Category Archives: Buddhism

Updated – Podcasts on Meditation, Personal Development, Stoicism, ACT, Buddhism, and More

[This was originally published in August of 2018. I thought it was time for an update. I’ve added some new podcasts, and kept the original ones on the list, even if they’ve been removed from my current playlist. None of the original podcasts are “bad”, they just don’t fit in with my life at the moment. Because of this, I’m not going to take them off the list, or even indicate the ones that are gone. The added podcasts are at the top of the list.]

I really enjoy listening to podcasts while driving, doing housework, running… anytime parts of my body other than my ears are the primary focus. Sometimes I’ll do the music or NPR thing, but the majority of the time I’m getting my groove on with Dan or Brian or Massimo or Gil or another of my favorite audio interviewers/gurus. Surprise surprise, all of these podcasts have to do with some kind of personal development. Maybe you’ll find something interesting in this list.

I use an awesome app called Podcast Addict for my listens, but there are a ton of others out there as well. The titles all link to what I’ve found to be the best page to subscribe and listen no matter what device or app you have (RSS feeds are the most flexible), but there are so many ways to get your pod on nowadays that you may have to use your app’s search function to find the one you’re looking for. If you can’t find it on your current app, try another one.

The list includes podcasts that I’m currently subscribed to and have been for a decent amount of time. I was originally going to list them in order of my favorites, but I realized that my “favorites” change like the weather, so they’re in alphabetical order.

I hope you discover something you enjoy. Be sure to let me know about other quality podcasts that you listen to in the comments section.

The Daily Stoic Podcast – Similar to, yet different from, Massimo Pigliucci’s Stoic Meditations, Ryan Holiday brings you a daily dose of Stoic Wisdom. Short and to the point lessons teaching different aspects of Stoic. This is one of those that goes to the top of my playlist once it’s downloaded, whether I’ve in the middle of another podcast or not.

Jocko Podcast – This is probably the the podcast that I’ve most subscribed to, then unsubscribed from, then resubscribed to on this list. It’s very long, at least a couple of hours in most cases. Jocko’s style is unique and powerful, and Echo Charles has a delivery that makes him the perfect sidekick. Maybe not for you if you aren’t into the military or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (which is what, along with the length, causes my unsubscribe/resubscribe antics), but the lessons on leadership and discipline just can’t be beat. Here’s my favorite (enhanced) video excerpt: Good.

The Practical Stoic Podcast – Another (generally) short podcast with Stoic lessons for daily life from Simon Drew, that also (usually) gets bumped to the top of my playlist as new episodes come out. I say generally because of occasional interviews – the latest one with Michael Tremblay was fantastic. I really appreciated the discussion in that episode of what the Stoics got wrong, especially the idea that we have, or can even develop, absolute control over our thinking.

The Sunday Stoic – I actually remember when this one first started a while back, but for some reason it didn’t quite catch my attention. That’s been remedied – my attention was caught by his most recent interview with Donald Robertson. After listening to the episodes since then, my attention has stayed. Steve brings a human element to Stoicism that can be lacking sometimes. Seems funny to say that, since the Stoic philosophy is all about learning to live according to our nature as human beings.

10% Happier with Dan Harris – Dan, a “fidgety skeptic” with little patience for “woo woo”, talks with a variety of personalities with a focus on their meditation practice, as well as his own experiences with mindfulness and meditation.

ACT in Context – Start with the first 12 episodes of this one. They’re an excellent introduction to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I just found out they’ve rebooted the podcast and am looking forward to listening to the new releases.

Audio Dharma – Gil Fronsdal and his crew were (probably) my first meditation teachers without knowing it. I’ve been subscribed to this one for years.

Deconstructing Yourself – Michael Taft, in this podcast for “Modern Mutants”, goes deep with guests featuring conversations that “look at secular post-, non-, un- Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, Hindu Tantrism, philosophy, the neuroscience of the sense of self, neurofeedback and the consciousness hacking movement, aspects of artificial intelligence, entheogens, and much more.” Or to put it succinctly – a whole lotta stuff!

OPTIMIZE with Brian Johnson | More Wisdom in Less Time – Brian delivers audio versions of his +1’s and PNTV Episodes on a daily basis. “What one can be, one must be.”

Stoic Meditations – Massimo Pigliucci is my personal favorite among modern teachers of Stoic philosophy. This almost-daily podcast presents a short reading from an ancient Stoic text and his take on it. If you like this podcast, you may also be interested in his fantastic book How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

The One You Feed – Learn how to feed your good wolf. Eric and Chris talk to various experts covering multiple facets of personal development: habits, meditationaddiction, ACT, and more.

Waking Up with Sam Harris (Now called “Making Sense”) – I just resubscribed to this one because of the recent release of the Waking Up Course app which focuses on meditation from a secular point of view. As an outspoken atheist, skeptic, and advocate of free speech, Sam can be quite the controversial figure. This is not a podcast focused solely on personal development per se, but the wide variety of topics and conversations can be educational, thought-provoking, and eye-opening.

What do you think of these podcasts? Did I leave any out that we just *have to* start listening to? Let the world know in the comments.


How To Make It Without Faking It

I’ve always hated the phrase “Fake It Till You Make It.”

I like to think of myself as an honest person. Or at least as someone who tries to be. I fail  more than I’d like to admit, but I think that on balance I’m more truthful than not. Unless that’s just a lie I’m telling myself… anyway…

This is why the phrase “Fake It Till You Make It” bugs me so much. The last thing I need is to be lying to myself.

The fucked up thing is that it works! Our actions (the faking of it) create the desire to take more action, lather rinse repeat (Till) , which can (not always, but often) bring us to the desired result (the making of it.)

There are better ways to state it (“Bring your body and your mind will follow” comes to mind), but the principle is sound.

Still didn’t like it. Still felt inauthentic, and my identity wouldn’t allow me to feel inauthentic.

But… after reading this article by Mark Manson, some kind of light came on. I connected the idea of identity (which I have read about before but Mark’s motherfucking F-bombs always seem to get through to me), with the idea of Mini Habits (shout out to Stephen Guise and his literally life changing book), and another idea that I’m sure isn’t original but bubbled up to my (not very often) conscious mind:

We are what we are thinking, feeling, and doing right now.

Mark mentions the Buddhist idea of Anatta in his article, often translated as “no-self.” I’ve always liked that idea, but not for the healthiest of reasons.

I hated myself, so the idea that this thing that I called me didn’t really exist was pretty damn appealing. Unfortunately this self that I loathed sure seemed real – it stalked me all day and all night. Every waking hour it was there, reminding me of what a piece of shit that I was.

Someone once asked me why I was so into personal development. Here’s the answer:

I told myself consciously that I was doing it to become a better person. Unconsciously, I think it was because I was trying to kill the enemy – me – without ending my own life. There were times that I did try the suicide thing. I don’t recommend it, except in extreme cases, with the assistance and approval of others. I had neither.

Then (read, years and years later), I learned that Anatta can be translated as “no-permanent-self.”

Hmmmm… that’s interesting. This links it up with another idea from Buddhism – Anicca, which means impermanence. This allows for the very real experience of a self, but recognizes the fact that everything changes. All the time. Everything.

And I’m part of everything.

I’m changing. All the time. Every second of every day.

And if this “I” is constantly changing, I’m hating something that doesn’t exist anymore. By the time I notice it, it’s already gone.

Therefore ergo incognito summa cum laude, it’s only what I’m doing, thinking, and feeling right now that “I” am.

And the conditions of my life are as they are because of the actions, thoughts, and feelings that my past lives participated in (Yay for a secular understanding of Karma and Rebirth!)

Combine this with the Mini Habits concept (stupid small actions instead of big dramatic changes) – and you’ve got a great way to neutralize that karma you’ve created for yourself in your past lives – the ones that you lived just moments ago.

So let’s not fake it. You can’t anyway. You were what you were. You are what you are.

Let’s be what we want to be, right here, right now. Don’t expect instant changes (you’ve still got all of that past karma to burn off, remember?), but one small change, repeated over time, can make all of the difference.


Meditation as Personal Development

“A little mindfulness is better than no mindfulness.” – Dan Harris (probably paraphrasing)

Some Buddhists bemoan the fact that their practices have been appropriated, taken out of context, and used for purposes that directly contradict their ethics.

Probably the most extreme example is mindfulness being used by active duty military personnel.

“After eight weeks of meditating for just 15 minutes a day, the soldiers are far better at dealing with anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. It helps them stay calm and focused in the thick of battle, while improving overall mental and physical fitness.” – Meditate Just Like The U.S. Marines

The very job of the military (whether on offense or defense) requires it to break the first of the basic precepts of Theravada Buddhism – not taking life. Breaking the second (not taking what isn’t freely given) and fourth (being truthful) are also often required, while the third (not participating in sexual conduct) and the fourth (abstaining from intoxicants) are often practiced.1

The impetus for me writing this post was something I read in the forward to The Monkey Is the Messenger: Meditation and What Your Busy Mind Is Trying to Tell You by Ralph De La Rosa.  I just started reading the book (love it’s premise and what I’ve read so far), but there’s a part of the forward by Susan Piver that bothered me:

“To use meditation purely for its prescriptive capacity is to miss the point of the practice altogether. Though it is indeed a powerful medicine (my friend and fellow meditation teacher Jonathan Foust says that if meditation were a pill, everyone would take it), it is far more than that.

Meditation is not a life hack. It is a spiritual practice.”

I don’t see the difference. A “spiritual” practice is something one participates in to improve the quality of their life. The only way to improve life quality long term is to improve ourselves. Meditation can do that.

I’d say that when we meditate to develop mindfulness, we often start to see that killing, stealing, lying, doing sexual harm, and getting wasted do more harm than good.2 Not always, as is evidenced by the recent rash of “spiritual” leaders finally being called out for their misconduct (Noah Levine and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche come to mind), but often.

Mindfulness is a tool, like a hammer. Depending on what you use it for, the quality of a hammer you need differs. A home do it yourself person doesn’t require much more than Walmart offers at a low price, but the skilled craftsman needs something better. If the DIYer really loves what he’s doing, maybe he’ll upgrade. In the same way, if McMindfulness is where people get started, more power to them.

Of course, if someone is using a hammer to bash someones head in, they need to be stopped by any means necessary. But don’t blame all hammers for the actions of the person using it.


Current Ingredients

Wrote this in my journal this morning and thought it might be helpful:

“So the main ingredients of my current life paradigm are: Buddhism (the secular variety), Stoicism (the atheistic variety), and ACT. There are also some herbs and spices thrown in there, but those are the meat, potatoes, and veggies of my daily meal. And the beverage? Mini Habits, because those help wash down all of the bites I take.”

The reason for sharing this? To show that there isn’t just one path to liberation from suffering. There can be four. Or two. Or ten. Or even one. They can weave in out, crisscrossing one another at key points in our journey.

If you have just one path that works for you, fan-fucking-tastic. Seriously, I’m a little jealous. I’ve been looking for the One True Way©®™ for as long as I can remember. Just remember that your path(s) isn’t/aren’t my path(s). I’ll try to remember the same about yours.