PodcastSeason 1

Meditation & Breathing

Easy Advice for Beginners From Dr. Christopher Willard of Harvard Medical School

S1 E2 45 minutes

You probably know meditation is good for your health, but may be deterred by a common overemphasis of its spiritual components. Perhaps, like our hosts, you imagine meditation to be like floating on a cloud, chasing enlightenment, kind of like a modern-day Buddha. Discover the practical elements of meditation as Lianne and Corey share giggle-worthy stories from a 3-day meditation retreat they attended in Kerala, India, and interview Dr. Christopher Willard of Harvard Medical School.

Having practiced meditation for over 20 years and even met the Dalai Lama, Dr. Willard is a full bottle on all things mindfulness and meditation. He shares personal experiences and insights that combine the spiritual and scientific sides of meditation, covering topics like physical and mental benefits of regulating breathing, self-awareness, and the importance of teaching mindfulness to children.

Let's explore the wide world of meditation together.

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Get To The Point

0:48 What to Expect Summary of episode 2

1:31 Quick Quote By Anne Frank

1:44 Focus On… Meditation. What does it mean for an Average Joe like us?

2:19 Meditation Retreat Hosts' giggly experience in India

6:25 Dig Deeper Why meditate? What benefits can it bring to you?

7:40 Expert Interview Dr. Christopher Willard on meditation, breathing, teaching mindfulness to children, and meeting the Dalai Lama

41:23 Interview Digestion Key takeaways from interview

43:17 Take it Further Recommended books & apps

Show Notes

Meditation: a practice where an individual uses a technique such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to train attention and unawareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm, stable state.

One type of meditation to try is Open Monitoring Meditation, where you pay attention to all of the things happen around you, simply noticing them without reacting. This might seem like a direct contrast to the common understanding of meditation, which involves a more singular focus.

Whether you're a beginner or long-time meditator, check out Kin-Hin Zen Meditation Centre in Kerala, India to learn more about mindfulness, get comfortable simply sitting with yourself, and practice sitting and walking meditations.

By setting out-of-reach goals, like meditating for a full hour, people can get the wrong impression that meditation is not for them, maybe because their thoughts keep wandering. This is completely normal. The key is to start small and simply notice wandering thoughts, then return to focusing on the breath. Before you know it, it will become a habit.

A good place to start is the Headspace app (iOS, Android) which provides guided meditations as short as 2-minutes long, while most are 10-15 minutes long. Some meditations are available for free, or you can access the full library on a paid subscription basis.

Key Interview Takeaways

  • Breathing is automatic, but also something we can control and focus on when the mind wanders off. We can use our breath to shift how we feel and take control of our emotional system. Slowing down breathing helps to calm the stress response.
  • Meditation can help us tap into the subconscious a little more, get to better understand our own minds, and receive early warnings before emotions take over.
  • Mindfulness is when you notice that your mind has wandered off, and you notice where it's gone. A wandering mind is not a problem. It actually gives you opportunities to notice where your mind tends to go and observe, without judgment, what your unconscious mind does. You get to know yourself better that way.
  • "Enlightenment" can be about understanding your motivations, knowing your values, and acting in accordance with your best self.
  • Meditation can be easier when you have a community to meditate with, either online or offline, and also when you have a regular routine incorporating meditation.
  • Read Dr. Willard's books for guidance on how to teach mindfulness to your children and turn values, like gratitude, into life-long habits.

Connect With Dr. Christopher Willard

PsychologistEducational Consultant

Based in Boston, USA, Dr. Willard specializes in teaching mindful breathing. A Harvard Medical School Faculty member, Dr. Willard has been practicing meditation for over 20 years and has led hundreds of workshops around the globe. He serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and is the president of the Mindfulness in Education Network. Dr. Willard has authored 11 books, most of which focus on teaching mindfulness to children and teens.

Raising Resilience: The Wisdom and Science of Happy Families and Thriving Children2017
A practical guide for parents and educators of children from preschool through to adolescence, detailing 10 universal principles for happy families and thriving children. Dr. Willard addresses the virtues and qualities we most want to pass on to our children, such as generosity, kindness, honesty, determination, and patience.
Teach Kids Mindfulness 20 hours
An online course suited to therapists, educators, professionals, parents and anyone wishing to deepen their experience of mindfulness for themselves and the kids and teens in their lives. The course provides 9-modules of in-depth mindfulness training.
Dr. Willard offers psychotherapy services to adults, families, and children in Harvard Square and Wellesley Hills (Boston, MA). He considers himself a generalist in the realm of psychotherapy, but enjoys working with people dealing with major transitions, with specialties in anxiety, mood disorders, and academic/professional struggles with organization and procrastination.
Travel & lifestyle blog

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