State Change

The Four Universal Forms of Meditation: Why Sitting Isn't The Only Way To Meditate

Can't stand the thought of sitting for 20 minutes to meditate? 

Can barely fathom sitting still for even 5 minutes?

Does your brain & body hurt just thinking about trying to sit & meditate?

Is your consciousness f***ed?!

Definitely not. Maybe your mind, body & emotions are calling for a different mode of meditation. One that accesses another physical posture other than sitting.

There are other modes of meditation that are just as powerful and harness different, equally important, aspects of human development. 

Even if you have been hardly awake the last few years, chances are that you have noticed that meditation has become popular in our society. If you haven't noticed and are reading this then you are now caught up with the rest of us. :)

Honestly, it seems like there has been an epidemic of meditation in the U.S. in recent years. All of the en vogue celebrities & gurus are touting it, there are numerous meditation apps available, and many companies offer it to their employees as a benefit (mine does).

I think it's awesome that we have reached a point in our society where the emphasis on the development of our consciousness is widely accepted and encouraged. Definitely a tipping point in our evolution as a species in my opinion.

But what if you've tried traditional seated meditation and for whatever reason can't stick to it or cant stand it no matter how many times and types you've tried . . .  ?

According to the late Angeles Arrien, PhD, there are four universal forms or postures of meditation found among almost all societies across the globe and throughout our collective history.

If seated meditation has not been working for you, maybe you are trying too hard or maybe it is time to embrace one of the other ways below. Chances are you already do one or more without even realizing it.

The Four Universal Forms (or Postures) of Meditation:

1. Seated Meditation

According to Arrien, seated meditation accesses WISDOM.  Something all of us could always use more of. 

Seated meditation embodies the Teacher-Archetype.

Think of the great wise teachers throughout our history -- Ghandi, Einstein, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Aristotle, Socrates, etc. All of them spent a lot of time in seated meditation. Within they found deep & profound insight that they in turn shared with the world, elevating all of us to higher states of consciousness and greater ways of being in our shared-world.

For many of us, these figures may appear to be superhuman and beyond our personal relate-ability. This is often due to the fallible thinking of comparing one's place on their journey to the journey of another. This kind of thinking almost always creates self-doubt and leads to stagnation.

I believe we all have something to teach & we all have innate wisdom that we can tap.

I also believe that we often make things way too hard. Especially, seated meditation. I was guilty of this. Making things harder than they need to be is something I constantly have to guard against (see here for insight on how I've began to overcome this life-challenge).

The seated form is what most people think of when they hear the word meditation. And unfortunately many of us think that if we cannot sit cross-legged or in full or half lotus pose then we are not cut out to meditate. I was one of these people up until about 2 years ago.  

Spiritual hipster incarnate... Seated meditation under a tree harnessing inner wisdom.

Spiritual hipster incarnate... Seated meditation under a tree harnessing inner wisdom.

Many people can't sit crossed legged, in lotus, or upon their shins in the traditional Japanese sitting posture "seiza" (see picture above) for more than a few minutes without experiencing mild-to-major discomfort (myself included unless I have been practicing yoga regularly).

Fortunately, I discovered that sitting in some "proper" way is just societal conditioning & the over-marketing of how meditation "should" look. This was spawned from our idolization of those monastic people who spend all day doing yoga, martial arts and seated meditation. People who have deliberately physically trained their body to sit for long periods of time in "traditional" seated meditation postures.

In truth, if you can sit in a regular chair or couch or can sit upon a bed with your back against the headrest and your legs stretched straight out in front of you (my preferred way) then you can do seated meditation. The key to seated meditation is to keep your spine & neck straight, but relaxed. Almost everyone can find a sitting position that personally works for them that achieves proper spinal alignment.

 

2. Lying Meditation

This is another important posture of meditation that we often forget about. Or we don't realize that it is an awesome way of meditating because we associate it with sleeping.

And in our society if it is too easy or not difficult enough then we faultily think that we are doing it wrong or that it isn't working.

Lying meditation is all about HEALING & LOVE, keeping with Arrien's framework. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. It is what most of us do naturally when we feel physically unwell. It is also what we do with our loved ones to cultivate love. Also known as snuggling or cuddling.  

This form of meditation is part of the the Healer-Archetype

Shavasana or "corpse pose" in yoga is a lying meditation most yoga classes use to integrate the session at the end while cultivating healing & recovery.

Shavasana or "corpse pose" in yoga is a lying meditation most yoga classes use to integrate the session at the end while cultivating healing & recovery.

We can use this posture of meditation to heal beyond just the physical aspect of our nature. Mental, emotional, and spiritual healing can be accessed and accelerated in this position.

Shivasana, aka corpse pose, is used in most yoga classes and is probably the most common form of lying meditation.

Lying massages of all types can also be used to meditate. I've personally experienced many transcendental moments during a great massage.

Another, more advanced, but fairly accessible modern day version of this lying form of meditation is Holotropic Breathwork, pioneered by Stan Grof.

"Holotropic Breathwork is a powerful approach to self-exploration and healing that integrates insights from modern consciousness research, anthropology, various depth psychologies, transpersonal psychology, Eastern spiritual practices, and mystical traditions of the world. The name Holotropic means literally "moving toward wholeness" (from the Greek "holos"=whole and "trepein"=moving in the direction of something).

The process itself uses very simple means: it combines accelerated breathing with evocative music in a special set and setting. With the eyes closed and lying on a mat, each person uses their own breath and the music in the room to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness. This state activates the natural inner healing process of the individual's psyche, bringing him or her a particular set of internal experiences. With the inner healing intelligence guiding the process, the quality and content brought forth is unique to each person and for that particular time and place. While recurring themes are common, no two sessions are ever alike."

To date I've undergone two Breathworks and both times had incredibly healing and transformative experiences. I was blessed because my Mom is trained in this particular healing modality. [Send her an email if you live in WA and are interested otherwise see here for worldwide Breathwork events]

This type of lying meditation may sound a bit out there, but it's growing in acceptance. Founder & CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, speaks openly about Breathwork's transformative power in The New Yorker.

Ayahuasca, LSD & magic mushrooms have grown in popularity among the in-crowds the last few years in our ongoing humankind search for healing & meaning. Breathwork is an awesome way to discover this and reach similar (or better) altered states of consciousness without taking drugs. Unlike drugs, there are no negative side-effects with Breathwork.

 

3. Standing Meditation

Standing meditation is rarely openly discussed in our current culture, yet it is incredibly powerful.

In a way, standing meditation has been repackaged into "power-poses" and standing affirmations. Two ideas that are talked about more often in our society.

I like to picture myself in a powerful superman silhouette upon a sky-scraper looking upon the city with the wind holding my cape afloat.

Or sometimes I picture myself upon the ledge of an Arizona red-rock cliff with the camera doing a 360-degree pan.

And sometimes I stand in a classic Wolverine pose in front of the mirror and just harness wild-beast energy.

Standing meditation accesses PRESENCE and cultivates our ability to honor boundaries and limits, as stated by Arrien.

This is the meditation of the Warrior-Archetype. Something that has always been programmed into our consciousness.  

Throughout history and all civilizations we as a human species capture this warrior energy in our pictures, paintings, and statues of powerful humans in powerful poses.

Heroic statues stand guard around the globe. They often mark the entryway to our homes, institutions, various sacred areas, and even our country (statue of liberty).

Standing meditation overlooking Silicon Valley.

Standing meditation overlooking Silicon Valley.

 

4. Walking (or Moving) Meditation

Walking and moving meditation accesses INNER CREATIVITY (VISION) and it harnesses the Visionary-Archetype.  

It should come as no surprise that many of mankind's most visionary artists, writers, scientists, and thinkers had a daily practice of moving meditation. Many of them were habitual walkers.

Mason Curry covers many of these famous minds and their daily moving meditations in his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

Moving meditation can also come in the form of cooking, cleaning, swimming and various physical sports.

I even think driving can be a moving meditation. Not stuck-in-traffic-driving, but the kind where you are cruising along.

Same goes for bathing in the shower, a place where ideas seem to flow through our bodies like the water cascading over us.

There is something magical about moving and letting your mind unwind itself.  Whether it's working through a current problem and finding a creative solution or ideating for all areas of life there is something naturally powerful about meditative movement.

Whether by conscious design or happenstance we have all had this experience and as Arien states, " When our body is moving & open, we become vehicles for creative problem-solving."

Many cultures use this type of moving-meditation to reclaim one's authentic Self.  Aboriginals of Australia have their "walkabouts" and Native Americans use "vision quests". Even in our modern day, people of many first world countries go "backbacking" through Europe or road trip through America to rediscover themselves.

Through movement we can remember who we are and why we came here.

No matter the type of preferred movement we can all get into altered states of consciousness. The trick is to notice which ones work especially well for you in your life as it is right now.

If you have the time & resources to go on vision quest, walkabout, backpack, road-trip, etc.  Go take a journey that reconnects you with your Self.

If an extended meditation of that type doesn't fit your life how can you cultivate moving meditation in your life today?  It's fairly easy if you don't make it harder than it needs to be.

I go on walks and ride my bike daily. I body-build and practice yoga weekly as well--two more awesome moving meditations.

Friends of mine practice martial arts like kung fu & tai-chi.

My fiance goes to SoulCycle and has regular "spiritual experiences" and emotional breakthroughs during class. 

Runners & marathoners are classic modern moving-meditators.

My fiance & I rollerblade together. Another favorite moving meditation of mine. It feels like flying to me and my mind always feels free & expansive as I journey through urban landscapes.

Hiking through nature is another personal favorite moving meditation. Whether in the foothills, through a park, deep in the mountains, or along a beach. [Side Tangent: Nature is an especially powerful amplifier and cultivator of all types of meditation.]

Moving meditation empowers me to remember what has heart & meaning to me in my life. It helps me remember who I really am and always provides creative answers that are endowed with personal integrity. Answers that help me move through whatever beguiling situations I find myself in during the course of my time here.

My walking meditation includes looking like a badass . . .  😎😜

My walking meditation includes looking like a badass . . . 😎😜

Alchemical Learnings:

  1. Meditation is a natural phenomenon that everyone experiences.
  2. The key to regular meditation is doing it in a way that truly works for you.
  3. We can consciously harness different types of meditation to access different archetypes & powers. In review:
    1. Seated Meditation: Archetype = Teacher, Power = Wisdom
    2. Lying Meditation: Archetype = Healer, Power = Love & Healing
    3. Standing Meditation: Archetype = Warrior, Power = Presence & Boundaries
    4. Walking (Moving) Meditation: Archetype = Visionary, Power = Inner Vision (Creativity)

Alchemical Resources:

  1. The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, & Visionary by Angeles Arrien, PhD.
  2. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.
  3. Awakening Spirits: A Native American Path to Inner Peace, Healing, & Spiritual Growth by Tom Brown Jr.
  4. Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rich Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, MD.
  5. Have some other awesome meditation related resources? Please reference them in comments, email me, or tweet me! 🙏🏼

Alchemical Opportunity for the reader:

  1. Consciously identify the types of meditation you already naturally do in your life. Notice which of the Four Universal Forms of Meditation they fall under.
  2. Choose one of the Four Universal Forms of Meditation that you currently do not practice and find an easy & fun way to add it into your life as it is now. [more on choosing easy & fun here]
  3. If seated meditation has been difficult for you try it in news ways:
    • Use a personally comfortable sitting position.
    • Try out different types of seated meditation. I.E. Breath-based, guided, body-scan, mantra-based, chanting, listening to binaural beats, etc.
    • Try using an app like Headspace.
  4. Want to go deeper? Try a breathwork, go on a vision quest, partake in a weekend meditation or yoga retreat, take a road-trip, or even go backpacking through a part of the world that has been silently calling to you.
“As gold purified in a furnace loses its impurities and achieves its own true nature, the mind gets rid of the impurities of the attributes of delusion, attachment and purity through meditation and attains Reality.” – Adi Shankara

Developing our consciousness is a worthy cause for all of us. It empowers our lives in so many ways and there is a huge growing body of scientific evidence that supports the positive effects of meditation on all areas of life.

But more importantly, meditation does not have to be hard. It is something all of us can do. If we take a little conscious energy to explore we can find ways to meditate that suit us particularly well. And in doing so we can return to our Self, mine our inner gold, and be of the highest benefit to everyone we come into connection with. Including ourselves.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

P.S. My mission is to empower people & organizations to transform & self-actualize. Meditation & consciousness development is a huge part of that. If you enjoyed this article please share it! 🙏🏼

 

 

 

Physical Alchemy: Using Your Body to Generate Optimal Energetic States

Emotions will follow your body. Thoughts will follow your emotions. And then an opening for your spirit to shine through will appear. Suddenly, whether you know what you are doing or not, you are ablaze!

This is a super powerful concept.

They say emotion is energy in motion. E-motion.  

One of the easiest way to get your emotions working in the direction you want to go is to move your body in the way it would if those sought after emotions were strongly coursing through your body.

This idea consciously stuck with me ever since my career stint in bartending. Funny enough I was taught this concept by an aspiring actor who was tending bar at night while he pursued his acting career during the day. 

Even more synchronous was the fact the Hollywood nightclub we worked at was named "Mood".

Mood was a high volume, drink-slinging environment where you were expected to make 5-10 drinks at a time and the line for drinks was always 4-5 orders deep with patrons impatiently waiting to scream out their particular order over the cacauphony of pumping music and 100s of people getting their club vibes on.

It was intimidating for a beginning bartender to say the least. How the hell was I going to remember how to make all these drinks in such chaos?

Sensing my overwhelm my mentor delivered the sage advice: "Just act like you know what you are doing. Pretend to be confident."

Despite my apprehension and nervousness I gave it a shot.

I stood, moved, smiled, and spoke like a seasoned bartender. It worked like magic.

As I modeled & mirrored the physical behavior of an experienced and confident bartender my anxiety was transformed into excitement. The emotional excitement further bolstered my "confidence act" and before I knew it I was truly feeling confident.

The best part is not even one patron questioned my act. 

After a few nights of this I no longer had to act. I was an experienced & confident bartender.

This empowering concept was taught to me again during the beginning of my Silicon Valley startup career by Jess Lee (then CEO of Polyvore, now partner at Sequoia Capital).

I had the privilege to interview Jess for Stanford Pulse Magazine and the one thing that has stuck with me more than anything else is our conversation around "faking it until you make it." She confided in me that everyone does it in the startup world. She kicked off Polyvore's first sale by pretending she knew what she was doing when their first prospective customer called wanting to advertise them.

Jess wasn't even in charge of sales for Polyvore. They didn't even have a sales department or a revenue model at that time. She just happened to pick up the phone.

We were both laughing as she described how she was literally googling ad terms as the prospect was asking her questions.

That act sure paid off. Polyvore sold to Yahoo! for $230 million in 2015.

Even now in my role as one of the founding team-members of Ohmygreen, a Stanford startup revolutionizing food and wellness at the workplace, there are plenty times when I have no idea what I am doing and I just act like I do. I just focus on acting as if I did know while modeling others who know more than me and ultimately I learn by doing.

This doesn't mean you always act 24/7 when you have no idea what you are doing. You physically act like you know what you are doing when it counts (i.e. in a live sales pitch) and then you use all your resources (team members, communities, books, internet, etc.) to really learn.

The point is to focus on the positive momentum that acting like you know what you are doing can create for you and how this can melt away your fear. By role-playing in a powerful way that physically embodies your ideal state soon enough your emotions and thoughts will follow suit.

Another way to think about this is to pretend you were someone you admire (real or mythical) and physically, mentally, and emotionally act however you believe they would act in the given situation.

This framework was recently brought to light again in my life during a recent podcast interview with Ben Sanford, founder of Tribal Edge. Ben and his organization have strong primal roots so it comes as little surprise that his childhood hero, Tarzan, has had a huge influence on every aspect of his life and business.

To me, this is a very fun and badass way to go around living life & conducting business. In any moment you can choose any favorite superhero in any domain and act as if you were them.  

Obviously, choosing role-models that bring you the successful outcome you desire is key so don't go around using "acts" that sabotage your aim.

Darker or negative states can also be transformed with this framework of Physical Alchemy.

When you are depressed and sad you hold your body a certain way. You speak slowly and softly. You can literally hear the pain in the voice. You even breathe a certain way with shorter, more shallow breathes.  

Common sets of physiological traits accompany pretty much every emotional/mental state.   Imagine in your mind the physical characteristics of someone who is angry. Or someone who is inspired. Can you see the physical difference in your minds eye?

Most often our physical expression mimic our internal state so it can seem paradoxical that you can physiologically act your way into a different state, but once you try it a few times you will discover just how simple and powerful Physical Alchemy can be.

Alchemical Learnings:

  1. Energetic state transformation can easily be achieved through the conscious use of your body. Emotions will follow your body. Thinking will follow your body & emotions.  Unlimited spirit will be unleashed by these aspects working in unison.
  2. Modelling & mirroring are powerful modalities for rapid-learning. It's built into our genetic engineering, something called mirror-neurons.
  3. When in doubt... Act as if* (you knew, you were someone who was an expert/master, you were a mythical superhero, etc.) *Follow this up with actual learning. Close the loop otherwise it will likely catch up to you at some point.
  4. Pretending & acting with your body actually does change your phsyiology. There are scientific studies to prove it too thanks to the work of Amy Cuddy.

Alchemical Resources:

  1. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins (Chapter 7). Most material by Robbins covers state change and the power of physiology so anything by him is great. He has been my greatest resource for learning about modeling & states.
  2. Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning. This is where I first learned about mirror-neurons. Really awesome stuff!
  3. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy (TED Talk).
  4. Know some other great resources? Please share in the comments and I'll add them here after checking them out.

Alchemical Opportunity for the reader:

  1. Next time you find yourself in a situation where you have no idea what to do act as if you knew exactly what to do. Start with the physical presence. How would you move, gesture, speak, and look upon the world if you knew exactly what you were doing? Literally how would you "physically act" if you were a master in this area?
  2. In an energetic or emotional funk?
    • Move! Go do something physical -- walk, run, hike, lift weights, do yoga, go to an exercise class, turn on music and just start dancing. Or jump on a trampoline or go rollerblading (my two personal favorites -- hard to take life too seriously when trampolining or rollerblading).
    • Stand in front of a mirror and smile from ear to ear. Stand how you would stand if you were feeling powerful. This might feel ridiculous but it will break you out of your funk if you do it long enough. Smile big enough for long enough in the mirror and you will laugh. Laughter is powerful medicine for weak states. Or just strike a superman/superhero pose (feet planted shoulder width or wider, elbows out with fists on hips, chin up, and your best "blue steel" piercing gaze of power. Hold this physical state while pretending to be your favorite superhero.
    • Sit or stand up straight and thump your chest while forcefully laughing out loud: "HA HA HA!" [this technique borrowed from David R. Hawkins' Power vs. Force]
    • Partake in a Primal Scream like so... 
    • Take a cold shower. This sounds painful, but if you spend even just a few minutes at the end of your hot shower turning it as cold as possible it can radically change your mental/emotional state for the better. I've literally felt euphoric after doing this.
    • If those all sound too intense, go get a massage (here is a $30 discount to Soothe, my favorite in-home massage company). A massage may not put you in an upbeat energetic state, but it will relax and rejuvenate you so that you can try one of the above the following day.
  3. Before your next important meeting (interview, sales-pitch, speech, etc.) spend 2-minutes doing a power pose.  In the mirror is better, but not necessary. Science shows this will raise your testosterone (confidence, assertiveness, etc.) and lower your cortisol (stress, fear, etc.). Watch this video for the power poses & science.
  4. Award family members & friends money every time they catch you physically slouching. My Dad did this my entire childhood. Every time we caught him in a weak physical posture and reminded him to stand and sit-up straight in an empowering way he gave us a quarter. It was such a fun family habit. Still to this day he is one of the most energetic positive people I know.
  5. Practice the Doorway Drill daily [I learned this here from Jordan Harbinger]
    • Every time you walk through a doorway stand up tall and powerful-like (shoulders back, chest & chin up), put on your most charming smile, and twinkle your eyes. Physically exude charm & confidence.
    • By doing this dozens of times throughout the day you condition your nervous system to instantly jump into powerful physiological state. Then when you need this state for  an important unexpected event it will be readily available.
    • It's easier to keep up than catch up. This simple practice will help keep you in a charming & confident state -- an energetic state everyone enjoys being around.
  6. Fake it until you become it. Choose something you've always wanted to do and just pretend and act until it becomes second nature. Do this for long enough & you will wake up one day realizing that you have become what you were pretending to be.

Ultimately, our body, emotions, mind, and spirit are all linked together. This is both awesome and dangerous. It's awesome when we are in a powerful state of being. It's dangerous when we are in a disempowered state.

Yet, as always, the power to change lies within us.

Armed with this knowledge of how our four major aspects of being are linked we can easily take action using our body to alchemize our overall state into an empowered one of our own conscious making.

Me "acting as if" (aka pretending) I was confident & powerful.  

Me "acting as if" (aka pretending) I was confident & powerful. 

 

Along this same vein is the key to our own inner gold.  By leveraging our physiology in empowering ways for long enough we can become whatever or whoever we want to be.

Use your Physical Alchemy wisely. Your current & future state of "being" depends on it.

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒

P.S. A major part of consciously creating an awesome life is to have so many ways to empower yourself that it becomes an art form that you have mastered and can call upon no matter what situation you find yourself in. That is what Alchemize Life is all about. Sign up for my Newsletter to keep adding tools to your toolbox.

P.P.S. One last interesting note about the power pose picture of me above. Noelle (the photographer) literally said to me, "Pretend like you are feeling confident and powerful". At the time I definitely did not feel that way (I felt nervous), but after pretending for that photo I did actually feel confident and powerful. Similar state change story with the photo below (also by Noelle). My dear friend & creative partner Braden was splashing me with ice cold water to get me to loosen up for my first ever underwear shoot with Related Garments. Repetition is the mother of learning & skill . . .

 

A piece on Physical Alchemy would not be complete without a semi-nude photo... :P

A piece on Physical Alchemy would not be complete without a semi-nude photo... :P