23 Bloggers Who Share Their Income Reports

Personally I find it very useful that some bloggers share their income reports.  Pat Flynn I think started this trend of transparency and his openness has garnered a lot of success in terms of gathering a large and trusting audience.

Starting out in business I find it is such a mental game.  The belief that you can actually make an income online is something that you need to believe in the core of your soul, so that you can push through the difficult starting times and ultimately realize your goal.

For me, being around people or reading blogs such as those listed below, have helped me see that people ARE making money online and that it can be done.  They are normal people, like you and me.  Some might be more intelligent, some less. Some more charismatic, some less. Some betters writers, some less.  The major trait I find that’s important is persistence and consistency.

So feel free to explore the blogs below and see that it is possible with a bit of perseverance to create a passive income business online.

List of Bloggers Publishing Income Reports

Entrepreneur On Fire (EOFIRE)

  • Income:  ~ $200,000 per month
  • Business Podcast
  • Major Sources of Income: Podcast Sponsorship, Freedom Journal (physical product), Online Course (Podcaster’s Paradise), Affiliate Income.

Smart Passive Income (Pat Flynn)

  • Income:  ~ $150,000+ per month
  • Blogs About: How to make money online
  • Major Sources of Income: Affiliate Income (Bluehost, internet business related)

Project Life Mastery

  • Income: ~$90,000 per month
  • Blogs About: Making money online, goal setting, motivation, productivity.
  • Major Sources of Income: Kindle Book Publishing, Courses (Morning Ritual Mastery, K Mastermind (for Kindle Publishing), Course on Kindle Publishing).
  • Income:  $65,000 per month (last reported)
  • Business:  Wordpress Assistance as a Service
  • Major Source of Income: Core business
  • Income:  ~$60,000 per month
  • Blogs About: Food, Blogging.
  • Major Sources of Income: Affiliate Income, (AdThrive, Bluehost), Food Photography eBook, Workshops.
  • Income:  ~$60,000 per month
  • Blogs About: Blogging, Budgeting, Personal Finance
  • Major Sources of Income: Affiliate (Bluehost / How to Start a Blog, Online Survey Companies), Advertising / Sponsorship on Site.

Just a Girl and Her Blog

  • Income: ~$50,000 per month
  • Blogs About:  Home Organization & Decoration.
  • Major Source of Income:  Online Course (Book Boss – Write and Launch a Profitable eBook in 90 days or less), eBook on Blogging, Affiliate Income (BlueHost / How To Start A Blog).
  • Minor Sources: eBooks related to Home Organization & Decoration, other affiliate commissions related to blogging niche.
  • Major Breakthrough: Launched eBook on How to Launch a Blog.
  • Income: ~$50,000 per month
  • Major Sources of Income: Online Courses (internet marketing related)
  • Income: ~$40,000 per month
  • Business: Product Reviews
  • Major Sources of Income:  Affiliate Income, Online Course.
  • Income:  ~$20,000 per month
  • Major Sources of Income:  Amazon FBA, Service Business, other.
  • Income:  ~$20,000 per month
  • Major Sources of Income:  Affiliate Income, Drop-shipping Sites.
  • Income ~$20,000 per month
  • Major Sources of Income:  Affiliate Income
  • Income: ~$20,000 per month
  • Blogs About: Finance, other.
  • Major Sources of Income: Ad Revenue.
  • Income:  ~$10,000 per month
  • Business: HTML5 Games
  • Income:  ~$10,000 per month
  • Blogs About:  Making money online
  • Major Sources of Income:  Amazon FBA

What can you learn from this?

Affiliate income is extremely significant (with two notable Affiliate programs being BlueHost and AdThrive).

Most of these bloggers make money from teaching people how to blog.

Exceptions to the above is Kindle Book sales (as well as teaching people how to sell Kindle Books), Amazon FBA, Online Games.

Update: January 2016

Came across this site which summarizes very nicely all the bloggers who report their income online! Check it out: http://www.incomereporters.com/income-reports/2016/

 

Focus

Focus is critical to your success.

When you start out in business you may not be focussed, and that is natural.

You need to fire shots in lots of different directions and see what hits.

As soon as you have found something that works you need to focus.

I know, its hard.

Especially with entrepreneurial ADD.

But you need to.

And you will find that it is so freeing when you finally make the decision to focus on one project.

At a certain stage in our business, we were firing in all sorts of directions.

And then we decided to focus on one particular business (in our case, social casino).

If someone tells me about some cool new opportunity, I know that I won’t chase after that new shiny object.

If someone wants to partner with me on a project, I’ll immediately and politely say “No” and “thank you for thinking of me, but I have all my focus on one project at the moment.”

It is liberating.

And it also gives you a chance to succeed.

Invest in (Online) Businesses Instead of Traditional Investments

One thing meditation has helped me do, is step a bit outside of the narrow line of thinking that is ingrained in us.  I do think a lot about investment and something just doesn’t sit right with me.

Recently I opened up an online investment account, fully intended to do the “recommended” thing of buying several diversified index funds to “track the market”.  This would be money that I would put away and basically never touch again.  At best I could hope for about 5-7% return per annum.

This is what we are supposed to do.  People go to university and study for years how to properly do asset allocation.

The thing is though, the world has changed.

Once, it was very difficult to start a business.  You needed a lot of capital, you’d need to beg a bank to lend you money.

These days you can start a business from your laptop, run it from anywhere in the world and hire an army of freelance workers from sites like Upwork, while you rake in a passive income stream.

Nowadays, I’m fully involved in growing our social casino business, Megarama.  But a long time ago when I was just starting out in business I created a couple of interesting little experiments that have returned an amazing ROI (small amount of cash, but nice return).

One was a website I created which was really an effort to SEO another site.  It’s basically an informational site for doctors in Israel who are interested to learn aesthetic medicine and in particular Botox administration for cosmetic use.

The site looks like the most crappy site you’ve ever seen, built on Google Sites.  I can’t remember how long it took me to create, but it wasn’t a massive effort (couple of days??).  I spent a bit of money on SEO for the site – can’t remember how much but probably around $200.

It didn’t take too long before my site was ranking #1, 2 and 3 for the key very niche search terms (in hebrew) for “botox course for doctors”.  I put a crappy email form on the site and started to collect leads.  Then I reached out to a number of people who were running such courses and came to an agreement regarding selling leads (again, wasn’t hard).

This was about 4 years ago I think.  Since I signed the lead selling agreement the site has consistently been making over $500 per month. Again, not significant. But the effort that went into it was not huge, the cost was minimal.  Lets say I spent around $500 and my time was worth lets say $100 per hour at the time (3 days work lets say), that’s a cost to launch the site of about $3,000.  The return on this is $6,000 per year, or 200%!!!! 

That is a hell of a lot better than a 5% return per annum.

(Oh, and BTW, the ONLY work I do on this site is send a monthly invoice. I LITERALLY do no other work).

It’s my personal experience that these online, passive sources of income can have tremendous longevity. Obviously each business is different, but there are ways to maximize longevity and minimize risk.

I’m just using this as a case in point.  I had a similar outcome with another small website I created around the same time.

 

The concept for these online business investment vehicles would be as follows:

(1) It needs to be TOTALLY hands off. i.e. I need a team of people who can execute on my ideas. Obviously there will be initial set up costs. But imagine that you could put together this team… To use an old cliche, “where there is a will, there is a way”.

(2) The system needs to be able to scale.  You need to find a repeatable business model that works and then be able to pour lots of money into it and see commensurate returns.

And there are two ways you can go about it:

(1) You can start a business from scratch. 

OR

(2) You can buy existing businesses (hopefully undervalued) and then uncover value to further improve the ROI.

Consider for a moment that you are able to build the team and system which can execute this with minimal or no daily involvement from yourself, in terms of ROI you can’t even compare it to any other asset class.

Especially if these are businesses you understand and have a degree of control over, the risk as I see it is minimal compared to riding the waves of the market.

Here are some interesting articles for further reading on the topic:

“Why a Website Should Be Your Next Investment”

“How To Invest In Websites In Your Spare Time”

“I was given $25k to invest in websites; here’s what I did : Entrepreneur”

“How to Sell an Amazon FBA Business”

Marketplaces or Brokers

Here is a list of some marketplaces and brokers for buy and selling various types of online businesses. Mind you, probably the best deals would be found “in the wild” and not on these sites.  It is doable for sure.

Fliptopia

App Business Brokers

Flippa

FE International  (This company also offers management services…)

Empire Flippers

Jungle Flippers

 

Risk

When talking about having left my job to pursue a career in entrepreneurship, I often get a comment something like “oh, but not everyone is willing to take a risk like you did.”

A commonly held view of entrepreneurs is that they are risk taker. I’ve even heard some entrepreneurs boast about the risks they took, because they think that is what an entrepreneur is supposed to say.

I beg to differ. I believe that most entrepreneurs (at least the successful ones) are NOT risk takers.

(Fine print disclaimer:  this is obviously a generalization and there are exceptions to any rules).

How I Evaluated Risk

Lets take my story as a case in point.

I believe that my leaving the medical profession and embarking on an entrepreneurial adventure was the LOW RISK option for ME.

Yes, I left a stable, well paid, “prestigious” job.

Yes, I embarked on a path that was uncertain.

Looking at the Upside

The way I weighed the risk at the time is as follows:

(1) I don’t like my job.  In fact, I was existentially miserable. One of my main values is creativity and medicine doesn’t allow for that (apart from research, which I detest).  I was drawn to the creativity of entrepreneurship (creating something from nothing).

(2) As a specialist I would be in one of the top pay brackets, however my earning potential was capped at around about $200,000 per year and limited by my time.  To earn money I needed to expend my own time.  As an entrepreneur my earnings would be uncapped and could be divested from my own time. I wanted to be able to not have to work in order to support myself.

(3) Medicine didn’t challenge me, at least not in the right ways.  To succeed on the traditional path, you need to be good at rote learning, sitting down and memorizing thick text books.  As an entrepreneur, I had unlimited challenge.  My success was totally dependent on my own ingenuity.

So from the top 3 points above, its pretty clear the upside of being an entrepreneur:  I would be catering to my core values (creativity, achievement) and my earnings would be uncapped and potentially not linked to my own time.  So from the upside perspective, it was a no brainer.

The Downside…

What about the downside? This is critical to examine when weighing risk.

The downside of staying in medicine:  I would be miserable, always wondering “what if I had tried”, it would quash my sprit and my soul. Pretty dark.

The downside of failing at entrepreneurship:  I would lose my savings and would need to go back to work as doctor, one of the most highly paid professions.  I knew I would not be sleeping on the streets. (Although this wasn’t really an option for me – I knew that I had this as some theoretical backup, but my motto has always been that I “will succeed or die trying”).

So for me, staying in medicine was HIGH RISK (really!). Entrepreneurship was the low risk path for me, as far as my values and desires go.

I would say that successful entrepreneurs are actually very very shrewd at HEDGING risk.

I will often hear of successful entrepreneurs who are financially free testing new business ideas with very small amounts of cash.

Entrepreneurs are the ultimate hedgers. They actually look at risk very carefully and examine it critically.

Do you have any other examples? What do you think?

Leave a comment below.

Tony Robbins’ Morning Ritual

Tony Robbins, the “#1 Life and Business Strategist”, is one of the leaders in the field of personal development.  Love him or hate him, you can decide by trying some of his practices for yourself and see if they help you or not.  Below is a summary of his Morning Ritual which he does every day.

This morning ritual takes him only between 15 to 20 minutes.  He even does some parts of this during his morning walk. The overall purpose is “to wire [himself] for happiness.”

Morning Ritual #1 – The Cold Plunge

Tony jumps into a cold pool (13 degrees celcius / 56 degrees fahrenheit) for 60 seconds.

He says that there are physiologic benefits to this, but it seems his main focus is on the psychological.  “If I say I’m going to do something, I do it.”

Morning Ritual #2 – “Priming”

 

Explosive Breathing

I’ve found contradictory statements for how exactly Tony does his breathing exercise.

Perhaps the best source is on his website.

Breath in through the nose for 5 seconds.

Hold the breath for 20 seconds.

Exhale through mouth over 10 seconds.

Whatever the time you spend on each phase, he recommends a ratio of 1:4:2. (So if you breath in for 3 seconds, you should hold for 12 seconds, exhale over 6 seconds).

He repeats this cycle of inhale-hold-exhale 10 times.

 

Visualization / Mental Rehearsal

This next section takes 9 minutes, divided into 3 different exercises.  In the podcast Tony Robbins stated that he doesn’t meditate, but these are really forms of meditation.

Step 1: 3 minutes of gratitude

The idea of this exercise is to focus himself on emotions that will cause him to be a better version of himself.

According to Tony, two of the most detrimental emotions are Anger and Fear and he says that gratitude is the antidote to these emotions (“If you’re grateful you can’t be angry and you can’t be fearful”).

He thinks of 3 things that he is grateful for (which can eb people, situations, things).  He makes sure that he really steps INTO the image / scene, and “feels the moment”.

Importantly, he makes sure that at least 1 thing he’s grateful for is really simple. For example “the wind on my face” or “my child’s smile”.  He trains himself to appreciate the little beautiful moments of life.

To drive home the reason for this, he gives the example of astronauts who have been up in space, seen earth as a little ball and come back down to a ticker tape parade. They’ve reached the pinnacle of their lives at the young age of 32, where do they go from here? This was their lifelong pursuit – and they achieved it.  He says that many astronauts face have major emotional challenges when they get back, including alcohol & drug abuse. They thought that the only way to be happy was to go to the moon and along the way they forgot to find adventure in a smile.

Step 2: 3 Minutes of Blessings

Tony imagines life / light / god / energy pouring into body, healing everything along the way. Strengthening him physically.  Strengthening his passion, love, generosity, creativity & humour. He sees any problems he has just being solved.

He then extends this imagery to his circles of intimate family, friends , clients and sends them the same healing energy, imagining them getting what they need energy wise and being healed.

(This is kind of similar to Loving Kindness meditation from what I’m aware).

Step 3: 3 to Thrive

Tony visualizes 3 specific outcomes that matter to him. He SEES, FEELS and EXPERIENCES these outcomes as DONE, as if he has already accomplished these outcomes. He sees the impact that these outcomes have, how peoples’ lives are touched. He feels the joy of seeing this as done and the outcome it causes, he feels it as DONE in his bones and is grateful for it.

 

Source: 

The Tony Robbins Podcast – Episode 11.

Inspiration for further reading:

Loving Kindness Meditation

Wim Hof Method

 

 

The Evidence for Meditation

As you may know in a past life I was a medical doctor. And I am a meditator.  I’ve written previously about my own personal experiences with meditation, but I want to share here some cold hard scientific evidence for (and maybe against?) meditation, since these days medicine is all about the evidence.

I’ve reviewed A LOT of the research on meditation (particularly mindfulness meditation) to date.  I used a combination of Google Scholar searches and Pubmed searches to find studies. In particular I looked for meta-analyses, systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials, which are the strongest levels of evidence (not all “studies” are created equal). Also, the specific studies that I’m including below are mainly from highly reputable medical journals (again, not all “journals” are created equal, and since I’m not a scientific or statistical whizz I’m also relying that the editors of the journal have done a good job of weeding out questionable research).

You can read the Cliff’s Notes of the studies below as well as review the original literature, if you are so inclined.

For those of you who aren’t, here is a really quick summary of all the evidence to date:

(1) Meditation seems to have a relatively strong effect on emotional / psychological well being, especially related to improving feelings of stress, anxiety & depression (even as effective if not more so than anti-depressants and cognitive behavioural therapy?!).

(2) There might be some effect on cognitive functioning (for example, memory).

(2) Might increase positive emotion (not 100% clear).

(3) Some effect on physiological outcomes?  Doesn’t really effect pain itself, but can effect acceptance of pain and functioning with pain.

There is also some evidence that the benefits of meditation can be sustained (which I imagine would be significantly enhanced if the practice of meditation is continued beyond a one-time course or intervention) and surprisingly that even novice meditators can see significant effects, including potentially changes in the brain itself!

The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis.

  • Medium-Large effect of meditation on emotional & relationship issues.
  • Medium effect on attention.
  • Small-Medium effect on cognition.
  • Interestingly, the experience level of the meditator had little impact on the results.

Fine Print:  Published in “Psychological Bulletin”, Reviewed 163 studies (excluded 432 studies), looked at healthy adults.

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Moderate effect on improved anxiety.
  • Moderate effect on improved depression*
  • Moderate effect on improved pain.
  • Low or No evidence for effect on positive emotion & attention.

*Interesting side note: from doing quick journal research related to the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication, up to 70% of the “effect” of the drug can be due to placebo (backed up by multiple meta-analyses). And even more crazily, a meta-analysis of anti-depressants vs placebo found that anti-depressants for mild to moderate and even severe depression fell below the threshold definition for a “small effect”! (Anti-depressants showed a small to moderate effect on patients in the “very severe depression” group).

I’m not an expert at statistics, but this evidence would seem to show that for depression defined as mild to severe meditation is MORE EFFECTIVE than anti-depressants! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Fine Print:  Published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association / Internal Medicine”, included 47 trials (Randomized Controlled Trials) with 3515 participants, looked at adults with any medical condition.

Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis

  • Large effect on anxiety.
  • Moderate effect on depression.
  • These effects held quite strongly at follow-up (follow up duration varied significantly between studies).
  • In studies which compared meditation to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) there was little to no difference in effect.

Fine Print:  Published in “Clinical Psychology Review”.  Reviewed 209 studies with 12,145 participants.

Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners

  • Found 8 brain regions consistently altered in meditators with small effect size.
  • These included areas associated with meta-awareness, body awareness, memory consolidation, self and emotional regulation & inter/intra hemispheric communication.
  • There is some evidence that even very few hours of practice are required to show some initial changes in the brain.
  • Concluded that “any firm claims about whether meditation truly causes differences in brain structure are still premature.”

Fine Print: Published in “Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews”. Reviewed 21 studies with 300 meditation practitioners.

Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

  • Moderately effective at reducing depression.
  • Moderately effective at increasing mindfulness, compassion, self-compassion.
  • Moderately effective at increasing positive emotion.

Fine Print:  Published in “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology”. Reviewed 22 studies.

Sitting-Meditation Interventions Among Youth: A Review of Treatment Efficacy

  • Meditation amongst both youth and adults has overall small-medium effect size on a wide variety of health related outcomes.
  • Psychological / Behavioural outcomes show moderate-large effect, while physiologic outcomes showed small-moderate effect.

Fine Print:  Published in “Paediatrics”, Reviewed studies involving youth 18 years and younger.

Mindfulness meditation for younger breast cancer survivors: A randomized controlled trial

  • Significant reduction in perceived stress.
  • Did not show statistically significant effect on depressive symptoms.
  • Significant reductions in pro-inflammatory gene expression & inflammatory signaling (WOW!)
  • Statistically significant reduction of fatigue, sleep disturbance, and vasomotor symptoms and increased peace and meaning and positive affect.
  • Intervention effects on psychological and behavioral measures were NOT maintained at three-month follow-up.

Fine Print: Published in “Cancer”. Randomized Controlled Trial involving 71 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer at or before the age of 50.

Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: A randomized controlled pilot study

  • Statistically significant improvement in “Pain Acceptance” and physical function.

Fine Print: Published in “Pain”. 37 adults aged over 65 with chronic lower back pain.

A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: Effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction

  • Both meditation and relaxation groups experienced significant decreases in distress as well as increases in positive mood states over time, compared with the control group.
  • Meditation showed a larger effect size on positive states of mind than relaxation.
  • The meditation group also demonstrated significant decreases in both distractive and ruminative thoughts/behaviors compared with the control group (stronger for ruminative thoughts).

Fine Print: Published in “Annals of Behavioral Medicine”. Involved 83 students (mostly female) who reported psychological distress.

Effects of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain: a randomized controlled trial.

  • Moderate effect on “vitality scale”.
  • Medium to large size effect on anxiety and depression, better psychological well being and acceptance of pain.
  • Non-significant effect on pain measures.

Fine Print: Published in “Pain Medicine”.  109 patients with nonspecific chronic pain.

Summary

The research to date shows that meditation seems to be effective at treating depression, stress and anxiety. It can also have an effect on better coping and functioning with pain as well as some evidence for improving cognitive functioning.

While its important to have a look at the scientific evidence, in the end you need to run an experiment on yourself to see if you feel better as a result of meditating, or not.  I found in my life it is extremely helpful and I definitely recommend that you give it a go.

Do you have any other thoughts or experiences about meditation and the evidence for it?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

Further Reading:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471252/ – this article is quite interesting especially in explaining the different type of meditation practices.

http://marc.ucla.edu/ – mindfulness / meditation program used in one of the studies above.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4630307/ – study on Loving Kindness Meditation.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23541163 – RCT study on effect of meditation on Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17266067 – “Mindfulness meditation alleviates depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia”.

 

 

Meditation, Hamburgers & Enlightenment – My experience as a novice meditator

I believe that the path to success is to emulate what successful people have done before you.

As I’ve already shared with you in a previous post, there are two “hacks” which most successful people do:

They meditate.

They keep a journal.

I want to share in this post a bit about my experiences related to meditation and also to deep dive a bit into the research (I like cold hard facts).

My Experience with Meditation: The Beginning

So for a very long time I’ve been aware that meditation is a “good thing to do”. I’ve kinda lost count, but I think I’ve been meditating in one form or another for quite a few years.

Initially I was interested in hypnosis / self-hypnosis and I did that for a while. That was probably almost 11 years ago.  This was actually way before I was interested in business and way before I was listening to podcasts, doing intensive self-learning.  But I was always aware that if I manage to control and harness my mind, then this would be the key to unlimited achievement.

I’m trying to piece back my memories, but I’d say that I kept up this “self-hypnosis” for about 3 years or so. My memories are vague (post-hypnotic amnesia??)  It definitely wasn’t an ingrained practice, kinda sporadic, but I did definitely see benefits from it.

I guess this practice was more rooted in intense visualization and mental rehearsal. It helped crystallise my goals at the time and I have no doubt that this contributed to me ultimately achieving my goals back then.

Then somewhere along the way I dropped this practice (probably after achieving my goals…)

My Meditation Practice Today

Fast forward a few years and I was pursuing my new entrepreneurial goals.  Entrepreneurship is a mind fuck, it stretches you to your limits.  And that’s the thing that I love about it – your success (or failure) is totally (mostly) up to you. What you achieve is limited only by your creativity and ingenuity. It is SUCH a mental game.

So like many entrepreneurs I’ve been drawn to the “inner game” of entrepreneurship.  Searching for ways to hone my mindset so that I can succeed.

I drew back on my old days of “self-hypnosis” / visualization, but I found it hard to make it a habit on my own.  At some stage, browsing through the TED archives, I came across Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk about meditation and that is how I discovered Headspace.

I think they have done a tremendous job of gamifying meditation and I owe it wholly to the Headspace app for making meditation a part of my daily practice.

The genius of Headspace is their “Take Ten” program which guides you through 10 minutes of meditation per day for 10 days.  That is SUCH an easily achievable goal – its hard for anyone, even the busiest of people, to claim that they don’t have a spare 10 minutes per day.

The Take Ten program is free and you CAN sign up for membership to Headspace to gain access to loads more meditation programs.  I’m a subscriber, but honestly after having gone through most of the content I think the Take Ten is really enough. You can just keep repeating those sessions.

Anyway, that’s how I got into meditation and how I made it a habit (I obviously highly recommend that you try Headspace’s Take Ten program).

But What’s So Good About Meditation Anyway??

The thing is though, even after meditating for quite a few years, the benefits were not immediately apparent to me.

I knew a couple of things. Firstly, I felt good afterwards. Or at least not bad. It didn’t seem to hurt.

Secondly, I felt that often I would be more “mindful” and focussed for several hours (anywhere from 1 to 6 hours) after a morning meditation session of 10 minutes.  This would help me be more effective and efficient at work.

So these are definitely good points, but I felt that there was more to meditation that just this.  In his book “Waking Up“, the philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris draws parallels between meditation and extreme altered states induced by substances such as “Magic Mushrooms”, LSD and other hallucinogens (he goes so far as to state that he would feel sorry for his daughter if she didn’t try some of these substances… interesting…)

I made it a point to question this in my journal, to try and get to the bottom of this phenomenon and to understand why meditation is good for me.

It was around that time that I became enlightened over a hamburger.

Well maybe not enlightened… But I definitely had a profound experience which I’ll share with you below.  I’ll try to translate the experience I had in words, but these phenomena are experiential. i.e. You need to experience it yourself in order to truly understand it.

Anyway, what I understand about mindfulness meditation is that the morning practice is really training for the day.  The goal is to spread this mindfulness into your day to day activities.

So one evening, I went out to eat at my local burger joint (best hamburger in the WORLD btw…)

I went alone. I ordered my favourite burger with chips on the side. Unhealthy, I know, but damned tasty.

And while eating I decided to try an experiment.  I would “meditate” over this meal. I normally eating very quickly. I wolf my food down and before you can say abracadabra the contents of my plate have disappeared.

So that night I decided to eat my food SLOWLY. To chew thoroughly.  To savour the texture of the food. To focus on the taste.  To note the temperature. To feel the food sliding down my gullet and into my stomach.

I even closed my eyes in the restaurant. Weird, I know.  But with my eyes closed the flavour was amplified ten-fold.

And also with my eyes closed, I noticed my “fear” of people staring at me. It amplified my sense of ego and made me aware of this sensation of “ego”. I opened my eyes. No one cared.

And during this “food meditation” I noted something interesting. Even though I WAS eating extremely slowly, I always had the next bite ready to go in my hand.  As soon as I would swallow the morsel in my mouth, the next piece would be inside and I would be busy masticating again.

Building on this realization I noticed an underlying stress that I hadn’t been previously aware of.  I spontaneously named it “food stress”.

An instant later I had another profound realization – a type of realization that you feel in your bones. Something visceral, its not something that can be so easily put into words.   But I became aware that this “food stress” was a product not of any real fear, but rather that it was a deeply genetically encoded reaction to food. Something primal.  A sensation from the days when we would hunt in packs, when food was scarce and only the fittest survived.  You would need to eat your food quickly, to assert your claim to your meal, otherwise you would die. This primordial instinct caused my subconscious reaction to food, which in turn caused me to wolf down my food.

Wow. Now I know you’ll probably think this is pretty weird. But this was a profound experience for me.  (Again, keyword is experience – its really something you need to feel yourself, words can’t really do this experience justice). I was stunned.  This meditation allowed me to have deep insight into my behaviour.  To notice my behaviour, to notice my underlying emotional state causing the behaviour. Even to realize the underlying evolutionary reason for this emotional state.

This was a really “deep” meditation.  When I left the burger joint, mindfulness came with me.  I was aware of each step, of the wind brushing past me.

When I arrived home, I got a call from my girlfriend.  Normally I’m not such a phone person.  I don’t love talking on the phone (some would say I don’t love talking at all 🙂 But that’s not true…)

But that evening, instead of being “short” on the phone, which was my usual reaction, I was aware of my bubbling impatience.  This awareness allowed me to choose not to react on auto-pilot, but rather to acknowledge this feeling and focus on the conversation at hand.  Because of this profound mindfulness that carried over, I was super attuned to our conversation and my girlfriend’s feelings.  We went on to have a great and deep conversation on the phone, something we hadn’t shared for a long time.  I enjoyed it and so did she.

Amazingly, the mindfulness from my hamburger meditation spilled over to the next day.  I don’t remember precise details, but I do recall that I was able to evaluate challenges without an automatic response brought about by emotions.  Instead I was able to note my emotions and respond in a more thoughtful way, making better decisions for my company.

So its kind of funny, having such a profound experience over a burger.  But it was really profound. And it was a damned good burger.

What I know about the benefits of meditation for myself to date

And I got my answers to my own questions about the benefits of meditation for myself.  I know that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, there is probably a lot more to explore in the realms of the mind, but these are my thoughts as a relatively novice meditator:

1) I feel better after meditating.

2) I’m more focussed, which allows me to be more efficient at what I do.

3) I am more mindful, sometimes even after the meditation.  This allows me to derive more pleasure from the world, to be in the present moment. It sounds trite, but it helps me to enjoy the green of the trees, the sounds of the birds chirping and to enjoy those small moments which I usually take for granted. The alternative, being stuck in the flow of our thoughts, dragging us to imagined future or past events, is the cause of suffering.

4) This mindfulness of my inner state and emotions allows me to notice emotions and thereby break my automatic patterns in response to an emotion.  This is amazingly beneficial and can help improve relationships, both personal and at work and make for much better decision making. This last point is a huge one!

So, that’s a quick summary of my experience with meditation to date and the benefits that I’ve seen from it.

I challenge you to make meditation a habit for yourself and see what you can gain from it. Try the Take Ten program from Headspace and take it from there.  (I sound like a salesman for them, but they just did an awesome job, I don’t get any commission or anything from this just to be clear).

In Part 2 I’ll review the some of the studies on meditation and we’ll find out what science has to say about all this!