Purpose Chant in Meditation

“I am one with the Force. The force is with me.” was chanted over and over by Chirrut Îmwe in Star Wars. This inspiring chant reminds me about the power of concentration chants.

Concentration chanting is a wonderful technique. As Dan Harris points out in the 10% Happier meditation app, it can be an enjoyable experience that gets you quite focused. The ability to get quite focused is a wonderful state of being. Sharon Salzberg covers the wonderful results of doing such a chanting practice in Concentration is a Skill in the same 10% Happier app.

Sharon shares wonderful insights such as:

  • “As we practice meditation, we get used to stillness and eventually we’re able to make friends with the quietness of our sensations.”
  • “We tend to count on intensity in order to feel alive. And the more we practice the more like simple things kinda pop and come alive for us like our hands in water, the sensations, or feeling a tea cup, or seeing a tree or whatever.”
  • “Just these moments that we usually disregarded or discounted in life as we sought greater and greater stimulation end up being very fulfilling.”

Inspired by George Mumford, my mantra is currently one of three words: hopeful, optimistic, or confident. However, doing a Lovingkindness based meditative chant also can serve well. Credit goes to Sharon Salzberg for the Lovingkindness words I have currently chosen.  On that note, “May you be safe, be happy, be healthy, and live with ease.”

Teaching Others Meditation

“How do you do what you do?”, she asked. That question came right after she complemented me on my ability to completely focus on one thing at a time.

What should the practiced meditator-on-the-street do next? When asked this sort of question, this is the crucial moment where I share that I meditate.

How they respond could start them on a meditation journey that levels them up to a next level of life optimization. When you’re prepared to share the wisdom and they’re ready to learn, you’ve both begun a new journey together. As someone who has taught meditation for decades on and off, there are some things you should know.

One Offs

Sharing meditation tips once in a while is completely fine. However, there’s going to come a time when you need to lead a person through a meditation. Where to do that? At first glance you might consider doing it where they live. That can go badly.

My First Rich House

Once, I responded to the request to teach a nurse meditation. The only place available at that time was her beautiful large house. Since I can appreciate the beauty of a wealthy home, this was looking to be a fun and novel experience.

After I walked up the long lit path while admiring the beautiful flower garden and lush green lawn, I rang the doorbell and her son answered the door. He looked up at me like “What are you doing here?” and yelled for her mom. With a smile, I mentally wished her son lovingkindness and let go of the “What are you looking at?” thought that arose in the mind.

After the usual exchange of greetings and her thanks to me for coming over, we went into the living room. All of us. The nurse, her kids, and me. We all took a seat on her extremely comfy carpet.

I’m Not Your Dad

I started with the basics of mindfulness meditation. After the introductory meditation session was complete, her son looked at me with an accusatory look and said:

Why are you teaching her? Are you here to replace dad?

I still remember me saying “I’m not trying to become your new father. I am here to teach meditation.” This later led to a deeper conversation with the nurse about how her family life is not a happy one. Such discussions would never have happened if we had another location.

As I mentioned in Meditation, Neopagans, and Sex, it was risky anyway for me to teach meditation where someone lives. I do not recommend it. At least this time, I was not offered sex.

What’s Traditionally Available For Teaching Meditation?

Typically, meditation can be taught at meditation centers where they receive proper instructions. However, syncing up the needs of the meditation student and the needs of the meditation center can be tricky. A perfect example is when I asked a center when the next beginners meditation course is starting and the response I got was “In the fall.” That was months away. Too long of a wait for people who feel the call of starting down the meditation path now.

Where Online Can They Learn?

The 10% Happier courses on the mobile app and website are wonderful. 10% Happier has coaches that come with real life experience. Yet due to the nature of the situation, conversations with them will be slow. You send a message and wait for about a day for a response. Although I absolutely love my online coaches and have gained special insight from Rae in particular, there’s no substitute for a realtime conversation.

Where Can Meditation Be Taught Outside of a Meditation Center?

Chatting with your local meditation center instructors can reveal new ideas. I had a wonderful chat with Armine Alioto at the Show Me Dharma meditation center. (A description of the center is covered in the Show Me Meditation post.)

She pointed out that the Unity Center of Columbia church may have some space available for us. She also said I might pick up a few others who want to learn as well. The key is to have an uninterrupted safe area.

Outside of churches, I have taught meditation in the backroom of a store, a townhome clubhouse on a quiet weekend, and in library study rooms. I have also shared insights online in the new online Discord Meditation community.

It’s Worth Sharing Your Insights

It’s worth figuring out the logistics so that you can help others begin. By teaching, you’re sharing and learning. If you let the wisdom flow through you, it will feel as natural as breathing. It’s a natural choice which brings you closer to oneness and wholeness. For me specifically, it’s a natural expression of my Personal Mission as shared in Resilience and Optimism. Good luck and happy sharing.


Forgiving and the Five Fingers of Freedom

A question from one of my favorite meditator friends:

I read the Five Fingers and they sound great! Something I have a hard time getting past is forgiving others when they don’t care. They won’t acknowledge what’s happened, and certainly don’t care if you forgive them. How do you get past that?

A fantastic question. This wonderful meditator is referring to the FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom‘s 3rd finger, “Forgive yourself and others.” The short and quick answer is to accept reality, let go of stories, make life adjustments, and take care of yourself.

Accept Reality

Sometimes people are the embodiment of a thoughtless chaotic storm. They are a storm of indifference that sweeps through your life, cause mayhem, and then hopefully moves on. If a person is truly indifferent, I accept the chaotic storm as a natural yet untrustworthy phenomena.

Boats and Story Weather

Let Go

What stories are you telling yourself about this storm? When I observe thoughts in my mind like, “But he did this”, “She said that”, I recognize the thoughts as just stories about a storm. The storm doesn’t care about what stories are in my mind.

If a story persists, I change the story in the mind to say “The storm did this. The storm did that.” At that point, I realize I am dealing with nature as it is. Like a real thunderstorm, conditions came together to create the storm that is in front of you. It’s true that some of those conditions are based on actions from others. However, it all comes down to conditions and nature. Let go of any useless stories that are saying the same thing over and over in your mind.

Make Life Adjustments

So now, I have come to terms with the storm that I have faced or am facing. For this thunderstorm, I shall protect myself and loved ones. If the storm is over, I shall clean up the damage done to my life. If I can create different conditions so as to make the storm less likely, I shall. However, most of the time the wholesome and mindful action is to do Lovingkindness meditations, protect what I can, and stay clear of the storm’s chaotic and damaging influence.

10% Happier

To help keep perspective, the meditation I like to do is called “Anger: The Big Lie” by Sharon Salzberg in the 10% Happier meditation app. In that meditation, Sharon shares that there are lots of forces and variables at work. Being mad at someone doesn’t help you. As Sharon would put it, staying mad is “not onward leading.”

There’s a peace that comes from letting go of the useless thoughts and emotions. There’s harmony in coming back to a mindful awareness of existence.

Take Care of Yourself

For those people who are chronic indifferent storms of chaos, I drop those relationships where I can. Although you can make a slight influence on the conditions which form such a storm, you are also potentially fighting nature itself. Yes, you are giving up something by dropping a relationship, but you are gaining space to let goodness come into your life.

If it’s not possible to drop those relationships, deal with the situation like the bad weather. Make sure you take care of yourself first so that you are strong enough to take care of others as needed. Get regular exercise, good nutrition, and meditation into your life. All of this is your foundation which will help you and those around you weather any future storms in life.


Alarm clock by a bed

What Gets You Meditating, Time or Triggers?

When and why do you meditate? This question bubbled up into the mind when I was asked the following great question by Lulu, an experienced and friendly meditator:

Do you meditate at certain times, or because of certain triggers, etc?

Morning Routine

Great question! I meditate for sure as part of my morning routine. The routine goes like this:

  1. Brush my teeth to keep my teeth
  2. Take prescriptions to keep my physical health
  3. Meditate to explore my mind, satisfy my curiosity, and enjoy the benefits.

I strengthen my mind using mindfulness meditation and enjoy the benefits of Lovingkindness meditation.

Alarm clock by a bed

States of Being

My morning meditation is time based. However, I also meditate when I see that my mind or body is in a certain state. In other words, the trigger to meditate is the recognition of its useful in response to having certain states of being. States of being that encourage me to meditate include:

  • Apathy
  • Full mind – Due to learning lots of new things or life
  • Distress – What people usually call stress
  • Excessive excitement related to eustress
  • Fear or heightened concern
  • Nausea – such as when I feel sick
  • Pain
  • Sexual arousal aka feeling horny when such a feeling is untimely and distracting.
  • Sleepiness when a power nap is not appropriate

Also, I continuously practice mindfulness even while walking. Look for “Plug yourself in and let’s go for a walk” in these Guided Meditations by 10% Happier to get a sense of what’s possible while walking. Alternatively, read more of my posts about 10% Happier.

Clouds With Sun Rays

And You?

How about you? When and why do you meditate? You can reach out to me on Twitter @FinneyCanHelp or join a new Slack meditation community that I joined recently by going to http://still.onuniverse.com and click on the “Join the Community” button. Looking forward to hearing your experiences!

Team Building Your Mind Through Meditation

Are you mentally tearing yourself apart, putting yourself down, fighting yourself, and getting in your own way? Do thoughts race through your mind about all the ways you might fail and be hurt? That’s common. Yet, it’s not useful.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of you coexisted in harmony? All the parts of your mind?

Instead of just raising concerns and dealing with them logically and with love, our minds can become a factory of panic. We panic and then sometimes panic about panicking.

Time Out! Time for a Mental Meeting
Team meetings and retreats happen all the time. Organizations sink a heavy amount of investment money into them. The importance of teams building and maintaining healthy and mutually beneficial relationships that function well together is highly treasured.

Can we think about the individual as a team? The individual has a team of cells that form larger human parts working together in harmony like notes in a beautiful song. Without harmony, the song collapses in chaos. The individual is no more. The brain also works well when in a harmonic state of flow.


When a fear is injected into consciousness by one part of the brain, how will the other part of the mind handle that? To get scientific, the amygdala can inject stuff into the system and the prefrontal cortex has to know how to handle that or you get mental chaos and stress. In response to raw fear getting dumped into your experience, what will you do?

As Oren J Sofer said in the 10% Happier meditation app recording titled Just Another Emotion, “This is the universal human experience of this emotion. Everyone feels this.” There’s no need to take your emotions personally. Your emotions are not reflections of you being a good or bad person. It’s a reflection of you being human.

However, not having your mind working well together is selling your potential short.

Survival Is Not Enough

To really go all the way in life and thrive, the individual must team build their own mind. Emotional agility is the enabler of Powerfully Productive Happy Meditators. As they say, show up for yourself. Make the appointment to meditate and by doing so learn how to regulate your emotions, open up channels of creativity, and experience a positive peaceful mindset.

When you have a positive mindset, you can see solutions and opportunities that you would not see when you’re in survival mode. That is a scientific fact. When you are in survival mode, your cognitive abilities are impaired.

Meditate For Others Too

Seeking harmony of the mind through meditation helps those around you. You’re doing this for all those you interact with and the people they interact with. Relationships are the slender strands that tie together all of humanity.

I See Teams Everywhere

I encourage you to explore this notion of your mind being its own team. You’re a collection of mental parts striving towards harmony. See yourself as the constellation of stars in the night sky that make up you. Through Lovingkindness meditation and mindfulness meditation, you can harmonize all of your mental parts and your relationships with others.

Show Me Meditation

The snow fell hard as I approached the building. Ah! I saw a nice Show Me Dharma sign. I had arrived where they do Insight Meditation and Sunday morning service was about to begin. There’s a playground here too. Knowing that it’s a kid friendly area felt like a good sign.

Show Me Dharma Sign

Some young teenagers were gathering near the entrance. They looked excited and eager as a woman was gathering them up and doing a pre-entrance talk with them. It certainly feels like a field day!

By some strange coincidence, I ended up ahead of the woman letting in the youths. I smiled and mentioned that this was my first time there. In a soft friendly voice, she said “welcome!”


She explained to all that we take off our shoes here at the entrance. I said with a smile, “Just like at home. “

In an attempt to not get his feet wet, a young teenage boy gracefully leaped from the doorway and softly landed to the side. Impressive! Perhaps, I can do a similar feat and keep my socks dry too. I did a small side leap and landed in front of the wooden bench. Excellent!

With shoes off and feet dry, I thanked the young nimble youth with a smile and gave a thumbs up. He gave me an uncertain yet grateful thumbs up back not knowing what he did. I explained, “You showed me the way to keeping my socks dry. Thank you.”

The place had a familiar feeling to it. It was small yet clean and organized. There was a small library with books in their shelves. The place certainly felt established. It felt cozy yet homey.

Fragrance Free means one can breathe with ease

Staking Out My Territory

I walked up a short flight of stairs into a small room where there were meditation cushions that one could use. Nice! There were plenty in there. As someone who has bought a zafu in the last few years, I know zafus and zabutons don’t come cheap. I am impressed.

From their website, I know they have chairs. So, I continued on past the cushions. The soft-voiced woman said to me, “There are cushions available.” I politely shared that I am “pro-chair” and thanked her. On that note, there’s a good article on how to meditate in a chair.

I walk inside, see the meditation instructor sitting on a chair, and see the donation basket. I was ready for this basket. Here in my wallet was the money I had already decided I was going to place in the basket. That helped take the awkwardness out of it. I simply recognized that they have to pay the rent and yet so do I. I pulled out the money and placed it into the basket next to the five dollar bill there.

Chairs and Meditation Cushions are Available

With the donation done, I approached the front of the room. “Hmmm. Which chair do I want to sit on?” Ugh. All I could see were cold black metal chairs. The instructor offered that there are meditation cushions available if I want. I told her that I appreciated the offer, but would like to use a chair today.

Time to choose a chair! There’s a woman sitting to my left in the front. Since I wanted to respect her space, I sat across the aisle on the right. Whoops! Big mistake. The chair is right next to a wall. If I turn my head to the right, I am kissing the wall. Yuck.

I asked the woman if she mind if I sat next to her. With a welcome and friendly tone, she said to come on over. She started to move left one chair, but I told her she didn’t have to move. “I’m not territorial. Usually.”, I said with a grin.

We introduced ourselves. I told her I was Mike and she said her name was Julie. She seemed like a kind woman. She said the instructor is Linda. Looking around, I was one of two males in the room. There’s probably fifteen people that were there.

The Service Begins

The service began with the instructor ringing a bell. She said something like:

We usually start the service by doing a meditation walk.

“Oh really?”, I am thinking. Cold tiny frozen ice crystals aka snow is coming down. Brrr.

“However, since it’s nasty outside we will do something different.”, she said. “Thank you!” I said to her in my mind. I gave her a mental hug.

Show Me Dharma Building Back

Show Me Dharma

She said we would instead do a practice where one person asks the other “Who are you?” and the other listens deeply. Both are to set aside their typical narratives / stories and completely be in the present moment.

“Ah! Free word association. I presume they prefer us to respond in a safe-for-work manner. Ha ha!”, I thought and gave her a big grin. I wonder if she knew what I was thinking?

Rae, my online meditation instructor from the 10% Happier meditation app, says that’s known as an inquiry practice. Good to know.

Who Are You?

We began. Since neither Julie nor I had a preference, I playfully pretended to flip a coin up into the air. Catching the invisible coin and flipping it onto the back of my hand, the invisible coin landed showing heads. In that way, I became the first “speaker.”

Inwardly, I said to myself, “Just dive in deep. Just go for it. Open my heart and see what happens.”

Whoops! Oh! I instantly felt an opening up sensation and tears of happiness, love, and joy were beginning to twinkle in my eyes. As shared in “Good” Meditation Growth Then Tears Flowed, this emotional response to mentally opening my heart is not new to me.

“Who are you?”,Julie asked. I said, “I am the one who tears easily.” OK. She’s been warned. I don’t actually cry often. However, she deserved a fair warning  and I answered truthfully in the context it was asked.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike (me): I am the snowflake on the hill.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am the … (oops stopping myself). I explain I was going to say I was the enlightened one. However, that didn’t seem proper.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: The sleepy one. (Daylight Saving just happened.)

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: A gentle breeze in the wind.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: A writer

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am the snowman on a hill.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: I am love.

My eyes open. Our eyes meet. It’s an interesting sensation to do a meditative practice while your eyes are meeting another’s eyes.

Julie: Who are you?

Mike: Curious

Next we switched. Out of respect, I will leave her responses out. However, I will share one thing. She seeks enlightenment. No surprise there. I thought to myself the following:

Oh Julie, my new found friend. Seeking enlightenment is like trying to grab a floating ballon by poking it with a finger. Strongly seeking enlightenment will push it away. Through the practice, you should just allow enlightenment to open you to life and to all you meet.

Someday, I may get to tell her.


The inquiry practice was followed up with a discussion about discomfort. Lynn asked if anyone wanted to share about the discomfort they experienced while doing the practice. No one said anything for awhile. So, I half raised my hand and got a head nod to proceed.

I shared that one of the moments of discomfort involved crying. (Ha ha! I got two of the youths glancing back at me and doing a double take. Welcome to a truly open discussion, my young friends.) I shared:

When opening your heart without reservation, tears can flow. I’ve learned that it’s best just to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Another person shared her awesome insights into vulnerability and then the instructor spoke. She spoke of suffering. In Meditating on Suffering From Unawareness, I go into suffering from the perspective of life being intrinsically dissatisfying due to continual change and how to handle that. However, Lynn was sharing something more tangible. She shared her own physical suffering from extreme back pain. Ouch! It was a great dharma talk about the importance of opening up to the experience of suffering in all its forms when you can. Beyond other benefits, you’ll experience more life that way.

After the dharma talk, we began the thirty minute meditation. During this silent meditation there was the obligatory stomach growling from one of the youths there. I wanted to support them by saying “Hey. Stomach noises are natural. Experienced meditators have heard much worse. Believe me. It doesn’t matter to the meditation pros what biological noises you make.”

Announcements and Community Outreach

After the thirty minute silent meditation, announcements were made. They have a “Caring Committee” and one of their activities is the Donate for Puerto Rico. Using the donated money, they order lamps at a discount and send the lamps to the people in Puerto Rico who are are still suffering from Hurricane Maria. As you may know, a lack of power there is still an issue. As shared in Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid:

But U.S. officials were saying that remote areas in “challenging terrains” would not get service until the end of May.

That threw a little more light on how Show Me Dharma contributes back to the global community. Well done!

Bowing to the Buddha Statue is Optional

Service Completed

Service ended with a lowering of the head and hands in prayer. I lowered my head and briefly held my hands up as in prayer. This time though, I decided not to bow to the Buddha statue. To be clear, holding up my hands and bowing is optional and not a form of worship for me. After a nice chat with Julie about how I first got interested in meditation and she in Buddhism, it was time to go. Making my way back to the wooden bench, I started to put my shoes on. Wouldn’t you know it? Julie’s shoes were right behind my legs where I was sitting. What were the odds of that happening?

As I put on my shoes, I ended up in a nice conversation with a young woman and another woman about genealogy. Without going into the whole conversation, there was a nice idea that came out it.

Knowing our ancestors faced terrible trials can give us strength. This inspires us to overcome our own challenges.

After that, I gave a farewell and mindfully walked to the car with gratefulness in my heart.

Update: After speaking with Julie and getting her permission, I changed the name used in this blog post from Jan to Julie. (Thank you, Julie. Your support and understanding is appreciated.) I also changed the instructor’s name to her true name of Linda. All the names of the teachers for Show Me Dharma are publicly available.

Second Update: Images of the inside were inserted and a link to bowing not being a form of worship was added. Thanks goes to Joe McCormack for his help in taking the inside images.

Powerfully Productive Happy Meditators

People want to get things done in life. Our To-Do lists haunt us and we sometimes have energy “the size of a dinner mint”. If happiness is offered, you might say “Forget this. I have stuff to do!” The implied question is being asked, “If I am happy, will I get anything useful done?”

It’s OK to be Happy

From “Will Meditation Kill My Edge?” in the 10% Happier app Dan says:

I think a lot of people confuse complacency with happiness.

Often, people think that unhappiness is the only way to motivate action. Although unhappiness can get you moving, it doesn’t provide a direction to move towards. There’s no target. Without a purposeful target, you will mindlessly leap out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Aspire Towards a Target

If you want a target to move towards and the energy to hit that tricky target, glance at Resilience and Optimism where I discuss having a mission and the right positive attitude toward humanity through agape, an unconditional love for humans.

With a mission as your target and the right positive attitude, you’re like a happy and fast moving boat in the sea. Your mission is your north star and your agape (love) keeps you afloat, energized, and connected with others.

Paddle Hard To Move Your Boat?

No. Pushing yourself hard to be the best mindfulness meditator merely creates mental cramps. As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier app, “Dude, you’re making this way too hard.”

If you’re a Star Trek Next Generation fan, I would tell you that you have to make the counter intuitive move of dropping your shields in the face of danger as described in STNG Hero Worship.


The paradox is that the harder you try to be great at meditating, the more likely you are going to struggle. As I share in the Wrong Effort By George Mumford section in Meditation Brain Headbands And Wrong Effort, trying to get immediate results creates its own obstacle.

There’s a great podcast episode [NSFW: cussing] of The Joe Rogan Experience (#1062) titled Dan Harris & Jeff Warren where at the 23 minute 43 second mark, Dan describes what it’s like to have doubt in the progress of your meditation practice. To make progress in your meditation practice, you have to:

Surrender.. Just let the practice do its thing. ..We’ve been doing this for a millennia.. Just do the practice. Stop worrying about it [your progress].

He then goes on in a fun way to describe how it’s like a video game. “You can’t move forward if you want to move forward.”

In boat terms, just raise the sail. Let the wind push you forward. In meditation speak, observe whatever it is that comes up into your awareness like watching a cloud in the sky. Don’t try to push or pull the cloud. You’ll get lost in the cloud of thought and be in the storm of mindlessness again.

Comparing Mind

So, here we have a target, energy, and a tactical plan for how to progress. To completely progress in an effective manner, beware of the comparing mind. This is especially true when in a highly competitive environment.

As George Mumford points out in the 10% Happier app in What’s Success, you can’t control others. He says, “You can only be who you are. So why not be good at that?” Live your best. You can’t directly control what others are doing so focus on your own progress.

Sharon Salzburg in Mindful Magazine’s Be Kind to Yourself—Right Now covers the energy drain that comes from constantly reviewing the past and measuring how you stack up compared to others. My advice is to let those unwholesome thoughts go. Apply the Handy Tip For Focusing on such thoughts. Let the clenched fist in your mind fall open. Turn your attention on to your own progress and sail on towards your target.

Continue To Up Your Game With Emotional Agility

Now that you have an effective way to progress in your meditation practice and feel safe that you’ll still get things done, it’s time to end this with a final tip: continue to up your game. Expand your horizons. Continue to deepen your growth in ways you haven’t considered. For example, consider your “emotional agility” as Oren Jay Sofer puts it.

Even though the happiness and balance you acquire from mindfulness meditation are highly useful, there is certainly more to be had by learning “emotional agility.” As Oren Jay Sofer points out with some hesitation in “Calmest Person of the Room” of the 10% Happier app:

Not only can it [emotional agility] make you the calmest person in the room, but it can make you the most powerful person in the room.

Managing your emotions well lets you flexibly respond to life’s challenges. Simply through being grounded, you can see clearly what effective response to an adverse situation will serve best.

Aim True

I sympathize with Oren’s hesitation. Mindfulness and “emotional agility” are powerful and with that comes great responsibility. If you aim yourself towards a wholesome target and apply what is shared above, you will get out of your own way, get things done, have a richer life, and move like the wind.

Resilience and Optimism

Someone that I admire and enjoy being around with at CARFAX where I work shared two words with me, optimism and resilience. This got me thinking about deeper questions such as:

  • How do you keep going when your plans never work out quite the way you want?
  • How can you tap into an ever-flowing fountain of energy and optimism?

Shared in here are the key concepts. Although you may have heard of these concepts before, just know that the concepts are available in the 10% Happier meditation app. The people mentioned here actually teach these concepts in that app. Here’s one concept:

There’s no such thing as failure, just feedback. – George Mumford

Putting yourself down after failing to achieve something doesn’t serve anyone. Let it go. Instead, look at the results of your efforts as just feedback for you, a dynamic and wonderfully adaptable human being.

Aspiration vs Expectation

Aspiration is great. As Joseph Goldstein shares, that’s what motivates us towards action. Expectation is an unhealthy attachment to results. Expectation doesn’t serve. The smart move is to aspire towards achieving goals and then use the results of your efforts as feedback towards the next move you make.

Loving All aka Agape

When it comes to optimism and resilience, a wonderful and powerful way to tap into optimism and resilience is by connecting with your love / agape for your fellow human being. Especially after driving in heavy traffic, it’s possible you don’t feel like you have any agape for your fellow human. As Sharon Salzberg shares, there are ways to train your mind towards acknowledging and experiencing such a connection.

“What’s in it for me?”, you might ask. As George Mumford says, “Humans are wired for altruism.” We are wired to work together as a whole team. What gets in the way are the way we organize ourselves and the way we frame our look on life.

This connection gives us energy, helps you to connect with others, and fosters a more productive environment. In short, you get more done and you will feel good doing it.


Just as powerful as tapping into your agape for humanity is living your life according to a mission. My personal mission statement is to help make paradise on earth. Maximizing human flourishing is the goal. This serves everyone, even me. This tweet sums it up nicely:

Enjoy and Share

There you have it. As I said in Gamification Journey of FinneyCanHelp, we have evolved such that we need each other. Our support of others through teamwork and how we organize is our collective strength. If each of us use our talents to their fullest and support human flourishing, we can truly make paradise on earth.

Now, please share the concepts. Share the source of those concepts such as this article or mention the 10% Happier app. Most importantly, share your success and support others in their success. We’re all in this together. As Sharon Salzberg put it, we’re going to sink or swim together. Together, we win.

Meditating and Coming Across Colder Than Ice

A benefit of mindfulness meditation is that you can respond to your emotions and situations with more grace and with less regrets. As you “mellow out” over time, you might not express strong emotions. Since you don’t react with a knee-jerk response to every situation, some may mistakenly think you are emotionally cold. To them, you’re not showing emotions. That can seem real creepy to others!

In my life, I have been compared to a Star Trek Vulcan. That’s a person who is logical yet doesn’t show emotion. Other times, I’ve been called a robot. I even was described by a former boss as “an ice-man…but in a good way.” In college, a friend would get three inches from my face and ask me,  “Does this bother you?” just to see how I would respond. I would reply with a smile that I couldn’t see her face and thus couldn’t communicate effectively.

To counter this natural concern from others and put people at ease, one thing I learned quickly in life was that it’s important to smile. Whether or not you meditate, smiling is a key to success. As a result of this approach and my love for Batman, I was referred to by some in college as The Joker’s good twin.

Loving Kindness

Even if you smile, people can tell that you’re special in that you don’t thoughtlessly react to things. They won’t know what to make of it. People can get scared of what they don’t understand or trust. Just know that they are trying to understand you and may not have a good way of relating to someone who is so centered and balanced.

To help with this situation, I use a meditation practice that stokes the fires of compassion and well wishing for my fellow human being as well as myself. This practice is called Lovingkindness.

My Words

During my teenage years, I had a religious upbringing. So, my Lovingkindness practice included God. Since I was taught that Jesus loved us unconditionally and humans lived better together with such a neighborly philosophy, unconditional love was the foundation for my practice.

With my palms facing up and my arms out wide, I would recite to myself over and over again the following:

  1. I love myself unconditionally.
  2. I love the divine unconditionally.
  3. Through the love between myself and the divine, I love everyone and everything and allow that love to come back unto me.

Since the rhythm of “the divine” felt better, I used “the divine” for God.

Since I had read that imagining a great silver glowing light would magnetically draw people to me, I imagined that too. As the saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. I will say though that the imagery of light connecting me to heaven and then on out to everything else was truly effective in giving rise to a sense of connection.

Back then, step three of using God (the divine) to be the bridge between myself and connecting myself to everything felt critical. Although I believed in people, I felt it was too hard to connect to people without divine intervention and I needed that bridge. Nowadays, I have a deeper understanding of life, the known and the unknown, and our interconnection with all of it. 

Sharon Salzberg

These days, I use a suggestion that Sharon Salzberg made in the fantastic meditation iPhone app called 10% Happier. As a result, my new phrases are verbatim what she shared:

  1. May I be safe
  2. Be Happy
  3. Be healthy
  4. Live with ease

The “May I be safe” changes to “May you be safe” or “May all be safe” when I want to switch what to focus on. From my own experience and others, I’ve learned that you can use whatever words you want as long as you are consistent.


To be clear, one still has emotions when meditating. It’s just that you’ll have a superpower of seeing an emotion and choosing your response. Your superpower will scare some people. If you do a Lovingkindness meditation practice, people will be able to tell, they will trust you more, and you will enjoy the benefits that come with it.


Meditating on Suffering From Unawareness

As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier meditation app, “Who’s the enemy? Unawareness.” Unawareness is serious business and is a root cause for so much suffering in the world. For the individual though, isn’t ignorance bliss?

A great series of questions about the phrase “suffering from unawareness” was raised by Yuri in Mistakes and Let Go Learn From. To quote the question:

Does a dog suffer from unawareness? an ant? a tree? a rock?
Is it possible to suffer without awareness?
Perhaps it is those who are aware who suffer most.
You could say awareness is suffering ?

To put the questions into my own words, how can one suffer if they are not aware? Doesn’t it hurt more to be aware? Those are interesting and fair questions. To clarify about “suffering” in the mindfulness meditation context, we’re talking about Dukkha. If one wants to go deep with an exploration of suffering, there’s an interesting podcast episode titled Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 30 – The Four Noble Truths: Dukkha. Unpacking what suffering is can get deep. Suffice it to say, suffering goes beyond just pain.

To quote Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target:

In this context, suffering is also sometimes known as the dissatisfying aspects of life. The sensation of being angry, feeling ill, or sadness doesn’t disappear, but it doesn’t have the same kind of impact when one is in a state of selflessness.

Now that we’ve covered suffering and shown our understanding of the spirit of the questions, let’s get back to the dog, ant, tree, and rock questions directly. An exploration of these questions directly might prove enlightening and perhaps even fun.



Sodium Chloride Is Yummy

Rocks are not conscious. If one is as unfeeling as a rock, they won’t suffer nor feel the typical dissatisfactions that come with life. As stated on Minerals vs. Rocks, it’s noteworthy that “Rocks are generally made of two or more minerals.” Among other things, humans are made up of minerals. A human is a constellation of many different things.


Ants are a trickier thing to talk about. Ants are special creatures of earth and are quite different from humans. Humans will take in information through their senses, automatically abstract and filter away extraneous details, and then create a mental map of what was, what is, and what might be. Although there is much about ants we don’t understand, it’s clear that ants have evolved differently to survive in life.

Ants on wood

As stated in We’ve Been Looking at Ant Intelligence the Wrong Way, “ants do not integrate all this information into a unified representation of the world, a so-called cognitive map.” They have adapted for navigation in different ways. There’s still much we don’t know about ants. So doggone it, we don’t know what ants think.


Dogs Are Awesome

In my opinion, dogs are awesome. The more we learn about them, the more awesome they seem. As shared in Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?, dogs experience “basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust and even love.” Do dogs suffer from dissatisfaction in life? As a former owner of many dogs, yes. Dogs suffer from dissatisfaction in life. In fact, once I observed a dog’s unhealthy attachment to fear which kept it from going to the bathroom until the poor dog just lost it wherever he was. That dog couldn’t be trained / reached since there was no way to explore this unhealthy attachment to its fear.

Although dogs learn, I am not aware of any scientific evidence supporting dogs having the ability to reflect on their thinking. In other words, dogs don’t have the power of metacognition. Metacognition is the ability to think about thinking.

Dogs don’t have the same mental tools available that humans do. Joe Rogan, Sam harris and Dan Harris (cofounder of the 10% Happier meditation app), discuss meditation and metacognition in this video (NSFW due to cussing and references to recreational drug use):

Dan Harris does an excellent job in that video expanding on the concept of metacognition.


According to the article Scientists Discover Plants Have “Brains” That Determine When They Grow, trees have “a series of cells acting as a command center of sorts.” However, they also don’t have brains which allow metacognition.

That said, trees can be quite inspirational to humans. As shared on Why Trees Are The Ultimate Meditation Teachers:

A meditation teacher once advised me to look to the example trees set as steady, observant beings.

Studying nature can give us insight into ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the universe.

Human Suffering

Through our human cognitive abilities, we can take note of our thoughts and train ourselves to respond to things which happen to us as opposed to take a knee-jerk reaction to everything in life. In a purely knee-jerk kind of world, we get road rage, more regrets, and are painfully lost in our thoughts.

The good news is that starting the Meditation Journey is Simple. That doesn’t mean meditating is easy. However, that’s another topic for another time.

As opposed to unawareness or ignorance being bliss, “Our suffering stems from ignorance.” as S. N. Goenka put it. As you deal with unawareness in its many forms in life, may you be safe, be happy, be healthy, and live with ease.