How to Make Meditation (and Isolation) Actually Work For You w/ Shinzen Young (031)

July 31, 2019

MTW GUEST Shinzen Young

Can you learn to be happy no matter your external conditions?

How does meditation, or simple mindfulness, play a big role in that?

Don’t see any benefit when you meditate? (try the technique in this episode)

Shinzen Young is the author of the groundbreaking book, The Science of Enlightenment.

This episode will appeal more to you if you’re specifically interested in meditation and deep spiritual practice. 

Shinzen Young is first a scientist and researcher, committed to taking, as he says in his book, “the Mist out of Mysticism” … Initially interested in religious thought from a more academic perspective, once he started peering down deep into the well of particularly eastern spiritual traditions, well, seems to me he fell in, and tumbled like Alice down the rabbit hole.

In 1970, for his doctoral dissertation in Buddhist studies at the University of Wisconsin, he actually went to Mount Kōya, a remote mountain monastery in Japan where he trained and ordained as a monk in the Shingon tradition of Buddhism, becoming the first Westerner ever to complete the Shingon basic training. 

From there, his fascinating journey far beyond pure academic interest began.

Shinzen has trained extensively in each of three additional Buddhist traditions: Vajrayana, Zen, and Vipassana, and he has now practiced, taught, and researched meditation for nearly 50 years. 

Being predisposed to science and research, he’s brilliant at illuminating the abstract concepts of meditation with fundamental theories of math and physics. He’s collaborated with neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Vermont, to study meditation’s effects on the brain and body, and in service of his search for technological ways to stimulate and enhance mindfulness in individuals … you know, how to get the benefits of 50 years of meditation practice, say, into 50 minutes! Be forewarned … no one’s figured it out yet.

I spent a lot of time preparing for Shinzen’s interview, studying his materials, reading his brilliant book, even studying with one of his meditation teachers, Steve James, who introduced me to Shinzen’s teachings. But when we began to speak, I immediately felt painfully ill-prepared. The man is brilliant. His wisdom, profound. You’ll see he schools me straightaway as I attempt to ask a relatable question that doesn’t quite land the way I hoped. 

This episode is more technical than many episodes, and I fear I jump around a bit as to make it difficult to follow at times – you can certainly email me at [email protected] to let me know – but Shinzen takes time to break down a potent mindfulness meditation practice that uses the 6 components of the human experience – what we see, hear, feel, externally, and what we see hear feel, internally – 6 components of our everyday experience that we can focus on in meditation – or anytime we choose to – a technique that can not only make us happier in our lives by helping us make better decisions informed by deeper clarity, but can also ultimately yield an experience of enlightenment, one available to everyone who seeks it … including you. 

So bear with me as I help us find our way, and definitely stay tuned for Shinzen’s 1 Key Insight at the end of this episode of Men, This Way … 

Alright … 

Let’s dive …


9:44 ~ Schools of Buddhism and relationships
15:33 ~ Isolation, loneliness, and happiness
24:18 ~ The dichotomy of the potential benefits and detrimental effects of isolation
30:01 ~ “Complete experience” as the centerpiece of happiness independent of conditions
30:48 ~ Three mindfulness skills: concentration power, sensory clarity, and equanimity
34:59 ~ The discovery of the capability to cultivate attentional skills
40:21 ~ External conditions for happiness
46:31 ~ Why people would violate good conduct
49:48 ~ Skillful action in the world
58:07 ~ Difficulties with seeing the benefits of meditation
59:34 ~ Helpful suggestions for those starting meditation
1:06:48 ~ Quick fixes
1:14:30 ~ What men need to know to do intimate relationships well
1:16:33 ~ The four pillars of practice


Find Shinzen @ and

Shinzen’s book “The Science of Enlightenment”@

Shinzen’s Periodic Table of Happiness

Home Practice @

Life Practice @

Also, learn about retreats Bryan is involved with at

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