Wake Up, Human 009: Meditation as Medicine

Meditation as Medicine with Shannon Wills


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There’s more to life than what we ‘think.’

Wake Up, Human

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I’m going it solo. Rather than post an interview, I’ve decided to spend some time talking about a single topic, one that’s been foundational to my own development, and one of my favorite tools for waking up: meditation.

My intention here is not to teach meditation or promote any particular practice (though I’ll list some resources and favorites below). Rather, my intention is to unpack a specific theme around meditation: meditation as medicine.

I’ll review the concept of “separation sickness,” (from Episode 2) the ailment of separation from nature and wholeness that so many people suffer in our fast-paced, technological society. I’ll offer my take on meditation as a medicine, or a “reconnection remedy,” for separation sickness. I’ll give a short overview of meditation, share some personal stories from my journey, and provide some practical tips along the way.

I offer this episode, not as an expert or master meditator, but as a longtime student, still on the journey toward self-mastery in relationship to the mind. I hope there’ll be something here of benefit to both experienced meditators and beginners alike.

I hope you’ll join me for this personal (and somewhat philosophical) episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.


*Shout out to Naturalist Jon Young, from whom I borrowed the terms “separation sickness” + “epidemic of disconnection” referred to in this episode.


Episode at a glance: topics we’ll explore

  • Why is meditation an excellent tool for waking up to our essential nature?
  • Why do I call meditation a “medicine,” and what is it a medicine for?
  • I share the story of my first meditation experience, and how it blew my mind.
  • What do I mean by meditation? I offer a basic explanation of meditation practice.
  • I discuss gaining sovereignty and self-mastery over our thoughts, and why it matters.
  • I share a daily practice for making space between our thoughts and our beliefs.
  • Why meditation is not a cure-all — and some of the other things we need to thrive.

Suggested Resources for Meditation:

Meditation Centers/Teachers:

  • Eknath Easwaran and Blue Mountain Center for Meditation: I recommend Easwaran’s books, videos, and the community/courses offered at BMCM.
  • Shambhala meditation centers: The lineage is Tibetan Buddhism, teachings are highly practical and modern.
  • Transcendental Meditation: a simple meditation practice similar to what’s discussed during this episode. You can find a teacher and take classes. But for background, I would honestly start by just searching YouTube and watching a few videos on TM from personalities who interest you.
  • Vipassana Meditation: For those ready to go deeper, I highly recommend the 10-day meditation experience of Vipassana meditation in the tradition of S.N. Goenka.

Recommended Books:

Extra: “Meditation as a Lab”

“There’s a lab for this class. It’s called meditation.”

Michael Nagler

If you were intrigued by the episode segment about meditation being a “practice lab” for Peace and Conflict Studies class, check out the link below. Michael Nagler’s Metta Center hosts a recording of his 2-part PACS course at University of California at Berkeley, recorded before he retired in 2007.

In the right sidebar are links to an updated set of recordings Prof. Nagler has produced since retiring, followed by a note on the Meditation Lab, including instructional videos and a short e-book on “Meditation for Peacemakers.”

Peace and Conflict Studies & Meditation Lab for Self-Study, Metta Center for Nonviolence

May it be of benefit.


When we’re quiet, receptive, listening…there’s a universe of experience waiting to open our eyes to the mystery and wholeness of life.

Wake Up, Human


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Wake Up, Human 008: The Wisdom of Yoga-Vedanta

Yoga is Union: the Wisdom of Yoga-Vedanta with Gajananam


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When you want to dig a well, and you dig down one or two yards, and dig down another yard somewhere else, and somewhere else…you’ll get a lot of holes, but you won’t get to water. Where if you dig one, you’ll go deep. You’ll get to something.

Gajananam

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Gajananam, a long-time student and teacher of the ancient Indian wisdom tradition of yoga. Gajananam is the founder and director of the Vishnu-devananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Fremont, California. He’s a direct disciple of Swami Vishnu-devananda, one of the early pioneering yogis who brought the practice of yoga to the US from India in the mid-twentieth century.

My conversation with Gajananam explores some basic definitions of yoga and Vedanta, as well as the misconception of yoga as “just” physical exercise. We discuss the benefits of learning yoga directly from a teacher, and the importance of deep and focused study on the spiritual path.

We dig into some tools for study, exploring Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, and the Bhagavad Gita, one of the key scriptures of the tradition. We explore some ways the practice of yoga manifests differently in the US and India. We’ll even trade a couple of dream stories with each other.

Join me for this thoughtful conversation, in this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

To learn more about Gajananam or get in touch with him, visit his website at http://www.vishnuyoga.org.


Episode at a glance: topics we’ll explore

  • What is yoga, and why do we practice it?
  • If Yoga means “union” (and it does), when we practice yoga, what is being unified with what?
  • What is Vedanta, and how does it relate to yoga?
  • Yoga is sometimes thought of as physical exercise, or “stretching.” Of course, it is more than that. But what part does physical exercise play in the traditional practice of yoga?
  • We address potential concerns about the cultural appropriation of yoga. Knowing the tradition of yoga has roots in Indian culture, how can non-Indian students proceed with respect for that culture and still reap the benefits of the practice?
  • What is the importance of studying yoga as an oral tradition with a teacher, rather than on our own?
  • How do we know when we’ve “won the battle of life?”
  • What is one most important question Gajananam suggests that we ask ourselves now, before it’s too late?

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:


“What you gain from yoga is not something that’s cultural. What you gain from it is balance of mind, health, greater understanding of peace, of unity. That’s something totally universal.”

Gajananam


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Wake Up, Human 007: Living a Life of No Regrets

Living a Life of No Regrets: Jeffrey S. Cramer on the life and legacy of Henry David Thoreau


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If I am not I, who will be?

Henry David Thoreau

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with author and editor Jeffrey S. Cramer, Curator of Collections at the Thoreau Institute Library of the Walden Woods Project. Jeffrey is perhaps the foremost living authority on the life and works of one of my earliest and greatest heroes, Henry David Thoreau.

My conversation with Jeffrey weaves through discussions on Thoreau the writer, naturalist, and social reformer. We’ll touch on themes of his two most famous works, Walden and Civil Disobedience, and discuss what those writings have to offer us for today’s activism and social justice work, and for navigating the craziness of the modern world. We explore how small, personal acts of kindness can be a powerful means of social reform. And Jeffrey and I will each share a couple Thoreau geek stories from our own lives along the way.

If you’re a fan of Thoreau, you’ll likely learn some things you never knew before. If you’re not familiar with him, you’ll get a primer on topics as diverse as transcendentalism, the power of the moral compass for making decisions in our lives, and the art of living deliberately in a distracted world. We’ll even randomly discuss what eating strawberries can teach us about waking up to our place in society and the world. Join me for this rich and fascinating conversation, in this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

To learn more about Jeffrey, visit his website at http://www.jeffreyscramer.com. You can learn more about the Walden Woods Project at http://www.walden.org.


Episode at a glance: topics we’ll explore

  • Who was Henry David Thoreau, and why are people interested in keeping his work and his legacy alive?
  • Why Thoreau’s Walden is not really a book about a man living in the woods, and why his essay Civil Disobedience has nothing to do with civility.
  • What is the one shared message that all the world’s sacred texts boil down to, according to Thoreau?
  • What is the absolute litmus test for deciding what is right and wrong, concerning our actions in the world, according to him?
  • We discuss the difficulty of “doing what’s right” in a divisive world. How do we stand up for what we believe is right, against someone with an opposing view who is equally convinced they are right?
  • Jeffrey shares his key takeaway from Walden, which he calls “the Thoreauvian question.”
  • What is Jeffrey’s favorite his favorite quotation by Thoreau, and why? (And why he wishes every school in the country would have this emblazoned over the front door so every student could read it every day.)

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau


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Wake Up, Human 006: Your Body is Your Own Business

Your body is your own business | Janis Isaman

In this episode I talk with movement specialist Janis Isaman on the theme of body awareness: shifting our attention from outward appearance to the inward experience of our bodies that is our birthright—and our empowerment. Join us.


Listen here…

…or check it out wherever you enjoy podcasts:


What our bodies look like
is nobody’s business but our own.

Janis Isaman

In this episode, meet Janis Isaman, a movement specialist who has helped hundreds of people to rid themselves of physical pain and remember what it feels like to be at ease in their own bodies.

Janis is the founder of My Body Couture, a one-on-one private fitness studio that provides customized movement and nutrition coaching. She’s also a passionate advocate for healthy body awareness, pushing back against damaging norms around body image and cultural stereotypes of beauty.

My conversation with Janis centers on the theme of body awareness: shifting our focus of attention from the external world to the internal, felt experience of our bodies. We discuss some of the reasons we’re often uncomfortable in our bodies, and explore a several practices for returning to ease. We also spend time unpacking cultural narratives that often lead women and girls, in particular, to judge ourselves based on outer appearance versus inner experience. (Though, this discussion may certainly be of interest to members of other genders, as well.) Finally, we touch on the healing wisdom of learning to live according to our own definitions of beauty.

Join us for conversation on these topics and more in this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.


Episode at a glance: what you’ll learn by listening

  • What are the two principal reasons many of us fall into pain and/or discomfort in our physical bodies as we age?
  • What can we learn from a 10-year-old child about being more at home in our bodies? What might we learn from our grandparents?
  • How can we discern the difference between working on our bodies for our own benefit, and working on our bodies for others’ approval? (Hint: it’s simpler than you think.)
  • What’s the most helpful thing not to have in your workout or movement space?
  • What social norms around physical appearance does Janis refer to as “cultural terrorism,” and why?
  • What is the one tool Janis would first offer to girls and young women for cultivating empowered body awareness?
  • What we wish we knew when we were 12 years old, and what we would love to share with 12 year old girls right now.

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:


Find Janis on the Web:

Website: mybodycouture.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/mybodycouture
Instagram: Instagram.com/mybodycouture
Twitter: twitter.com/mybodycouture
Elephant Journal: https://www.elephantjournal.com/profile/janis_isaman/
LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jisaman
YouTube: https://m.youtube.com/user/janisisaman
Clubhouse: @janis


It’s almost a human right, to be able to move the body freely.

Janis Isaman


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Wake Up, Human 005: The Magic of Breathwork

The Magic of Breathwork with Travis Steffens


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Believe it—and then you’ll see it.
That’s when you step into the infinite.

Travis Steffens

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Travis Steffens, a teacher and practitioner of breathwork: breathing exercises and techniques that employ conscious control of the breath in order to improve physical, mental, and spiritual well being.

My conversation with Travis explores breathwork as a portal to transforming both body and spirit. We’ll weave through discussions on the science behind breathwork, the mechanics of breathing practices, and the gifts that breathwork offers to the mystic and the spiritual seeker. Travis will even introduce us to two of the most powerful breathwork practices in his repertoire: Wim Hoff breathing and the DMT breath.

Watch for practices from Travis to be included in the upcoming breathwork app, Breathspace. You can learn more about him on his company website at www.Rinvestments.net.


Episode at a glance: what you’ll learn by listening

  • “What exactly is breathwork, and what can the experience of breathwork open up in us that otherwise might not be so available to us?
  • Why has our physical body been referred to as “the greatest pharmacy in the universe?”
  • What’s the difference between breathwork and “just breathing” as we do all the time?
  • Travis mentions he’s seen breathwork heal people from chronic illness. How is this possible?
  • Why is visualization important to the success of a breathwork practice?
  • Who is Wim Hoff, and why do we love him?
  • What is the DMT breath, and why might it be “the closest thing to an ayahuasca experience without the ayahuasca”?
  • What’s the most foundational reason for practicing breathwork? (Hint: It’s not to become superhuman, heal from illness, or to become enlightened.)

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:


Knowledge is a book on a bookshelf. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge. And the only way to connect the two of them is through experience.

Travis Steffens


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Wake Up, Human 004: Giving Ourselves Permission

Giving Ourselves Permission

(…and writing about it.) With Marci Brockmann


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We have the ruby slippers all the time.

Marci Brockmann

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Marci Brockmann, an author and teacher whose work empowers people to live more fulfilled lives through the healing power of expressive writing. Our conversation centers on the theme of giving ourselves permission: permission to be who we are, to chart our own path, and to seek inside ourselves for validation, instead of waiting for the outside world to give it to us.

We’ll weave through discussions on hearing the inner voice within the outer noise, shifting our locus of control from the outside in, and why “going with the flow” is not enough if we want to live a fulfilled life. We’ll also explore the practice of journaling as a portal to self-discovery, a way to connect with the deeper knowing we all carry within.

And we’ll even ask the bonus question: what can spawning salmon teach us about giving ourselves permission?

Marci has a delightful personality, and tells some great stories, too. I hope you’ll join us for conversation on those topics and more in Episode 4 of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

~ Follow Marci’s writing and her podcast here ~

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Spotify | Apple Podcasts | YouTube


Special offers from Marci as mentioned in the episode:

Write a review of Marci’s podcast, Permission to Heal, for Apple, Amazon or Audible, and Marci will periodically enter your name in a drawing to win a signed copy of her memoir, Permission to Land.

Purchase a copy of Marci’s memoir, Permission to Land, directly from her website at www.marcibrockmann.com, and use the code BookBundleDeal at checkout. Along with the memoir you’ll receive a free copy of the accompanying Permission to Land journal workbook, and a custom bookmark as well.


“We don’t need anyone else to give us permission to do anything. Just the sheer fact that we are standing on this earth and drawing breath into our lungs gives us that right.”

Marci Brockmann


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Wake Up, Human 003: Daoist Tips for Getting Back to the Garden

Taoist Tips for Getting Back to the Garden

with Solala Towler


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Episode 3: Taoist Tips for Getting Back to the Garden with Solala Towler

…or listen in wherever you enjoy podcasts:


“If there’s no joy, then what’s the point?”

Solala Towler

In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Solala Towler, a modern American teacher of the ancient Chinese philosophy and practice of Taoism. Our conversation centers on the theme of Taoist Tips for Getting Back to the Garden: exploring Taoism as a practice for reconnecting to our true nature—and our true knowledge—within the complex and sometimes overwhelming modern world.

We’ll weave through discussions on Taoism as embodied practice, the difference between “head knowledge” and “belly knowledge,” and guidance from the Tao on living in balance during times of trouble. We’ll have some fun exploring the Taoist way of being serious without being too serious, and we’ll even ask the quasi-serious question, “Do white people have chi?”

Join us for conversation on those topics and more in Episode 3 of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

Learn more about Solala, and his many offerings. on his website at www.abodetao.com.


Bonus audio: Golden Light Meditation

During our interview conversation, Solala offered a guided meditation for listeners. That meditation is available for listening below.

Guided Meditation: Golden Light

Resources mentioned in the episode:

  • The Hidden Life of Trees, a book by Peter Wohlleben
  • Hua Ching Ni, Taoist master, teacher, and author
  • Master Chungliang Al Huang, highly regarded authority on Tai Ji, Taoist studies and related disciplines
  • Zuowang Daoist meditation practice, “sitting and forgetting”
  • Yang Sheng: Nourishing Life practices


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Wake Up, Human 002: An Introduction to the Podcast

An Introduction to Wake Up, Human

…with me, Shannon Wills.



In this episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I give an introduction to Wake Up, Human: the philosophy and background of the project in general, and the intentions behind the podcast.

My conversation centers on the topic of separation sickness: what it is, where it comes from, and why we need to address it if we are to find a way to heal ourselves, our relationships, and our planet.

I’ll weave through discussions on the native powers of the human being, what it means to wake up, and why the world needs us to do it, now.

I’ll also give an overview of the threads and themes that hold Wake Up, Human together, and the range of topics the podcast will likely cover.

Join me as I explore these topics and more in Episode 2 of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

Thanks in advance for listening!


The episode explores the following questions:

  • What are the native powers of the human being, and what does it mean to wake them up?
  • What is the phenomenon of “separation sickness,” where does it come from, and how might we heal ourselves from separation through our own sovereign choices and actions?
  • Why does it matter if we’re disconnected—why should we care?
  • Where are the women’s voices? How is the paradigm of our modern society imbalanced toward the masculine, and why does the feminine deserve our attention?
  • What role do social justice and revolutionary voices for change have to play in this exploration? How is this podcast itself a form of resistance?

Quotes from the episode:

“And so it happens that instead of trusting our own dreams, we spend our lives trapped in someone else’s dream, in a state that the shamans call the collective nightmare.”

Alberto Villoldo

“The grief and sense of loss we often interpret as a failure in our personality is actually a feeling of emptiness where a beautiful and strange otherness should have been encountered.”

Paul Shepherd

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Krishnamurti

“I believe that separation sickness causes us to devalue ourselves and others, non-human beings and the natural world around us. Because as much as we’re separate from something, we no longer value it. When we no longer value it, it’s easier to believe it doesn’t matter. And when we no longer believe something matters, it’s easier to destroy it.”

me

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:



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Wake Up, Human 001: The Mythic Resistance

The Mythic Resistance with Tonja Reichley



In this inaugural episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Tonja Reichley, an herbalist, ritualist and author in the Irish Celtic tradition. Our conversation centers on the theme of the mythic resistance: exploring myth as a tool for reclaiming our place—and our power—within the often confusing matrix of modern cultural and social identities.

We’ll weave through discussions on myth as teacher and archetype, embodiment of myth as a form of resistance, and the modern conundrum of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation. Tonja will also share a couple of myths with us.

Join us for conversation on those topics and more in Episode 1 of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

The episode at a glance:

  • [02:55] Tonja shares the story of her journey of leaving the corporate world for the nourishing tradition of herbalism, and finding her roots in the Irish Celtic tradition. 
  • [10:40] We discuss the term mythic resistance: embodying myth as a tool to push back against the status quo, and reconnect with our heritage and our wholeness.
  • [19:38] The many forms of resistance: are activists just the “people out in the streets,” or are there other ways to make our resistance felt in society?
  • [21:03] We discuss the modern usage of the word “myth” as a synonym for fairy tale or falsehood, and what we might be losing in that translation.
  • [28:33] We talk about making old myths new again, as timeless wisdom and guidance for our contemporary lives. What can we learn about ourselves and our society by reading the myths of our ancestors?
  • [37:08] Tonja reflects on learning from the land of Ireland herself, and the importance of connecting to the land wherever we are.
  • [41:59] Where is the line between learning from other cultures for their wisdom, vs. appropriating or co-opting them for our benefit? And how can myth help us discern the difference?
  • [58:20] We discuss the intersection between the mythic resistance and racial justice, and discuss social justice work as spiritual practice.

Links and resources mentioned in the episode:



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The Wake Up, Human Podcast is Alive!


I’m pleased to announce the inaugural episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast.

Like Wake Up, Human itself, this podcast is dedicated to reawakening the essential powers of the human being.

Podcast episodes will examine the ways we humans have become disconnected—from our innate wisdom, from each other, and from the natural world—and explore practical strategies for returning to wholeness. We’re waking up together.

In each episode, I’ll be interviewing people whose lives embody, reflect, or inspire this important work.

Drop in for information and inspiration to help us reconnect and heal ourselves, our relationships, and our planet.

The first episode is up!

Podcast Episode #1 has just gone live, and I’ll be sending it out immediately following this announcement. The episode can also be accessed below, as well as at the new podcast link on the WUH website.

Note that the podcast is not yet live on Apple Podcasts, Google, etc., but will be soon, and when that happens I’ll provide subscription links on the main podcast page.

This project is a labor of love that has been months in the making. I hope you’ll enjoy and benefit from what’s inside.


Episode 1: The Mythic Resistance with Tonja Reichley

In this inaugural episode of the Wake Up, Human podcast, I talk with Tonja Reichley, an herbalist, ritualist and author in the Irish Celtic tradition. Our conversation centers on the theme of the mythic resistance: exploring myth as a tool for reclaiming our place—and our power—within the often confusing matrix of modern cultural and social identities.



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Thank you so much for visiting. If you liked this offering, you can sign up below to receive the monthly Wake Up, Human digest, which includes writings, podcast episodes, and other offerings, sent on or near the time of the full moon. Have something to share or suggest? Head over to my contact page and drop me a line.

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