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Q&A: Dealing with fear through meditation

Hi Charlie,

Thank you for your meditation teachings, I've taken all your courses. One main fear that I have is constant worrying about something bad happening, dying, or becoming sick. This is usually triggered by hearing about someone young getting sick and passing away quickly, or someone got into a car accident and died so unexpectedly. It makes it hard to live the day to day life in this calm state when I have this underlining thought of what if something bad happens to me or a loved one. I understand we all die and the exciting part of life is the adventure of the unknown but how can I live a life of calm adventure of the unknown? How can I use meditation or practice a way to not have these constant thoughts interrupt my day to day life?

 Thanks,

Feeling Existential Angst Repeatedly From Unrealistic Lessons

Hi FEARFUL

Think about this as though you are baking an apple pie.

1) The first thing to do is stop using disgusting ingredients. Stop watching the news. If you have  friends who post on social-media about car crashes, sickness, children getting kidnapped, crimes etc. either unfriend/unfollow them or if you value other parts of the friendship, mute their feed. When people start gossiping about all these topics politely excuse yourself. You don't have to do this forever but you have an unbalanced set of thoughts coming into your head so until you reverse that trend you can only expect unbalanced thoughts to come out of your head. This apple pie is going to taste awful if you keep putting rotten potatoes into it.

2) Start getting good ingredients. Read things that are positive and up-lifting. Read about great people who you admire. Talk about health and feeling radiant with people. Practice thinking thoughts that make you smile and then keep smiling about these things. Don't worry if people look at you strangely. Just smile at them and smile about how odd you are to be happy in this world. These are the apples, sugar, and (gluten free) flour that you are using to bake your apple pie.

3) Put the pie in the oven. This is what meditation is. It is a time to cultivate your best self and allow all the ingredients that you have gathered to simmer and congeal into something greater than the sum of the ingredients. When you come out of meditation the pie will be absolutely delicious but only if you follow steps 1&2 in the recipe.

With fearless love,

Charlie

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Q&A Sudden death, meditative structure and groundlessness.

Hello Charlie,

How are you in the world?

I was hoping you'd share your experience and philosophy on the matter of navigating absence and the practice of mediation.

A dear friend of mine passed suddenly just a few days ago. When I can, I lean into the structure of my "newbie" 10 minute practices - let my body do what it needs, allowing it stray and then return to stillness when I'm able.

Are there any specific cues or idea sets that you found helpful when dealing with an experience like this? I'm curious to learn an edge or aspect of something that might be helpful to integrate, all things considered.

The grief ninja has a wrath like no other. I'm attempting to navigate high seas and glassy water.

Thank you kindly,

Too sensitive for an acronym

Dear TSFAN,

I had a similar experience losing someone very close to me a few years ago and my meditation practice was what kept me from being disabled from grief. I was comforted by an idea that had come to me when I was at an observatory as a child. A very brilliant astronomer was speaking there and he explained that the stars and nebulae were so far away that we would never be able to travel to them even if we spent the rest of the age of the universe trying to reach them. I was initially very saddened and crestfallen by this realization. I had hoped one day to travel to the distant stars and I felt like a dream had been crushed. The astronomer then went on to explain one of the most brilliant things I've ever heard; that rather than try to reach the stars we had to learn to become aware of the aspects of the stars that are already present with us and from that understanding we could know them even more perfectly than if we were there.

When my friend was killed I thought about this same concept from the experience of his consciousness and mine. All of a sudden he seemed so distant from me. I couldn't find my friend no matter where I looked and he was unreachable. Then it occurred to me that in the same way that the brilliant astronomer was trying to teach himself to be aware of the aspects of the stars that were accessible here and now I also could do the same thing in my meditation practice. In your heart and memory there is an aspect of this person that represents their story or life history. This is beautiful and worth writing about but it is not the deeper aspect of the person. When you know someone deeply you recognize a core part of their identity that goes beyond these superficial aspects of the self. Your soul or being recognizes their soul or being. This aspect of recognition is still with you and it can be experienced when you are in your most settled state. In other words the part of the person that was ever-changing not truly representative of who they are at their core is gone but the deeper aspect of that person is still with you. You can find the part of that person that still exists in consciousness, the deeper aspect of your recognition and be with him or her.

In your time outside of meditation bring your thoughts to all the happy memories of your friend. Feel the joy of a life that you truly loved. These parts of their story are important but the true comfort comes when you find that deeper and quieter part of yourself that is beyond stories. In those quiet moments you can find the aspect of your friend who is with you right here and right now.

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Q&A: Is listening to music helpful in Meditation?

Hi Charlie,

Just wanted to ask you another quick questions – and a random one at that.

I know a few people listen to music while meditating (e.g. Enya, Kitaro, etc.). Personally, I find it a lot better without music, I do wonder if it might help when you’re in a place that is simply just to noisy (beside a construction site maybe – without construction workers yelling things). So I wondering, do you ever find yourself in this situation and what do you do? Do you ever have music playing in the background and if so what music do you prefer?

Thanks,

Gyrating Rhythmic Overtures Of Volume. YOLO!

Hi GROOVY

I like to listen to music as a preparation for meditation but not during the practice. I love music and it makes me feel very relaxed but it also takes me to into being really appreciative of the sounds and textures of it. I think that this could possibly be a meditative experience but in most cases it's just a really enjoyable form of musical appreciation.

If I'm in a noisy place I take one of three possible approaches. The first is to simply allow myself to be aware of the sound and then return to my technique. This may happen over and over again but after a few repetitions of losing my technique and returning to it I feel my mind settling into a meditative state regardless of the outside noises. It's quite nice and when you practice this way it makes you feel like a black-belt meditator. The second approach is to use noise blocking headphones. I favor the in-ear earbuds with built in earplugs. Some people like the active noise-canceling sets but I've never found one that I really love. Lastly if the sound is something that I absolutely cannot block out I will use the earbuds plus a nice app called soundcurtain on my iPhone. It makes the sound of a simulated thunderstorm, wind or water and dynamically changes the volume and sound as the outside noises change.

Give these methods a try and let me know what you think.

Charlie

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Q&A: Wanting to cry after meditation

This is the first time starting a meditation practice for me. It was weird but really amazing. I have lots of anxiety and somehow after doing your meditation I went into the middle of somewhere felt very in peace,comfortable, and happy, like in a protected place, felt energy concentrated where the body of the sternum starts. Some images pop: bike, birthday cake, and suddenly I felt a strong necessity to cry. At that moment you gave other instructions so I went out. But I don't understand why the brain will give an image that occurred thirty years or so ago, and why would I feel such a strong need to cry. Specially, since the vision was not a sad memory. As total beginner in the field of meditation, is meditation a personal journey where people will experience particular things that can't be really understood? Or is there a written guide that can explain the states one can encounter? Thank you much. I enjoy a lot the class! :)

Bemused Over Origins Of Highly Overwhelming Open-heartedness

Hi Booo-hoo,

This is a really great experience to have and many other meditators describe similar experiences. It sounds to me like there was a moment where you truly experienced a meditative state of consciousness. That feeling of being protected that you described is associated with the relaxation response, essentially the opposite of the stress response. In this state you will feel calm stable and collected under any circumstances. There will often be sensations of pressure or energy associated with this and if you look into the meditative traditions of the world you will find that there are points in the body that they will describe that correlate with these spots. For example in Vedic culture (northern India) they describe the Chakras, energy points in the body that when opened symbolize relief from physical or psychological conditions. The sternum lines up with the Anahata chakra which is the point most frequently connected to emotional release. And now we come to the crying... Don't you think it's interesting that in our daily social interactions we constantly reinforce that everything is fine and don't allow ourselves or others around us to be authentic with their emotions? Every time we greet someone we say "How are you?" Then reflexively they answer "Good" or "fine" without even thinking about it. What we are really doing when we greet people this way is saying "Reinforce to me that everything is fine because I don't have the energy or adaptability to deal with your real emotions." It makes sense then that after a lifetime of interacting with people in this way you'll feel a sense of emotional release during your meditation. It's good to let your guard down and let yourself feel the emotions that come out. By allowing yourself to be authentic with your sadness you also give yourself permission to feel spontaneously blissful. The message you convey to your body in meditation is that you love it no matter what emotions it gives you.

Charlie

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Q&A: How long until I feel happy?

I am confused as to how to fill up my own happiness. I have struggled with that for some time, this feeling of things not being quite right. I want to be happy, but i cant seem to get there...insecurities, doubts, fears...they get in the way. I hope meditation will help but after I finish meditating these feelings come back. Am I doing this wrong?

Wanting Overwhelming, Real, Results In Every Day.

Hi WORRIED,

This is a really great question that gets right to the heart of what I teach. It seems like most people believe that happiness comes from something outside of themselves. What I want to teach you in this course is that a deeper and more lasting sense of happiness can be developed inside yourself and that meditation is the best way to realize it. These insecurities and doubts that you mention are there for everyone, myself included. Meditation gives us the power to turn the volume down on them though so that they become a faint whisper rather than a dominant shouted voice inside our minds.

An important thing to realize is that the results of meditation take time and consistent practice. There are instant results when you meditate but that doesn't mean that you should think of it as a quick fix to any emotional problems. If you're finding difficulty with it at this point [after 1 week of practice] it's totally normal.  Give yourself a few weeks of consistent practice though and you'll see big changes in the way you feel both in and out of meditation.

Charlie

 

Follow up question:

Thank you, Charlie. It makes sense. I hope i can stay with it. Just ten minutes per session will help, right?

Ten minutes per session will definitely help. Any amount of time more than that will be icing on the cake though and I think icing is really delicious. Go for the icing.

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Q&A: What is the difference between Vedic Meditation and Mindfulness?

Hi Charlie... so, a few things to share and ask...

I love this form of meditation! I have been following a buddhist path of shamatha meditation and then opening up to vipassana. Yet, this vedic form is incredible!! I was allowing myself to 'sink' and all of a sudden there was a shift. I felt like I was either flying or swimming. I felt buoyant and expansive. I felt a silent depth of possibility, as if an ocean was revealing itself.

I'm curious to this form and how it compares to the observation of thoughts like in Zen? This meditation transcends the mind, and yet I'm interested in knowing if by doing so, is one reaching intuition and clarity? I always believed the 'observation' was important yet this feels so different. More of an immediate oneness. For me, right now, I'm feeling confusion and doubt within. There has been much change this last year and am hoping Vedic brings me to stillness, clarity, and confidence. Does Vedic bring clarity into light?

I thank you! :)

Lost observing thoughts & sensation

 

Hi LOTS

You described the differences between a transcendence based meditation and a mindfulness based one very well. Transcendence is the experience of oneness. It is a state in which there is no longer a distinction between the observer and the observed. Many of the traditional descriptions of transcendence use the analogy of the ocean just as you have here.

Zen, mindfulness, vipassana and shamatha are variants of the same underlying technique in which through non-judgemental observation of the breath or thoughts or sensations you bring yourself into a steadfast and clear awareness of the present moment.

Both of these experiences are incredibly valuable and train different modes of the mind. When you're practicing a Vedic/transcendence based technique, let go of the idea of observation and just allow your mind to be. It is in some ways the opposite of mindfulness but that's OK. They are both different and valid methods of meditation. The distinction is analogous to different forms of exercise. If you're training for strength you exercise one way (weights etc.) and if you're training for endurance you train another way (running, biking, cardio etc.). If the instruction for weight training was do 8 repetitions to muscle failure and then rest, you wouldn't then presume that the best way to run would be to take 8 steps and then lie down.

When you practice a transcendence based meditation technique you'll begin to develop a capacity for being unbounded. This means that the boundaries between different states of consciousness become easy to cross and that your thought processes will be able to go beyond their normal limitations. This is another way of describing intuition which is really just allowing yourself to be aware of subtle thought patterns and observations that are normally beyond the threshold of awareness. I think it will also help you find greater clarity because through experiencing the blissful state of being beyond thought you gain the capacity to find deep inner happiness regardless of external circumstances. As your entire outer world changes you learn to experience the inner, unchanging oceanic state consciousness. It gives you the ability to feel content and peaceful in a constantly changing and sometimes tumultuous world.

Charlie

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Q&A: What's this dream-like, trippy meditative state?

Question:

I would first like to thank you! I attempted meditation for the first time during my college years- bought an enormous book tried to understand everything it wanted me to do sat there time after time trying to "meditate" and finding that I only ended up with a dry throat ;). Fast Forward 16 years & 2 years into practicing yoga. I believe my first success at meditation was in Savasana at the end of a very memorable yoga class... As I lay on my mat, completely surrendered, my mind started to wander...I was no longer in my body. I felt as if I were "tripping" for lack of a better comparison. I have been able to return to that state at the end of a practice and at times it freaks me out. This also occurs while I lay in bed trying to sleep. I am somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness-almost an awake dream-state. I have not attempted to achieve this "at-will" until this am with you. again, as if i am tripping- visualizing people i do not know, scenes i do not recognize... is this normal?

Awake while entering dreams

Answer:

Hi AWED

It's not only normal but also a very desirable state. Many artists, scientists and visionaries have gone to great lengths to get flashes of this state of consciousness. Look up hypnagogia in Wikipedia for a full list of all the amazing people who've used this state of consciousness to achieve great things.

Don't be freaked out by it. Relax into it. You'll find that you can snap out of it at any moment if you need to but when you are deliberately meditating you should let your mind slip into this state whenever you feel it. This is part of becoming comfortable with spiritual experience.

Charlie

Follow up question:

Thank you for your response! I remember when I was much younger, slipping into this state and "jumping" up wanting to draw what I had just visualized. I wish i had learned to just go with it at that time! :) I just read up on Hypnogogia and not only is that EXACTLY what I have experienced both involuntarily and "at-will" but I also certainly have had the phosphenes as well as exploding head syndrome, I have experienced all of these as long as I can remember... In fact, I can recall being a young child closing my eyes at bedtime and experiencing these phosphenes..... I'm going to just go with it- see how deep I can get ;) And definitely spend more time meditating with you.. can you suggest the next course I should take?

Awesome follow up answer:

So cool right? You're also in some pretty great company with a lot of the great philosophers and scientists through history. If you're looking at courses online you should check out my essential guide to meditation. I go much further into many kinds of meditation. If you're in a city that I travel to regularly (L.A., New York, San Francisco, Miami, Sydney Australia, Phoenix) you should come and take a class with me.

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