Meditation Can Change Your Life . . . Literally

Meditation Can Change Your Life . . . Literally

by Nick Stein

As many of you know, it was Dr. Stephen Johnson who first encouraged me to take up a secular mindful meditation practice. I was literally Skyping with him from Montreal when I finally heeded his advice and began my practice. This after 4 years of producing Nat Geo’s Border Wars, where I had burnt out from the suffering we documented day in and day out. I was also coping with the massive political fallout from Rupert Murdoch’s FOX minions taking over the National Geographic Channel.

This was a form of ego death, as while most of my long time colleagues were fired, they saved an exquisite form of torment for me – they renewed Border Wars but replaced me as the Show Runner, after 50 episodes of being their # 1 show.

In that final dreadful season, my job was essentially to train my replacement, and needless to say, it didn’t go so well. When Season #7 of Border Wars was mercifully over, I crawled away to the gig in Montreal. There, burnt out, depressed and knowing that my marriage was also essentially over, I Skyped with the Dr. J.

Since those harrowing days, my life (i.e.: my happiness, my career and my marriage) have dramatically, and steadily, improved thanks to this remarkable daily practice. Back in LA and inspired to teach, I studied at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), attended multiple multi-day residential retreats and then, this year, got my certification from the Engaged Mindfulness Institute (EMI), out of Deerfield, Massachusetts.

It is a singular honor for me to bring this knowledge to the Sacred Path Men’s Retreat where, for 2 years now, I have conducted mindfulness sessions on Friday and Saturday afternoons. I am always moved by the hunger and enthusiasm of the men for this information and am happy to provide it.

I think that many really just want to hear it from a brother who’s been in trouble and found a way out. After all, Dr. J repeatedly tells us that that’s what we men do - get ourselves into trouble – as the only way to force ourselves to try and grow out of it!

Since beginning my teaching path, I’ve been privileged to pass on this knowledge in a number of settings; from the LA County Men’s Jail (MCJ) to Discovery’s TV studio; from a Pasadena High Tech start up, to all kinds of police organizations, including the US Border Patrol.

In all these settings, and with these populations, I must always be aware that these are not “spiritual” situations, and thus I keep it as secular as possible… but on the mountain, I found it quite liberating to say to the assembled men, with some gusto, that this practice should take the highest priority in your life!

I found myself saying that after food and shelter, meditation may well come next! Why? Because without a systemic and consistent exploration of one’s inner landscape, one is walking this earth with no internal GPS and thus no clue how to navigate the vagaries of this always challenging life.

Your meditation practice – and your ability to attain some degree of mindfulness – affects every other aspect of your life! Your moods, your relationships, your productivity, your emotions, your plans, your memories; in fact it fundamentally changes your entire association with your thoughts, brain, body and mind.

The only trick is… your have to actually do it! Just as buying a membership to a gym won’t make you fit; practicing meditation, say, once a week, won’t give you any of the benefits you seek either!

My advice - create internal and external conditions to sit EVERY DAY and, in that way, you’ll hit is at least 4-5 days a week (and maybe more). If you do this, for a minimum of 10 minutes a session, after 2 weeks, I guarantee you’ll feel a seismic shift!

Thank you men, Namaste and I’ll see you again on the Mountain!

Below are some resources for you!




-- APPS --

HAPPIER __ The # 1 resource I would like you to try is Dan Harris’s 10% Happier App (on your phone on on-line), or go to and start with the first 18 days, they are free. After that, it’s a small price to upgrade and continue on with the great lessons. In this course you’ll learn how to meditate with skeptical (and fidgety) ABC newsman Dan Harris as he talks to one of the greatest American meditation teachers, Joseph Goldstein. Every day, on your mobile device, you’ll get video lessons that teach the essentials, plus guided audio meditations that walk you through the practice in the simplest possible way.

CALM.COM __ If you want to try another app try this: Start with the 7 Steps of Calm, the week long free “intro” as it is a very good introduction to the basics. Do these guided meditations a day for one week (they are all about 7-8 mins long), and by the end of the week, I think you’ll realize that 1. You actually did it and 2. You may well feel a shift in your stress levels. It’s consistency that helps bring results… and the results reinforce the practice.


-- BOOKS --

This is the book that began my journey - Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn .Buy the book or audio book. Check him out JKZ giving a definition of Mindfulness: 


Again - read or get the audio book of Dan Harris’s 10% Happier. This is a really great book for anyone who is skeptical about meditation, or who is turned off by the new-age or spiritual language that often accompanies it.


The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Mark Singer  (from where I read about The Inner Roommate) Whether this is your first exploration of inner space, or you’ve devoted your life to the inward journey, this book will transform your relationship with yourself and the world around you. By tapping into traditions of meditation and mindfulness, author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and let go of painful thoughts and memories that keep us from achieving happiness and self-realization.


Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on Vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance and  True Refuge.



Against the Stream

I love these guys. Uniquely American, very street savvy and wonderfully irreverent… nevertheless they take their Buddhism quite seriously.


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