"It's the way we pay attention to the ordinary that transforms it into the extraordinary.”
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, but it may be more important for you now than ever before. There is no denying that we are living through a global mental health crisis, and many of us are facing some of the most intense challenges of our lives.
Julianna Raye is a master of mindfulness, which is why I asked her to join me for today’s podcast. In addition to her more than 12,000 hours of personal practice, I’ve witnessed her lead thousands of members of our community through guided meditation, and her techniques have transformed my personal meditation practice.
Today, Julianna returns to the podcast to share a powerful technique you can start using right now to transform your meditation practice.
- How a 20-something Julianna used meditation to overcome anxiety and depression.
- The differences between “Equanimity,” “Sensory Clarity,“ and “Concentration Power” and how meditation can enable you to develop all three skills.
- How to incorporate Julianna’s “See-Hear-Feel” technique into your daily mindfulness process in order to minimize distraction and make the ordinary aspects of life become extraordinary.
- Why meditation doesn’t need to be sitting down with your eyes closed and a timer on to be effective – and how your daily practice can help you concentrate, dial in, and get in the zone when you need it most.
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Hal Elrod: Julianna Raye, it is wonderful to see you again.
Julianna Raye: It's wonderful to see you too, Hal.
Hal Elrod: This is the first time we've talked since the whole COVID thing it. Yeah?
Julianna Raye: I think so. Yeah. It's the first time we've actually had a conversation.
Hal Elrod: So, the way this came about and you've been on the podcast before, particularly, I was talking to a mutual friend of ours. I don’t remember which one. We have a lot of mutual friends, I think it was Brianna Greenspan, and we were talking about kind of the mental health crisis that's going on in the world right now. And I feel really called to serve in that way where I go, “Okay. So, my life experience has been going through these adversities and kind of maintaining an optimistic, positive, centered, peaceful mindset in the midst of challenges, and then helping other people do the same.” And I feel like everything in my life has led me to like this time in history right now, how can I help? And I was talking to Brianna about that and she said, "When was the last time you had Julianna Raye on your podcast?” I said, "Too long. So, I'm going to reach out to her,” and I text you right then because you're a master in mindfulness if you will.
And you've taught me a lot in this space. I've witnessed you at our live events in the past, lead hundreds of people through guided meditation, and teaching different strategies to bring that into their daily lives. So, with all of that said, I'd love to start with your personal experience with mental health, anything you've suffered along the lines of depression, anxiety, anything that people are going through right now. I'd love to start where you might be able to meet them where they are, where they can relate.
Julianna Raye: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'll also preface this by saying that I'm not a psychotherapist and I do think that there's a place for psychotherapy, mental health. It's a serious challenge and mindfulness can be helpful but oftentimes, it needs to be done in concert with other healing modalities and that's not my area of expertise. So, I'll just share from my personal experience, my struggles with mental health early on in my life, and how I found my mindfulness helpful for that and how it helps me navigate all kinds of intense challenges such as the one we're facing right now. So, in terms of my background, when I was in my 20s, I had severe anxiety and depression and I was suicidal at one point. I got to the stage of I would wake up in the morning and I would imagine how I was going to kill myself and it was vivid and it was a plan. And they talk about the difference between suicidal ideation which is where you're sort of just thinking about it in a more abstract way versus when you start to make a plan, then that's how you know it's serious.
So, it was serious for me and really my memory of that was basically that I was in so much pain and people who don't experience severe depression, anxiety, they don't understand maybe how physiological it is, how painful it can be. So, I would wake up every day suffering so intensely that I didn't know how else to deal with it but to end my life that seemed like the only solution that was going to take it away. I couldn't see a future where I could imagine myself feeling better not having to navigate the way I felt and not having to suffer from it.
Hal Elrod: If I can ask, what was life like at that time in terms of was this circumstantial depression? Like were there things going on in your life? Were you hopeless? Were you fearful? What was going on?
Julianna Raye: You know, that's a great question and the answer is I would say circumstances always do play in to a certain degree. I had moved to Los Angeles. So, I was really on my own for the first time and I do think that that played a role, that sense of being alone in the world and finding that the things I thought I might escape by being alone. They were trailing me and was really finding myself trapped in my mental conditioning and my emotional conditioning. And at the time, I didn't have a name for that. I just knew, wow, this feels horrible and I don't know how to get out of this. And I didn't at the time also register that I had made a big move for myself to move out to Los Angeles without really knowing people. And so, I didn't really factor that in. I just knew that I felt horrible. And I think to your point, it's important for us to start to be able to get clear about, okay, are there circumstances contributing to this? Because, one, we start to get clear about that, that can bring some relief to what we're experiencing and help us navigate it more easily.
But for me, I just knew I feel horrible. I don't know why but it's just worse and worse every day. I don't know what to do about it. I think I could do this. I could end my life this way and I would think about it, I would think about it. And at a certain point, I remember vividly, I was on the beach because I lived not far from the beach, right? So, I lived in a beautiful. I couldn't believe that I would wake up and go to work in a place that had palm trees. So, it wasn't like there was no pleasure in my life whatsoever. There was. And in a way that's what made it stranger. I could go to the beach, I could look up and see the palm trees, and yet I felt wretched. It was that contrast that made me think, well, I guess there's no hope that externally, it wasn't obvious to me that there was anything so terrible. Externally, in a lot of ways, my life was going well. So, that's what made it that much more confusing what was going on internally.
And I remember I was on the beach one day and I just said to myself like, "Okay. If you're going to kill yourself, do it. Like just I don't want to hear it anymore.” I got fed up with a part of myself that was constantly pushing me towards that and I was like, "Let's just do this or not do this. I can't take this anymore.” And at that point, that was a real moment of reckoning and I at that moment realized, "You know what, I want to do this for myself but I can't do this because of the people who love me.” And that was it. That was the moment things shifted for me at that time. I just said sometimes you just live for the people you love and you suffer through it but you do it for them. That's as far as I got at that time. Later on, I found much better resources than simply telling myself that but at the time, that's what helped me step back from that edge. Yeah.
Hal Elrod: So, when you kind of went, “Okay, either commit suicide or don't like either do it or don't,” and you decided, “Alright, I'm not going to,” and I made the same decision. I have a family and the last year of my life was the hardest year of my life where I went through a severe, you and I talked, I went through a severe anxiety and depression, and from what I can tell, it was a chemical. It was from the chemotherapy that I was on because I stopped chemo two months ago and I'm back to normal. Thank God. But again, I didn't have a real will to live and it was my wife and my kids and my parents thinking I couldn't do that to them. So, here's my question, once you got to that point, was there any kind of shift in your mindset, your perspective, your strategy in terms of, “Okay, I'm going to live. So, here's how I'm going to live,” or did you just kind of keep suffering and going along until you stumbled upon something? Like what was the turning point?
Julianna Raye: Well, in that particular scenario, that first time it happened and I would say that was the most severe, well, anyway, that was the first round let's say, and in that particular instance, the externals came in to rescue me. So, really, within a matter of months, I got a record deal with Warner Brothers and that gave me an external place to say, “Oh, now I have a vocation. I have a calling. I have a reason to live. I have a way to serve. You know, I can share my music with the world and I can help people that way.” And I had a clear sense of identity and purpose and meaning and all those things that you can kind of get from externals and so that was great as long as that lasted. But I will say it wasn't all the way great because even though this incredible thing, I mean, how many people come to LA and within a year, they've got a record deal on Warner Brothers or a major label. So, it was pretty extraordinary and I have a full treatment like I did tons of press and all the stuff that you do.
People would line up to talk to me at a bar because, you know, I mean, crazy. So, I got a taste of celebrity at that time and you think you can't get any higher than that. And yet, internally, I was terrified that at any moment the rug was going to be pulled out from under me that it wouldn't last or it wasn't enough and, oh, if I only get to this point over there then it'll be okay. And so, I kept on living for the future and being terrified that things were going to go away and that I was going to be back on my ass and struggling again. So, that's how I lived. I lived precariously for several years while I made the record, we released the record, the record didn't do what we hoped it would do. It was produced by one of the biggest producers in the world, a guy named Jeff Lin. So, it had everything going for it in a certain way but there was just a failure to launch at the end and then I found myself waitressing again and I found myself sinking back into the place I had been previously.
But this time, something different happened and what happened the second time around was I stopped, I recognized the fallacy of looking outside myself. That's the difference. I suddenly thought, "You know what, you had it all. I mean, you couldn't have had it any better, you know, major label, top producer. You had the dream and it wasn't enough.” So, it can't be about the dream anymore. It's not another don't get caught in that cycle of, "Well, if I just get another record deal or if I just get…” And that was a big shift for me at that point and I don't know why it happened but something in me said this is an inner game here. If you're going to survive the rest of your life, it's got to happen from the inside.
Hal Elrod: So, it's that switch. You made that switch from the external locus of control, right, where our inner world we make dependent on what's happening outside of us, good or bad, to the internal locus of control, which if you’re not familiar with that term and your listening, it’s just simply taking ownership of your inner world, which I've been talking a lot about the last few months. There's a lot we don't have control over right now. The one thing we have control over is us, what do we think, what do we focus on, what do we feel. So, let's get into, obviously, your solution for people isn't to get a record deal. What I love about the way you teach mindfulness is how practical it is. It's like, in fact, there are three very specific aspects that you teach, and where mindfulness is something that kind of like going to the gym, it becomes very kind of practical and actionable and tangible, all those things. So, before we get into those tactics, I want to hear how you got into mindfulness, how you got into the tactics that you're about to teach.
Julianna Raye: Yeah. So, what happened when I was waitressing, I was sitting there in the parking lot one day and realizing, “Okay. This is an inner game but I don't know where to start.” And I can't remember whether I was in therapy or whether I had started, decided to start going to therapy but initially, a therapist introduced me to meditation and I was completely skeptical. I thought it was BS. I was not interested but I was desperate and I was broke, and it was free. So, I thought, okay, I'll try this for a couple of months and then I'll see how I feel, not expecting anything. And by the end of a couple of months, it was helpful to some degree, enough that I stuck with it. But it really wasn't until I was introduced to Shinzen Young. An unlikely, well, not unlikely if you think about it but Leonard Cohen, who's quite a well-known singer-songwriter, I was friendly with his kids and I knew that he had a meditation teacher that he trained with, and then he would know. I was very skeptical. So, I practiced for two years by myself, these little meditations that my therapist had shown me.
And things started happening that I couldn't explain and it got kind of weird and interesting, and I knew I needed better support and I was scared that I’d find someone weird. So, anyway, Leonard introduced Me to Shinzen’s series and I listened to Shinzen Young and that's when the light bulb went off and I thought, "Oh my god, this is completely logical and practical in a way that I never would have imagined.” So, I went on a retreat with him. And after that first retreat, that's when I was sold just completely because I had an experience in the middle of that retreat, just as you said, doing these exercises over and over again for an extended period of time. So, I was three days into this immersive training where you're up at 5 AM and you're done at 10 PM and you're practicing all day long.
Hal Elrod: Wow.
Julianna Raye: Yeah. And it was about three days in that I had an experience that showed me the true potential of these skills, the mindfulness skills, that I experienced a level of well-being and bliss that I didn't imagine I was capable of experiencing. And I had just weaned myself off of antidepressants at that time and I had also been feeling suicidal not long before. So, I had been going through a round of that and gone to this retreat and discovered, “Wow. My body has a potential and my mind have a potential to feel good at a level that I didn't know was possible. I didn't know that I could. And until that happens for you, you look at meditation through the lens of only what you've experienced so far. So, you think, “Eh, it'll get me a little relaxed, maybe it'll stabilize me a bit.” Until you experience the potential of it, you don't know just how powerful it can be. And that's when I thought, “Okay. So, look, it's going to be hard. I'm going to have to work my ass off not to continually drop back into those conditioned mental states but if I work at it, I know I can get there.
Hal Elrod: So, a few things I want to dive into there is, one, you mentioned you go to this retreat and on day three, and now are you literally meditating from 5 AM until 10 PM essentially? You're meditating all day? Are you learning and training and both? What was it like?
Julianna Raye: Yeah. It's a rigorous schedule. Shinzen’s retreats are easier because the schedule is optional but I was like, “I'm going to get in line in a week. I'm going to do every single session. So, it's a schedule where you can alternate seated practice with walking practice but the intention is that all day long you are intentionally developing the skills. So, whether you're eating, whether you're walking from here to there, whether you're taking a bio break, whether you're seated, you're intended to be developing those skills the whole time.
Hal Elrod: That's something I want to foreshadow for everybody listening too that what we're about to get into is not just a meditation practice. The three skills, the three that we're going to talk about, these tactics are how to bring these into your life so that while you are walking, eating, talking, doing the dishes, whatever you're doing, you're able to access the state that Julianna is talking about. So, before we get into that, I want to ask you, though, for anyone that has meditated before, and for me, I can say this is true for me where I meditated for a long time and I felt like it was okay but I never really had a really powerful experience until I did. And I don't know how long that was. Maybe it was six months or I don't really remember but I would just set my timer for 10 minutes of silence and my mind would race for 10 minutes and I'd be like, “Well, that was okay.” Sometimes I was more stressed because my mind raced with worrisome thoughts, right?
So, anyone that's like, yep, I do the Miracle Morning or I've been meditating a while, man, I've never had that transcendental experience, that experience where I feel like, "Whoa, time just went away. My body just went away. I just realized that I am pure essence. I am my soul.” So, what I want to ask is what's the path to get there? Is it you've got to do it for longer periods of time? And that's kind of what I found is five or 10 minutes you can't get that deep. It's beneficial but it wasn't until I meditated, I think it was the first day I did like an hour and then somewhere in that hour, I'm like, “Whoa, where am I?” I just kind of like floated away. That was cool and it felt really almost like a blissful feeling. So, I would love for everybody to get there. And so, that's what I want to ask you before we get into the three specific skills. How do you get just from meditation is kind of beneficial to I had an experience that I've never had before?
Julianna Raye: Yeah. So, that's a great question and that is one of the big challenges of meditating is you have an experience like that and you're like, "Wait. What was that? How do I get back there? How do I have more of that?” If you don't have that experience, it's kind of like, “Eh, I don't even think that's possible or at least it's not possible for me.” And there's a very clear relationship between the three skills we're going to talk about and your question. So, the reality is that sometimes spontaneously without doing any meditation practice at all, people drop into a state like what you described. Sometimes for some people, it happens spontaneously, with immediacy and with depth, and then there's no turning back. Something happens like just a radical shift occurs and that's that. That's rare, though. We don't want to count on that happening because then we're just sort of rolling the dice on our lives. Much more often, we have conditioning. We have habit patterns, ways of operating that aren't necessarily bad for us but just that are not the best use of our attention.
And we have to unravel. We have to undo some of that conditioning in order to start to have those experiences and that takes time and consistent effort. So, one of the things you want to think about when you're just starting your meditation practice is that you do want to develop the habit. So, it's a good impulse to start with a manageable timeframe like 10 minutes. Because the first step is develop the habit and what's going to convince you that you can do it for the next two, three months. Well, if it's only 10 minutes, most people can justify 10 minutes of their time. So, it's a good first instinct because we want to build the habit because we have psychological resistance to any positive habit, any positive behavior change. So, one aspect of this is we just want to get that habit in place first and not worry about noticing any kind of response or any kind of deep experience. Just do the work. I'll say too that each person is different. And some people I've heard it described as a kind of a mist. It's kind of like you can jump into the pool and get wet or you can have a mist, walk through the mist and get soaked.
But the mist is a little subtler and a little slower. And for many people, that's what the experience is like. They don't have a dramatic, “Whoa, look at this. What happened here?” It can just happen subtly over time increasingly and before you know it, you're at a depth of experience and it's phased so subtly that you don't quite know what's happened to you. And then you look back and you say, “Wow, I've really changed from where I was.” So, there's nothing that says that you have to have any kind of deep experience in order for it to be meaningful and beneficial for you. That's the other thing I would say but there are certain markers that you want to look for to make sure that your meditation practice is doing what you want it to be doing for yourself. And one is you want to see that there's a relationship between what you're doing and how you're showing up in the world.
Really, that's like the main marker. You want to know that whatever practice you're doing is having the kind of impact in the world that you want it to have, that you're showing up as a better person, that you're showing up in ways that you want to improve yourself. That's really what it's there for is to support you showing up in an improved version of yourself. So, if you're seeing that, then you're in good shape and it doesn't really matter whether or not you're having these deep experiences. If you can connect it to your meditation practice, “I feel grounded. I feel more grounded. I feel like I'm better able to listen to my spouse when we get into a disagreement,” or whatever it is. Those are the signs that you want to look forward to say, "Yeah, my practice is working for me.”
And then of course part of my role as a trainer and other trainers’ roles is we know what potential this practice has, as I mentioned earlier. And so, we want to kind of be gently opening the spectrum wider to the ways you can use practice, apply practice, see it showing up in your life. And you can do that in a more passive way. Like you set aside that 10 minutes and then you see how it carries over naturally into your life but you can also be intentional. You can purposefully apply strategies and techniques right throughout your day and that has two advantages. One advantage is that it increases your dosage. So, if you're someone who can only get yourself to practice for 10 minutes or can't even sit for 10 minutes, if you can marry the attention skills to an activity in your day like exercise, or eating, or driving and I can tell you how to do that safely but if you can integrate those techniques into your daily routine, then you're actually working smart because you're getting around that objection, that psychological objection, “I don't have time for this,” and you're increasing the amount of time you can spend on it potentially.
If you're someone who has to commute for an hour a day, well, then you can get a lot of practice time and if you bring a high degree of intentionality to that. The other reason intentionality is good is because we can develop a kind of pattern where I interviewed this wonderful neuroscience researcher, Mark Miller, and he talked about the ecosystem of the human personality, and I kind of think that's a fun way to think about it that you're a different person when you're in your family setting than you are when you're in your business setting than you are when you're doing your sport or your hobby.
Hal Elrod: And you’re out with your friends. Sure.
Julianna Raye: What did you say?
Hal Elrod: Oh, I said or hanging out with your friends, right? Yeah.
Julianna Raye: Exactly. Yeah, that's right. So, you have these different versions of yourself that show up. And some of those versions of yourself may be conditioned in ways that aren't always optimal and if you just expect your practice to carry over, there will be some carryover into those situations. But if you bring intentionality to applying techniques right in the midst of a disagreement with a spouse, for instance, it's going to be much more impactful than just relying on, “Well, I did my meditation practice this morning. I should be having a…” Right?
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Hopefully, I'm calmer later versus okay. So, there are two things. So, I want to get into the three skills and there's one other question that I love you to answer and I'll tell it to you now so you can either answer it if it marries, leads into the skills or afterwards, whatever works better. The question is how do you meditate like how do you teach someone to meditate? If someone's listening to this and either, A, they've never meditated, how do you teach someone to start meditating or, B, maybe they've meditated for the last year but, again, they don't feel like they're getting as much out of it. Again, I'd love to know you as really a master in this arena like how do you meditate? How do I meditate? And I’m asking for a friend, by the way. But, yeah, so I'd love to talk about the three attention skills and then answer that question. Teach me to meditate and let's go from there.
Julianna Raye: Great. All right, cool. So, yeah, the way I like to teach people how to meditate, I want to make it as empowering to the individual as possible. So, the upside to that is you're going to get a real clear picture of what meditation is, how it works, and that also prevents you from being confused. When you look at the field of meditation, there are so many ways to practice and you think like, "Is one better than the other? Which one should I do? I don't want to waste my time. I like this one but not that one. Is that good? Is that bad? I'm not noticing anything. I'm not having an experience. Should I be doing something else?” So, we have a lot of confusion around it. So, I like to empower people upfront so they can walk, stride with confidence into any setting, and understand basically what is meditation. And the way we define it is it's these three skills but what's nice about understanding it as an attention skillset is that it doesn't have to stay on the cushion seated in silence in order for you to be strengthening those skills.
So, you can break down this myth of what meditation has to be that it's got to be contained to, my eyes have to be closed, I have to be in a certain posture, etcetera. And that's another reason I like to talk about the skills is because once you understand those, then you can meditate anytime, anywhere, and that's the real strength of it. So, the skills are what we call concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity. So, this is unified mindfulness stuff. If you're curious, you can check us out but, in any case, it's a skill-based approach to meditation training that permits you to do it while seated but also of the cushion going anywhere you want. So, it depends on the setting but if I have like, for instance, I was once at a ramen restaurant. I was eating ramen and the guy next to me struck up a conversation and I managed to within that half-hour I got in to start practicing. I pride myself. My other moment I really pride myself on is I was at the dentist's office on nitrous oxide and I taught the dental assistant how to practice.
So, there are two ways to go about it. One is I work with what their interest is. In the case of the dental assistant, he mentioned that in the shower every morning he found it really relaxing. So, I said, well, here's how you can make your shower in the morning a more formal meditation practice. For the guy at the ramen bar, I lead him through a technique I call See Hear Feel which you're well familiar with. I like to lead with this See Hear Feel technique because it's a very easy way for people to catch on to the fact that anything and everything can be a meditation. It doesn't have to be breath-focused. It doesn't have to be counting in your head. It doesn't have to be gazing at a candle. Once you understand the See Hear Feel technique, again, you're empowered to be able to go into any situation and recognize how that particular technique is developing the three skills.
Hal Elrod: So, See Hear Feel, let's do it.
Julianna Raye: Yeah. Okay, great. So, right now, maybe a quick way in is, Hal, right now, we're sitting, we're looking at each other. Maybe you're feeling the way the chair feels. Maybe you've got some emotions going on, entertained or curious or whatever kind of emotional life is going on. Right now, you might be hearing sounds in the room. So, we want to have an organized way to categorize all of what we call your sensory experience what I just described. That's what we call sensory experience. We want to organize it into categories, so it's easy to track so you can develop your skills. So, the categories are super simple, what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. So, seeing includes what you're seeing in the mind. We get caught in a memory or planning or fantasy but also includes what you're seeing in the world. Hearing, same thing. You hear mental chatter in the mind. You hear sounds in the world. Now, a lot of people have the idea, “I'm not supposed to have mental chatter if I'm meditating. If I have mental chatter, then I'm not meditating. I've done it wrong.”
But actually, with this approach, it's perfectly fine. You use the mental chatter as something to focus on if you choose to. And as long as you're developing the skills, concentration, sensory clarity, equanimity then you are effectively practicing meditation. So, the nice thing is we forget about any state you think you're supposed to be having and we only focus on skill development. Third category, what we feel. So, feel could be physical or emotional. Physical, we include taste and smell in that. People often wonder, "Well, there are five senses. So, what happens to taste and smell?” We just put it in feel for convenience. And there's emotional type sensations that you might notice in the body. Like, if you are, well, the obvious one is if you're crying. You feel the body, right? You feel that effect if you're laughing. You feel that impact on the body. That's all we're really talking about.
Hal Elrod: If it’s anxiety, right? You can feel that anxiety, that tightening in your chest or, yeah, okay.
Julianna Raye: Exactly. Some people don't even realize that their chest tightens when they feel anxiety. It's like, "What do you mean? Emotions are happening in my head. I don't know what this body thing is all about.” So, I like to use laughter and crying as a good way to say, "Well, look, that's a really obvious case.” It can get more subtle like you can have a little tension in your chest or something like that. If you're interested in sensitizing yourself to notice emotions in the body if you're someone who doesn't notice them that easily, you can listen to music and then see if that's having any impact on you how you feel. That's a nice way to sensitize. But it's okay. Even if you don't notice emotions in the body, you can still do this technique perfectly. And all we're going to do is identify what category, what main category we're noticing at a given time. We're going to spend a few seconds paying attention to what we notice in that category and then we're going to release our attention, let it wander again, let it go to another category, spend a few seconds, and I'm going to illustrate for you what that's like and then I'm going to have you demonstrate it.
But basically, one thing to be aware of is sometimes you notice two things happening at once like you may be seeing me and hearing me at the same time. So, what do you choose? You choose see or did you choose hear? It doesn't matter what you choose. You just choose one and then you mainly focus on see. Let's say you choose see. You mainly focus on seeing me, even as I'm talking. You try to let the sound of my voice be secondary and let what you're seeing be primary and that's how you do it. And it can be tricky. It can be challenging. That's why it's a workout. So, I'm going to demonstrate and then I'm going to have you demonstrate.
Hal Elrod: Okay.
Julianna Raye: See. Feel. Hear. Feel. So, when I was doing that just then and you're not going to have to repeat back to me everything you notice but I just want to give listeners a chance to understand. First thing that happened was I noticed that green dot on my computer to let me know that the video is on so I said, “See.” And then I was drawn into my body. I noticed a lot of pleasant flow of energy. I'm enjoying this conversation. I said, "Feel.” And then I listened. I heard kind of ambient subtle sound in my environment so I said, "Hear.” And then I brought my attention back into the body and I said, "Feel,” again. And those labels, you'll notice those labels had a kind of a neutral sound to them. That's intentional. We use a neutral tone in order to develop one of the skill’s equanimity. And we'll go over what those skills are afterwards but first, I just want to see, Hal, will you give it a try just try labeling like I described? It can be anything. Your attention can go anywhere. Just settle on something. If you've got a lot going on, just choose your moments, settle on something, spend a few seconds, and then release it again.
Hal Elrod: I've done this before, so it's not my first rodeo. Alright, here we go. See. Hear. Hear. Feel.
Julianna Raye: Okay. Great. So, any questions?
Hal Elrod: Well, I'll tell you, the first thing was I saw your big laugh when I said what I said. Then I heard the gardener at my neighbor's house. They're blowing or mowing something then I heard my wife outside. And then I felt my hands touching. And so, yeah, so that was my experience.
Julianna Raye: Great. Yeah. So, it's just an ordinary experience but it's the way we pay attention to the ordinary that transforms it into the extraordinary. It's the way we pay attention to the ordinary that transforms it into the extraordinary and that is really the secret behind meditation. If you've ever wondered why is it that I sometimes fall into these deep states, have these unusual experiences when I practice, it's because how you're paying attention to your experience, the skills have elevated and they can elevate spontaneously because you've settled down your body, your mind enough for it to happen spontaneously, and you can also be clear about what's happening, what skills they are and how they're being developed. And when you have that clarity, which is why I like this approach, because you can have that clarity, it makes it more transferable and replicable. That's what we're aiming for. So, that it's not like, well, "Gee, how did that happen? And how can I make that happen again? I don't know. Do I have to sit in the same position? What was I thinking about when that happened? Should I think the same thought?” Now, we know no. It's because you spontaneously dropped into a heightened skill state. You had heightened concentration, you had heightened sensory clarity, and you had heightened equanimity. Even though what you were paying attention to was ordinary, it became extraordinary because the skills the way you were paying attention was elevated.
Hal Elrod: I want to define equanimity, sensory clarity, and concentration power in a second. I wanted to share kind of my own observation with this practice is I'm a big believer. Ever since I read the book, The Power of Now, which was in my early 20s. That was just a game-changer and essentially, the premise that I got was the only thing that's real is this moment. Right now, you're in Arizona, I'm in Texas, but we shared this moment and this moment is being shared across the world, possibly the universe. I'm not sure how it works out there. And so, to be fully present, and so more often than not, we're in our head and we're thinking about the past, we're anticipating the future, and we're missing out on life. And when we're fully present, we're actually getting the most out of life and I think it was in your mentor, Shinzen Young's book, if I remember correctly, early on, he talks about like here's how you actually, I think you said that you don't live longer but you get more years out of your life because you're actually present to every moment. Most of us go through our day and the moments slip. We're not paying attention. We're lost in thought and the moments slip away and the day ends and then our life ends and we lived a life that we weren't present.
So, to me, that's what your teaching is it's a practice, a daily practice, which you can do while you're meditating but you can do it while you're driving. I'm driving two hands on the wheel. I see the car in front of me. I hear the honking horn behind me. I feel my hands on the steering wheel. And so, literally from when you wake up and, by the way, I've never done it a whole day where I've actually I always do it in the morning during night practice, and I do it in the dishes and stuff too I'll do this or make coffee. It's amazing like I remember a journal. I read a journal entry recently that I had written a long time ago and I go, “Hey, I practiced Julianna’s skills today while I was making my cup of espresso, and it was extraordinary. I took an ordinary event making espresso and like I smelt the beans and then I heard the sound of me putting the espresso thing on and then setting the cup down and then I saw the water, all of it. And I was like that was like a two minute, you know, I don't know even how to say it. It was like a two-minute experience. It was incredible and I went, “Wow.” You can take any aspect of your life that is just is what it is and you can make it beautiful. You can experience it fully. So, I want to share that's my kind of testimonial for what this practice has done for me and has become for me.
Julianna Raye: Wow. I'm getting chills. Just so much joy hearing that, Hal. It's wonderful. And until you have a direct experience like that, it can be hard to believe that saying see, hear, and feel could yield something like that. But what we have to remember is it's just a framework so we can develop these skills and these skills are naturally occurring. We have the ability to focus on what we choose. That's concentration. They are the moments where we're in the zone at work or wherever. We're deeply focused in a hobby we love, where it's just like easy to get totally absorbed in what you're doing and the rest of the world goes away. That full engagement with what you're doing, you can think of that as concentration power. And when the opposite is true too, when we're distracted, when our attention is getting yanked here and there, we all know how uncomfortable it is to get pulled in down this rabbit hole and down that rabbit hole and how frustrating it is when we can't leverage to pay attention to what we want to. So, that's concentration power is we're developing the ability to do that, yeah.
Hal Elrod: And I think concentration power is more important now more than ever. I say now meaning like in the last since technology emerged, since we had a smartphone, since we had the internet, right? Now, more than ever, literally, every day we are conditioning the opposite of concentration power. And so, if you've ever ended the day and go, “What the hell did I do today? I did this way too much. In a day I'm like, “I didn't get anything done today like what did I do? I just bounced from one thing to another to another. I checked an email. I did this or I did that.” And so, this skill is arguably you could say that whether you want to make money, you want to be a good parent, or you just want to live a fulfilled life, concentration power in the technology age that we are in is more important for you to commit to do this every day and develop that skill, that muscle if you will.
Julianna Raye: Completely. And going back to what you're saying earlier, if we think of time as our most essential resource, then of course, we want it to be quality time, not just quantity. Yes, quantity time but quality. And then if we think of our attention as a resource, we want to be able to leverage that resource to do what we want to do, to be able to help other people, to be able to feel connected to the people we love, all the things that matter to us. And in order to do that, we need to have some concentration power. So, that's one skill. Sensory clarity is this other skill. It's really interesting. It's sort of like you described it perfectly with your espresso making. You smelled the espresso, you heard this, right? The level of richness in your sensory experience, the way you described your espresso, the transcendence of that, you can hear that those elements that were ordinary were elevated. You had a palette for your sensory experience like a chef has a palate for food where they can taste, “Oh, there's thyme in this and rosemary.” So, that ability to detect subtleties in your experience is what we call sensory clarity as a clear level of detection.
And also, by the way, that ability to detect a kind of a oneness like you've described, that sense that all are connected, that's even the subtlest form of sensory clarity that we discovered the continuity that's connecting everything rather than the impression of separateness. So, sensory clarity is that. On the flip side, when sensory clarity is not in place, that's when we get overwhelmed. Because if things stacked up, we don't realize all the moving parts that are playing into how terrible we feel. Going back to what I struggled with when I was younger, I didn't understand how my emotions were pinging my thinking and how my thinking was being distorted by my own emotions and then how my thinking was making my emotions worse and my emotions were making my thinking worse and how that was creating a vicious cycle. I didn't understand that but that's all just See Hear Feel adding up together. You're going to say something?
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I'll share one of the ways that I started using sensory clarity and my kids kind of roll their eyes. My son will do it. My daughter rolls her eyes more but I started eating with my eyes closed and not the whole meal but literally just a bite. I'll close my eyes and then I'll get from fully present to the texture of the food as I bite through it. If it's crunchy, the crunch going up my cheek into my ear canal and hearing it, the taste, the smell, all of it. And again, to me, it's just showing that you literally, in life, I feel like we're all drug addicts and it's dopamine. Dopamine is the drug of choice. And again, the technology age has made it worse. It's like, “I'm bored. I had to pick up my phone. I'm bored,” and I'm guilty of this, right? It's not like I'm speaking on a high horse at all. I am the most guilty but we're addicted to dopamine and we're addicted like I need something more fun. I'm bored. And you need to be stimulated, right? And I think what you're teaching is the idea that you don't need anything outside of your own internal experience to be completely fulfilled. And imagine that, if you're listening, like I'm going to say that, again, you don't need anything outside of your own internal experience to be completely fulfilled.
And it's the illusion that you think you need something outside of your experience, some stimuli, some things, some events, some conversation, some food, some drug, some something in order to feel good. And so, what you're teaching is arguably the most important skills that you can develop because it allows you to be completely in control of your internal state when the rest of the world would be falling, falling down, falling apart, but you remain centered and grounded and present through these skills.
Julianna Raye: Absolutely. And when it's hard internally, you at least know what to do. You understand why it's hard. Because see, hear, and feel are overlapping at such a rate that I'm overwhelmed by it. So, going back to sensory clarity but I know what to do. I know that if I start to disentangle it, it's going to start to feel more manageable again. And that sense of knowing in any case, no matter what happens, no matter how hard it gets inside, I know what I need to do for myself. Oh my gosh, that's such a game-changer in our experience. So, the last skill is, in certain ways, I won't say it's the most important but it is responsible for a lot of the outcomes we see or we have the sense at least from preliminary research that it's responsible for a lot of the positive outcomes we see from practice and that skill is called equanimity. And it can be the hardest to define. It's the ability to allow your experience to come and go freely. And what gets in the way of that is often that we don't have sensory clarity. Stuff adds up without us realizing it across multiplies. See Hear Feel get into a vicious cycle and it's very hard to allow that experience to come and go freely when you're feeling that awful, going back to how awful I felt back when.
So, we need to be able to disentangle it so that we can bring acceptance to it or we can allow it to move freely. So, equanimity could look like having emotional acceptance. It could also look like relaxing physically around a physical discomfort. It could also look like not getting caught up in a particular thinking pattern that's not productive for you, being able to drop that thinking pattern and not get stuck in it. So, equanimity talks, it's basically about reducing friction in our sensory system to say like there are things I do that add tension to the system that make me get caught up in things or make me push them away. And there's a way I can relate to my experience where I'm letting it come and go freely, I'm letting it do its thing and I'm willing to ride it out, let the experience not what happens on the outside. We need to take action sometimes. It's really important. But internally, we let, for example, a wave of fear. Instead of pushing it away or instead of getting caught in it, we let that fear play out in the body. And if we're not able to do that, that just means that the fear has already married itself to our thinking, and that complexity is making it difficult to have equanimity. So, we need to bring back into sensory clarity and disentangle it.
Hal Elrod: I'm having trouble forming thoughts here. I need some clarity. So, if somebody is listening and I know for me like every time I talk to you, I'm just reminded often of these fundamentals that you taught me first like six years ago, you know, Best Year Ever six years ago. For somebody listening, I guess, one question I have is so if someone wants to try to See Hear Feel method during their actual seated eyes-closed meditation practice, do you recommend that they do five minutes of See Hear Feel or 10 minutes of See Hear Feel or however long you meditate? Is it just part of the meditation? How do you recommend or teach someone to…
Julianna Raye: Great question. Yeah. So many people use it as their primary technique and then yes, you would just do the See Hear Feel technique for the full 10 minutes. You can do spoken labels if you want to, to keep on track. It really depends on you think of the labels as an option if you're struggling with any of the skills. So, if you're having a hard time concentrating, use labels, make it easy on yourself so you can stay on track. And if you're feeling a lot of emotions, say those labels neutrally. That's going to help you have equanimity. So, we can use labels for the full 10 minutes spoken. You can also mouth the labels if you don't want to speak them or you can think the labels, you can hear the label in your head. And you can feel free to drop the labels if you find, “Oh, you know what, I'm on a roll here. I'm able to keep track of my See Hear Feel experience. I don't really need labels right now.” But the minute you find yourself getting lost in a thought like, “Oh, what am I having for dinner? Whoops. Okay. Was I hearing that thought? Hear. Was I seeing that thought? See.” So, you just want to make sure that you're being productive for the full 10 minutes that you're developing concentration, clarity, equanimity for the whole time that you're practicing.
So, that could look like saying the labels out loud, thinking them, or sometimes dropping them. But this is a technique equivalent to any other technique you might do. If you're focusing on breath, for instance, then the breath is something you keep returning to. Your concentration is developed by returning your attention to the breath every time it wanders. You're noticing sensory details about the breathing activity. There's your sensory clarity. You're noticing, “Oh, it's located in this part of my body and it feels like this when I breathe in and that when I breathe out.” And you're opening up to the experience of the breathing. You're allowing your breathing to happen naturally come and go, noticing the impact it has and being willing for that experience or being open to that experience. So, whatever technique you're doing, as long as you're developing those three skills, then we can say that it's a solid technique. It's an industrial-strength technique.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful. I’ll share one analogy that came up for me or I think it's come up for me before but If you're listening to this, here's how I look at it is your morning practice, right? Your 10 minutes of meditation in the morning adopting Julianna's See Hear Feel practice, that's like going to the gym, right? That's like your workout where you're getting your reps in. But then remember, this is something that you take throughout the day. You use it while you're making that cup of coffee or you're doing those dishes or you're driving the car. And that's kind of like, if you were using the analogy of lifting weights to build your muscles, you go to the gym, do your workout in the morning but then it's so you can use your muscles during the day so that you can lift that refrigerator. You know what I mean? You want to be strong, enough stamina throughout the day and this is that mental, emotional, spiritual strength, and stamina and these skills. So, again, use them in the morning. That's your workout but then apply them throughout the day. And I think one of the best ways to do that, by the way, is to do it in the morning, meaning, do your meditation and then get up and go make your cup of coffee or go wash your dishes or go make your smoothie and pay attention to the texture of the fruit, the sound of the knife slicing through, on and on.
And so, that's a great way to do it where because you might forget. You do it the morning and then throughout the day, if you wait too long, you're like, “Oh, I totally forgot to do a See Hear Feel during the daily experience. Well, if you do it just one after the other where you go, “Okay, so I did it legs-crossed, eyes closed, sitting on the meditation pillow for 10 minutes,” then get up and go right into an activity where you can apply it while you're actually engaged in something. Julianna, this is so valuable. I want people to go and give this a try right now. Any closing remarks or anything else that they should know? And also, where can they get in touch with you to learn more and go deeper with you?
Julianna Raye: Yeah, definitely. Well, I just say it's exactly what you described, Hal. On the bringing intentionality, the nice thing about this workout is that we can do it simultaneous to the activities of our day and we have a great framework for doing that. That's one of the things I love about the Unified Mindfulness approaches that we make it really portable and we have a framework that's as rigorous and clear as our framework for seated practice. So, yeah, if you're interested in learning more, you can go to UnifiedMindfulness.com/Core and that is a free training. It's an 11-video series that goes over the skills, goes over everything we've explored today and really gets you up and running with your practice. And you can join our community. We have a wonderful private coaching group that we offer with live classes once a week and tons of really wonderful material, live meditations five days a week, 10-minute meditations, and interaction so you can ask any meditation question you've ever wondered about. What's beautiful is that we have people from a wide range of backgrounds who've been practicing for decades. And everybody in our community is just happy to serve and support because we've gotten so much benefit from this practice. So, that’s my suggestion. Yeah.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful. So, UnifiedMindfulness.com/Core for the free 11-video series. That's fantastic. Oh, well, Julianna, you're already a famous singer. Now, you're going to be a famous movie star when the Miracle Morning Movie comes out in December. So, that's pretty exciting.
Julianna Raye: I am thrilled.
Hal Elrod: I love talking to you every time and like I said, for me, I learned these skills six years but it's like anything, meditation takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master so I appreciate the value that you add and the work that you're doing in the world. And like I said, now more than ever with just the craziness in our world, these practices, these skills are crucial to us maintaining control over, the only thing we have control over which is our inner world. So, thank you for all that you do and thank you for sharing it today.
Julianna Raye: It was such a pleasure, Hal. Such a joy and I love connecting and more to come I’m sure.
Hal Elrod: Awesome. Well goal achievers, members of the Miracle Morning community, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Julianna Raye as much as I did. Check out UnifiedMindfulness.com/Core for her free video training. And as important, don't wait to apply this. Apply it right now. Shut this off. And even if you just set your timer on your phone for two minutes or five minutes, do the See Hear Feel practice and realize just like when you do go to the gym, your first day at the gym, it's not like you lift the weight and all of a sudden, you're 10 times stronger. No. You've got to put in the reps and do it consistently. And so, I encourage you for the next, do a 30-day See Hear Feel challenge where you do it during your meditation practice every day. And as you do it every day, you will get stronger and you experience greater and greater and greater benefits and I'm telling you that from experience. So, with that, I love you, I appreciate you. Let's keep elevating the consciousness of humanity one person at a time. We're doing this together and I will talk to you all next week.
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