Ep 02: Using Mindfulness Meditation to Heal Chronic Illness

[TRANSCRIPT]

MEG:   Hi! This is Dr. Meg Haworth, Holistic Psychologist and Nutrition Strategist. And you’re listening to “Get Well Soon” podcast series, the show that explores how to heal yourself with food and the power of the mind.

MEG:   Hi everybody! Thank you so much for joining us here today to learn how you can get well soon using Mindfulness Meditation. Today, I have Julianna Raye with me. Julianna Raye has been training individuals and groups in Mindfulness Meditation for over 15 years. Julianna has developed on-site and online mindfulness training for enterprise clients and consumers. She delivers keynote and group training to company leaders interested in enhancing their work environment and providing preventative healthcare through Mindfulness Meditation. She offers private coaching for her performance professionals, TV personalities, entrepreneurs, and executives and sales, and leadership. Having attended over 70 retreats and racked up over (are you ready for this number?) 12,000 plus hours of formal practice time. Julianna has re-wired her brain, creating a new normal for herself which enables her to truly be of service to her clients. Julianna’s emphasis is on helping clients find this specific strategies most relevant for their life and professional environment. As an expert in the system of Basic Mindfulness, Julianna teaches clients how to strategically implement practice for specific challenges, leading to accelerated growth, giving clients away to develop skills on-the-go, and providing invaluable tools for self-empowerment. Julianna is a powerhouse. Thank you so much for being on this show, Julianna. Welcome!

JR:        Thank you, Meg! It’s such a pleasure!

MEG:  Thank you! Okay… So you shared with me that you used Mindfulness Meditation yourself to help you manage debilitating anxiety. Can you tell us about your story and how that came about?

JR:       Absolutely. I discovered mindfulness when I was struggling in L.A. as a professional singer-songwriter. I was on Warner Bros. and my deal ended and I slipped into a real depression. I had tremendous uncertainty about my life and I realized that everything hinged on my passion for my creative pursuits, creative and professional pursuits. I saw that that caused me to be at tremendous risk. That if things didn’t go the way I wanted them to…

MEG:   Yeah, this is a big theme…

JR:        Yeah, it is a huge theme.

MEG:   Everybody deals with this one and it’s a huge conversation to have.

JR:        Absolutely.

MEG:   Yeah. That disappointment and dealing with the disappointment that your life didn’t turn out the way that you want it to be.

JR:        Exactly!

MEG:   So how did you deal with it?

JR:      Well… It dawned on me one day that even when I was doing what I felt was my life’s purpose, I was also at risk because I walked around with this concern that it would be taken away from me. And so I could see trap I was in and I wanted to get out of it. And I didn’t know how. And I didn’t even know that mindfulness would be a solution for me. I was in therapy and I was trying medication, anti-depressants and I was struggling with anxiety and I was just at a loss! I mean, I just felt like I didn’t know what else to do. So I started meditating and that was just from like five minutes of instruction from my therapist. She said, “Why don’t you try this practice and see what happens.” And I had zero expectations. Because I thought, what is sitting? You know what I mean? Ten minutes?

MEG:  What’s that gonna do for me?

JR:      What’s that gonna do? You know…

MEG:  Yeah. Exactly.

JR:     Exactly. And the medications weren’t working so I thought that I was really screwed. In fact, they were making matters worse. So I was really at a loss. But I was just desperate enough and I thought, well, it’s something that I can do that’s within my control. It’s holistic. I liked that. I’ve never been big on medication, just generally for myself personally. So I loved that it was something that I could do for myself and had some control over the volume, if you will.  In other words, that I could do it as much as I wanted to, that I could control that. So, I started off just doing a half an hour a day of these practices and two years later, I was still doing it. I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I didn’t have any outside instruction but things started to happen. One of the things that motivated me to be a trainer is that I love to compress the learning curve for people just starting out so it doesn’t take two years to kind of go, “Hey, this stuff really works!”

MEG:  That’s a great, great thing. Because I think a lot of people don’t have that kind of patience and that kind of discipline to do that over and over and wait. I think that’s why a lot of people give up on meditation. Do you find that strange?

JR:     Absolutely! It’s subtle at first. Fortunately, I saw that it was doing something right away. I felt more grounded. I had psychological insights I found interesting.  So it was enough for me and since I wasn’t viewing it as anything more than, “Hey, this could help me.” And I noticed, “Hey, it is helping me. Okay, I’ll keep with this.” And I didn’t really give it much more thought than that. But yes, I think a lot of people, they have great expectations of the practice. They also have tremendous expectations of themselves.

MEG:   Yes. That’s a really good point.

JR:     Yeah. I’m supposed to just drop into some deep state and what if I don’t? Luckily, for me I didn’t know anything about it. So in a way, in that case my naivety in my lack of expectations made me more receptive to, “Wow, look! Is this working? Or, it seems to be. Okay, then I’ll keep doing it.”

MEG:  Yeah, exactly. Keep at it. So, you’re into the practice. You’ve been doing it for two years. You’re seeing results. You’re getting better and what happens next?

JR:     So that’s where things took a radical turn. I saw that I was having some experiences that… You know my paradigm is Psychology. Both my parents that’s their background, Psychotherapists. That was a familiar paradigm for me. But these experiences I started having were physical in nature. They were outside my filter of understanding the world and I realized at that moment I should probably have some instruction.

MEG:  What do you mean they were physical… you were starting to have pain?

JR:       No.

MEG:  Happiness or release?

JR:      Yeah. It was subtle. Really little things like, “Gee, at the end of my exhale there’s something kind of delicious happening. I don’t understand what it is but I like it and I’d like to do more of it.” Things like that. It was like, “Gee, something really pleasant is happening or something odd is happening.” I closed my eyes one day and I felt as though I was upside down. That my compass had been reversed.

MEG:  Interesting.

JR:      Yeah! So little things like that were very tangible. In other words, I literally felt like I was upside down. And I thought, “Why is this happening?”

MEG:  That could be proceed to the big thing. I think we all go through this points in our lives where we feel upside down, backwards, or spinning or something. All these metaphors are clues I think to help us heal.

JR:     That’s right! And also, what you find with practice is that you’re being led to an understanding that yes you are this limited identity. You’re Meg, I’m Julianna. But also, you’re not. You’re not separate. You’re not just oriented in time and space in this particular limited way. There’s a bigger picture and I think these types of experiences that we have are an opening to recognize, “Oh, there’s another way to understand orientation,” for example. I didn’t have a context for that at that time. I just thought, “Ha! This is weird. I don’t get it. But it’s real in the sense that it’s an experience happening to me. I’m not making this up. So what do I do? I guess I should find an expert in this area.”

MEG:  Okay. So is that what you did then?

JR:    That’s right! The next step was to find an expert. And I did not have to wait long. I’m very pragmatic and skeptical by nature so I knew that if (the teacher) was too, you know what I would call “Woo woo”? If they were too far out, I wasn’t gonna go for it. So I knew that I had to find someone that I related to that spoke logic. So I could find myself saying, “Oh yeah! That makes sense.” If somebody had started talking to me about chakras and crystals at that time I would have run screaming out of the burning building.

MEG:  And then you would have missed out on something really powerful.

JR:      Yes, exactly. That’s right.

MEG: So that’s good. So you came to mindfulness and you found that it was a logical, pragmatic practice that you could really connect with from that place.

JR:     That’s right. So the big breakthrough came. I got turned on to this teacher, Shinzen Young, when I was given his cassette series. This is how long ago that was. And I called for more cassettes and they said, “He’s leading a retreat in a couple of weeks. Why don’t you come on that?” And I thought, “Okay.” I was scared to death. I mean, I had been practicing for half an hour a day and suddenly it was like six days straight.

MEG:  Yeah. Like, how are you gonna do that? It seems so overwhelming.

JR:      I couldn’t imagine. I could barely get through half an hour. How’s that gonna work? But I was just desperate enough and really I was at a point of deep… I was freaked out, I was in an unhealthy relationship, I was on these medications that were making matters worse, and I really was at a loss. So I decided I’m gonna wean myself off the medication. I’m gonna go on this retreat and see what happens. And on that retreat, about the third day in, I had an experience that radically changed my understanding of what was possible. I was sitting, eating a salad. You’ll appreciate that.

MEG:   Yes. Yes. Clean food.

JR:      I bit into a radish and I was chewing the radish and I had dropped into a deep state of concentration. And I was able to track the very subtle nuances of the heat of the radish and the tingling of the radish. I could feel it in my jaw and I began to notice the flow of sensation up close and it became just a pleasant flow of sensation of energy and that started to suffuse my whole head and the next thing I knew, I have this geyser of ecstatic bliss shooting out at the top of my head by eating a radish! Right? I love it! The pragmatist!

MEG:   Of all things, the radish taught you that.

JR:        Right?

MEG:   That’s so beautiful.

JR:        I thought it was a great thing to share with your listeners!

MEG:   Yes… Yes, what a radish can do!

JR:        That’s right!

MEG:   That could be a book right there!

JR:        So we’ll have to write it!

MEG:   Yeah…

JR:       So anyway, that taught me a huge lesson. In that moment I thought, “You know what? My body and mind are far more resilient than I have been giving myself credit for. That was the biggest insight.

MEG:   Wow. What a big realization. And that’s so important to people that have chronic illness because many of us, I know I was in this category, are completely disconnected from our bodies. We really don’t understand… We can feel the pain. Yeah, that’s there. That’s really loud. But all of the joy that’s available is there too.

JR:        Yeah, absolutely.

MEG:  And it’s allowing that to come up and it sounds like, through your practice this just organically came through.

JR:       That’s rights. That’s right. And it taught me, “Hey, look! You just sat and did a bunch of mental exercises for a few days in a row. And you had this profound ecstatic experience.” I mean, really incomparable to anything I had known before. That means that if you can stick with it and do a lot of this practice, you can start to have these experiences more and more and you can, over time, re-wire yourself. You can have a new baseline, a new permanent baseline of well-being and tranquility and energy. So that is what I’ve done. Now, an interesting thing that I think may relate also to our topic today is… So I got back from that retreat and immediately my boyfriend broke up with me. And it was not a good relationship as I mentioned but I was so high from my experience that I quickly tried to just accept it and accept him and thought, “Okay, that’s fine.” So I did that and then in the middle of the night, I woke up to go to the bathroom and when I was heading back to bed, my back went into spasm.

MEG:   Wow, okay…

JR:       …and I was literally down on the floor. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know why it happened. I thought something terrible had happened. I went and got it checked out. Now, this is where my story… I will say that my story is distinct and separate from mindfulness in the sense that the path I took is not necessarily directly on topic. But it relates to finding the best healing modality for your condition.

MEG:   Okay, got it. Yeah, that makes sense. A good example of the different choices that we make along the way of our healing path.

JR:       That’s right.  Because what I learned when I got it checked out, Western Medicine gave the diagnosis… They showed me that on my MRI, I had two herniated discs and…

MEG:   Oh… ouch!

JR:    Yeah, they concluded that I had sat too much on the retreat and that I needed physical therapy and acupuncture, and blah, blah… So I went down this path of trying to heal it physically for two and a half years and it kept getting worse.

MEG:   Oh no… That’s a long time.

JR:       Yeah, chronic pain for two and a half years. So the good news about that, because now I’m completely pain-free, but the good news about that is I learned a tremendous amount as a result of having lived through that and I certainly understand your listeners who struggle with chronic pain. I know exactly what that’s like because I couldn’t sit for more than five minutes without being in pain. It was devastating and debilitating and really restricted my life. What I eventually came to understand was that mindfulness, it initiates a process of purification where stuff comes up from your past… it releases stuff including trauma. So what happened was I had a mechanism in place to shove that stuff down as hard as possible.

MEG:  That’s what we all do…

JR:      I’d been unconscious about it. I was in fact totally unconscious because I thought, “Hey, I’m the daughter of two Psychotherapists. I’ve been in psychotherapy. I know what’s what. So I’m an expert!” I really thought it couldn’t possibly be that. I sort of rejected any… Initially, I rejected any possible psychological interpretation of what was going on because the pain was real. I felt like I was on top of my game psychologically with myself. But eventually I got a $10 book called “Healing Back Pain” by John Sarno which I highly recommend.

MEG:  Yeah, I’ve read that one. It’s a great book. It’s really great because it goes into an entirely different diagnosis that most doctors don’t look at. Entirely different. It’s powerful. I’ve known a number of people, not just you, but who’ve read that book and their back pain went away after reading the book. So I decided to get that in there. But go ahead. So what happened for you?

JR:   So what happened for me is I eventually got that book and resolved the pain completely. But what I concluded… And then, once I understood the psychological mechanism and this is where I’m reinforcing this idea of different support for different purposes. Once I understood the mechanism that was playing out, my mindfulness practice became a tremendous support. But before then, if I had just stopped with mindfulness and had never gotten that book, I might still be in chronic pain. I might still be managing my pain.

MEG:  Yeah, this is a really important point for everybody listening. I say this all the time. It takes a team of people to help you get well. It’s not about just going to one doctor who’s shoving medications at you. And everybody has their own path. Everybody’s path is different.

JR:     That’s right. Exactly. So what I learned was that the mindfulness was simultaneously awakening the potential of my body to heal itself and also releasing past trauma. I just didn’t understand that releasing part. I didn’t understand how it was butting up against my repressive habit, my repressive mechanism. And that butting up process was causing the pain symptoms and once I recognized, “Oh, the pain is happening as a diversion. It’s happening because I’m trying to repress very strong feelings that are coming up…

MEG:  Ah, okay… That’s a biggie. That’s a biggie. Everybody, listen to that one.

JR:    And it’s also happening because even if the feelings aren’t so strong, it’s happening because I have this habitual pattern of repression. So even if it’s really subtle, you’re so habituated in the repressive approach that you don’t even realize you’re feeling angry when you are feeling angry. Symptoms will come up to let you know, at least what I discovered from my own path, was that symptoms came up to let me know, “Hey, guess what? There’s some repression going on right now. You need to try and look at your life circumstances and figure out what you may be resisting or what you may be fighting.”

MEG:  That’s it right there, too. I think the resistance and the fighting of something some emotional habit that you have that keeps coming up and up and up. And you keep saying no, no, no, no… I’m not gonna deal with you. Go over there in the corner little child, little emotional body. Stay away. Also, there’s repressed memories and I think this is an important thing to bring up here to is that I found this with a number of clients where there is a very traumatic memory that’s been held in. Through therapy and through allowing it to come out, that releases the person from the pain.  It releases them from that stuck place. I’ve seen it happen every time. It’s fascinating and really beautiful.

JR:    Absolutely. And so that’s where mindfulness is a broad stroke training. In other words, you are re-wiring your base level of well-being. But you may not, in mindfulness, ever get to a particular psychological trauma, for example, because you’re only working with what you detect, what you notice. So if you’ve got a strong repressive pattern happening, repression is what it sounds like. You don’t even realize that you’re feeling angry. You’re not noticing it. You’re like, “I feel fine! I don’t feel angry.”

MEG:  “It’s just so normal.”

JR:      Yeah. It’s buried. It’s buried so deeply that you, literally on the surface when you’re doing your mindfulness practice, you don’t notice it. So what I learned was okay, so I’ll use other practices, other techniques. For example, psychotherapy or this book “Healing Back Pain” which has its own approach. I use those to complement  mindfulness and then mindfulness heightens and enhances the benefit that I get from the other ways of working. So they work in a complementary way.

MEG:  Now knowing everything you know and knowing that there are a lot of people that would be listening to this that are probably in a tremendous amount of pain and very, very sick, what do you suggest to them? Like, how can mindfulness help them manage their illness or pain?

JR:   Absolutely. So the thing that’s extraordinary about mindfulness is our ability to completely reframe our relationship to pain whether it’s emotional or physical. And in doing that really release it and… so I’ll go back to my personal challenge emotionally. At one point in my life, I was suicidal in my twenties and I struggled with depression a lot. When I looked back on twenty years ago, it’s not like my problems have been eradicated by any means. But I look back on where I was at twenty years ago and I see where my baseline was. I see where my stasis was. The home that, emotionally, I lived in on a daily basis. And that home was, that was a tough place to be because if something good happened, I might shoot up for a little while. But then I’d go back down to that home of chronic unhappiness. And if something bad happened, I ran the risk of dropping down even further down the rabbit hole. So the thing that’s really shifted for me is now… there’s a huge difference in the base level of well being in my home base. I spend so much more time feeling good physically, emotionally, that has become my home base where I know I can trust that to be the place I inhabit inside myself consistently, regularly. Deeper than that though, if something good happens I know how to work with the good thing so that it elevates that level even further. And if something bad happens, I know how to work with that bad thing so that it elevates my base level of fulfillment and well-being.

MEG:   So is that something you help your clients with this well?

JR:        Absolutely, yeah…

MEG:   Okay, great.

JR:      And that is what the training does. You are learning to work with your chronic illness, your chronic pain, whatever it may be. You are learning to work with it so that you can be productive. So that you can use the condition that you’re stuck with as a kind of monastery to deepen who you are as a human being and also ultimately to elevate your fulfillment, your well-being. That’s why the research has shown that mindfulness actually heightens and strengthens our immune system. So it literally does improve you, physiologically and that’s because you’re taking the fight out of your relationship to your experience and that’s the result. You know, taking the fight out of it. You’re not depleting yourself further. One of the great struggles with chronic illness or pain is how depleting it is, how little energy you have to even figure out what you might be repressing. My back would go into spasm and I’d try to think okay… even as I was healing… I was like, “What am I repressing? What am I angry about? I couldn’t even think straight, you know.”

MEG:   Exactly.

JR:       You have so much discomfort. But when you understand how to work with your symptoms then they become a way for you to productively improve your life. And that’s empowering.

MEG:   Yep. So they become your ally. You make allies with them.

JR:        That’s right. You make allies with it. That’s right.

MEG:   It really makes a huge difference. I mean, I do approach it in a different way but it’s very much a similar thing where you learn to love those parts of you that are in pain. That’s all they want.

JR:        Exactly. That’s all they want. That is it.

MEG:   They’ve been crying out and they’re crying out through the pain in your body.

JR:        That’s it. Exactly.

MEG:   Wow. This is so meaty and lovely. I love this.

JR:        Yeah. Me too!

MEG:   So you also say that mindfulness helps anxiety and depression. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about how that can help them?

JR:       Absolutely. Well, definitely just from a science perspective, research has shown improvement in emotional regulation and empathy. There’s definitely science out there that supports it but just from my own experience and from the experience of clients, in the same way that we tend to fight we then resist our physical experience, the same thing happens with our emotional life and in fact even more so because emotions are that much closer to our sense of self. So we tend to more strongly identify with our emotional life. We tend to claim ownership of it. These are my feelings and I feel that way because of this thing that happened. We get caught in our feelings and the way they connect to our thinking. You know, “He shouldn’t have done that.” Alright? And then you feel angry. “Why does he always do that?” And then you feel hopeless. There is this link between thoughts and feelings. They fuel and reinforce one another in an unfortunate spin. And then the feelings play off of one another. The anger bounces off the hopelessness and re-emphasizes it. And this is all happening below the level of our awareness. It’s happening instantaneously and it’s happening over and over again. What we do when we practice mindfulness is we deconstruct our moment by moment experience so that we can detect, “Okay. There are these thoughts happening. Ah, and there are these feelings happening.” And in doing that, it’s like you’re untangling the strands of experience the way they’ve been bound together and you’re reducing the suffering because taken by itself a thought like, “He shouldn’t have done that,” isn’t intrinsically a problem. It’s tied to all sorts of associations. You know the feeling of anger and outrage and that then sparks the fire. So when you started to disentangle, if you can just experience the anger as an energy in your body, anger happens in a certain place. You may not have ever thought of it that way but anger happens in a certain location in your body. It has a level of intensity, it feels a particular way, it moves or stays still. So when you discover anger in terms of its unique properties then taken on its own, it’s a much more manageable experience than when it’s tied to thinking and the thinking reinforces the feeling and then that triggers other feelings and then they bounce off of each other. So by deconstructing your experience you make it more manageable. Same thing holds true, by the way, with chronic illness. Chronic illness triggers all sorts of emotional reactions and then the emotional reactions can intensify the physical pain we’re experiencing. So when you’re able to tease out that hopelessness or frustration, your discouragement, whatever it is that you’re struggling with around the physical pain or the illness, that has the same effect. It reduces your overwhelm from the overall experience. It makes the whole thing more manageable. And it helps you process. It helps you metabolize your experience efficiently so that you get down to the heart of experience and at the heart of any experiences is just the energy. When you really get down to it an emotion, a moment of anger is just an arising of a particular form of energy. And so you’re able to develop your concentration so your able to stay with your experience. You develop clarity, Sensory Clarity, so you are able to track your experience as it is happening. And you develop Equanimity which is having an acceptance of what’s happening or being able to open up to what’s happening. And those three skills are the skills of mindfulness. They’re what enable you to manage your condition more and more effectively and optimally.

MEG:  Wow! Sounds really powerful. And I think too one of pieces here is all of the scientific information there is behind this. I wanted to bring up here, because I think it’s important to mention this, that you were in a recent study at UCLA of long-term meditators brains vs. non-meditators. Can you tell us the results of that? You were on the news and all that…

JR:     Yeah. Absolutely. So they did this study. I think there are something like 60 studies a month being done at this point. There’s a huge boom in scientific research especially in mindfulness because it’s the most popular form of meditation in the West and the most highly researched form. Part of that is because mindfulness is secular. It doesn’t have any association with a particular religion. But also because it’s structured in a very systematic way that marries well with scientific research. They’re able to start to track what are the benefits. When I did the study they had a 50 long-term meditators and then they have a control group. I believe that’s the breakdown. They did an MRI of my brain and afterwards the researcher actually showed me my brain against a control who was my same age, left-handed like I am, and female healthy, etc. And you could see, it wasn’t subtle. You could see that there were far more grey patches on her brain and…

MEG:  On the brain of the woman who did not meditate…

JR:       That’s right. And the researchers said, “Yeah, this is what we’re finding consistently.”

MEG:  Wow…

JR:      The grey patches are an indicator of the natural degeneration process that happens to all of our brains. But by comparison, the meditator’s brain shows significantly less degeneration.

MEG:  Wow.

JR:       Yeah.

MEG:  Wow. And how did they know? Like how quickly after starting a practice like mindfulness can the brain start to change?

JR:      That’s a great question. They’ve shown that in as little as eight weeks of training.

MEG: Wow!

JR:      Yeah…

MEG:  That’s powerful!

JR:      So you don’t have to rack up those twelve thousand hours to really get the benefits of practice. Not everybody is gonna want to go as hard core as I went. You know I couldn’t argue with the results and it became more meaningful to me. But that is not to say that you won’t derive benefit just from eight weeks. Even less! I mean, even four weeks. People sometimes notice results after their first time practicing. It’s different for everybody. But the science anyway, lets us know that even at short term practice shows results, positive results.

MEG:  Can you describe just a little bit more what your brain scan, your MRI looked like?

JR:      It’s funny. Actually, this is kind of hilarious. I gave a keynote recently. But before the keynote, the researcher said “Hey, we’ve been contacted by this news team. They wanna do an interview. They had this idea to have like a huge picture of your brain above your head.”

MEG:  Great. That’s awesome!

JR:      And I said, hey it just so happens I’m giving this keynote. Can I have my brain? And they said, “We can’t send you the whole thing because it’s too big. It won’t fit on the file.” So I said, “Okay.” So they said, “we’ll send you a slice.” So they sent me a slice of my brain. Of course it’s like, “What does that mean to anybody looking at my brain?” Not much but it was hilarious. So you could just see that, comparatively speaking, my brain was just much more free of these grey patches. And in addition to that, they noticed that my brain had more of what’s called Gyrifications. And there’s a link between Gyrifications and Neuroplasticity. And Neuroplasticity is associated with the resilience of the brain. So just the overall health definitely seems to be affected by this practice at least according to the research that’s been done so far.

MEG:  Wow, that’s really powerful. That’s really powerful information. Anybody who’s listening to this, just start the practice.

JR:       That’s it! The water’s fine. Just dive in.

MEG:   I do have a quick question before we get into you brief meditation for listeners. Something that I hear a lot of people say is that they’ve tried to sit and meditate but it’s too difficult for them and so instead they go running. And my running is a meditation or my listening to music or dancing around my house is a meditation. Can you address that?

JR:       I can. I have some strong feelings about that. Here’s how I would put it. Your dancing around the house can potentially be a meditation. Your running can potentially be a meditation but chances are it isn’t, just yet. And what I would say is, if your running leads to profound insight in the rest of your life then it’s a practice. If your running is just a way to get into the zone for a window of time and it doesn’t carry over into the rest of your life, then it is not a practice. So the idea being that meditation is not just a sanctuary that you go to maybe to help you manage the rest of your day because you’re riding on the benefit of that. Meditation is a set of very specific skills and techniques and as a result of doing them your entire life can be in the zone. So I just want people to recognize the power of that because…

MEG:  Yes…

JR:     And I understand when you have a good run and you’re in the zone, it feels unbeatable. But I don’t want people to be confused and think that that’s all meditation offers. It’s just so much more than that. It is a radical tool if you know how to use it. So that’s all I would say about that. And you can learn how to, if you’re someone has a hard time sitting still, for example. If you get agitated or you don’t know how to… you struggle with the racing mind and you don’t really wanna try and work with it. You can learn skills so that you can do practice while you are running. That’s a totally legitimate thing to do.

MEG:  Okay…

JR:       Yeah. And it’s a great way to practice.

MEG:   Is that something you would coach people on?

JR:        I do a lot. Actually, I had one of my clients did an Iron Man.

MEG:   Oh, wow.

JR:       Yeah. So we prepped for his Iron Man with training and he attributed the mindfulness skills to completing that Iron Man because… So what it does basically is it helps you not to diffuse your energy in non-productive ways. It helps you stay on track. The Iron Man took place on a day in which there was just terrible weather. It was so bad. It was like thunder and lightning and they are all swimming in the lake. So they pulled everybody out of the lake and everybody was freaked out because suddenly there was no staggering and they’re all out en mass and they’re all walking together to get to the bike riding. He noticed that people’s energy was bleeding out because they were frustrated about the unexpected change of events. And he knew how to stay on track. He knew how to conserve his energy which in a race like that, it was 17 hours long, you better conserve your energy.

MEG:   Oh my gosh… So that’s something that you teach people with mindfulness to help them conserve their energy as well.

JR:        Absolutely.

MEG:   Help them practice in action.

JR:      Yes. That’s right. That’s right. So you can definitely learn how to do it. And the great news is then it also improves your performance. It improves your performance and it accelerates your growth with your mindfulness practice. The key is what you’re doing while you work out. Are you noticing the results in the rest of your day? That’s what you wanna start to track.

MEG:   Okay. Great. Excellent!  Alright… So, can we do a little meditation?

JR:       Absolutely. So we’ll do a little 5-minute guided practice. I could give you a sort of a general… There’s a SEE-HEAR-FEEL practice that’s sort of like a general way to kick things off or I could give you a practice on relaxation. I’m kind of feeling like maybe relaxation would be good for your group.

MEG:  Yeah, absolutely. Because I think that’s a big part of… You know when you’re in a tremendous amount of pain, you just wanna be able to relax and not feel so stressed out about it because there’s so many emotions that come up when you’re in that space.

JR:       Definitely.

MEG:  Perfect.

JR:      Okay. So let’s do that then. I’m gonna just start the guidance and we’ll take it from there. I’ll probably talk a little bit more than I normally would just to point out what the skills are so you understand what you’re doing and can practice on your own.

MEG:  Okay.

JR:     So take a moment. Find a position that is comfortable but alert. Maybe sitting up in a tall chair with your spine long. Or if you need to recline, that’s fine. But you might want to work with your eyes open so you don’t fall asleep. So whether your eyes are open or closed bringing your attention into the body and scan your body for relaxation wherever you detect it, however subtle. The breath can be a very good place to locate relaxation. The exhale gives the muscles that have opened the lungs a chance to relax so you might detect relaxation on the exhale. So you can bring your attention to different locations in the body where you notice relaxation or just stick with one location. And you are going to develop a rhythm by bringing your attention to relaxation and staying with that experience of relaxation for a few moments. Then bringing your attention to relaxation again, staying with that experience for a few moments. In a consistent, repetitive pattern. Returning your attention again and again to relaxation. With your attention, becoming curious and interested in the experience, in the quality of relaxation. What does it feel like? Where is it located? Is it strong or subtle? Does it move or stay still? If it stays still letting relaxation stabilize you. If it moves sinking more deeply into relaxation. And doing your best not to have a preference for relaxation to be strong or subtle. If relaxation is subtle right now then you are strengthening your concentration by choosing to focus on something subtle. So developing your ability to just accept exactly what is happening right now. Emphasizing the quality of relaxation in your body while doing your best just to let everything else be in the background. Pain does not have to go away. You just do your best to de-emphasize it in your awareness and instead focus on relaxation which may be more subtle. Okay… Great work!

MEG:   Yes. Of course, I had to do it. Completely relaxing.

JR:        Wonderful.

MEG:   What a beautiful thing to do and it’s what I’m always telling people is focusing on thoughts that are powerful rather than the ones that are dis-empowering. And it’s the same sort of thing where you’re saying to focus on the relaxation in your body because it’s there.

JR:        That’s right.

MEG:   It’s there. You just have to get quiet and find it.

JR:      That’s right. You have to nurture the relaxation with your attention. It’s like a seedling. You know all this noise is going on. All these weeds in the form of pain and discomfort are going on. And actually, I wouldn’t even call pain a weed. I would just say that they are all these… There’s a lot of activation that pulls our focus that yells very loudly at us. As challenging as it is, by choosing the subtle…. By choosing to detect relaxation and cultivate it, you’re strengthening your concentration which is your ability to choose what you focus on. Choose to focus on what matters to you. And in doing that, if you send your mind the message that relaxation matters to you then you start to discover it more and more fully. The pain doesn’t have to go away. It’s like reading a book in a crowded room. I always use that metaphor. At first, you start to read a book and all you can hear is a crowded room but as you get engaged in that book that crowded room just disappears of its own. You don’t sit there and try to get the crowded room noise to disappear. It’s just that you get so engaged in reading the book…

MEG:   Yes, because you are focused on it.

JR:        That’s right.

MEG:   What you focus on, you get more of. So focus on relaxation. That’s a big take away from that. That was great. I really enjoyed that.

JR:        Wonderful. Thanks!

MEG:   Very peaceful. Gosh, thank you so much for this! Can you let listeners know how to get in touch with you and you’ve got a free offering for them too.

JR:        For sure, yeah. It’s an easy one to remember ➔ FreeMeditationLesson.com That’s the URL. And there’s a free video as well as a free guided practice. That’s a great way to get started on a very affordable training. Yeah, that’s the main site…

MEG:   That’s great. So they can learn about you and then they can sign up with you. And then do you do consultations with people to see…

JR:        I also do pro-coaching and my coaching site is ➔ PopGoZen.com  That’s my corporate site and that’s more for one on one coaching and people who need more immersive training with me.

MEG:   Okay. Great. Wonderful. Thank you so much for being on this show today. I really appreciate it.

JR:        Such a pleasure, Meg. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

MEG:   You’re welcome! Alright, thank you everybody for listening and I hope that this information that has been given to you today by Julianna Raye helps you get well soon.

MEG:   For more information, go to MegHaworth.com to sign up for our e-mail list. Get your free copy of “5 Anti-inflammatory On-The-Go Lunch Recipes” and access to our private Facebook community. Thank you so much for listening.

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