Meditation: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life: Bodhin Kjolhede at TEDxFlourCity


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven I’m going to start by talking
about a study that was done in the 1980s. It was a study on happiness,
and it was applied to two populations: one were people who had
just been diagnosed HIV positive, and the other were lottery winners –
some of you may have heard about this. They came back four years later,
and they tested them again, and they found that the people who had been diagnosed
HIV positive four years earlier reported higher levels of happiness
than the lottery winners. Now, what this points to, as I see it, is that the mind determines our experience of life. That yes, there are circumstances
and conditions, of course, that are important, but largely, our experience of life
is determined by the mind. And this is supported by many hundreds
or thousands of true stories of people who transcended
extraordinarily difficult circumstances, in prison camps and prisons
and many other things. We have this tremendous ability
to change our experience of the world. There are two ways of understanding this: one is as a matter of perception – and this is something that neuroscience
also supports, it points to – is that what we think of as reality is really our interpretation of it. That each one of us,
our mind is like a filter that filters out
what we don’t want to experience and gives us what
we do want to experience. This is enormously important. It’s a matter of perception. And the second thing
is a matter of function, where we learn through meditation
how to direct our attention, that we have a choice
as to where we direct our attention. The image I like best is a flashlight; we can use the mind like a flashlight. A flashlight has a beam –
say we’re in the dark – you can flick that beam in any direction, and this has enormous consequences. Because where we pay attention
will also determine our experience. The great Spanish philosopher
and writer José Ortega y Gasset said, “Tell me to what you pay attention,
and I’ll tell you who you are.” Most people don’t use
this tremendous tool, this flashlight,
of how to direct attention. But when you do, you confirm
what Ortega y Gasset was saying, which is that the quality of our life is not determined so much by what we do, as what we are. What we are – how we use the mind. And related to that, of course, is the way we respond in all situations. Now, I’m guessing
that what I say from here on out is going to be true, perhaps,
of many kinds of meditation. Zen is just one kind, but I’m going to talk
about Zen particularly, first of all because that’s what
I’ve been doing my whole life – is practicing Zen meditation, but secondly because Zen can be done, Zen meditation can be done
without the use of any religious elements. You can do deep Zen meditation
without any religious images, ideas, beliefs, dogma. It’s kind of a generic
kind of meditation at one level. So, then what is
the work of Zen meditation? Primarily, just to keep it simple, it’s learning to detach from thoughts. That thoughts, our thoughts,
are just one aspect of our mind, our consciousness. Now I’m not suggesting
that we have to abandon thinking. Thinking is obviously
a marvelous endowment that we have as human beings. We need to use our thinking minds
in analytical ways, in valuative ways all the time. But, what we would say in Zen is we need to balance
that function of the mind, that discriminating function of the mind, what we call the higher
functions of the mind, with this other realm of consciousness that opens up when we learn
to detach from our thoughts. So what happens? Well, first of all, I would say
that of course, meditation, and I’m talking about
not meditation once a month, but daily meditation, regular meditation, it reduces stress. Any kind of meditation, I believe,
would reduce stress, make you more calm and centered. Consider the image of a snow globe. You shake a snow globe, and this is the condition
of a mind before meditation. And in Zen, what we’re doing
is just setting it down. Just setting that snow globe down, allowing thoughts to settle. Nothing very exotic,
just letting thoughts settle. Another thing that I should think
would be assumed by anyone is that meditation
would stabilize your emotions, would help you
with your whole emotional life. It does this, as I see it,
in my experience, by, again, enabling us
to detach from our thoughts. So, consider anger. There’s the initial experience,
the triggering experience that may provoke anger in us, but then beyond that, so much
of what gets us into trouble with anger is our thinking about
the person that provoked this, thinking about what we might
say back to the person or do to the person. It’s the chewing on what has happened. And the same whether
it’s anger or it’s anxiety, or fear, or sadness, sorrow. It’s human, of course,
to have these kinds of emotions, but what we don’t have to do
is cling to them. That’s where we really wreak havok
in our emotional life. A third, I should think obvious
benefit of meditation, is that it develops concentration. And anything we do
with stronger concentration, we’re going to do more capably, even eventually, more masterfully. Now, in addition to these things, which will make you a more stable,
more competent person, there’s a whole different level
of benefits that come from meditation, and these have to do
with the way our perspective is changed through meditation. So consider – I’m going
to throw another analogy at you – consider thoughts, errant,
random, irrelevant thoughts, the kind of thing that flits
through the mind all the time, consider this as the waves
on the surface of the ocean. A lot of turmoil. A lot of buzzing of the mind. You know, when I say this, the problem is that many people don’t know how much
their mind is buzzing all the time. It’s like being on the surface
of the ocean and just bobbing all the time and not ever experiencing
what it is to get underneath the waves into the depths of the ocean. Now, what this does for us, first of all, through this accessing
a different realm of consciousness, we find that we can
get underneath problems. So, what kind of problems? Ethical issues. What are the thorny problems? Ethical issues – what is more complex
than ethical issues? We also find that we can
face life decisions, that is, whether to get married, whether to take this job
or that job, and so forth, this too, by meditating on it,
we can get underneath the surface waves, and a whole new world opens up to us. And then, in the same way, we tap into what I would call the ‘source’ or the ‘womb’ of mind,
of creativity, actually. In doing that, we also find
we can open up resources we never knew we had. When I’m writing an article,
and I’m getting all tangled up in some, ‘What am I trying to say here?,’ I find that if I just
sit down, cross my legs, in no time, I’m underneath
all of that discursive thought, and somehow, things suddenly
become much clearer. It feels like cheating to do that,
but it really works very well. One other aspect
of this changed perspective, is on a much more, say, ‘macro’ level, which is, it changes our way
of understanding our place in the world. So, in Zen we understand that as long as we’re using
just this discriminating mind, what most people think of
when they call ‘mind,’ as long as we’re doing that
we tend to see fragmented, we see things divided. And especially we see things
in terms of ‘self’ and ‘other,’ ‘us’ and ‘them.’ When we get under those waves,
then we experience the unity of things, and this has tremendous implications, because the truth is
that within all of our differences, and of course everyone is unique,
every single person is unique, within those differences,
there is a sameness. And in meditation, then,
we are not denying our differences, we are not denying
the world of discrimination, but we’re balancing it
with this other aspect, in terms again of the ocean,
it’s the depths of the ocean, it’s the silence
in these depths that unite us. And this reveals, ultimately,
through awakening, or enlightenment, this reveals what is beyond the ego and its way of dividing the world. And of course this
has tremendous implications – awakening from this nightmare, this dualistic nightmare
of self and other, us and them, this is ultimately what’s possible. Thank you. (Applause)


100 Responses

  1. Elround4

    September 11, 2013 8:07 am

    It also helps trigger the relaxation response which in turn raises dopamine. Not to mention helping train ones concentration.

  2. akanippy

    September 11, 2013 10:36 am

    This is spot on. Life is all about attitude. I am 74 and confined to a wheelchair but I've never felt happier — life is full of small pleasures if you only look for them at my age every day is a bonus and I rejoiced at being alive

  3. carolebmw

    October 15, 2013 5:10 pm

    Thank you Roshi Kjolhede. You answer the question of "why meditate" more clearly than I have ever read or heard before.

  4. mike f

    August 10, 2014 6:28 pm

    What is that shirt he is wearing?  I've seen Bruce Lee wear it before.. not sure what it's called.  Beautiful talk nonetheless.

  5. Etienne Schwarz

    September 12, 2014 8:35 am

    What is it that is hearing the thoughts created by your mind? Read ~~The Present~~ at TruthContest○com to find out.

  6. ss1 aps

    January 6, 2015 3:20 pm

    Eastern philosophy looses track when it mistakes unity as uniformity. We all are united becquse we are have a common ancestor and are family, and spiritually have one God. We have our identities and uniqueness, but in love we are all one. Unity in love keeps your identity and persona, while making us able to be selfless and kind. What happens when unity is confused for uniformity is that , people become selfish and there is no love. Love itself is considered an attachment, that the mind is tasked to detach from. God is love, Jesus is the Dearly beloved Son of God. God is not detached.

  7. JayVBear45

    February 11, 2015 5:48 am

    I honor this being for using metaphor and analogy because language is such a weak tool for shining a light on truth it needs a form that calls on remembering experiences that have a strong possibility of commoness across many cultural differences. Meditation, like religion, is a tool that when applied and experienced first hand will affect the state of being in such a way as to aid all aspects of balancing it and give human beings a place to stand and prepare them for doing (putting them in a super position – now a field of all possibilities becomes evident). In Sufic understanding, at least in as much as I have experienced, thought is THE slowest tool for conveying or receiving knowledge, feelings/emotions are quicker but motion or physicalization is the quickest and of the 3 meditation belongs to the latter.

  8. Sri Chinmoy 27

    February 13, 2015 5:28 pm

    God created the World with Meditation.There fore we should use this Secret Power for our everyday Life.Great inspiring Speech.Thank you.

  9. that_DoP

    February 24, 2015 2:17 pm

    Any medidation by it's nature is not connected to any religious belief. Even though it may have origins in some belief systems. Any meditation is good. Do it.

  10. undeadtacticalsquad

    March 23, 2015 5:59 am

    Didn't get past his studdering intro and psudo facts about neuro science… I can smell B.S.

  11. captaincarl1

    May 22, 2015 3:11 pm

    I clicked on this because the thumbnail made him look like Dr. Evil.
    Now, I want my money back. There was no Dr. Evil here.

  12. Navin Prasad

    June 14, 2015 2:14 pm

    Through this speech I got to know whats benefit of zen, but in this whole speech what i missed is about the process on how to do zen meditation. The speech would have been wonderful if the process of doing it would have been included too…

    Orator should finish the speech with the process along with benefits…

    Peace.. 🙂

  13. Serenity Serenity

    June 27, 2015 3:12 pm

    We Muslims do this 5 times a day, it takes uo atleast 25 -50 min of our day combined all prayers. Im getting use to it since I started practicing again

  14. Michal Lukeš

    August 3, 2015 12:47 pm

    thoughts are just a 6th sense. When you change the way you filter information through your 6 senses, your whole experience of life will change.

  15. John Brown

    September 8, 2015 10:14 am

    And….they just keep on coming….Another skin head Ken Wilber cult wannabe or a slobbering scientology follower the same as Chuck Masson and his brain dead societal rejects…they all have 'THE' answers but only as long as they get to control the questions. This swami is regurgitating the Transcendental Meditation self improvement bull shit of the early 70s, it's all a straight up hand job by "programmers" who are keenly aware of the mind fuck they are trying to put on you!  "Let's al play along and be nicey nice to each other and delude ourselves into thinking we can be 'better than ourselves'. I have never met one of these delusional psychopaths who didn't fit right in with the so called 'business' community mindset, ie., how to get their hands in your pocket! If you need someone to validate your existence for you your in some kind of trance state and are in need of a good bitch slapping! Self reliance, an awareness of who you are in the pecking order of society, a  realistic sense of direction and a strong will are the tools everyone needs to avoid this Hindu hillbilly horseshit! Find someone to love, work you enjoy, cultivate interests, harm no one and learn compassion….That is all anyone will ever need to be happy in this life. PS… Stay clear of anyone who wants to control your thinking, like Ken Wilber:-)  Peace, Shalom, Have a nice day and enjoy your shitty job!

  16. Yedukondalu Upputella

    October 15, 2015 4:19 am

    I am a person not much educated,only school final passed. 54 years. With simple meditation our( Hindu holey books) now i am working in embedded company as product developer.Faith & meditation Leeds to me near a person who is a most wise ,honest,and respectable MD of accompany . Now i am well, in all aspects. l ivied in Vijayawada,AP, India. meditation purifies Ur sole and body .thanks.

  17. Marianne Duke

    February 28, 2016 3:43 am

    No! You are all wrong. We are all human "farm animals" for the powerful molecule and atom scriptwriters. If you do NOT like your life, yell, plead, curse at your scriptwriters. Bad people cannot stop being bad until their scriptwriters decide otherwise.

  18. AJ Marr

    April 14, 2016 1:48 pm

    So what is meditation anyway?

    It’s rest.

    Here’s why. When you do only one thing at a time, whether it is walking on the beach and thinking of seagulls, focusing on a doorknob or a mantra, or just non-judgmentally aware, or being in the moment, your postural muscles relax, and this is accompanied by the release of endogenous opioids, which provides a natural high. This is why relaxation feels good.

    Does this mean that teaching and practicing meditation is worthless? Quite the opposite. It just means that all rest is meditation and all meditation is rest, or in other words, you can’t rest unless you are in some way meditating!
    A short explanation of this is here:

    And a longer one is here:

  19. Tally and Tasha Featuring Granny

    June 6, 2016 10:42 pm

    My Grandma told me an old saying which is "show me your bible and i'll tell you what you" I think its quite similar to Ortega E. …. interesting.

  20. Andrew Parry

    June 9, 2016 8:42 am

    Bodhin, you should do a 10-day Vipassana Meditation course (Goenka tradition). Then you will leave Zen behind.

  21. jad mhanna

    September 12, 2016 11:51 am

    your message didn't reach clear , i a m psychologist,life coach,mediator,pianist mus composer for songs an feature film

  22. Parth Maske

    December 5, 2016 7:01 am

    I hope that the video has convinced you to meditate. Many of you may know how to meditate correctly. I urge you to download Insight Timer app. It is a community where people meditate. We help and support each other. I am grateful for the guided meditations. Rather than thinking if you should install it, Install it. It is the best app you can ever have. It is free and doesn't have any ads. Money was never a factor for the developers. Insight Timer — Download it. Dare: I dare you to meditate for 7 consecutive days. Bye 🙂

  23. north south

    December 16, 2016 3:25 am

    I used to be able to meditate, now it's seems hard to do. goes to show how much bad vibration has enhanced.

  24. Andrew Ngo

    December 30, 2016 6:51 am

    Check out this book "The Miracle Morning" A great combination of 7 habits in the morning that will transform your life and meditation is one of them. I found a very cheap price for the book on EBay

  25. Jiwon Hwang

    January 30, 2017 3:42 am
    Check here if you are interested in meditation. There are many types of meditation techniques and this is where I learned vipassana meditation (not related to yoga or religion). You need 10 days to learn this technique at the center.

  26. Charles Davidson

    March 1, 2017 8:46 am

    not true for all meditations or explanations of reality. i.e., there are more explanations than the two he mentions so his alternative explanations are incomplete and his conclusions have value only if you believe that your thoughts at all levels have no value. specifically, i don't understand uniqueness' existence without identification with our thoughts. nor, is the physical dualistic world only a "nightmare". because others exist, e.g., i can see beauty in another and relate to beauty and appreciate other's uniqueness and find some of the thoughts within myself which enable me to get a different way to see the world. for me mediation opens me up to seeing value in everything, and that equates to total self acceptance without being judgmental.

  27. Chelsie Brain

    July 31, 2017 4:11 am

    Manifestation Miracle is one of those once in a lifetime systems that will absolutely change your life [ Check Details here === ]. The information in this book is transforming, inspiring, powerful and uplifting. Every page in this book takes you on a journey of awakening to the truth of who you truly are. Heather has created a map of possibility for your life. This is one journey you don't want to miss.

  28. AlongOurLife

    September 11, 2017 12:51 am

    For sure if you have the time to spend it on your own and meditate, your stress level will go down just by the fact that you are spending time to yourself without interruption, and I definitely envy that 🙂

  29. Phytom

    October 4, 2017 6:38 pm

    I have an exam in 2 months that will determine my whole future and meditation brings some peace and stillness into my mind full of concerns, anxiety and stress.

  30. Minnie Mouse

    May 27, 2018 3:40 am

    Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died and rose from death to life, and you will be saved. You will have eternal life.

  31. Radha Krishna

    May 30, 2019 7:11 am

    We all need to be in a perpetual state of meditation………
    For full blown life……
    Learn what is Tao te Ching

  32. Thomas Norton

    June 28, 2019 7:06 pm

    I use a muse headband for meditation and it has been super helpful for my to maintain a daily practice for a year now

    Meditation has changed my life!

  33. Silence Is Golden

    July 24, 2019 1:43 pm

    Any Buddhist who starts talking away about meditation (and almost everything else) without explaining the Four Noble Truth and the Noble Eightfold Path is a fake.


Leave a Reply