Ever wish you could escape your thoughts? 

I have, especially on days when my mind was fixated on my failures and uncertainty of the future. On all the things I wanted to be - but wasn’t. Wanted to do - but couldn’t. Wanted to have - but didn’t.

Mired in my negativity bias, or “pity committee”, my thoughts used to be like a playlist of songs written by my own worst enemy (me) looping endlessly. It felt like there was a war waging inside my mind. Like I was living on a battleground. 

But what if there was an easy way to get out of that cycle? To rid yourself of those self-destructive thought-patterns. To turn that battleground into a playground? Would you try it?

The monkey mind...and me

Let’s go back 22 years.

I had just taken - and failed - the MCAT. I was awash in self-pity, my self-esteem in the gutter, my mind jumping from one self-deprecating thought to the next.

This was real. Monkey mind had taken hold and wasn’t letting go.

So what did I do? 

I took a thorough analysis into the study and practice of meditation and mindfulness.

Now before I go on, I have to say I am not telling YOU to drop everything in your life and join an ashram hoping to leave all of your self-defeating thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors behind. While that was one of the best decisions of my life, what I want to share with you is the short-cut to making the best decisions of your life. This is the abridged version of the ashram experience right here for the taking. You in? Good!

So I studied advanced meditation techniques under the guidance of Dr. Muata Ashby in religious studies, and joined an ashram in Miami founded by Swami Jyotirmayananda. I started a daily mindfulness and meditation practice, and I immediately felt the effects. I got a glimpse of what life was like... off the battleground.

And it was good!

The monkey mind...and you

Perhaps like me, you’ve tried different ways of quieting the mind, dealing with stress, finding inner peace, and living more in the present moment. And maybe some of them have worked for you. And maybe some of them have not.

Prior to my deep dive into the practice of meditation one thing I tried was hatha yoga, the physical postures or asana practice that characterizes much of the yoga that is offered in the west. I started in 1997 when I was a student at Florida International University. While I enjoyed the physical benefits of the practice, I still struggled with the negative playlist of songs constantly running through my mind. And when I failed the MCAT, the volume on that playlist got turned up to full-blast.

But through the simple practice of 10 minutes of daily meditation, I could dial it way down.

Yoga - so much more than meets the eye

What I discovered under the guidance of Professor Muata Ashby and at Swamiji’s ashram is that the deeper aspects of yoga that I had not learned were the parts I needed the most. Here are the components of Integral Yoga, all of which hold as the goal the union of the limited self with the absolute Self. Ultimately, this practice helps unite our mind and body with more peace, love, and equanimity.

Hatha - the physical practice of yoga, used to strengthen and purify the body and mind.

Raja - the balance and control of the mind through the “eight limbs” described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Also known as the royal path of meditation yoga.

Jñāna - detachment from preoccupations of the body and mind through study, wisdom, and knowledge. Also known as the path of knowledge or wisdom yoga.

Bhakti - the use of prayer and devotional service to transcend the ego. Also known as the path of experiencing oneness with all of creation or the yoga of devotion.

Karma - fulfilling one’s duties without attachment to the results. Also known as the yoga of action under one's unique life purpose (dharma).

Japa - meditation through sound vibration or mantra. In this practice one can repeat any sacred sound from any spiritual tradition to engender peace.

Which of these speaks most to you?

You’re already doing it

Now, take a moment to think about how you are already using one or more of these branches of yoga in your life. 

Are you a parent? 

Do you have relationships important to you - with people, animals, nature, a higher power? 

Do you have an established spiritual practice from your upbringing or of your own choosing? 

Your love and care for your children, nurturing important relationships, and commitment to a spiritual practice are all forms of yoga of devotion (Bhakti yoga).

Is there work or a creative endeavor that you are passionate about and that you perform selflessly? 

This is yoga of action (Karma yoga).

Do you have a contemplative practice that brings you peace of mind and gets you out of the pressure cooker of time? 

This is a form of intense mindfulness and concentration known as Raja yoga.

Do you devour books and love gaining new knowledge? 

Gaining new knowledge without preoccupation with the results is yoga of wisdom (Jñāna yoga).

Think about how you go about your duties regarding these unique aspects of your life. How do you nurture and honor them? How do you contribute to the community or larger world through them? How do they help you be the best version of yourself?

10 Minutes a Day To a New You

So many of us are daunted when we hear the words “yoga” and “meditation”. We fear that we’re “not flexible enough” or that we’re “doing it wrong”. 

This is just not true.

First, yoga is foremost about experiencing more peace, serenity, and love. The different branches are all ways to get to that state of union with your higher qualities, of connection with our best self.

How you get there is completely up to you.

For me, 10 minutes of meditation practice a day helped me make the leap from the battle ground to the playground. I could deal with my monkey mind and reign it in when needed. Here’s how I do it.

In my previous blog I discuss my favorite meditation technique step by step:

Self-Care Plan To Stay Sane During The QuarantIne

I also discuss 12 of my favorite meditation techniques in my book: 

Three Steps to Superior Health: An Evidence-Based Guide for Stress Reduction, Longevity, and Weight Loss 

Also, there is a free step by step guide from a world renowned Harvard researcher that is free online here:


Lessons from the path

Turns out, failing the MCAT was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Looking back, I feel grateful for this failure at such a pivotal time in my life. It led me to this practice. It set me on the path towards my life’s work. And as you know, I went on to become a doctor, but the detour I took along the way gave me the tools I needed for genuine success. In my definition, genuine success is experiencing more union with peace, serenity, and love.

Just 10 minutes a day can help you live the life you want. Try it and see for yourself!