The Future of Content Episode 23: Meditation and Mindfulness

Key Ideas:

  • Mindfulness and meditation are terms that can be used interchangeably, but they are different
    • Mindfulness is the act of being aware of the present moment
    • Meditation is the act of being aware of the present moment without judgment

If we’re being honest, as much as we want to live in the moment, it can be incredibly difficult. It’s even more difficult to be present and in the moment without judgment. Liza Kindred teaches that although judgment can have extremely negative connotations, it can actually be nothing more than something we dislike. 

If we can figure out how to be present and in the moment without either having an aversion to it or being drawn to it, we’re closer to being at peace. It makes sense to have an aversion to an uncomfortable situation, but it seems counterintuitive to resist being drawn to a situation we enjoy. When we’re drawn to something, we don’t want our interaction with it to end so we grasp for ways to make it continue, and that can cause suffering. 

“Teaching is a skill; it’s not just the inevitable outcome of knowing how to do something. I teach meditation practices and techniques, but I can’t teach someone to meditate. I’m a tour guide to someone else’s mind and I don’t get to pick the tour.”

Liza Kindred, meditation teacher and author of Eff This! Meditation: 108 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for When You’re Feeling Anxious, Stressed Out, or Overwhelmed

Liza’s keen insight into the relationship between content strategy and SEO and Buddhism was an unexpected revelation. It never would have occurred to me to use search teams, search term analysis, or search volume research to answer the question “What are people seeking for fulfillment?” and meet people where they are.

We’re always meditating—thinking focused thoughts—on something. A good content strategy will recognize this and help us get to the “why” of whatever it is we’re thinking about.

“I won’t teach corporate meditation. My goal is to help people, and a lot of times businesses and corporations will bring mindfulness and meditation practices into the workplace, but their goal is to make their employees more productive and become better cogs in the wheel of extractive capitalism.”

Liza Kindred, meditation teacher and author of Eff This! Meditation: 108 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for When You’re Feeling Anxious, Stressed Out, or Overwhelmed

Eff This! Meditation began as a spreadsheet. Liza’s daughter was planning to travel around the world, so Liza decided to write down the things she wanted her to know. Each of the book’s 108 tips, tricks, and ideas are organized by the amount of time they take. 

Liza recognizes that there is a growing interest in finding where the sacred meets the profane. If you find it difficult to truly relax and enjoy the moment, this book may be the key that you’ve been looking for. Liza illustrates basic meditation principles using everyday examples, so you’re given practical ways to make the principles work for you. 

There is a lot more to meditation and mindfulness than I realized, and teaching meditation isn’t as simple or straightforward as it may seem, no matter the audience. Teaching is a skill; it’s not just the inevitable outcome of knowing how to do something. 

Liza has another book coming out later this year. It is an anxiety journal with hands-on practices and journaling prompts to help you name your feelings without judgment. 

Liza Kindred

Liza Kindred is a meditation teacher and author of Eff This! Meditation: 108 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for When You’re Feeling Anxious, Stressed Out, or Overwhelmed.

Relevant links


Stream Episode 23 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.


Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

[music]

Todd: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Niekerk. On this podcast, we explore content, its creation, management, and distribution by talking with the people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We design and develop digital content solutions that get results. Today, I’m joined by Lisa Kindred, author of Eff This! Meditation. And we’ll be talking about mindfulness and meditation. Welcome to The Future of Content, Liza.

Liza: Hi, Todd. I’m so excited to be here.

Todd: Hi [laughter]. We’ve known each other forever.

Liza: For a long time and many different topics and areas.

Todd: That’s right. All of these worlds, all these orbits. It’s crazy. So mindfulness and meditation, broadly speaking, what is it? And what’s some of the jargon that would be helpful to know when we start to talk about this practice?

Liza: Yeah, cool. Thanks for having me on, and thanks for talking about this. I feel like that’s an awesome question to start with. And the way you phrased it is so perfect, because a lot of the time, people use the terms “meditation” and “mindfulness” a little bit interchangeably. And they can be used that way a little bit, but also, in some ways, not. So what we’re doing a lot of times with mindfulness is we’re trying to be aware of the present moment. But an important part of that— And a lot of times where it moves from being mindful into being meditation is if we’re being aware of the present moment without judgment. So that’s oftentimes a lot of the hardest thing for humans to do—

Todd: Can we unpack the concept of “without judgment” just a moment?

Liza: Yeah. [laughter]

Todd: That’s probably a whole podcast unto itself. But that is brought up constantly in a good way, right? So what does it mean to do something or to be mindful or to feel something without judgment?

Liza: It is so simple and so difficult at the same time, because, for instance, if we’re trying to be present in the moment, and we’re looking at something, and it’s a color, and it just is that color—I’m looking at my wall. The wall is green. I don’t really like green walls. And so, when that kind of thing kind of starts to sneak in— Or it’s like we’re noticing the feel of the temperature of the air on our skin, and we’re starting to be like, “Well, I’m a little cold.” Or whatever it is. We have this judgment that kind of tends to seep in. Okay. So I am a Buddhist. I’ve been studying and practicing Buddhism for about 10 years. And I have no idea why I just brought that up. [laughter]

Todd: It’s relevant! It’s relevant. Well, we’re actually going to bring up Buddhism later, too. So this is a good—this is foreshadowing.

Liza: Yeah. But okay. I don’t know why I would bring it up. So really, from a Buddhist perspective, all of life is suffering. And this is in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the base, the core of Buddhism. All of life is suffering, and suffering comes from attachment to expectation. And we can actually change our expectation. Then we are not suffering anymore. So in that moment of, “I don’t like a green wall.” I’m starting to feel like, “Ew,” because I don’t like the green wall, or I don’t want to be cold, or whatever it is. And that is the moment where my expectation is different than what’s going on in the reality. So if I can be present in the reality without actually having an aversion to it or being drawn to it— When we’re drawn to something, we don’t want it to end. And so, we’re grasping. And that’s the thing that can start to cause suffering.

Todd: Oh, I see.

Liza: So being present without judgment is like— We’re doing it all the time. We’re always judging. Well, that’s the practice. Mindfulness is being present and being aware and meditation. There’s a lot of meditation practices, and we could talk about that if you want, but in general, meditation is being present without them.

Todd: I see. Okay, well, how do you— Let’s talk about, actually, some of the practices of meditation. What are some, I don’t know, popular or sort of big ideas around meditation and how they take shape?

Liza: Yeah, so there’s really two veins and one of them is either religious or spiritual meditation. So you could be going down a Buddhist path, or a Hindu path, or something that’s a little bit more broadly spiritual, potentially, all the way down to like New Agey—something that doesn’t have a structure, but it’s a little woo-woo. And then there is the kind of meditation that’s about productivity and about improvement and about like, “If I can do this— If I can meditate, then I can become more productive at work and happier and da, da, da, da,'” and it’s like outcome based, kind of.

Todd: When did that come about?

Liza: I mean, I would blame people like Gary Vaynerchuk and people like that. Okay, let’s step back.

Todd: Okay, pretty recent.

Liza: Well, my experience of it has been fairly recent. It is certainly— From my understanding, it is a pretty Western thing. So meditation really came to the West in like the ’70s and—

Todd: It is very Western to take a concept like meditation and turn it into capitalist means.

Liza: Oh my gosh, so much.

Todd: How do we use this to maximize efficiency?

Liza: Yeah, totally. And you know what? That’s why I don’t do corporate. I won’t teach corporate meditation myself, because my goal is to help people and a lot of times we see a lot of businesses and corporations that are bringing meditation and mindfulness practices into work and that on the surface, is a good thing, but they’re really just trying to help their people be more productive to be like better cogs in the wheel of extractive capitalism. Let’s be real. So you can kind of go one of those routes, right?

Todd: Okay, got it. Got it, got it. Okay, so I have a little bit of experience, personally, with meditation. I’ve done a couple of— I’ve gone to a yoga studio, and I’ve done a couple of guided meditation things. I’ve used Headspace fairly frequently. That’s what this idea of like— Without judgment is sort of very personal because I can’t— I just feel like I’m always trying. You have to try to meditate and, of course, in Headspace, you’re constantly pushing back on that idea. And so that’s guided, too, right? This Headspace app?

Liza: Yeah.

Todd: Okay, so this is where the content aspect of mindfulness and meditation that starts to kind of creep in. So guided meditation— There are words, there are sounds, there’s imagery, there’s ideas. Where does this come from? Is this prescribed? Is this improvised?

Liza: So that’s a really good question and in the kind of modern Buddhism today, there’s kind of two veins about two ideas about what we’re meditating on. In a lot of really common mindfulness, it’s mindfulness awareness practice. It’s called Samatha practice, and it’s where we’re focusing on our breath, and we’re focusing on coming back to the breath. “We’re dropping an anchor” is what we say in meditation. For a lot of times, that’s a physicality and a lot of times it’s our breath. So if you’ve ever done a meditation where they’re like, “Focus on your breath. Let the thoughts do what they’re going to do,” whatever—there’s different ways to try to relate with our thoughts or rather not relate with our thoughts and just come back to the breath, come back to the breath. So that is a focus of the breath. There is this whole other idea of meditating on emptiness. And so any kind of word, thought, intention, idea, anchor, from that point of view is superfluous. So that idea of meditating on emptiness, which generally has an end goal of enlightenment, of becoming a fully enlightened being, is a little bit less common. A lot of the things that we’re— A lot of the ways that we’re accessing meditation today is through stuff like a Headspace app guided meditations, Insight Timer, all that kind of stuff. And we have a lot of demand for people to have different meditation script of like, “How do I meditate?” A lot of that stuff is awesome and super helpful, but none of that stuff is actually meditation. Meditation only happens inside the consciousness of the person doing the practice. So, for instance, I do teach meditation, but I can’t actually teach someone to meditate. Because the meditation is something that happens, like I said, inside someone’s own consciousness. So I’m teaching practices and technique. And all those words and those guides are practices and technique. Or rather, it’s ways to do those things. But the actual practice is all internal. As a meditation teacher, I’m a tour guide to someone else’s mind, and I don’t get to pick the tour.

Todd: Okay. So the tour guide, right, that’s the part that really interests me from a content perspective. Because I’ve engaged in some guided meditation where they talk about, like, “Envision this as like a ball of light or like a certain color,” and you either do something with it or you don’t. Or maybe it’s sort of guided in the sense of there’s a physical metaphor that’s being used and sometimes not. Where does that stuff come from? Is that sort of like a proven technique, or are they kind of making it up on the spot?

Liza: They’re making it up as they go. I like that stuff, and I sometimes use some of that stuff. That stuff is made up.

Todd: Wow. [laughter]

Liza: People could argue that. But okay. So we have 2,500 years of meditative practices. When you’re talking about yoga, and we’re talking about Buddhist meditation or Hindu meditation, and there’s other kinds, but that stuff that is thousands of years old and has practice that goes way back through time, through many, many, many centuries. It’s not that kind of stuff. That kind of stuff is new, and it’s modern, and it’s fun, and it can be helpful. It’s helpful in that kind of an experiential way. But it’s fluff.

Todd: Wow. And so is that just being made up on the spot? Because— What’s the word? The guide, the practitioner—that that person is sort of sensing the room, and if there’s maybe a level of frustration, maybe there’s a certain piece of imagery or technique.

Liza: Yeah, best case scenario. Yeah. I think the best-case scenario is, we have a meditation teacher that is so in tune with the energy in the room that they’re able to understand what’s going on and offer what’s helpful for the room. More common scenario is that people are repeating what they’ve heard other people say. Now, thank you for bringing this up, Todd, because one of the things that happens in meditation and mindfulness is there’s no training that’s actually needed. So unlike any yoga where they have the Yoga Teacher Alliance— Is that what it’s called? The governing body, where you see people, there’s like a minimum of 200 hours of training. People can do additional training. They list in their bio, on social media. 200 hours, 300 hours, 400 hours, whatever it is—that doesn’t exist in meditation. There’s a lot of people, like yoga teachers, who will offer meditation. They’ll add it to the end of the class. There’s a lot of people who have enjoyed meditation or taken some meditation classes that will turn around and offer it because there’s no one stopping them.

Todd: Ah, okay.

Liza: Not because they should. I’m actually working on a 10,000-word guide right now to meditation teacher training that’s talking about the kind of the minimum standard that I believe that people ought to have if they’re offering meditation to other people. And it’s not, “I meditated for a year and so now I want to do it.” But what we’re seeing is that so many people will hear someone else, they’ve had an experience themselves, and they want to become a teacher. I mean, you see this in every industry possible, right? Someone does something and they think they’re good at it, so they become a teacher.

Todd: Oh, this is the whole like— This is kind of that Dunning-Kruger thing, right? You know just enough in order to be dangerous, right?

Liza: 100%. I think of this when I think of surfing. I’ve taken a million surf lessons. It took me so many of them to figure out, “These are just dudes who are good at surfing. They weren’t good surf instructors.” I’ll never forget I was surfing—I’m putting “surfing” in quotes because I’m terrible at it—but I was in this like—

Todd: You were playing around with the surfboard in the ocean.

Liza: Yes. Exactly. And it was on waves way bigger than I should have been attempting to do. And I had a “surf instructor” who was telling me, “Try harder, try harder.”

Todd: Oh jeez. Yeah, teaching is a skill. It’s not just the inevitable outcome of knowing how to do something.

Liza: Thank you. Thank you. Can that be the—

Todd: Oh, I got snaps!

Liza: It does. Could that be the title of our podcast? [laughter] And the thing about meditation is so many of those people are so well-intentioned.

Todd: Mm-hmm.

Liza: They mean really well.

Todd: Of course.

Liza: They’re like, “I’ve had these great experiences and I want to share, but they’re not necessarily qualified to go ahead and teach or guide meditation.”

Todd: Well, on that note, let’s take a quick break. And when we return, we will talk about teaching meditation and your book, Eff This! Meditation.

Liza: All right.

[music]

Todd: Hey, everyone, it’s Todd. Earlier, I mentioned that this podcast is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We’re a digital agency that helps organizations like yours make better use of your content, scale your web team and create world-class digital experiences. But most importantly, we get results. Unlike other agencies that just build websites, we craft efficient publishing tools and thoughtful user experiences that will generate more revenue, enroll more students, increase donations—whatever you’re trying to achieve. To find out more about how Four Kitchens can help, visit us at fourkitchens.com. Thanks for listening. Now back to the episode.

Todd: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Lisa Kindred, meditation instructor, founder of Mindful Technology, and author of Eff This! Meditation. So let’s talk about Eff This! Meditation. So it’s exactly what it sounds like: Eff this. What was the impetus for putting together this book, and why did you call it Eff This! Meditation?

Liza: Well, I call it Eff This! Meditation for— A lot of people ask me several times, “What now? What’s it called?” Which, it’s a little bit intentional. So one of the things that is really important to me and that I hope comes through in the book and in all of my teachings is I’m interested in where the sacred meets the profane. So I’m particularly interested in offering a type of spirituality and a type of meditation that is not super precious, it’s not whitewashed. It’s not like people like sitting in full lotus, meditating on a beach and saying like, “Oh, I meditated. And everything is perfect now.” Because that’s not real. But what I’m interested in offering is really a spiritual offering that is made for today’s world or the type of people like me, which is like busy, maybe work in tech, slurring a lot. I’m trying to speak to that. At the same time, there really is a precedent for this combination of the sacred and the profane. It’s catchy, like it catches your attention. It’s a way to illustrate—to use everyday examples to illustrate these principles. One of my favorite videos that I like to share is this clip of the Dalai Lama just cracking himself up, talking about airplane farts. [laughter] It’s so funny. He’s talking about dismantling the ego and he is on stage and is so funny because the host really doesn’t quite know what to do with it. But there’s a real precedent for that. And so I wanted to lean into that a little bit.

Todd: Oh, that’s cool. Well, so this is one of those books that’s constructed as a series of 108 tips, tricks, and ideas. So you can just flip to something. And they’re organized by the amount of time they take. So the first part of the book, these are things you can do in one minute. So if you just have one minute and you need to do something to center yourself or to calm down or whatever, here are some things you can do. And they go all the way up to like an hour or longer: sleep makeover, write a personal—

Liza: Days.

Todd: Yeah, days. This is the kind of thing that somebody can pick up and if they’re just feeling really stressed out and they have maybe 10 minutes before the next meeting, they can flip to, you know, tip number 35: note to self. “Write yourself a letter about the things that you love, appreciate, admire about yourself.” Five minutes. This kind of mindfulness, this strikes me as having an intersection with therapy, right?

Liza: Sure.

Todd: There are some tips and tricks that are kind of related to that. Where did you come up with 108 ideas? If some of them are kind of influenced by therapy and some are influenced by meditation and spiritual practice, what other inspirations are you drawing from?

Liza: Yeah. So one of another main inspiration that I had is really somatic and physical practices, because one of the things that in my experience is missing from meditation a lot of times is that our nervous systems are really hyped up. And so a lot of people have had the experience and maybe you’re one of them where you sit down to meditate and it’s like you’re just kind of like amped from the day still. And I have that all the time. I circle my meditation cushion and like looking at it. Or you sit down and you’re like, cool, now I’m going to see what happened on Instagram or whatever. It’s hard to calm ourselves down. And so I really like mixing in the kind of nervous system practices where we can have a direct– a lot of it is that the vasovagal system where our vagus nerve, when we can work with our vagus nerve and there’s so many cool ways to do that. But we’re actually sending a message to ourselves of like, it’s cool to come out of fight or flight. You’re safe. Because I don’t know about you but like, my personal experience is that you cannot talk yourself—you can’t be like, “Calm down, Todd. Just relax.” That doesn’t work. And so these practices are ways to actually do that where it’s kind of hands-on, like this breath cycle or whatever it is, like an actual hands-on thing, like hand over heart. These are things that can actually help us to calm down a bit, and I find that super empowering. But the whole book was written for my daughter. This started as a spreadsheet. She was getting ready to travel the world.

Todd: Wow.

Liza: She was going to be away from me. I was very sick at the time, starting to wonder how much longer I might possibly be around to help her. And so I wanted to start writing down, here are some things I’ve learned that I want her to know so she can take care of herself. And it started as a spreadsheet. Then it got organized by amount of time and da da da da. And then on the side, I started this Instagram account, which was real cheeky. And I’m not kidding, a publisher slid into my DMs—

Todd: Wow.

Liza: — and was like, “Have you ever thought about publishing a book?” And I had the book done because I wrote it for my daughter as a graduation gift from high school.

Todd: Oh, wow.

Liza: How cool is that [laughter]?

Todd: That is really cool. Man.

Liza: So it was this really amazing, serendipitous thing. And you’re the first one I’m telling this. I have another book with them coming out this year.

Todd: Oh, nice. Okay.

Liza: Yeah, it’s kind of [crosstalk]—

Todd: Is there anything you can preview?

Liza: It’s an anxiety journal. So it’s all about really hands-on practices and journaling prompts directly to work with anxiety.

Todd: That’s something that I struggle with and have for a long time. And it can be for people who experience it, and it sounds like maybe you’re one of them if you’ve put together a journal.

Liza: Yeah.

Todd: It’s really debilitating, and one of the things that has helped me in a lot of really difficult situations is, and I got this from therapy, and there’s— You actually touched on something that sounds a lot like this. I think it’s kind of the without-judgment idea. It’s naming the feeling, just name it: “I’m feeling really anxious right now.”

Liza: Yeah. Name to tame [laughter].

Todd: Bingo. Exactly. And just doing that, I realize that there are just times during the day where, for some reason, I’m in an irritable mood and just say, “I’m in an irritable mood,” so everything that I’m doing is going to be viewed through that lens. And the way that I talk is going to sound like that, and I just need to accept it or deal with it or both, or just go away for a while.

Liza: Admit it, to begin with, right?

Todd: Yeah.

Liza: Me personally, I’ve had the same experience. It’s so powerful when you’re just literally like, “I’m in a bad mood.” And then all of a sudden, it’s like the bad mood loses some power.

Todd: It does. And I found it’s even helpful to just tell other people because I’m constantly on video chat with people. I just have very little, kind of solo work time. So I’m going from call to call. And if I’m getting off of a call that irritated me for some reason or got me amped up in a non-productive way, even if it’s like I’m excited about it, now I can’t really come back down, right? I just have to kind of tell the person in the next call, like, “I just got off of a difficult call,” or whatever. So that’s kind of— It’s going to take me [crosstalk] a few minutes.

Liza: Can I ask you a question?

Todd: Yeah.

Liza: What has been your experience as far as the reaction of other people when you’ve [crosstalk] built— Had that kind of honesty?

Todd: Always positive. Yeah. At a minimum, it just helps them kind of understand maybe why I sound the way I do, and they’ll know it’s not anything they did because—

Liza: What a gift you’re giving to other people, I feel like, when you do that. Because we’ve all gotten on a call and been like, “Did I do something?”

Todd: Oh, I know. Yes [laughter].

Liza: Oh, good for you, Todd. That’s awesome.

Todd: Oh, thank you.

Liza: Let’s have more of that. Yeah, not trying to make it go away and not pretending it doesn’t exist, but just being like, “Hey, I’m in a bad mood [laughter].”

Todd: Yeah. Today’s a bad day or whatever, right?

Liza: Yeah, yeah.

Todd: I mean, it’s just— Especially when you work with people really closely and especially people in your personal life, you just have to kind of, “Here’s the deal [laughter]. Today’s a crazy day, and I’m just still— Ugh. I’m going to be like that all evening,” right?

Liza: And everybody has that.

Todd: Everybody gets it. Yeah.

Liza: We can all understand it. And that practice is also the practice of working with difficult emotions and meditation is just starting because it sounds a little bit like what you’re talking about is being aware without judgment.

Todd:Yes. Exactly. Exactly. You name it to tame it. You just recognize that’s the thing. You separate yourself from it in a way because now you know it exists, and it’s over here. And then you can sort of decide to be in it or not. Right?

Liza: Yeah. And it just takes away the power because when we’re hiding something and protecting it, it’s giving it this power.

Todd: Exactly.

Liza: And so that kind of awareness— And also, I’m not saying, “I’m in a bad mood, and it’s because I’m a total asshole who deserves terrible things.” It’s just like, “I’m in a bad mood. Whatever.”

Todd: Yeah. Exactly.

Liza: Let it happen.

Todd: Yeah. That’s so true. So congrats on the second book. That’s awesome.

Liza: Thank you. Thank you.

Todd: Well, any successful book requires some marketing, and, of course, there is a marketing aspect to mindfulness and meditation. And when we were talking earlier before we started recording, you mentioned that there is an aspect of content strategy and SEO that goes into all of this and that they are a lot like Buddhism, in a way. What did you mean by that?

Liza: Yeah. It’s been so surprising for me to realize that because I feel like I’ve spent many, many years thinking about SEO as a little bit of a douchy marketing thing that happens. I’ve been thinking of it as maybe not black hat, but just tricks and that kind of stuff and talking to the machines and stuff like that. And we recently redid our website, and I wanted to get much better at that, because I’ve been terrible. And so I spent a lot of time researching SEO and learning about SEO and doing a lot of keyword research. And I really didn’t enjoy it at first, because I felt like I was doing something that was separate from what I think of as what I want to do in the world. But after doing quite a bit of it, I started to realize that it really is aligned with what I’ve been taught as being a meditation teacher, which is meeting people where they are, which is understanding— We were talking a little bit about reading the energy in a room before, but really giving people what they need in the moment. And doing SEO research has been so mind-blowing for me, and it almost feels— It is incredible to see what people search for. There are the questions that people might ask in a class, or we sometimes do anonymous questions, and I get those, but oh my gosh. Then there’s the questions that people search for in an anonymous way, and those are really different. And so the research that I’ve done around SEO and keyword strategy and all that stuff has really opened my mind to the kind of questions that people really have around spirituality and meditation. And it has been enlightening, if I can say that.

Todd: Well, this is fascinating. It never would have occurred to me to use search terms and search term analysis, and search volume and all of that, to answer the question, “What are people seeking for fulfillment?” Because, of course, they type it into Google. Right?

Liza: Right. Of course. I think they all do. It’s like, “How do I become enlightened, Siri?” And the thing is that they’re getting an answer. No matter what kind of questions someone is searching into a search engine, Google is saying, “I’ve got the answer to that.” Because at this point, we don’t have any search engine that’s telling us, “This may or may not be the right answer, but it’s the thing that came up.” They’re confidently giving us the wrong answer. And so part of what I realized is, “Oh. When someone is searching these terms, I want to be able to show up in those results because I feel I have some helpful information that I want to be able to share with people here. Not search terms that I would have gone after necessarily because I’m like, “Oh, maybe I don’t necessarily believe that, so that’s not for me.” And I’m like, “Oh, this is people who are maybe a little bit— Have some misinformation.”

Todd: Yep. It’s meeting people where they are—

Liza: Yeah.

Todd: —Because they don’t know how to ask the question or they have the wrong concept. And so they need to be— 

Liza: Totally.

Todd: And so it works from anything from like, “How do I buy movie tickets?” to “I’m looking for a lawyer” to “What is the meaning of life?”

Liza: Yeah, like, “Should I have a baby? Should I— ?” All of these important questions. It’s been fun for me to see because I see so many ways that technology has and does continue to be very detrimental to our mental health. And this seems like one way to kind of use it for good. It’s really seeing where people are at and trying to help them.

Todd: Yeah. The effect of technology on mental health, that’s a whole other topic and it’s definitely been on my mind in the last year as we’ve been sort of stuck indoors with just a lot of technology to keep us busy. You have to really be a good steward of your own attention at that point.

Liza: Oh, that could be the name of this podcast. Being a Good Steward of Your Own Attention.

Todd: Oh, I like that.

Liza: Choosing where to place it. I had the [inaudible] of my Buddhist lineage that I took my vows and would say, “We’re always meditating on something,” like we’re always having thoughts and focused attention on something. But we get to choose what it is. And so I feel like that’s a little bit of what you’re talking about being a steward of our own attention is we’re going to be giving our attention to something.

Todd: Yes, that’s absolutely what I’m talking about. And it’s not necessarily like which device, but it’s also like what social network, what news source, all of that.

Liza: What people around me.

Todd: Yeah.

Liza: Yeah.

Todd: Yeah. Well, so speaking of technology, let’s look back in time. You had also mentioned when we spoke earlier that a lot of the content in the space of, I guess, more broadly would be spirituality and how that intersects with mindfulness— That a lot of this is thousands of years old. But it has been intentionally obscured. And you felt that that was bullshit.

Liza: It’s true. Yeah.

Todd: So tell me more about it being intentionally obscured and why you feel that’s bullshit.

Liza: So yeah. That is something that took me a long time to figure out that it was actually going on, and I feel like my eyes are still being open to it. But when I first started going down a spiritual path— And I would know that there was information or techniques that were kind of being saved for later. For instance, okay, for a lot of people who have tried meditation, we have a little bit of a vague idea of what the point is, or what a goal is, like maybe we’re trying to be 10% happier, to use Dan Harris’ term, or more productive, or whatever it is. But there are a lot of different paths that lead to different ways. And for instance, I had spent years going on retreats and taking classes in a specific lineage before I realized like, “Oh, what is the endpoint here? For some people, the endpoint is to develop compassion for ourself and others. For other people, like I mentioned earlier, the endpoint is total and complete enlightenment. And it really kind of varies. But those endpoints aren’t even talked about. So that’s something that’s obscure. There’s a lot of times— There are more advanced meditation techniques. That’s something that’s not often talked about is that we can kind of move from one place of meditation. And as we have learned to continually refocus our minds, we can kind of expand our awareness and do different practices over time. But that wasn’t something I understood is that there’s a beginner meditation technique, and we can always go back to that. You can be a practitioner for 50 years and still get benefit out of the beginning meditation techniques. But there are additional techniques. I have a lot of people ask me like, “Oh, I’ve done Headspace for a few years. What do I do now?” And you are totally onto the thing is that for a lot of people, it’s stop doing the guided meditations and to actually sit in a samatha or mindfulness-awareness practice and not have someone directing you, but actually be self-directed. It’s the same techniques a lot of times, but being a little bit self-directed. There is also this idea that we have to go meditate in a cave or go on some kind of a pilgrimage to India or those kinds of things, that there’s some kind of a wisdom that exists in a different geographic location. [laughter] You got to go become enlightened. And that comes from the very beginning. The origin story of how the Buddha got enlightened is that he had tried a million different practices and techniques. (This is a way oversimplification, by the way.) Yeah. But he was a prince. His father didn’t want him to know about suffering in the world for various reasons, and so they hid aging and suffering and these things from him. But you can’t really do that, so he had an inkling. And he wanted to become enlightened. He tried all kinds of different techniques and stuff like that. He ended up skipping out in the middle of the night, running away from his wife and children, leaving them alone, and going off to quote-unquote—I shouldn’t say, quote-unquote—he did become enlightened, but he left to do it. And so even now, there’s this idea that we have to go on a physical geographic journey and that the information that we seek in some way comes from outside of us, which is not true.

Todd: Well, it’s also kind of rooted in the hero’s journey, right?

Liza: Oh, yeah.

Todd: All of those are about “you have to leave home” and do all of this. And there are benefits to doing that, of course.

Liza: Of course.

Todd: Travel is good for the mind and soul and all of that, but.

Liza: Different continents, yeah.

Todd: Yes, exactly, exactly. But your point is that there’s this notion that somehow in order to become enlightened, one of the steps is you have to become, I guess, ascetic and you have to go live in a cave or meditate on a beach or whatever. And you don’t necessarily—

Liza: Yeah. And it matters that that is something that is more easily accessible for men than women because who’s left watching the kids? It’s the women. I mean, and that’s part of— One of the things that I like to point out when people will say things like, “Well, it’s ancient wisdom. Who are we to disagree? It’s ancient wisdom,” is that back when these ideas were first coming around, lot of racism, lot of sexism, lot of classism. That’s also, “ancient wisdom.” But we have the ability to tease out what’s actually wisdom and what’s not. And I think we have to do that. And that is not popular. That part of the stuff I teach is not popular. I’ve been told a lot of times that, for instance, if I’m talking about living with anxiety, that people must not be on the correct spiritual path because if they were on the right spiritual path, they wouldn’t have anxiety, which is like, “Okay, whatever.” [laughter] Have you been in the world today?

Todd: Yeah, and also there are neurological conditions and things that contribute to that. And it’s not necessarily whether you are pure of spirit, right, which is it’s own kind of weird discrimination about how if you have mental illness, there’s something wrong with you at a deeply—almost beyond physical—t’s spiritual evil wrongness. Yeah. And that’s absolutely wrong.

Liza: Yeah, absolutely. It’s so wrong and it’s so harmful. I had a meditation teacher who was following me on Instagram. Our Eff This! Meditation Instagram account is a lot of fun. It’s very cheeky. But I was posting a lot about anxiety. And this was a year ago. So it was before the current state of things happened. And she sent me a message. She was an American meditation teacher who was living abroad in India. And she sent me a message and was like, “What’s wrong with Americans that they have so much anxiety?” And like, “And why do all of your followers have all this?” and whatever. And I was like, “You skipped out! [laughter] You left. How could you be like, ‘Oh, I just left the country, and everything’s fine for me.'” It’s not like everything’s all chill in India. Every country is having stuff that [crosstalk]—

Todd: Of course.

Liza: You don’t just get to go to somewhere else and say it’s that.

Todd: Oh, geez. Yeah, so then disavow yourself of your contribution to any of that, your previous life. Oh man. Well, thank you, Liza, so much for joining me today. If people want to learn more about what you do or get your book, where do they go?

Liza: Yeah, thanks. Thanks so much for having me and for talking about this. This is really fun. effthismeditation, E-F-F-this-meditation-dot-com and on our Instagram. And my personal Instagram, which is Liza_K. I’m so mad I have an underscore [laughter] but I do. And if you have any—

Todd: But you have it in a very hip, retro way, though. You’ve been rocking the underscore for 15, 20 years, so, yes. Yeah.

Liza: Thank you. Thank you.

Todd: It’s not because the other Liza_K was taken. You were the original Liza_K.

Liza: Okay. I was—

Todd: No, no, go with it! Go with it.

Liza: Okay, all right. No, but it’s true. It’s true. But if anyone has any questions about the stuff or wants to talk about it, I love talking about it. I’m not interested in fighting with anyone. [laughter]

Todd: That’s a really good— Can we just put that at the end of any time anybody mentions their email address or Twitter handle: “I’m not interested in fighting with anyone.” [laughter]

Liza: I never fight, but we could chat.

Todd: Just because I’m available doesn’t mean you can fight with me.

Liza: Exactly. Boundaries. Boundaries.

Todd: Yes, boundaries, that’s exactly right.

Liza: But thank you again, Todd.

Todd:Oh, thank you.

Liza: This was really fun.

Todd: No, this was a lot of fun.

Liza: And I hope that people are able to kind of see these concepts, spiritual ideas, or something that can be a part of broader life. It doesn’t have to just be 10 minutes a day or whatever.

Todd: Right. That’s cool. Well, thank you so much. And I’d love to hear from you—yes, you, dear listener. What do you want to learn about the future of content? Feel free to send, show ideas, suggestions, or examples of the content you create. You can email me at future@fourkitchens.com. We’re also on Twitter at @FoCpodcast. To learn more about Four Kitchens and how we solve complex content problems, visit fourkitchens.com. And, finally, make sure to subscribe to The Future of Content so you don’t miss any new episodes. Until next time, keep creating content.

[music]