Hacking Meditation: Guitars and Trail Runs.

Not sure how I got here…

Intention: A thing intended; an aim or a plan.

There are good reasons to know what your Intention is. This may seem obvious because what we are doing every day should be a result of our Intention. I intended to write these words, and that’s exactly what you see. But I wonder if there is a deeper meaning here. Can you intend to be satisfied, balanced and content? Why wouldn’t you?? For this experiment, let’s assume that your present emotional and physical state is a result of your Intention. Ponder this:

“The entire world arises out of the tip of Intention.” —The Buddha

Is this true? The entire world? Is the Buddha right? I think he is.

I just did a mental scan of the emotional and physical state of the entire world by judging it’s manifestations and… yeah… that’s not possible. But, I do think we can get a sense of the worlds emotional and physical state by what we are all sharing with each other. That’s what I try to observe.

When I think about it in these terms, what the Buddha is saying is fundamental and has been said in many different ways. Pick a philosophy or religion and I bet you will find something to this effect. Thoreau “went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately”. The Bible warns, “By their fruits, ye shall know them”. MLK dreamed that his children would be “…judged by the content of their character”. These are powerful tools that manifest a specific intention. The philosophy that we are what we intend to do is universal. So, why don’t we do what makes us satisfied, balanced and content? It’s not rocket science, is it!? No, it’s harder. The reason, Ego.


Do you know what your deepest intention is? Uncovering it is as easy as asking the question.

“When we put the light of attention on something, then reality starts unfolding itself” -Tara Brach

Looking beyond the manifestations of the Ego: money, revenge, reacting; and shining the light of Attention inward (towards the Id) is a good way to see what you really value. Maybe you don’t value money as much as you thought, maybe you value freedom and you believe money can give you that. Perhaps your habit of reacting to everything makes you lose the freedom that you so desperately want. Shining the light of Attention inward reveals our Intention.


When reality and our values are not connected, we feel frustrated. So how can Intention tell me what I really value? Here’s a thought exercise that helps illustrate the conflict that can arise between Intention and what you value:

Say you get into your car with the intention to meet up with your girlfriends for a mani-pedi and a soak in a lavender spa; guys, you’re going to the bar to watch football. You get into your car and tune in your favorite  vibe and you’re on your way, smiling and free. As you settle into the flow of traffic, you get a text, somebody needs something NOW! You look down at your phone and, smack, straight into the car bumper in front of you. It’s not serious and nobody is hurt, but your entire flow has been interrupted. Stress creeps in; how much is this gonna cost? Where am I going to find the time to handle this? Now, there has been two accidents; you rear-ending the car in front of you followed by being side-swiped in a hit-and-run from stress. You exchange information and you’re back in your car and faced with a choice: fulfill my intention and meet up with my friends, or go back home where it’s safe and handle the stress that I just created. How committed am I to my intention to relax with my friends? Which do I value more?

Back to the Buddha. “The entire world arises out of the tip of Intention.” This statement isn’t a value judgement, it’s a sweeping observation that helps us understand what we value (what the world values) it does. What you value, you do. Are you doing what you value?  Maybe, maybe not.

We all have felt, at one time or the other, frustrated with the destinations our actions have taken us toward. How did I get here? What am I doing wrong? Sometimes we have done nothing wrong and circumstances are outside of our control. But, many times we are reaping the feelings that our actions have sowed and this is why Intention can be so damn confusing! Why would anybody ever do something that would reap frustration?

To help me find what my deepest Intention is, Tara Brach suggested that I ask myself (through the the magic of Youtube) the following questions:

  • What has been the predominating intention that has been moving me, guiding me, directing me?
  • What is it you plan to do with your life?

So, if discovering our deepest Intention is the Palantir that reveals what we really value in life, all we have to do is find it and master it. Simple enough.

Meditation: the Intention to notice what is happening.

I think what the Buddha and Tara Brach and the millions (billions?) of others that use a form of meditation (sometimes called Mindfulness) have discovered is that most of the time we really don’t know what our deepest Intention is. Meditation is the tool that helps us find it. Meditation is the Intention to notice what is happening, and you can’t do this without focus.

Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself.

Sounds confusing to me. But I think the operative word here is consciousness.  Meditation is a tool that puts your mind in a state of consciousness. It seems a bit ironic because people who are meditating don’t actually look conscious at all. To test, find a quiet place, focus on your breath and let go of all judgement.

(Full disclosure: I have meditated, in the traditional sense, exactly once. I aim to change this by taking a Raja Yoga class from my local Yogi in a couple of weeks.)

Although I am not a traditional meditationer (<that’s a rad word right there), I have been realizing the benefits of meditation my entire life. I call it ‘Playing the Guitar’ and ‘Running’.

Modified Meditation

I started playing the guitar when I was eight years old, took a professional break until I was about 14 and haven’t stopped since then. When I sit behind a guitar and start playing, I can get completely lost in it. In other words, I am inducing a mode of consciousness. I am totally focused.

80% of my guitar is played for the audience of one. I prefer the lights to be low when I play so that there are no distractions. I only want to feel the perfectly resonating tone of the endless combination the six perfectly tuned strings from my Taylor guitar. The sound of my guitar and the expression in my voice puts me in a trance… when I come out of it, I feel like I am waking from a dream; calm, conscious and content.

My guitar playing has been so important to my emotional and mental health that during a particularly hard time in my life, I carried my guitar around like a security blanket. I never left home without it. I referred to it as my best friend.

Number two on the list is running. I started running on a dare. My friend Bubba was running the St. George Marathon and suggested that I do the same. It sounded absurd to me. I have always been active in numerous sports but running just sounded boring. No points to score, no tricks to learn; boring. He was persistent so I signed up as a joke.

St. George Marathon
Running in the shadows of Navajo Sandstone. The St. George Marathon.

What I found was that the challenge of training for a marathon helped me focus. My Intention was clear and the outcome predictable. Tim Ferriss put it nicely in his article, Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide.

“After focusing on my body instead of being trapped in my head, things were much clearer. Everything seemed more manageable.” —Tim Ferriss

Marathon training helped me focus on a positive outcome; my Intention to do something that few people have— the challenge to see if I could run 26.2 miles and not die! The training offered me a chance to consistently move forward towards a goal and an unchartered expedition. I finished that marathon in un-spectacular form, then went on to finish two others, two ultra-marathons, and numerous half marathons. Bored with asphalt, now I stick to the trails.

The rhythm of trail running to me is much like the experience of meditating. The sound of my breath, the thumping in my chest, the serenity of natural beauty all create a rhythmic experience that allows me to let go for a time and enter that elusive state of consciousness. Nearly every time I go running, I gain inspiration. It happens so often that I have a term for it: Running Revelations. Sometimes these insights are solution to a problem, other times they are springs of creative discovery.yellow shirt runner

Trail running, in particular, is an allegory to any challenge. You start at the bottom and set your sights to the top of the mountain. You struggle your way up and when you reach the top, you are treated to a spectacular view combined with a rush of endorphins. I take an epic moment, express gratitude, and then throw myself down the trail to the bottom. I run as fast as I can down; floating over the trail, skipping from one landing point to the next. It’s a potent cocktail of endorphins followed by an adrenaline chaser. It’s freaking awesome! (and sometimes bloody)!

These are my thoughts. I am still learning about the benefits of meditation so please help me figure it out! Perhaps you are already doing some form of Modified Meditation that takes you to this state of consciousness. I would love to hear your comments and experiences.

Take part!