44 Takeaways from Sit Like a Buddha

Sitting Like Buddha

I spent a large part of 2015 thinking about why we’re all so busy.

As a result, I’ve tried to be very intentional about how I spend my time — particularly at the office.  I’ve tried to avoid needless busy work, say “no” more often, avoid as many meetings as possible, and control my calendar by blocking time for work rather than interruptions (meetings, hallway chatter, etc.) so that I can be more productive and avoid working on nights and weekends.

In truth, as hard as I’ve tried, I still worked virtually every single weekend this past year.

(One co-worker even leaves me her Friday lunch left overs so I have something to eat when I come in on Sunday.)

And, as a result, I often get angry and resentful. Especially when Monday morning rolls around.

In addition to busy work and an abundance of meetings, I get quite frustrated when it’s loud at the office and I can’t focus on my work.

My skin gets hot and itchy as my body temperature rises. I shut my office door (so grateful to be out of a horrible open office environment), slip on my noise cancelling headphones and take slow, deep breaths.

Some days I’m able to hold off the anger. Other times I sit shaking with rage, cursing under my breath until the noise dissipates. Once it finally quiets down, it might take me 10-15 minutes to regain my train of thought and get back on task.

To make matters worse, I often beat myself up knowing I’ve just earned myself another half hour at the office instead of a workout, valuable time to read/learn, or dinner with my wife.

In 2016, I’m really aiming to become more intentional and more productive in an effort to free up more time for family time, leisure and re-charging. In the long run, I feel strongly that deliberately cultivating more work/life balance will make me a happier, healthier person. It is my theory, and my hope, that this will also make me a better employee.

So when I read Shane Parrish’s excellent introduction to Lodro Rinzler’s Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation I immediately purchased a copy.

My hope was that meditation would help me live more intentionally, be more gentle, have more self compassion, and reframe/reappraise instead of losing my temper — especially with disruptive noise, which is my ultimate Kryptonite.

Here are 44 of my favorite takeaways from each of Rinzler’s 10 steps:

Step 1: Know Your Why

On your motivation for wanting to meditate:

Whenever someone tells me that they are interested in meditating I always ask them why. They sometimes are surprised, thinking I would simply be overjoyed to learn that they are even remotely interested. Often I am and am just displaying an awesome poker face. However, I’ve found that if someone is not clear about why they want to meditate, they will soon find out that meditation is not necessarily easy and end up discouraged early on, not pursuing it in depth.

On intention:

We (people) never pause and develop a conscious intention. When you live your life in line with conscious intentions, you live a fuller, happier life.

On the importance of meditation:

It has a zillion benefits, ranging from health improvement to stress reduction to overall enjoyment of life, but it’s a long journey and the markers of success are not always obvious.

On one of the most popular reasons to meditate:

I want to be kinder/more self-aware/less stressed out all the time.

Step 2: Know the Meditation Technique

On attaining enlightenment:

He (Siddhartha) became in tune with the way reality is. Not his idea of what reality should be, or some notion of what it could be, but he woke up to the way things are.

On the basic practice of meditation:

Body + Breath + Mind

  • Body: Meditation is not “an intellectual exercise,” but rather a way to “connect with what’s going on in your body.”
  • Breath: Just breathe like you normally do. Relax. “Let your body naturally do its thing. In some sense, the true object of your meditation practice is appreciation of your very being.”
  • Mind: In any case where your attention gets stolen by the past or future just remember that your intention is to be present with the breath. Labeling your discursive thought “thinking,” you can bring your attention back to the breath again.

[In the interest of space, I won’t go into the more specific ‘how-to’s’ here. Shane does a good job of capturing in his summary. Better yet, pick up the book for yourself.]

Step 3: Apply the Ultimate Tag Team Combo

“In practicing meditation we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal — quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever is is.” – Pema Chodron

The ultimate tag team combo is mindfulness (the ability to hold your attention to something) + awareness (presently knowing).

On mindfulness:

Mindfulness is like a drill. It’s a precise instrument; it specifically keeps us attuned to the present moment.

On the power of mindfulness

More often than not our mind is being placed on something other than what is going on right now. Our mind is accustomed to meditating on the future and the past, but we need to retrain it to come back to the present. That is the power of mindfulness.

On awareness:

Awareness is like a measuring tape because it can judge how very far you have gone from the present moment and then snap you back to the breath, like the tape snapping back to it’s base.

On the powerful combo:

Awareness and mindfulness are two powerful weapons guiding us back to that feeling of calm. Your awareness will pop up when you get distracted. It will say “thinking.” Then we return to mindfulness of the breath. When we catch ourselves ans say “thinking,” it’s like a trick where we hit that elevator button that allows us to get off into a spacious, cool environment where we can enjoy our lives.

When you continue to apply mindfulness and awareness while meditating you will find that they will naturally manifest more as you go about your day-to-day life.

Step 4: Be Consistent

On establishing a regular meditation practice:

“If you want to get a meditation practice going, you will need a consistent environment, scheduled time, amount of time, and pacing to make sure it’s feasible for you.”

On Timing:

“I generally recommend starting with ten minutes a day.”

“Any time you get to the meditation seat is a good meditation.”

Step 5: Be Gentle

On the path to gentleness:

If you have ever said, “I really ought to be kinder to myself,” you already have your origin story.

On combating self aggression:

By utilizing the tools of mindfulness and self awareness you can learn to not give in to aggressive thinking and remain present.

On the signs of progress:

Our body, speech, and mind become more gentle.

On being hard on yourself:

When you experience guilt over not meditating enough or not meditating consistently the trick is to just give yourself a break.

Step 6: Overcome the Three Main Obstacles

On the three main obstacles:

The three obstacles are laziness, speedy-busyness, and disheartenment.

On laziness:

Laziness from a meditation point of view often shows up as feeling an aversion to the practice itself. It often takes the form of convincing yourself you don’t have to do it.

If you find yourself struggling to get to your meditation seat, just remember to take it easy on yourself, drop judgment, and exert yourself just a little more than you are comfortable with.

On speedy-busyness:

Speedy-busyness is a form of avoiding your practice through conceptual things (i.e. all the other things you do in a day)

It would, in fact, be less time-consuming to sit down and do your practice than exert all that mental energy convincing yourself that you can’t do it.

Consistency is one of the best antidotes to this difficult obstacle.

On disheartenment:

People often get discouraged that meditation isn’t working properly, or that they aren’t doing it right, because they are not immediately at peace with themselves after a week of consistent practice.

The main antidote to the obstacle of disheartenment is to have a strong intention for our practice. The simple reminder of ‘why’ is going to get us off our butts and onto the meditation seat when we feel disheartened. This antidote is a bit like a pep talk a coach gives in any sports movie.

On arising obstacles:

The fact that obstacles arise to my meditation practice are really just gentle reminders that I still have some ways to go in taming my own mind and the importance of doing so.

Step 7: Work with Your Emotions

On the various elements of our own minds:

Whatever arises is perfect because that is what is going on in your mind that day.

With all of these types of thoughts that arise, the basic technique of acknowledging them, labeling them “thinking,” and coming back to the breath will ultimately prove their undoing.

On working with the hardest types of thoughts to work with – emotions:

Emotions come in all shapes and sizes but at the end of the day they are all still thoughts, albeit thoughts with a lot of energy behind them.

The key way we work with emotions is quite simple: we stay with them, allowing them to pass through us like a cloud across the sky. We do not act out on them or suppress them but acknowledge them as potent thoughts that are ultimately ephemeral.

On not acting when an impulse arises:

Refrain from engaging the impulse that goes along with the emotion you are feeling. (Examples = impulse buying, arguing with your spouse, etc.)

On consistently overcoming these impulses and “rest with what is”:

The basic discipline that arises out of our meditation practice is to catch ourselves when we get stuck. If you are stuck in a fantasy and become aware of it you say, “Ah ha! I ought to come back to the breath.” You are cutting through the habitual impulse to indulge in that fantasy and instead are disciplined enough to remember the instructions on staying with your breathing. That discipline will, over time, manifest off the cushion when you notice you are hooked by emotions in the rest of your life. Instead of indulging those, you walk away from the situation or don’t respond in a habitual way. That is renunciation.

On becoming familiar with ourselves in a deep and formidable way:

The practice of working with our emotions shows us that they are not obstacles or something to avoid or suppress; they are the method for us connecting more deeply to our body and our mind.

It is gentleness that allows us to not reject our present experience. It is the ability to be mindful and aware that keeps us from wandering the endless hallways of past and future. It is inquisitiveness that keeps us fresh and curious about whatever arises in the here and now. We can then stay present and learn from whatever emotion has arisen. We can let it be our guide, moving us closer to the core of what we are, which is awake. Along those lines, let’s explore that part of ourselves, our nature of peaceful abiding.

Step 8: Discover Peace

On discovering peace:

Having begun to meditate regularly, applying gentleness to your experience of working with obstacles and emotions, you may have had moments when your practice felt peaceful. You have been spending your time learning to ride the natural ebb and flow of the breath, relaxing fully into your body in the process. As a result a moment may have occurred where it occurred to you, “This is different.” In that moment you may have discovered that underneath the torrential whirlwind of thoughts and emotions is what is referred to as your peaceful abiding nature.

The entire path is just discovering your innate wakefulness. You are already good and awake, you just have to discover this peace for yourself.

On external circumstances:

If you think you can seek everlasting happiness in external circumstances you are bound to be disappointed.

James Altucher reminded me of this in 2012 when I was stagnant, restless and burned out.

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Happiness is not unattainable; it is based in being with your innate wakefulness. In this very moment you can find contentment. In this instance you can enjoy yourself. In this sense meditation is a very practical route to the conclusion that we don’t need to fix or improve anything. We are already good — we just need to discover the truth.

On Meeting Others on a Different Wavelength:

Instead of, “You’re an obstacle to my happiness,” try “I am worthy. You are worthy. There is potential for us to connect.”

Step 9: Become A Dharmic Person

On more than sitting on a cushion:

(Meditation) is about training to be more present and awake in your daily life.

On becoming a dharmic person:

It is the process of becoming more comfortable with and aware of who you are and your innate capacity to be awake.

On passionlessness:

A dharmic person does not run from emotionally confusing situations.

Trungpa Rinpoche pointed out this tendency to want to solve what he called “our boredom problem.” He introduced passionlessness as a term to point out that we can experience boredom and other emotions without wallowing in them or getting hooked by them. You can just relax with your discomfort.

This Louis C.K. video perfectly describes the issue:

On contentment:

Be okay with you are. Have endless faith in your own goodness.

“You can have some appreciation of obstacles becoming simplicity.” – Trungpa Rinpoche

In other words, if you face obstacles with this sense of openness, things become simple. We don’t need to complicate them with what we think needs to happen or ought to happen. We can approach them with a sense of appreciation of what they are and see them as part of our path.

[Here’s 50 timeless philosophical takeaways from Ryan Holiday’s, “The Obstacle is the Way.”]

On preventing too many activities:

We don’t need to churn up a lot of things for us to do.

Is is necessary? Good? Helpful? Timely? If not, then we probably don’t need to engage it. If you have certain habitual things you do that drain you of energy you ought to just cut those out.

Simplify your life through being discerning with your actions.

Cut down on nonfunctional talking.

Make space for the things that matter. [Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is a good starting place.]

On good conduct:

You have to be willing to work on yourself and also be of benefit to others.

On awareness of the teacher:

For someone who is trying to establish a meditation practice, books and sitting alone at home are great. But it’s helpful to have a community supporting that endeavor.

On propagating Prajna (superior knowing):

It is the act of seeing things for what they are. It is when you step out of thinking solely about what would make you happy, or the way you think things should be, and just be with what is. It is also the idea that you should understand who you are.

On the attitude of goodness:

The more familiar you are with yourself the more comfortable you will be in manifesting your own goodness.

In summary (of the the seven previous qualities):

Qualities of being a dharmic person could be summarized by that term: just be a kind, decent human being as a result of the fact that you are more mindful and aware than you might have been if you were not meditating.

Step 10: Relax

On a reminder to be gentle:

Gentlessness is an important foundational quality to cultivate as you learn to work with the primary obstacles that arise in your practice: laziness, speedy-busyness, and disheartenment.

On why you must relax:

For most of us this idea of needing to “succeed” dominates our thinking. We believe we need the best job possible. We need an attractive, fun, smart spouse. We need t get rich and use all of our money to buy nice things. All of this may feel a bit hollow to you.

On being successful at being more you:

Instead, relax with who you already are, relax with whatever arises on the meditation cushion, and relax with both the pleasurable and painful elements of your life when you get off that meditation seat.

On relinquishing your attachment to struggle:

We all habitually make things harder on ourselves than we need to.

Know what you are doing and then relax while doing it.

On relaxing with whatever arises (both pleasurable and painful):

Maintain a sense of humor and delight as you practice. This harks back to the discussion on gentleness, but we’re adding in a sense of playfulness on top of that self-kindness.

Whatever comes up is a part of your path.

This world needs people who are working to become more self-aware and kind.

Photo Credit: Glamhag


2016 is going to be a *big* year for me. Professionally, I’ll be tasked with leading some huge cause marketing initiatives.

Personally… well, let’s just say there are some big changes ahead.

I’m excited, but also very nervous. It’s unlikely the way I currently operate/work will be sustainable given the changes. I’m hoping that adopting meditation in early 2016 will help ensure that next year, I’m very intentional about how I spend my time and what I spend it on.

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This blog started primarily as a marketing blog, but now I write much more about work/life, social psychology, health and happiness. I will also continue to explore top performers (authors, entrepreneurs, business leaders and more) and dissect what we can take away to be top performers in our own work and personal lives.

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