dan’s work day which is quite fascinating. While a little bit of makeup is artfully applied, he discusses the retreat. As he says, part of the plan is to literally get lost.

Next, I’m seeing a sweet and cute family scene that makes me smile brightly. It transitions to hearing family goodbyes of “Bye Daddy!” and “I love you!” It’s truly touching.

This switches to a funny scene where Jeff and Dan meet and choose where to go. Dan initially suggests a luxury beach retreat! There’s some playful back and forth where the choice is between luxury and the woods. In a lighthearted way, Dan says “Coursing under everything you’re saying is a raging river of like you’re a sissy if you don’t do the latter.” Jeff playfully says “That’s right.” Meeting adversity head on, they chose the woods.

Meditating On Day One

Camp is set up and the day ends with their first meditation. Now, here’s where the app does something truly magical. As opposed to a hard transition from video to recorded meditation, you are led into an experience that goes like this. You’re watching the video, you close your eyes, and then you’re meditating with them in the woods. That is exactly how it feels! Well done!

In the meditation itself there’s a mixture of nature sounds, Jeff’s guiding voice, and what I will describe as the occasional technology related sounds. This demonstrates a great integration of meditation practice with real life. Here there’s equanimity and really just taking it all in.

After the meditation, there’s a funny and insightful followup discussion around the campfire.

Meditation Follow Up Discussion

Dan doesn’t hold back his innermost thoughts where he has “an embarrassing moment.” Although I don’t want to spoil it by sharing this hilariously funny moment in detail, I don’t think Dan’s going to hell for it.

After their first day, the adventure continues with hiking, swimming and insightful wisdom shared along the way. It’s worth watching the videos multiple times and listening carefully to the wisdom that is shared. Among other things, a great thing that Jeff shares in the “Field Naturalist of the Mind” is:

You’re experiencing your own experience through the only means that you have available which is your own experience.

It’s clever and deep. That might take time to sink in and context is needed. He’s saying this in the context of meaningful and playful exploration that is available by training the mind. What Jeff is sharing throughout the course is practical and pragmatic yet it’s life changing.

Jeff and Dan touch on so much in this short retreat such as pain, equanimity, compassion, and Jeff’s favorite of muditā which Jeff says is “like celebratory joy.” What I especially like is at the end where they deal with “a mathematical impossibility” of logistics that Dan is facing. Will Dan make his meeting? Will Jeff make his flight?

Jeff says he has the perfect meditation for this common ailment titled “Where is a Thought?” The context is to work with the thinking process as it is. It’s extremely useful and I will be using this meditation often!

Logistics and a Meditation

So, wonder no more. This latest “Wandering Retreat” course is a beautiful gift to the #10PercentHappier community. With humor and beautiful nature scenes throughout, wisdom and practical tips are shared.

If you wish, check out my other posts about the 10% Happier app or better yet check out the 10% Happier app itself now!

On Fire

Shining sun

Sun energy by yogialessandra

Oh! Such a rush! In an explosion of ecstasy, I experienced something like the sun’s rays shining through my mind.

For a few mornings, I found a way to repeatedly experience a rush of happiness. A happy mental “boom” and a tingling rush of energy throughout. How I got there is summed up like this:

In the video, I gave special attention to the words: “sacred” and “on fire.” I played until he says “Love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” It’s a great video, but for this purpose I stopped the video.

Why did this happen? Many possibilities. Most importantly, how one holds the world in her or his mind matters. As said in the video:

If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention then you will know you have other options.

Learning how to pay attention is what mental focus exercises like mindfulness meditation is all about. Through such mental exercises, you can recognize that we’re all in this together. We’re all experiencing life and it is life which binds us all together. We’re all on fire with the same forces. As he said in the video, we can experience a situation as:

…not only meaningful, but sacred. On fire with the same force that lit the stars. Love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Note: I broke the above quote up to give the concepts separate emphasis. They are: “Sacred”, “On fire”, “Love”, “Fellowship”, and “Oneness.”

These aren’t just nice words. They are universal truths that tap into how we’re wired as social interconnected beings. It’s because of these truths that I experienced the happy mental rush and more importantly why we might survive together. Like all things though, the series of mental rushes have faded into the past.

If I searched long enough through the 10% Happier iPhone app, I could probably find the specific meditation that helps trigger this experience for me. It’s probably a Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness meditation. Even now, if I do a five minute Loving Kindness meditation and do the video as described above, I get the energetic buzzing in the face. It’s fun, but it’s not all there is to life.

For me, life is about love, fellowship, and oneness. A connection with the whole human family and all of life. A connection that is to be continuously explored and deepened.

For the curious, I’ve blogged about how great the 10% Happier is since the year 2015. Feel free to explore the blog posts and then if you wish checkout the iPhone app that you can download for free at http://www.10percenthappier.com.

I want now!

Freeing Yourself From “Want Pain” Through Meditation and Octalysis

I want now!

Pain by Nathan Phillips

“If I don’t get this, I’m going to just die.” Ever heard something or said something like that? Did you ever want something so bad it hurts?

How does one free themselves from an undesired want? How does one still respect the aspirations which guide us in life?

As Joseph Goldstein had said in the 10% Happier app in “Non-Attachment to Results”, aspiration is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with it. Expecting and becoming attached to the results of going for something is when things turn sour. There is a difference between wanting something with a unhealthy attachment to the results and energetically striving for something. It’s ok to go for something. It’s undesirable to get so caught up in the outcome that you set yourself up to suffer.

Now if you are not yet fortunate enough to be enjoying the 10% Happier app subscription, there is something else you can listen to called Joseph Goldstein: Letting Go of Expectations & Craving.

However, I recommend getting the 10% Happier iPhone app or getting on the web and listening to:

  • “Will Meditation Kill My Edge?”
  • “Non-Attachment to Results”

Yes, to get to those two items, you have to subscribe. If you’re not ready yet, get the app and listen to the free Q & A and courses first. I share more about the app in a slightly older post titled 10% Happier Meditation App Is 100% Satisfying.

Equanimity

Releasing yourself from painful wants can also tie into equanimity. This insight came upon me while listening to the “10% Nicer” section of the 10% Happier app. If you are not subscribed to 10% Happier, you have to spend more time digging around more. Since I really dig people like you exploring meditation, I dug into the internet for you.

There’s a funny and enjoyable video titled Sharon Salzberg on EQUANIMITY for InsightLA (Part 1). It’s a great video. Yet, it takes time to digest.

 

Octalysis

Is there a totally different way to view this? Absolutely! Let’s view this from a human behavioral design approach using Octalysis from Yu-kai Chou.

In Octalysis terms, it’s best to focus on what you want in life from a Core Drive 2 (CD2), Accomplishment and Development approach as opposed to Core Drive 8 (CD8), Loss and Avoidance. With CD2, you try something. If it doesn’t work out, you change the approach and try something else or you decide to try for something different and perhaps better. CD2 is white-hat and one is energized by pursuing it. CD8 is black-hat and the most you can hope for is the avoidance of pain. The avoidance of suffering. There’s a lot more to Yu-kai and Octalysis and even an Octalysis Explorers Facebook community if you want to explore Octalysis and its application to your life further.

Now What?

So, “now what” you ask? Although you effect every single person you interact with, how you approach life is your choice. What I have found useful is to remind myself why I am striving for something. What is the good and higher purpose of what I intend to achieve? I win the game of life by trying, being resilient, letting go of attachments to outcomes, and changing direction as needed. I also keep listening to the 10% Happier app and exploring Octalysis (TEDx talk). May you be happy, healthy, and at peace as you energetically strive to achieve great things in life.

 

 

Anxiety? How Does One Start To Meditate?

Let’s say you feel anxiety. It’s a natural state of being that almost everyone experiences sometime in their life. Sometimes one feels it daily. How does one start to meditate and where does anxiety fit into the picture?

Good questions. It took me years to find the answers which you can have in mere minutes.

It depends if you want to start alone or with someone who can cover some common questions. Let’s start with a basic focus concept.

From Meditation Yields a Better Brain:

Is it that easy for adults to get started meditating? Yes, one can practice the vipassana, a mindfulness meditation. As described in the Huffington Post article by Sam Harris, one can meditate by focusing on the breath, recognizing distractions, and reverting ones attention back to the breath.

It’s a simple instruction. That’s all you need to start alone.

Yet, it’s often not easy to do and questions arise. So, there are people who are happy to share what they know. The two instructive meditation solutions that have resonated most strongly with me are the Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier and Headspace.

In my opinion, 10% Happier does a great job with instructing a person how to meditate. Yet, Headspace does a great job of sharing certain concepts through animation. Let’s start with a Headspace concept and then move on to instruction.

An important concept was introduced to me originally as Blue Sky. Technically, the title of the following video is “Underlying calm”:

Once you understand the concept of Blue Sky, you can apply it within the context of anxiety or other dominant thoughts and feelings. Here is a Headspace video about anxiety from a meditation instructor, Andy:

Andy knows what he’s talking about. As seen on this TED Talk, he began this meditation journey due to his experiences with anxiety.

So, you have been introduced to some concepts. It’s okay if not everything in those videos make sense right away. We’re laying the foundation. Now it’s time to move on to the basic instruction of meditating. Here we shift our focus to 10% Happier.

If you have an iPhone, great. You can download the 10% Happier app for free. If you can, I suggest downloading right now.

If you can’t download the iPhone app, you can access the starting 10% Happier course material on the web for free. When you start, you will hear Dan Harris (ABC News anchor) and meditation instructor and Joseph Goldstein go over the initial ideas and first steps. If you need it, the front door to the 10% Happier website is http://www.10percenthappier.com

So, there you go. Hopefully, this helps you get started down a path of less suffering and more freedom in life. All I ask is that you share these concepts and resources with others. Together we can make life better for us all.

10% Happier Meditation App Is 100% Satisfying

Just Meditate Screen

10% Happier iPhone App

The 10% Happier iPhone app has always had a strong foundation in sharing meditation knowledge and providing insightful guided meditations. With its latest new update, it provides so much more.

Through its humorous Q & A interview style, Dan Harris asks the questions and meditation teachers share their insights, personal experiences, and wisdom. Even though it has been a year, that successful approach hasn’t changed since when I wrote Meditating on Meditation Mobile Apps. To this day, Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein continue to enlighten people as they did a year ago. With the updates to the app over the last year, there are now seven courses with three additional instructors.

Using each of their decades of experience, the instructors in the courses share specific areas of expertise. Sharon Salzberg shares Lovingkindness and what to do with distractions. Dr. Judson Brewer shares mindfulness around eating. Oren J. Sofer focuses on mindful communication. Joseph teaches the fundamentals, focus techniques, open awareness meditation, and answers practical questions every meditator has had at one point or another. All of them share personal stories and have caused me to laugh or have moved me deeply.

All of this course material is excellent for the beginner, satisfying for the experienced meditator, and yet entertaining due to Dan’s experience as a “skeptical newsman” using the Q & A format.

With the latest update, there’s even more than just the courses! The team behind the 10% Happier app has solved the riddles of “what do I do after finishing all the courses?” and “How do I integrate what I learned into facing my day to day challenges and aspirations?” In addition to the “Courses” section, there is a “Just Meditate” section which contains new content grouped in three sections along with an additional teacher, Alexis Santos.

With the idea of integrating mindfulness into your life, the three sections are titled as “Lightly Guided”, “On The Go”, and “Exploring.. (Stress, Self Judgement, and so on).” Since the update has come out just days ago, I have not yet checked out every single new meditation out of the 21 new ones that are available. However, I have marked “Lovingkindness + Walking”, “Self Judgement” and “Open Awareness” as favorites already. They did a great job in making it easy to add and remove favorites.

In fact, I think the 10% Happier meditation app should win an award overall. It’s a great example of an app that has gotten so many things right. The deference to content, its sharp look, proper use of user interface components and the overall app organization is just fantastic. As the app has grown, it has even avoided inserting the controversial hamburger menu. As an iPhone software developer at CARFAX that works on the CARFAX – Find Used Cars for Sale iPhone app, I can tell you that it’s not easy to avoid having the hamburger menu in a mobile app. Although admittedly, sometimes it might be the right thing to do.

To sum up, 10% Happier was already a wonderful app rich in instructive yet humorous meditation content. It began its life with a solid foundation and focused purpose. They’ve added to that foundation a rich “Just Meditate” section that’s fun to explore and will serve a person throughout the day. I encourage you to check out the app yourself and enjoy the experience.

Seeking Inner Peace

You’re in a plane. There has been an accident and suddenly you and a loved one can’t breathe. The oxygen masks drop down in front of both of your faces. What was it that the flight attendant said? Oh! Put my own oxygen mask on first. Now you can help your loved one with a clear mind.

That’s one example where having a clear mind is a great foundation that supports you and those around you. Even when people sometimes do things that seem unwise, unhelpful, and potentially manipulative, you can choose to respond in a skillful way as opposed to reacting and then later regretting. In other words, what I do with relationships and stormy situations is that I first support my inner stability then I interact or choose to not interact as seems wise.

Recently, I got this concept from Andy Puddicombe of Headspace: There’s a storm outside and you’re inside a house looking at the storm outside through the window. If you can stabilize yourself internally, the violent storm of humanity that normally swallows you up is on the other side of the window.

So, that sounds good. Let’s seek peace within ourselves and have a foundation of balance with which to interact with others.

Seek Inner Peace:

How to do that? How to have inner peace and be balanced?

Some suggest jogging, watching a movie, or some other external activity. These can be great suggestions for some people some of the time. However, Andy of Headspace shares a good point in one of his meditation recordings: you don’t always have the opportunity to jog, but you always have your breath. Meditation is always available.

Mindful Meditation

So, is practicing meditation complex? It doesn’t have to be. Meditation can be as straight forward as focusing on your breath. See the 9 steps listed here under the section titled “Meditation Instructions” in How to Meditate. You don’t even need anything special and trying it out alone is certainly doable.

As briefly covered in “When and Why Did I Start Meditating?“, I was driven decades ago by my quest for excellence in all things including the mind. I meditated alone for years. However, having guidance with meditation can make a huge difference, save you from some confusion down the road, and enrich your meditation journey.

Luckily, there are resources out there. Two iPhone apps I use are the Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier and Headspace. I also listen to the 10% Happier with Dan Harris podcast which is excellent. As covered in Meditating on Meditation Mobile Apps, I suggest starting with the iPhone app Meditation for Skeptics by 10% Happier if you can. Otherwise, I see that you can access the 10% Happier course material on the web. Alternatively, Headspace supports iPhone, Android and desktop.

Back to Basics

Beyond learning meditation, living in inner peace is also based on eating well, sleeping long enough, and exercise. None of this has to be perfect, but it has to be good enough most of the time.

If you value having a balanced mind, support it through meditation, and cover all the basics of healthy living, you will land on the spectrum of inner peace that has been explored for thousands of years. I wish you peace and hope you enjoy the adventure!