If you've struggled with starting and maintaining a meditation practice, you'll enjoy this discussion with Ariel Garten of Muse.
Let's Say Hello
Due to Coach Allan's vacation, there is no Hello Section on this episode.
[00:03:12.350] – Allan
Ariel, welcome to 40 plus fitness.
[00:03:15.790] – Ariel
Thank you, Allan. It's a joy and pleasure to be here.
[00:03:20.210] – Allan
I've been really looking forward to this conversation for a lot of different reasons, but I would say the biggest one was I am a terrible meditator. I've tried and tried and tried, and it's something that I know benefits me when I do it consistently. But I've really struggled with this until I ran into you guys. And we're going to get to have a conversation about why we should meditate, the benefits of it, the different types, and then like me, why do I have such a hard time with this whole thing called meditation? And then we're going to talk about a tool that has really changed the whole game for me. That's why I'm really excited to have this conversation, because I get to pick the brain of a neuroscientist.
[00:04:14.050] – Ariel
That's awesome, by the way, a neuroscientist who also sucked at meditation when I started. So I hear you and I feel you.
[00:04:22.390] – Allan
Good, because this definitely helps. I know if we would just slow down a little bit and take the time to do this, that everybody's going to benefit from it. And so can we talk about what meditation does to us and what some of those benefits are?
[00:04:42.970] – Ariel
Sure. So meditation has more benefits than we could talk about in an hours long podcast. It's quite remarkable how this one little activity can have so much impact both in your mind and your body and your brain and your relationships and your work productivity and on and on and on. At its basic core, what meditation is teaching you to do is to change your relationship to your mind and your body. So we all spend time with thoughts that are floating around in our head and we assume we're supposed to be thinking those thoughts because that's just what's in our brain. We're thinking about the grocery list and the people who made us grumpy in the fight we had and, and with meditation, what you learn to do is shift that relationship so you're not thinking these thoughts over and over and over again. When the thought about the fight with your partner comes up, you can move your mind elsewhere onto something that's productive. When you desire to check facebook for the 39th time and you know that thought comes up, you have a tool to say, no, I can just move my attention elsewhere, let that go, forget about it and do something else.
[00:05:49.060] – Ariel
So fundamentally, meditation is a tool to help us calm our mind and body, shift our mind out of difficult thoughts that annoy us and that cause physiological distress, and to be able to shift our physiological sense, our anxieties, our stresses, and move those into a happier place. So when you do that, kind of the whole world becomes easier.
[00:06:11.750] – Allan
Particularly when I was working in corporate, I really saw meditation as a great thing. Like I said, I still wasn't very good at it and for a lot of different reasons. But I made a point every afternoon to at least try to meditate and I used different services that would talk me through it. Or I'd find a YouTube video and say, okay, well that's kind of interesting, I'll try that one today. And I could do 5, 10 minutes, but it just seemed like I wasn't getting anywhere, but I felt less stressed. I will say that just even that five minutes of just slowing down and saying, okay, I'm sitting here, I'm breathing I'm listening to the man or the woman guide me through this. But besides that lower stress and probably bringing my blood pressure down a little bit, what other benefits would someone get from meditation?
[00:07:11.530] – Ariel
So as I said, the benefits are too much to list. But if we want to get started, one of the main things that you'll realize is that the conversation in your head is all of a sudden less stressful. So instead of having all these thoughts in your head that are frustrating and annoying, you can gain control over the contents of your own mind and calm them down. And so that then rolls into all sorts of different aspects of our life. So in a workplace setting, you've got emails flying back and forth, you've got colleagues that may have triggered you, you have feelings that you may not be good enough. With a meditation practice, you learn to shift all of those things that would have caused you anxiety, all of those emails, all of those thoughts and feelings, you learn to shift them into a calm and neutral place. And so the workday becomes easier, your relationships with your colleagues improve. The same thing happens in the home front. So one of the things we commonly hear from people in their first few weeks of a meditation practice when you really sit down and do it, is that their relationship to their partner is getting better.
[00:08:16.880] – Ariel
That they're not. Yelling at their kid so much because in the past their kid would do something and the automatic reply would be to yell because you just feel stressed and ramped. And once you do a meditation practice for a few weeks, you've now practiced having thoughts and feelings and not reacting to them, having a thought and feeling and just saying like, okay, I can let that pass, that's okay. And when your kid does something really annoying that they maybe don't mean to or do mean to, the first sensation that comes up is usually one of the anger rising or the frustration rising. And in the past it would just come out of your mouth and you would be yelling at your kid. And with a meditation practice, you might notice that the anger begins and then you can take a moment and say, oh okay, that can fall away now I can stand back, look properly at what's happening, and then have the right response to it. Because we all know when we yell, then our kid just gets upset and yells and we start a whole cycle. And even if something's frustrating to us, if we can stand back and have a better response, oh my God, does life go better in all directions.
[00:09:23.130] – Ariel
So we have improved relationships, whether at work or at home, with your friends, with your partners. We also have improved physical function. So meditation has been shown to decrease anxiety, decrease stress, improve your general physical health, decrease the chances of heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease. The physiological benefits are huge. And then you also have benefits on things like sleep. So when you're not as anxious during the day, when you don't have as many racing thoughts, sleep becomes much easier. And then you have tremendous benefits, actually, in the physical function of your brain. The parts of your brain get bigger and stronger through an active meditation. Just like when you go to the gym, your muscles get bigger and stronger. We can dive more deeply into that one, too.
[00:10:13.730] – Allan
Yeah, let's do that. Because as I was doing research on meditation, for us to have this conversation, most of the benefits I was finding were kind of in that emotional area, so you have less anxiety, less stress, and then, obviously, there were physiological things that are benefits from that. So if you're not as stressed, your blood pressure is probably not as high, and you're not as stressed, you're probably sleeping better. But as we were getting into this conversation, you were mentioning to me before we got on the call, before we got on the recording, was that there's actual physical changes to your brain.
[00:10:51.730] – Ariel
Yes. It's quite astonishing. So, neuroscientists have been studying meditation and its impact not just on your behaviors and your general lifestyle, but actually on the organ of your brain. And what they've discovered is that meditation can actually increase the thickness and the function of parts of your brain. So, bad news, as you age, an area of your brain in the front called the prefrontal cortex begins to thin, just like as you age, all of your cells don't function quite as well as they did when you were younger. Well, it turns out, with the meditation practice, you're able to maintain the thickness of your prefrontal cortex even as you age. So our prefrontal cortex is responsible for our attention, our inhibition, our planning, our higher order processes. And as you really do a meditation practice regularly, you are working out your prefrontal cortex that part of your brain and strengthening your attention, improving your ability to inhibit your ability to not just yell at somebody, but hold yourself back and do the right thing. You're improving your ability to see a situation from multiple angles, and that actually has real impact on your brain itself, improving your brain health and longevity.
[00:12:09.050] – Ariel
Meditation has also been demonstrated to maintain the volume of your hippocampus. So the hippocampus is the part of your brain associated with learning and memory. And unfortunately, as we age, that part of our brain tends to shrink as well. Well, meditation has been demonstrated to maintain the volume of your hippocampus as you age. So it starts to stave off some of the effects of aging on your learning in memory, potentially. Meditation has been also shown to increase the density of your gray matter. So the gray matter is the number of neural connections you have. As an example, Einstein had more gray matter than the average individual. And in a study by Dr. Sarah Lazar at Harvard, she was able to demonstrate that just eight weeks of meditation, so, like not a lifetime, just a few weeks, was able to increase the density of participants' gray matter. So you're getting more neural connections, more information being packed and held in your brain. So meditation really strengthens your brain and helps to stave off the aging of the brain.
[00:13:13.310] – Allan
And then you mentioned earlier when we were talking that it also kind of helps us get rid of that lizard brain a little bit.
[00:13:21.170] – Ariel
Oh, yeah. So the quote unquote lizard brain is associated with the amygdala. So the amygdala is a part of our brain that's responsible for your fight or flight response. So when you're scanning the environment, your amygdala is always looking out for danger and going, oh no. So when we have anxiety, for example, you could have very heightened amygdala function. And the functioning of that amygdala then triggers the feelings in your body of fear, the rushing of your heart, the flush of glucose through your body, that sort of shakiness, that feeling of fear, and it also triggers thoughts about fear, oh no, this thing's going to be awful. Which then gives you the feeling in your body, which gives you more thoughts and the feeling, and it ramps, and it ramps, and then you're in an anxiety attack. Or if you're not somebody with anxiety attacks, you're just in a state of chronic stress. With meditation, you're actually able to calm the activity of the amygdala. And MRI studies show that short term meditators, people who haven't necessarily been doing it for years, but have had a little bit of a meditation practice, tend to have less reactive amygdalas, so you're not as stressed and reactive about things in the world.
[00:14:31.430] – Ariel
And long term meditators have even been shown to have a decreased size in their amygdala. So you're actually really just calming and not activating that part of your body repeatedly and regularly. And over time, not only are you feeling calmer in life, but actually your brain has changed in such a way that allows you to be calmer. It's quite extraordinary.
[00:14:54.510] – Allan
And even beyond all that, a lot of people that have difficulties with impulse control around food and things like that. I had another neuroscientist on not long ago, a neuroscientist who was also a comedian. And in his book he was talking about how his amygdala would almost be autopilot on his car to drive him over to Krispy Kreme. And while his logical brain was saying, no, there's no way we don't need this. There's no way we can eat just one, his control center wanted something, but his amygdala wanted something entirely different and he ended up in the parking lot of that Krispy Kreme. And so this is actually also going to help you if you struggle with certain impulse controls or certain things where you find yourself doing things that you told yourself you weren't going to do. Because I guess the adult in your brain is going to be having the conversation and you're going to be more in control of that and the amygdala that would talk you into doing all kinds of terrible things. It's going to be quieter and you're going to be more in control of that. So it's a win win where if you're trying to make changes in your life and you're trying to be productive and get things done for your health, for your fitness, for your career, for any of it, this can make your brain better at doing those things.
[00:16:17.690] – Ariel
Absolutely. And that's interesting. Meditation helps in two different ways. So meditation is very good for helping you deal with urges or cravings. Because in a meditation practice, what you do is you sit there for five minutes, ten minutes, whatever it is, and you just observe what's going on and you don't act on it. So as you sit there in your meditation practice, you might have the urge to go eat a cookie. And in normal life, you would just follow that urge without thinking about it. In meditation, while your timer says you're still only at three minutes, you have to sit there for two more minutes and you watch your body like, oh my God, I need that cookie. I need it now. And you're carved the time and space to sit there and say, hold on, there's just two more minutes. I can just sit here and watch. And so you're watching this urge, this urge that previously you would have followed, but you're not following it. You just sit there and observe. And what you feel is this urge rising and building and growing. And then at a certain point, if you don't follow that urge, it falls away.
[00:17:16.330] – Ariel
It rises and it falls, and then you can sit there and say, oh my God, I had an urge for a cookie. And instead of following that for the first time, I just sat there. And if I sit there long enough, it just leaves. And then all of a sudden, in that moment, the power of the urge goes away. You realize you don't need to follow your urges. You can just watch them rise and fall and you're still there, everything's fine, and you didn't have a cookie. And so you're experiencing it both sort of cognitively in the moment, you're watching your body and your brain is actually changing. Because in a meditation practice, just as you alluded to the prefrontal cortex, the parent part of your brain is strengthening. And studies show that there can actually be an increased projection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala at the child. So the prefrontal cortex is actually getting better and better at being able to control the amygdala and say, calm down, it's okay, we don't need to follow that urge. We don't need that cookie. The thing's not that scary, we'll be fine in the meeting, whatever it is in that situation.
[00:18:19.630] – Ariel
And so we are shifting ourselves out of the amygdala urge space, the kitty space, into the prefrontal cortex, adult y space. And that's part of the reason why you see people with a meditation practice. And we say things like, oh, that's a wisdom practice. This person is getting wiser, more evolved. They're able to rise above their previous urges and learn how to gracefully move through them and manage them on a moment by moment basis and actually have their brain change so that it becomes easier to manage in the future. It's incredibly cool.
[00:18:53.770] – Allan
Now, there are a lot of different ways to meditate, and I've really only scratched the surface. I had an app that I had on my phone back when I was in corporate trying to take care of myself because I realized, okay, I've got to get my food right, I got to get my movement right. And I did those two things and like, okay, now sleep. And I got that pretty good. And then stress was kind of like my last domino. The thing I'm like, okay, if I can conquer this baby, I'm golden. But that was the hardest one. And I tried to use meditation for that. So I tried various different things. I tried different apps, I tried walking meditation, which was actually, for me, one of the most effective. But there's a lot of different types. Can you kind of talk about the different types and kind of maybe use cases for a few of them?
[00:19:43.130] – Ariel
Sure. So the most basic form of meditation that most people learn first is a focused attention meditation. And you can focus your attention on almost anything. The most common thing is to focus your attention on your breath. So that's called a breath focused meditation. And what you're doing there is you're focusing on your breath. You're feeling it wherever you feel like in your chest, in your nose, you're feeling your breath. And eventually your mind is going to wander off onto a thought. And then when your mind wanders to the thought, you then say, oh, my tension is off my breath. Okay, that's okay, bring my attention back to my breath. And then you put your tension back on your breath. A thought will eventually come. You'll wander away, you'll say, oh, come on back, and you bring it back to your breath. And so it's a very simple practice. But from there, the transformations that we've been discussing start to evolve. So if you don't want to focus on your breath, you can focus on other things. So in a mantra based meditation, you're focusing on a word or a phrase. In a more religious context, it might be phrase like omade padna om.
[00:20:47.690] – Ariel
In a totally secular context, it might be a phrase like I'm happy today, or just a color or just a word. One. One. And so you're focusing on that over and over. And as your mind wanders away from that, you let it go and you come on back. Now, part of why this is so effective is let's go back to the Krispy Kreme example. So if your mind wanders onto Krispy Kreme and you're thinking, donut, donut, donut. Well, in your meditation practice, what you're learning to do is to take your mind off that donut and bring it back onto your breath, which has nothing to do with donuts. And you'll just be focusing on your breath, focusing on your breath. Eventually your mind will go, oh, donuts. And then you'll say, thanks, donut, come on back to my breath. And so instead of following these urges or following these thoughts, you're learning to redirect your mind back to something neutral and productive to you. So we talked about breath focus. You've got mantra meditation. A walking meditation is very similar, but what you're doing is you're putting the attention in the part of your body that's moving, so it's usually your feet.
[00:21:51.550] – Ariel
And so instead of following your breath while you sit here, you'll be walking very slowly, very mindfully, and putting your attention into the sensations of the steps. So you're just feeling the step underneath you. Eventually your mind is going to wander away to the donuts or Facebook or the grocery list or whatever it is, and you're just going to bring your attention back to your step. So in each of these, we're really just bringing our attention back to something neutral in our body and being able to practice shifting our attention away from things that don't necessarily serve us. And so you can do whichever form works for you, whatever way you find to best meditate. And it's all serving the same end.
[00:22:33.410] – Allan
Yeah, most of the ones that I would do if there wasn't a walking meditation, I would do a guided meditation. They're telling you, okay, feel your feet, think about the sensations of your feet on the floor, the temperature, all that. Then you work your way up your legs to your torso, and then your hands and arms, and then up through to your head. And as you kind of go through that, your attention is like 100% on you. Another one that I did, if I recall, was a stress one. And they wanted you to imagine that hot lava was being poured in the top of your head and then starting to fill up your feet all the way up through your body. So you try to imagine that warmth as this ray of sunshine or whatever is basically doing this and filling you up. So there's been quite a few that I've tried, but I think my challenges were always the fact that if I took the time to slow down for even a minute, my brain filled up with those thoughts. And almost every one of those thoughts was a to do item. They were not just random thoughts of oh, I'm hungry, or this or that.
[00:23:45.590] – Allan
It was literally, oh, I forgot to make that phone call this morning. I really need to make sure I make that phone call this afternoon. And then I found myself hitting pause on the meditation if it was guided to literally have a piece of note paper and write down that to do item before I could let it go. Because it terrified me to let a to do item that was important go, particularly if I had already forgotten about it that morning. But there are a lot of challenges. Wandering mind for me was a big one. But there are other challenges that people do have with meditation. Can we talk about a few of those?
[00:24:21.890] – Ariel
Sure. So the greatest challenge that people have with meditation, I find, is that they think meditation is supposed to be about letting your mind go blank. And it's not. So nobody's going to sit there and just magically their mind goes blank and all of a sudden they're meditating and maybe they're levitating. I think actually levitation is about as easy as letting your mind go blank for a few minutes. It's impossible. And so in meditation, what you're really doing is you're having thoughts which are okay, it's normal, our brains have thoughts. And when you have the thought, you're moving your mind away from it and back onto something that's neutral. In your case, when you were paying attention to different parts of your body, like your feet, your legs, your knees, that's called a body scan. So when you had a thought, you would bring your attention back to the next part of your body and just pour all your attention into it. So first problem, people have a misconception that your mind is supposed to go blank. It's not, if your mind doesn't go blank, don't worry about it. If you have a ton of thoughts, totally fine.
[00:25:20.630] – Ariel
The question is what you do when you have those thoughts. Do you follow the thought and think about it? Or do you let the thought go either by just bringing your attention back or writing it down? If you feel like you really need to, if that's your way to let it go, that's okay. Especially at the beginning and then returning to your meditation practice. Another common problem people have is the misconception that you have to be sitting in a particular posture. So there's no magic to sitting on the floor with your knees crossed in an uncomfortable lotus. It doesn't really matter how you sit. The standard meditation posture is meant to be one that creates a sensation of uprightness. So you're sitting with a straight back, you're feeling upright, you're feeling strong and grounded. For most people, that is not sitting in a lotus position on the floor, so forget about that. You can sit in a chair, in a comfy chair, however, makes you feel good so long as you don't fall asleep. Which brings us to the next challenge. Some people fall asleep when they meditate. That's also okay, and that's incredibly normal.
[00:26:25.860] – Ariel
At the beginning, I would fall asleep meditating at the beginning. Now when I do a focused attention meditation, it makes me more alert, because meditation ultimately does make you far more alert and more engaged in the world. But at the beginning, it can make you feel sleepy, and that's okay. It's probably a sign that you're not sleeping well, and that when you've given your body a few minutes rest, it just wants to fall asleep, which is a great sign to actually prioritize getting more sleep at night. And if you find that you're falling asleep in a practice, that's okay. Choose a shorter practice. Choose something guided. Do a walking meditation, for example, so that you're standing and you're moving, or use something that's going to give you a little bit of stimulation during the practice. You stay awake, stand up while you're doing it, take deep breaths. And then another challenge that people have is feeling like, are they doing it right? And so that's possibly the biggest challenge. Exactly. That's possibly the biggest challenge in a meditation practice. And for that one, know that as you're letting your mind go from a thought and coming back to the breath know, that is the act of meditation.
[00:27:39.070] – Ariel
It may feel weird or strange, but just keep doing it. And as you do it, bit by bit, you're going to see improvement.
[00:27:45.980] – Allan
Yeah, I think that was one of the hardest things for me, was there was no real feedback. There was no one there to really tell me, okay, Allan, you did that one well. That wasn't until you guys sent me one of your muse devices. And that was a game changer. One, because you have complete control over the meditation that you do, how long you do it. I mean, literally, you get on the app, and you're like, okay, I want to do five minutes. I want to do ten minutes. And then you sit down and you start and I'm listening to the waves, and they're going and then the feedback that I'm getting okay, I hear the little birds, then I know I'm on track. I hear a little bit more of the tougher waves. I know, okay, I got to get myself really back. I've let myself, my brain wander whether I knew I was doing it or not. The feedback that you're getting from the device that wraps around your head, it's literally reading your brainwaves to say, okay, are you where you're supposed to be with this meditation? And so it catches you leaving before you've even really left, which is really cool because it kind of okay.
[00:28:59.160] – Allan
Yeah, I guess I was sort of zoning out. I wasn't paying attention to my breath. I wasn't paying attention to the sound of the waves. And now here I am, I'm back, and then I get rewarded with little bird sounds. And so it's a really cool device. The Muse device I have I think that it's the S. I think they sent me the S one. Yeah, the muse S and it's great. I mean, it's so user friendly, and the app is just you get on your phone, they sync, and then you start literally sitting down, going through a meditation. And I don't want to say it's gamification, but it kind of feels like, okay, I want to do well, and I want the feedback and the five minutes. I can tell you it goes really quickly when you're really in it. It's not like you feel like because before I know I'd go through a guided meditation, five minutes felt like an hour of real time versus sometimes I'm sitting with amuse and five minutes is poof, it's gone. I'm like, wow, I'm just sitting here, quiet, breathing, listening for the waves and the birds, and I'm in it.
[00:30:17.910] – Allan
I love that. And then you get done, and you get done and you've got a scorecard. It's going to literally tell you what your heart rate was doing, what your brainwaves were doing, and kind of say, okay, I know I'm getting better because I get that feedback.
[00:30:34.570] – Ariel
I'm so glad it's been helpful for you and it's been meaningful. When we started the journey of creating Muse, it was really to solve that problem of, am I doing it right? Because it was so hard to really figure it out. I, as a scientist, knew the impact of meditation on the brain. I would be teaching people to meditate, and I, too, was a sucky meditator. My brain would bounce all over the place, and I'd get frustrated and be like, oh, what am I doing here? Am I doing this right? And of course, as an A type, you want to do things as best as you can. And so it was really in the process of building Muse that I, too, was able to say, right, this is a meditation practice. I'm focused on my breath now. This is when it's working. Oh, my mind has wandered away, and I'd be signaled instantly, and then I'd bring my brain back. And then that's how I established my practice. And it was a game changer.
[00:31:26.560] – Allan
Yeah, I think so, too. It was just what do they say? I think I've read somewhere is if you don't have time to meditate for five minutes, you should meditate for an hour. I haven't made it to an hour yet, but it actually does just make it easier to meditate longer because you feel like you're accomplishing something each and every time you do it. Which, again, I'm kind of like that to a type A, I like to know that I've accomplished something and didn't just spend five minutes. And I'm guessing maybe I did, maybe I didn't. This is definitely a game changer.
[00:32:03.830] – Ariel
We should probably explain exactly what we're talking about. People are like, what is this what they're talking about here?
[00:32:09.930] – Allan
Okay, so what the Muse is, is it's basically like a headband that has little readers on it. It can read your brainwaves, so it knows if it's a delta alpha brainwave. When you're in meditation and you're in the right headspace, your brainwaves are going to be in a certain pattern. I think it's delta dominant. I may be getting that wrong because I'm not the neuroscientist, but
[00:32:39.090] – Ariel
you see an increase in alpha, you see an increase in theta, you see some coherence. There's a whole constellation of things that happen in your brain when you meditate. And so it's a sweet sauce that we've been able to identify.
[00:32:53.110] – Allan
And it's measuring heart rate too, right?
[00:32:55.290] – Ariel
[00:32:57.930] – Allan
Go ahead. Well, no, it's basically collecting data from your body, the physical reactions that are going on in your brain and with your heart, your parasympathetic system. And basically that feedback is going into the app real time.
[00:33:16.510] – Ariel
Yes. And then changing your experience so that you're getting feedback. It's neurofeedback. So basically, Muse is a clinical grade EEG. So they're the same sensors that you'd use in a hospital if you went in to get an EEG. And the Muse is able to track your brain activity and know when you're meditating and when your mind is wandering. And then they're guiding sounds that give you feedback about your meditation. So when you're focused, you heard Allan talk about the waves. When you're focused, the waves are quiet and then little birds start to chirp, saying, Yep, you're doing it right. And then as your mind wanders away onto a thought, you hear the sound of the waves pick up and that becomes your cue, like, oh, that's a thought. Let it go. Come on back to my breath. And then you hear the birds chirping. And so it becomes this very simple way to know if you're meditating, because it's tracking your brain and body while you do it and giving you feedback and telling you where you're at. And then after the fact, you get your data charts and graphs and scores, things that show you moment by moment what your brain was doing so that you can track your progress and improve your practice day after day.
[00:34:23.090] – Allan
And what I liked about it was there were different themes. I guess the best way for me to say it is there are different themes. Like, I happen to like the ocean, so the ocean waves were one that really appealed to me, but there's a lot of other themes in there as well. So you can really kind of ratchet into making this yours. This is the device that fits on your head, and it's the app, the service that you then can go in and find all the different ways that you could do sound sets and all the different skype, I think you call it soundscapes or something. I forget exactly what it was called, but basically you can customize your approach to this. And I sit down with it, and I just say, okay, I want to do five minutes, and I set it for five minutes. And then it gets going. I hear the waves, and I kind of concentrate on that sound on my breath, and I watch them calm. And then I hear the birds, and I'm like, okay, I'm in my space. And then all of a sudden, I'm out of my space for one reason or another.
[00:35:22.330] – Allan
The guy outside my office is yelling for the boat. Anyone wants to go to Amarante? He's yelling, Amarante. Amarante. And I might hear that voice, and that might pull me away, and I'm like, okay, I know why I got it pulled away, but this is where I belong, and I'm back in it, and I'm hearing the birds. The birds are nicer to listen to than the guy yelling, Amarante. You've got a loud voice. But it's really been a cool tool. With the device and the app, you basically have the coach, the meditation coach right there to walk you through this to keep you engaged. And then at the end, you've got the feedback to say, okay, how did this overall meditation session go? What was your resting heart rate throughout this? Because you're sitting there and you see what your heart rate was the entire five minutes. So you can see if this is destressing you, calming you down. You see that happen real time. So it's just a really cool thing.
[00:36:22.410] – Ariel
Thank you. Yeah, it's been amazing. And one of the most amazing things is seeing the way that it's been applied, both in meditators, so people who've never meditated before and people who have expert practices both get value from it and then also in healthcare. So the Mayo Clinic started doing studies with Muse back in 2014. They gave Muse to women awaiting breast cancer surgery, hoping that it would help them in the cancer care process. And they published a paper demonstrating that using Muse decreased the stress and fatigue during their cancer care process and improved their quality of life. So that was like, oh, my God, I can't believe we've had yeah.
[00:37:02.470] – Allan
That's awesome. That's incredible.
[00:37:04.870] – Ariel
Yeah. And Mayo thought so, too. So then the clinicians at the Mayo Clinic started five other studies with Muse using Muse for fibromyalgia for long COVID that study is about to be published. They then gave it to their own doctors who were feeling stressed and having burnout in the emergency room during the pandemic. So doctors in the E.R. Use Muse, and they were able to decrease their burnout by 54%, improve their sleep, and even improve their cognitive function by using Muse every day. And they were able to find a.
[00:37:35.200] – Allan
Good thing for a doctor that's a really good thing for an emergency room doctor. Improved cognitive function. Yeah. There you go.
[00:37:42.500] – Ariel
Very essential. More so than for you and I. Yeah.
[00:37:45.160] – Allan
[00:37:46.210] – Ariel
And so it's been unbelievable. Now they have a new study in menopause that's going to be kicking off. So it's been amazing to see how this is rolled out, both with people moms that bring it home for their kids, and then everybody starts meditating in the family. And our real goal, which is to make a real impact in people's health and happiness and seeing that happen within healthcare systems now, Hope Hospital, about 100 of their doctors have been using Muse, and it's just been expanding. It's unbelievable.
[00:38:15.590] – Allan
That's awesome. So now you can get your own Muse and one year of the service. You guys are so cool to offer a 20% discount for the device and one year of the service if you just go to choosemuse.com/40plus, or as we always do here, 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/muse. And that'll take you to that page where you can get that discount code already in there, ready to go. I've loved the muse. I'm going to keep using it. I'm going to enjoy it. It's making me feel better. I get done, and I don't have any doubts that I had a good session. Or maybe I know why it wasn't because Mr. Amarante guy is out there yelling, but at least at that point, I know when I'm on and I know what it feels like, and that makes it that much easier to get there.
[00:39:10.590] – Ariel
Oh, amazing. It's always so incredible to hear people whose lives it's impacted, and it's just an honor and a pleasure to do so. And it's my greatest wish that everybody in the world is able to taste the relief of having meditation practice and get those spaces of just calm and ease throughout the day when the things that used to bother you just don't. If we could all just realize that the voices inside our heads that are shouting at us, the Amarantes in our own mind, that we have the power to turn them off, to turn our attention away from it, to move away, that we would all just live easier, happier lives. And that possibility is there for all of us. You can really learn to turn off those annoying voices in your own head and be able to just focus on what matters to you.
[00:40:02.120] – Allan
Okay, so again, you can go to choosemuse.com/40plus or 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/muse, and that'll take you to the page with the 20% discount and a free year service for it. So give it a shot, try it out. It's really helped me, and I believe it's going to help you, too.
[00:40:26.790] – Allan
[00:40:28.390] – Rachel
Hey, Allan. How are you today?
[00:40:30.630] – Allan
We're doing all right. Again. We're recording all of these, so there's not really a hello section in the episode as we go, uh so there's several of these are all being recorded together. But that said, yeah, I'm just as good as I was last time we talked.
[00:40:48.110] – Rachel
Well, that's good. Getting ready for your trip?
[00:40:51.690] – Allan
Yeah, it's all good. It's all good. This was really interesting because I really tried to work on meditation as a practice on a regular basis. And it was just one of those things where alarm goes off and I get distracted by something else or I'm working on something else and I'm like, okay. Because I was trying to do it in the afternoons because I knew that was my most stressful moments and it just wasn't there. And the problem was when I slowed down, like, just nothing in my head, then everything's in my head, it's like, oh, I forgot to call. Oh, I forgot to call such and such, and I need to send that email, and I got to get that little bit done. And so I end up having to stop in the middle. And so when I'd use the other apps, I'd push pause, and I'd go over there and say, okay, I just pushed pause so I could come over here and write my to do list. But when I was using this thing, it was like, no. All I'm really focused on are the sounds, the ocean sounds. I had the headphones in, so literally didn't hear a whole lot of outside sounds except for Amarante guy yelling because the boats, they're leaving right out from under me.
[00:42:07.270] – Allan
So the guy's out on the street trying to get just a couple more people on the boat for that trip. There were things that would pull me away from it, but it wasn't like my thoughts were doing it. It was just like, okay, I'm aware of something else going on around me. So there wasn't the wandering mind that I had before. And yes, there's an interruption, but then I immediately get the feedback that I'm out. I'm not paying attention or not present. And it tells you that literally, that's neat. The app tells you it's like, you're not here. Come on back. And then the waves calm down, and then the birds start chirping, and it's kind of an interesting little thing.
[00:42:51.100] – Rachel
That sounds really neat. I've never been one just to sit still. I'm kind of a fidgeter myself. But since I've started practicing yoga, which I would imagine is somewhat similar to Pilates, in that you need to focus on where your body is in space and holding moves or gliding into a new move. And when I've been practicing this, I listen to the person who's saying, okay, do this. Breathe three times. And so basically, as I'm doing yoga, I'm only practice or only thinking about breathing and moving. And 20 minutes goes by and I've not thought of, like, you were just saying all the things I need to accomplish on the rest of the day and my to do list, and I feel like Pilates or yoga or something is kind of probably a good transition to be able to sit still and focus on your meditation. And the other thing I just want to share, too, is that when I do things, whether I'm going to the gym or on a run or doing my yoga, I have decided that this 15 or 30 minutes of time, or whatever it is, this time period is mine. And I don't want to think about what else I need to accomplish.
[00:44:03.270] – Rachel
Like, in these 30 minutes, this is what I'm doing, and the rest of my day will wait, and it'll get done when it gets done. And I think having that time helps you process your thoughts a little bit better later on. Like she was talking about, you're not thinking of things repeatedly. You're not thinking the same thing twice. So when you're in a calm space and you can just think about one thing, then you're shifting your thoughts, and your anxiety levels kind of go down. I think all of this is a wonderful practice for people that might be suffering with a little bit of anxiety these days.
[00:44:39.260] – Allan
Yeah. If you're having difficulty sleeping, if your blood pressure is a little high, you know, it's all stress induced. You're trying to do the other things. Because when I started my journey, I started with nutrition and movement. I said, okay, these are two things I can control. I got to a point, and I'm like, okay, now if I'm looking at my health, what's missing? And I'm like, Well, I know I need more sleep, and I know I need to reduce stress. I reduced some of my stress by just getting out of toxic relationships. That was a big part of it. But I still had a very stressful job, and I still had some sleep issues. So I really focused on my sleep. And once I got my sleep down, which was really more of just go to bed at the same time and don't just think, I have to fall asleep right then. If I don't, that's okay. Just lay there. Just lay there and breathe. So in a sense, it was a form of meditation for me. Interestingly enough, that's exactly where I would go in my head. I'd be like, okay, I'm walking down the beach, and I feel the sun, and I'm just thinking about, if I were on the beach, what that would feel like and what that be like.
[00:45:56.080] – Allan
The sand under my feet, the sun, the waves, the smells, the birds, all of that. And so that's why I think I gravitated towards the ocean one on their app, they've got several. So it's not all ocean. There are different ones. But I think that's why I gravitated to it, because that was a way to really kind of bring myself down and fall asleep faster. And so I would go to sleep at the same time every night. That was kind of rule number one. Number two was I would lay there even if I wasn't going to go to sleep straight away. If I lay there for more than an hour I'd get up. But I think most people will find if you just lay in a dark room with your eyes closed for an hour, you're going to fall asleep. I'm sorry. You're tired. You are tired, probably.
[00:46:43.730] – Allan
And so that's what I would do. And then I wouldn't send alarm because the time I set to go to bed, there was, like, almost zero chance I would oversleep in the morning because that would require, like, 12 hours of sleep. I mean, literally, I didn't have to be at work until 09:00, which meant I had to leave by 08:00. So if I went to bed about 8:30, there's high likelihood I'm going to wake up sometime between five and seven. And when I do, because the sun's coming up and it's brighter in my bedroom because I didn't have the blackout, I didn't need the blackout shades there. Then I'd sleep, and then the sun would be coming up, the room would start lightning, and I knew if I woke up and the room was light, I needed to get up because I had slept enough. I got to work, so there was sleep. The stress part was where I was really trying to do the meditation and this and that, and I struggled with it because I got quiet. I'd think about the 100 things I need to get done before the day is over.
[00:47:43.190] – Allan
The only time I ever could just turn my brain off like that was lifting. When I'm focused on a lift, I don't even hear anything. So everybody's like, what's your favorite playlist? I'm like, I don't even try to listen to music anymore, or even books because I would start lifting and maybe four or five chapters later, and I'd like, what did I just listen to? Because I don't remember any of it. And so I was like, yeah, I don't listen to music. I don't listen to books. When I'm lifting, when I'm lifting, all I hear is the lift. All I hear is, okay, Allan, this is the form. I'm coaching myself through the lift. I'm feeling every bit of it, and I'm focused on that, and so I don't hear anything. And so that's a form of meditation for me is that. But with this, this is a very similar experience. When I'm sitting there with the muse on and it's going through it, it's telling me I'm present. It's helping me know that I'm present. And I'm listening to the waves, and that five minutes goes like, snap. Whereas before I try to meditate in five minutes, I'd stop three times, a hit pause to write something on a to do list because I didn't want to forget it.
[00:48:57.880] – Allan
I didn't want to let that thought go. Just let the thought, no, if I let the thought go, I'm not going to send the email. And then, yeah, tomorrow is going to suck. So, no, I've got to send that email. So I write down the email and then I go back in or try to do it again. And I never really get into a meditation that way. But this was different, this was definitely different.
[00:49:18.370] – Rachel
Well, it takes practice to be able to set those thoughts aside for later. It's hard, it's really hard. And that's really what we're trying to do is take that five minutes of the meditation and set all of those other thoughts that could be disruptive, set them aside for later and stay focused on what you're doing. But what was also fascinating to me is that this device is being studied at the Mayo Clinic and you had discussed for breast cancer patients where I would imagine and fibro both have high levels of pain. And so maybe doing this meditation has this really amazing physical adaptation that it changes your brain context, but also brings anxiety down. So maybe it has a lot to do with managing the pain and maybe focusing more on the healing process when people have this chronic type of pain. That's really interesting.
[00:50:12.550] – Allan
And as I went through and did some research before I had the conversation with Ariel because there was no book to read, this like usually I'll read a book and I'm like, okay, I don't want to go into this interview just asking a bunch of questions I don't know the answer to. They're still asked her things I didn't know the answer to, obviously. But as I got into doing my research, that was really a big part of it was if people think about meditation as a way to lower stress or to basically improve your focus, reduce blood pressure as related, sleep better, those types of things. But yes, meditation is a pain management therapy and it can be used that way. And given how many people are in some level of pain every day, taking opioids or other medications, INSEADs and stuff for pain which are not doing you the favors that you think they are, they're giving you a reprieve from the pain. But if you could sit down and meditate for five minutes and that pain dissipate for a few hours, that's a lot better than popping a pill if you can just do it through meditation.
[00:51:24.820] – Allan
So it's at least worth an exploration if you are in pain, to see if a little bit of meditation and it doesn't have to be sitting there closing your eyes, going ohm, and all that kind of stuff. Sure, it can be a walking meditation, just being present in nature and see if that helps because movement does help with pain sometimes. But this Muse device is fabulous and I'm really glad I have it about to take a vacation. And this is all going to be about stress reduction and just relaxation and it will be really nice to be able to get a practice and get consistent and really try to make that a habit of something that I do each day. And I think the Muse device is something that's going to keep me engaged. And I'll have the feedback and I'll have the reports, and I think all of that's just going to be something that's going to motivate me. Because part of my motivation, in addition to being someone who's driven and an Atlas, as I say, who wants a big challenge and meditating every day will be a big challenge. But the other side of it is, I also am somewhat of a tires person, so I need that consistency, I need that traction to feel like I'm making progress.
[00:52:43.310] – Allan
And so the Muse is something that's going to help me do that and help me see it.
[00:52:48.090] – Rachel
That sounds awesome. That sounds like a great thing to practice, for sure.
[00:52:52.070] – Allan
So if you're interested in this, they are given one year service for free and a 20% discount. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/muse or 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/muse, and that'll take you to their sales page that they've given that special discount to us.
[00:53:11.550] – Rachel
[00:53:12.100] – Allan
Go check it out. See if it's something you think you'll enjoy. I'm going to be using it regularly, and it's going to be a part of my daily practice, particularly once I make it that habit that I need to work on, because behavior change is not any easier for coaches than it is for clients. It's just something we are always working on. So I'm going to try to do that, and I'm going to use the Muse as a tool to make it happen.
[00:53:36.520] – Rachel
That sounds great, Allan. All the best for that. That's great.
[00:53:39.670] – Allan
All right, well, I'll talk to you next week.
[00:53:41.660] – Rachel
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