Category Archives: Meditation

The Coming Year is Dedicated To…

Over the last couple of days, I re-read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

In it, he tells the story of William James, and his year of personal responsibility.

Here’s a blog post from Manson about it: The Prime Belief. Go read that before continuing on – the rest of this post will make a whole lot more sense if you do.

That’s where Imma dedicate most of my available fucks to this year – 100% responsibility for my own life – knowing that how I respond to everything is all Lyman, all the time.

No blame, no fault finding, no thinking that because of my genetics or my upbringing I suck too much to live a useful life.

Blame, fault finding, and woe is me are always options – they are responses that I’ve pulled out of my pocket in the past. Mostly the last one. I was (am? yes, am.) such a special snowflake that everyone but me has this life thing figured out. Poor Lyman, might as well just kill yourself. But wait, even that is asking too much of a scared and weak little piece of shit like you.

This doesn’t come up as much as it used to, but I still do it waaaaaayyyyyy too much more than I want to. Probably even more than I consciously realize.

This is about living the Serenity Prayer, with a focus on courage and wisdom. It seems to me that serenity is actually a by-product of acceptance, and I’m really good at faking that – dying on the inside with a bullshit smile on my face, and hiding from the world if I can’t manage that smile.

I’m going to work on developing:

  • acceptance (for really reals) when it comes to the things I cannot change (for really reals)
  • courage to change the things that I can
  • wisdom to know the difference

I’m not asking a god to grant me anything. I’m asking present Lyman to develop these things, so that future Lyman can live a richer, fuller life.

Just Do It! isn’t going to work here. The only thing to “just do” is point yourself in a direction and move. Here are the tools I plan on using to point myself if the direction of acceptance, courage, and wisdom:

Life gonna test my resolve here – that’s what life does. I’m gonna fail, over and over again. That’s what humans do.

I don’t give a fuck.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

 

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.

 

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.

 

How to Stick To a Meditation Practice

Meditation is one of those things that always has a positive effect on my day. There was never a time that I said “Damn, I really wish that I hadn’t meditated earlier… sure did make my day crappy.”

I made the connection early on that meditating in the mornings = better Lyman during the day.

By better, I mean calmer, able to handle stress more skillfully, friendlier, better able to concentrate, and generally happier.

So why is it that I couldn’t stick to doing it more than a few days at a time?

The correct answer to that question, unless you are a behavioral scientist involved in a some sort of study, is another question…

Who cares?!

Honestly, who cares? I’d constantly ask myself “Why won’t/can’t I do this???” and come up with all kinds of answers… none of which helped me to actually make meditation a regular practice. I may have had the right reasons, but they did nothing to help me make meditation a regular part of my life. It’s fine to explore and wonder and discover the answers to things, but that’s not the goal here.

In order to reach our goal (stick to a meditation practice) I think a better question to ask is:

“How can I make meditation a regular practice?”

Well, duh.

Yeah, duh. But that’s not the question we’ve been asking ourselves. We’ve been asking “Why” (once again, nothing wrong with that, but it’s not helpful right now) instead of “How.”

About a year or so ago, I read a book – Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results – that literally changed my life for the better. Meditation is the area that I’ve been able to apply it to more than any other.

In the book, Stephen Guise talks about performing “stupid small” strategic actions every day.

These actions are too small to fail, and too small to skip for special occasions. They serve dual purposes – to spark you to do more, and to become mini-habits.

Mini Habits, page 19

I decided to try that with meditation. What would be my “stupid small” strategic action?

How about 1 minute a day.

Well, that’s just ridiculous! How am I going to benefit from doing *anything* for just one minute a day?

I benefited because it made meditating a habit. Nowadays, I meditate anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes a day. To show you that it’s possible, here’s a screenshot from the tracker I use (Insight Timer):

If you look at the numbers, I’ve been using Insight Timer since August of 2012, but only meditated every 3-4 days on average. This usually came in spurts – a few days on, a week or so off, a day on, a month off…

But as of today I’m at 152 days… and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I now feel a pull to meditate, whereas in the past I had to push myself to do it.

This will, of course, be much easier if you already have some experience meditating under your belt. And maybe the one minute rule isn’t right for someone who is just starting out… I have no idea since I was meditating for years before I “got it right.” Of course, I have no idea if this will work for you even if you’ve been trying like I did for years – all I’ve got is my own experience to share.

If you’d like to stop banging your head against the wall, maybe give this a try. Just commit to meditating for one minute today. Of course you can do more if you want, but all you have to do is that one minute to reach today’s goal. Tomorrow you’ll commit to another minute, but that’s not important right now.

I’d love to know if this works for you.