Meditation

Meditation

3 Meditations And 3 Mindfulness Exercises That Will Ease Your Covid-19 Blues

This Covid quarantine has many of us anxious, irritable and worried about our finances and health. These six meditation and mindfulness exercises will help restore some calm and sanity to your life.

Three Meditations:

  1. WHAT: Four Count Breathing

HOW: You can do this one just about anywhere. It only takes about a minute. You just want to be in an area where no one will bother you. You can do this sitting, standing or lying down.

Close your eyes. Inhale to a count of four…Hold your breath for a count of four…Exhale for a count of four. Do this for five breaths.

WHEN: Do this any time during your day when you feel uptight, anxious or upset. I also advise doing it any time at all, for no reason other than giving yourself the gift of calm relaxation.

2. WHAT: Body Scan Relaxation Meditation

HOW: Just click here and listen as I guide you through various areas of your body. It’s around six minutes but will feel much shorter. I find the body scan to be the easiest and most relaxing form of meditation.

WHEN: Ideally, you want to do this one sometime in the morning before your day grabs hold of you and shoots you into the pinball machine of life. You don’t have to do it right when you wake up, but shoot for doing it within an hour so of awakening. It will help center you and set a tone of calm presence for the rest of your day.

3. WHAT: 3 Minute Breathing Meditation

HOW: You’re going to just follow your breath as it comes in…then follow it as it goes out…And if it feels comfortable, say to yourself “in” on each inhale, and “out” on each exhale. This can make it easier to keep your attention on the breath.

When your mind wanders, you just notice that that has happened and bring attention back to your breath.

HUGELY IMPORTANT POINT: You need to be vigilant about being good to yourself when your mind wanders. Most of the people I know who tried meditation and gave up on it did so because they got frustrated with their mind wandering into thought so much.

Minds wander. All the time. It’s normal. The key is just noticing that that has happened and literally saying to yourself, “Okay. No big deal. My mind wandered. Now let’s just slowly bring attention back to the breath…”

I’ve been meditating for almost eight years and I STILL do this all the time!

Okay, when you’re ready, click on this link and listen as I guide you through this short meditation.

WHEN: You may want to try this some mornings instead of the body scan meditation. Or if you want to go for it, do this one in the afternoon as a second meditation. It’s only three minutes. You can do anything for three minutes!

Three Mindfulness Exercises:

1. WHAT: Hot Wash Cloth Rub

HOW: Soak a wash cloth in hot water. Wring it out and then rub the cloth all over your face, neck and head, just like you do upon sitting at a Japanese restaurant.

Notice your breathing as you rub your face. When you’re done, look in the mirror and say thank you for being good to yourself.

Be sure to place the wash cloth next to your sink the night before so you don’t have to rummage around looking for it in the morning.

WHEN: Do this first thing in the morning upon rising. It’s a fantastic way to start your day.

2. WHAT: Nature Walk Exercise

HOW: Many of us have been going on walks as a way of getting away from our spouses, kids or roommates and stretching our legs in the process.

Next time you venture out on your walk find a scene that appeals to you. It could be a tree, flowers, a sunset, birds singing in a tree, a bee flying around pollinating flower after flower.

After you’ve found your scene, stop. Close your eyes. Now take 15 or 20 seconds and just relax your body. Start with your head, your face, then neck, shoulders, chest, stomach arms and legs.

Now take three slow, deep breaths…

Then open your eyes…and observe. Don’t label anything in your mind. For instance, if it’s a bird, don’t say “Wow. Look at that red breast and yellow feathers…how beautiful!” Just look at the bird. And listen to it. Experience it. Be present with it.

Using this relaxation and breathing technique is what I call a backdoor, indirect entry into the present moment. A lot of people will, for instance, see a sublime sunset and say to themselves, “Wow. How great. Let’s just be present with this!” And it rarely works.

It’s hard for most of us to force ourselves into the present moment in a direct way. Indirect entry into the moment through relaxation and breathing does work.

Also, try something Eckhart Tolle recommends. Stand next to a tree, preferably one in your yard or near your residence so you can return to it frequently. Stand there and sense the stillness of the tree. It’s alive. And it just stands there. Every day, all day and night. Some of them for hundreds of years.

Doing this can have the cool effect of instilling stillness in you. Try it.

3. WHAT: Exercise for Dealing with Anxiety and Pain

HOW: This Covid quarantine has many of us experiencing more than the usual anxiety. The way most people respond is to try and push the anxiety away. We resist it. It comes out in your head as “Ahh. I hate this feeling. It sucks. I feel like it’s never going to go away.”

And the anxiety just sits there, making you miserable. We do this automatically, not even aware that we’re doing it.

So next time you feel awful anxiety or some other type of suffering, try this instead:

Go inside and actually observe that feeling. Observe it as non-judgmentally as you can. Do the opposite of resisting it and pushing it away. Look at it. Talk to it. Accept it. It’s there. It’s the reality of that moment.

Now, that doesn’t mean you go inside and say, “Hey, anxiety, you’re not so bad. You’re fine. I like you.” No. That’s just denying the feeling which makes it worse.

Try this. It’s a game-changer. In fact, this one technique is at or near the top of the most profound benefits I’ve gained from eight years of practicing meditation and mindfulness.

As one of my readers commented recently, “Pain is certain, but suffering is optional.” This technique will cut down on the amount and duration of your suffering.

WHEN: Again, do this any time you experience acute anxiety or any other type of pain.

Trying some or all of these exercises will make a sizable dent in your Covid-quarantine blues. Go for it. And if you want to learn more about meditation visit my website davidgerken.net.

Meditation

Trying to Conquer Your Chattering Mind Is Futile — Do this Instead

Most people on this planet are “stuck in their heads” most of the time. Thoughts about the past, worries about the future and just plain trivial BS dominate most peoples’ moments. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that past years have seen an upsurge in public awareness that this state of affairs is not a good thing. For millennia before this, people just accepted that their minds were who they were and didn’t see this as particularly concerning. The boom in meditation and mindfulness (MM) has the world trending in the right direction.

A common beginner mistake

But many wading into the incipient stages of MM have a faulty understanding of what the true game plan is. They identify, correctly, that the mind and all of its injurious, involuntary thinking, is the main culprit. And they think, logically, that the way to approach this problem is to try and overcome, or conquer, this mind that has caused them so much grief throughout their lives.

How does this strategy manifest? In meditation, people say to themselves, “Okay, let’s focus on stopping my crazy mind from thinking…” This may work for a short while, but then the thoughts inevitably come charging back with a vengeance.

In practicing mindfulness it comes out when, for example, someone is out in nature and says, “Wow. What a beautiful sunset. Let’s just stop thinking and be present with it…” This also ends in frustration and increased thought traffic.

Observe, don’t conquer

The point is that the human mind cannot be wrestled into submission by direct action. So what is the best strategy for slaying our noggin dragons? Simply learning how to observe your thinking mind. That’s it. Don’t conquer it, observe it.

What that requires is self-evident: You need to separate the real, conscious you from the egoic, thought machine you (i.e., the mind). You to need separate the subject (real you) from the object (not real you thinking mind).

Unfortunately, doing this is difficult. Why? Because we’ve been stuck in our heads believing we are our thoughts for as long as we can remember. I can’t think of a harder habit to break than stopping myself from getting sucked into my thoughts. It happens so automatically for most of us that it’s hard to notice and therefore hard to prevent.

There’s a reason for the chattering mind

It’s important to acknowledge that the mind produces all these thoughts for a reason. It is desperately trying to make things “okay” for us. It uses all of our past experiences as data points in determining what thoughts will result in an okay you. The problem is that the mind is almost always wrong.

Fine. So we’ve concluded that the chattering mind is injurious to our well-being, that trying to conquer it is futile and that the best solution is to observe it.

That leads to the inevitable question: How do you teach yourself to detach from and observe your mind? Answer: You do it by practicing meditation and mindfulness correctly.

The key: nonjudgmental observance

Both of these practices at their essence are about nonjudgmentally observing what is happening in the present moment. In meditation that means following your breath, listening to that truck that just drove by and, most important for our purposes, noticing the thought I just had about my tennis match yesterday. The tennis thought is no different than the truck sound or the breathing. It’s just something that isn’t me appearing in my field of awareness so I treat it as such.

Fortunately, the more we meditate and just observe our thoughts as something that is as separate from who we are as a speeding truck, the quieter the mind becomes. It takes a while, but slowly and surely, it happens.

And as it does, you become calmer, less anxious, more focused and, best of all, more content.

Meditation

How Meditation and Mindfulness Reduced My Fear of Death

Seven years of regular meditation and mindfulness practice have done a world of good for me. I’m calmer, less anxious, happier, more patient with my kids, my focus has improved and, in general, it’s made me a nicer human being.

But maybe the best thing meditation has done is reduce my fear of death. Not because I had some Woody Allen-esque, all-consuming, neurotic fear of death. I think my fear of the great hereafter has been fairly normal.

But here’s the thing. People do all kinds of things to improve their happiness and overall sense of well-being. Some exercise to release tension and get their bodies in good shape. Some eat and drink healthier because it makes them feel more energized. Some work hard and become rich, famous actors or wealthy in business. Others have close relationships with spouses, friends, their children.

“Things are awesome!…But I’m still gonna die.”

All that stuff is great and can lead to genuine happiness, especially that last one about human relationships. But it’s my experience that most people, no matter how good things become in their life, suffer from that nagging existential fear of death always lurking in the background. “I’m president of the United States!…but I’m just gonna die someday so big whoop…”

The point is that unless you have some kind of game plan with that most macro of macro questions, it’s hard to ever feel completely at ease in life.

I’d never had the “big” answer

Some people do have an answer. True believer Christians, for example, take comfort in their faith that death will bring them eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.

Because I’ve never been one of those people, I’ve had to fashion my own answer to that most vexing question. For most of my life I had no answer at all. Like most people I know, it was something along the lines of, “It’ll happen some day and…I don’t know. Who knows what happens after you die? Might as well focus on the here and now as much as possible and just don’t think about it.”

So what have meditation and mindfulness changed in me regarding death? Well, if you’re wondering whether all that inner stillness has resulted in a grand epiphany about what actually happens after we die…sorry. I still don’t know.

But I can say that the fear has gone way down. Best I can tell, there are two main reasons for this.

Shrunken amygdala = less fear

The first, which is purely physical and involves my brain, is something I can only surmise as I am not a neuroscientist. Many of you may have heard of the amygdala, an almond shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe. The amygdala is the ‘fight or flight’ structure in our brain and as such is central in humans’ processing of fear.

It is something we share with all mammals and is therefore a relatively primitive area of the brain. Think about it. If a gazelle comes face to face with a lion, its amygdala will sound the alarm and tell it to run for its life. Similarly, if we encounter an intruder inside our home, our amygdalae has to make that same decision re: fight or flight.

In humans the amygdala processes all sorts of fears — financial, career, relationships, dangerous situations — but the big daddy of them all is fear of death.

The science

And science has shown that meditation and mindfulness practices have the effect of actually shrinking the amygdala. In addition, these practices weaken the amygdala’s connections to other parts of the brain, which results in those other parts of the brain becoming less susceptible to the fear-based freak-outs the amygdala wants them to engage in.

Several reputable studies have demonstrated meditation and mindfulness’s salubrious effect on the amygdala, most notably 2005 and 2012 studies at Harvard and one from 2015 conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

The bottom line for me? I’m convinced that seven-plus years of regular meditation and mindfulness practice has shrunk my amygdala, which has caused a corresponding reduction in my overall level of fear, including that of death.

Sensing the divine within

The second way meditation and mindfulness have reduced my fear of death is more amorphous and intangible, but no less powerful. The best way I can describe it is that the stillness I feel when doing these practices allows me to sense a deeper, eternal being inside. I can’t see it or put my finger on it. I can only sense it. It’s my spirit. My soul. My consciousness. My true self.

I sense it most clearly as a form of energy. And as physicists will tell you, energy cannot be destroyed.

So what does that all add up to? I feel that energy/spirit and know that when my time comes, that entity is going somewhere. Where? I haven’t a clue. But just sensing its existence and knowing it will live on in some form provides some solace.

Start meditating

As for any of you reading this who have considered meditation, I can tell you this much: When your mind is flooded with thoughts 24/7 it is really difficult to sense that transcendent, still energy inside you.

So if you want to enhance access to the divine entity that resides inside you and every human being, dive into the ocean and start a meditation practice. I have a free, easy program to help you get started that you can find at davidgerken.net.

Meditation

Use this Passage From the Tao Te Ching to Transform Your Life in Self-Quarantine

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that most of us are sitting around all day in a stew of boredom, disbelief and fear. The good news is that these very conditions provide a golden opportunity for profound personal growth, courtesy of this passage from the wisest book ever written, the Tao te Ching:

“Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.”

For most of us, especially in America, it is seen as virtuous to “Do, do, do! Go, go, go!” We equate doing with effort, discipline and being a “self-starter.” Sitting around like a bump on a log is looked down upon.

The problem is that the motivation for much of our doing is to distract ourselves from uncomfortable thoughts and emotions about the reality of who we are. The 17th century French scientist Blaise Pascal put it best when he wrote: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Washington power brokers

I saw this on steroids during my fifteen years in Washington, D.C., where numerous powerful people I knew worked themselves to the bone every day until they passed out at night for a few hours of sleep, then got up and did it all over again. I didn’t realize until many years later that many of them worked so hard only to avoid the demons that were lurking inside, waiting to pounce the moment they relaxed.

Therein lies the most difficult aspect of self-quarantining for so many people: the forced confronting of inner demons.

Fine. So you’re sitting in your living room furiously fending off your demons. What do you do?

Obviously, there are myriad things people do, depending on the severity of their particular situation. Some people do therapy. Some are on antidepressants. Most just fight the good fight on their own (not recommended).

Observe your thoughts and emotions

Whatever you are doing, there is one incredibly powerful arrow I recommend adding to your quiver. And that is simply observing any and all thoughts and emotions you may be experiencing. What? Yes, it’s that simple.

One way to explain this is to illustrate what NOT to do. What you DON’T do while sitting alone in your living room staring at the wall is notice an uncomfortable feeling (like “My career has pretty much been a failure…”) and then let it pull you down the rabbit hole where you grapple with it and give it life.

No. What you do is just observe it as best you can from a place of non-judgment. In your head it goes like this: “Okay. Just had a thought/feeling that my career hasn’t gone well.” And you leave it at that.

We’re going to be inside for a while

I know. This sounds ultra-simplistic and therefore unhelpful. And that may be true if this self-quarantine thing was going to end next week. But it’s not. Even the rosiest forecasts have us cooped for at least another month.

Fine. So you have at least another month of this. How should you make use of that time?

Learn to meditate.

Why?

What I wrote above about observing uncomfortable thoughts and emotions? That’s all meditation is. Observing what’s going on in the present moment, without judgment.

What’s meditation?

You just sit quietly and place your attention on something happening in the present moment, like your breathing. Then, when your mind wanders, and it will, you simply notice that that has happened and bring your attention back to your breath. That’s all meditation is.

And when you do this over and over and over again, over weeks, months and years, what you’ll see is that these demons start to fall by the wayside. Why? First, you will have stopped avoiding them and faced them. That is absolutely critical.

Second, when you did face them, you just observed them. You didn’t energize the demons and give them fuel by interacting with them. You neutralized them by just observing them.

Worthy work

I’m not going to lie to you and say that doing this will eliminate your demons overnight. It takes a lot of work over a long period of time. But I’d submit that no work is more worthy of your attention.

And the whole point here is that most of us have nothing but time right now. This quarantine thing is an absolute godsend because it provides a sustained amount of free time to devote to developing a meditation practice.

A simple meditation program

How do you get started with meditation? Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s not that big a deal. When I started meditating seven years ago I created my own program. I made it simple, doable and designed it so that a regular person, like me, would be successful in developing a practice.

The program is eight-weeks and starts off with meditating for two minutes a day then building gradually from there. I strongly urge youto try it. It’s free. You can access it at davidgerken.net.

Do this. I’m telling you that developing a meditation practice could literally be the best thing you ever do for yourself. It will make you a better friend, daughter, son, spouse, parent and overall human being. Now is the time. Go for it.

Meditation

Less Is More: The Profound Lesson That Quarantine Life Has Taught Millions

The COVID 19 pandemic has ravaged many parts of the world, most notably Northern Italy, Spain and New York. But in many other areas, like California where I live, the effects have been far less severe. In fact, I keep reading about people who are actually enjoying life in quarantine. How could that be?

I believe it’s because those people have been forced to simplify their lives. Peoples’ focus has been reduced to getting enough food to eat and staying safe, the only two things our hunter-gatherer ancestors concerned themselves with 100,000 years ago! There’s a deeply felt comfort when these ingrained, primordial needs take center stage.

Sushi, shoes and jets

What has quarantine life prevented? The many “extras” we all think we need to be happy. Going out for sushi. Shopping for shoes. Jetting around the country on business trips or vacations.

Pursuing our every desire has been forcibly replaced by simpler living. In addition to eating and staying safe, it’s walks. Board games. Reading. Face Timing with friends and family.

This quarantine is a monumental gift from the heavens…if humanity plays it right.

Why? Well, you could make the argument that the biggest cause of human unhappiness is wanting too much. Desiring too much.

Try this experiment

Don’t believe me? Next time you feel awful, try this experiment. Say to yourself, “Am I wanting too much right now?” The answer is almost always yes. Identify what you’re wanting, then say to yourself, “I don’t need anything. Other than a roof over my head and some food.” Then feel yourself unclench inside, the anxiety melting away.

Many may say, “That’s crazy. You have to want things. Life would be boring if we didn’t want anything.”

Wrong. Life is absolutely fantastic, fulfilling and energized when you cut down on desire and live more simply.

My simple, happy parents

My parents were a great example of this. Mom grew up poor in Milwaukee so life was pretty simple from day one. Dad also grew up with little. They got married and had a great life, pumping out six good kids (I’m #6).

About twenty years into their marriage my dad became a Fortune 500 CEO. And it didn’t change either of them one bit. They drank Gallo jug wine until the end.

Want to know what my dad used to make himself for lunch on weekends when he was Mr. Big? Caviar on toast points? Foie gras pate? Steak sandwich? No. He’d slap a couple hunks of Swiss cheese between two pieces of rye bread. That’s it. No mayo. No mustard. He’d wash it down with a Pabst beer.

My mom also kept life simple. She rarely shopped for clothes. Her extravagant lunch consisted of sliced green peppers on wheat bread. I remember this distinctly. Why? Because the crunching sound she made chewing those green peppers used to drive me crazy.

My mom’s fake jewelry fake out

My favorite was what my mom did with jewelry. My parents would go to glitzy fundraising events in Los Angeles with the top business leaders. The rich wives would come up to my mom and say, “Oh, Darlene, that bracelet is beautiful!” And my mom would just smile and thank them. What these women didn’t know is that she was wearing costume jewelry that cost ten bucks. Had it been real it would have been worth six figures.

Fine, so my parents were simple and frugal even though they had plenty of money. But that would be pointless if they were both miserable. They weren’t. They led great lives and felt incredibly fortunate, largely because they kept their desires to a minimum.

Buddhism’s main teaching

Does all this sound farfetched? Don’t take it from me. The Buddha himself, one of the great spiritual teachers in human history, made this idea the central tenet of Buddhism.

The Four Noble Truths, the foundation of Buddhism, basically boils down to this: Life is suffering; suffering is caused by desire; if you eliminate desire, you eliminate suffering. That’s pretty much it.

Exploit this opportunity

The bottom line on all this? An enormous opportunity has been presented to the millions of people out there, especially in America, who have learned that having less has given them so much more.

The key is to realize this and then fight like hell to keep it going when this quarantine winds down. Keep walking. Getting out in nature. Playing board games with your kids. Face Timing with friends on the other side of the country.

Keep it simple. You’ll be happier.

Meditation

The Universe Is Teaching Us A Profound Lesson Through This Pandemic

The Olympics have been cancelled, throwing thousands of athletes into a depression. Why were they cancelled? Because somewhere in Wuhan, China, a bat bit an exotic animal which was then ingested by a human shopping at the Huanan Market.

Obviously, the Covid 19 pandemic didn’t just affect the Olympics. It has literally shut down planet Earth. All because a bat in China bit an animal that was eaten by a human.

The lesson that the universe or God (or whoever you think is in charge) is teaching we mortal earthlings is patently unsubtle: Trying to control the outside world is an absolutely futile endeavor.

This is particularly harmful when people tie their self-worth to their career status, which is significantly influenced by outside factors beyond their control.

Depression on Wall Street

Let’s take the world of Wall Street as an example. There are probably thousands of Wall Streeters who feel thoroughly dejected right now because the 16% average annual return they’ve made their clients has vanished. They feel deeply wounded because they derive an inordinate amount of their self-esteem from one little number. Are they responsible for that investment return number plummeting? No. A bat is.

So what does the universe want you to focus on? The process. Not the outcome. The part that you CAN control. For the Wall Street financial person that means doing the best you can with understanding the companies you’re investing in, poring over the data, etc. In other words, doing the work to the best of your ability.

For the Olympic athlete it means cherishing the training and eating right, etc., and not getting so fixated on winning a gold medal that the whole endeavor will feel worthless unless you do.

Be like a golfer

The universe wants us to treat life as golfers do in a tournament. The golfer gives their best on each shot for 18 holes then posts a score. If someone shoots a better score, you don’t win the tournament. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You just focus on getting the most you can out of yourself and then let the chips fall where they may.

My favorite American, Teddy Roosevelt, embraced this philosophy fully. He prided himself on working his tail off on whatever the issue of the day was. He knew if he did that the future would take care of itself. He had contempt for politicians that spent most of their time scheming on climbing the political ladder and little on the actual work of public policy.

It’s ALL about the inside

But beyond careers, there’s an infinitely more important lesson the universe is teaching us in this pandemic. And that is that it is futile to try and manipulate the outside world in every area of our lives.

Some examples. “If I can get this man to love me I’ll be so happy.” “If I buy my dad a new BMW he’ll love me because he’ll think I’ve really made it in life!” “If I lose twenty pounds people will like me more which will make me feel better.”

It doesn’t work. Trying to control the outside world so you feel good inside is a destructive, dead-end venture.

Work on what you can control

What does work? Focusing 100% of our life’s efforts on the only thing we do control: Handling what life brings us from the inside out. How does this manifest?

Don’t work on “landing” some guy. Work inside on why you don’t feel complete without a man in your life.

Don’t try to buy your dad’s love with a BMW. Work inside figuring out why you feel his love needs to be bought in the first place. You’ll probably determine that it’s his inner damage that’s the problem, not yours. And then you come to terms with that from the inside.

Don’t focus on your weight or body image. Go inside and work on why your weight determines your self-worth.

The work of your life

To be blunt, this is the work of your life. Taking what the universe gives you and working from the inside on how best to respond.

I can tell you from personal experience that life is so much better when you deal with what you can control and let go of what you can’t. It really is the key to living a peaceful, fulfilled life. What I’d give to have learned this as a kid.

Finally, they say that God/the Universe works in mysterious ways. Well, that is not the case with this Covid 19 pandemic. There is nothing subtle or mysterious about a bat in China shutting our world down.

The sheer absurdity of that fact is the universe screaming at us from on high: Don’t try to control the outside, your work is on the inside.

Meditation

The Best Strategy For Managing The Bizzaro World of Self-Quarantine? Surrender

The coronavirus pandemic has turned billions of lives upside down in a matter of weeks. Day after day we sit at home, wandering around in a hazy fog of boredom, disbelief and depression.

The main source of torture for most people is that insidious anxiety roiling around in our guts 24/7. That anxiety has three main causes: Health fears, financial worries and the plain old weirdness of being holed up at home. This piece deals with that last one — the bizarro world of self-quarantine.

Resistance is the culprit

Though you may not be aware of it, it’s likely that the biggest contributor to your anxiety over the weirdness of your self-quarantine life is resistance. You’re thinking to yourself or telling your friends and family things like “God, I hate this. I wake up every morning and have no idea what to do. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s just weird. And bizarre. I sit at home and feel like crap. It’s like I’m paralyzed. Then I go out and the grocery stores shelves are half-stocked. And people there are all paranoid…”And on and on.

When you do that, what you’re doing is resisting the reality of what’s going on and that in itself causes anxiety. What should you do?

Surrender. Completely and totally surrender.

To what?

To the reality of life in quarantine.

It’s here. Don’t fight it. This virus has thrown the world into chaos and that’s it. There’s nothing you can do about it. The healthiest thing to do is accept it.

By the way, my motive in recommending this course of action has nothing to do with acting virtuous in the face of adversity. It is 100% about helping you feel better.

Resistance=feel worse, Surrender=feel better

The bottom line is that if you resist and fight this weird new world you’ll feel worse. If you surrender to the reality of it you’ll feel better.

To better understand why, it’s worth exploring the two kinds of pain we face in life, primary and secondary. As an example, when you break your leg the actual pain in your leg is primary pain. We all deal with primary pain. It’s inevitable in life.

Secondary pain is what you ADD on top of the primary pain and is emotional in nature. “This leg pain is never going to go away. I’ll never run again. Why did this have to happen to me? I’m so unlucky…”

In other words, secondary pain occurs when you flip out over primary pain. What most people don’t realize is that secondary pain usually causes as much or more suffering as the primary pain it’s responding to.

With our case, the self-quarantine morass we find ourselves in is the primary pain. It sucks. Our lives have been suspended in animation. We can’t go to work. Can’t go to the gym, etc.

Surrender to the primary pain

The secondary pain, which I detailed earlier, is all the complaining and ruminating we do in response. The best way to eliminate this unnecessary secondary pain is to surrender to and accept the primary pain.

Don’t try to win the fight against reality. It never goes well.

How do you actually do this? Well, there is no five-step program for mitigating secondary pain.

The solution

The solution comes down to doing one thing: disciplining yourself to become aware when you start descending the rabbit hole with thoughts of, “Boy, another day of hanging out doing nothing and feeling weird. Why did this have to happen — ” Then…

Boom. You stop yourself right there and say, “Nope. Not going there. I’m stuck in the house. It sucks. But there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m going to make the best of it. Let’s make a list of three things I want to get done today. Read fifty pages of The Great Gatsby, start cleaning out/organizing my disastrous garage…”

And leave it at that. Cut it off at the pass.

This is a tough time for just about everybody. Make it easier on yourself by cutting down on that self-imposed secondary pain!

Meditation

Eckhart Tolle Teaches To Not Identify With Your Thoughts — But How Do You Actually DO That?

Eckhart Tolle’s main teaching is that we are not our thoughts and as such shouldn’t identify with them. Sounds great. But actually achieving this is difficult. In fact, dis-identifying with your thoughts is literally the entirety of the spiritual journey. Here’s a three-step process for getting there.

Step 1: Acknowledge the two selves

First, you need to become aware of and acknowledge that you and your thoughts are two distinct entities that are entangled inside. Because they are so entangled, most people think they are just one entity — their compulsive, incessant, involuntary thoughts. Peoples’ conscious selves are so swallowed up and enveloped by their thought-producing minds that they think that their thoughts are who they are.

So what needs to be acknowledged is that humans consist of two inner selves: 1. A conscious self that is the real you; the you that exists only when you are rooted in the present moment and not lost in a stream of thoughts. And 2. The egoic/unconscious self that constantly pulls your attention to your thought factory mind. This egoic self is extremely powerful. Volumes could be written about why this is so.

For now, though, let’s just stipulate that separating and then creating distance between the conscious and egoic selves is the be-all end-all of spiritual growth. And acknowledging that you are comprised of these two selves and that they are entangled is the first step toward creating separation between the two.

Step 2: Begin Practicing Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness practices will facilitate further separation of the conscious and egoic selves. Why? In the case of meditation, all you’re doing is practicing “being” in, and occupying, your conscious/present self. Then when your mind sucks you into thought, you just notice that that has happened and bring your attention back to the present moment.

In that last sentence, when I say “you just notice…,” that you is your conscious self. And the more times that conscious self notices when you’ve drifted into thought and brought it back to the present, the stronger that conscious self becomes. And the stronger it becomes, the more distance is created between the two selves.

Mindfulness at the grocery store

Mindfulness, which is just meditation in your daily life, also increases the separation between the two selves. Here’s an example. You’re waiting in line at the grocery check out. It’s been a long day at work, you’re hungry and you just want to get home…but the cashier is chatting it up with someone who’s taking forever because they’re paying with a check. You feel yourself clench up inside, anger mounting.

But your meditation and mindfulness work cause a bell to go off inside your head that says, “Whoa. Chill out. Don’t let your egoic mind ruin these moments just because you may get home ninety seconds later. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths…”

Doing this kind of thing several times a day for years on end will be massively helpful in strengthening your conscious self and thereby creating more distance between it and your egoic self.

Step 3: Don’t Listen to Your Mind

After years of practicing meditation and mindfulness the chasm between your conscious and egoic selves will widen. But your mind will still suck your attention away from the present moment. The difference is you’ll notice it faster and therefore return to the present faster.

But when your conscious self becomes strong enough you can do something even better than notice the thoughts and then bring yourself back to the present. And that better thing, step three, is this: Right when the egoic thoughts come up, your conscious self will recognize this as it is happening and is so strong now that it can say, “Nope. I’m not going to listen to you, mind. You are the egoic me, not the real, conscious me and I aint listening to you.”

A ceiling leak tests me

Here’s a recent example from my own life that illuminates this. We discovered a ceiling leak in our kitchen four months ago. After much time and money investigating the source, we determined that the leak was coming from our upstairs shower. A shoddy bathroom renovation by the previous owner had caused the leak so we had to rip the entire shower up.

The ripping up and the subsequent hot mop and concrete work was completed two weeks ago. But our contractor told us it would be weeks before he could get his tile specialist there to complete the job because the guy had just gone on vacation and when he returned had to finish two other projects before he could get to ours.

How did I react? At first it was, “Damn it! This is BS. You can’t leave us hanging for weeks like this! We’ve had to use our kids’ shower for four months. Waa! Waa!”

Not listening to my egoic self

But then I caught myself, as it was happening. I said, “Wait a minute. This is my egoic self complaining that I didn’t get what I wanted. The fact is, we’ve been without this shower for several months. What’s a few more weeks? Screw it. This is the egoic me complaining and the real, conscious me is deciding here and now that I’m not going to listen to it.” And I didn’t. And I felt much better because of it.

This concept of not listening to what your mind is spewing is hard to do. After seven years of regular meditation and mindfulness practice, I’m just now getting to the point where I can do this, and only sporadically at that.

Why it’s so difficult

The difficulty of all this is not surprising when you consider that most of us have spent decades identifying with and thereby strengthening our egoic selves. It takes a lot of time and work to strengthen our real, conscious self to the point that it can actually supplant our egoic self as the captain of our life’s ship.

The fact is, most of us probably won’t get to the point that our conscious selves consistently rule the roost in our lives. But even getting to the point where it’s in charge a good chunk of the time will greatly enrich your life and make the world a better place, too.

Disentangle, then create space

Finally, if you take only thing from this piece, I hope it is this concept: that disentangling and then creating space between your conscious and egoic selves is central to spiritual growth. The hard work involved in achieving this is, as Michael Singer and Eckhart both say, the most important endeavor of your life.

Meditation

Do You Know That ‘Being Present’ Is Invaluable But Find It Hard To Do?

You hear it all the time. Live in the moment. Be present. Be here, now. Spiritual heavyweights like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Dass and scores of others have preached this to their flocks for decades.

And many of you have tried it. You sit in your backyard and say to yourself, “Okay. Let’s be present. Right here. Right now. Just looking at the trees. Listening to the birds…Crap. I’m so not here.”

Your mind crashes the party in two seconds, bombarding you with thoughts. You get frustrated. Give up and start thinking about your job review the next morning. Bye, bye trees. Bye, bye birdies.

Easier said than done

Just be present. It’s the epitome of the old adage “easier said than done.” Bottom line: it ain’t easy.

Why? The obvious and correct answer is that our minds love to think and wander. Later I’ll describe a long-term solution for taming your active mind.

But for now, let’s deal with how you can improve your ability to become present in any moment you choose.

How NOT to become present

First, it’s important to know what doesn’t work. It’s the thing that most people do when they want to enter the present moment. They go for the direct entry. “Okay, I’m in my backyard. Let’s be present…”

To explain why this doesn’t work, let’s imagine that the present moment is a room and there is a door you need to walk through to get inside. The person attempting the direct entry is too large to fit through the door.

What makes that person too big to fit through the door? Tension. Holding on to feelings. Resisting the reality of their life situation. Think of all that as creating inflammation that puffs the body up.

Letting go is the key

So how do you shrink enough to fit through the door? You shed all of those things. You let go of all feelings of tension and tightness. Let go of any and all resistance you’re feeling in that moment. You surrender to everything that is happening in that moment.

If any of that sounds confusing, I have good news. Because practically speaking, all you need to do to scale down so you can walk through the door and into the present moment can be summed up in one word: Relax.

Here is a specific relaxation technique I use that helps me get through the door. I close my eyes and visualize my hands squeezing some unseen tension. Then I see my hands go completely limp and let go. I then see myself slowly drift away from the tension, completely relaxed.

How to actually become present

Let’s run through a full example. You want to experience some presence in your day. You walk out to your backyard.

You sit. Close your eyes. Take three, long, deep breaths. Then visualize yourself clenching your hands onto the unseen tension/”stuff” you’re holding onto. Then see yourself let go and drift away from the tension.

Surrender

Then say to yourself, “I give up. I surrender to everything going on inside me, in the world and to everything happening right now in this moment. I accept everything exactly as it is.”

Take one more deep breath.

Then open your eyes. Look around. See the trees. The plants. The sky. Don’t think about them or say to yourself, “Wow, the sky has such a beautiful, pink hue!” Just experience all this as your highest self, which is simply pure consciousness. Which is just…

Present moment awareness.

This is the indirect way into the present moment. It’s the best and easiest way to get through the door.

Now all of the preceding has dealt with “I want to be present right now. In this moment.” And that is a critical, healthy skill to develop.

Becoming naturally present

But of infinitely greater importance is improving your ability to be naturally more present. In other words, to get to a place where you already fit through the door because you’ve already shed the “stuff” that is preventing you entry into the present.

And that, my friends, requires work. It’s the work of a lifetime. It’s also the most important work you can do.

Meditation is most effective

If you’ve read my previous work, I know I’ll sound like a broken record here, but the best practice you can develop to propel you forward on this journey is meditation. Why? Because all meditation is is practicing being in the present moment.

Is it easy? No. Especially in the beginning. But just like playing the piano or learning French, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Give it a shot. It could be the greatest thing you ever do for yourself.

Subtract, don’t add

Finally, what I’ve said here is that you don’t need to add anything to the present moment to gain access to it. You need to subtract, by shedding tension, etc.

The same principle applies to the totality of spiritual growth. It’s never about adding to yourself, in the way of reading great spiritual books or doing daily affirmations or eating the right foods, etc. All those things can be helpful.

Be like Michelangelo

But true spiritual growth comes from shedding your “stuff.” Imagine yourself as Michelangelo. He took a massive block of marble and chiseled away, day after day, for over two years, at the end of which he gave the world the sublime statue of David. His process consisted of subtracting small pieces of marble, by the thousands, in a quest to unearth the divinity that lay deep within the originally massive block.

Your block of marble is your entire psyche, within which exists a David-like masterpiece. The chiseling required to access that masterpiece consists of thousands of instances of subtracting, or letting go of, your stuff.

And what is your “stuff”? Anything that isn’t you. Anything that isn’t your true self.

Again, there’s no adding to be done — just letting go. And letting go. And letting go.

Letting go. It’s how you access the present moment. And it’s how you access the true, beautiful genius David inside you.

Meditation

3 Mindful Tips To Help You Cope With The Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has caused pandemonium throughout the globe. People are on edge. Anxious. Worried. Here are three ways mindfulness can help you navigate this storm.

1. Keep asking yourself this question: “How am I doing in this exact moment?”

The fundamental problem that the coronavirus is causing is fear. Think about it. If you had zero fear about the coronavirus you would be absolutely fine. It is fear that is paralyzing so many across the planet.

How does fear manifest? It’s all about the future.

“What if I get the coronavirus and die?”

“What if the stock market never comes back and I don’t have enough money for retirement?”

“What if my kids’ school shuts down? I have to work and have no way of caring for them during the day.”

Future, future, future. It’s where our worrywart minds always want to go during times of stress.

Well, try this. Several times throughout your day, particularly when you’re at peak anxiety, stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself, “How am I doing in this exact moment?”

I’m telling you, almost every time you ask this question the honest answer will be “I’m fine.” Let’s say you’re in your car on the way to picking up your kid. What is wrong right then? Nothing. You’re driving. Maybe listening to music. That’s it.

I’ve been using this technique for years during times of high stress and it really helps to calm me down. It inserts me into the present moment and quiets my catastrophizing mind.

2. Use your smartphone to remind you to breathe deeply.

I wrote a piece recently about this very topic. The tip is this: Every time you enter your security code to get on your smartphone use it as a reminder to take one long, deep breath. Every time. I don’t care if you need to get onto your phone ten times in ten minutes. Do it. And if you’re really anxious, take three deep breaths each time. Taken together, these deep breaths throughout your day will help calm your nervous system.

3. Be present with your anxious feelings.

When most people feel anxious they do the same, unhealthy thing — they resist the anxious feelings. It’s not even a conscious decision. People just do it. Their involuntary thought process is, “Ahh! I’m anxious. I hate this feeling! Go away, damn it!” All this does is prolong and exacerbate the situation.

The healthiest way to deal with persistent anxious feelings is to do the opposite of resisting them and, instead, go inside and place attention on exactly how you feel in that moment. Don’t try to get rid of the feeling or ruminate about how this coronavirus situation is going to ruin you.

No. Go inside and feel the anxiety. Be present with it. Observe it. Acknowledge its existence.

And just keep saying to yourself, “Okay. This coronavirus thing has me feeling like absolute crap right now, in this very moment.” And leave it at that. Don’t let it go beyond how you feel in that moment.

Because how you feel in that moment is the only thing that exists. Everything else is just your egoic, fearful mind creating thoughts that will make you miserable and prolong your agony. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be in getting anxious feelings to pass through you.

We live on a speck of dust

Finally, this coronavirus hysteria seems to have had the effect of making people take life more uber-seriously than usual. So to try and calm people down a bit, I’m going to leave you with this photo.

Photo Taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990 (NASA)

Taken from Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles, the photo is the most distant image of Earth ever taken. Can you see little old earth? It’s the tiny dot about half way down and to the right, in the middle of the brown vertical band (the bands are the result of sunlight reflecting off the camera).

My point? In the midst of all the coronavirus hysteria, try to remember that we are living on a tiny rock that is spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

So take a deep breath. Be present with what’s going on right now. And remember the words of the great Persian poet Rumi: “This too shall pass.”