Knowing we can’t change the world doesn’t make things any easier, but what if there was something we could change? We can focus on the small things, hold our breath for a moment, release it, and consider our place in the universe. Introducing Meditative Story into your life as a guide to mindfulness practice can help you get there.
Meditative Story is a podcast that combines the magic of storytelling with mindfulness practices and soothing musical compositions that can bring a sense of calm to our worried lives. It’s co-produced and founded by Arianna Huffington with Thrive Global, and Deron Triff of WaitWhat with support from Salesforce.
The Apple Podcasts app has included Meditative Story in a new curated selection of programs called “Cultivating Calm” that are geared towards helping people relax and destress during this time. It’s one of the top featured podcasts along with On Being with Krista Tippett and Unlocking Us With Brene Brown.
Each episode typically tells a story about unlocking the magic in everyday life that enabled the storyteller to do something they didn’t know they could do, or that changed their perspective on the world around them which changed them for the better inside. Each story is introduced by host Rohan Gunatillake whose soothing voice gently guides the listener to consider the lessons of the story they just heard with meditation prompts.
Some examples of the stories since the launch in July 2019 are about visualizing your dreams by Larry Jackson, pretending you are bold with A.J. Jacobs, and allowing life to become an adventure by not focusing on the outcome by Arianna Huffington herself.
Deron told me that the premise of Meditative Story is to invite listeners into the storytellers world where something that they experienced changed them and who they are. The music, he tells me, is “a sensory detail that we use to bring the listeners to a place where they feel like they’re occupying the world of the storyteller and through these lived experiences a new direction sets in.” Another way to look at it is how Arianna explained it on Today with Hoda and Jenna, “It puts your problems in perspective because you lose yourself in the storytelling.”
Arianna told me that one of the reasons they launched the podcast is because “people have a hard time meditating by themselves and listening to the stories that people love make it much easier to tap into that centered place in ourselves.”
Meditating practices were already important in our world of apps and notifications but, as Arianna reminded me, “they’re more important than ever because of all the anxiety and fear that the corona virus has brought.” Experts from the Harvard Medical School say that “one of the easiest ways to reduce stress is by simply focusing your attention on your breath,” and by listening to the podcast you’ll have a guide to help you practice.
I thought that perhaps it would help with the meditations if you created a place of calm in your outside environment, but Arianna says that isn’t so. “The more stipulations you make, the harder it is to practice,” she assured me. “We can tap into that inner space of calm anywhere. You could be walking or listening in bed. Part of the message is that that place is available to us anywhere and anytime.”
The music of the Holladay Brothers is a big part of creating that place of calm with the vibrant tones of a harp and other instruments, their lush orchestral sound enhances the story of the narrator and creates a space for deep contemplation. Deron says that the music is telling a story as well as opposed to just scoring it and creates a feeling of escape in the listener that pulls them through the story. He’s convinced that the music is a big reason why the listen-through rate, or the number of times people tune away from the stream because of an ad, is 115% which they believe to be the highest listener engagement of any podcast in the world.
Because of the international crisis, they reposted a classic episode from Astronomer Michelle Thaller called “Our Tiny meaningful lives in the vast universe” to hopefully give us some comfort by reminding us of our connectedness with the universe.
Everything about you has been here for the entirety of time and everything you are will utterly vanish in the blink of an eye. This is what you are. To be so significant and so insignificant all at once is the balance of what it means to be alive.
At the end of a beautiful story about gazing at the heavens in the Palomar Observatory in San Diego, Michelle says that contemplating those thoughts helped her a little in dealing with fear and loneliness. She says she told her husband that “when the universe began I was holding your hand, and when the universe ends, I’ll be holding your hand.”
“You can just let go,” Rohan reminds us in a mindfulness practice. “It’s not always easy but you can just let go.”
These things aren’t easy in our time of need and worry, but they are important.
In the most recent episode from Monday, March 30, Rohan was the host and the narrator in “A Meditation for the moment.”
He remarked how impressed he is with the creativity online during our time of isolation, but the imagination of his four-year-old son Arne has them all beat. “He’s creating worlds in his mind,” he says of the ultimate goal of the practice, “to see the world different from how it first appears….and living in that magical transformed state.”