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Meditation for Everyday Life

Lesson 19 of 28

The True Meaning of Success

David Nichtern

Meditation for Everyday Life

David Nichtern

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Lesson Info

19. The True Meaning of Success

Lesson Info

The True Meaning of Success

I thought that today we could talk about the issue which is tinged with a kind of which point of jurgen take, which is success and success is such a loaded topic really? Because right away I think most people actually I don't have their own idea of success they got it from their parents or the rebelling against their parents idea because it's so strong the expectation the parents is so strong ingrained in the and people and so either I know people have just gone gun holder to duplicate with or surpassed what their parents did or else they're just in complete rebellion against it and you know, their actions are determined by being the opposite um but I think this afternoon we're going to take a look in a contemplative way at um what success means to us because then you when you get that personal about it, you go you actually already meditating if you even think about what success means you that's for meditation you're putting your mind onto of a very core topic and seeing how you feel a...

bout it um what it means to you, um what does it mean to have a successful life? And uh, personally I feel it's much more effective too open questions out and let people kind of mix their mind with question and that's sort of the spirit of contemplation because any attempt that we make to define these things for people is just going it's like you know did you ever shoot the the rubber band something in school and depends which end of it you let go first if you like oh this and of course then it goes and hits them but if you get confused like oh this all of a sudden today you so we have to be very careful about just laying our agenda in our program onto others um uh but at the same time there was a certain you could say wisdom of the ages that that's been crystallised coalesced and that's what we call that in my attrition kind of lineage the idea that we're not the first people on this planet we're really not some of us come from much older cultures um on there's a certain accumulation of or distillation of wisdom so I would say the buddhist tradition is a kind of combination you know off that distillation of wisdom over hundreds of thousands of years and also very fresh very fresh take you know, very creative take and that's almost the sign to me of great teachers there's a sort of mastery of what's come before but there's a willingness to be very very fresh and on point and not dogmatic so I just might be fun to just look at success that way but before we start I want to kind of this is our version of a commercial way we're going to sit for that funny on shambala tv instead of a commercial they have a five minute meditation you know and then they then your programming resumes you know so during this time we each have a chance to kind of work with our own practice and hopefully by the end of the three days if you're following the whole programme obviously he just jumped in your joining us but this this is kind of like the ongoing thread off our of our time together and it's kind of it's moment zero where we kind of just take a moment and just be mindful of our own situation properly earlier we talked about being mindful of not just our mind but our speech our emotional world our physical world mixing awareness with all of what we're experiencing then and then we you know, venture forth into certain types of contemplation and then we venture forth into real life that's it there's no way out of that if we decide I don't want anything to do with real life good luck because um as far as I'm concerned reality is defined by this it comes to you there's no way we can just create realities successfully it's called fantasy that's called fancy any even if you having the most vivid fantasy so landlord coming for the rent you know well wait a minute, you know so reality is something we all got o er me realistic about you know, so we're not trying to get away from that I keep coming back to it again and again I feel like I'm been in battle gear for thirty years against that approach towards meditation just like in some dreamy thing, you know, some fantasy laden dreamy thing um that seems like an idea that needs or could be debunked, but so when we're doing our meditation practice we're really actually practicing being awakened present toe whatever is arising that's the essence of meditation and it then you take it forward and you're awake and present to whatever arises even if even it's if it's a car accident or something that happens to you, how would you do with that? You know, you go I wish this wasn't happening, you know? But meanwhile reality has not just knocked on your door it's nearly destroyed your car and so situations we can't control everything that happens um and even whatever met, you know ideas we have about things you know, somehow mother earth is always waking us up and we're coming back to some kind of ground and in the buddhist vision we kind of appreciate that we we welcome that kind of contact, so but to start with we say, ok, let me just start right here we put member maxwell smart the cone of silence don't even remember that this was just to send you know, and we're sort of in a way creating containment field for ourselves so that we can come to a nice direct relationship with their own mind that's kind of asking very actually very polite thing to do before we go below ah everybody else you know, we kind of catch ourselves up and we synchronize up our body and our mind through this pact is a meditation so we're going to do that first, then we'll move on to a discussion of success and contemplation about success, so if you could take your seat, I'm going again just give us a brief outline of the instruction for the mindfulness meditation practice this is again the core of our of our practice in our time together if you're just joining us this instructions included in a two page outline when you roll in the course so um you can review it that way and first that being taken good seat either cross legged uh on a cushion or on the floor I won't go through all the details because we've done that already you khun you khun review those and just have a nice strong sense of upright posture if you're sitting on a chair you can just put your feet on the floor in front of you and then just either situation just rest your hands on your knees. This is kind of classic meditation posture and keep your eyes open with the soft down would gaze on the floor in front of you about four to six feet in front of you have a sense of arresting your sense perceptions at ease but, um not shut down. You should feel poor us, you know, like that your outer and in the world are open to each other. It's a feeling just, um almost like being in water. You know how that's like you just kind of outside and the inside of her really equalized. And then, um after you've taken a comfortable seat like that, you can take your time settling yourself in and just taking the seat has tremendous sense of settling in itself. Do you feel that everybody you feel that this has sort of allowed you to settle down for a moment and then begin to just sort of pay attention to the natural breath going in and out the tip of your nose? Just use that method for right now, just bring your awareness of tip your nose and let it rest there. As the breath goes in and out, you feel the breath going in and out of your body when you're mind wanders off usually goes foraging for entertainment either in your past three future projections and you notice you're thinking about something in us we said last time could be very dramatic kind of thought with a lot of emotional charge uh could be thoughts about your body situation could be things you want to happen in the future things you're sorry about in the past or that you're nostalgic for whatever form that thought thinking takes we just when we recognize that that's where we are we sort of wake up on the spot and kind of label that thinking and bringing awareness back to the breath of course we're going to be doing that repeatedly over the course of the session whenever you notice you're gone they were thinking come back to the awareness of breath so we'll just do that for five minutes you need to shift your posture during the session you can just shift andrea just as you need to wait we'd like to figure stretch pleased to meet you I'm suitably so he um so after every meditation do you recommend some kind of stretching like even if it's just a little movement or even something in the background is good yeah I think it is stella we're leaving even it's just for a moment you know you end a period of practice you know you could some of the basic stretches are always good because you know what kind of keeping a strong central and so either twist or a back bend could be very nice or let's say even if you have an awesome like an on the mat practice just maybe start with the seeded meditation and then move into a practice yeah people are yoga practitioners in particular you need to start with meditation and move into yoga or do the yoga's a preparation for the meditation so this is the kind of two schools of thought on that and that's kind of deep like to do a whole lot of people I know even myself had thought on the mat awesome a practice that is it but you just said doing that as a preparation for you know now you're all warmed up and loosened up kind of your mind is settled something about work with the body settles mind down even exercise or so but other people think well let me just start by settling in and then the physical practice after that so that's really two schools of thought on that but even for just us ordinary regular folks just a little stretching a little um kind of the idea of being making friends with your body is supposed to you know that this is somehow torching it is going to be effective towards any positive outcome so you know um kind of individual thing the end of the day okay, great. So ladies and gentlemen of the jury you know we're always sort of evaluating should I do this or not you know and uh everything well we're not really a kind of um we're not doing things so much and at least in the united states because somebody told us to we've sort of our whole cultures sort of formulate on this kind of idea of indian individual freedom and in fact if your parents told you to do it my p problem that you do the opposite so every culture is not the same in that way but starting with the premise that many of us have been trained that way if I tell you this is a good thing for you to do probably won't do it I'm going to say no definitely don't meditate so that's how you trick your kids right? David no no no no no don't don't don't sit and be quiet and be a good boy uh so the question is really in our own individual barometer our sense of the world working with that individualistic culture you know is this a good idea or not? And it's really going to come down to that for you people out there in cyberspace who are exploring this? Obviously I roseanna roseanna donna have come to the conclusion this is a good idea for me, you know? So um you know, I practice this because I feel it's effective and good way for me to kind of um developing more settled state of mind uh that work with turbulent situations without freaking out so much um and cultivating those things that I want to cultivate in this very lifetime so that's the choice I've made now that's a choice like any good discipline that you kind of you keep reviewing and upping the stakes on it um and how much you want to practice and how you want to go about it who you want to study and practice with and whether you want to do it at all and I'm just telling you that people even people you might view is very committed are going to go through their ups and downs with these kind of things so um we have to recognize their some individual process going on and what is it tied to it's time to our notion of what our whole life is for what's the point and not just from um metaphysical point of view if like you know like being a good philosopher while life is for this eleven your life your individual life actually by the way is um an hourglass has been turned upside down you know what an hourglass looks like with sand in it when you're born they go like that another san is going this way and when that sand runs out this particular life is over so that's just a very bare fact that would you would anybody argue with that then you really want to take a different point of view so that using the hourglass is the determination what do you want to do in that in that time you know that's really what we're juggling with and uh how do you want to spend your life uh what would you like to achieve what's your aspiration uh these are good questions I don't regard these as kind enable gazing kind of questions they're very practical questions and what do you want to cultivate in your life and of course there's then the sort of level of just practical things you know, I want a lot of people in my generation there was a whole model from our parents have just kind of having a good career good family and then retiring at sixty five you know, somehow they decided in that day and age sixty five year life is kind of over inside a play golf you know and you have the money to do it because you saved money so ironically I'm sixty five right now they're very nineteenth sixty five and I'm looking at him going like, oops, what model do I follow? Because now I know people who are ninety and ninety five people are living to a bill older and you know, so where's your energy at this point you know and you look as you're following in the tracks of others and I think a lot of that starts with our parents you following their footprints first and then you follow in societal footprints really opening up the question of what does it mean for you? What kind of life do you wanna have that's the positive dimension of the freedom that we haven't you know in sort of western culture is there's a lot of opportunity to shape your life but what influences are you going to bring in? And, uh what is your notion of success or victory? You could even say victorious winning the game you won the game he'd uh the downside of that is you feel like what I want I want I want um a loser you know? Some people just give up in a certain point and they're just like going through the motions so we have to decide if we're alive or not that's the first before you decided you wanna meditate and I'd try to decide if you're alive or not and if you're alive you're alive. Nous is gonna have a certain feeling to it and certain kind of creative online kind of yeah you creative you're alive and you're connecting, you know, in life so I don't wantto tell anybody whether to meditate or not actually I'm just too lazy uh two in different in a way and you know kind of don't want that responsibility, so the process I like is where we get into a kind of discourse and you somehow I tricked you into coming conclusions it's a good idea and then we say, well that was a really good idea that you had you know so the question is within a successful life however you frame it what is the role of contemplation on mindfulness and awareness doesn't have a role to play so I don't want to jump to that conclusion I want first we're going to do a contemplation of success as it currently resides in our month what is success so I think we could do this is a contemplation and it's a little bit experimental I have to freely admit to have never never done this before but it seemed like a good idea in this context because I think that a lot of people are coming and taking these uh these programs so that they could be more successful in somewhere you know that they can develop themselves in some way and have more success and I think in talking teo to michael our producer about this segment that people are looking for achieving their goals and sort of shifting their reality around tow beam or inspirational and more in line with what they really like to accomplish in life so I want to invite everybody to take your meditation seat now that you just had and you kind of basically uh just exploring kind of the play of your mind and now to introduce the theme which is the contemplative meditation so you can take your seat again if you would out there on in here and then we're gonna plenty of time to discuss this I feel like this is really a juicy conversation we can have together so even closing your eyes you know so you can really focus and it can visualize a blackboard in your mind and really thinking about, uh what ideas are kind of count coming up for you and write the word success on that blackboard it's interesting look at the kind of letters you've chosen are they big letters is in sort of a proclamation or the little tiny letters are you kind of embarrassed about the whole topic success and then what word comes up next for you but for me the world yea came up success he eh we were successful we won, we achieved we manifested we conquered obstacles of all kinds and we flourished let's see what comes up for you after the word success what other words were writing themselves onto your mental blackboard there and take note of them don't write them down hopefully you remember some of them and we can talk about them and let's just explore the meaning of some of those words go into one of those words and question is whatever that where it is whether it's sort of flourishing or conquering or being victorious or feeling good about yourself whatever you wrote on your blackboard what's that feeling right now do you have that feeling have you achieved that? Is that something you could identify with your current situation? Your current work situation your relationship is your relationship successful? Is your diet successful your exercise program successful and if not if you feel like oh, I'm sort of not really there try to visualize the obstacles between you and achieving that what's between you and that it could be an internal obstacle some feelings you have about yourself could be, uh, situational obstacle maybe a difficult relationship uh financial situation, cultural, societal situation keeping you from feeling that success in those terms and think about those obstacles uh if they somehow were removed uh would you then be ready to step into that feeling and let's say we do step into that feeling we've to find success in our own terms now we've visualized the obstacles coming in we remove those up two obstacles and we've stepped into the feeling of being truly successful what characteristics are there? What does that feel like? What kind of thoughts are we having? What kind of actions are we inclined toward and now bring others think about your family and your friends and your coworkers and citizens of the town you live in and citizens of the whole country and the rest of the world what implication does it have in terms of how you feel about them what are you, rating radiating out to them? What do you wantto offer to them? Or do you need something from them? Do you need recognition? Do you need money to need power? What do you want to give and what do you want to receive and then just take that whole feeling and incense dissolve it? And what kind of imagery comes up for you? If you could describe it as a picture or an image of something? What kind of feeling do you have? Right now? You're successful in your own terms, you've removed the obstacles you've recognized to remove the obstacles you've stepped into that feeling, and you've radiated out communicated with your entire world based on that, and now you're dissolving all of that. And is there any kind of imagery that comes up for you? Any kind of picture or feeling that you could describe and now it just kind of let that hole process dissolve into space and gradually open up your eyes, come back into very curious what anybody might have little journey went through there, start with the hard I imagine myself lifting up, and then I didn't know it was like blue, and it was like a flat and blue, and I was just lifting up into space and at the very end, no, like when you were saying that we were successful and I just kept on going up album, and I didn't know where I was going, but it was I imagine the earth and I imagine leaving the earth, and then when you said the other people coming with us, I imagine myself going down again, but at the same time in the middle of it it's that I stopped going down, I still went up and I imagined myself going if you want to come, you can come with you, don't you have a gun? But I just felt like it was it didn't matter anymore like it just just kept on lifting and and I am magically lifted the other people, but it was it wasn't it wasn't me lifting them, it was them seeing me going up there and just following, and I would say that's, a fairly powerful little moment there and and I also when you said after that, what do you want from them are what do you have to give? I felt like I don't want anything wow! And and also what do you have to give to them? I felt like, well, I don't want to know I don't want to think about what I want to give them, but if they want to ask me some for something, I'll give it to them it was aziz I say this is a little bit of an experiment but um you know basically just so you understand that the um you know this is within the tradition to use the mind to generate positive creative imagery and to work with tuning into what are hidden qualities might be so there's other ways that this is done in traditional buddhism sometimes by visualizing kind of great archetypes of brilliant wisdom and profundity um but I thought we'd self generates some of this ourselves and see what the process was so I'm just very curious what do you did experience julie did you go through it? I did when you said right success on the chalkboard um it was done with a big piece of chalk big sick piece of chalk um and the next word was blooming blooming yeah on the next word after that was thriving and they were all done with big yummy chalkboard talk big thick the kind that you would draw on the sidewalk with and um and it felt uh unencumbered and I um this might be me getting into my head a little bit but it just felt I felt light like I wasn't taking things personally and I think that something I know about myself is that something I struggle with is taking things personally and when I can set that down I just feel later and in bloom feel in bloom and then um uh see, I'm trying to remember the rest of it I can tell you at the end when you when you said conjure up a picture I saw myself cooking food with people I love um and the idea and even the word connection kept coming and I feel like that's something that's so important to me it's really important to me in my in my music, my art and my friendships and my family's connection and uh open this and flow that feels like success to me and they're so moments in my life more and more overtime when I feel like I am in success that's really thrilling to me. So the point of this exercise is that you khun fashion there visualize it any way that you like and encouraging the people online you know what words come up for you what kind of experience to this and gender because you're free to say I want ten million dollars I didn't say you can't okay let's hear it um you know I'll actually start with one which is actually you probably can can contemplate on uh I'm sorry is it oh, hang on I lost it here, huh? Okay, I hear you go. Um lorraine says I wrote on the blackboard but then the world word was spelled wrong the letters all jumbled up much like typing so I rubbed it out and then followed up saying well I think I wrote it right the first time but as in life I doubted what I had done and assumed it was wrong I know and what was the word that she's uh well I think it was just writing success okay even the words so work success on do we have a lot we have a very creative community here a lot of them probably take photographs of these these things flowers mountains from jennifer h we do have the lorry says I'm a beautiful fresh flower um and ninja says happiness and freedom and uh ayana on a balcony looking at the ocean yes and I only said she was finally free flowing traveling seen the world of her own time or his own time on her own terms did anybody talk about money but doesn't see any money but if you want to share money please bring it to you out there and you're thinking money and or in here for that matter uh we wanna have the uncensored version of this um this is not about looking good you know it's about truth and and what you really feel but it is your chance to speak and say what you want you know santa claus is coming to town so yeah kelly it's kind of dark over and then it shifted so I had success I saw that and then it said ouch and yikes and then I was mad at myself for having a negative thing so I'm like well, what's something positive about success and I thought of a friend of mine who is successful but why was she successful? So I'm planning through this it's cut she always had a plan I mean she knew what she wanted to do since she was five years old and I feel like I still don't know what I want to do so so and, you know, she's very encouraging and like okay, as you as you spoke through it where would we share this? What would we do if we stepped into it? And I said, well, I guess I'd have a plan, but what would my plan b and it would be too travel and share an experience food with people and culture and wait, I'm already doing that. So does that mean I'm successful and as far as what I in any event, it ended with having a picnic along the lower valley in france so and sharing this with people very calm and tranquil scene and and you know, food and cheese and experiencing it together so it started out negative and made me angry and turned into something lovely what obstacles you know, there was one if remember, one leg of the journey was what's in between you and your notion of success, what did you experience this the obstacles so I wanna invite the online people have chime in on the obstacles let's see if we can get you talking about obstacles a little bit what's between you and it anybody yeah who's stopping you okay other people's air one's own other people's other people's maybe my allowance of that so some of my own as well right? But I first wrote success really big with that piece of chalk too but it kind of looked like a computed computer generated graphic image like it was popped up there and like write it on then my words came big impact, abundance, inspiration, excitement joy um and I saw like a strong motivation teo make a difference in the world um since I've been young kind of ah process that we have here the compartmentalization of careers and focus and time and jobs and money has always felt askew or little cattle office to me and how we go about it and where our loss of touch with our own happiness, our own contentment piece, the other intrinsic values that we overlook and uh and so I just bringing that two people community it's a big part of the vision uh imagery that came to me a large community with just people playing and lots of food and green and happiness and contentment and um and kids I saw kids and just relaxing on a bed with my kids so did any, uh but he speak up for the more tangible or materialistic kind of version of success well, when you hear the question of what are the obstacles that terry oppose them some of them again it's a very similar theme started appearing iona's procrastination, sikandar said my family prior maitre said self about self doubt lack of self worth rosalee said my insecurities lorraine says she just saw a huge chasm but time time is the thing that kept coming up a happy said time guest said time fear in time well um actually jennifer h says living in a small town can be hard to access the buddhist teachings that I strive to get we hope teo remove that obstacle for you non obviously through this broadcast so that's a powerful comment because I guess one of the things we talked about with when we're putting this together is that this form of communication obviously is a great equaliser that if somebody has a cell phone and they're living in issue bible wisconsin or wherever they have is much access to this as uh and I was thinking about this today I thought, you know, uh, what's the difference between this and nbc, you know, and actually the difference is we could reach more people globally in one shot I don't know what the limit of your server is, what how many people could could be watching at one time on on the way you're on the service that I should really don't know the answer to that question but I assume it's somewhat this as many and until it breaks a highly technical answer, but the interesting notion is is that we're opening up a highway of communication it's unprecedented, you know? So I thought about this kind of is this a modest thing or is this something that you know used to thinking of sort of in terms of media, you know, lesser middle in a lesser is is the internet and middle is sort of cable and network television being highest but actually that's shifting now to the point where this medium that were actually engaged in could have spontaneous and direct communication with uncensored quality in a limitless way it's very, very intriguing, so I'm glad that she's had that I when I've been doing my teaching online, a lot of people have commented on that they live in remote locations and maybe some of them are sick and, you know, even in bed and things like that and they have access to that so that's extremely positive deal there did anybody speak up for money money online? This is really interesting, but julie wants to just say I do this weekly class online that's a manifestation class a manifestation of whatever you're whatever your idea of abundance is and you have earning money and being dialed into my self worth is totally a part of that practice, but didn't come up in your contemplation. I think it's folded in was not taking things personally. That's, a place where I get stuck, uh, self worth and taking things personally, is where I get stuck. It's, a roadblock to flow coming in, and, um, so for me, folded into connection is and and it's probably may being shy about talking about what abundance and prosperity is but sure folded into connection is, is his abundance of income and prosperity of things that feel good to me and that also make my life abundant, whether it's money coming in or we're doing a job that I feel proud of, or so it was in there. It wasn't. I wasn't seeing it wasn't. It didn't come up a cz one of the names on the chalkboard, but but it's in there.

Class Description

In today’s hectic world, our busy lives often crowd out any chance to sit still. Who has time to focus on mindfulness when there are 40 emails to write? Join Buddhist teacher David Nichtern for an introduction to meditation. David will show you how meditating for just 15-30 minutes a day will clarify your mind and decrease your stress levels.

David will teach you the basics of meditation, unpacking the centuries-old spiritual tradition into a practical playbook for living a balanced life. You will learn simple posture, breathing, and directed contemplation techniques that will help you unclutter your mind and increase your energy.

Stillness is a powerful way to be kind to yourself. At the end of this workshop, you will be more present, aware, and connected to the world around you.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Cultivating Mindfulness E-Book

Cultivating Compasion For Yourself and Others

Simple Meditation Instructions for Ordinary People

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Sean Newton

I've tried to develop a meditation practice in the past and signed up for this course because of the title ..'everyday life' This course works!! I'd like to thank David and the Creative Live crew for providing a life enhancing course. At first I was a little impatient as I thought the sessions were long, drawn out and repetitive however, half way through it 'clicks' (it made sense) and what may seem as a long-winded preamble is in fact laying a firm foundation for understanding and progression. Hastily wanting to skip to some perceived 'good bit that helps hedge fund mangers etc ' is like sprinting to the end of the rainbow instead of appreciating the various colours. (Your own perceptual colours even ;-)) Anyway, a worthwhile course - so stay the course and feel better for fit

a Creativelive Student

David is an amazing teacher, he has a gift for relating the principles of mindfulness in an accessible, relatable way. Plus, he's really funny. I'm super psyched to participate in this workshop. Thanks CreativeLIVE!


Also found this through the DTFH podcast. What a wonderful, powerful, and approachable course in meditation. Highly recommended to anyone interested in starting on this path. It's chock full of practical information and ways to apply meditation to your life.