Meditation 101: Zen in 60 seconds
In this episode we discuss:
- Why meditation is so good for you
- How we can teach our brains new ways of behaving and responding to life
- Why children’s minds are primed for meditation
- Neuroplasticity and what’s actually going on in our brains regarding habits – good or bad
- how to instantly change your brain’s frequency to become more calm and less anxious
- and much much more
Farzana Jaffer Jeraj, is a speaker, coach, author and leading expert in the field of applied neuroplasticity, and hypnotherapy.
She has been meditating since she was 3. Yes 3.
And In her latest book “I Cheat at Mediation” – she reveals her technique of how to achieve a calm, clear and focused brain in JUST 60 seconds.
Listen on iTunes
LINKS FROM EPISODE:
The book, which includes guided audio by Farzana, is available at www.ICheatatMeditation.com
Find out more about Farzana: www.FarzanaJafferJeraj.com
More on The Daily Cordial:
subscribe here on iTunes
Connect with us on:
Excerpts from the Episode:
On being discovered at a Tony Robbins Seminar
FARZANA: I was really lucky, a man named Joseph McClendon picked me… He actually runs half of the Tony Robbins seminars, he does like 50% of the talking these days. And at that time, he was the master trainer for Tony Robbins, so he trained all of Tony’s coaches, leadership trainers, everything. And he had been watching me and he pulled me aside about four days into the seminar, so almost 20 years ago, and he goes, “You, I’ve been watching you.” And I thought I was in trouble. I thought I was in trouble because I was helping people and he said, “You have a gift and I’m going to train you.”
SARAH: What an amazing way to be discovered in your field. To have someone just see you and recognize you and encourage you down that path.
FARZANA: Yeah. And I have to admit, I was the most picked on child in school and I came from a family of professionals and I was this emotional, artistic child. And my parents are extremely supportive and at the same time there was always this feeling of…Parents joke about “children are to be seen and not heard from?” But it really stuck with me and that was the first time in my entire life that someone saw me for what I valued as my own gifts and skills and abilities, and it was what I had always wanted to do in life and to be noticed for that and to be recognized for that was actually quite a pivotal moment in my life.
FARZANA: Well, do you know anyone who feels like they get enough sleep? Very few people that I know at least, I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs. But very few people that I know feel refreshed in the morning. Very few people that I know as they get older feel like they have clarity and focus. Very few people that I know feel like they’re emotionally present when they’re with people. And I think as we get older we start pushing our personal needs aside, and our personal time, and our self time to do things. And we’re so great at doing things, but how good are we at being us? How much time do we invest in being us? And so I really really feel that the meditation is about us being us. It’s that time to get back to yourself, to remember who you are. Think about when you were a teenager… as teenagers, as kids, we used to stare in the mirror for hours. And if anyone says that they didn’t, they’re lying or they didn’t have a mirror. [laughter] They’re just lying or they didn’t have a mirror. I think at that age there’s a fascination with discovering the self. Or you know those moments when – whether it was laying back on a swing and looking up at the clouds for hours, or having a horrible day, or having a fight with your friend or something and laying in bed and looking at the ceiling or whatever it was, there was something to be said for staying with it, and being in the moment, and allowing yourself the space to process whatever you were feeling so you could grieve it out of your system, and or to acknowledge yourself, to look at who you are. Because there’s only one thing that is truly consistent in your entire life from the beginning of your life until your death and that is you. So if you don’t have a good relationship with you, what else is there?
NEUROPLASTICITY – how doing something frequently and with emotion wires your brain
FARZANA: So we’re gonna talk neuroplasticity. So first things first. You have all of these pathways in your mind and you’ve got these beautiful neurons and the way neurons work is that they send signals. And the signals are sent through neurotransmitters. These chemicals that we have in our body. And so whenever we feel something, these chemicals flush through our neurons. And they go somewhere. So when you feel something with intensity, you get lots of neurotransmitters. And I treat… I always call them like hikers in a forest. ‘Cause I think everyone understands what it’s like to go through a forest and there’s already a trail there. But sometimes you wanna get to a place where there is no trail and you gotta kind of peel your way through. And if you’re just one person peeling your way through, you’re gonna make a disturbance but you’re not gonna do much. If you have 50 of you going through there, it’s gonna be way easier for the second, third, fourth, fifth. Maybe the second person gets hit in the face with a branch but by the time you get to the 50th person, you’ve got a nice pathway there already. ‘Cause people will have trampled things. They would’ve pushed things aside. And you’ve now got space and the mind is no different. So, that’s how you form neurotransmitters. Intense emotion and frequency. So you do it a lot and you feel it with intensity.
Why it’s easier for children to meditate
SARAH: You kind of talked about how children, it’s easier for them to meditate. Would you recommend to someone who has small children that they would be getting their kids into some sort of meditation practice?
FARZANA: Yes I mean it’s so easy. If somebody doesn’t tell you something’s hard you’re gonna learn it right? If somebody doesn’t tell a child Beethoven is hard and starts teaching them Beethoven, the child’s gonna learn Beethoven. They’re gonna do it with incredible ability. I think the fact that minds are primed to do this anyways biologically just by our natural circadian rhythms, it’s so easy. And there is a children’s version coming out.
SARAH: Awesome. And you say that infants take 21 repetitions to learn something and completely form a new neural pathway. Is it relating to the neural pathways why it’s more difficult for adults versus children to meditate at first?
Why are children primed for meditation?
FARZANA: So, the reason that children are so open, which was I think the second part of your question, is that children are always in alpha brain wave state. So we have the basic four is beta, alpha, theta and delta. And beta being the most alert. And then you have alpha which is a light state of trance. Theta being that deeper, that nice meditation level. And theta being the deep stuff that you go into coma and that deep physical restorative sleep. And so it’s believed that when we wake up in the morning we’re in alpha state. But children are always in alpha.
FARZANA: So, the idea is that maybe they’re more spongelike because they’re always in a state of trance. They’re always in that meditative state. And that’s definitely been the experience for me. When I worked with, I worked with medical students who need to memorize things in large, large quantities and I teach them the “I Cheat” technique or various things to help get them into that brain wave level. And they’re able to retain and absorb and encode things on a very, very, very deep level. And so, I believe that even more than it being a child thing, it’s more about the brain wave levels. But the thing is as adults, around the age of eight to 14, and by 14 they say we’re primarily living our lives in beta. We don’t really access those brain wave levels throughout the day as much. Not naturally anyway. Some people do but the majority I would say do not naturally access.
SARAH: Why is that?
FARZANA: Like that computer analogy. Let’s say everyone starts out as a brand new computer but there’s a standard OS but you gotta get your software put in. And so the first eight to 14 years of your life is just software input. You’re just getting all of this stuff. Behavior, mannerisms, values, experiences… this is what love looks like, this is what affection looks like, this is what pain feels like, this is anger, this is how you deal with anger. All of those programs get installed in those early years of your life. And so as that’s happening, you are building your software. And then you get a lid on it. Alright, it’s like, okay, you’ve learned enough, here’s your lid because you need to speak the same language as your tribe so that you can stay with them and also survive.
Remolding your brain
SARAH: With the neuroplasticity.. You described it kind of like Play-doh which really helps me visualize it, that you can take you brain and mold it into something else. Can you talk about that a little bit?
FARZANA: I call it brain-doh. Yeah, that’s the beauty of our minds and I love what the neuroscientists are discovering and everyday what they’re learning is stuff that we don’t use, the parts of our brains that we don’t use or old neural pathways can be re-purposed for new things. Like we have this cognitive space for new things, they call it “synaptic pruning” where the things that you don’t use get purposed towards other things. So if you… Let’s say you were quick to anger. Let’s say you’re a boss at work and you’re dealing with people who don’t understand things and you rage. You kinda get really angry, you’re really fierce and you start to decide, “Well, this isn’t productive ’cause they’re scared of me and instead of my people asking me how to do something properly, they do it the wrong way and then I get mad at them ’cause they’re too scared to ask me anything. I would really like to handle this in a different way. I wanna be approachable and calm. Okay, so I’m gonna practice my ‘I cheat at meditation’ technique, and my desire right now is I wanna be calm and approachable. And maybe that looks like I’m sitting back, maybe I have a pleasant smile on my face and make eye contact with people.” I ask them how their day is. Maybe that’s your intention for the practice. You go in and you do the technique and because you’re now focusing on this, every time that old situation is triggered and you practiced this, the more you practice that approachability, your brain learns that and that old response starts to disappear.
It’s never too late to rewire your brain
FARZANA: But I would say I’ve also seen it work for people like in their 80s, people who think that their lives cannot change, that it’s not possible for that to happen for themselves. And I recently talked about this in an interview, but there is this woman that I worked with and she was in her 80s and she had people die on her, she was abandoned by her parents at a convent, she had an infant sibling die in bed with her and was blamed for it. She was picked on and the first time that she stood up for herself at the person and all she said was, “You’re not very nice” and the person went and committed suicide and her husband abused her, her son abused her. She had major trust issues, she was shaky, her eyes were darty, she was looking down at the floor, she had agoraphobia and I would say by the third time I worked with her, she was steady of eye, steady of hand and she was taking the public transit when she would come and see me and she literally was smiling and had gratitude.
FARZANA: The thing that really got me, was there was this day when I told her we would be doing this, I said, “We’re gonna be doing this in your session” and then she got there and she said, “Are there things that I said… ” and I said, “Well, let’s do this instead.” And she did not like that change, she did not like that I said, “First we were gonna do this and then we’re gonna do that” and she never in her life would have ever stood up to anyone and that moment where she just said, “I don’t like that. I’m really mad at you right now. I don’t like this” and I was like, “Good for you”
FARZANA: Really, I’m really happy that you just said you’re mad at me. And that was really beautiful, to take someone who’s spent their entire lifetime giving into the needs of others never speaking their mind, always being the nice person, the good girl, the sweet person. And just taking rubbish left, right and center her whole life, for someone to come out of that like that, that was pretty extraordinary and it just makes me believe in that play-doh aspect of the mind or the brain-doh. And I know it definitely it takes more work when you’re older, like the dough needs a little bit more kneading and a little… Like, in ways, by kneading I mean practice, but it is all doable. All of it’s doable. And I’m the example of that, I live this stuff. If you’d have seen me 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago I was not a naturally calm person, I was a worrier. Was such a worrier.
Find the Type of Meditation that’s right for you
FARZANA: So I have been very fortunate to study many, many, many, many different kinds of meditations. And what I would say is there are different types of meditations for different needs. And regardless of the type of meditation you pursue, I think it’s really, really important to make sure whatever meditation you take on is suitable for your life. There are a lot of types of meditation that were meant for a specific lifestyle. Like some of the Buddhist meditations were meant for monks, so that they could be celibate and not have human contact. That’s not for you and me.
SARAH: Right. Not practical.
FARZANA: And I think it’s really important to find the one that’s right for you. That’s one of the reasons that I developed this technique was so that anyone could access the right brain wave level, and then do whatever they want.
I use this technique a lot. But there have been many days where I’m like, “I just need my minute. Just give me a minute.” And I take it because I need to get back to myself, which is I think the primary reason why I do all this.
It always starts with the “I Cheat” technique just because getting into those theta brain waves, and then being able to direct yourself from there, you’re using your body’s own natural functions to be able to help yourself.
We are not the events that happen to us
FARZANA: I truly, truly believe that we… Because it’s my experience, and I’ve seen it again and again over the last 20 years with clients, with people over my lifetime that we get really, really confused about the things that are happening in our lives as part of who we are. There are events that happen, and granted those events definitely shape your character. But it is not the event itself that shapes you. It is the CHOICE that you made of what you CHOSE to learn from that event that shaped you, so there’s always your choice.
Set an Intention
FARZANA: The very first step is to set an intention. While normally, meditation isn’t about being goal-oriented, it is about the practice. If you go into trance (meditation), and you’re in a negative state, you’re going to encode that negative state even further. And I don’t want to do that for people. So if you know that you are going to get into the state of meditation, and right now, say you have a theme or an intention, and right now your intention is self-kindness, isn’t that great that you’ve kind of set that tone, you now go into meditation, those thoughts come up, you’re already going to have your brain saying…
“Okay, but how could I be kind to myself in this moment?”
“How could you be your own best friend right now?”
FARZANA: Intention setting, I believe, is a really, really easy and simple way to set a tone for whenever you go into meditation. And I give everyone an intention, until you do the technique so that it’s so reflexive that you could do it without even thinking about it. I ask everyone to do it for calm, calmness, clarity and focus, and energy. Because I believe, I’ve never met a person who is calm, clear and focused, and energized, all three of those things, that wasn’t incredible in every aspect of their life. Right? Calmness tempered with energy, right?
Breathe & Relax – I dare you to read this part and not instantly become more relaxed
FARZANA: So once you’ve set your intention and I do go into detail about how to do that, like how to set clear intentions when you’re doing it on your own. The first thing you would do is your breath. So, what I always say is your breath is a subconscious mechanism. True?
FARZANA: You breathe without even noticing it.
FARZANA: But when you consciously notice something that’s subconscious, what starts to happen? So if you were to do it right now where you just take a moment and just notice your breath, and just notice how it flows in and out of your body, everything will start to drop. The moment you pay attention to your breath, your body starts to let go, your shoulders start to drop, your breath starts to soften and deepen, and literally your conscious mind and your subconscious mind and your conscious mind are kind of merging. It’s like settling down, those brain waves instantly deepen. It’s like bio-feedback, right? So then once you get into that state, use your breath. Your conscious mind, while a very small percentage of your mind.. It’s approximately 5% to 10% is your conscious, and let’s say 90 to 95 is your subconscious. So if you were to ask your conscious mind to task your subconscious mind to use that breath, I have people imagine that they’re inhaling calmness itself, and exhaling out anything that doesn’t belong. So it’s calmness in, and tension out. And because you can’t have those two things at the same time, you may become calm really quickly.
FARZANA: So once you have that, there are some physiological things that you can do, like just dropping the shoulders does things. But physiologically, if you were to say, “Release your jaw” and just let your jaw go slack, you’re going to instantly have an inability to think. Have you ever seen anyone in meditative bliss and their jaw is hanging open? Not thinking. [chuckle] There’s no conscious thought there, there’s no worry happening in that head. So I mean the neurons that fire together wire together, it’s a famous saying. Just let the jaw go, let it soften, let it go kind of slack. And your mind settles and the whole thing gets really soft and easy. So you’ve set this intention, you’re coming in with this beautiful intention. You’re now noticing your breath, everything’s letting go, you’re breathing in calmness, you’re releasing the tension, letting go of your jaw and then we go to the eye trick which I’m not gonna teach because without warning; without proper warning and education I don’t want anyone doing it in their cars, [laughter] on bicycles or anything else like that. But there is a physiological way to induce trance with just by opening, closing your eyes properly and doing it with your breath. Holding in a breath and using your eyes at the same time. And then, pretty much you’re there. It’s really fast, it’s really efficient.
How the book works
SARAH: I like that you really incorporated audio in it. I think that’s really cool. And you stressed that people must listen to the audio.
FARZANA: Because it’s a learning process. That’s part of that plasticity, right? The first time you do it, we do it for longer and I guide you through and I take you through all of those steps really slowly like, so you really integrate it, you really get it, you internalize it. And if I show you how to do it, if I, there is something about the intention that comes through in someone’s voice and hopefully in mind where you’re like, “Oh, I get that this is how the breath is supposed to move. This is how the tension is suppose to release. Oh, this is what calmness is suppose to feel like when it goes in.” Do you get what I’m saying? There is something about being guided by someone who understands it and says it with intention. There is something about that audio and then you get the visual stimulation and you have the written explanation that makes it so that anyone from any learning modality can get this.
SARAH: And how long does it take to master that minute? Like the first time you do it, you think someone can get there? Or it just gets deepens at each time?
FARZANA: I think the first recording is about 20 minutes, the next one’s 10 and then there is like a three-minute one and there is a one minute recording. I always encourage people, if you wanna listen to the longer recording anytime you can but most people just listen to the four recordings in succession and by the time they get down to the last one, they are there. I have some people who do it in like seconds. Who go into that in seconds like literally like under 10 seconds and I have some people who it doesn’t matter how long they’re doing it, they like to take a few minutes. Of course, once you’ve done the minute and you’re in that trance state, you’re obviously, you can stay there as long as you want. You can take the minute again and again like if you feel yourself kind of coming back up, you can do the process again. It’s totally up to you. It’s your call and while I’ve created a structure, I also explicitly give people permission to make it your own.
FARZANA: If they’re willing to dive into this, and really do it like feel it. I’m not saying go through the motions, I’m saying feel it, do it, be it, experience it, embody it. If you’re willing to do that and able to breath and blink at the same time, which I think everyone can do. Then you’re gonna be able to do this and you’re gonna be able to have a tool that just from the way I teach it, you’re going to feel calm, clear, focused and energized. But after that you can take that calm, clear, energized, focused state and apply it to any area of your life. Apply it to your relationships, your communication strategies. How you respond to different triggers, how you perform at work, public speaking, maybe you’re a musician, maybe you have nervousness. Maybe you’re gonna teach it to your children. I’ve seen it transform so many people’s lives to have something that is so easy that at any moment in time you can take a moment and just close your eyes and just take a couple of breaths and do this and nobody even needs to know what you’re doing because it is so subtle, but once you’ve done it – you’re there. You’re resourceful. You’re ready for anything. Why wouldn’t you wanna have something that makes you ready for anything?