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Cayce Howe is the founder of Unshakable Mind, a meditation based company that teaches Stress Management and Inner Resilience in the greater Long Beach Area. He has had an insatiable thirst for enlightenment based knowledge and experience for 20 plus years and it has led him to live and work at mediation retreat centers for over 5 years. He completed a one year meditation retreat in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition in 2008. You can find him meditating every weekday on the beach and teaching his Sunday Sit class on, you guessed it, Sundays. If you are in the Long Beach area come join him!
Cayce's main purpose for sharing meditation is to expose the qualities of the enlightened mind, and to reveal their ability to assist us in our daily lives. After experiencing a powerful lesson in compassion, in the form of care-taking for a loved one in chronic pain, he decided to devote himself to help others cope with suffering using meditation.
Through his company Unshakable Mind, he teaches to a variety of people and groups including: Veterans at the VA Long Beach hospital, executive professionals, doctors, lawyers, High Schoolers and everyday people looking to find greater peace in this sometimes hectic world.
1. Let’s start with the basics, what is meditation and what isn’t?
Meditation is the sustained voluntary attention of ones mind on a particular object. One direct translation in the Tibetan culture is “to become familiar with”. We are training the mind to become familiar with itself.
2. Do you need to follow a certain religion to meditate?
No. Although forms of meditation are found in nearly all religions, meditation itself is actually completely free from mental concepts or beliefs. Religion may bring a person to meditation, but to meditate correctly all concepts and beliefs must be dropped. Furthermore, meditation has been taught in clinical settings free from religious doctrine for over 30 years with fantastic results.
3. What are some of the misconceptions about meditation?
- Meditation is concentration: One of the first things people say to me when I mention that I am a meditation teacher is that they can’t meditate. Usually what they mean is that they can’t concentrate. Concentration is an element of meditation, but it is not meditation itself. Some forms of meditation rely heavily on concentration, others do not, which I will discuss in more detail below.
- You have to stop the mind from thinking to do it right: The mind will generate thoughts just like the body will breath itself. Bringing the wandering mind back from getting taken away by thoughts is part of meditation. Just as sounds continue to arise during meditation, as do body sensations, thoughts too will arise, that is not a problem. In fact, thoughts themselves can be taken as the support for meditation.
- Some others are: you have to sit on the floor… it’s only for Buddhist, it has to be done in absolute silence; all of which are misconceptions.
4. What are the different kinds of meditation? How do you know what’s best you?
There are many different types of meditation. Two major categories are those based on concentration and those that lean more towards mindfulness, although all types will have a component of each. Concentration based meditations include mantra recitation, Kundalini, visualization, and any meditation where single pointed concentration on a specific object is practiced. Mindfulness based meditations take the present moment as the object. Although they are best practiced formally, they can also be taken out into daily life. Mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere; wheather eating breakfast or taking a walk or having a conversation, one can use awareness to conscious stay in the present moment.
Which ones are best for you? Concentration based practice are better suited for controlled environments, free from distraction. If you have access to those quiet environments then those may be a good option. Mindfulness based practices may be used when life does not allow for traditional meditation training periods or you need to take your meditation into your daily life. The best scenario is to be able to do both. A focused concentration practice in the morning before your day gets started, then practice some mindfulness throughout the day.
5. What is an “enlightened mind" and what are the qualities?
Traditionally speaking an enlightened mind is a mind free from negative aspects. It is a mind that is resting in its natural positive qualities while not engaging in negative aspects. Those positive qualities are mainly wisdom and compassion. Wisdom consists of seeing things how they truly are. This means seeing the world around us as it is, instead of the story our minds are telling us. Wisdom also refers to an experiential understanding of ultimate reality, which is the awareness of the true nature of phenomena.
6. What are meanings of “Bliss” and “Nirvana”?
Bliss is a mental state. Sometimes the arising of bliss in meditation can be falsely recognized as a spiritual awakening. Although bliss can be a byproduct of quieting ones mind, it has very little to do with actual awakening and can even become an obstacle, as the mind has a tendency to become attached to the bliss.
Nirvana on the other hand is the permanent abiding in enlightened mind. This is not a mental state, it is rather a transcendence of mental states.
7. How does meditation help with panic attacks, chronic pain and anxiety.
Meditation, and mindfulness specifically, teaches us how to stay with reality. In most cases reality is much easier than what our minds are telling us. We may have a very real stressor, like chronic pain. The pain is real, however, our thoughts about how that pain will effect the rest of our life is actually unknown. The experience of chronic pain, anxiety and panic attacks, like all of our experience, show up in our inner world as thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. In normal circumstances we self identify with these as “ourselves”, instead of something that is arising “within us”. There is a quantum shift in our relationship with what is arising when we can take a step back and see it for what it is, instead of what our minds are telling us it is.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl
As the above quote points out, we need to have space between stimulus and response. Meditation gives us that space, that ability to choose.
Pain X Resistance= Suffering. In that space we can finally find some room to work with our resistance, an opportunity to expand. Growth and freedom become real opportunities here.
8. What does one need to teach or lead meditation? What would you recommend to any one who wants to have a meditation group? What works and what doesn’t
Sitting with a group is a key ingredient for maintaining a consistent mediation practice and I cannot emphasize its importance enough. If you cannot sit physically with others, reach out in other ways to connect, even virtually.
Recommendations for sitting groups would be to have a period of meditation mixed in with some discussion, and some sharing of inspirational/informative books.
To teach meditation make sure you have an experiential understanding of what is being taught. Remember that mediation takes us into the deep recesses of our own being. Meditation is actually not the verbal instruction; it is the experience of the instruction. Knowing the instruction is like reading about how to fly a plane. It is probably best to learn how to fly a plane from someone who has actually flown a plane, instead of from some who has just read the manual. I do not mean to discourage less experienced meditators from having a sitting group, there are many techniques available from reliable sources that can provide the instruction, and maybe the group can have a visiting teacher come to answer questions.
9. What were some of your experiences with some of your teachers?
My most profound experiences with my teachers are simply watching them interact with those around them. When compassion has been fully realized it never turns off. Being around those that embrace each moment, and each person like a sacred jewel has been a powerful lesson. To this day, it is my inspiration. If I can connect with just one person with the sincerity my teachers have for all beings, I will have reached an important milestone.
10. Tell us about Unshakable Mind.
Meditation is for everyone. If you are ailing, it can help to rebalance you. If you are feeling good it can help you feel even better, and if you are in a career or hobby that pushes you to the extreme it can help you reach your full potential. However, very few people will actually ever see the true benefits of meditation. I learned early on that most people are motivated by egoic pursuits, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. The reality is that we want to do things that serve the ego. We want to look good, get more money or move up the ranks within our social ladder. We are more inclined to go to yoga for example to get a workout AND a get little meditation in, rather than sit on the cushion for an hour and half.
I created Unshakable Mind for those few that are looking for something else. Something real. There is nothing of this world that provides lasting happiness, the happiness that can prevail in the good times and the bad. Nothing outside can give us this happiness, but we can give it to ourselves. There are life experiences that we go through that show us this. Lots of times its an illness. Those that are ailing are the best meditators that I have ever met. Sometime we lose a loved one, or we simply age and start to feel our own mortality. For me it was watching a loved one in chronic pain. Year after year she was in pain, and we used meditation to help.
Unshakable Mind is just that, revealing the very essence of our being, that part of us that is unshakable.
11. You have a great start up meditation for new meditators on your website. Tell us about your 30 Day Journey?
I teach meditation to a lot of people in many different situations. Sometimes I’m there for an hour and that’s it, sometimes I’m teaching them every week for a year. I needed something that could help every person I met and give them the foundational tools of meditation plus the continuity of a consistent practice. I wanted something that was easy to use, free, and not time consuming. I came up with the “30 Inspired Days of Mindfulness” email program. It starts the day you sign up and you get an email everyday for 30 days. Each email has a blurb about meditation, an inspiring quote of the day and an embedded guided mediation. The meditations are roughly 5 minutes in length and are played right from your smart phone or computer. In 10 minutes a day people can start a consistent meditation practice. I have also had people that have been meditation for 35 years try it out just to get some different perspectives. It has been great to see all the positive feedback come in, it makes it all worth it.
Anyone interested can sign up at http://unshakablemind.com/30-inspired-days/.
Cayce teaches meditation to individuals, groups, and in clinical settings over Skype and in person. He currently lives in Long Beach, CA. If you would like to contact him regarding meditation or just to say hello, he would love to hear from you.