About Jeff

Who are you and what do you do?
Photo credit: Aous Poules

I make meditation and practice accessible to diverse audiences in order to help people live more fulfilled and connected lives. I’ve taught meditation to suspicious journalists, US Army cadets, burned-out caregivers, Arizona cops, formerly-incarcerated youth, virtuoso popstars, distractible teens, and every other conceivable demographic of freethinker, including squirmy six-year old kids.  I try to do this in a way that’s rigorous and clear and adventurous.

Home Base is my studio for building and sharing free meditations. Each week I write about some aspect of life, and this is always accompanied by a short guided audio meditation on the same theme. You can also sit with me live every week via the “Do Nothing Project” on YouTube, and adventure with me through every kind of practice at the Mind Bod Adventure Pod.

I’m also the co-author, along with Dan Harris and Carlye Adler, of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. Writing that book led to another unexpected specialty, which is speaking openly about how meditation has – and hasn’t – helped with my own mental health challenges, from ADHD to excessive energy to various flavours of moody agonizing. I’ve spoken about this on the Joe Rogan Experience, the Ten Percent Happier podcast, and other public forums.

I think a lot about  democratizing the teaching of meditation and other mental health-related practices. I wrote a “Community Practice Activation Kit” to inspire people around the world to start their own local practice groups, available for free.

In my teaching I also try to highlight the wondrous and transforming side of exploring consciousness. You can find examples of my guided meditations over on Substack, and on the Calm and Ten Percent Happier apps.

How did you get into this?

By accident. I used to work as a journalist for CBC Radio’s The Current and Ideas. I got interested in how the mind works, and started producing radio documentaries on the subject. I wrote articles for The New York TimesThe New ScientistDiscover and others (two of these pieces won gold medals at Canada’s National Magazine Awards).

In the early 2000s, I began working on a book about the science and experience of waking, sleeping and dreaming. The Head Trip was published by Random House in 2007, and was recently named one of the Top 10 Books About Consciousness by the UK Guardian (see other reviews). The New Scientist published a short summary here.

As part of my research, I began attending retreats. Meditation did not come easily for me. I was and am an impulsive over-thinking worrier. I’d rather think about all the things that could happen in meditation than actually do the practice.

Very slowly, I learned to observe these and other quite painful and ridiculous habit patterns. In the observing, they became less acute.

I would love to say that meditation has bequeathed me with perfect mental hygiene – alas, not true.

So I decided to teach it!

Shinzen Young and student 653, whose name he cannot recall

This happened at the urging of Shinzen Young, with whom I’ve been studying since 2008. Shinzen is also an over-thinker, so there’s hope. The fact that he likes to drink Diet Coke and watch mixed-martial arts in his undershirt while he guides people in meditation over the phone obviously sealed the mentorship deal for me.

In 2011 I founded The Consciousness Explorers Club (CEC), a meditation think tank and community hub. Our motto is “being human takes practice.” The idea from the beginning has been to explore what a genuinely pluralistic and inclusive and non-hierarchical path of practice looks like for the 21st century. One that includes fools and neurotics and the defiantly unenlightened of all persuasions.

That’s the main summary. If you feel like continuing, I over-explain more below.

What kinds of practices do you teach?

Anything that helps people live with more perspective and equanimity and sense of humour and less of the shitty opposite of these things. Many are guided meditations and life practices inspired by Buddhism and mindfulness (see acknowledgements).

I try to learn from other traditions and practices too, so at the CEC we explore psychotherapy and trauma-informed practices, relational practices, nondual practices, body and movement-based practices, art practices, music practices, and – back in the day – preposterous but highly satisfying air-guitar practices.

That sounds helpful.

I think a lot of our understanding about how to live well comes from art and story and lounging around with friends. Many domains of human life can be approached as a practice. The key is do the experiment. Don’t just read about a practice – try it on, see how it works for you.

Isn’t it important to choose one path or technique and just stick with it?

multifaceteddiamond“One thing at a time” is a good rule of thumb when it comes to making adjustments to the many moving parts of the human nervous system. Otherwise how would you know what was having what effect?

Having said that, it’s also healthy to explore other paths and techniques, especially once you’ve neurotically screwed up the old one.

Shinzen once made a helpful distinction between people who are naturally “poly-spiritual” and others who are more “mono-spiritual.” The first navigate different teachers, traditions and approaches and find complementarities – a single jewel with many facets. The second do the same and find conflict and contradiction.

I think a pluralistic philosophy works well for moderns.

Anything else?

One of my heroes is the American psychologist, philosopher and mystic William James. James made a famous distinction between the “once-born” and the “twice-born” religious temperaments.

“By George, nothing but othing!”

The first, he said, had temperaments “organically weighted on the side of cheer.” It’s easy to be positive for the once-born – everything is peace and love and Jesus surfing a wave of Mountain Dew. These are lovely people with buoyant dispositions that are a pleasure to be around.

Twice-born temperaments, on the other hand, are more complicated. They can’t wave away the world’s manifestly unfair distribution of privilege and hardship, and they’re generally unable to accept so-called “unseen realities” on faith alone. Their journey into spiritual feeling is more hard-won, the result of a lot of agonized fumbling and confusion.

This is how it happened for me. I was an atheist for a long time. It was only through meditation and the study of consciousness that I began to orient to the possibilities of Spirit.

Spirituality begins and ends in consciousness. It’s about subjective experience, not objective fact. Among other things, this means we can choose to find meaning in the world around us.

This was a choice that James himself made and was the root of his pragmatism, the school of philosophy he helped create. He made this choice with eyes open to life’s paradoxes and challenges.

To be twice-born is to find your way into a genuinely mature and humanistic spirituality.

It is my privilege to connect to others in this way, and the focus of my life’s work. That, and hiding my gas, for dairy does not agree with me.

“To talk with Jeff Warren is to be exhilarated. His intelligence and openness are such that you yourself feel a hundred times more intelligent and open. He performs a kind of compassionate magic. He gives me hope.”
– Barbara Gowdy, author of The White Bone

Move over William James, the last word goes to the Silver Surfer
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