Hannah Knapp of Within Meditation - How does Meditation help us to evolve as an individual and as a species?
(0-10 minutes) Hannah introduces herself and Within Meditation. Within Meditation studio is in San Francisco and they offer 30 minute guided meditations to people who work in the financial district. Hannah talks about how she teaches beginners and how that is different from teaching more experienced meditators. Beginners have a lot of expectations and they aren't sure what exactly meditation is. This requires Hannah to be more present throughout the meditation with cues to come back to the breath and the body. When she teachers more experienced practitioners, she usually leaves a lot more silence as that is what they are looking for. We talk about our mutual experiences with Vipassana. Stewart asked Hannah which day was the worst day. She says that day 3. Stewart asks her about integrating after the ten-day meditation retreat. She says that in Vipassana on day 8 they usually talk about how people can bring back what they have learned on retreat. She said that a voice inside her said, "having a child is a way to bring love incarnate into this world". At the time she had never wanted kids and after the retreat, she ended up coming back and having two of them! She talks about how having kids is an amazing experience of unconditional love. Stewart mentions that they originally taught him how to do loving-kindness or Metta meditation and Hannah's description of being a parent perfectly describes this. Stewart asks Hannah where she got the idea for Within Meditation. She says that she noticed that in other countries with meditation traditions that they don't consider ten days to be too long. Here in the west, 10 days is a really long time. She realized that for people with busy lives the best way to introduce meditation is in short sessions and she started offering 30-minute sessions to people at pop-up events. Then they found a space in the financial district. (10-20 minutes) Stewart explains his own meditation practice and story and how he worked in office environments. He explains how he met a founder at a cryptocurrency event recently that reminded him of this intense energy that founders have when they try to create something out of nothing against a lot of barriers. He asks Hannah how she deals with this intense fire energy that founders have or how does it show up in her work. Hannah replies that when she takes her teaching into office environment's she often meets people who are skeptical about the whole practice. She says that skeptical people often say that they have good thoughts and they want to hold on to them because they are good. She tells these people to ask themselves "What are we doing right now? Are we just thinking or is there something else going on?". This reminded Stewart about a time on meditation retreat where he had a good business idea and he couldn't do anything about it at the moment. He couldn't let it go and it caused him to have insomnia. Once he learned how to let it go he was able to find that there will always be more ideas, but very few ideas that you actually want to spend your time or energy on. We talk about how creativity arises out of a natural byproduct of the meditative state and a quiet mind. Not a permanently quiet mind, but a mind that finds the spaces in between the thoughts. Hannah says that a lot of beginners realize that their minds and neurosis are running their lives. They realize that meditation is a non-pharmaceutical way of calming the mind and letting go of the neurosis. Stewart explains that a lot of beginners have an idea of what meditation will be like. He asks Hannah how she helps people move away from these preconceived ideas of meditation. She says that she helps them realize that mindfulness meditation is a method for coming back to the present reality. As Thich Nacht Hahn says, mindfulness is keeping one's consciousness alive to the present reality. (20-30 minutes) Hannah talks about coming back from Vipassana and the difference between practicing alone and practicing with a group. She says that when she got back she needed to find a group of people who she could practice with and found her teacher Michael Mcalister. Stewart asks Hannah about her favorite Dharma books. She says that Eckhart Toll's "The Power of Now"and Jack Kornfield's "The Path with the Heart". Stewart mentions that "The Power of Now" was the first book that got him into a mindfulness practice. He also mentions that he has been reading J. Krishnamurti. Stewart asks Hannah about Within meditation and where she sees it going for the next couple years. She says that she wants to fill the room and build the community. We discuss "How do you sell meditation?" Stewart brings up headspace and the other apps that have actually got consumers purchasing meditation services. Hannah says that apps are great for beginners, but that they don't serve the purpose of having a teacher give accurate feedback in the moment. Stewart responds by saying that Headspace is going to bring a lot of people into meditation and then a whole bunch of other services and teachers will not be needed to serve this larger population who are now into meditation. We talk about how prerecorded meditations like Headspace and others are a different experience than live ones. In live meditations, everyone in the room is on the same page and a prerecorded session is more of a solitary undertaking. Hannah brings up that she likes the meditation apps that give short practices that help people bring mindfulness into their daily lives. Stewart asks her how she helps her students at Within take mindfulness into their daily lives. She says that she gives students a trigger like a stoplight for remembering to stop and take a breath and notice what is going on. Hannah brings her own experiences up about how she tries to bring mindfulness into her life and she says the biggest practices is with her kids. When she is noticing anger she can regulate her emotions and take a break up. (30-40 minutes) Stewart brings up the two main tools that mindfulness gives us: regulation and awareness. Hannah says that when in a formal meditation practice she just uses awareness and whatever comes up she just moves through it without regulation. When she is having difficult moments with her children she uses regulation for example something called affect labeling, essentially labeling what is going on in her experience and choosing to respond skillfully to that. He asks Hannah about whether she uses any regulation practices when it comes to the breath. She says no. Stewart mentions his own struggles with reverse breathing and how he had to use a lot of breath regulation to help him heal this. He mentions the difference between Buddhist traditions and a lack of breathing exercises as opposed to yoga and its reliance on breathing exercises. Hannah brings up how she asks her children some time to regulate their breath. This reminds Stewart about how he came back from his meditation journey and he tried to teach his nephew. It didn't work. He wasn't buying it. Hannah tells about her experience at Wisdom 2.0 and how someone asked Jon Kabat-Zinn about teaching your family or the people you love the most. He said, "You don't, just lead by example". Stewart asks Hannah about the main thing that has changed in her relationship with other people. She says that she learned about her own responsibility in any interaction with another person. She became more empathic and let the wall fall down between her image of herself and how that's different for others. She allowed herself to become messier. (40-50 minutes) Hannah talks about the conflict between living in the material world, but then realizing that those things don't really define us. Stewart asks Hannah what the relationship between evolution and meditation is. She says that it doesn't appear that other animals don't have the ability to be aware of our own awareness, but humans do. We have a linear time frame that other animals don't seem to have. Stewart brings up epigenetics and how what we do gets expressed in our genes and that meditation seems to have a place in this process. If he had had kids ten years ago, those kids would carry different genes then they would now. Hannah brings up her experience giving birth and how helpful mindfulness has been for that. She learned how to experience intensity without translating it into pain. Her birth process was pain free thanks to her mindfulness process.
In this episode
- 01:30 - What is the difference in teaching beginners and more experienced individuals pursuing meditation ?
- 03:17 - What is vipassana meditation and a vipassana retreat ?
- 16:39 - How do people generally approach meditation?
- 19:10 - How does meditation differ when practicing in a group and practicing solo ?
- 25:57 - What are some important things to keep in mind regarding meditation ?
- 30:26 - How does one recognize when to use regulation vs. awareness meditation practices ?
- 33:44 - How can elements of meditation be utilized in parenting ?
- 40:05 - What is the role of meditation in this world ?
- 41:52 - Is there a relationship between meditation and evolution ?
Smash Notes summary for this episode
What is the difference in teaching beginners and more experienced individuals pursuing meditation ?
Beginners are usually very unsure of what is going to happen with meditation and how to walk through it. A lot of guidance and suggestions are helpful in beginner classes to make participants feel comfortable. As they become more experienced, less guidance is needed and there is more of a desire to simply have space and time for a break from the chaos of life.
What is vipassana meditation and a vipassana retreat ?
It is insight meditation. This is the style of meditation that many of the popular mindfulness practices come from. A vipassana retreat is an experience in silence for 10 days where you sit with many people for different lengths of time. During this time, participants are simply trying to to be present in their current moment and observe what is happening around them and within their bodies.
How do people generally approach meditation?
Often times, they already have an idea of what they think meditation is. That idea then influences their meditation practice, both positively and negatively.
How does meditation differ when practicing in a group and practicing solo ?
It feels very different to have a group and a teacher to spin questions off of rather than being alone. It is helpful to have a positive teacher/group experience in order to glean information and techniques to apply in solo practice.
What are some important things to keep in mind regarding meditation ?
One does not need a dedicated space or ample time in order to practice. That is one of the beauties of meditation.
How does one recognize when to use regulation vs. awareness meditation practices ?
Much is dependent on the intensity of the emotion being experienced as well as the context.
How can elements of meditation be utilized in parenting ?
Parents can help children to stop and breath in moments of frustration. This allows children and parents to regulate together when situations arise.
What is the role of meditation in this world ?
The more people who are conscious and aware of themselves vs. being impacted by what is around them, the more people are able to connect with each other's humanity. There is then the possibility that all of the conflict and chaos around us goes away.