Archive for meditation

Jul
04

10% Happier (book review)

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10% HappierCan a national television anchor find some semblance of peace through the practice of meditation?  Dan Harris answers this question and more in his book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story

I liked how real Harris is in the book.  A prominent television personality with ABC News, Harris is very open about his rise in the TV News business and the obstacles he deals with along the way (such as his struggles with drug abuse).  Haunted by self doubt, Harris writes, “The voice in my head can be a total pill. I’d venture to guess yours can, too.”

“The voice comes braying in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air horn,” Harris relates.  “It’s a fever swamp of urges, desires, and judgments. It’s fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now.”  Hmmm.  This isn’t the first book I’ve read about that nagging voice (check out Michael Singer’s Untethered Soul).  It was a comfort to know others have critical voices in their heads like me.  So what to do about it?

Meditation will quiet the voice and make you “10% happier”, says Harris.  “It’s a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose,” he writes.  “What I’m attempting to do in this book is demystify meditation, and show that if it can work for me, it can probably work for you, too.”

I enjoyed reading Harris’ journey through the self help field.  As ABC’s Religion reporter he tells stories of interviewing the likes of Eckhard Tolle, Ted Haggard, and Deepak Chopra.  He approaches each with a skeptical eye, yet finds some value in what they have to say.  “There is something there,” he relates after an encounter with Deepak, “although I’m not sure Chopra is the best example of it.”

Eventually Harris does find a meditation technique that works for him.  “(I) read a few books about what Buddhist meditation actually involved, and learned that you didn’t need to wear robes, chant Sanskrit phrases, or listen to Cat Stevens,” he writes.  “In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to recognize what is happening in your mind right now—anger, jealousy, sadness, the pain of a stubbed toe, whatever—without getting carried away by it.”

If you are curious about meditation, Harris’ book is a good introduction to the practice, written in a fun, conversational style.  If you have meditated for years, like I have, 10% Happier can give you new insights into making your practice more effective.

Categories : Book Reviews, meditation
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Dec
17

Secrets of Meditation (book review)

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Davidji’s new book “Secrets of Meditation – A Practical Guide to Inner Peace and Personal Transformation” came just at the right time for me.  I have been meditating most days since taking a workshop a year and a half ago.  But lately I haven’t been as consistent with my practice.

Davidji had his off and on times with meditation, too, as he writes about in the book.  “I worked for many years in the world of finance and business amid the wild corporate swirl of New York City,” he recalls.  “I had stopped meditating.  I had replaced my 5 a.m. meditation ritual with an early morning train ride into the bowels of the World Trade Center, and I had replaced my evening meditation with a double scotch.  And like that … poof … my practice had disappeared.”

Thankfully for us Davidji returned to his practice, and in Secrets of Meditation he provides a very thorough treatment of the subject.  I liked how he gives an overview of different types of meditation styles (bodymind, visual, sound, energy, sensory, Buddhist, mantra, and chanting in separate chapters devoted to each).  After reviewing these styles the reader can decide which one is most appealing and explore that particular method in more depth.  Including in many of the chapters are sample exercises to try out different meditation techniques.

“There are thousands of schools and philosophies of meditation.  And every school of meditation has its unique technique or way of helping you experience present-moment awareness.  I celebrate them all,” Davidji writes.  I appreciated how he honors these many varied meditation styles in Secrets, while at the same time saying why he himself practices Primordial Sound Meditation – a technique taught by Chopra Center instructors world wide.

I have come across some conservative Christians who think meditation is dangerous and unbiblical, such as Christian writer Martha West. “Followers of Jesus Christ are not to sit in the lotus pose in an altered state of consciousness seeking the “God within” like pagans do,” West says. Davidji addresses these concerns, too, in his book.  “Thousands of my students who are religious – some of them Orthodox Jews, fundamentalist Christians, and devout Muslims – have found that meditating with a mantra has helped them quiet their minds so they can feel even closer to their God,” he writes.  “Meditation is simply a tool to help you connect more fully with your most expansive self – the better to feel God’s or the Universe’s love, open yourself to it, and then pour it back into the world.”  What can be wrong with that?

I do think the best way to start a meditation practice is to go to a qualified teacher with  lessons in person.  “Secrets of Meditation” does its best to teach you meditation, but it is only a book.  Davidji does offer suggestions for meditation teachers in your area (encouraging readers to contact him).

I found the concluding chapters of “Secrets” to be the best, where Davidji covers topics like “Experiences in Meditation” (what if I fall asleep? That’s OK, he says), the Five Myths of Meditation (“Something special or transcendent is supposed to happen in meditation” is one myth addressed), and Cultivating a Daily Practice (meditating twice a day – first thing in the morning and before your evening meal is one suggestion).

Reading “Secrets of Meditation” gave me many tips to rejuvenate my daily meditation sessions.  I recommend it to those who want to start meditating, or who want to enhance their current practice.

You can get “Secrets of Meditation” from these book sellers:

Hay House

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

This is another book review in my partnership with Hay House.  I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

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Apr
08

The Reluctant Meditator

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I was never much into meditation.  As I continued to pursue the spiritual path, though, I found the subject kept coming up from teachers and authors I respected.  “A consistent meditation practice is the foundation of spiritual growth” was the message I’d get from one source or another.

In the past I made attempts at meditation.  In classes I have taken at church there often was a meditation time at the start of each session.  Try as I would to meditate my mind would frequently wander.  “Why do we have to sit through this meditation time?” I sometimes thought.  “Let’s just get on with the class!”

When reading Susan Piver’s excellent book “how not to be afraid of your own life, opening your heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy” I was again reminded of the value of meditation.  In fact the subtitle of the book reads “features a 7 day freedom from fear meditation program”.  While I wasn’t going to develop a meditation practice just by reading this book, Piver gave one suggestion I hadn’t considered before:

“Get a meditation teacher.”

Hmmm, maybe this was worth a try.  I put into google the search term “Denver meditation teacher” and found Lisa Guyman.  Lisa is a certified “Chopra Center Meditation Instructor”.  I had read a few books by Deepak Chopra and valued his work highly, so I thought “why not?”  My wife Anne liked the idea, too, and we were soon off to a weekend of meditation instruction in one of Lisa’s classes.

The experience was a good one.   We were joined in the class by five others at Lisa’s home – a small enough group to ask questions and get personal attention.  We were each given a personalized mantra and suggestions on how to meditate.  “30 minutes, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon, before meals, are good times” Lisa said.  I liked how the class was a mix of the theory behind meditation and practice.

I did have a few questions.  “I tend to fall asleep when I’ve tried to meditate in the past,” I said.  “That’s ok – if you fall asleep that’s what your body needs at the time,” said Lisa.  In my first attempts to meditate I found I wasn’t thinking anything, just feeling silence.  “Should I think my mantra into that silence?”  I asked.  “Should I whisper my mantra or just think it?” was another question.  “Experience the silence,” was Lisa’s answer.  “No need to whisper the mantra, the mantra will become more subtle in your mind with more practice.”  I found these and other suggestions helpful.

Since taking the class I have been meditating twice a day for about two weeks now.  Sometimes I still fall asleep during my meditation time.  Sometimes my mind is racing with different thoughts, and the mantra helps bring me back to the present moment.  And sometimes I just experience the silence.  While I can’t say my two weeks of meditation has changed my life, I find I do look forward to these morning and afternoon times of solitude.  I find I am better able to focus on the morning tasks after an early a.m. session, and releasing the stress of the day is becoming easier in my afternoon quiet time.

Anne reports positive changes too.  “I’m definitely glad that we took the meditation class,” she said when I asked her about her experience. “I look at meditation as another tool in my journey. Getting centered and spending time in the moment during meditation has helped me to come back to the NOW at other times during the day when I am either fretting the past or fearing the future.”

Maybe all those recommendations I read encouraging meditation were right after all.  I’m going to continue the practice.

Photo by eylon

 

Categories : meditation
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Jan
11

A Perfect Memory For Meditation

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When participating in a guided group meditation session I am often encouraged to picture a peaceful scene in my mind.  The one that always comes to me is shown at the right – a beautiful, remote beach on the island of Tabuaeran in the South Pacific – 900 miles from Hawaii.

My wife and I visited this Island on a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Hawaii cruise in 2004.  At the time NCL was required to visit a foreign port during its Hawaii cruises, and Tabuaeran (also known as “Fanning Island”) was the closest [1. NCL no longer visits Tabuaeran on its cruises.  Holland America stops at the Island occasionally these days on its longer South Pacific itineraries].  On this day we were one of the first off the ship, and the first to arrive at this remote beach.  The weather was perfect with sunny skies and temperatures in the 80’s.  The trees swayed gently back and forth from a cool breeze.  If we had to describe paradise, this was it.

We had the beach to ourselves for 30 minutes or so before some of our ship mates joined us.  I remember not having a care in the world as I gazed out over this tranquil scene.  I bring the memory back of Tabuaeran when meditating, and whatever concerns I have seem to melt away under that tropical sun.

This island was not only beautiful, it had its own population (part of the Republic of Kiribati).  Watching the natives was like going back in time 100 years.  I saw a mother bathing her infant daughter in the ocean.  The natives were oblivious to the outside world until NCL starting visiting regularly.  The crew told us stories of the natives’ innocence.  Such as a time when they showed them the “Superman” movie.  “Where is this Superman?” the natives asked in their language.  “Can he visit us?”  not grasping the concept of characters on film.  One NCL staffer told us about one native who found the movie reel, and cut up the film in shreds to make a grass like skirt for herself!

When I think back to my few hours on Tabuaeran I sometimes envy the simple life of the islands inhabitants, remembering the beauty of the island.  I’m not ready to exchange all the conveniences of the modern world to live in such a place, yet I wonder if they perhaps are happier than we are.

How about you?  Do you have a special place you have visited that comes to mind when you want to take a mental break from everyday life?

Become a fan of my new Facebook page where I share these blog posts and plan to share quotes and other thoughts in the future.  You’ll recognize my picture of Tabuaeran beach there.

Categories : meditation, travel
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