Reflecting On 10 Years of Meditating and The Unexpected Ways My Practice Has Changed
I had no idea what I was getting into, truly.
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January 2014, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil - 25 year old me meditating and then posting a thirst trap on Instagram.
“F*$k! This can’t be happening!”
My meditation journey all started in 2013 when I woke up with a large bald spot in my beard stubble about the size of a quarter. A few years earlier, my cousin had lost all the hair on his body in his 30’s from alopecia. So as a 24 year old man, I was freaking out at the prospect of a similar fate and began ruminating on how I was now destined die bald and alone.
Later that week I went to the Dr. and he confirmed that I did in fact have acute alopecia likely due to stress. He didn’t have any wonder pills for me, but recommended that I work on my de-stressing.
When I asked how to do that he gave me a few options including meditation and yoga. Having done Yoga before, the thought of being the awkward, inflexible football guy in the back of the studio did not have much appeal to me. I didn’t know much about meditation, but I did know that it could be done without an audience of people judging…this appealed to me.
In 2013, meditation was not a trendy or popular thing at least amongst people in their mid-twenties. It was definitely fringe, but I was willing to try anything. I downloaded the headspace app and did their Take 10 program. I had no idea that a fateful old bald spot on my beard would catalyze the start of something so special in my life.
It’s now been about a decade since I’ve had some form of regular meditation or mindfulness practice. And as my inner experience has evolved, how I view my practice has changed significantly. The notion that meditation could change was something that I never even considered as a possibility when I started this journey. When I started, I just figured that the practice would be relatively static like brushing your teeth. I didn’t anticipate that it could take on entirely new forms with seemingly infinite levels of depth and richness.
Below I have charted out how my meditation or “stillness” practice has evolved to support the primary processes I have undergone with the expansion of consciousness.I’ll go into more depth about each part of the journey and the various features that emerged, but wanted to provide this map up front because this is a long ass post.
The upside triangle symbolizes how as consciousness expands the awareness of totality, truth, and access to information, as well as presence of love, expands. I like to think of at as a widening of the lens to which we see, understand, and experience everything.
As for the non-duality / unity consciousness section, I cannot currently claim to have stabilized this state, but like other earlier parts of the journey, my experience has been you start to glimpse it with increasing frequency until one day it just becomes your new way of being.
One thing to note is that as my journey has evolved upward, the practices and experiences for the most part just become more encompassing. For example, when I started aligning my actions to source guidance later in the process didn’t mean I stopped practicing Karma Yoga or working with subtle energy. And trust me even though I am very focused on the heart opening, I still am still dealing with a ton of gunk in my unconscious that needs to be faced and reprogrammed. It’s almost like at higher levels you just have a greater range of experience and more tools in your toolkit.
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The On and Off Again Love Affair
Like many westerners, my original meditation practice was a tool for reducing stress and in my own case, avoiding becoming a 24 year old dude without eyebrows.
In the first few years, I’d do guided audio meditations that mostly centered around feeling yourself breathing. I’d practice for a few months straight which would cause my anxiety to stabilize. I’d then think that “I’m good” and stop the practice so that I could reallocate that 15 minutes to some form of perceived productivity. Inevitably, I’d relapse into an anxious state and have to start the practice again.
This went on for a good 4 years until early on in getting Troops off the ground I hit a breaking point. My co-founder went on a trip to Israel and I found myself sitting in an office high rise by myself, completely freaking out that I wasn’t going to be able to make our fledgling venture work. There was a massive fear that I’d be found out that I wasn’t all that successful, smart, or wealthy and I’d be relegated to what I perceived as the shameful position of a failed entrepreneur who had to get a job. My heart was racing and I had to go out on the balcony and start deep breathing to just calm myself down.
This experience made realize that meditating daily was no longer negotiable in my life. Like brushing my teeth or drinking water, I needed to do it everyday no matter what. During this on and off period, I had tried many different programs and apps like Headspace, Mindvalley, and of course Oprah + Deepak Chopra! All programs were pretty much focused on the breath with some occasional visualizations.
Around age 30, I began to experiment with Insight Meditation which focuses on “noting” all physical and mental sensations. I can’t remember if I learned this from Sam Harris or Daniel Ingram in Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha, who ironically just came on the EvolutionFM podcast.
This was a very different experience because it felt a bit more active then just noticing your breath. Instead concentrating on a fixed point like your breath, you were observing what emerged. My friend Dylan described it like being in a video game where you’re trying to catch the sensations as soon as they arrive. I did this for about a year starting off with some guided practices from Sam Harris and then eventually just would do it on my own to calming music.
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Glimpsing Witness Consciousness
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was really the beginning of a shift of occupying greater lengths of time in witness consciousness. I started to internalize the separation of the thoughts and the observer of the thoughts. I wouldn’t say that I had a predominant shift in identification at that point from thinking that I was thoughts and a body to the watcher of all of that, but when I practiced, I definitely could experience that phenomenon.
This whole time I didn’t really feel like there was a “goal” of meditation taking me somewhere. It was more just something that I learned to enjoy because it made me feel good, less of an asshole, and prevented major stress episodes.
My primary goals at the time were to build a huge business, meet the love of my life, be healthy & jacked, and have a rich social life. Thank you American culture for this wonderfully conditioned concept of the keys to happiness! It was meditation that made the aggressive juggling act of trying to control the world to achieve this cultural dream tenable.
The Meditation To Get Stuff Phase
At age 31 I encountered the work of Joe Dispenza. His work was attractive to me at that point because his messaged alluded to the promise of using meditation to “get stuff.”
Get everything you ever wanted!
I was very much at a level of consciousness where I thought that things in the external world were the key to making me happy so naturally these ideas resonated.
I started to experiment with his meditations on manifesting in the field. I’d still my mind and then visualize things like meeting my partner and selling my company as if they already happened. I did this everyday for about 6 months. Some things happened, many did not.
It was sometime around then that I also experienced being able to “drop-in” very quickly. I could close my eyes and in 20 seconds get into a very relaxed, deep state. I now see this phase of using spirituality to get something as a consistent phase of the evolution of consciousness which should not be judged.
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Beginning to Work With The Conditioned Consciousness
Around the same time I started ramping up my Joe worhsip, I met my spiritual teacher haphazardly through a co-worker. She introduced me to the idea of patterns or samskaras. I began to further internalize that there was an awareness or witness and then the presence of all these thoughts, emotions, and feelings which were actually not you, but rather the result of imprints on your consciousness. And that the main reason I was experiencing anything negative was due to the imprinting or patterns.
It also became clear that “getting stuff” by doing Joe Dispenza meditations wasn’t going to solve any of my issues. If anything it was going to perpetuate being a master to the imprinted concept that something outside myself was going to make me happy.
The primary task from my teacher was to try and notice when I would get disturbed by anything in life. These instances were essentially clues to some underlying pattern that was actually driving the reaction which was really my problem, not the event itself. Something clicked and all that work on feeling what the “watcher” of thoughts and emotions temporarily in my mediations finally made sense. Now there was some purpose or job for the watcher to do throughout the day in identifying disturbances. This concept of using your reaction to life as your spiritual teacher is commonly called Karma Yoga.
When I noticed something would disturb me, I was instructed to acknowledge and sit with it, feeling whatever sensation in my body emerged. Then I would ask if I could accept what I felt followed by inquiring to my heart whether I wanted to let it go? If the answer was yes, I would then replace it with something more supportive like trust or love.
Very quickly, my meditations became much more focused on exploring these patterns and the reprogramming exercises. I used a apple note on my phone called “pattern master list” where I’ve been writing down anything that has disturbed me for a few years. I always try to deal with these in the moment as the disturbance happens, but oftentimes wouldn’t notice the disturbance until later or not be in a place to really sit with it. So in the mornings I’d get into a deep state, bring these samskaras into my awareness, feel the energy behind them, and then transmute them into something more aligned with the qualities of an open heart: unconditional trust, unconditional openness, unconditional love, unconditional gratitude, unconditional reverence for life exactly as it is.
Always On Meditation
One day when I was driving at the beginning of the pandemic I realized I had a completely blank mind. Like there were no thoughts and this lasted for a long ass time. Something had shifted and this new blankness had become more my predominant state then the one that was constantly on a thought treadmill thinking about the past or future.
I am not sure that some massive overnight change had occurred, but rather it was more likely that the change had been gradual over 7 years and now for some reason in that moment I had just recognized it. Like anything, it’s very hard to see such profound changes when something is progressing gradually over such a long time period.
Since that day, my predominant state has felt like I am in that watcher-mode. This seems like something I can’t undo, not that I’d want to.
A few years earlier in my quest for SaaS dominance, I had read a book called the Greatest Salesman in the World. In the book there was a wise man and when the main character asked him about when he meditates, he replied with “I’m always meditating.” I finally understood what he was talking about.
Let me be clear. This doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of getting enraptured in a thought or emotion vs. watching it and “becoming unconscious.” This still happens. But over time it just happens less and less. There seems to be this perception in spirituality where awakening happens like some flashbang event. For some people like Eckhart Tolle I guess that does happen. My experience is much more like you are on a gradual growth continuum and sometimes the events are more just a sudden noticing of the changes. I adapted my own experience with many great teachers like David Hawkins and Ken Wilber in an attempt to characterize this “continuum” of experience which you can see below.
With this new awareness my focus continued to be on watching my response to life and in my dedicated periods of quiet time, working on debugging the unsupportive patterns and suppressed emotions.
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Working With Subtle Energy
The next phase of my journey was going deeper on Qigong and using quiet time to work with energy. Qigong came into my life as a recommendation from my teacher at first to try and settle the Kundalini symptoms. It seemed to help with that so I stuck with it and started to explore the theories of Qi which can also be called prana, life-force, shakti and many other names.
There were standing Qigong methods and then there were more seated visualizations that I have worked on through the wisdom school Ren Xue. The moving ones helped me become attune to my energy by learning to feel it, cultivate it, balance it, and build my field. And the seated ones began to introduce concepts like how to intentionally move the energy for a purpose.
I began to see that all the patterns (thought forms, emotions, concepts) were actually energy, stored in an energy body, and that these exercises which moved energy could “stir up” or bring these patterns from the unconscious into your conscious awareness. The goal was again to transmute the excessive amounts of fear, sadness, doubt, anger and other negative emotions that I had accumulated over 30 years into ones that were more supportive of life and representative of my natural state.
The first part of the process is to become aware of these unseen forces and eventually face and feel into them. The qigong merely accelerated this process of making the unconscious, conscious. Between this practice and the disturbances from everyday life that the responsive reality would show me, let’s just say my inner work plate was always full!
Who Am I?
About 2 years ago, I also began adding in the practice of advaita vedanta popularized by Ramana Maharshi. Basically, the practice advises one to still the mind and inquiry “who am I?” I’ve found you can also do this in a targeted way when encountering a disturbance or pattern like “who feels doubt?” The practice reinforces the notion that there is no one there which further substantiates in the consciousness that you are the loving awareness and not the thoughts or emotions. I see the practice of self inquiry as a tool in my toolkit that can be used on any patterns that come up or when identity reinforcement is needed.
Tapping Into Higher Intelligence & Collective Consciousness
Around the time I started practicing self inquiry, I also began to see the amazing power of asking for information and guidance with a still mind. I will write more about this, but if you are able to maintain complete stillness, you can pose a question to the awareness (consciousness) and receive profound wisdom and guidance. Many people experience this on psychedelics where they can just ask questions and get brilliant answers. The mechanism is that the plant medicine is providing a temporary leap in consciousness as described here. In this more expansive state, you now have access to upgraded information. What’s so amazing about this is that if you continue to do the work I described you can increasingly have access to this at all times by gradually upshifting your consciousness to be closer to these states experienced on plant medicine in a more stabilized way. This is one of the reasons I won’t shut up about consciousness and why this blog is called: Consciousness ∞ The Doorway to Human Evolution.
With this recognition, I started to use meditation and quiet time as a way to get information and guidance on most important decisions and pursuits in my life. Once I started to get in a flow of this, I began writing down everything I wanted help with on a note on my phone. I now pretty much don’t make a major decision without posing a question to the stillness in the last part of my quiet-time morning ritual.
Another offshoot of this notion of inquiry that I began to access is learning to talk to your body. For example if something is hurting, you can ask that part of your body a question and you will get information. Eventually, you can start to learn how to give your body and its parts instructions and it will change. For example, if I am feeling a tightness in my throat, in a deep state instruct it to open and I will experience the throat cavity slowly expand. This ability is the beginning of learning how to heal yourself. Again similar to people having glimpses of healings like this during psychedelics where they can literally feel things shift inside. And just like the upgraded information, this ability to essentially make your body a puppet can become your everyday reality. The fundamental condition for this to occur though is to shift and stabilize higher levels of consciousness which facilitate the emergence of these abilities. At least that is my perception.
These experiences are one reason why I believe so strongly in psychosomatic health and tell people all the time that the mind drives the body. When I say this, I really do mean it in the literal sense. The best supplements are to work on your consciousness. But I take normal supplements too and still deal with my own body shit which frankly I think is a function of rapidly facing so much crap from the past in a short time span. Any explanation that western medicine on why my body has went through so much has left a lot to be desired. I don’t know.
Eventually, you can do the same type of “talking to things” to get information from the field to really anything that you can picture in your consciousness. There comes a point at this level of identification where you realize that consciousness is not constricted locally to the body and that this limitation is yet again, a consequence of the deeply instilled programming on your consciousness. This is the mechanism of how special abilities like remote viewing, mediumship, or astral travel work. It’s something I have experienced and it’s remarkable, but admittedly not an area I intentionally spend much time exploring.
The potentiality of what humans are capable of is so much more then what we have been told (click to tweet).
I acknowledge to some people this all may sound absurd. I might have thought so a few years ago too. But as your paradigm changes you start to experience these things more regularly and then your perspective on all of it shifts. There’s no un-seeing it.
Currently, my meditation practice or quiet time is spent on working with the kundalini energy which helps surface suppressed thoughts & emotions as well as working on addressing patterns observed from karma yoga. I always finish with invoking guidance. My viewpoint is that all this work is centered around removing the impediments blocking the miraculous being that you already are vs. adding stuff as described in this video.
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Not Quite The Journey I Expected, But I Am Grateful to Be Here
When I started my meditation journey I sure as hell never thought this was where I would end up! I just wanted to be less stressed and I didn’t even know about any of these things.
My working thesis is that there is some sort of fairly consistent trajectory that one goes through in their evolution with meditation that might look like this:
Learn how to concentrate / still the mind
Experience the watcher of thoughts phenomenon
Increasingly embody the watcher / witness consciousness for longer parts of your day
Shift identification to the watcher and realize your previous predominant self-identity was just a heap of imprints and programming
Realize you have lots of shit you need to acknowledge and face that is covering up the greater levels of peace, love, joy, creativity, and wisdom which have always been there
Use life to show you what these things are and learn how to handle them in stillness
Energetic and feeling sensitivity may emerge in order to further facilitate and accelerate this unbundling process
Increasingly shift your identification and allegiance to the stillness while opening the heart which is done by monitoring when it closes until it is permanently open
Gradually take more authorship in your reality with the integration of the presence of ego and true Self while identification increasingly shifts to consciousness itself
The diagram I shared earlier depicted my how my spiritual practice evolved relative to my perception of the primary processes consciousness goes through as it expands. I also thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the evolution of these practices to my working unified model of consciousness called The Consciousness Continuum which you can see on the right.
You can see how certain practices clearly map to the level of consciousness or subjective reality view. For example, when one is living in a headspace focused on building up or enhancing the self, they might prioritize manifesting as a spiritual practice because from that reality view “getting stuff” seems like the answer to their problems.
Who knows how much these practices drive the shifts or whether it’s all just a game we play to feel a sense of progress when in actuality there is a much higher divine force that is truly responsible for all growth…or maybe both work harmoniously! Nonetheless, I find it interesting to plot it all out like this to deepen my understanding.
I am sure there are many more phases of growth ahead of me that I am not yet aware of. I also know that this is just one person’s trajectory amongst a vast number of ways someone can evolve their experience. So by no means should this be interpreted as “the way,” but rather it has just been my way in my own experience.
There’s an immense amount of nuance in each of these shifts that I plan on going into more depth in future posts and the book I am writing…so stay tuned!
Wherever you are in your own stillness or meditation journey I hope you’ve found this interesting and encouraging!
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