Meditation Tips from Buster Benson, Founder of 43 Things

Read Lift’s How to Meditate guide for more tips and free guided meditations.

Tony sat down with Buster Benson to chat about how to build a meditation habit. Buster is a behavior change skeptic/fanatic and founder of apps including 43 Things, Health Month and 750 WordsWatch the video to hear Tony & Buster’s tips which include:

  • Make meditation part of your daily routine.
  • Start with guided meditation. It’s easier (even if Buster is skeptical).
  • Don’t be discouraged: it’s difficult at first and we all struggle. 
  • Increase your chances of keeping the habit by making it part of your personality.

Transcript after the jump. For more on Buster, check out his incredibly quantified life.

Tip #1: Make meditation part of your daily routine.

Tony: So taking some of what you have learned about achieving goals, we’re running a meditation challenge right now on Lift.

Buster: I’m in it.

Tony: How is it going?

Buster: It’s good. I’m on a 14 day streak.

Tony: What is your meditation practice?  

Buster: I tacked it onto my morning routine which is another habit that I’m trying to start.

Tony: I’m in the habit with you, too.

Buster: Every morning, I drink a glass of water, I have a list of 4 or 5 goals that I choose from every day about things to focus on, and I just choose one that randomly pops into my head. Then I do some stretching, then I meditate, so it’s a 5 minute meditation. I’ve not gone beyond 5 minutes yet.

Tip #2: Start with guided meditation. 

Tony: I always thought meditation was the hardest habit to build. Then I picked up the Headspace app–which a ton of people use on Lift–and suddenly it became easier to meditate because someone was guiding me through it.

Buster: It’s easier because someone is talking–that’s not meditating.

Tony: You don’t think?

Buster: It’s meditation during the time he’s not talking.

Tony: Yeah but mostly he talks. I wonder if there is less talking overtime?

Buster: I made it through the 30 day program.

Tony: Is he still talking through those 30 days?

Buster: Not as much, that’s why it works.

Tip #3: Don’t be discouraged: it’s difficult at first and we all struggle. 

Tony: I remember how hard it was to keep up with meditation before I found the app. Someone told me to just count to 10,000. Seriously? I’d give up once I reached 150. 

Buster: This morning I was thinking about how meditating is like trying to stop on a water slide.  There is nothing to hold onto. My thoughts just keep pouring through and I can’t stop them.

Tony: So what do you think of meditation as a practice for other people?Supposedly it is incredibly powerful. It makes your brain thicker in the front which makes you more able to focus and be calm.

Buster: Meditation is pretty much the cure all for everything as far as I can understand. That’s why I keep trying to do it.

Tip #4: Increase your chances of keeping the habit by making it part of your personality.

Tony: I have a friend who is an executive coach. He coaches a bunch of people who are hedge fund managers. Several of his clients tell him confidentially, “You know, I meditate and it’s a big part of why I’m successful, but I won’t tell any of my peers, because it doesn’t fit.” But if it turns out all the best Wall Street people are meditating it would completely change the brand of meditation.

Buster: So this goes back to why I think goals succeed and fail. It’s  because if a goal isn’t part of your personality, it’s like you’re trying to jam a square block into a circle hole. It’s not going to fit. You can try to transplant a bird heart into your body but you can’t wire up the blood vessels and nerve endings so it’ll be rejected.

You have to find a way to convince yourself that you are a person who meditates. That requires thinking about what you are good at, what you like, what’s the closest thing that you identify with that is in that direction and focus on finding that angle that fits. For me, I think of meditation as something that will help my running. I’m a runner and running is a mental thing. I tell myself that I meditate to improve my running. Framing it that way makes it fit better. I feel comfortable explaining that to people and other people understand why I’d meditate in that context.

Tony: It’s a part of stretching.

Buster: Yeah, it’s just one step further.

Question: Meditation changes lives. How can it become more popular? 

Tony: So why is it only practiced by Zenned-out hippies?

Buster: Meditation has bad branding. You can’t say that you meditate without sounding like a little bit of a prick. You sound like you’re pretentious, you’re holding it over me or are better than me.

Tony: I have a family member who is a teacher and thinks that her class is out of control. She thinks she needs to teach these kids meditation and mindfulness. But then you know some parent is going to be ask “What is this hippie doing to my child?”

Buster: I just read The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, in which she talks about meditation as a way to strengthen your willpower. And meditation comes up all of the time as a way to solve so many problems: you live longer, you’re happier, your marriage is better, you exercise more, you think better. But I told her, I think meditation has a branding problem. Someone needs to come up with the Pepsi Cola or Coca-Cola of meditation so that it seems like a cool thing to do and so that it’s not intimidating.

Tony: Maybe there needs to be a different champion of meditation. The Headspace guy is exactly who I would think would be talking to me: he is the most peaceful speaker with his nice UK accent and I just like to listen to him talk. I feel like some really hardcore vicious athlete needs to come out and say, “You know how I have the killer energy? I meditate.”

Buster: Like Henry Rollins or Madonnashe made yoga a ‘thing’ and she seems the opposite of yoga.    

Tony: That’s what you need, a Kobe Bryant to say: “I’m good in the clutch because I meditate.”

Buster: The problem is that nobody can make money off of meditating. I mean, people can but really you can’t. It requires doing nothing and sitting on your chair. There’s no equipment necessary.    

Tony: It’s a crummy product. Who ever thought they could sell meditation? Well, I mean people sell bottled water so it’s possible.  

Buster: Someone can figure it out.

Tony: Maybe that sort of thing can be our pivot: expensive, high-end meditation for cool people.

Buster: It has to be really expensive, really exclusive.

Tony: For materialistic people. Meditation for materialistic people, I like that.

Note: Kobe Bryant does meditate.