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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfilment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behaviour, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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About Stefan Ravalli:
Forever studying masterful humans and the art of service the world over to bring their practices to our (sometimes “service-deficient”) culture, Stefan Ravalli combines all that with his expertise in meditation, mindfulness, and communication/listening to raise the game of service professionals – and anyone looking to upgrade how they connect with others (and themselves). Learning meditation was a game-changer for Stefan. It gave him the inner strength to be his unique self (without the negative self-talk!), connect with others better, and live a healthy happy life. Meditation also makes you realize your potential and gives you the fearlessness to pursue bigger and better things you never thought possible, so Stefan left a leadership role at a high-profile bar/restaurant to India to teach meditation. After doing that for years and deepening his tea ceremony practice, Stefan realized that the art of service was the richest path of self-cultivation available to him. Serving anything anywhere was the best way to apply and accelerate all the upgrades he got from meditation. So he started Serve Conscious to bring these tools and practices to anyone where service is part of their life – to awaken us to the power of service as a means of growth and self-mastery.
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Should You Meditate? | DTPHD Podcast 32 Shownotes:
2:04 This is the most beneficial part of meditation
6:54 The most common reasons people do not stick with their meditation practice
11:25 Can meditation address specific “problem areas”?
14:43 The meditation app that David Tian Ph.D. recommends the most
19:06 Which meditation practice is best for you?
24:32 What do different types of meditation lead to?
28:48 This is how you know a meditation practice is working for you
33:25 The two meditation obstacles that people encounter most often
37:56 How can you gauge the results of meditation?
40:17 Skills you can learn from your meditation practice
44:45 What expectations should you have when it comes to your meditation practice
Should You Meditate?
DAVID TIAN: Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
Alright, and today’s topic is all about meditation. In fact, we kind of assumed people were meditating when we hit record on the other Tenshin Mindfulness Podcast. And then we realized, “Oh damn, there’s a lot of people who actually haven’t started a meditation practice yet, and we’re already going deeper into mindfulness.” And they were asking about basic meditation. Well, basic questions about meditation. So, we thought we’d address that here. And first thing I’m gonna do is go into why meditate. I’m going to list off here a bunch of benefits that are scientifically proven, empirically-validated experiments, and scientific articles about them, and just rattle them off.
Just so you know, meditation is very well accepted by the scientific community for the benefits it brings, including: meditation reduces stress; it increases your sense of well-being; meditation increases your sense of connectedness and empathy; meditation improves focus; meditation improves relationships; meditation makes you more creative; meditation improve memory; meditation improves your ability to make decisions; meditation helps people overcome addictions; meditation improves cardiovascular health; meditation enhances your immune system; meditation helps you find flow; meditation reduces physical and emotional pain better than morphine.
And there you go. I mean, I’ve talked many times about my own, the benefits I’ve experienced in my own journey of meditation, including increased energy, definitely more focus throughout the day, and probably most importantly, well if we’re just talking about benefits, it would be emotional regulation or being able to detach or unblend myself from parts of me that are emotionally overwhelmed and to be able to get that distance.
And this is a basic skill that’s necessary to do any good therapy or to make progress in your therapeutic goals. But then actually the most beneficial part of meditation is the actual meditation itself, and if you’re not enjoying it, you’re just not going to keep doing it. So that’s part of where we want to go now. How do you keep it up? How do you get these benefits? Because if you just do it, once you get a little – especially if it was your very first time, it’s like if it’s your very first time working out, you’re going to see quite a bit of growth.
But just from one session you’re going to get some results, but the big benefits come when you establish it as a habit and a practice, and you continue to do it consistently over time. So, let’s talk about that. The first person I’ve learned meditation from was Stefan Ravalli, right here. Actually, there’s a backstory. I did my PhD in Asian Philosophy and Religion, and Philosophical Psychology.
And of course, we studied meditation. And I studied meditation at University of Michigan, which had a Buddhist Studies Program, where you could get a PhD in Buddhist Studies, one of the only three places in the whole country, of America, to be able to do that. And I learned meditation as an academic, and, just like most of my fellow grad students, none of us could do it, and it was more of like, “Hahaha, this is what those monks did thousands of years ago, haha. This is so difficult! Who would do this? Let’s go grab a beer.”
So, I never really learned meditation properly until I had the training with Stefan many, many years ago. So I’m going to throw it over to Stefan for his views on benefits and results overall of meditation. And so, Stefan, what do you think about these various benefits that of why meditate?
STEFAN: Yeah, actually, I like that list you generated because a lot of people, when they look at benefits of meditation, they look at a lot of kind of results of the average clinical study, and it’s usually something like raw and physiological, some kind of symptom was reduced, or nothing very minute, but you were talking about very experiential things.
Like, it increases one’s empathy and things like that, which are actually things that we can live and feel in our lives rather than just reduced blood pressure, increased REM sleep. That stuff’s like, you know, people seek that, and they seek that kind of data when they decide whether or not they’re going to do something. But I feel like when you’re actually capable of observing your own life, and how the practices you’re incorporating in your life are benefiting you, you don’t necessarily need the scientific community to give you permission to do anything, you know.
You can just say, “This is working for me because I’m paying attention to the results.” So, all of these benefits that you’ve listed, I’ve had lived experience of. And it’s funny you’re talking about meditation as an academic, and everyone is studying it as this abstract concept and then they actually do it. And they’re like, “wow, it’s much easier just to study it as a concept.” But then when you actually learn with the teacher and you’re given an experience of meditation, and an actual sort of modality to observe your life as a meditator, to actually live and continue to observe benefits, then it becomes a more regular practice.
And your practice, fast forward to years ago when we worked together, after your academic career, it became a regular practice for you. Of the people I taught, you’re one of the most regular, I would imagine.
DAVID: Yeah, I try. And that’s something that is motivating this particular episode, that many of the people that I recommended meditation to when I first started doing it, have since stopped, and I think they might have stuck with it for, at most one year? Which is odd because, usually if you were to do something regularly for several months, it would have become a habit and you would just go into autopilot with it. So, it seems like it’s a harder habit, for even people who were motivated at the beginning, to stick with, which is really surprising for me as well.
So, I went and did a bunch of research asking some questions, so that’s what we’re going to dive into: to figure out what was keeping them from continuing with it. Because you know, literally, you’re just sitting there. Like, this is not a hard habit to do. It’s a lot easier than going to the gym. And I see people going to the gym regularly after just getting into it for six weeks, which is awesome, but imagine all the hassle of getting the gym membership, bringing all the stuff in your bag, driving to the gym, all of that. And meditation’s simply just sitting in a quiet place, and there’s very little friction to doing it.
So the big issue is like, why can’t they stick with it, to get these benefits, or even just to get to the point where they enjoy meditation for its own sake? So, one of the issues is that there are many different types of meditation. So often, when you start to meditate, what you’re going to do is, especially nowadays, you’re going to get an app for it. There’s an app for everything, there’s an app for meditation. There are many apps for meditation, and these are billion-dollar companies now, in terms of valuation.
And one of the common apps, one that I’d recommend, is actually called Insight Timer, and there’s a lot of free features on that app. That’s one of the main reasons I recommend it first. The problem is, it’s very crowded. It’s very jumbled. So when you get in there, there is a pure timer with cool background sounds, but there’s also a ton of other things you can explore, which can be quite confusing to the first time user or the beginner, because it’s really overwhelming.
So for instance, if you were to search for a guided meditation by practice or by actually – let’s look at the benefits first, you could get a whole list of them. And then it’s like “depression, pain, stress, focus, motivation, relax, good confidence, happiness, gratitude, love, anxiety, sleep, or one for parents. So, notice that these are all benefits, right? Just so that people know, again, reinforcing the point that meditation can help you with all of these things, which is awesome. But the downside is, it can help you with all of these things, right?
So you’re like, “Oh shit, what do I need help with? Am I depressed? Am I in pain? Am I feeling stressed?” Or it’s already priming you to feel negative things. So, I recommend that you…
STEFAN: That’s a problem.
DAVID: Yeah, that’s a problem, it’s just too good.
STEFAN: People are looking at meditation allopathically. If you’re familiar with that term, it means, “Here’s the symptom. Here’s the thing to address the symptom.” It’s how our whole medical system is built, where our medical system doesn’t really function very well to sustain health over time. Because people are just going after symptoms and trying to target them.
There is no meditation that treats one symptom. There’s no meditation for depression, or meditation for eating disorders. Meditation is a broad-spectrum improvement and support, because it helps your entire mind, body, physiology, nervous system. That means everything is going to improve. It’s the rest you need. It’s like saying, “Why am I sleeping? Am I sleeping for this reason or that reason?”
You’re sleeping for every reason. This is rest, just like that. It’s more dynamic in other ways, which we can talk about.
DAVID: I’ve explored these apps by benefits. I’ve explored them all for other business reasons, and what’ll happen is like, let’s say you have pain, if you tap on pain, you’re going to get these meditations that will go something like this: it’s gonna have some nice background music, breathe deep, you know, the whole thing to get you into it.
And then it’ll say, “That part of your body that’s in pain, let’s focus on that.” And then imagine a white light coming to it, and all this other stuff, right? So, they’re trying to help you alleviate physical pain through these visualizations, and through various ways of circulating energy, so to speak, through it, or breathing deeply into that part and just visualize. You know, that sort of thing. For depression, it might be focusing on gratitude, or happiness, or something like that.
So, there are meditations that are trying to address, just spotting these errors. This is a fitness term, spot reduction and things like this. And it’s sort of like, when you’re in fitness and you just want to get one body part strong, right? So, I don’t really care about overall strength, I just want bigger biceps. So, anyone who’s into fitness knows how ridiculous that is. Yes, of course, you could just do bicep curls endlessly, but that would be an awful workout and you’d end up with an imbalanced body.
The best workout, overall, to get that, especially when you’re a beginner, is to get compound movements, overall body fitness, and then you can go into targeting specific body parts as a secondary thing you would do. And you can do that with meditation. If you’ve got extra time, you can get into this, but then you’re not – it’s like just going to the gym to do bicep curls because you just – you think your problem is only the bicep. It’s going to be overall. You want to just get a good workout, get some good core strength and conditioning before you do any kind of spot reduction, or picking up a particular body part.
Women like to just, “I just want to lose fat around my thighs.” And they just endlessly do thigh workouts, and that’s just not how it works.
STEFAN: The other problem with that is that when… First of all, you’re never really fully isolating or targeting some area in your mind and body when you’re meditating. So, you could be doing a meditation that does bring like intentionality and focus to a part of your body that can help alleviate pain there. It’s very powerful. It works, but that’s not the only benefit you’re going to receive.
It’s just like one kind of concentration point of whatever energy you’re putting into the meditation. But you get a host of other benefits simply getting into a meditation mode. The problem is where we’re looking in terms of results. So, like with working out, spot reduction, right? Or let’s say we’re working out for weight loss or we’re dieting for weight loss, and we have a target weight, and we hit the target weight. And then we’re at the target weight, what do we do? We stop diet. We stop working out. We say, “I’m good now.” And then what happens? You know, you return to the original weight.
That’s why people yo-yo with their weight, right? And so, when you’re meditating to say like, “I just want to sleep better” or “I want to stop smoking,” then you stop smoking or you’re sleeping better, you say, “Great, I don’t have to meditate anymore, then I’m good.” And a lot of people have these very specific areas of their life they’re looking at.
Everything in their life is improving for meditation but they’re all they’re paying attention to. They’re kind of key-holding on one area, and then that area, you know, it gets to a certain point where it’s tolerable, and then they get on with life because it’s tolerable, rather than looking at meditation as the medium to live a life where you are continually waking up, continually becoming a better version of yourself, continually getting rid of all the crap that’s polluting your mind and body, which is always going to be coming in even after you’re meditating for like ten years. After 10 years, I’m still processing a crazy world that I need to work out of me from meditation.
As a continual lifelong process, then you will meditate more when you look at it as a continual lifelong process.
DAVID: Yeah, that’s why we refer to it as a practice, and it’s not just getting in sessions. So, it becomes a kind of lifestyle, an approach to processing your experience, your lived reality. So, I would say the same goes exactly with fitness. And then if you filter by practice on these apps, you’re going to get a ton more, I think even more. So, popular practices on Insight Timer are – I’ll just, there are seven of them, eight of them here: Pure Awareness, Chakras, Loving-Kindness Metta, Guided Imagery, Yoga Nidra, Manifestation, and Mindfulness. And then they have other categories including: sound, movement, self-observation, concentration mindfulness, gentle repetition, and visualization.
Oh my god, right? Like, no wonder people stop doing it, they go into the app and the app’s supposed to help them meditate, but these apps are actually aimed at experienced meditators who want all the different flavors, the colors of the rainbow. And what a beginner would actually benefit from is an app that is just focused on beginner-level meditation.
And then when they get that down, then they can try out these other things. Sort of like, when you’ve been working out for years, now you can try some of these other types of workouts that are just targeting specific things, or are therefore specific narrow focuses. So I’d recommend an app that I learned about from Stefan called Oak, also free, mostly free, and their first page is simply three categories: meditate, breathe, or sleep.
And then under each category, there are just three options: for meditators, just Mindful, Loving-Kindness, and Unguided. And that’s a really great way to think of the, broadly speaking, for me anyway, the three main types of meditation that I would undergo unguided when I’m feeling good already, and I don’t need extra motivation or cheerleading at the moment.
But sometimes I do, and Loving-Kindness is a great way of accessing my true self because it’s one of my favorite ones at the moment, and what it will do is help you send love and care to parts of yourself, and then to those that you love and care for, you visualize that person, and bring them close to you in your mind’s eye, and then send those well wishes to them.
And then if you have a longer one, it will then send to those who you’re mutual towards, and then to those that you might have some protagonism towards, and then to the whole world and it’s such a great practice to start the day, and then force mindfulness on its own.
STEFAN: That is incredible. That practice is deceptively simple, it’s transformative, I would say that’s in my like top three desert island meditation techniques, for sure, Loving-Kindness. Not only as a way to meditate, but as a way to live. You can take that into everything you do, which we can talk about.
DAVID: Yeah, so in my therapy practice, one of the things we’re aiming for is to increase self-energy, which means more of those characteristics of the true self – courage, confidence, compassion, care, connectedness in you. And first and foremost, from your true self to your parts. And Loving-Kindness is one of the easiest, most direct ways of doing it, and one of the most enjoyable.
And there are lots of different Loving-Kindness guided meditations where the English translation of metta, the practice, changes or some people say, “I wish you peace or happiness,” and it’s fun listening to other people’s ways of breaking those well-wishes out in different ways. And I’ve tried many different people’s recorded Loving-Kindness, and I’ve done my own for our own people, done multiple ones, actually. And anyway, so that’s one of the main types.
So, I’d recommend you go to Oak instead of Calm, Headspace or Insight if you’re a beginner. If you already have some experience, obviously you’ll love the buffet of practices and options here, but Stefan, what do you think about, and how is a beginner supposed to think about all of these practices that are on the apps?
STEFAN: Yeah. First of all, Oak, okay. So if you’re a beginner, use Oak, and then if you’re advanced, just use Oak in a more advanced way. Like, you know what I mean? Like, if you go to a monastery, let’s say you imagine yourself being this like wonderful tranquil and awakened being, you know. Do you think they’re in front of the app being like, “Alright which one is the best for theta wave?”
DAVID: Wait. On Oak, It doesn’t have Yoga Nidra, for instance.
STEFAN: Yeah, so, Oak is like really stripped down and zen. You know, Yoga Nidra is a yoga practice and there’s endless yoga modalities because it’s like a whole, I mean, it’s a whole system of Mind Body Medicine, and there’s so many different things you can do. And these are all like wells you can fall down. But anyone that’s like a lifelong practitioner isn’t using a million practices, isn’t constantly fiddling with the next possible quick fix they might have come across.
They have one well and they dig it deep, okay? As, what’s his name, Satrunanda? Satyananda? It’s one of the Ananda Yogis. He goes, his interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he says, “Find one hole, and dig it deep. You dig a bunch of shallow holes, you’ll never hit water.” You know, and advanced practices are simple practices practiced over a period of time, and your relationship to the practice simply becomes more advanced.
You can become fully whatever-level meditator from doing one simple practice your entire life consistently. So find a hole, dig it deep. And I guess the question is, “Which one?” You know, I have all of these options coming at me. And my answer is: One you will actually do. That’s it. Pick the one you do. Pick the one that you feel most inspired to sit your ass in a cushion for 20 minutes or less.
But like you know, 15 to 30 let’s say. And you will sit still for that entire meditation, get up out of that meditation and say, “I am glad that I did that!” You will look at your life and say, “My life is a little fresher today, and a little fresher this week, and a little fresher this month. I’m going to keep doing this.”
That’s the one you do. If there’s one you are somehow blocked about getting to the chair with, then you have two options. Continue trying, and continue working through those blocks, or find one that you actually can actually feel settled on.
But then once you find one you’re settled on, don’t say, “But maybe there’s a better one out there, maybe there’s one where I just get that extra little bit of jolt of theta waves. I just heard of something called strionic bathochromic frequencies, maybe that’s going to do something even more powerful to hack my nervous system.”
This will be an endless spiral of all frustration, because you’re never going to get the hang of any of these practices. I mean, very recently, I just did a walking meditation. I am, by all intents and purposes, by all definitions, an advanced meditator. But a seated meditation. I never did many walking meditations. I did a walking meditation and I just didn’t want to practice after like a few minutes because I wasn’t good at it. And I was discouraged and I was like, “This isn’t something I’m good at. I don’t want to do it.” Because we all want to do things we’re good at, right?
So, you’re going to constantly have that relationship to meditation. If you’re constantly just trying to pick up new ones to see if they just give you like the big payoff. But the first meditation it’s not going to. Now, walking meditation, I kept at it for the whole meditation. And as I meditated with it, it became more interesting. I had to make adjustments, and I had to accept being clumsy and foolish, a foolish feeling, you know, and had to overcome that.
And I kept doing it and I was like, “Wow, this is really cool.” I don’t know if it’ll become a regular practice for me but I managed to get over the hump in the beginning. But like, if you’re just giving yourself hump after hump, with wrestling with being a newbie at practices all the time, then you’re more likely to set yourself up. So, make a decision. Just make a decision. Please, people. In this world that’s telling you not to decide but to keep seeking and keep being confused, say “Fuck you, I’m not playing your game of endless options. I am not reading the next possibility that gets thrown at me. I’m going to make a decision.” Please, just do that.
DAVID: All of these different options on the app, it’s giving us this paradox of choice. And it’s like when you go to the Whole Foods or the grocery store, and you just want to get a spaghetti sauce, and now you’re staring at like 50 different types of spaghetti sauce and you’re just like, “Fuck it, I’m not gonna get spaghetti sauce at all, I’m just gonna get a pizza.” And that’s the downside.
So, it also reminds me of the type of guys who go on bodybuilding.com or whatever and they look at all the different workouts. And they’d only do like a week on each workout and they nag, “That’s not good. I’m not getting results now from this one workout this one time, I’ll try another one.” And they just keep trying lots of different workouts thinking that the workout itself is what will determine whether they get their fitness results, when in fact, all good workouts will basically be doing the same sort of movements.
Like, you’ve got your main movements, your deadlift, your squat, your bench press, your shoulder press, and there are variations on that. That’s what all these different workouts will give you: variations on the main movements. But if you’re not good at the main movements, it won’t matter if you do some kind of other fancy variation of a shoulder press, it’s still a shoulder press. And if you’re not good at shoulder presses, trying a new fancy variation won’t help you.
So, I’d recommend in fitness, figure out what the main movements are and get really good at those and strong at those, and then you can branch out later if you want to instead of looking at the frosting on the cake. You’d have a really good cake first. And in this one, we’re giving you the main types. Broadly speaking, we’ve been focusing in our previous podcast on mindfulness and mantra, and in fact we have, for your convenience, our own Mantra Meditation Course taught by Stefan, and it’s at tenshinmindfulness.com. Just enter your email in that and get it for free.
So, if you don’t know which one to go for but you trust us, do that one. That’s free. We’ll walk you through how to do mantra meditation, and all you need from there is, well, a timer and a quiet place. You don’t even need an app for it, but you can use it with an app as well.
STEFAN: In case you’re thinking what a lot of people think when it comes to picking a lane in terms of what’s going to be in my practice, it sounds like a big commitment like, “Okay, well, I’m getting a tattoo so it better be like perfect, you know.” It better be like the most perfect choice of something because I’m going to be wearing this for the rest of my life,” and since I’m telling you to make a decision and stick to it for a period of time you might be worried, “Oh no, but what if this turns out to be like not optimal? Like, not ideal? What if there’s always something better out there?”
Everyone’s got meditation FOMO, right? Which we have discussed. I will firstly assure you something, that there are so many different like styles of meditation. But in a way, all roads lead to Rome, because they’re going to give you a similar effect over time. Some have different areas they target and strengthen, some have a certain generalized effect that’s maybe a little different than another kind.
Some are more effective maybe for some kind of people than others. You don’t have to do too much experimenting to figure that out, though. You find a teacher that you resonate with – that’s what I did – and they said, “This is a meditation that really worked for me.” Without endlessly comparing it to the other ones like, you know, it’s some kind of software subscription.
Like, I just simply say, “Okay, it worked for you, I dig you, maybe it’ll work for me.” And it did, and I wasn’t wondering if there was a better one out there. And in doing so, I’m much farther ahead than someone who is constantly trying new ones because one might be better than the other, just simply because I stuck to one over time, you know. But the best time to start a meditation practice is 10 years ago, the second best time’s today, you know, just like with planting a tree.
Because you just get a chance to do that same one over time, and the benefits are gonna be really powerful. Like, you know, we talked about Yoga Nidra. It’s like a lie down sleep bodily awareness meditation, super powerful. Okay, we talked about mantra meditation, you’re sitting upright, you’re thinking a mantra, you’re continually bringing your focus back to it, that’s another kind.
They sound totally different. In fact, their effect is quite similar. You’re still bringing yourself into a similar neurological state, so to speak, that has a total global effect on healing the mind and body. So, you just got to choose your road and know that you’re going to get to Rome. There are people, their meditation practice is serving and drinking tea. They prepare tea, they serve it, they drink it. Tea.
The way that they do it is very attentive, very reverend, and very detail-oriented, and slow, and very present. Simply being in that state while doing it, again, very similar effect. Totally different actual animation of the medication, but it just is simply their choice of how they want to walk this path. That’s why I say pick something you’ll actually do because that road will get you to that same place.
The only difference is you’re at an advantage because it’s a meditation that inspires you to actually walk the road. And people that really love like, tea, and ceramic, and serving to people – which I really love doing and that’s actually practice for me beyond the scope of this some podcast episode – things I facilitate that I love, and give people the profound experiences that they would normally get in meditation, because I facilitate it with passion and I bring everyone along for that.
And it works for people. It works for people where other medications don’t because they’re like, “I really like this stuff. This is really cool.” And so, that gets them into meditation. So, you know, what is your thing that makes you say “Aha! This makes sense! This works for me!” And I can notice the results because I’m looking at all these areas in my life and they’re all massively benefiting from it.”
DAVID: Yeah, I’d recommend – obviously we’ve mentioned the meditation that you should do is the one that you enjoy the most and will stick with it, because that’s the most important aspect, whether you’re going to keep doing it. Because if you don’t keep doing it, you’re not gonna get those results. And then you’re just not going to be meditating. So, the most important factor is: Which one do you enjoy the most? And it could be one that we haven’t even mentioned here. That’s the most important thing: what you enjoy doing.
And then, once you get into that practice, because it’s already a part of your lifestyle you’d be able to branch out. And, just for all our fitness heads, I know many of you guys do, the way I look at it is I’ve been doing meditation I guess every day for six years: is the squat, deadlift, and pull up of meditation for me are those triumvirate in the Oak app of Mantra, Mindfulness, and Metta.
So if you just want to focus on, “What are the squat, deadlift, and pull-up of meditation?” Those are the biggies that I’d recommend, those are the ones that hit. And of course, there are many different other types we haven’t explored, the yoga versions and all the other, Pure Awareness and things like that. They’re all out there for you to explore later, or get really good at one thing.
In fact, there’s one place where the analogy breaks down because during the week, you might want – you should probably do all three of those, of the squat, deadlift, and pull-up. But I’d recommend that you spend months, if not years, on just one type of meditation when you’re starting out.
So when I did, the first time I did Mantra meditation, I loved it and I did it exclusively twice a day for about two years or so before I fired up some more mindfulness. And then I’d switch over to mindfulness because we had this cool headband called the Muse, and I was getting data, and that really tickled my intellectual scientific part of it, of my brain, and that was fun, gamifying it for a while, and I stuck with that for a few months. And then I found it to be too distracting and too much of a hassle to get the headband all set up and everything, so I switched back to mantra, and then later, after several months back in mantra, I was then doing a lot of different kinds of meditation, just branching out.
And I’d recommend that going deep in one that you really really like, and maybe once a week, changing it up for fun, but I keep that ‘going deep’ analogy for the type of meditation you choose. Also just as a – maybe I can share from my own personal experience real quick on why it was mantra that resonated with me. When I did mindfulness as a grad student in the university, it was really esoteric in the sense of, “Focus on this candle.” Well, actually, it was the flame of the candle, and then just focus on it.
Or it’s like your breath. And it was taking me too much into my own skin. I think for a lot of guys, they’re so used to repressing their emotions that when you go straight into feeling what’s going on in your body, you start to already suppress, because your natural instinct is to repress, so you just won’t like being in the body.
And looking back many years later on why I didn’t take the mindfulness at the beginning, was because I needed to be able to have that balance, be able to go deep and then to come up into the clouds, so to speak, and have that distance. And a lot of the initial benefit for me was to come out of being blended with the emotion, that overwhelming emotion of anger or frustration or whatever it is that took me over, and to be able to access that calm and that distance, to be able to get that perspective. And then later when I was able to do that, pretty much do that, like when I decide to do it, when I want to come out of it to achieve that state – sometimes it’s much more challenging than other times.
Once I’m able to do that, I know how to do it, then I was able to stay in my body and really go into that mindfulness practice. So you might be the opposite of me, and you might be too detached, and you might need to just – the first thing you need get into your skin and being present. And so, mindfulness might be your first thing that you really enjoy. So just try out those three main ones as your – that’s just my personal recommendation as your squat, deadlift, and pull up of meditation: Mindfulness, Mantra, and Metta.
And they’re all available on the Oak app, or our own Mantra course. And just before we end here, we got two other quickies that Stefan’s already addressed, one of them is doing it right. So one of the big obstacles is, for guys stopping medication is, am I even doing anything here? I’m just sitting here with my eyes closed daydreaming, what a waste of time. Am I doing it right?
And then the final stuff, well, the stumbling block, obstacle is, am I getting results? So, some people stick with it for a few weeks trying to meditate, and they don’t see those promised results that are supposedly in that list of benefits. What would you say to somebody in that situation? You’ve already addressed it, but just giving you the question point-blank.
STEFAN: Let’s say, like, for all intents and purposes, meditation and mindfulness are two distinct modes we can be in, right. There’s the practice we’re doing with our eyes closed usually, you know, in isolation somewhere, and just like we would sleep. It’s like our recharge, right? But then like mindfulness is something we can take into anything, right? We’re like, you know, we’re eating, we’re doing it mindfully. You can work out mindfully. We’re speaking with someone, we’re doing it mindfully. How much are we adapting like, the ability to pay attention to our everyday life?
You can do it with Metta, as well. You were just saying, the Loving-Kindness meditation. How much am I bringing Loving-Kindness into what I’m saying, to my partner right now, or to the stranger I’ve never met? Why can’t I give them Loving-Kindness when I speak, right? So, you can apply this paying attention practice to your life, and you need to start noticing how things are changing, in subtle ways.
Because it’s those subtle areas that are really, really, profoundly important. All these like little nuances of like, am I a little more patient now? Am I taking a little more time to respond? Do I have a little more energy? Am I less likely to react? Am I less likely to believe what my mind is telling me? Am I noticing what’s happening in my mind more? That is a profound shift, to go from just simply like, getting knocked around by our thoughts and feelings, to actually noticing them and saying where does that even come from, and do I believe it?
Like most people live their whole lives never doing that. If you do that once, you might not like what you see. But the fact that you’ve actually done it, and actually noticed that, is the beginning of a whole new life for you. The first time you actually do that. Because now you’re able to start being aware of yourself and deciding what aspects of your thinking and belief systems are actually serving you. And I know, you know, a lot of people that work with you are already on that path but you’d be amazed. Most people just never really think about like, what it is they’re actually feeling and thinking. and whether or not it’s true.
DAVID: Yeah, the results is a big part of why people quit, if they don’t see immediate results from sitting in silence every day for a while. And I know a lot of our audience is achievers, or are achievers. And one of the issues is if you don’t enjoy the workout, the practice, that particular yoga routine, you’re not going to do it. And earlier, Stefan, you were saying if it’s uncomfortable, that’s good. And I would just say that that’s an intermediate advice. It’s sort of like saying to somebody who’s just starting to workout… When you feel that discomfort, that’s the sign of growth, which is absolutely 100% true. But then that’s also the reason why those people drop out and they won’t be back next week.
So at the very, very, very beginning, and from my own story as well, the reason achievers love mantra meditation is because it makes them – it allows them to be detached from their emotions more, which, when you’re somebody who is hot-headed, or your emotions flood you, or you’re very anxious and needy when a girl doesn’t reply to your text messages right when you need her to – like two seconds after you sent yours – all those symptoms. If you just want to be able to have more regulation of your emotions, mantra is probably the best way to start, and that was the most enjoyable for me.
I saw immediate results because if I was able to observe my thoughts float by without being my thoughts – if I’m able to see the emotions and the thoughts behind the emotions that cause that feeling to, and I see them there, which means I’ve already got some objective distance from them. Like, “Oh, there they are,” then I’m not them. I’m not those emotions and thoughts per se, and I can distance.
And I can let them just float by. It was an immediate thing right there in the middle of that meditation. The results should be right in the meditation itself. You can look for results after you open your eyes, and if you really did do a good job. Like, you stay still, you didn’t open your eyes and check your phone in the middle of your meditation, and people still count for 20 minutes but they’re actually not really meditating. But if you actually really meditated, you don’t need to wait until meditation is over to go and check the results.
It’s just sort of like, in fitness, you might just keep looking in the mirror or hopping on the weighing scale. And the questions, “Are you stronger?” For one, can you lift more weight easily? More easily? Can you do more reps? It’s actually that you see the results right in the workout. And with yoga, can you go deeper into that pose? Can you hold the pose longer? You can see the results right in the workout.
The workout is actually the best way to test whether you are making progress. Same with meditation. For me, I found, the actual meditation sessions, if you don’t enjoy them, you’re not gonna stick with them. If they’re too uncomfortable, you’re just gonna stop them.
So, one of the things about mindfulness for achievers is it takes them into the present, but that’s where all of their emotions lie, and the emotions are causing them to make these financial errors. And it shouldn’t be a mystery to those who are achievers why the best financial traders, those who are doing the best in many ways, most successful financially, are those who are able to detach themselves from their emotions when making decisions. It’s also why AI will beat the shit out of all of us when it comes to finally making these moves in the trades and so on, because they’re without emotion.
And one of the things that will be really pleasant to you is not being overwhelmed by the anxiety or by this depressing down feeling, or by the fear or the anxiousness that comes from those different scenarios I mentioned, with women especially. I know many of you are following us for just that. And again, I push that tenshinmindfulness.com, free course that Stefan made on mantra, changed my life completely.
And then after I was able to get that distance, being able to then embark on more of that discomfort of being present and staying with the emotion, especially when it came to therapy… So, when it comes to the therapeutic process, you’re gonna need to stay with the unpleasant, uncomfortable emotions that are erupting, and they might start as tension in the body somewhere.
And maybe that’s around the nose because it means you’re about to cry, or that tightness around the chest when you’re overwhelmed by fear. And instead of escaping from them or floating up above them, it’s a really good skill to be able to do in the moment, especially to be able to just regulate. But then to be able to stay with it a little longer, and a little longer each time, and then leaning into it, and encouraging it to come out even faster, the emotion, these are all amazing skills that are taught in or trained in meditation.
And the Mantra Mindfulness were my one two punches for most of my time meditating. (And again, tensionmindfulness.com, we got that free course on Mantra.) And, the best way to stick with it is to make it enjoyable for you, and for most achievers, I think you’ll get immediate benefit from mantra.
And then, what Stefan was saying like, you can’t do it wrong. As long as you’re sitting, your eyes are closed, I don’t think there’s a way that you could do it wrong.
STEFAN: There are ways… Well, here’s the thing. One thing I wanna add to that about talking about enjoying meditation. It’s good that you enjoy your meditations. Not everyone does every time, and you can’t pursue enjoyment, but also, and I’m talking about discomfort, how it’s like a really valuable thing to experience, you also can’t pursue discomfort.
You can’t strain, and you can’t get frustrated when things aren’t going your way and looking really nice. You just have to be ready for anything and accept it, and that’s really simple protocol. And meditation’s gonna make you better at being fine with whatever is happening. But just go in with that mindset and whatever practice you do, especially this one that we bring you through tenshin, then you get the most profound benefit and you have the most [INAUDIBLE 00:42:23] experience. And then just get, you know, a lot more attentive to seeing all the little things in your life that are going more fluidly, and you’re good.
DAVID: And also just to throw in there, just as training wheels, for those guys who are maybe not going to enjoy the silence, and that’s already too much for them, is that you can use some of the guided meditations on the apps if you enjoy them, so that at least it gets you into the habit of sitting down and closing your eyes. And it’s just baby steps.
And I’ve actually made my own guided meditations as training wheels for guys who just need the discipline to be able to actually find a place in their apartment to sits. That’s like already a big accomplishment. And then make it a kind of sacred space for them too, and to block out the roommates’ noise and all that breakfast sound.
And just take that time, and just to get used to the habit of taking that time. It’s like if you want to get somebody to the gym, you just get them in the habit of preparing the gym bag and getting to the gym. They get their feet in the door, there’s a very good chance they’re going to actually work out. So, if you just got to get their feet in the door, and I’m just trying to get people to just close your eyes, sit down for 10 to 20 minutes. And then you listen to something that’s actually enjoyable, that’s like, nice, would give you some nice visualization with cool, calming music in the background and would cue you to breathe.
So these are super big training wheels, and we take them off, and give you smaller training wheels. Lots more silence during the meditations. And eventually, you can just go full-on in with just silence, and that little bell that just tells you when to start and stop. And these are just training wheels. So, there’s no shame at all if you need to avail yourself of the nice sounding meditations that are in the apps, just realizing these are training wheels, with a view to actually doing real meditation, so to speak.
And of course, I would recommend for most of us Mantra to start with, it really is the one that you enjoy the most, and then eventually, over time, getting to all the rest. So, we covered a lot more ground than we expected, it’s almost double the length we were aiming for, and any other parting words, Stefan, on how many types of meditation and what to do?
STEFAN: You know, I think, people say this with everything, with nothing – it doesn’t apply to anything more than it applies to meditation: Start simple, and just have some patience with yourself, compassion for yourself. Just go easy on yourself, okay? Not only should you not expect things to go perfectly the first time – know that you’re getting the same benefit from things not going perfectly as you would as an advanced meditator. This is really something that’s very important, and that’s the power of meditation, on how it shifts things just without us even having to be that involved in the process.
Just follow the simple instructions and things will start to get better for you in every way, whatever it is you specifically want to get better in your life, and then a lot of other shit that you never bargained for. And you’ll be happy and delighted and surprised by the results.
DAVID: Beautiful, great way to end. And again, I’d recommend tenshinmindfulness.com for a free meditation course, and this has been David Tian and Stefan Ravalli, and thank you so much for listening. Stefan, how could they get a hold of you if they want to learn more about you and your work?
STEFAN: Oh yeah, check me out on serveconscious.com, where I have a lot of content, and a podcast, and an upcoming course on mindful service, which changes meditation and also mindful ways of doing our work, in ways that it’ll make us have a totally new experience of it and a very fulfilling work life. So, check that out.
DAVID: Awesome. And you can find out more about me at davidtianphd.com. Thanks so much for listening and watching, and we’ll see you in the next podcast. Take care.
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