I was listening to an episode of the Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg podcast yesterdday, and Sharon said something like (I’m paraphrasing),

    …and there is the conflict in the world today, in fact what about the conflict that is within individuals…

    Hearing that made me understand the often quoted,

    World peace starts with inner peace,

    in a whole new way. Yes there is conflict in this world right night, seemingly (from where I am sitting) everywhere I look, but what about the conflicts that I battle with within myself? And then the inner conflicts that everyone around me might have?

    It can sound trite in a world of war and threatened authoritarianism, but by how much would the world be different if we each tried to fix our inner conflicts? If we held an awareness of how one’s conflicts can affect behaviour, and so not take the words of others so personally?

    Sticking to the Meditation Instruction

    I’ve said this before on this website, for example here and here. So why again? As much as anything, I repeat myself because I need to remind myself.

    There is something unintuitive about meditation. Meditation is a method for reprogramming our heart into different ways of being. We are swimming up stream, going against the flow. It’s hard work, and as such we might want to try and make things happen, force change. I certainly know that I can fall into that trap, even with a few decades of practice behind me.

    With the heart, one cannot force change. I can think that I have developed more compassion, patience, overcome jealousy through my meditation practice - and then life happens. Life has a bad habit of showing me where I am truly at.

    As such, my advice for meditation practice is to simply follow the instruction. What do I mean by that? Let me try and explain:

    I find that there can be a tendency for me to hear meditation instruction and then go and sit, all the time trying to fit my mind into an image of what I think that I should be feeling if I have succeeded with this particular practice. But this just won’t work. First of all we are working with our image of what compassion, patience, etc looks like, and given that we are still working on developing that quality, our image of it is probably a little skewed. Second, one cannot force the mind into being a certain way. The mind can only be where it is at.

    Instead, in the same way that you would follow directions to someone’s house, turning left when the instructions tell you to do so, right when you have to turn that way, not making up instructions or turning earlier because you feel as though you are behind time. In the same way that you would follow those instructions exactly to get to your destination, follow the meditation instructions exactly…and do nothing else.

    Following the road directions exactly will get you to the house, whether what you encounter en route is what you expect or not, whether it takes longer than you thought or not. Similarly, following the meditation instruction will get you to that final destination, whether that be compassion, kindness, patience, etc. The route that you take to get there, might be more circuitous than you expected. More ups and downs, more sense of one step forward and two steps back. However, if you follow the instructions you will get there, even if it takes a life time. You will get there, and along the way, quite by chance, probably surprising yourself, you will notice incremental improvements.

    I hope that this is clear, but if you have any questions, please hit the ”Reply by email” link below and get in touch.

    Some days I wonder what I have achieved from my meditation practice? Sleepy, wandering mind, replaying that incident from yesterday.

    Providing this does not become a habit as in, “great, it’s rest time,” I believe that what is gained is just showing up. There are so many other things that I (you) could be doing, and I decided to meditate. I am building a habit, building a muscle. So don’t become disillusioned if some sessions didn’t go as well as you hoped. You showed up.

    Honey on a Razor's Edge

    Mindfulness is available to us at all times.

    I say that to myself - and then I forget. The opportunity is there, and then it is gone. Too late. Feels like too much effort. Or something puts in an appearance that has more icing on the top, or at least appears to and feels easier to consume - but ultimately leaves me with a sense of no satisfaction. The ship has sailed. The mindfulness moment has been missed.

    Look out for those times when the mind is floundering. When you are not focusing. Maybe you are reaching for your phone, or engaging in aimless browsing, or looking to do something out of character (like clean the bedroom?!). What are you avoiding?

    Just catching yourself in that moment as you waver off course, that is mindfulness. You’ve caught yourself getting lost, loosing your focus. You’ve caught yourself loosing your awareness of what you are doing.

    The more formal practice of sitting in meditation helps us to develop the muscle, the awareness that allows us to be more aware of those moments when we loose ourselves, and just as important gives us the strength to pull ourselves back on course. For those who have tried to right their ship of focusing on an activity when distractions call, you will know how difficult it is to pull yourself away from those easier, “more exciting” activities.

    The Tibetans have a saying for this, as you reach for that which is more enticing and boredom removing,

    …like licking honey from a razor’s edge.

    I think that it is a wonderful image and it hurts my tongue to think of it! We are drawn to the excitement, the distractions, and in doing so hurt ourselves from loosing our balance and sense of being grounded.

    So our formal practice, and our daily awareness live in a dance, one reinforcing and strengthening the other.

    May Meditation Nudges - Full List

    Through May 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, I offered a daily Meditation Nudge. This was a new article that I wrote each day through that month, with each one exploring an aspect of meditation.

    I have felt remiss to not have put together a comprehensive list of all of those posts, something that I believe would be a helpful resource.

    So now I am making good on this aspiration, and below is a list of all the Meditation Nudges that I offered during May 2020.

    A Short Meditation to Start Your Day at Micro Camp

    On both days of Micro Camp, before the presentations start, I will be leading a short meditation to help you quieten your mind and prepare for the day ahead. Just show up 15 minutes before the program for the days start.

    No experience is necessary to join the meditation. I have kept the instruction to a minimum in order to maximize the time that we have for meditation, so if you do come away with any questions, please contact me.

    Thank you to @jean for her help in putting this together, and @burk for the upload assistance.

    I look forward to seeing you there.

    🧘‍♂️ 🧘‍♀️

    I was recently interviewed by Andy Mort for Episode 331 of his Gentle Rebel Podcast on the subject of Meditation. You can listen to our chat at the link above, or watch us on YouTube. Thank you to Andy for the invitation to the podcast. 🎙

    Announcing a new, old podcast

    It was early April 2017. I was sitting in an Airbnb in Portland, OR. My wife and I had returned to the city that had been our home for eight years, to sort out a storage room of our belongings, to decide what was going with us back to Maui and what we were going to sell. Behind The Thoughts  3 Border I had decided to start a podcast to help people start and build a meditation practice. It was to be called Behind The Thoughts Podcast. I had been fortunate to have a community around me when I started meditating, a community that was a source of a lot of support as I built this new habit. I felt that this probably wasn’t true for everyone, and wanted to offer something to help those who wanted to learn about and start a meditation practice. Podcasting was new to me, but I just felt like doing this.

    So here I was in the Airbnb, sitting in front of my laptop on take ”x” trying to get past the nerves and just record the first episode. Eventually, through frustration with myself that I might never get this done, I put down my first episode. It did not have to be perfect, indeed never would be as I did not have studio grade equipment for recording. My tools were, depending on where I was recording it,

    • my MacBook Air (the microphone on that)
    • my iPhone (the microphone on the accompanying headphones)
    • an application to capture the recording
    • a sound file of a meditation bell/gong
    • Apple GarageBand to string it all together
    • a service to host the podcast (Podbean at that time)

    On my way

    Once that first episode was out of the door and I got use to sticking the sound files together, I was off. Over the course of the six months I recorded forty episodes. They were recorded in all sorts of different locations, some outside, some inside. I was enjoying myself…and then it just stopped. There was no particular reason. I reached the fortieth episode and recorded no more…

    …until now.

    Thoughts of starting up again

    In May 2019 Jean MacDonald ask me in an episode of Micro Monday if I was planning to launch a podcast on Micro.blog. At the time I was and my affirmative answer has stayed with me, though I could not find the push within me to get a podcast out of the door.

    In the early months of the COVID pandemic I ran a series of meditation videos, still available on YouTube, to give people some tools to deal with the isolation of the lockdown that was happening in many parts of the world. I enjoyed putting together this unplanned series and it made me think again of my podcast that I had stopped and was now archived on Google Drive.

    New website

    Micro.blog makes it very easy to host a podcast and so the idea came to me of taking the old episodes off of Google Drive, uploading them to Micro.blog and use that as the basis for continuing the Behind The Thoughts Podcast. So over the Christmas/New Year holidays of 2020 I purchased the domain name for the hosting website and uploaded those first forty episodes. With that done I re-registered the podcast with Apple podcasts.


    With that done, on Saturday, January 9th, 2021 I recorded the forty first episode and published it. The Behind The Thoughts Podcast had officially been relaunched. The aim of the podcast is the same as before. To help people build and maintain a meditation practice. It is for anyone regardless of level or experience with meditation. The first episode includes a short guided meditation. Going forward I am expecting to offer more guided meditation sessions than in the initial forty episodes.

    The details


    • Behind The Thoughts Podcast website
    • On Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to your podcasts (if they draw from Apple’s podcast directory)

    How often?

    • My plan is for once a week. That will be the guiding frequency, but occasionally this might vary less and more often

    Material covered?

    • Building a meditation practice
    • Dealing with obstacles to meditation
    • Taking your meditation into everyday life.
    • At times informed by things that I am dealing with in my life (on the good chance that they’ll be something in there for you)

    And You?

    • If you have a question, concern or something that you would like me to cover, please get in touch

    I hope that you can join me on the podcast and the meditation journey.

    Heading out to a remote part of the West Mauis this afternoon to lead a meditation for a dear friend.

    I sat in the car in a parking lot to do a short loving kindness meditation before heading home. Creating a pause in the day, and a softening of the heart. I did, however, forget the Book in the Car.

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