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How I Tamed My Wild, Creative, Distractible Brain (without Drugs) and Began Getting More Done

I don’t know about you, but I have had a very big case of wandering brain. So much so, that it kept me from developing into my full potential in much of my adult life.

Some might call this a case of ADD, but I never thought of it that way. I always felt it was part the celestial seasoning that peppers my brain. It’s just the way I am. Which is not to say I couldn’t use a little help.

The great news is that over the last few years I’ve learned to rein in this wild, rambling brain of mine. I attribute a lot of this to meditation, the soothing balm that helps all of us slow down, calm down, and chill out.

Once I began a regular meditation practice of only 15 minutes every day, I felt more grounded and relaxed in my body most of the time. I also discovered I could be much more present for other people. Even better, I found myself forgiving myself for little things that once caused me great stress and annoyance.

Once meditation was solidly on board, the path got even more interesting. I discovered my wandering brain could be reined in by using binaural beats in my headphones while I worked. If you’re not equated with binaural beats, they are a very cool wave technology that activates both hemispheres of the brain to work in sync more effectively.

This can be extremely helpful for insomnia, relaxation, and focusing. The beats sound like a rhythmic, slightly dramatic sort of drumming … yet they are subtle enough to hide behind a gentle rainfall, or soothing music. They are weirdly addictive once you get used to them.

A friend turned me onto a website called brain.FM that has really been revolutionary for me. (Brain.fm includes several different kinds of binaural beats that you can sign up for on an annual subscription. A pretty good coupon is available here.)

The first time I used binaural beats, I remember I was sitting in a café in Oakland. Suddenly, the world around me dimmed out. Gone were the chatting twenty-somethings, the driving café music, the endless stream of gluten free treats going by. Instead … it was just me and my work.

I dug in. Then I looked up an hour later. I had just completed something I’d been avoiding for days, and I sat there in amazement, looking over my work. Damned if it didn’t work!

Using binaural beats has been great fun for me as I now work every day with greater focus and ease. It’s just … easy! Even the hard stuff.

So I was delighted to find out that Eben Alexander, an author I highly respect, has used binaural beats to crank out his own stockpile of books. Turns out he and his collaborator, Karen Newell, have also been using and developing binaural beats in their teachings for others as well.

Notably, they use the beats for an interesting sort of everyday transcendence, claiming it helps them travel to the other side, and connect more deeply with their spiritual guidance. I love that! After all, who doesn’t want to travel to the other side on a regular basis? I sure do.

(If you want to catch last week’s podcast interview with Eben Alexander, click hereKaren Newell  is our guest on Before the Afterlife this week.) 

If you consider yourself a ‘brain adventurer’ – or even a procrastinator — why not get yourself a pair of good headphones, and start to dig into the vast and incredible world of binaural beats to sooth and work with the brain. You’ll accomplish more, feel more relaxed, and who knows where you’re going to travel?

If you have your own fun experiences or resources for binaural beats to share, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you think!

 

 

 

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How to Stop Trying to Get Meditation ‘Right͛’ … and Just Relax

I used to be a really busy meditator. You know the type.

I could barely sit still because I was so busy feeling my divine energy consume my body, moving me this way and that. Or I was constantly opening my eyes, focusing on this timer or that crystal to keep my meditation ‘on track’ and perfect. Or maybe I was working on memorizing some really long, complicated mantra while I meditated.

Who had time to just become empty and still?

I didn’t. I was too busy getting my meditation ‘right’ to actually relax.

But that was before I discovered the true, messy imperfection of meditation. In its simplest state meditation isn’t anything in particular, other than stilling the mind. And that’s hard to do … hence the plethora of meditation tools, apps, props, supports, recordings, mantras, breathing practices and experts. All of which want us to get meditation ‘right’.

But what if there was no right way to meditate?

Only now, nearly 35 years after I began meditating, do I appreciate the value of letting my mind roam as it must. When I notice it, I gently steering it back towards nothingness. That’s all I need to do, it turns out. Just kindly return myself back towards nothing again … and again … and again … and again …

When I do this, and my timer rings at the end of fifteen minutes, I find myself calmer than I was before. I’m refreshed. Ready to move into my day. That’s what meditation does for me, and its benefits are subtle and deep.

I notice, for instance, that I’ve lost my old love for drama. Over time, meditation makes the mind lose its tolerance for chaos and chaotic people. Likewise, you lose your interest in that which grates. Instead, you become remarkably kind to yourself.
Now, when I make a mistake, I find I no longer chide myself. Instead, I remind myself that life is just this really big experiment. If I get it wrong, that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get it right next time … or maybe I won’t.

Bottom line: it doesn’t matter.

Really.

That’s the big thing I’ve gotten from meditation. As the hours slip by, day by day, and your tolerance for pure nothingness increases, you can’t help but embrace the now. For that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

Right here, right now, in all of its unvarnished glory.

Mind you, I’m anything but perfect on this count. I find myself planning and strategizing as if I could personally plot out every twist and turn in my future. But I can’t. Wordlessly, meditation reminds me of this truth again and again, without even trying.

But then, sometimes, things happen. Unbidden, sudden insights can drop in when you’re meditating, yet you can’t go looking for them.

Instead, your only job is to relax … and empty your mind … and let go.

In 2010, Teal wrote in her journal about her own meditation practice, and I think this passage sums up this phenomenon nicely. She wrote it while she was backpacking her way through the world, one day at a time. On this particular afternoon, she happened to be in Italy.

On my way back I saw this cemetery … It was white marble and really amazing … overlooking the sea, cliffs, mountains, and towns. So I chose to sit down there and meditate and I got: ‘Go to Thailand, open your heart, open your soul and be.’

“The whole ‘be’ thing really made an impact on me. I realized in life I am never really there. I tend to be thinking about the future or past or something someone said instead of being in the moment, and taking it in for all its beauty. 

After this meditation, I knew I had been transformed because I looked out over the ocean and mountain scene in front of me and I started to cry. I was really able to take it all in and I finally realized how blessed I am to be here, and how many beautiful things there are here.”

When you can finally let go and embrace nothingness, it seems the entire world opens up to you. It’s ironic, isn’t it? Because the finding of serenity, of peace, of true freedom, comes not from getting or seizing anything.

True peace is found only by letting go.

If you’re interested in learning more about meditation, you might enjoy this week’s podcast with hypnotist Chel Hamilton as she talks about teaching meditation and what it does for the brain. It’s like ‘mind floss’ she says, and I agree. 

You can find the recording here