Discover more from The Daily Meditator
September 2020 TDM
The "Letting Go" issue
Welcome to the September 2020 issue of The Daily Meditator. This is your monthly resource for fun, quirky, interesting, and noteworthy happenings in and around the worldwide meditation community—created by author and meditator teacher, Light Watkins. Written and edited by Jordan Pletzer, Kristen Vandivier, Emerson Wolfe, and Light (our bios are at the bottom).
Our mission is simple: to help broaden the horizon of what a daily meditator looks like while providing you with relevant information and timely inspiration for staying committed to your daily practice.
The “letting go” issue: Ah, making peace with the uncertainty of life. We're in a cultural moment where even the good things feel stressful. Maybe your meditations aren't as deep, or your plans are all going haywire. In this issue, we have advice for embracing uncertainty, new meditation techniques to try, and some fun meditation-adjacent content for your lifestyle needs. We hope you enjoy it - and as always, give us a shout with your feedback!
[ MEDITATION & NEWS ]
Is meditation bumming you out?
Meditation doesn’t always feel like rainbows and kittens. According to a meta analysis performed on 83 meditation-related studies conducted over the last 50 years, meditation may not feel immediately beneficial for everyone.
Of those 83 studies, 55 included at least one report of "adverse effects." The most commonly reported adverse effects of meditation discovered by the researchers are:
Anxiety, reported in 33% of the studies
Depression, reported in 27% of the studies
Cognitive anomalies, reported in 25% of the studies
Gastrointestinal problems, reported in 11% of studies
Suicidal behaviors, reported in 11% of the studies
While those numbers seem large, the total prevalence of adverse effects across all studies was only 8.3%, and even that number was wildly inconsistent depending on the type of study conducted.
But what’s noteworthy is the articles reporting on these studies reinforced the importance of having a teacher to show you how to manage and troubleshoot your experiences. Because emotional tenderness can actually be a sign of progress, if you have someone supporting you through it.
Bottom line: Just because meditation feels adverse doesn’t mean it’s not working. Think of it like sore muscles after a workout, and get support from a teacher if it persists.
[ MEDITATION & LIFESTYLE ]
How is “going with the flow” working out for you?
The LA Times says uncertainty is stressing us out right now. With the pandemic, fires, social unrest, we didn’t exactly need the Times to remind us of that. But, to their credit, they at least offered some solutions:
Let go of expectations and get in the present. When we let go of what we think will happen, it naturally brings our mind to the present where we can perceive things more clearly and adapt with greater ease.
Think of life as a story. Meditation increases our awareness of our “inner witness," or the self-awareness beyond our thoughts and emotions (and anxiety). When you bring your attention to that inner witness, you start to experience life as a fascinating story. No matter what comes, it makes that story more interesting.
When the unexpected happens, roll with it. Raise your hand if almost everything you’ve planned this year has gone up in smoke? See what happens when you don’t resist it, like a surfer who relaxes her body when swept up in a wave. If you can’t do what you’d hoped, try turning your attention to what you can do.
Bottom line: Learning to go with the flow can be hard when the flow is like whitewater rafting, but meditation makes it a bit easier.
[ MEDITATION & RESEARCH ]
Meditation said to be a fix for sleep paralysis
Meditation takes on a new foe: “Old Hag” Syndrome (aka sleep paralysis) Have you ever woken up completely aware of your surroundings, but unable to move? That's sleep paralysis, and it's apparently experienced by one in every five people.
Sleep paralysis can be triggered by sleep deprivation or, more commonly, certain conditions like PTSD or Narcolepsy. There are no empirically-based treatments or published clinical trials for the condition, which has made it incredibly difficult for doctors to manage.
Until now. Patients (who all had narcolepsy) were taught a meditation-relaxation therapy to practice during an episode. They were also instructed to journal about the occurrence, duration, and emotions felt. The control group did deep breathing instead of the therapy and were mostly unchanged by the end of the study, but those who meditated and journaled experienced half as many sleep paralysis nights and reported less terrorizing hallucinations.
Bottom line: We already knew meditation helped with sleep, but waking up is a new one.
[ MEDITATION & POP CULTURE ]
Look who’s meditating for the Common good
Or rather... Common is helping to spread the goodness. Inspired by the fear-based conversations and divisiveness he witnessed during Coronavirus lockdown, Oscar-winning songwriter, rapper, and activist Common sought to create something that would help him stay in a good mental space.
In an interview with Men's Health, Common claims that meditation is integral to social change and racial justice. Common believes in individual healing as part of collective healing, and that it's important for black people to have wellness role models.
He partnered with former Vogue staffer Dayna Carney to create Com&Well, a 6-episode weekly Youtube series dedicated to spotlighting his team of wellness wunderkind.
He talks about the importance of therapy and meditation, cooking vegan meals—Common was inspired to go vegan in the 90's—and even does a bit of gardening with "Gangster Gardener" Ron Finley.
Sponsored by Larabar, each episode includes information about how to donate to a health- and wellness-focused organization in underfunded urban communities. See more in our "What To Watch" section below!
Bottom line: Hopefully, Common inspires us all to be the change we want to see.
[ MEDITATION & APPS ]
Breaking: Neo and Stringer Bell are now meditation guides?
We've been saying that you don't need an app to meditate. And now the #1 meditation app is more than just meditations! The Calm brand is branching out into meditative entertainment with television and music content.
HBO Max is producing a new relaxation-themed TV series called “A World of Calm,” a joint effort between Calm and Nutopia.
The idea is an adaptation of their popular Sleep Stories, using "scientifically-engineered narratives" and featured celebrity voices including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba (aka Stringer Bell from The Wire, for those of you who don’t get the reference), Nicole Kidman, Keanu Reeves, and more.
In the music world, Diplo is taking a break from club bangers to produce ambient music that will be released through Calm. Ellie Goulding has also had four of her songs on the app and Kygo dropped an hour-long track this past June.Bottom line: While Calm is quickly becoming the Spotify of meditation, we’re pretty sure Headspace is in talks with the Obamas to get their spin on the practice.
[ MEDITATION & TECHNOLOGY ]
Now we know what Deepak has been up to during quarantine
Deepak’s @chopra community app is here! Deepak Chopra just launched his new subscription-based app for mind, body, and spiritual health.
Filled with almost 500 meditations and practices between 5 to 30 minutes long, it’s delivered in a way that helps you personalize and track your practice. There is also exclusive content from other well-being experts, including Roger Gabriel, Devi Brown, Jasmine Hemsley, and more.
At $70 a year, the app is a holistic approach to wellbeing, curating a broader approach than Calm or Headspace. More than just meditation practices, you'll find relationship advice, lectures on life purpose, and information on Ayurveda.
The app is only available to download for iOS, but will be coming to Android soon.
Bottom line: We still don’t know how Deepak finds the time to create so much content—the guy’s written over 80 books! Maybe it’s all that meditation?
[ MEDITATION & TECHNIQUE ]
“Death” meditations are not as scary as they seem
Is your criss-cross applesauce style of seated meditation feeling a little bland? Add some spice to your contemplative life! Here are a few techniques to help you add a new dimension to your experience of the infinite:
Death meditation. Between 2020 political chaos, a massive economic recession, and a global pandemic, a lot of people are reaching for reasons to stay alive. But if this were the last year you were alive, what would you do differently? That type of reflection forms the basis of death meditation. And it’s intended to help you realign with your highest priorities.
Nature meditation. Founders of the Outdoor Journal Tour, Kenya and Michelle Jackson-Saulters, know the healing power of combining mindfulness with nature. They founded OJT in 2015 to help women form a deeper connection with nature and those around them. Now this partner-duo lead a community of 31,000 women on monthly meditative hikes with #wehiketoheal.
Animal meditation. We know that yogis developed the system of asana based on the animals around them, but pretending to be actual animals while meditating is a whole new game! Animal Meditations takes listeners inside the experience of being a specific animal in their habitat. Calming and otherworldly, the meditations are exercises in imaginative empathy, connecting the listener to the consciousness and experience of wild animals.
Bottom line: Every technique offers a different experience. Try a few to see what works best for you.
[ REALITY CHECK ]
The reason why you’re having those emotional meditations
Is meditation making your anxiety or sadness worse? A new study (reported above) indicates that meditation could lead to negative outcomes for some practitioners. And it’s true, what’s good for one person isn’t always good for someone else.
However, what these studies don’t take into account is there is the stress release aspect of meditation, which is referred to in some circles as “un-stressing.” Unstressing can feel like a minor increase in negative emotions. And it’s a natural part of meditation process.
Basically, meditation causes the stress stored deep in your cells to release. When this happens, you may feel some of that stress on its way out, in the form of sadness, anxiety, or even boredom. So if you’ve ever had one of those irritable or emotional meditations, you’re just releasing stress.
The good news is, as you release stress with each meditation, your awareness expands. And that allows you to be more intuitive and aware—two key benefits of the practice that improve all areas of life.
Understanding the in’s and out’s of stress release is one of the reasons for learning meditation with a teacher who can help you navigate it and adjust your practice accordingly, especially if you have a history of mental health issues.
Bottom line: Know that whether your practice is rocky or smooth, every attempt counts, and there’s no need to judge it as good or bad.
[ READ. WATCH. LISTEN. ]
Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion
Barbara H. Rosenwein traces our many conflicting ideas about and expressions of anger, taking the story from the Buddha to our own time, from anger’s complete rejection to its warm reception. Rosenwein explores how anger has been characterized by gender and race, and why it has been tied to violence and how that is often a false connection. Rosenwein shows that the history of anger can help us grapple with it today. Read now
Oscar award-winning rapper and long time wellness afficionado, Common, started this Youtube series to highlight the fantastic work by his team of wellness professionals. Together with his personal trainer and vegan chef, as well as some subject-expert friends in gardening and therapy, Common has produced a series to model a little good in times of chaos. Watch now on Youtube.
Listen: Be Calm on Ahway Island
Be Calm on Ahway Island® is a soothing podcast to teach self-regulation and calm to kids. They teach self-soothing techniques and understanding of solutions to everyday situations to help grow your child’s confidence and positive behaviors. Listen Now.
[ REPORT FROM THE FIELD ]
“I think in some ways, meditation has made me more comfortable in my own skin.”
What have you gotten from meditation?
Meditation has taught me to listen to my thoughts instead of identifying with them. Now, when I think things, I have the ability to pause and really examine where that thought may be coming from and how I want to react to it. It has made me much slower to react and a lot calmer in general.
Strangest meditation moment?
When I first started meditating, my hands would levitate! Yep, you read that right. I would sit down, lay my hands on my lap and after about 3-5 minutes my hands would be floating in the air. I Googled it, and I guess it's not really that uncommon, but it definitely caught me off guard the first few times it happened. Now, I just think of it as a cool thing that happens when I really drop into meditation.
Most unexpected benefit of meditation?
I am so much more comfortable with quiet and stillness now. A lot of people need a TV or music on all the time, but these days, I don’t. I can sit comfortably in silence for hours and never have an issue. I actually feel better when it's quiet. I feel more in tune with myself and the world around me. I think in some ways, meditation has made me more comfortable in my own skin.
[ WHO TO FOLLOW ]
Two of our favorite Instagram accounts with a purpose
Diego Perez is the writer behind the pen name Yung Pueblo. The name means “young people" and serves to remind him of his Ecuadorian roots, his experiences in activism, and that the collective of humanity is in the midst of important growth. Through writing and speaking, he aims to support the healing of the individual, realizing that when we release our personal burdens, we contribute to a global peace. His Instagram feed is filled with words of wisdom to aid in our collective healing.
Find his poetry on IG: @YungPueblo
Natalie Is Poetry
Natalie Patterson is a teaching artist, mental health advocate, and activist fostering cultures of growth, curiosity, compassion, and integrity. She was the first female producer and host of the nation's largest poetry venue, Da Poetry Lounge, and recently completed a year long residency teaching poetry as a healing art to youth who are incarcerated. Through her curated words of wisdom on Instagram, Natalie invites her readers to remember that who they are is enough.
Follow her on IG: @NatalieIsPoetry
“ I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.”
― Gilda Radner
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