Live longer and happier

The most effective thing you can do to live longer, happier, and healthier is to meditate regularly. Not only has meditation been proven to reduce stress, which is one of the biggest causes of disease, but it also promotes telomerase activity, which increases longevity by delaying the unraveling of your DNA.

As well as the physical benefits of meditation, there are psychological benefits: spending time developing focus and awareness leads to greater clarity and perspective about your life. This results in choices that are more in alignment with your higher self, that meet your needs more effectively, and that enable you to live a more fulfilled life. My meditation has saved enormous amounts of time by making me more focused and clear when I am not meditating. In meditation I have discovered solutions to difficult problems, and simplifications that have saved a lot of time and effort.

You don’t need to meditate that much. Just get started and meditate a bit every day. When I first started meditating, I did twenty to thirty minutes per day: ten to fifteen minutes in the morning and ten to fifteen minutes in the evening. After only four months, my focus and awareness had increased to the point where I experienced the underlying nature of reality, known as the Tao. That’s how powerful and effective meditation is. However, the goal of meditation can never be to achieve anything, even to know God, or non-duality. For meditation to be effective, the objective of meditation must be only to practice. Practice is leaning into clear, focused awareness. Practice has inherent meaning and satisfaction, which you will discover from experience. In time, all of life becomes practice.

To start meditating, you need to be able to sit upright and still, with a straight spine, for a reasonable amount of time. You might want to sit on a chair with your back away from the back of the chair. Another option is to sit cross-legged on relatively thick cushion that raises your hips above your knees. I sit like this, with my legs in a tailor pose, one closer to my body than the other.

Tailor sitting pose

How I sit to meditate

Meditation cushion

Meditation cushion

There are many different kinds of meditation. One of the most basic, and most powerful, is to pay attention to your breath. This is the technique that led to my experience of the fundamental nature of reality. To do this, you just close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations created by breathing.

You need to to allow your mind to watch the sensations, in the body, that the breathing creates. Notice if you find yourself wanting to control the breath and notice if you are controlling the breath. The process is to relax your mind and allow it to simply watch. Any time you notice that your mind has wandered to some thought about the past or the future, or even a thought about the present, then gently bring it back to the experience of the breath. You may catch yourself paying attention to a present-moment sensation or experience that is not related to your breath. As with thinking, bring your attention gently back to the experience of your breath.

The process is all about watching and witnessing without judgement. If you find yourself judging, then witness that without judging. Sometimes people will say, “I can’t meditate because my mind keeps wandering.” This is a sign that they are meditating. Don’t give up meditating because when you try to meditate your mind wanders. Your mind wanders because you are meditating. The fact that you notice your mind wandering tells you that you are in fact meditating.

In this video, I guide you in watching the breath:

If you want to learn to meditate really intensely and deeply, I recommend learning vipassana, which Buddha discovered and used to free himself from suffering. The best way to do this is at a free 10-day vipassana retreat.

Clear your energy blockages

I’m going to give you a simple model for how to think about mental health. This might not be really how things are, but I’ve found it to be a useful model. In my article on energy psychology, I explained how traditional chinese medicine (TCM) posits that heath and wellbeing result from a free and balanced flow of energy. In this article, I want to explain a little more about how energy blockages operate and how they affect your mental state. Keep in mind that all of this could also be explained in terms of neurophysiology, and I will probably do that at some point in the future. So let’s begin, and I will make it brief.

When you’re feeling any kind of negative emotion, if you pay attention you will notice that it is connected to a physical sensation somewhere in your body. Often the sensation is somewhere along your spine, in the middle of your body, either in your torso or in your head. People who practice yoga would think of this as being a feeling in one of the chakras.

The unpleasant sensation associated with the negative emotion is caused by a blockage of ¬†life energy in one or more of the energy channels, the channels called meridians in TCM. Blockages occur when we stop the energy flowing. This happens when we experience something overwhelming and we don’t think we can handle it; we hold our breath, we tense our body, we dissociate or disconnect from awareness of our body. The amount of energy needed to handle an intense situation is very high and the energy is intended to enable us to handle the situation effectively. These situations tend to occur when we are children and our threshold for feeling scared, overwhelmed, or unsafe is low; being teased, pushed, or ignored, let alone abused and neglected by a parent, can cause blockages. One client had severe relationship issues that were rooted in seeing the boy she liked when she was five-years-old kissing another girl. Stressful or traumatic situations can result in blockages if an adult is overwhelmed and does not allow the energy to flow through. A relationship breakup or a close scrape with death are examples.

Once there is a blockage, it usually appears to go dormant. While it reduces the overall flow of energy in the meridian slightly, the blockage does not seem significant because that part of the meridian is not being used. However, when a situation arises that is similar to the one when the blockage occurred, the blockage again becomes significant, resulting in unpleasant feelings. Because of the unpleasant feelings, we tend to resist the situation, and the flow of energy that is trying to help us handle the situation. In fact, it is the blockage that is resisting the flow of energy and therefore the situation. More energy collects at the blockage, and the blockage increases in size. Sometimes the blockages become so large that normal functioning is no longer possible, as in severe depression, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Because we want to be fully alive, feel the flow of all our energy, and move though life with complete freedom, we tend to unconsciously create situations that activate the blockages, so that we can then clear them. The life energy flowing through us is trying to clear out the blockages so that we can be free.

There are many different ways of clearing the blockages, various different therapies and interventions. One of the most powerful and direct approaches that I have found is emotional freedom techniques (EFT), which I showed you how to use in a recent article.

The less energy blockages you have, the more life energy can flow through your body so that you can adaptively respond to what is happening in any moment. With the blockages, you react and resist life, feeling negative emotions and unpleasant body sensations. Without the blockages, there are only positive emotions and pleasant body sensations. Where once you may have felt anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, and embarrassment, now you feel peace, calm, excitement, enthusiasm, empowerment, inspiration, and generosity.