Episode 189: Best Of – Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics with Jeff Warren

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Best of the Phoenix Helix Podcast

In support of my own autoimmune health, I’m taking a sabbatical for the month of December and releasing two of my favorite episodes from the archives that you might have missed. Today’s episode is one of the most popular of all time. If you think you can’t meditate, this podcast is for you! Do you picture meditators sitting quietly and peacefully with completely empty minds, people genetically wired totally differently from you? Let me tell you a secret: those people don’t exist. Even the Dalai Lama has thoughts while he meditates. The mind is designed to think, so meditating isn’t about stopping thoughts; it’s learning how to notice and detach from them. And while some people might find sitting still easier than others, there are actually many ways to meditate, including moving meditations or simply learning how to be mindful in daily life. My guest is Jeff Warren, who co-wrote the book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Jeff is a world-renowned meditation teacher who is known as the “MacGyver of Meditation”. He excels at “fixing” people’s meditation problems. In this episode, we talk about common meditation obstacles for people with autoimmune disease, and how to overcome them.

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Show Notes

  • Intro (0:00)
  • Thank You to Our Podcast Sponsor – Sip Herbals Coffee Substitutes (2:32)
    • Are you missing coffee on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol? Not any more! Sip Herbals has created a complete line of delicious drinks for you. Their original herbal coffee is made from just three organic, caffeine-free ingredients: roasted chicory powder, roasted carob powder, and roasted dandelion root powder. It creates a rich, flavorful blend.
    • Now, they’ve expanded their line to include four delicious flavors: Salted Caramel, Dirty Chai, Mocha, and Peppermint Mocha. The Peppermint Mocha is a seasonal flavor, and it’s almost sold out for the year. Catch it while you can! You won’t find any artificial ingredients in these mixes. Instead, they’re flavored with real herbs and spices, and they’re all AIP-friendly.
    • If you want to buy someone a gift for the holidays (or put this on your own wish list), Sip Herbals has gift cards available. They’re also selling a detox bundle during the last two weeks of December in preparation for the new year. It includes 4 ounces of their original herbal tea blend, along with tea filters and an ebook.
    • Sip Herbals is a small business started by two women in our community who loved coffee, but learned that coffee didn’t love them back. So, they created a delicious substitute and started Sip Herbals to share it with others.
    • To learn more, visit SipHerbals.com and use the code PHOENIX for 10% off your first order.
  • Meet Jeff (4:12)
    • Jeff Warren is a world-renowned meditation teacher and founder of the Consciousness Explorers Club in Toronto. He’s co-author of the book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, and his first book was called Head Trip. It was research for his first book that led him to meditation. He attended his first retreat in 2004 and has been practicing ever since.
    • He personally found meditation challenging, but he also experienced some immediate benefits. He was able to see how his mind could generate problems. Meditation also helped him feel more “settled” – Jeff has clinical attention deficit disorder, so this was a great benefit. Then over years of practice, learning how to sit with the ups and downs of meditation helped him develop greater equanimity during the ups and downs of life.
  • Meditation Benefits – Why Do It? (10:41)
  • Types of Meditation – There is No One Right Way (21:59)
    • When we think of meditation, we often picture someone sitting still, eyes closed, focused on the breath. That is one type of meditation, but it’s not the only type.
    • For people who have difficulty sitting still, moving meditations or mindfulness practice in daily life might be a better choice.
    • Some people find it stressful to focus on the breath, especially if they have a history of asthma. You can focus on anything – it doesn’t have to be the breath. Some alternatives include mantras, music, sounds, gratitudes, a visualization, or different sensations in the body.
    • The type of meditation doesn’t matter. What matters are the qualities of attention you bring to it:
      • Concentration – learning to notice when your mind wanders and bringing your attention back to the meditation.
      • Clarity – developing the skill of really noticing the present moment and being able to separate thoughts from experience.
      • Equanimity – being open to the present moment and all that it entails, without resistance.
      • Friendliness – being gentle and caring toward ourselves as we develop our meditation practice (as opposed to judgmental).
      • Note: these are qualities that develop with practice; they aren’t innate, and perfection isn’t the goal. It’s called a meditation “practice” for a reason.
  • Meditation Resources:
  • Have You Failed If You Can’t Quiet Your Mind? (29:07)
    • No! The mind is designed to think. The brain excretes thoughts like the digestive system excretes enzymes. It’s completely natural and sometimes really beneficial. Thoughts lead to inventions, creativity, problem solving, etc. Thinking becomes a problem when it’s chronic, fixated, amplifies the stress response, and we can’t disengage from it. Meditation isn’t the practice of eliminating thought. It’s the practice of becoming consciously aware of our thoughts and learning to detach from them. Meditation is simply noticing when your mind wanders, letting those thoughts go, and returning your focus to the meditation. Each time you do that, you’re strengthening your meditation muscle. When you catch yourself thinking during meditation, that’s actually success, not failure.
    • Helpful tool: Mental Noting.
  • Tips for Beginners (34:30)
    • Make it simple & start with a short goal: a 10 minute daily practice.
    • Have the mindset that this isn’t a big deal; you’re just exploring and experimenting. No pressure.
    • When you choose something to focus on, see what feels appealing. Is it your breath? Is it the warmth of your hands? Is it the air on your skin? Is it a sound?
    • Do your best to focus on that for 10 minutes. When your mind wanders, notice that, let it go, and return to your point of focus.
    • Be gentle with yourself in this practice. There is a learning curve, and it’s not about being perfect.
    • Do this for 1-2 weeks and see if you notice a difference in your life. It’s not what happens during meditation that matters; it’s the benefits you feel in your life.
    • Once 10 minutes feels comfortable, try increasing to 15-20 minutes daily. Whatever works for you.
  • Thank You to Our Podcast Sponsor – ShopAIP (37:43)
    • In celebration of the holiday season, today I’m highlighting their gift certificates and cookie mixes. You don’t have to miss out on the joy of holiday baking just because you’re following the paleo autoimmune protocol. Two companies have created AIP-friendly cookie mixes. Eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R has a cut-out sugar cookie mix, as well as an oatmeal cookie mix, and a carob fudge cookie mix. The Legit Bread Company also sells a holiday cut-out cookie mix and a drop cookie mix. So, be sure to check those out! And if you’ve successfully reintroduced chocolate back into your diet, Elements Truffles sells a turmeric-infused dark hot chocolate mix. And if you want a last minute gift, their gift certificates are perfect. Happy Holidays, everyone!
    • ShopAIP is an online store dedicated to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol. With hundreds of items for the elimination phase of the AIP, and new products labeled by reintroduction category as well. You can find protein bars, sauces and condiments, AIP-friendly spices, cooking and baking ingredients, waffle and pancake mix, delicious snacks, and more.
    • If you’re a first-time customer, use the code PHOENIX for 10% off your order. Purchase here.
  • Life’s Too Busy. I Don’t Have Time to Meditate (39:21)
    • Mindful Moments: You can turn almost any moment in your life into a meditation. For example, say you’re waiting in line for the ATM. Just close your eyes and focus on the feeling in your hands or the sounds around you. That can be a meditative moment.  Resource: 40 Ways to Bring Mindfulness to Your Days.
    • Schedule Spaces: Find the spaces within your daily schedule where you can add a little meditation time more easily. When you first wake up in the morning, take a few minutes to meditate before doing anything else. If you commute with public transit, your commute can be meditative time. If you drive to work, meditate for 5 minutes in the parking lot before going inside.
    • Meditation Corner: This is optional, but if you have a place in your home that your can set up as your meditation corner, you’ll start to associate positive feelings with this space and want to spend more time there. This is especially true if you make it comfortable and decorate it in a way that makes you feel more peaceful.
    • The Shift: While meditation feels like work in the beginning, over time it can become something you truly enjoy. At first, it can be a struggle to fit it into our lives. Over time, we start to see ways to make our lives more meditative.
    • Resource: Podcast Ep. 121: Time Management with Laura Vanderkam.
  • Meditation Through Pain (44:37)
    • Suffering = Pain x Resistance. The goal of meditation is to remove the resistance – the bracing against the pain which can amplify it, and the inflammatory thoughts and emotions that often spiral when we’re hurting.
    • Strategy 1: Distraction – focusing your attention somewhere else besides the pain. When we’re in pain, it can become our whole world. This technique widens our perspective, and the pain often becomes less overwhelming.
    • Strategy 2: Lean into it – objectively tune into the pain and separate the pain from your response to it. Sometimes this helps dissipate the pain. Other times it makes it easier to bear. It’s also possible the pain may spike; go back to strategy 1 if that happens.
    • Body Scan Meditation – this is a way to move back and forth between strategies 1 and 2.
    • RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Non-Identification. This is a very helpful technique when working with difficult feelings (physical or psychological).
    • Resources:
  • Working with Difficult Emotions (53:52)
    • Meditation often brings unconscious thoughts and emotions into consciousness.
    • The same techniques shared earlier regarding physical pain can also help with emotional pain.
    • However, for deep anxiety and depression, outside assistance might be needed, especially for people who have experienced a lot of trauma. Meditation can be a complementary technique to psychotherapy, rather than the sole technique to work with these emotions. In fact, some therapists have training in both meditation and trauma techniques.
  • Guided Meditation by Jeff (1:01:58)
    • During the podcast, Jeff led a guided meditation for beginners.
    • He also has many other guided meditations on his website.
  • Outro (1:09:52)

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