Q+A: What is the simplest and fastest meditation I can do?

Your question is not as simple as you may think. Realize that meditation is a wonderful 2,500 year old practice, but it is 2,500 years old. It was created for a world far simpler than the one you now live in. No matter what style you begin with, you will undoubtedly find you will outgrow it as you advance and begin to search for better, faster, deeper practices; which is as it should be.

Some people practice a lifetime before realizing that every door they open also opens a window as they realize there are ever more doors to explore. When you start with the idea of reducing stress and anxiety you inevitably discover those are surface ripples for the delusions you now take as realities. This is part of the self-realization that anyone who has meditated for any length of time begins to undertand.

If you are serious, begin your journey with a reputable school to learn the basics of breathing, dropping in on your thoughts and letting them go. Those are the three core elements to any style of meditation whether it is Vipassana, Samata, Zazen or some manifestation of them. Just as every school teaches you to not cling to your thoughts, forget about clinging to a single school, as each is woefully out of date for what you are looking for. Recognize the non-attachment they all talk about applies to their own school as well.

I teach people how to recognize the commonalities that is the foundation which connects all forms of mediation together. Learn those three core commonalities and then learn to pick and choose which technique work for you in your life. One technique may be better for stress, another may be better to manifest loving kindness, another still may help you focus on an issue through contemplation.

None are right or wrong, that is for you to decide. Learn to weave them together so that you can create a practice that works for your unique style and life, rather than trying to fit your life into a 2,500 year old practice which, in reality, are the same. You will find it much easier to maintain your practice with less frustration when you do.

Be well and I hope this helps.

Jeff

Discover your delusions & unleash your potential

Q:
When most of your life you think you are someone, but later in life you find out you are not that person, (only the environment you have been exposed to made you like that), how do you accept your new true identity?

A:
We all carry delusions that we invariably lie by with us. You first create those delusions to protect yourself as you begin your life. For example someone in your formative years laughs at you and hurts your feelings because of a trait that you were not even aware of. That hurts your feelings and undermines your unhappiness, so your brain creates a wall, a delusion, that become a part of your underlying character. You may not even be aware of the delusions your brain has created, but you begin to live by those limitations without even knowing you have them. Discovering what those delusions are and what the source of them are is what we call finding your Simple Truth.

If you live your life wisely you will uncover more and more delusions that you once accepted as very real limitations to your life. As some point you will realize these re not real limitations, but limitations of the mind. This is why you begin to realize that you are not the person you once thought you were. It is the environment you were raised in that made you think you were someone that you are not.

Life is about change. If you never change your life becomes a flat-line, and that is a living death. Discover your heart beat and turn your flat-line into a pulse by discovering your delusions and breaking through them.

The difficulty is not in realizing that you are not the person you once were, but in accepting that you are not the person once thought you were. Finding your own Simple Truth is a fairly straight forward process. It begins with seeing yourself for who you truly are and accepting the limitations and opportunities your body, mind and spirit have always presented you with. Begin with the person you are on the physical level. Once you become comfortable with yourself physically then you can begin to explore who you are psychologically and spiritually. This means exploring your social upbringing so that you can discover the delusions that society placed upon you as you matured.

Let’s take a look at me. I was not born with a swimmer’s body. I can swim in the ocean and enjoy myself as I play in the waves, enjoying every minute of it richly and deeply; I can be happy. If I set my goals on winning an Olympic medal at some point I will realize that I simply was not born to be 6’1″ with arms that an stretch like wings and pull me through the water. That is the wall of reality and I will not find happiness with the person I am. It does not mean I cannot be happy in the water, it simply means I have to realize my physical limitations and learn to live with them.

The delusion would be living with an expectation of winning an Olympic medal in swimming, but reality is that I can be happy enjoying the waves and swimming in the ocean. The difference between the two is realizing the delusions I created about who I am and what I want to be.

Once you realize your true capabilities and limitations you can set your sights in a realistic way. You can explore how you came to create the delusions and false expectations that are the source of your unhappiness. You can discover your path and find your way to being the person you were meant to be all along. This is what we call being your authentic self and living in the real world.

Learn more at: Your Authentic Self – The Simple Truth Project

Be well and I hope this helps.

Jeff

Q + A: Is A Living Guru Required?

Q:

Is a Living Guru Required?

A:

Required for what? Before you can find the right answer you need to ask the right question. 😉

If you are asking about finding a shorter or more direct path to your destination, be they spiritual or material, the answer is yes in some ways. But the idea of a “guru” to lead you can distract you to follow false paths if you are not careful. You are the only one who can know what path to follow. Never rely on someone else, even me, to know where you want or need to go.

Always remember a guru can never know your mind. They can only share their experiences with you, but they can never know your thoughts.

It is up to you to select which part of their teachings applies to your situation. It is up to you, and only you, to know when you have learned the lessons you need to learn and when to move on so that you can continue your journey.

I have had many teachers and some gurus in my life. I have learned lessons, but rarely those they wanted to teach me. I have learned from watching the waves as they crashed on a beach, from observing the twists and turns of a mountain stream, and even by watching the stillness of a well worn stone. With each the most important lesson I have ever learned is knowing when to move on.

If you open yourself up to the stirrings of nature you will learn that you are your own best teacher. Just remember to allow yourself to acknowledge the wisdom all things in nature have to share and approach each with an empty cup.

Allow whomever or whatever to fill it free from preconceived notions and ideas.

I hope this helps.

Be well,

Jeff

Q+A: What was the most challenging relationship you have experienced?

Q:

What was the most challenging relationship you have experienced?

A:

My most challenging relationship is the one I have with myself.

Only by having a healthy and honest relationship with myself can I hope to have a healthy and honest relationship with someone else. In the end, your defects and truths will arise no matter what your intentions are. Within a long-term relationship, they will bubble up no matter how hard you try to stuff them down. In fact the more you try to deceive someone the quicker your faults and lies will arise. That is the beauty of companionship and community, your truths will surface no matter what you try to do.

In casual conversation you will slip when you least expect yourself to. You will grow comfortable with those around you and there it is – the truth. You may not blurt out some falsehood as if vomiting up your lunch but it will be there for you and those around you to be aware of. And once it is out there the more you try to cover your tracks, the more entwined and confused will your story become.

That is how your deceit will be noticed, not with the initial lie you told, but through your efforts to cover your tracks. The only way to avoid this is to be honest with yourself, to know yourself, and to make a vow that you will only be honest with yourself an with those around you.

This is not an easy thing to do, but it is essential if you want an honest relationship free from the confusion of half-truths so many try to live with. At first this is a challenge for many. But as time passes you will learn that those challenges fade away as your relationship with yourself comes from a place of honesty, honor, values and virtues.

When  you are completely honest with who you are, you free yourself of the weight that you have carried with you for so long. You can be with anyone in a fully intimate and honest way and feel good about yourself while doing so.

Q+A: Find God in Your Meditation

Before our session started a new student asked me about God and meditation. “How does it all work?,” she asked.

These are two terms I increasingly hear together, especially since the rebirth that meditation is experiencing these days. It used to be that meditation was so closely tied to Buddhism that one just accepted they were born of the same cloth. But no more, and rightly so. Now that the idea of God has pulled away from the Biblical character raining down fire and brimstone on sinners, and has become a more Loving entity, more synonymous with the teachings of Christ or Mohammad, or even Abraham, finding God within yourself is a much easier concept to pursue.

It is why so many monks, like myself, have found a balance when they practice meditation. Regardless of religious affiliation meditation is a way to transcend the physical distractions of the body and find the higher self we so often seek. It is within that higher self, that we begin to touch upon the divine.

With practice, meditation will take you to a higher level of awareness, to a place where your consciousness is free to play without the pain and distractions of the human experience we are all a part of. In so many ways meditation allows you to find enlightenment in your body and mind so that you open up to the connections we all share on a more spiritual level.

Even if you are not a practitioner of any religion or consider yourself an agnostic or an atheist, there are elements behind a good meditation practice that will connect you with those around you, uncovering the Love that is common among all sentient beings.

“How does this work?” she asked.

I explained to her that meditation is not about floating on a cloud of Nirvana. It is a practice, and like any practice it takes time to develop. We do not all become Beethoven’s or Olympic class gymnasts over night. We sit. We learn to quiet our minds. We allow our focus to develop so that our awareness can grow. As our awareness grows, our consciousness expands. And when that happens we can begin to adopt more advanced meditation techniques.

I led her through basic meditation; sitting, breathing, acknowledging and letting go. Then I led her through the Simple Truth Method, through the thought interrupting Out Breath exercise and through the connection meditation that helps you become aware the people that are near you and support you through the natural Love that is within all of us. I then showed her how to weave the Love, understanding and empathy of these people into the intentions for you to follow, is the basis for how you want to live your life.

“That is how you find God in your meditations. Not as an angry being who is watching your every move, but as a caring, loving, understanding entity that represents the Love that flows within and around each of us.”

She smiled and said thank you. I held her hand. “Remember, there are two levels of meditation. The first trains you how to sit, how to calm yourself, and how to rid yourself of the stress and distractions of the world we live in.

“The second allows you to transcend this world and introduce yourself to the Love that is God on your terms.”

Rest, Renew, Meditate on 2016

If you are like me, you have a natural need for activity.

The moment I feel as if nothing is getting accomplished, I begin to look for things to do. It is shy I could never take on the corporate life, where downtime was celebrated and people looked forward to vacation days more than anything.

Me? I dreaded them.  It is why I got out of the corporate world as quickly as I could and drove myself through producing documentaries and building furniture I would eventually sell on Abbott Kinney in Venice, CA. It is also what drove me to have the health issues I currently have – namely stress-driven tumors.

Even today, I have to constantly remind myself that it is okay, I can relax, nothing is going on for most people in the United States. And I would encourage you to do the same. This is a time when it is okay for nothing to get done.  It is time to realize nobody will be there to answer your phone call or email. It is probably the worst time to send direct mail, as if there was ever a good time these days. But if your restlessness gets the best of you, and yoga or meditation still will not take the edge off, then it is time to turn to 2016.

There are only a few weeks out of the year when nobody, and I mean nobody, with signing authority is around. This is one of them. So put whatever “can’t wait” on hold, and begin thinking about what you are going to do when you get back in town.

Those holiday cards you never sent? Delete the Christmas Tree or the Minorah [I know it’s tight, but you only have until January 1 to get them out, versus January 8 for a New Years Eve card], and write in “Welcome to 2016.”

You see, there is always a way. Besides, it will buy you an additional week to what?

That’s right, rest, relax and contemplate 2016, you know, the new year.

As for 2015? Do what you do in meditation – Acknowledge it, breath into it, and on your next exhale – just LET IT GO….

Q+A – What Does It Feel Like When The Brain Reboots? Seizure Pt II

Moments of Enlightenment

This is the wiring diagram of a human brain. It helps me to understand the complexities of the brain and of my recoveries.

I used to describe the recovery from a seizure as a series of awakenings, as an ongoing experience that rolls out before you and continues to grow and expand as my brain reconnects itself and comes back online. But it is more than that. It is part physical, part psychological, and yes, part spiritual.

I would describe it as an expanding experience that includes a higher level of cognition which pushes beyond where my experiential limits used to be. It is as if, once opened, the pathways that were at once limited become limitless – beyond where the eye could at one time see.

I know this is as much physical as it is metaphysical. I realize much of this is a function of my brain repairing itself and my neurons re-knitting the old pathways, but I cannot help but drop the limiting thoughts that used to define me, to peek into the void beyond the horizon.

Physically, I understand that the myelin that sheathed my nerves was probably weakened during my seven weeks of radiation. [Myelin is the insulating covering of protein and fatty substances that protects the nerves of the brain, spinal cord and body. Unlike the insulation of a power cord, it is not designed to prevent electrical shocks as much as it is to hold the electrical impulses within the neurons, enabling them to transmit signals more quickly and efficiently along the neural network of cells.]

It is one reason the doctors and I think I had my seizure  in the first place. Seven weeks of radiation has a way of wearing away the myelin, leaving the nerves a bit raw.

As the myelin rebuilds, the synapses in the brain become stronger, the neurons engage and mesh together, recreating the network and the memories that I remember having. I am sure a certain level of neuroplasticity comes into play as the brain takes into account what is going on around it, enhancing the most relevant areas first, even letting go of some areas it deems less important.

In a way, I get a new brain. As this happens, it feels as if I am witnessing my memory expand at a rapid pace. The result is a hyper fast experience of watching my mind expand, not just rebuilding its old self, but often going beyond where it was, pushing past the old boundaries, and sometimes even forgetting or ignoring where they were.

In terrestrial terms, when I first left the hospital I had a very limited awareness of where I was. We often speak of being present – well, this was it. My focus was on the pavement immediately in front of my feet. I was not worried about what happened yesterday or the day before. I was not worried about what was coming up. The past and the future were not even concepts I could grasp. Mine was a very immediate and present-moment experience, all day, every day.

As my memories and my cognition came back online, I became aware of the entire block in front of me. I began to realize at some point I would reach the end of the block, and with it the concept of the future came into being. With that concept the street names beyond the block I was on became real.

I quickly learned if I went out on a ramble I would easily become lost, as in 100 feet out, I would lose my sense of direction and have to stop for a few minutes to regain my bearings. If instead I followed a set path, i.e., walking down a street I was familiar without turning down a side street, the streets in front and behind me would start to scroll as if a map was being unrolled with every step I took. Even the side streets would start to roll out and expand in every direction.

It was a fascinating experience to watch as my brain reconnected itself. I would have sudden realizations of the stores that were on this block and the next. I would not always remember their names, but I would often remember the smell of a bakery, the energy and the bustle of a coffee shop, or the emotional connection to a bookstore. The memories were not just physical, but emotional as well.

As the grid around me expanded from one block to three and to ten, I found myself having to stop on a corner, standing still and staring blankly at a sign or a tree, as my awareness and cognitive abilities caught up with my physical location and my brain’s growing network.

When I finally made it to the Hudson River – perhaps six blocks away – I practiced a walking meditation as I took in the smell of salt in the air. I removed my shoes to feel the cold planks of the boardwalk beneath my feet. I kept to the edge of the path to feel the reeds against my legs; it was the sensations I was after.

As those came in, I begin to smell the more subtle scents along the path, I could hear the birds singing, I could even hear the wavelets along the banks of the river. I became aware of the individual sounds that make up that wonderful tapestry of white noise that we all live in.

Perhaps this is why I teach a meditation that enables my students to embrace the world around them; to acknowledge and appreciate the individual sights and sounds that make up their world without feeling the need to attach themselves to each one.

About this time I also looked across the river to see the trees and the sky and the clouds that are beyond the walls of Manhattan. I can see where the Hudson flows out into the ocean and my mind quickly puts it all into place, that yes, there is a big beautiful world out there.

This is also the moment where I let go and allow my mind to roam, not stopping it at the edges where my brain says “real” or “not real”, or separating the “physical” from the “metaphysical.” Instead I enter a playground where I allow the sensations from each to overlap.

I begin to remember what happened during my seizure. I remember feeling the overload. I remember my brain shutting down. I remember my body closing off, and I remember giving myself up to the kindness of strangers, unable to move or to respond. And it is about this time that I am reassured of the kindness of human nature. Where not once has my experience tuned into the torture scenes so often found in the movies we are forced to endure.

Instead, people have always reached out, helped, and done so with kindness. It is about this time that I find myself smiling, knowing that I am on the right path.

 

 

Q+A – Learn to Surf Your Meditation

Q:

How do I go further in my meditation? I feel like I’m getting stuck early on and I’m becoming frustrated by my inability to go further.

A:

Where are you trying to go and why do you need to get there so quickly?

The beauty to meditation is that it is a journey to nowhere. In so many ways it is a circle within a circle. You sit, you quiet the mind, and you let go. When you arrive to that place of calm you realize you are right where you are. You have gone nowhere. You have experienced what it is to have a clear vision of nothingness; free from the need to pay attention to thoughts or the interruptions of the world around you. With practice you become aware that the distractions of your mind are really no different than the distractions of the world you live in.

You see, meditation is not a place to travel to. There is no destination or linear path to follow. There are no road signs for direction. Instead there is an endless ocean upon which to float, and within that ocean there are entirely new levels of freedom to explore once you are able to free yourself from the inner-workings of your brain and allow your mind to stretch beyond itself. When you are able to do that, you will find that you can reach beyond the world of your five senses.

I often describe meditation as a walk into the ocean.  When you first close your eyes in meditation, it is like walking into the ocean. You are buffeted by waves that push you back and knock you over.  These are the thoughts and ideas, lists and regrets, assignments and tasks that your brain distracts you with.

It is as if a cerebral surf is crashing down on you, keeping you from reaching the calm swells that rise and fall beyond the waves. You know they are out there, but you struggle to reach them. The more you struggle, the more off balance you become, and the more difficult it is to stay focused on your destination.

Once through the surf, you begin to feel the calm rise and fall of the ocean swells. In time, you will even find that you can float on top of the beautiful water, rising and falling as if floating on the ebb and flow of the tides of existence.

With practice, you may even feel yourself slipping beneath the water, safe and quiet, watching the thoughts pass above you, above the surface.  There you can rest in quiet, aware they are there, but knowing that you do not have to interact with them.  You will find that you can stay in that place for a while, until you become aware of an even calmer point that is deeper, quieter, with even less motion from the waves and the currents of the outside world.

And so your journey goes until you are resting in that null space between your thoughts and your breath.

The key to getting to that point is learning how not to fight the waves of distraction, but to surf on them.  And that requires climbing onto a metaphysical surfboard, free from attachment and from ego. It is not the same as “letting go.” Instead it means embracing the world you are in so that you can be one with the waves of your mind.

At first, don’t even worry about “meditating.”  Instead just allow yourself to drop in on your breath.

Simply be aware of the air as it flows in and out of your body.

Be aware of your lungs expanding and releasing with each inhale and exhale.

Pay attention to the quality of that breath.

Notice how cool and dry it is as it enters your nose.

Notice how warm and moist it is as it leaves.

Notice the feeling of your body as it sinks into your pillow or seat.

Gently move your awareness to the pattern of light that plays on your eyelids.

With each breath surf to another of your senses and explore what you see, hear, taste and smell.

Don’t jump, just surf through your five senses gently by moving your awareness and your attention to whatever you are experiencing.

When you are ready, return your attention to your breath.

Do not force your attention to go anywhere, simply follow it through your nostrils and own your windpipe.

Feel it enter your lungs.

Be aware of the currents that air creates as it swirls around your lungs and through your body.

Feel the energy that flows from your abdomen to your scalp, your fingertips and your toes.

Then, when you are ready, return your attention to your breathing and enjoy your meditation on the calm waves of your own ocean.

 

Be well,

 

Q + A – People Can Change For One Another.

Several weeks ago a student came to me and said, “people don’t really change do they?” I did not respond at first, formulating my thoughts.  “I mean, not unless they are faced with an absolute necessity. They don’t really make the change they need to, do they?”

It was phrased as a question, but it was really a statement. I smiled, knowing where she was going with this. She was having trouble with her marriage, and did not want to be the one left behind. She knew where it was going, but afraid to admit it, even to herself.

I smiled, as I often do. I knew that she thought she knew the answer. It was why she was phrasing it as a question.

“Everyone can change,” I replied. “But they have to want to change if they are to do so. We can push them to change as much as we want to, but unless they truly want the change, it will never happen. That is why sometimes, some people will discover that it is not change that is needed, but a rephrasing of the question.”

We spoke a while longer. On the idea that the first question that enters our minds is rarely the question we actually need to ask, but a way for our minds to explore the situation we face, to drill down until we find the question we need to find.

She smiled back at me. We bowed our heads, feeling our foreheads touch, sharing the moment and the energy between us. She smiled and thanked me before leaving.

As she neared the edge of the rug her pillow rested upon, I stopped her. “You do know that nothing you can do can make him want to change, other than to be yourself. If he wants you, then it must be you he wants. Not some vision you create for him.”

I could see a tear in her eye form as she smiled and nodded.

We both knew the inevitability of the situation before her. In so many ways, the outcome was set. But how long it would take to arrive there was the question. Would she cling to the safety of the present, knowing it was wrong? Or would she stay true to her own convictions and her authentic self, and let the winds of the universe sort it out, as it inevitably does?

Two days ago I saw her again. This time she was smiling. After our meditation she paused. “You know, I think he really cares for me, for who I am.”

“It was inevitable,” I said.

I am not sure she even heard me.

“Neither of us had to change. But our life sure did. We just had to remember that part of who we were is who we still are.”

 

Q+A – Meditation & Anxiety in the Modern World

A student asked me, “Why is there such angst and anxiety in the world today, and how do I cope with it?”

“Why do I worry about Russia sending warplanes over the Baltic Sea? Why do I worry when our government begins to break down? Why does my wife take a tone sometimes? Are these the same?”

My first answer is yes, they all basically come from the same place. They come from a place of fear. It is how your old brain was programmed to respond to everything in the world around you; and while you cannot change the way your brain works, you can change the way your brain processes and responds to that information.

Instead of having to respond with your fight or flight auto-response, you can train yourself to pause, to contemplate – even if for a second – and choose to take a different route than the one your primordial brain has laid out for you. In truth, you can choose to live your life your way.

The net/net is that the brain creates pathways that you live by.  We call them habits. Neuroscientists call them auto-responses; but they are so much more. They are the responses that you live your life by, and they can often lead you down a path that you will probably regret later on.

Neurologists have a saying – neurons that fire together, wire together. Eastern Philosophers have another saying, you are what you think. They are the same.

All that nervousness, that anxiousness, that angst? It is the result of the patterns that have been developed over eons of evolution. And this is the problem. Many of them date back tens, and even hundreds of thousands of years. They worked wonderfully in the past, they got us to the top of the food chain, but in the modern world you now live in, most of them have little relevance in your life.

The fear that rises when you read about other countries becoming more aggressive is no different than when a primal ancestor saw a shape moving on the horizon. The fear that rises to anger when you read about our government is no different than the worry that was felt about a field of crops failing. And the perceived tone that your wife is taking? Again, it is your old brain preparing for the worst.

If you doubt this, just think about what your brain scrolls through when any of these events take place. They are always worst case scenarios.

Always remember, there are two parts to your brain. There is the old brain that has just one objective – your survival. Then there is the modern brain, the part that most of us think of when someone asks us about the brain. It is that magnificent organ that sits on the top, the part that is responsible for the executive functions in your life.

The old brain becomes uncomfortable with anything that implies risk – taking a new route to work, watching as a new employee enters your workplace, hearing your loved one take a tone. It jumps at every ping and chirp from your mobile device just as it did when a twig snapped in the forest thousands of years ago. It keeps getting distracted by all the things going on in the world around you, looking for danger; even though most of them are completely irrelevant to your survival.

When you begin to get involved in any higher-level thinking, preparing a report, reviewing a PowerPoint file, or looking toward the future, your modern brain focuses in on the task at hand. But, your old brain is still working in the background. It kicks in when it hears a ping, sees movement out of the corner of your eye, or detects a tone. At that moment it begins releasing adrenaline and cortisol.

It starts slowly, preparing you for a potential threat, but as you respond by getting nervous, it elevates your threat-level and starts to release larger and larger amounts of these hormones [adrenaline being produced by the adrenal gland]. It is what happens when your boss calls you into a meeting out of the blue. It is what effects an architect when a client changes a floor plan.

Your modern brain realizes that taking a calculated risk is often the safest path to a secure future. Your old brain does not, and that is where the problem begins. One still thinks that the old way is best.  The other knows that in today’s world the new path is more often the right one. The result is you feel doubt and insecure as the two battle it out.

The key is to remind yourself of this when you start to feel anxious or when you feel self-doubt. Remind yourself that all that angst is simply your old brain trying to keep you safe, and bless it’s heart, what it thinks is safe is dated by more than 40,000 years.

This is why you should step back the next time you feel off and take a meditative breath to calm yourself. Then acknowledge whatever it is that is before you and label it for what it is. It may sound like “boss calling me into his office,” or “client changing something that we agreed on,” or “the one I love is using a tone with me.”

Breathe into the issue that is before you. Take a moment to contemplate just how serious it is, and then let it go. Let each issue go for now as you return to whatever it is you were doing right before it came up. Smile as you give yourself a moment to calm down before responding. If it’s on text, give yourself an hour; email? a day, because the moment you are in is probably different than the moment your old brain sees you in, even though it is right here, and right now.