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Guided meditation for beginners (quietkit.com)
393 points by spaceboy 350 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

I'm a full-blown a cynic, but after OCD and anxiety got the best of me, my therapist recommended I try meditation to both start and end my day, I've started to notice huge improvements.

Can't recommend it enough. It's frustrating at first, the mind will just not stop wandering to worries every 10 seconds, but almost always on cue, the guided meditation would remind me "is you're mind wandering? no big deal, bring your focus back to your breath."

Here's where I recommend starting - http://www.nytimes.com/well/guides/how-to-meditate

There are a few moments now where my mind will go entirely blank, and it's the most relaxing feeling in the world. I still get too excited when that happens to keep it sustained, but I can sense it starting to work.

It's really helpful to check in for a few minutes throughout the day as well. Take something in visually, observe a feeling, listen to what your body is telling you.

Sounds hippy-dippy, sure, and I'm not pretending to be a doctor or make medical recommendations, but for me, It Just Works (TM)

Not hippy dippy at all. Consuming brain CPU, especially types of recursive CPU, is harmful to your mental health. It's also a big waste of time re-worrying about things, but still remains an option for many.

Remember, it's not essential to do no-thinking. Many types of advanced meditation are actually used for focused thinking, such as walking meditation. Just remember that "clinging" is our nature, to the core. Non-clinging is key. Let the thought come, then go as needed. Give it no CPU when it comes and then watch where it goes.

> no big deal, bring your focus back to your breath.

What is the difference between meditation and concentration?

> mind will just not stop wandering to worries every 10 seconds

Can't you just watch a movie( or something similar) to the same effect?

> Can't you just watch a movie( or something similar) to the same effect?

My experience with depression, no. Instead of movies, I played video games. To great effect, my mind was off the things that were bothering me. But it was merely delaying the inevitable, and the wasting of time only added to my stress as I tried to catch up on work (or school work) or lost sleep.

Meditation is (in many of these discussions) about mindfulness, not distracting yourself. You become aware of your feelings, thoughts, situation. Distracting yourself (by sex, alcohol, movies, games, etc.) is the opposite of this mindfulness and often works to set you back far more than the temporary reprieve you achieved from your primary condition.

1. Concentration is one edge of a two edged sword. The other edge is relaxation. You use a balance of concentration and relaxation (not too tense, not too relaxed) and rest your awareness on your object of meditation. The breath, in this case, can be your object. Simply rest your awareness on the breath. Use concentration to keep your mind from drifting, and use relaxation to keep your mind from getting too tense. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLjelIPg3ys

2. If you're watching the movie whilst being aware that you're watching it (watching yourself watching the movie), that is meditation. Otherwise, you're simply distracted from your basic awareness.

I don't understand why these questions are being down-voted; I think they are pretty legit:

Is meditation just a shortcut to the flow state?

I'm also suspicious of guided meditations; I listen to audio books, how is a guided meditation different? Is a movie provably different?

I'm not dissing meditation; I do a breathe focused meditation nearly daily and I occasionally do guided meditations (I'll try these tonight), but there's a large number of practices that loosely fall into the category of meditation and also a large number of possibly worthwhile activities that are booted out. Most people (including me) never seem to question the why of this separation.

How long have you been meditating and how long do you meditate for in both of your daily sessions?

Not OP, but my advice would be to start small.

10 minutes is more than enough to start with. After doing it for awhile, you'll find yourself wanting to increase that time, but just do it gradually.. maybe work yourself up to 20 minutes, but if you ever feel like you don't have the time, just make sure you're doing at least 10 minutes.

When you've been doing it for a while your mind will be blank all the time, which sounds kind of bad but it's actually great, but the interesting thing is once you can control your own thoughts you'll start to realise that not all of them are yours.

People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it. You'll also be able to project them i.e influence people. Those powers known as 'siddhis' are just a fraction of what you can attain.

Much like everything western though guided meditation is a horribly bastardised version of the real thing, if you're interested look into Raja Yoga when you're ready.

Edited: http://www.yogebooks.com/english/atkinson/1906-09rajayoga.pd...

This is the definitive course guide, the first lesson can take a year, 10 years, or a lifetime, don't go past the first lesson till you're ready. You'll know when you are.

I have lots of respect for spiritual people and adherents to both religious and non-religious supernatural practices, but I can't pretend that the association with supernatural beliefs didn't put me off getting into meditation and yoga for a long time, despite the very real empirical benefits. I understand that for you these beliefs (which, whether they are true or not, are not scientifically proven, which is important for me) increase the benefit you get from meditation, but for the non-spiritual these associations are a barrier to entry that must be overcome. I now meditate regularly and love it, but I still have some measure of resistance to yoga.

To quote a renown yogi, "mysticism starts where mastery ends."

Apart from calmness and concentration, a significant benefit provided by such practices is emotion control, meaning you can choose the emotion you want to experience. Not only stimulus and reaction decouple, but you conciously produce stimulus, and choose reactions to foreign stimuli. This concept of real choice is hard to imagine for those who haven't experienced it.

so...why do you call it "supernatural" practice? if you admit that there are very real, empirically verifiable benefits and results, then doesn't that make it part of nature? where's the "super" coming from?

you say "these beliefs are not scientifically proven, which is important for me". What constitutes scientific proof? what do you suppose ought to be proved, that isn't proved? You already admit that there are very real benefits.

A followup question for you: if you meditate regularly now, what do you meditate on? Mindfulness based stress reduction? That's like dipping your toes into an ocean.

I assume that by "supernatural" and "these beliefs", the above poster is referring to the stuff about

> People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it.

> People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it.

I interpreted that sentence as stating that people absorb thoughts and ideas via communication with other people expressing their views. The process of adopting an idea can often be a subconscious one. On more than one occasion, I’ve had friends impart to me some useful piece of knowledge, an interesting piece of trivia or some observation about the world, only for me to point out to them that it was me that shared those thoughts with them in the first place.

It’s useful to understand the source of my thoughts but for my own part, if my memory works at all, it’s doing well to retain thoughts, knowledge or ideas. I’m doing very well if I can also remember the source of the thought. My interpretation of the quoted sentence was that meditation would help one achieve that awareness.

I'm sorry, but your interpretation is simply wrong.


> Siddhis are spiritual, paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise magical powers, abilities, and attainments that are the products of spiritual advancement through sādhanās such as meditation and yoga.

Incidentally, these are some siddhis mentioned in that article:

* Reducing one's body to the size of an atom

* Expanding one's body to an infinitely large size

* Becoming infinitely heavy

* Becoming almost weightless

* Hhaving unrestricted access to all places

* Realizing whatever one desires

* Possessing absolute lordship

* The power to subjugate all

* Knowing the past, present and future

* Tolerance of heat, cold and other dualities

* Knowing the minds of others and so on

* Checking the influence of fire, sun, water, poison, and so on

* Remaining unconquered by others

that's a remarkably similar idea to what Jung called the collective unconscious. is that also a "supernatural" theory? or just psychology?

It depends. Does Jung's idea depend on mind reading? If so, then yes, it would be supernatural.

> When you've been doing it for a while your mind will be blank all the time

As others have suggested, this is hyperbole, verging on proselytising. Whilst there is rigorous scientific evidence for the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness, "blank minds" and other exotic states are anecdotes from those heavily invested in particular religious systems. I have no reason to disbelieve the less fantastical claims such as a blank mind, but I see absolutely no evidence to suggest that they are an inevitable and universal climax of those who practice for long periods.

I think it would be better restated as 'when you've been doing it for a while you can make your mind blank all the time.'[0]

But it turns out that even though this can be really peaceful, it is not as useful as keeping your mind just at the threshold of the blankness, with just enough thoughts and sensations left.[1]

Why? Because you can use this state to investigate the workings of the mind, and to start to see how sensations cause thoughts, which can cause further thoughts and on and on etc. [2]

Meditation in many Buddhist traditions is to be used as a tool of investigation. It makes the mind just calm enough to enable you to study it. It is a form of introspective psychology.

An analogy from fluid dynamics: It can be almost impossible to predict the behaviour of a turbulent fluid, in fact this is one of the few remaining unsolved problems of classical mechanics. But we do have laws for laminar flows.

In the same way, calming the mind just enough, can be a great way to learn more about its workings. And having experiential insight into how your mind works, not book knowledge, literally can change your life. I know it has changed mine.

[0] The four 'Jhanas' (http://www.imsb.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/FourJhanas.pd...)

[1] Access concentration.

[2] Dependent co-arising. (Great analogy on that here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/resona...)

I'd be happy enough with increased focus and less anxiety: that's all I'm aiming for as a daily meditator.

Siddhis and the rest of it I believe as much as I believe in God (not at all).

If this were true I'd expect to see yogis running the world.

Instead, running the world are people who I suspect aren't much into meditation.

Running the world is quite troublesome, and usually, motivated by qualities like greediness, jealousy, &c. Those qualities are very first ones to avoid as you start getting into mindfulness state. Hence even with superpowers (especially with those) yogis should more likely stay away from running the world, just by nature of the things.

Perhaps the overlap between people who meditate and sociopaths is low.

Why would yogis want to run the world?

I don't think the parent said he wanted yogis to run the world.

I believe he said that if yogis could really project their thoughts, it would be a super-power which would enable them to run the world.

The conclusion is that since they do not run the world, they likely do not possess such super-powers.

I do not believe that one can achieve supernatural powers with meditation either (for I have not seen someone with those).

Assuming they have such superpowers, they also need the desire to run the world. Hence, this way of concluding that they do not possess such powers does not seem right.

I like this mental exercise.

I agree that it is possible that they have the mental projection superpower and no desire to run the world. That would make sense, at least from my cursory knowledge of yogis :).

However, their philosophy has a central tenet of minimizing suffering. Wouldn't they use their superpower to eliminate suffering to any extent possible?

And a counter-point to that is, what if they do have the superpower, and they do use it, and that is why there is less suffering in the world than there otherwise would be.

It looks like what we need is a double-blind study.

you're not doing meditation any favors by promoting it in this light.

what's the problem? the concepts in that first lesson on the link/pdf Cozumel shared seem pretty relevant to someone learning the basics of meditation.

Saying it gives you the ability to read minds and inject thoughts into other peoples' minds puts it in the same category homeopathy.

ok maybe not the siddhis related stuff ;-)

what favors is it due? how would you promote it?

This is religious proselytizing.

Meditation definitely has its merits, but...

> People are like radios and broadcast their thoughts, and you'll be picking them up without knowing it. You'll also be able to project them i.e influence people. Those powers known as 'siddhis' are just a fraction of what you can attain.

...now you make it sound like NLP.

What is language except a means to project your thoughts into the minds of others?

NLP literature sometimes makes claims that aren't robustly supported, but it's not really that exotic of an idea.

For those interested in learning more, The Mind Illuminated is by far the best book I've come across on the topic. It's an extremely systematic college level manual for learning how to meditate. The author has a PhD in physiology, has been meditating for 40 years, taught neuroscience for years, and speaks Pali and Sanskrit, so he's able to read and interpret the original Buddhist texts. These combined allow him to teach with a unique depth and precision.

Take a look at the Amazon reviews, and ask yourself if you've ever seen anything so highly rated: https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Illuminated-Meditation-Integrati...

I hope you find it as valuable as I did :)

Frustratingly, you can't get the kindle version if you live in the UK (I actually live in the Netherlands, which Amazon doesn't operate in at all, but my account is from the UK). The kindle version even shows up on the US site until I log in.

EDIT: I tried to use Amazon.nl (they do have a kindle store, just not regular Amazon), they have the kindle version of the book but when I log in after buying it I'm told it's not available in my country

I was just looking too, and it appears there's a separate listing for the kindle version:


You're a fucking hero

It seems you solved the problem, but for the next time: You can add a U.S. address in your Amazon account (any random address will do) and set it as the primary address. Then buy the book, and right after switch the account back to your real address. I think I have even seen Amazon recommend this solution.

Email me (in my profile).

You have to put your email address in the About: box. The email: box on your profile is only seen by mods.

Whoops, thanks for that, fixed now.

It's not in your profile

Thanks, fixed.

The recording seems okay, but I find it really odd that the scripted voice says "feel your chest rise on an in breath, and feel it fall back down on an out breath." Chest-breathing is something to be avoided, especially in mediation, as it creates tension. The proper method of breathing is diaphragm-based breathing, otherwise called belly-breathing.

This is not a trivial issue for meditation, really strange that they get it wrong. They should be saying, "feel your belly rise on an in breath . . . " and there should also be some instruction on proper method of breathing, since many people are unaware of the difference.

I think "proper" is a bit strong. Sure there are some religious systems that prescribe breathing methods, but from my understanding of mindfulness, the entire point is the quality of awareness, not the quality of your breathing.

I don't think it's too strong. Meditation is a wholistic activity, if anything is. It involves putting your entire body in a relaxed state and mind being aware. With bad quality of breathing, which is what you get from "chest-breathing" it is impossible to properly relax. Here's what the mayo clinic says about breathing in meditation:

"Relaxed breathing. This technique involves deep, even-paced breathing using the diaphragm muscle to expand your lungs. The purpose is to slow your breathing, take in more oxygen, and reduce the use of shoulder, neck and upper chest muscles while breathing so that you breathe more efficiently."


I would challenge someone to find any (good) resource on meditation that recommends chest breathing. I'm sure there are resources out there that recommend chest breathing for meditation, but they are either (1) uninformed or simply not carefully edited, as in website we're discussing in this thread, or (2) it's something way different from the normal, garden variety, meditation that beginners should be doing (which website in our discussion is not).

Even with diaphragmatic breathing, your chest moves eventually as your lungs fill with air. I don't think these specific instructions promote controlling your breath by intentionally inhaling into your chest; they seem pretty passive.

Yes, the chest will move very slightly in deep belly breathing. But no, this is not a trivial thing, the focus in breathing should be on the abdomen/belly, which is your center; not the chest, which is a source of tension, and especially full of tension if you're breathing up "into" your chest.

Again, this is not a trivial thing, and you can easily check good sources on breathing (e.g., for meditation, singing, running) that will describe how belly breathing works. Chest breathing is actually not proper breathing in any circumstance; it doesn't use the diaphragm (the muscle designed for breathing purposes); it creates tension and doesn't allow breathing in as much air as belly-breathing; it's something we develop in our too-fast, too-stressful, too-nervous society.

These are just two top results that turned up in search for 'chest breathing' and meditation, you could find many, many more:




As a related note, breathing is of paramount importance in singing, which like meditation requires proper relaxation and deep breathing. Learning to how to belly breathe and get rid of bad habit of chest-breathing is one of the first things you'll learn from any singing instructor.

I have learned to control anxiety, and even fear, by simply pushing it from the chest down into the belly where it gets consumed. This was the phrasing someone used that I picked it up from, and it feels just like that. What I believe is really happening is really a realignment of breathing, just like you describe. It works.

From my experience, you're not supposed to be controlling your breath at all.

The idea of meditation is to just rest the mind on the breath. To let the body do what it does normally and focus on the inhaling and exhaling as a way to clear your mind of other thoughts.

What does it matter how you breathe while you meditate? It's not like you're doing aerobic exercise.

Breathing for meditation is about relaxation. Proper, relaxed breathing, in general, requires breathing using the diaphragm, directing air downward into your belly, not upward into chest. The vast majority of people are unaware of the proper way to breathe, which is one reason it should be one of the first things discussed when learning meditation.

"Although there is a certain logic to breathing with the chest muscles—that is where the lungs are, after all—it is not helpful to use these muscles as the primary tool for everyday breathing. Breathing primarily with the chest muscles makes breathing too labored. The effect is to arouse the sympathetic nervous system and to maintain levels of tension that sap energy and dramatically increase your susceptibility to emotional disturbances. Overusing the chest muscles for breathing is a subtle but major cause of physical and emotional distress."


Wouldn't the most relaxed form of breathing be whatever it is you do automatically? It seems weird to me that the autonomic nervous system would prefer to use a suboptimal muscle group. Furthermore, I find that when I'm exercising I need to force myself to use my diaphragm because of the effort it takes to move my viscera out of the way.

I realize it may seem like the most relaxed form of breathing is however you've been accustomed to breathing automatically, but no, probably the majority of people tend to breathe using chest breathing and it is definitely not the most relaxed sort of breathing. You can't fill your lungs as full, it creates tension in chest, neck, and shoulders, neglects using diaphragm, which is the primary muscle for breathing. Learning (actually re-learning, because we all tend to do it right as young kids) to breathe properly may not feel natural at first, but that doesn't mean it's not the best way. If you overthink things by creating a (false) mental image of it being harder you may sabotage your efforts, though. Don't take my word for it, take a look at meditation resources, singing resources (singing well -- and also playing any woodwind or brass instrument -- requires natural relaxed breathing), general health resources on breathing. All distinguish belly-oriented breathing (good) from chest-oriented breathing (generally bad, suboptimal).

Example of a general resource: http://www.wikihow.com/Breathe

And another: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-breathe-correctly/

As a real world example, you may be able to notice in yourself how when you become nervous or scared your body becomes tense and you tend to chest breathe. Focussing on belly breathing in a case like this can actually calm your emotions as well as your body, dissipate the fear or nervousness, help you gain control over your fear.

> You can't fill your lungs as full

> neglects using diaphragm, which is the primary muscle for breathing

Which are bad because...? These two have nothing to do with whether it's a relaxed activity or not, by the way.

> it creates tension in chest, neck, and shoulders


> singing resources (singing well -- and also playing any woodwind or brass instrument -- requires natural relaxed breathing)

Singing or playing a wind instrument are not relaxed activities. In both cases the breathing muscles are being used to force air through a resonator to produce sound. Search images of trumpetists or classical singers and tell me that's how a relaxed person looks like to you.

> As a real world example, you may be able to notice in yourself how when you become nervous or scared your body becomes tense and you tend to chest breathe. Focussing on belly breathing in a case like this can actually calm your emotions as well as your body, dissipate the fear or nervousness, help you gain control over your fear.

If you have time to think about your breathing then whatever is scaring you can't be so bad. Focusing on a specific thing, no matter what it is, will distract you long enough to calm you down a bit. Haven't you heard that thing about counting to ten when you get angry? Same thing.

Look, I'm not arguing that using the diaphragm is not the most efficient in terms of energy expended / volume of air exchanged. I'm a trained athlete, so if I didn't know this I would just pass out within seconds when I work out. I'm saying that once you're exchanging sufficient air to cover the aerobic budget of whatever it is you're doing, exchanging more will accomplish nothing. If breathing with your chest is enough to cover it, for example, while sitting (as it clearly is, as no one has ever suffocated from doing it), then for breathing with the diaphragm to be more efficient it has to expend less energy per inhalation. So far you have done nothing to show that this is the case.

I sense resistance, grasshopper. ;)

Seriously, most of what you say is flat out wrong. But there's nothing I can say that will change your mind. If you have any interest in finding out more I would encourage you to check out the acknowledged experts on meditation, singing, woodwind-playing, etc. They'll confirm what I've said. If at that point you still want to dispute what the experts say, what the most experienced people tell you, that's something that, for me, would make me start turn inward and question my own instincts/thoughts/motivation.

Dalek Relaxation Tape


It relaxes me just knowing that it exists!

I hate guided meditation... to me this is complete opposite of what meditation should be.

You can do this initial few times, but after that, you don't need any voice but your own in your head. That is if you are really doing meditation, if you want to pretend... then headspace yourself.

Again, this is my view as someone who actually meditated for like 20+ yrs.

I hate training wheels on my bike... to me this is complete opposite of what riding a bike should be.

You can do this initial few times, but after that, you don't need any help but your own sense of balance in your head. That is if you are really riding a bike, if you want to pretend... then continue using training wheels yourself.

Again, this is my view as someone who actually rode a bike for like 20+ yrs.


Comes off a bit snarky, doesn't it?

I think I see what you are trying to convey, and wrote the above so that others could get a feel as well, using a more tangible analogy.

:) It did came out quite a bit snarky. Completely justified criticism. It was late in a day.

Oh, and I did rode my bike for more then 20+ years. I can prop it on back wheel and do few stunts even today. Impresses my kids.

However it came out, I appreciate you sharing your experience and point of view. As someone who is off of training wheels on the bike but still on commercial guided meditation courses, it's great to know that there's a lot more to come.

Based on your tone and use of sarcasm, I'd say your 20 year practice needs work.

I think you are projecting a lot, just because someone meditate a lot, he is some Yoda like person. I am not. I enjoy meditation and benefits I got from it are numerous. However I am still flawed human being.

But on meditation front, I did accomplish quite a lot, during waking hours when you measure my brainwaves, alpha is pronounced like it is with people when they are relaxing.

And since English is my second language, I am not sarcastic.

For those who might be interested in additional resources, a classic treatment of discursive meditation in the Western Christian tradition, a.k.a. "mental prayer," can be found in the Fifth Treatise (pp. 247–354, original numbering) of Fr. Rodriguez's masterpiece:


And here is a fine essay on Lectio Divina, written sometime in the early 2000s:


To add on, I've been interested in Vinay Gupta's approach to meditation, which he recently codified/packaged with some other folks into an app: http://cuttingmachinery.org

It basically revolves around an hour of meditation, but switches from mantra, to open awareness, to feeling negative emotions in 10 minute intervals. I'm probably not going to say this correctly, but I believe the intent is to get beyond just the ability to feel calm but have a better awareness of things (how we interact in the world, our emotions, how much it really matters, etc.) in our lives. There's also a multi-part podcast interview of him (which led to the app) starting at http://futurethinkers.org/enlightenment-vinay-gupta/

"The guided meditations from QuietKit offers three main benefits to anyone who uses them:

Decreased stress and anxiety

Increased focus

Increased mindfulness (the ability to be aware of what's occurring at any given moment, but being able to choose how to act, as opposed to just reacting)"

Are those three benefits purely anecdotal?

There has been quite a bit of research surrounding mindfulness meditation for a couple decades now.

Here are some cursory studies addressing your three questions. They are easy to find on Google Scholar.

Decreased stress and anxiety http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2010.0142

Increased Focus (specifically for people on the ADHD spectrum) http://www.ahc.umn.edu/img/assets/20825/MindfulnessADHD-Zylo...

I have to imagine mindfulness is a difficult concept to disentangle from meditation itself, however there do seem to be attempts to create measures for this: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1073191107313003

Here's a meta-analysis summarizing many studies about the effects of meditation. Effect sizes seem consistently positive albeit on the smaller side: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-012-0101-x

No, there's a ton of science on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in treating stress, anxiety, depression (where it is as good or superior to any medication) as well as ADHD, drug addiction, etc. It's really a shame that American/Western culture denigrates meditation/mindfulness as "hippie dippie shit" because it is an astoundingly, life alteringly powerful life skill that absolutely everyone should learn.

Is your question addressing QuietKit or meditation in general?If the later the results, some of which you have mentioned, are definetly not purely anecdotal see:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_on_meditation

My money is on yes, unless they've developed a unit of measurement for focus and mindfulness which seems unlikely.

A couple of things: If you want to learn meditation find yourself a teacher who will be able to guide you with your specific and personal needs, advantages and deficiencies in focus, character and views on outside world and on yourself, through this process. We are never taught what meditation is and how to do it right. None of the sources mention such important pre-requsite as understanding of human energy movement in breathing, human energy anatomy and physiology. So if you want to play with meditation is one thing, doing thing right will mean you have to have guidance.

Second, As Salvador Dali said: don't be afraid of perfection, you will never reach it. Blank minds is a good but also a very hard and advanced concept beginner meditators will most likely not reach. It is very hard for the uninitiated person (by previous karma or other spiritual training) who is used to focus attention on outward to be able to go inward, let along still the mind. The best way is to distract your mind from 'uncomfortable' nothingness with count while you are doing breathing and visualization.

I'm probably an ideal candidate for meditation because just the thought of it is nearly unbearable. "Wasting a whole ten minutes doing nothing?!"

But it's hard for me to get past the feeling that it's a waste of time. As someone who is on public transit for two hours a day, and an owner of a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones - I wonder if I could make use of that time by doing this. Guess I'll give it a try.

I've dabbled in meditation, and I should certainly keep up with it because I noticed benefits as well, I just lack the self discipline. But your situation of "I'm too busy to meditate" reminds me of the old Zen quote that goes something like: "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you're too busy, then you should sit for an hour."

Definitely! I notice substantial gains from meditation almost immediately. Public transit can be extra challenging, but can also be helpful - in the way that you're supposed to let thoughts arise and then float away, you also let sensations arise and float away. If transit is crowded, you'll have more of those to actively let go of :D

At a basic level, meditation is literally practicing letting shit go. This is useful, for instance, when people write bad code that really - you get the idea.

Note: Definitely do NOT try to "squash" thoughts. Let them show up and float on away. This is not a goal oriented activity; you don't have to maintain an empty mind for two minutes, let alone two hours of transit. You'll notice more of what to do as you do it more, if that makes sense.

It's not doing nothing though, you're actually training your mind, but because you have to use your mind to train your mind you have to do so indirectly. It's very much like Mr. Miyagi training Daniel karate by getting him to paint fences and wax cars. The skills develop sub-consciously, but with practice, the skills still come.

Learning how to "empty your mind" or more accurately to simply be a thought-spectator while avoiding getting swept away by thoughts as they flow through your mind may seem like "doing nothing". But imagine how useful it is to have those skills when you're trying to concentrate on something else? If you can avoid being swept away by random thoughts when you have nothing else to hold your attention, think you'll be better at concentration when you do have something? And that's just the tiniest benefit.

if you're meditating _only_ when you have circumstances of forced confinement or limited options you won't really be able to get into the meditative state. that's just time filling. you'll probably end up day-dreaming rather than meditating. just read a book or something instead.

the purpose of meditation is to develop an awareness of the processes of your mind. doing so requires you to temporarily suspend your grasping consciousness. for a little while, you will have absolutely no goals and objectives. when you observe your mind under those conditions you will see your self in a new light.

There’s also a well-known affect on blood-pressure (lowering) that comes from the breath control that’s at the core of most meditation practice.


I don’t think that the cause of this is completely understood, but CO2 is a potent vasodilator. I’ve seen hatha yoga (physical yoga) practioners ditch hatha for prana-yoga (breath yoga) because they said it's a more powerful way to get to wherever yoga takes you.

One small nit to what you've said. Breath control is core to yogic practices, as you've mentioned, but it is not part of most meditative practice. Meditation typically involves breath awareness, but specifically not control. The idea is to observe the breath as it is, not how we would like it to be.

I'm not the OP, but it is an important distinction, breath control (pranayama) is yogic.

While I can't speak for other traditions that feature meditation, at least in Theravada Buddhism, training of the breath is an essential part of the practice for the development of mindfulness (sati), beyond "observing the breath as it is." This gets de-emphasized in the modern vipassana movement focusing on "bare attention", but canonical interpretations of the Anapanasati Sutta [1] on the mindfulness of breathing to indicate that one only uses bare attention to "discern" long and short breaths, but "trains" oneself to become aware of the whole body, to calm bodily fabrication, and the rest of the items on the list. This is taken to mean that one can use right effort to breath in ways that are conducive to being aware of the whole body or ways of breathing that calm bodily fabrication, etc. So, while definitely not as gross as counting fixed durations like on the site linked, exerting oneself to influence the breath has a place in at least one very prominent non-yogic tradition.

[1] http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.118.than.html (perhaps the second most important sutta related to meditation in the Pali Canon, next to the Maha-satipatthana Sutta [2])

[2] http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html

And yet another nit must be picked. Breath awareness is simply one way to meditate. There are a broad array of different meditation techniques and some do involve breath control.

http://www.10percenthappier.com is my meditation for skeptics site. Worth checking out as well. They have a lot of good videos and a podcast.

meditation is to become happier, make more money etc

I started getting into meditation a few years ago after realizing the reason the world felt less 'real' than it used to was because I could never 'get out of my head' and have more direct interactions with external things. (For example, I finally went to Tokyo and moved to San Francisco and the difference each made was pretty minor—like looking at high res photos on the internet; it was a stark contrast to when I visited NYC seven years prior and was blown away just walking around. ) It soon became my number one priority after also realizing that all the times I remembered really enjoying myself, I was in that 'out of my head' state (you have a much better sense of presence, the 3Dness of things is much more apparent, smells, tastes, interpersonal interactions are all way richer).

Anyway, I decided to make a wide survey of meditation resources from old religious texts to modern neuroscience inspired teaching, to a number of things in between.

The first source that really made things click for me was watching some of the youtube videos from Ajahn Brahm. He's English, but trained as a monk in Thailand for many years, and has a background in physics. I think it's a combination that makes him pretty well-suited to explaining these concepts to techy Westerners. He's also got a light, humorous style to his lecturing, so it's easy to watch (if a bit cringeworthy [due to corniness] at times. And you'll get an occasionally bit of religiosity [he is a monk after all], but he mostly keeps it out.) I'd recommend this one for starters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEw2mHpVv9A

I also found bits of Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Full Catastrophe Living" to be very helpful in the early stages (it focuses on another form of meditation called 'body scan' which has some unique benefits, and can be easier for beginners. It's often the choice of style when teaching for therapeutic purposes).

Edit: I'll also add the way I see meditation instruction fitting into the practice: there aren't that many concepts, but each has extraordinary depth, so you just have to keep revisiting regularly; you'll often find that if you've improved in your practice, you can go back and see the same old lecture and interpret it totally differently, even though it made a kind of sense the first time. You'd think you wouldn't need to be told, e.g., "just allow your thoughts to arise and disappear on their own" like a hundred times, in different ways—but you probably do :)

A question, and one that probably shuns any kind of methodical thinking and science, but there's always talk about 'rewriting' or 'rewiring' the brain. Plasticity and all that stuff.

Are there thoughts I -should- be thinking, patterns I -should- be training or ideas I -should- be following to maximise the positive changes meditation has the potential to bring?

Most of the day we are aware of our 5 senses. We notice new sounds, new sights, and new sensations. But many times we don't notice new thoughts, new emotions, and new feelings. We're blind to ourselves most of the the day.

When we practice mindfulness we practice listening, seeing, and feeling our thoughts. The whole point is to strengthen the awareness of our mind. Allowing us to notice changes to our inner world as we notice changes to our outer one.

The way we practice this is by focusing on our breath, and noticing when our mind wanders. I first thougt the important part of meditation was the focusing. It wasn't. It was the noticing. That's what we're training when we meditate. And that's the part that we're rewiring.

^^ this.

You can do that. I don't know about the science but I suspect you could find some studies on "loving kindness" meditation, which is basically a Buddhist tradition of reinforcing nice emotions and thoughts.

The keyword is "default mode network". You finde quite some publications on the effects of meditation on it:


In Zen training, one of the fundamental thought-patterns (if you want to call it that) is examination of the self. To be more explicit, it is sometimes posed as the question "who is it that is doing the thinking?" "who is the observer and who is the observed?"

The problem with trying to convince people to try meditation is that it's a very "darmok" type of conversation, it's like trying to explain purple to someone who is color blind. Meditation is one of the most complex and subtle and yet also one of the most simple things imaginable, it's very difficult to accurately sum-up everything going on with it not only in a succinct way but in a way that is completely understandable to people who have no experience with it. I'll give it a shot nevertheless.

First off, understand that the way skills of the mind work are like any other skills. The more you practice, the better you will become at them, and the more conscious control you will have over them. Think about something like throwing a baseball. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it, but eventually you do get better. And then you set up "hooks" from your conscious mind (certain triggers in the way you hold the ball and stand, etc.) that bridge the connection to the unconscious hand/eye coordination parts of your mind. Something similar can happen with purely mental things as well. You can use classic training techniques (stimulus/response etc.) to train just about anything you want, though in practice it's been discovered that a few specific kinds of skills are more important than others.

Think of it this way. Do you have any activities you do to relax? Do you have any comfort foods? Do you have a favorite shirt or piece of clothing that boosts your confidence? Do you have any phobias or fears? Do you have any pet-peeves (like bad drivers on the road)? All of those things are actually learned behaviors. But all of them are based on external, physical triggers. Maybe your response to eating your comfort food was built up over years of being raised in a loving household and a particular food item reminds you of that. And then eating that comfort food later also reinforces its place as a comfort food because you will have previously used it for comforting and found it to work. Have you ever watched a storyline on television or in the movies where someone has been given something like a drug or a lucky talisman or something and gone on to be successful and confident with some activity only to discover that they were tricked by their friend who gave them the thing and in actuality it was a placebo, and the confidence/talent was in themselves all along? Meditation is the same way. Imagine having a lucky shirt that makes you feel more confident when you wear it. But then imagine spending a lot of time practicing pretending you're wearing the lucky shirt whenever you want to, giving you the ability to have that "lucky shirt" feeling whenever you want to. Think about all of the other ways people try to influence their own mental state through external behaviors (going on walks or drives, taking a bath, taking a vacation to get out of a rut, listening to music, etc.) and imagine if you could go into the brain and, say, "going on a long drive in the country" with just a lever that you had control of. Everyone already engages in these sorts of behaviors to change their own mental state, they just start with external methods of triggering those changes.

So that's one aspect of it, but it's hardly all of it. Brains are complicated machinery, and mastering them is equally complicated, and subtle. Another major aspect is mindfulness and "being mode". It's very easy for humans to get stuck in "doing mode", so much so that people tend to think of it as synonymous with existence. Doing mode is how your brain gets shit done, and it can be very effective. It has to be, because it was evolved in an era when not being able to complete objectives could translate to death from a million different potential sources. Doing mode is like a PID controller, it's constantly examining the separation between the desired state and the actual state, and driving towards lessening the gap in every way possible. It's great if you're trying to escape a leopard or avoid starvation, but it has some negative consequences in our modern world where the things that your brain might think about wanting to get done are not exactly easy to get accomplished within a few minutes. Indeed, the brain's "doing mode" mechanisms are the source of a lot of unnecessary rumination and negative self-talk which cause or greatly enhance a lot of unhelpful mental problems like depression and anxiety. Moreover, doing mode has tunnel vision. It is a furious optimizer and will constrain your experience of the world down to the essentials for getting something done. If you've ever done something on "autopilot", had to re-read a section of a book several times, or done something like scarfed down a meal while multi-tasking with something else, you know what this is about.

Unfortunately, these traits cause doing mode to often burden us with anxieties, depression, and a diminished level of perception of the world. The most direct cure for the excesses of doing mode is to learn "being mode" or mindfulness. In being mode you learn that thoughts are just thoughts, they aren't "you" intrinsically nor are they inescapable. You learn to reconnect with your senses and your experiences as they happen. This can have a profound impact on life because being able to acknowledge a thought in your head, say to yourself "this is a thought, but it's just a thought, I can think it or not, but it's not necessarily me, nor is it inescapable" can rob a stream of negative self-talk (in anxiety or depression) of its power. And experiencing the world mindfully in the moment is almost inevitably a way to improve your happiness. This is very much a "stop to smell the roses" sort of thing, but in a "you're already smelling the roses, just connect with that experience and actually allow yourself to experience smelling them" sort of way.

A lot of mindfulness is based on acceptance and compassion, which are cornerstones to how the whole system works. It's not about forcing yourself to "get better" at some skill. It's about putting out feelers to connect with your experiences, finding what's there, carefully and compassionately acknowledging what's there, and moving on. You don't have to force yourself to do or think anything special, but by engaging in practices regularly you'll often see changes regardless. Accepting is about accepting the good and the bad, experiencing it, and being sufficiently mindful to let it pass through you rather than control you. Often these practices have a strong positive impact on people, but the irony is that if you try to force that sort of control right out of the gate you'll often fail.

It can be unbelievably powerful though. I've had times of having very serious negative thoughts that might push me into a bad mood spiral come bubbling up and experienced moments where I simply acknowledged the thoughts as just thoughts and then watched (mentally) from the sidelines as those thoughts were robbed of all power and just dissipated instead of drowning me in sadness. I almost cried experiencing that for the first time.

So much of mindfulness and meditation is about shifting your perspective with respect to your body, your mind, your self, your feelings, and the world. Through practice you build up skills in taking more control over your mind, because in a lot of ways those skills have to be built up subtly, without necessarily directly aiming for them. One of the big ones is just basic breathing meditation where you sit, concentrate on your breathing and basically watch as your thoughts go by. Is the point to have no thoughts? No. Is the point to have only very specific thoughts? Not really? Is the point to beat yourself up if your mind wanders? Quite the opposite. But the thing is, if you sit and just do that on a regular basis you're going to get better at watching thoughts go by in your mind, and ironically you'll end up having more control over that process. Think of what happens when you're trying to concentrate on a task? You get distracted by other thoughts and stimuli (also thoughts). Imagine if you'd spent a lot of time practicing just watching thoughts pass by without letting them hook you and take you away. Think you'd be better at concentrating?

If you want to try meditation / mindfulness with minimal effort just set aside a few minutes every once in a while and spend some time where the only thing you're consciously doing is breathing and being a spectator for your own thoughts, watching them go by, discovering when you've become distracted by one and simply acknowledging the inevitability of that happening before returning to your brief period of thought-watching.

The end result isn't turning into a Jedi or a Wizard or developing a special power. It's being able to connect with yourself, increase compassion and understanding of yourself, and to be able to be in the moment and present in your own life, experiencing it with fullness and richness (the good and the bad) without being shunted off to autopilot all the time, and being able to not be subject to the whims of your own self-criticality.

1) clear your mind of the chatter

2) soon you might have euphoric experiences. Go past them

3) learn what enlightenment is. Head towards it

4) find other like-minded people to meditate with (at a Zen center, for example)

Curious to hear from folks who have consistently meditated for a prolonged period of time (6mos+). What effects have you noticed?

Don't do it as much now, though have consistently over long periods in the past. Some benefits I experienced (subjective):

- Thoughts do not have a grip over how I act as often. - probably related, lower likelihood of compulsively doing things.

- Feeling more collected and relaxed in traffic and 'stressful situations.'

- More likely to be able to pay attention to who I am talking with, what I am doing, etc, right now instead of thinking of things besides that.

- Start of realization that who I am is not the internal dialog and procession of thoughts. This one is hard to explain. I think I am certain things due to my thoughts; that's just my thoughts though.

- Noticing that thinking constantly about things using language puts reality into categories that are essentially made up.

Anyway, your experience may be different. I highly suggest trying it.

> - Start of realization that who I am is not the internal dialog and procession of thoughts. This one is hard to explain. I think I am certain things due to my thoughts; that's just my thoughts though.

This one for me is huge. You are not your thoughts. Took a really long time to understand.. it's almost like I am two people, the one who is thinking and the one who observes the thinking. Helps me distance my emotions and reflect on them in a more rational way (not obsess over mistakes, or worry too much about the future).

Just to expound a bit, since I've had the same revelation during meditation...

Buddhists believe that the mind is another sense, just like sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The only difference is that it's a sense that devoted to looking inward instead of outward. And during meditation you can really start to see it as such. In the same way that you can let your eyes glaze over and see without processing the images or tune out what you're hearing, you can think without paying attention to your thoughts. It's can be trippy to experience, especially when you have the related revelations that pain or other discomfort is, similarly, just a thought that you can likewise ignore.

>- Noticing that thinking constantly about things using language puts reality into categories that are essentially made up.

This is a revelation of even higher magnitude for me. Especially if you are multilingual, you notice how many of your ideas about the world are shaped (or at least influenced) by the language you use, which might be helpfull to some, and limiting to others. I think this is what Wittgenstein wanted to express in his famous quote: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world"

Actually what's happening is a bit different.

The one who observes the thinking arises in relation to what is thought ("the one who is thinking"--in your words).

This means that as the thought changes from one to the next, the one who observes the thinking also changes.

The thought and it's observation arise together, and pass away together. This is followed by the arising of another (different) thought and corresponding observation of that thought.

Prior to perceiving this inconstancy of observation/consciousness whatever consciousness that arises is identified as I, mine, that I'm within it, or that it's within me.

When perceiving inconstancy of consciousness, whatever change of consciousness that arises is understood as just another change and is not identified with as me/mine/etc.

If you have not seen it already, you may find the concept of the bicameral mind an interesting read.

6 months is not a prolonged period of time. ;)

So benefits:

  * mental clarity when unnecessary thoughts go away an only the one you need remains
  * problem solving - look at a problem and solution just pops up
  * stronger mind, doesn't get tired as easily
  * jump in efficiency in everything
  * increased sensitivity to other people's emotions and intentions
  * spiritual growth (realisation that you are not your thoughts is one example, as mentioned below)
  * opening your "heart" and letting go of emotional issues
  * inner peace :)
Important to note that this is from serious meditation practice beyond simple mindfulness and learned in person from a master.

I went from being the most anxious, scattered mind person in the room to the most calm and focused. I went all in - 4 hours a day for over a year. But it's made a huge difference. It's given me many insights into life - one of which is that you ultimately choose whether you want to be happy in life.

I've been meditating daily for about a year. Not what many people would think of as serious practice. Just 10 minutes at a time, a few times daily. I notice much less anxiety. Less depression, better mood. Easier to fall asleep. After only a few months, it became very easy to completely quiet my mind anytime, in a matter of seconds. My mind is quieter throughout the day. In particular, I hardly get into negative trains of thought at all. It hasn't changed my life or made me especially more effective, but it has made life far more bearable.

The 2 types of meditation that I practice I are mindfulness and concentration. Mindfulness practice has enabled me to become aware of the arising of unskillful compulsions, the habitual patterns of thought which give rise to them and to halt their progress. Concentration practice, on the other hand, builds the muscle of attention so that it becomes easier to stay focused and fully absorbed on whatever target you select. I have found that the combination of the 2 has enabled me rewire less skillful habitual patterns of thought and to replace them with more skillful patterns.

Recommendations on where to get started with both in manageable chunks of time?

Fairly anecdotal but for me it took just over 4 months of sitting on my butt (once or twice for about 20 minutes a day) before I "got" it. Once whatever it is that clicked for me, I was able to step into a deep state (deep for me, anyways) in about 5 minutes.

I've fallen out of practice (and am failing to keep my new year's resolution!), but I would very much like to get back in to it. The resilience it can provide almost feels like having a secret weapon.

YMMV. Ehipassiko!

It slows down my mind. Enough to better grasp ideas and emotions. It helps controls any anger outburst or that rush of the thoughts you get when something upsets you. It teaches you to let go.

The thing is, every one will benefit differently from it. Nobody can really tell you what it feels like, you have to experience it.

The benefits are subtle but I am more aware of my emotions. Things that used to upset me don't have this deep impact anymore. I feel I am more deliberate in how things affect me.

But I also studied a lot with Buddhists. I am not sure if meditation only without guidance of a teacher will have much of an effect.

I've been doing it off and on to varying degrees for over 10 years, more intensely lately as part of mindfulness based cognitive therapy. I'll throw in some anecdotal stories:

- Feeling anxious, stressed, or grumpy, realizing it, taking a moment to take a breath, let my shoulders relax, and trigger myself to become calmer and more collected. Two years ago I experienced a life-altering situation involving a medical situation with a family member that involved basically non-stop stress for a full week. Every single day when I got in my car to go home I just broke down crying in a way I've never done in my entire life until then, and then every morning it felt like I had to reassemble my component parts to become a functional human again and do what needed to be done. Being able to center myself and keep my anxiety and stress in check when it was at risk of running away was hugely important not only to getting through that experience and having it strengthen me rather than destroying me but also to getting the things done that needed doing (which had a positive life-altering impact on my family member as well).

- Something as small as coming out of a grocery store and being disappointed by the rain then taking a moment to breathe and relax then walking through the rain and just accepting it without feeling annoyed or inconvenienced by it.

- Something as big as feeling a big self-critical thought bubble up in my brain, the sort of thing that could easily cause a plunge into a depressive mood for a while, acknowledging that it's just a thought and that it is neither intrinsically true nor intrinsically something I have to get caught up in, then feeling it dissipate and go away, powerless.

- Being able to recognize when I'm living life too much on autopilot then having the ability to basically reach out and turn up the volume dial on experiencing the world.

If you work on it enough you get to a state where you can reach into your toolkit and pull out various tools to deal with different experiences and situations. Being able to recognize those situations as amenable to tool use and being able to actually use those tools and watch them work can be enormously empowering and satisfying.

It might be worth visiting a Zen center in your area to meditate with monks. Meditating alone, it's harder to focus.

Is it better to meditate with the sound of rain as provided with quietkit, or no sound at all?

If you happen to be a quiet place it will likely be easier to concentrate without the rain sounds. "Easier" in this sense is a bit relative, however. An environment with fewer external distractions will lead to a selection effect where you "catch" yourself more frequently and return back to the breath. Thus, you may feel like you're not concentrating well, since you "keep getting distracted." It's kind of like the Dunning-Kruger effect of the beginning meditation :)

On the other hand I find music and background conversations especially distracting and like to listen to pink-noise or other non-varying noise sounds to make concentrating easier.

whatever works for you

Has anyone experienced an improvement in any physical diseases/ailments from meditation?

I think meditation's primary effect, perhaps its only noticable effect for most, is lowered anxiety via learning how to focus thought which tends to lead to less worrying and such. Less anxiety means better sleep, earlier bedtimes, less cortisol in the body, etc. Over time these can affect us physically in an beneficial way.

An eight week mediation course shrinks the part of the brain involved in anxiety:


From an anecdotal perspective I found taking a anti-cortisol herb (Rhodiola and Ashwaganda) gave me a comparable, but stronger, effect compared to what 30-45 minutes daily meditation gave me.

Meditation lowers cortisol:


Sort of. I have an autoimmune disease affecting my thyroid. When the thyroid is in hyper mode, I tend to get anxiety and panic attacks. Meditation has helped me a lot with those if the flareup is not severe.

Because the result of meditating can be less stress overall. And stress is known to "aggravate" the immune system. It might lead to better wellbeing when talking about autoimmune diseases. But they do progress slowly so other factors could also be at play here.

Unfortunately, not much is known about autoimmune diseases. There are a few theories(strong immune system, weak immune system, virus, contaminants..) but nothing conclusive yet. I try to stick to published and peer reviewed research when looking up information rather than mommy bloggers but not much is known for these diseases.

Overall, I'd say introducing meditation as a frequent practice has been a positive thing in my life. Whether or not it helps with any chronic disease.

is better practice meditation not alone, but with a master or an experienced practicer of many years. Meditation can bring to light unconscious content. In ashtanga yoga of Patanjali (yoga sutra) the meditation (dhyana) is considered an high state of practice. For general relax and for stress, is better learning yoga(for example yoga nidra and some light pranayamas), some forms or chi kung and/or taichi

It would be funny the narrator... "Now I'm slowly reaching into your pocket... to steal some of your money..."

I'm usually freaking out all the time in my mind... "Oh god oh god oh god... this and that..." I find showering is where I collect my thoughts. Think about some problem I'm trying to solve. I don't know.

I use the app "Headspace" as a meditation beginner. The monthly price after the first 10 sessions is a little steep (can't remember the exact price) but there's a lot of extremely high-quality content covering mindfulness in almost every aspect of life. I think it's worth the price.

I used this and got upto the 30min sessions. After a while Andys voice becomes counterproductive....but definitely good to get into it.

Seconded. I find Headspace enjoyable and very low on woo.

I'm a little late on commenting, but I'm gifted with Aphantasia. I've found it naturally contributes to meditation as I experience no visuals in my mind's eye. No visuals means no-thinking if you can wrangle the internal dialog under control.

Are there any similar resources in spanish? I'm interested in passing this info to my wife, but unfortunately her english is not so good, so it would be a problem for her to follow the guides in the comments.

I can recommend the App Insight Timer. It is free and distributes user-uploaded guided meditations. Lots of languages and content to choose from! Highly recommended! edit: here is a link to their spanish content https://insighttimer.com/meditation-playlists/spanish-medita...

thanks! I'll check it

Cool! Love to see anything that promotes mindfulness and makes it more accessible to folks. Interesting that the sessions are so short -- I'm not sure I've seen anything shorter than 10 minutes before.

https://smilingmind.com.au/ is a great resource to get started as well.

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