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Meditating with Constant Distraction

by Michael W. Taft When I first started meditating, one of the hardest things was trying to stay focused. There were just so many things to do, people to interact with, noises like music or blaring car horns that shattered and upset my nascent meditative vibe. I felt like I was drowning. How could I focus in a sea of …

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Proven Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

by Michael W. Taft I started meditating over 30 years ago, and it has proven to be a life-changing practice for me. When I reflect on my own experience, or listen to that of my friends and students, I realize that there was almost no area of life that meditation doesn’t improve or enhance in some way. When I went …

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Step on the Clutch

by Michael W. Taft I love espresso. But I remember sometimes “waking up” suddenly and finding myself right in the middle of a shuddering caffeine meltdown. I’d been writing on my laptop at a coffee shop, focused on work. Starting out with a latté early in the morning, I’d just kept ordering and drinking triple-espresso drinks all day long while …

Deconstructing the Perception of the Ego/self

by Michael W. Taft Philosopher Thomas Metzinger says, “Nobody ever had or was a self.” Sages and seers have historically instructed us that the ego “doesn’t exist,” and that we only need to see through this illusion to be free from suffering. While some teachers suggest that we need only recognize this illusion to be free from it, others suggest …

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The One Mistake You’re Making in Meditation

by Michael W. Taft You’re drifting in a vast spaciousness. Your body feels highly energized and very relaxed at the same time. Time melts into one, long, deliriously eternal moment. You are in your perfect meditation place; the payoff for all your hard practice. Suddenly a thought comes crashing in. Perhaps a fleeting worry about your partner or child. “Dammit!” …

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How to Find a Mindfulness Teacher

Mindfulness meditation is a life-changing practice that everyone should have access to. While you can learn the basics on your own, in the long run, having a teacher is extremely helpful. A good mindfulness teacher can usually help you learn more quickly, and stick to the practice more effectively than you can on your own. It may take a little …

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Never Waste Time Again

Life often asks us to wait, and a lot of this waiting can feel crushingly pointless. We cool our heels in lines at the supermarket, the bank, or at a restaurant. We spend hours stuck in traffic, held up in airports, or sitting at a desk. I find wasted time to be an unpleasant experience. Life is too short to …

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The Mental Fountain

I first got involved in meditation because my brain hurt. As a teenage Monty Python fan, that’s how I described it at the time. What I meant, of course, was that the experience of thinking was actually a kind of torment for me. Either the thoughts were unpleasant, which I didn’t like. Or the thoughts wouldn’t stop happening, over and …

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Escaping the Observer Trap

Are you feeling stuck in your practice? Did meditation lead to big, positive life changes early on, but now years later you’re just sort of treading water with no sense of making progress? Mindfulness meditation is an extremely helpful and useful practice, but that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, or that it has no pitfalls. In fact, it’s not uncommon …

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Concentration and Love

by Michael W. Taft I remember the first time I fell in love. I wrote her name in my notebook over and over, repeating the name as if the sound itself were savory. I pictured her face in my mind, and imagined the things we would do together. My lover was so easy to concentrate on that it became difficult to …

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Undoing Distraction, Technology Edition

by Michael W. Taft Does anyone you know not have a problem with too many distractions? Here in the Bay Area at least, it seems to be an epidemic—many people report feeling frazzled from the pressures of too much technology. In Part One of Undoing Distraction, we looked at a few of the basics of reclaiming a hold on your …

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One Thing at a Time

All of us have had the experience of doing too many things at once. Of driving while listening to the radio, eating a burrito, and talking to a friend all at once. While it’s amazing that human beings can juggle so many things at once—a testament to our versatility—it’s also a fantastic way to end up with salsa in your …

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Breathe and Relax for Better Concentration

by Michael W. Taft As meditation experts the world around have noticed over the millennia, relaxing makes concentration much easier. If you are too amped up, your system will be full of stress hormones such as glucocorticoids, which stimulate you to scan the environment for threats, get ready to run, and so forth. Your attention will be in high gear, …