Notes and Mentions
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Tina: Hey everyone, I'm Tina
Serena: And I'm Serena, and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.
Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Tina: We come to you not as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, noneedtoexplainpodcast.com.
Tina: When I say the word meditation, Serena, what images do you conjure up?
Serena: So I'm going to be totally honest here and say that I associate meditation with these large stretches of time spent in maybe a transcendental state that I've not achieved ever. Perhaps there?s some chanting going on as well.
Tina: Yeah, I'd agree, and I will readily admit that I am intimidated by meditation. I always feel like I know it's good for me, but I always feel like I can't really be successful.
Serena: Right, yeah. So I do try to meditate using some sort of guided meditation through apps, but what I will say is that it can be really hard to find the quiet time and space in my life, according to an article from Melowed.com about 14% of Americans meditate up from just 4% in 2012, which is interesting. Benefits of meditation range from reduced stress and anxiety to physical health benefits like lowered blood pressure.
Tina: And while I know meditation has these amazing outcomes, I still find it rather difficult. And I don't think I'm alone, but today's guests will likely change all of that for me and for our listeners. Yes, I'm hopeful.
Serena: Yes. Jake Eagle, along with his co-author, Dr. Michael Amster, have written a book called The Power of Awe: Overcome Burnout and Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity and Purpose in less than one minute per day. Jake is a psychotherapist, mindfulness instructor, fellow member, trainer of the International Association of Neurolinguistic Programming, and co-founder of Live Conscious. After 30 years in private practice, Jake now works part-time as a metatherapist, working with people who want to go beyond the bounds of traditional therapy.
Tina: And after reading his book, I might just consider myself someone who meditates. Jay, welcome to the podcast.
Jake: Nice to be here. Good to meet you both.
Serena: Yeah, thanks. So could you speak in a bit more detail? Tell us about the benefits of meditation.
Jake: Well, you've really touched on them in terms of some of the well-known benefits having to do with relaxing our nervous system, quieting our minds, giving us a sense of spaciousness in our lives. Those are some of the benefits, and there are more. But you've also touched on another really important point, which is many people find meditation either difficult to do, or they don't feel they have the time to do it. And by the way, I put myself in that category, even though I've been a mindfulness instructor, I haven't found it easy to do. As a comparison, my wife, Hannah, is one of these people who can meditate effortlessly, and is very comfortable doing it.
Now, all of this changed for me when my co-author, Michael Amster, and I started this project, because we discovered essentially, and I say in the book, we discovered a shortcut to transcendence. And in a way, I find it embarrassing because I don't really believe in shortcuts. I don't really believe in quick fixes, but we did stumble on something that essentially gives people all of the benefits of meditation in much less time. And when I say much less time, I mean much less time. In other words, the method that we created, which is called the AWE method is also an acronym, AWE, the AWE method, is something that we can do in 10, 15, 20 seconds. And when we do it, it resets our nervous system so that we experience those same benefits that you mentioned. Resets our nervous system, calms us down, quiets our mind. The difference is that, because it only takes, we'll just say 20 seconds, people are very willing to do it. There's not that resistance that we have when we think, yeah, I've got to go sit and be quiet for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes.
And in the studies we've done, we just completed, when I said just, it was two years ago, we completed two studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where we had people doing the AWE method three times a day for 21 days. And the benefits were really impressive, very significant, significant reductions in depression, anxiety, reduction in perceived loneliness, reduction in burnout. And I'll tell you a little more about that in a minute. And there was also a reduction in chronic pain. At the same time, people experienced greater well-being and greater mindfulness. It was surprising to us that people could achieve these results so quickly and with relative ease.
Serena: So I'm going to read a quote to you from your book. And it says, ?Awe, we now know can help us discover new meaning, figure out what we might enjoy doing in our lives, improve levels of satisfaction, and reinterpret or better understand painful experiences.? So tell us what Awe stands for and how does it work?
Jake: So Awe stands for the A is attention. So what we ask people to do is to place their attention on something. It could be an object, it could be another person, it could be a scene in nature, it could be a memory that you have. But to place your attention on something that you value, appreciate or find to be amazing. And then the W stands for wait. And when we say wait, we're talking about a short amount of time, about the amount of time it takes to have a complete breath. So you place your attention on something, and then you have a breath cycle, you inhale, you're waiting, you're holding your attention. And then the E stands for exhale and expand. And then you allow yourself to exhale a little longer than a normal exhalation because at the end of the exhalation, we activate the Vagus nerve. And for people who aren't familiar with it, the Vagus nerve affects our nervous system. And what it does is it shifts us from being in what may be a fight flight, anxious, constricted state. It shifts us into a more relaxed state, a state that's often referred to as rest and digest or rest and repair.
And so that's the process, that's the actual method. We put our attention on something, we wait, and then we have this exhalation, and when we exhale, we will naturally experience an expansion of whatever sensations are in our body. Now, the sensations that were in our body were probably positive because we were focused on something that we appreciate, value or find amazing. So that's the actual method. There's a lot more to it, and in the book, we offer people 30 different exercises to help them develop this capability. But it is as simple as I just described.
Tina: Yeah, so let's explore that a little bit more. And can you maybe walk us through or give us an example? I know that we're not all seeing the same thing. So maybe you pick something that you're seeing and kind of walk us through it. Can we do that?
Jake: Yeah, let's actually all do it. So why don't we identify something in our surroundings that we find to be of value or something that moves us deeply in a positive way? And so I'll tell you what I'm looking at and then you can both tell me. So when my mother passed away, my sister took some of her ashes and had them put into a piece of glass, a blown glass, beautiful, beautiful piece of blue, blown glass that's hanging from my light fixture. And so you can kind of imagine the light is streaming down onto this beautiful blue globe. And inside of it are some of the ashes of my mother. I don't know if everybody would find that to be beautiful, but I do. It brings memories back to me. So when I look at that, it's something that I really value and of course it brings back memories of a really precious relationship that I've had in my life. So that's an example of an object that I might use.
Serena: Okay. Yeah, so I will share the thing that I'm gonna look at. My, I actually have a quilt laying under my computer right now. And it is a quilt that my mother made for my husband and I when we got married. So that was, you know, you know how many years ago, 25 years ago, more than that. But it's just, it's a beautiful quilt. She makes a lot of quilts and it's just a really special, special quilt to me.
Tina: All right. And my object, I have in my office here a brick that is from my elementary school that was taken down when they were building the new library in the town and my mom, my husband and I both went to this elementary school. So yeah, that's my object. And honestly, it has sat in my office for so long. And now that I've been asked to think about it, I'm like, hey, how about that?
Jake: So, so let's just take a moment each of us and just focus on the object in Serena's case. It's the quilt and in Tina's case. It's the brick and for me, it's this glass globe. So I'll just kind of walk us through this. Each one of us will just focus on that and allow ourselves to really connect with what it is that we value and appreciate about this object, really fill yourself with that. And then inhale, this is the waiting. Take that in, take it in fully and then exhale a little bit longer than normal. And I do this often. So I can tell you my experience, but I'm more curious to know what's going on for you too.
Serena: So I'd say I just have a general feeling of my body relaxing, sort of into that moment and time froze for a moment, right? I just, I was very focused.
Tina: Same, I guess I really am feeling that I was perhaps anxious that I didn't even know because we do this all the time, right? To talk to this new person and about something I didn't, I didn't know, you never know how it's gonna go. And I think just being in that moment, I feel that Serena just that relaxation in my body and all those wonderful memories that flood in thinking about my elementary days and yeah.
Jake: Right, these are great examples. And there is something called the awe spectrum and what that suggests is that awe can be a very mild experience. It can be what Tina was just describing where you go from feeling a little bit anxious, a little bit unsure. And then you feel yourself sort of letting down, the tension goes away, it melts away and you feel more relaxed. That's fairly mild response, where it can be deeper than that and actually Serena mentioned an interesting thing. She said, time froze. And that actually is one of the most profound parts of the awe method is that it takes us into a state of consciousness where time disappears, freezes, expands, however word we wanna use to describe it, the point is we go to a place of timelessness. And that has all sorts of significant implications because when we enter timelessness, a great deal of our anxiety goes away. All of our mental chatter goes away. Our concerns about the future our regrets about the past. They're no longer present. They don't exist when we're in that state. Now we can't live there, we can't be there all the time. And many spiritual practices are designed to help people get to this place, this experience of timelessness. The challenge is that some of the practices are very demanding, either requiring a lot of time or effort or years of practice.
What we found is that using this simple technique that we just did, the awe method, we can access what's called spacious consciousness where we experience the timelessness. When we experience timelessness, we tend to be more generous, we tend to be less anxious, we are more considerate of other people because we're not feeling any urgency. So it brings about all of these qualities that help us both relax and connect more effectively with other people.
Tina: I love that. And really, in less than one minute, I mean, that was less than one minute.
Jake: Less than a minute. And we say that the benefits of this are in less than a minute a day, which I find that a little salesy and a little bad with saying it. But I didn't pick the subtitle.
Tina: Okay, but really, I mean, being feeling that daunting meditation thing, well, I would buy the book first of all because of that. But truly, it didn't take us more than a minute, right?
Jake: No, no. And it really is about a 15 to 20 second process. And then for people who do it a lot, like I've done it, a great deal over two years, it actually happens for me very quickly and oftentimes spontaneously, I can be looking at something and all of a sudden, I'll feel myself inhaling, entering this state, exhalation, and then I have, in my case, what are these sort of shimmer of energy that goes up my spine? And that is on the more extreme end of the awe spectrum. We actually call that an awegasmic experience A-W-E. And it is something that is really, it activates our nervous system in a very healthy way. It puts us into a state that supports health at every level, both physiological and emotional.
Serena: And are there any sort of suggestions about like how often we should be doing? Clearly, at least once a day, but is there, have you done research around how much of this this takes, how much we should be doing?
Jake: Yeah, so I can tell you that when we did this study, we asked people to do it a minimum of three times a day. So everybody agreed and committed, they did it three times a day and we saw these significant benefits. However, there were people who did it more than that. And there was something that's known as a dose response. And what that means is that the more they did it, the more they dosed on awe, the better their results. And so what I say to people who want to do this is why don't you do it once in the morning shortly after you get up? So you rise in the morning and in my case, I'm in Hawaii. So I go outside, I stand on the lawn, look at something beautiful and I take myself through this and it takes less than a minute. And then typically, I'll do do it once during the day. And then every night before I go to bed, I go out on the porch, look at the stars and I do it then. And it feels to me like it's a beautiful way to book end my day. I start on this sort of uplifting experience and I end on this uplifting and clarifying experience that I think helps me sleep better.
Serena: It?s your favorite Tina, sleep.
Tina: My favorite to sleep and honestly, I have to say I'm adding this to my sleep routine just telling you Serena, just in case you're keeping track of my sleep routine. Because I do a lot of deep breathing in, especially if I've had seen something stressful or been experiencing a little bit of higher anxiety when I go to bed, I do a lot of deep breathing. But I think this is like a new take on that. I could go and witness something beautiful and do the Awe method as a part of my sleep routine, Jake, you've just added to my mental health toolbox.
Jake: Great, that's why I love it. Yes. I also want to point out that we all did experiences by using an object. So a brick, a quilt, a glass globe. But you could do this by look, if you have a cat or a dog or an animal that you cherish, you could be doing it while you're looking at your animal. You could do it while you're looking at each other or while you're looking at your spouse. You could do it when you're looking at a child. You can do this in the privacy of your mind. You could be going to bed, your eyes are closed. You want to have an Awe moment to settle your nervous system. So you think back upon a memory, either of a person, a place, or an experience that just deeply moves you. And you focus on that. So the source of the stimulation, the source of the awe, is always available to us.
And this is what was so unique when we did our research, almost all the awe research that was done before ours, they used extraordinary sources of stimulation. So they were using virtual reality and giving people these amazing experiences where they would take people out into the redwoods and have them stand at the base of a redwood, which is just phenomenal if you've never done it. So what we're excited about is that we've developed something that people can do, literally, any time, any place. With, I would say one exception, which is the metaphor of if you're being chased by a tiger. If something is going on that's really life-threatening, this is probably not a realistic thing to do.
Tina: So I have to confess the first time when I was reading your book. I often snuggle on my couch with my dogs and me. And I literally looked into my puppy's eyes. I have a dog that looks straight into your eyes. I don't know if all dogs do this, but she does. And I did it. So that was my first time ever.
Jake: Nice, and not all dogs do do that. Some connect more than others. And so it sounds like you have a dog that can connect.
Serena: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, so we need to, we need to share with our listeners where they can get your book, tell them where to find it.
Jake: I'm happy to do that. I want to give one suggestion first, which is a way people can use this. You could sort of say preemptively or intentionally, which is, let's say that you need to go and have a conversation, maybe with your partner. And you think it's a potentially challenging conversation. So what we normally do is we constrict when we think we're going to have a conversation that's difficult. And that sets a tone that's not particularly helpful. If we were to take a moment and access awe, access this state of spaciousness before we have the conversation, it changes everything. It changes our voice tonality. It changes our nervous system. And the other person picks up on this. What's even better is if the other person knows the awe method. And so if my wife and I need to talk about something that maybe we don't agree on, we'll say, let's just take a moment, let's access a state of awe, and then let's discuss whatever it is that we need to talk about. And it's a beautiful way to encourage what might have been a difficult conversation to be a comfortable conversation, a more connected conversation. And awe is known as a pro-social emotion. It's one of the powers of it, is that it helps us connect with other people, and it helps us feel more connected to other people. So that's just a really, to me, it's a really nice way that we can use this in a very intentional way to help ourselves.
Tina: Awesome. So we're curious as we bring this episode to a close, is there anything that you haven't told our listeners about that you want to kind of put out there to the world?
Jake: I guess the main thing, we've talked around it. I've referred to the fact that awe takes us into a different state of consciousness. And in addition to developing the awe method, we also created a model called three levels of consciousness. And I won't go into a lot of detail, but very simply, most of the time, we are living in what's known as safety consciousness. We're very focused, productive, taking care of business, trying to get things done, all of which is fine, but it's a constricted state. We can easily shift into a state that's a higher level of consciousness, known as heart consciousness. And we do that by accessing gratitude or appreciation. And as soon as we do that, it shifts our physiology. And a lot of people know how to do that. It's a fairly common practice these days, gratitude practices. But then the level above that is the one that the three of us have been talking about. That's the level called spacious consciousness. That's the timelessness. And it's a state where there's no words to truly describe the experience.
And in some ways, when you have a moment of awe, I say to people, you may not want to describe it. You may want to just let it be what it was. But the reason I'm talking about this is because so many people try to solve the problems they have when they're in safety consciousness by being in safety consciousness. So for example, I was a therapist for 30 years and people would come to me and their issues were always about safety consciousness. And they always tried to solve them while being in that state. And it's a limited state. It has boundaries. If we can learn to take ourselves to a higher level of consciousness and then look at the concerns, the issues, the challenges we have, we're going to be much more creative, much more open-minded. We're going to see many more possibilities. And this is not a difficult thing to do. Awe, the awe method is one way to shift our state of consciousness. And so I encourage listeners to just be aware that sometimes we limit ourselves by not realizing we're stuck at a particular level of consciousness.
Tina: Mm-hmm. That makes a lot of sense. Appreciate you putting that out there to the world and to us.
Jake: Yeah. Happy to.
Tina: So, Jake, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing this incredibly powerful tool that we can all put into our mental health tool boxes.
Jake: My pleasure. I want to get this out into the world and share it with as many people as possible. And I think you started to ask where people can get more information.
Tina: Yes, please, yep.
Jake: Our website is thepowerofawe.com. And on our website, people can buy the book or they can actually find it at any online retailer or many of the ones that sell books. We also have some practice exercises that people can do to experience awe where we kind of step you through how to do this. And then we have a place where people can post moments of awe that you've had. In other words, you could take your own experience and share it with others where you can see what others have shared. And it's very contagious, awe is a contagious emotion. When you're around somebody who tells you their moment of awe, it's likely to stimulate a moment of awe for you. And then we will be doing, I'll mention this and it's time sensitive so I don't know if it's helpful or not. But we will be doing another study at UC Davis. And this is for people who are suffering with long COVID. And we're going to start this study, I believe in early March. And it is to help people who are struggling with long COVID and haven't found a good solution. And we have reason to believe that the awe method will provide some relief. It's not a cure, but it will provide some relief for people who are in this very difficult circumstance, dealing with an illness that we don't currently know what to do. We don't know how to help these people. But the awe method, I think, can be very useful.
Tina: That's awesome. And will there be information on your website about being a part of that?
Jake: There will be, I just don't know if it's up yet. And I will also give you an email address if people are looking for more specifics. They can always write to firstname.lastname@example.org. And that would go to me as well as Dr. Michael Amster. And one of us will get back to you.
Tina: That's perfect, excellent. Again, thanks for joining us.
Jake: My pleasure.
Serena: Yeah, thanks, Jake. It was really coming away with lots of great, I say lots of tools. It's one tool, but it's super powerful. Yeah. Thank you. And so podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. We know you have lots of choices out there. And we really appreciate you taking the time, spending some time with us today. You can help us out by visiting Apple Podcasts. Leave us a review while you're there. Subscribe and share the podcast with others. You'll find more content on our website, noneedtoexplainpodcast.com.
Tina: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Serena: Thanks for listening.