10 Suggested Interview Questions & Answers for Everyday Meditation
An interview with Tobin Blake
Tobin Blake is the author of Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy, which was chosen as one of the best books of 2012 by Conversations Magazine; and The Power of Stillness: Learn Meditation in 30 Days. He has been practicing meditation for twenty years. Visit him online at www.TobinBlake.com.
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- Meditation still seems like a mysterious, foreign practice to a lot of people. Can you tell us more about what meditation is and why it is attracting so much attention these days? In order to understand meditation and how what makes it so powerful, you only need to compare it to how most of us live each day. If you are like many people, from the moment your alarm goes off in the morning you are out the door and running. You probably spend the majority of your days racing through life, focused almost exclusively on the external world and activities. The practice of meditation involves inverting your attention one-hundred and eighty degrees and shifting your focus from the world outside and around you to the world within; from frantic busy-ness to quietness; from conflict to peace. There is a tremendous, virtually untapped healing force that exists within each of us, and meditation releases it. This is why it can produce such dramatic life changes even in new practitioners, and what makes it so inherently healing.
- You talk about “core Self” quite a lot in the book. Can you tell us more about what core Self is? Core self is the same thing most people call the soul or spirit. It is the essential life force that exists at the deepest core of all human beings. Core Self is pure, creative energy. Think of an infant. In newborns and young children, ego is substantially undeveloped, meaning they still exist in a state of union with their original, most basic Self. This is why an infant’s eyes are so beautiful and clear. They are reflecting their core. As we develop, however, we begin forming individual personalities, likes and dislikes, judgments, grievances—or what psychologists and spiritualists call ego, which literally means false self. Essentially, ego is all this mental clutter that has been added onto your core Self, which then becomes attached to your body.
- Why is losing touch with core Self a problem? What many people don’t realize is that most of the depression and anxiety they experience is the result of losing conscious connection with their core. Everyone longs to reconnect with who and what they truly are, even if they don’t realize this need. It is our ultimate and deepest calling. In fact, the more removed from core Self we feel, the more emptiness and dissatisfaction we experience. Without a conscious connection to our core—or Self with a capital S—life often feels dull, pointless, and at times even hopeless. In contrast, the closer you come to aligning with your true Self, the more energized, balanced, and empowered you become because its energy, which is the same energy that brought the entire universe into existence, will automatically fill your life.
- When you say this is the same energy that brought the universe into existence, are you speaking of God? I usually use the word Source instead of God for the same reason I prefer core Self instead of soul. Traditional terms have many negative connotations attached to them. But yes, core Self energy derives directly from Source energy. This is what makes meditation so powerful, and it is also why it is so good for us—not only for alleviating depression and anxiety, but also on a basic physical level too. Think about this: by aligning with your core Self, you are opening a channel between your life and Source. Essentially, what you are doing is plugging into the same energy that brought you and everyone else into existence—along with every plant, animal, insect, planet and star in our universe and beyond it. Can we, as humans, even begin to imagine such a force? It is difficult, but if you want to get an inkling of the magnitude of this Force, just try looking up at the stars that light the sky tonight. Gaze up at the billions of points of light overhead and remind yourself that what you are seeing is just a tiny speck compared to what exists beyond your senses reach. And you are an intimate and irreplaceable part of that Force, directly connected to it through your core. Your Self is literally a sliver of God, and through meditation you can touch that Knowledge.
- There has been quite a lot research on the health benefits of meditation. Can you tell us what science has found? The recent research has generated a lot of buzz. Two of the most profound effects scientists have observed are huge dips in the incidences of two major killers—heart disease and cancer. On average, regular practitioners of meditation experience a fifty percent decrease in overall cancer rates, as well as the chance of developing heart disease. Besides heart disease and cancer, meditation has been shown to positively affect many other illnesses too. It is also an extremely effective pain reliever, being about twice as effective as common over-the-counter medications. Without a doubt meditation truly is the very best of natural medicine, and it has no negative side-effects and no cost.
- Have they discovered just how meditation is causing these dramatic health effects? No, but they are getting there, and a recent groundbreaking bit of research lends a clue. In a well- designed study performed by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine, researchers discovered that meditation appears to change the body at the level of our genetic programming. They found differences in more than 2200 genes in meditators versus non-meditators, including critical genes involved in the handling of free radicals, inflammation, and programmed cell death—three of Father Time’s right-hand henchmen when it comes to aging and disease.
- What makes Everyday Meditation different from other meditation books? What inspired the book were my own attempts to learn meditation more than twenty years ago. As a young student I found most books about the practice to be intangible and theoretical in focus. Yet when I finally started really getting into the practice, I realized that by far the most important thing a student needs to learn it is to actually do it. So I designed Everyday Meditation to be a hands-on learning experience, so to speak. I really wanted to walk students through the learning process one practice at a time. The book centers around one hundred meditations that not only teach meditation, they offer a daily guide to living a more self-aware and empowered life. It is both a journey into meditation and into healing in the most profound sense of the word. The exercises are simple and they don’t require much time—just a few minutes a day. Beyond the actual meditations, the exercises and teachings are also designed to help readers reprogram what Buddhists call “the waterfall of thought,” an expression that comes from the observation that the human thought process is so forceful and constant, it resembles the background drone of a cascading waterfall—endless, white noise. It is important to understand, however, that this white noise is not without effects in our lives. It isn’t passive. In fact our thoughts have incredible power.
- How do our thoughts affect us? Our thoughts shape our entire experience of the world, our health, whether we fail or succeed, our careers, relationships, and how we feel day to day. In a sense, your own unique thinking pattern is like a computer program running in the background of your mind. Essentially, your thoughts are the operating system of your life. Positive thoughts lead to positive feelings and states, while negative thoughts feed disease, dissatisfaction and depression.
- Can people who are restless or who have very active minds learn to meditate? Absolutely. Mind training is a major component of meditation. Many people believe they could never sit still long enough to meditate, but that’s just not so. The key to meditation is not so much learning to focus; it involves learning to be at peace at the level of the mind. I also don’t advise students to fight their thoughts in an attempt to silence their minds. Instead it is more effective to simply learn to allow your thoughts to flow through you without engaging your attention, like watching clouds cross the sky. They come and they go, but you learn to be the observer. You are not your thoughts, and you do not have to shut your mind off.
- In one chapter you discuss using something you call “the law of reciprocity” in order to facilitate inner peace. Can you explain this idea? The law of reciprocity is all about cause and effect. We understand that, for instance, when we throw a ball against a wall, it will bounce back to us. Actions cause reactions. What we don’t realize is that our thoughts are governed by the same principle. The thoughts you think—whether they are good or bad, happy or sad, peaceful or fearful—have a profound impact on the way you feel and experience life. Thoughts are pure energy. This is not a metaphysical principle, but an observable fact. In reality, everything is composed of energy. Years ago I took a meditation class at the Dharma Center in Portland, Oregon. They teach a form of mediation during which you keep your eyes open. It was the first time I ever tried this type of practice. Anyway, I’m sitting there meditating, with my eyes not focused on anything in particular, when I noticed a golden hallow of light surrounding everything—the people, the chairs, blankets, plants, all of it. Gradually this vision became more intense until a blaze of light had filled the whole room, connecting us all, as if the world was nothing but a sea of interconnected light. That’s true vision, and I later came to realize that this energy field is fully responsive to our thoughts. The law of reciprocity is all about honoring the power of our thoughts, which is a major lesson in mind training. It is a fully life changing lesson. This is why I formatted Everyday Meditation as a daily guidebook. It gives readers the opportunity to examine their own mind and feelings in a nonthreatening way, and helps them retrain their thoughts one easy step at a time. It is the perfect book to keep on your nightstand, and try just one short meditation a day. In this way, you invite a little more peace, a little more light, a little more joy into your life each day, and before you know it, you wake up one day feeling stronger, healthier, and more emotionally balanced, wherever you’ve started from. This transformation is subtle, yet profound, and it begins the instant you set your intentions to become a more aware, lucid human being.
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Everyday Meditation by Tobin Blake
Available Now • Spirituality/Personal Growth • 208 pages • Trade Paperback
Price: $14.95 • ISBN 978-1-60868-060-3