An Unconventional Approach to Modern Mindfulness with Cory Allen

Episode 306

An Unconventional Approach to Modern Mindfulness with Cory Allen

Making mindfulness part of your daily life, especially when you’ve never done it before, can be incredibly difficult. In fact, many beginners struggle to stick with it. They get distracted by their thoughts, think that they’re not good enough at meditation, and ultimately give up before experiencing the life-enhancing benefits that are available to all of us.

Cory Allen understands this well. He’s the host of the Astral Hustle podcast and author of Now Is The Way: An Unconventional Approach To Modern Mindfulness. In his book, he explores how to use mindfulness not as a means to chill out for a few minutes in the morning and at night, but a way to rewire and retrain your brain to be conscious and present all day long.

Today, Cory joins the podcast to share what he’s learned from his countless conversations with leaders at the forefront of mindfulness, neuroscience, and philosophy. You’ll discover how his book addresses the complexities of modern society, technology, and the internet, none of which existed 50 years ago when so many classic texts on meditation were written.

 

Cory Allen

Clear away all of the barriers and negative self-talk in your mind to allow the fullness of what you are come through and flow out into the world.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • How a challenging home life led Cory to turn his inner world into his sanctuary.
  • What the mindfulness gap is – and why it’s so easy for people to say “I’m fine” when they’re hunched over, tensed up, and seemingly wearing an uncomfortable suit of armor.
  • The main reasons so many meditation practices don’t last, or don’t seem like they’re working – and why repetition is key to your success.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

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TRANSCRIPT

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Hal Elrod: Hey, goal achievers. Welcome to another episode of the Achieve Your Goals Podcast. Not just any other episode though. This one’s going to be special and you’ll soon find out why. Today’s actually going to be kind of interesting in that occasionally you hear me chat with somebody where really, I’m new to that person’s work. Occasionally, I have my friends on or people that I’ve studied or followed or been mentored by for a long time. And in this case, our guest today, Cory Allen, was recommended to me by a mutual friend, Aubrey Marcus, and Aubrey Marcus, you may know he’s the CEO of ONNIT. We’ve had him on the podcast before and Aubrey gives Cory the most glowing recommendation for his work, well, for him as a person first of all, but his work in the meditation space and specifically his new book, Now Is The Way: An Unconventional Approach To Modern Mindfulness. And today we’re going to dive into what makes it unconventional and how can you apply it? How can I apply it? And really you and I as the listener, we’re here to get to know Cory and I’m excited to dive in. 

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

Hal Elrod: So, Cory, welcome. 

 

Cory Allen: Hey. Thanks so much, Hal. 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, Aubrey, now I know you guys have been friends a while but did you have to, I mean, is this guy on payroll? He speaks so highly of you or is it just that he knows you really well? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s that we just spend a lot of formative years together like I was the first guest on his podcast way back in the day. 

 

Hal Elrod: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s huge. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. We met in a sort of a really bizarre way in that, yeah, back in the day he was trying to set up his gear in his old house to like start his podcast and I caught wind of that somehow. In my previous life, I was an audio producer, engineer, and started an audio production company which I still do. But that was when I was doing it full time at that time and I was like, “Yeah, I could help you out with that.” So, we never talked to anything before and he’s like, “Yeah, just come on over, man. Let’s check it out.” So, I went over to his place and he’s had a big pile of gear on his kitchen table and I set it up. And what’s funny is that I was like 30 or something and Aubrey was 31 at the time. Just little babies. 

 

Hal Elrod: Babies?

 

Cory Allen: Yep. And I had it all set up and I was like, “All right. Well, let’s test it real quick,” and he’s like, “All right.” We just started talking and he’s like asked me a question and I remember I said, “What is ISNIS?” It went from there and that ended up being his first podcast. 

 

Hal Elrod: Get out of here. Just totally impromptu?

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. And since then it was funny that he had started on it I think maybe a year before that or something like that. It was very, very new. And it was back whenever it was on First Street on Cesar Chavez on the east side in Austin, just a little tiny building, not even buildings, this little tiny office space with like four employees and I went over there and checked it out. So, it was pretty fun to see the very earliest days of ONNIT when it was barely anything and just watching it scale to where it is now and Aubrey and I’ve gone through a lot of stuff together and, yeah, just a beautiful, a beautiful friendship and relationship. We’ve learned a lot from each other, I think, because we are very different people. But where we overlap, I think 

there’s a lot of potential for value and just and potency as far as being human goes.

 

Hal Elrod: I want to dive into what you just said and draw out the first kind of unplanned, unexpected lesson which is you mentioned that you and Aubrey, you’ve got a deep love for each other, a friendship that spanned over a decade. But you said that you’re very different people and yet at the same time, there is, I don’t know the exact word to use, but there’s an alignment that makes it work. So, what is that? What do you feel like, in order for us in any relationship, whether it’s a friendship or a romantic relationship, what needs to be caught like what can be different and what needs to be common? Or what’s important? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. A lot of people as they’re growing up, they often look at ways that they can make the world more like them and then get frustrated whenever people that they meet or things that they like aren’t like them, and they tend to kind of judge it or whatever it might be, or create an other out of it. And I think as you get older or hopefully as you do a little bit of inner investigation into yourself, you’ll find that like a path with less suffering, more wonder and more excitement is whenever you look to the world and see how you’re like it, as in how you can make yourself more like it. And so, if you take that approach into your interpersonal relationships, you can find that by knowing people and meeting people who are somewhat similar in some ways that have some shared interests, but have a very diverse approach to the world otherwise, you can really connect in becoming kind of co-mentors or co-teachers of each other. 

 

Because the fundamental nature of how one person sees the world is so different than the next person, the next person, the next person. And if you are open to that and you find just that little bit of connective tissue, which you can find is almost anybody, but you can find, of course, stronger versions and not as strong versions of that. But if you find that and then start sharing some of your world with that person and they share some of their world with you, you can really continue to add to the map of your understanding of yourself, of people, of life forever and ever if you keep doing that. So, openness, lack of judgment, and flexibility and a willingness to actually listen I think will keep you growing for a long, long time.

 

Hal Elrod: That’s a beautiful perspective and I think it counters to what we naturally tend to do, which is gravitate toward people that are like us, right? “You’ve got my exact same set of beliefs. Oh, we can be friends.”

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. 

 

Hal Elrod: “You think about the world exactly like I do. Oh, we’re a match made in heaven.” But it’s like, we then live in a really limited box. Our vantage point becomes very narrow I think when we don’t and I’m guilty of that. I mean, who doesn’t like to hang out with other like-minded, of course, but, yeah, I love what you shared and how that can expand your vision for yourself and the world and what’s possible. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. It’s all a spectrum of course too, man, like it’s great. Like one of my best friends in the world is we are like 80% similar and that’s a beautiful, comfortable, fun, you can get deep in another way there but then, as you said, knowing these other people who are very different, you kind of are casting the net in a different way. And as you mentioned, people really like seeking themselves. It’s always hilarious. I’m sure you were like the listeners have had a friend in the past. It’s like, “Man, I’m dating this person. She’s so awesome. She’s like me, but a lady,” and then you’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and then a month later you’re like, “How is so and so?” And they’re like, “Ah, you know, she’s crazy. I can’t stand her. We’re not together anymore.” It’s like, “Uh-huh.” 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. Like for me, I’ve always remained friends with my exes and that was always a weird thing to me. I’m like, wait, you used to tell a person you love them every single day and now you’re disgusted like what? I don’t understand. How deep was that love? Well, let’s dive into or start peeling back the onion a bit on you how you became – I want to ask this the right way. How are you into the work that you’re into now? You mentioned that you were previously a sound engineer, that sort of thing. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. 

 

Hal Elrod: And now you’ve got this book, Now Is The Way: An Unconventional Approach To Modern Mindfulness. It’s got rave reviews. People love it. Your podcast, the Astral Hustle is hugely popular so all of those things, but let’s start out with the meditation, specifically, how did you get into meditation? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. It really came around by necessity and some chance. Basically, I came to it as a teenager, completely on my own. Because of my background, my environment that I grew up in, there’s a lot of challenges and various things like that and a lot of I will say challenging dynamics that I grew up in. And so, what I had done was I kind of created this shell sort of from the outer world and I was very much lived in my head, lived in my body, not necessarily always in a good way by any means. And one day, I had this kind of Viktor Frankl moment, a very, very minute version of that, and I realized that no matter what was going on outside of me, in my mind I’m free. I can do and think whatever I want and I’m free in here and this will become like my sanctuary. My inner life became my sanctuary. 

 

And so, then by complete chance, I overheard someone talking about if they could have dinner with two people or whatever, living or dead, who would they be? And I just remember Nietzsche was one of those names and I just sort of It’s a cool-sounding word. It’s stuck in the back of my mind. And I was then going through a bookstore later. I randomly saw that name on the back of the book. And I was like, “Oh, there’s that cool looking name,” and I went over and I pulled it out. And I looked at it, I started reading it, you know, like everyone, whoever, you’re a teenager, you feel very incompatible with the rest of the world like you don’t really click. You’re trying to find yourself and find your place and all that type of stuff. I very much felt that way. 

 

When I read Nietzsche, I was like, “Oh, my God, this is how I think. It’s not what I think. It’s kind of the mathematics of how my mind works. I become obsessed with philosophy. And I just got, I always had like, a really obsessive personality so I’ll just go and this is some of that living in your mind type of thing coming out. Like I would go into a read like for six to eight hours a day every day for years and years and years. And I just started finding like this is the 90s, of course, so there wasn’t like Google. And this was very much like, okay, well what authors or what themes or subjects or whatever does this book reference? And I go get those books and it’s, okay, now what did they mention? Who did they reference in this? And I go get those books. It was a real natural organic web of connectivity that kind of created this map that I was walking this path on and pretty much digested the western Canada philosophy, sort of an obsessive mania. 

 

And some of those bridges between like Schopenhauer and some things like that, that sort of nodded to Eastern thought made me go over and get interested in eastern thought. And whenever I first started reading those books, I had the same type of experience that was like, “Wow. Not only this is how I think but this is what I think.” This is kind of an ethos in which I think is a really valuable way to exist in the world and in a way to contribute to the world and in that was, of course, a lot of talking discussion about meditation. So, that’s how I found meditation was just completely random, you know, no one in my entire life system or family, they weren’t even readers much less interested in philosophy or psychology or Eastern thought. Yeah, so that’s how I found it and got to it. And I began just practicing in my room completely autodidactically reading out of books and kind of have more as I was growing up, I definitely had a very much an issue with authority or systems or any of that type of stuff. 

 

And so, I never liked the idea of following one school of practice, not only in meditation or whatever, but also just in philosophies and things like that. I found that what made sense to me and I think I was very much influenced by Alfred Korzybski who was the father of General Semantics and non-Aristotelian thought systems. And that hit me, I didn’t really have the language for it at the time but that hit me in this way. You know, one of the things he describes, essentially is that, A, in the west we tend to think that things are either A or B in his big thing was things are A and B at the same time, most times. And he also came up with the term the map is not the territory which Alan Watts then used a couple decades later as the menu is not the meal. And that really blew my brain open at a young age and I kind of took on all the things I studied and tried to learn with that approach of kind of realizing this multi-dimensional way of approaching knowledge and understanding, never finding like this is the answer, this is a useful tool amongst an infinitely complex array of understanding and perspectives of the self, which is perpetually evolving and changing as we continue to live. 

 

And so, I took the same approach to meditation which was like I never went into a school or a certain lineage. I just read as much stuff as I could, whether it be Sufi type of like heart-opening practices to the general Tibetan approaches to extremely terse Zen practices and things like that and just really like experimented with it all, found what felt the best to me and made the most sense and just kind of created my own approach.

 

Hal Elrod: So, it was like a best-of-kind of thing or at least best of in terms of what you felt what you resonated with the most. Now, you were what age when you started meditating? You said a teenager. 

 

Cory Allen: Yes, yes. 

 

Hal Elrod: And you’re at what age now? 

 

Cory Allen: I’m 37. 

 

Hal Elrod: Got it. So, meditating for 20 plus years. Okay. And then, well, I guess dive into what was life like after you started meditating? So, we just kind of got the before and how you discovered it. What changed for you? How quickly did you find it difficult like most people do where brains racing and they’re judging their own thoughts and so on and so forth? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. It came to me really naturally and that I think I was holding so much kind of like the teapot was screeching a lot at that time. And so, I just started off really basically and I started like, “Okay, I’m going to like lay down on the bed and just close my eyes,” and I’m going to start trying to just inhale and take some nice deep breaths and then as I exhale kind of relax the muscles in my body, my face, inhale again and just relax the muscles in my body and face and try and just kind of calm down. Because most of us, people are just all pretty frantic and fidgety and tight and grasping a lot of the times and they don’t often realize it because that’s a protection mechanism of the front brain. The ancient brain is feeling all of these things and all these stressors and the body is tense and tight and calcifying more by the day, but the frontal brain sees that as like this old modality of like, “Okay, the body must be facing a threat right now. I need to numb its awareness of the pain so they can make it through this threat and get on the other side of it.”  

 

However, the way that that is translated to the complexity of the modern world and all the ways that anxiety and distraction and the whole head trip of modern life gets laid upon us, that never goes away really those “threats”. We can’t get through it in the same traditional way. So, a lot of people thinking like, “Oh, I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine. My mind tells me I’m fine,” whenever their shoulders are rock hard, their back is shaped like a shell, like an armor defense mechanism, they’re hunched over, they’re tight, their breath is short, and all that type of stuff. And so, I was very much showing that way and just by calming down and just starting to settle down a little bit in my body, I begin feeling some spaciousness internally and by that, I mean there was room to breathe and I begin finding this spot. I talked about this in the book a little bit, what I call the mindfulness gap. 

 

I noticed the space between the arising impulse of my thoughts and the space of turning that thought into action. And as I noticed this tiny little gap of like, “Oh, wait a second, with by meditating, I’ve created this, have cultivated this internal space. And now I can actually begin to author my behavior.” You know, because most of us we’re acting out the programming, which we inherited from our family and our culture and our surroundings and just a chance for our life, when we get into this momentum of just reactionary living. And that’s why a lot of people feel like pushed around by life. They feel like they say things, they do things that they regret later is because they’re running on this operating system but they don’t realize it. They’re running. It’s running on their hard drive at all, right? And so, mindfulness and meditation is super useful because as you develop further and further and get deeper into it, that mindfulness gap gets wider and wider. 

 

And before you know it, you are in complete control of the arising of your consciousness and all of your thoughts and the things that you’re going to say and do and you stop reacting to life, you start responding to your life, and it becomes a very, very beautiful way to build the bridge into your future self.

 

Hal Elrod: And that points to what I think a lot of people confuse meditation or have a confusion about it or misunderstanding is the idea that the practice itself is the only benefit, right? 

 

Cory Allen: Right. 

 

Hal Elrod: Meaning that it’s like, well, I do this for 10 minutes in the morning and I feel calm during those 10 minutes and then that’s it. And it’s almost I know for me in the past when I was really struggling, my meditation was like, it was the only space in my day where I wasn’t stressed out. But what you’re talking about or at least, you know, let me echo what I’m hearing, but as using your meditation practice, using mindfulness in order to not just feel good for 10 minutes or however long your practice is but to rewire your brain and retrain your brain to be conscious and present all day long, all the time in all situations. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. And that’s a great, I’m glad to use that word rewire because the neuroplasticity effect of meditation is so huge and that’s why a lot of people try and stress this a lot when I talk about meditation is that it’s not, you know, meditating isn’t necessarily about length. Like a lot of people get the idea because of, I think, sort of the caricature and the cultural mind of meditation. It’s like, oh, you’re a bald guy with a beard which I happen to be but a bald guy with a beard on the side of a mountain, whatever, with a beautiful sunset and you’re going to meditate for eight hours a day or whatever it might be. And people kind of get the idea that seems a little bit, whatever. And so, then when they do decide to meditate, it’s like, all right, I got to sit down for two hours a day or whatever it is. 

 

It’s really that turns people off because you can’t start off at two hours a day. It’s like running or something like you don’t just go, “Well, I’ve never run before really but I’m going to start with a marathon.” It’s like no, you run, walk one mile then a week or two later, you run, walk two miles, and so forth and so forth and you keep building up to this thing. All the while you’re still getting exercise. It’s just your practice and running is getting deeper and deeper into your skillset and your body is changing on a biological level to be able to get into that space and your cardiovascular health is increasing so then you become more healthy and more fit over time. But it’s more damaging to just start and try and go, “I’m going to run 20 miles today. This is the first time I’ve ever run. You’re going to actually end up hurting yourself.” So, not that you’re going to hurt yourself meditating but what will happen is you become dissuaded by the whole idea to begin with because someone sits down there going to sit here for an hour and then their mind wanders, all the bells and whistles go off. 

 

Well, that didn’t work for me and it doesn’t feed forward into the rest of life. And they think, “Oh, I didn’t get any benefit of that.” But really, what’s important is repetition because whenever you meditate, it could even be five minutes a day, but doing it consecutively day after day, that’s really what starts causing the change. And as you mentioned earlier, it starts doing the rewiring of the brain. And you begin to feel that feeling that you talked about the “relaxation” during your meditation, that begins to slowly fade in. It’s like the sun coming up over the horizon just ever so slowly into your daily life. And then once you start feeling that, then you want to meditate because you go, “Wait a second. This is echoing on into my day. I’m starting to feel a bit more calm, be more present, a bit more aware, and a bit more in control.” And then as you go further and further, those benefits just continue to increase and that’s where the length comes. So, the length of meditation is like the deepening aspect of it, right? 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. So, it’s the whole do one push up today and then do two tomorrow and then do three the next, right? It’s just that slow, gradual increase to where, yeah, meditate for a minute today and then two tomorrow and literally, and then before you know it, you’re up to 20 then 30 minutes and an hour and even longer. 

 

Cory Allen: And that’s the tricky thing is that like because it’s a discipline of the mind and we live in such a material focused culture, like if you go to the gym, you can work out and you can see the changes in your body visually, you can see your muscles shifting, you can feel your clothes fitting differently. But since meditation is a practice of the mind, you have to pay attention to the buoyancy of your intellect and your emotion and how you’re feeling, how you see the world, and that’s a bit more slippery and nebulous for most people and harder for them to keep track of. And it usually in my experience and also what I’ve heard from a lot of people who have taken my course or listen to podcasts or whatever, is it sort of like hits them out of nowhere as they do that thing where they’re meditating for five minutes a day, a few weeks goes by, few months goes by and they’re like, “I’m really starting to feel this.” And then they find themselves in situation maybe at work or something where a coworker said something that normally they would have had this triggered reaction to and they didn’t that no reaction except for just awareness. And then they responded in a different way and, “Wait a second, where did that come from?”  It’s like it faded up enough to where it’s snuck up on the user, you know? 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. And I can share that experience of you’re doing it, you feel like and especially if you’re A-type personality, right? You’re like, “I’m not getting anything done. I could be answering emails right now.” But you stick with it and you get more acclimated. And you go from having those three-second gaps of total presence and mindfulness to they happen more often and they get a little longer. And then one day you wake up and you meditate. You’re like, “Oh my God, that was the best part of my day. I don’t want to go to work anymore.” Like I just want to keep meditating.

 

Cory Allen: Totally. 

 

Hal Elrod: And that’s it. And that’s like anything in life. Good things come to those who commit and persevere and stick with it and, yeah, it doesn’t happen very, very. I don’t know if I’ve met anybody that’s like, “Yeah. Day one, I nailed it.”

 

Cory Allen: There are people who claim spontaneous enlightenment. 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah.

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, spontaneous enlightenment. That’s what that is. 

 

Hal Elrod: I think that’s called psilocybin mushrooms, right? 

 

Cory Allen: Yes. But even with that you can have like that’s what with psychedelics, it’s like that’s just a doorway to more years of work and integration like the psychedelic is the only the key turning a lock, but you got to open the crate and go through all the stuff that’s in there afterwards. 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah, absolutely. I want to talk about you. You personally, you have a unique position with your podcast, you’ve interviewed/spoken with hundreds of leaders in the fields of mindfulness, neuroscience, philosophy. What have you learned about mindfulness from these individuals and anything else that you think is valuable? 

 

Cory Allen: Oh, man, I don’t even know where to start. I think I’d have to say that amongst all the people I’ve had the real honor and pleasure to get to talk to, a really important thing to remember is that everyone is human. No matter how impressive and wise that any of these people might be, they’re still people and I think it’s a good lesson for myself and for everyone else that listens to the show to remember that we have a real habit of, just kind of culturally, we have a habit of looking at people, anyone really, but particularly people that get a bit of attention or media or something like that. As this kind of cooked goose and say, “Okay, they’re done,” and they don’t have any problems. And I either need to strive to be that or I’m incomplete and I’m not enough because I’m not that thing. And that’s sort of you know, Instagram is a very, very…

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. Thinking that same. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, it’s riddled with that type of symptom and actually, it’s built upon that human part of our psychology, the FOMO, the feeling like, “Ooh, I wish I could be more like that.” The urge of everyone to try and like engage so that they can be a part or in amongst those type of vibes. And so, I think that talking to all these incredible people really is valuable to learn that like, okay, they’re all still struggling, they’re all still trying to figure it out. Everyone has different parts of their lives that are great. Some of them are struggling, some aren’t as great, and it’s just a symptom of being human. No matter where you’re at, if you’re listening to this podcast is the first time you think I’m going to go read Hal’s book and try and get started or I’m going to try meditation or you’ve been doing both of those things for 20 years. It doesn’t matter. It’s like the human quality of our human experience is one that is always in a state of growth and there is no finish line and it’s a beautiful, beautiful sentiment to sit with.

 

Because you realize that like what’s important to us today and what you choose to do today to improve your life tomorrow, and that’s all that matters. All the other comparison and judgment and side by side is I think came over with. If someone said comparison is the death of art because the second you’re creating something a piece of art and you start looking at your peers, it’s just total head trip, you get freaked out, you start hating yourself and your work and then you never get anything done from the deep center of where you are, because that’s where all great creativity comes from is allowing to clear away all of the barriers and the negative self-talk and the preset positions and all that stuff in your mind to allow the fullness of what you are come through and flow out into the world. And such as with just simply being human. You know, being a person, that’s what we’re all trying to do is clear away all of the stuff that’s been pushed into our heads and all the negative things that keep us snared up so that we can let all of us come through. And that’s just this process, right? And so, realizing that is incredibly beautiful, heartening and to me, I think it’s a very inspiring realization to have.

 

Hal Elrod: Really, really well said, and yeah, I think that there’s both sides of the coin when it comes to comparing ourselves to other people. You know, the first is I’m not enough, I’m not as good as them. My life isn’t as good as theirs, right? And then the other side of it is if any other human being can do anything, so can I. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Hal Elrod: Actually, I was talking to my daughter yesterday. She played her first basketball game. She’s 10. And we’re going there, she’s like, “I’m not as good and da, da, da.” And I said, “Hey, if any other human being can do anything, you can do it too. You just got to practice, work hard.” So, yeah, it’s almost like compare wisely. If you’re going to compare, not in a way that makes you feel less than, but in a way that empowers you to go, “Hey, we’re all human. We’re all struggling. If they overcame their inner crap, their inner insecurities and fears and demons so can I.” 

 

Cory Allen: Absolutely, man. And originality is another huge one too like just from being in the creative world my whole life like the amount of times I have people hate on themselves because, “I want to do this, but there’s something else out there kind of like that or I don’t know, maybe I’m not original. My voice isn’t original enough.” And I was like, “Man, you know what, maybe someone else did something kind of in the same lane-ish, but you haven’t done that yet. And you’re the only person that’s lived your whole life and had all of your experiences and all of the chance and really the chaos and the self-organization of your whole journey. So, do that thing that’s going to come out in this beautifully original way, really, whether you want it to or not.”

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. I like that, because I had a conversation with Kamal Ravikant earlier today. Have you read his book, Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It? 

 

Cory Allen: I have not, no. 

 

Hal Elrod: Highly recommend it. An updated version came out I think yesterday but he said as you were talking, I just opened up this page. It says, “I would offer something to note that no one else could. My truth. Something I’d learned purely from my experience, something that saved me.” And that sentiment really echoes what you said, which is the one thing no one else can offer is your truth, your life, your experience. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. It’s exactly what you did, right? Meditation saved you. I don’t know if it saved you, you would say but it transformed you and your life and so now you’re sharing it in a book and in your work. Let’s dive into the book. What was the inspiration to write Now Is The Way? 

 

Cory Allen: It really came from a lot of ways from my podcast. When I started it, I guess, a little over four years ago, I really started it like just purely an idea of fun. I wasn’t planning on it becoming the main ship I was riding out in the ocean. It was really just like I know a lot of interesting people and the thing I’ve always loved doing my entire life has been talking and getting into these interesting conversations about philosophy or the inner path or whatever might be. There’s a buzz and an excitement and a real resonance that comes from that type of connection to me. And so, I thought, “Well, this will be fun. I’ll just do this.” And I gave it a preposterous name on purpose because like I knew since one of the things that is really important to me is never sounding like trying to sound like I have it figured out or like I’m taking myself too seriously. Because that’s a big symptom of this stuff. And also, it’s a thing that people kind of accidentally can project on others like a lot of the spiritual teachers people have this almost a fear of their “holiness” or something. It’s like, no, they’re just a person that’s got all the same faults as everyone else. 

 

So, I gave it this ridiculous name. I also like quadruple entendres. And so, I thought, “Well, maybe it will inoculate me or anyone from thinking that I’m being too serious,” because I do have a real habit of going down these deep rabbit holes. I thought, “But if I give it a ridiculous name called the Astral Hustle, and it’s layered, and people can think about it in a lot of different ways and so that’ll be fun.” And I actually had the podcast in the comedy section when I first launched it. After a few months, listeners started hitting me up and they’re like, “Dude, this is confusing. Why is your podcast in the comedy section? Shouldn’t it be like in spirituality?” And I was like, “Alright.” So, I switched it to spirituality from comedy so now it’s only confusing to me and not to listeners. 

 

Hal Elrod: The comedy is that it’s in the comedy section. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, right. Well, like life is hilarious. Life is absurd and abstract and that’s one of my favorite things about life is just how ridiculous the existence is at all, the fact that we’re these weird, this big glob of like gut, bacteria, and flora that’s messing with our neurons right now and that we’re floating on these waves of consciousness in these meat suits stuck to a planet floating the middle of infinity. I mean, that’s ridiculous, right? 

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. That’s kind of odd. 

 

Cory Allen: So, it’s very odd. Anyway, alright, so I was just having fun talking with a couple of friends, doing a lot of solo casts on the podcast and as it became more, I really got a lot of momentum and it started picking up pretty quickly. And then I started getting a lot of feedback from people and listeners that were saying, “Hey, like this experience you talked about that really helped me, I was like stuck in this way of thinking. I was stuck at this barrier and you talking about how you got through that whenever you were younger, really, like helped me get through this thing, man, so thank you.” And I started getting more and more of those and then before I knew it, I was getting those like every day or a lot of those every day. And then I would talk about things I thought were just solely knee issues like one time I talked about in the book a little bit too. I got into the state that I called existential paralysis where it was like opening the third eye of the mind, dialing up your awareness so much that you get overwhelmed with the detail of existence, an existential heaviness. 

 

And I talked about that and then talked about how I got out of that. And I had a ton of people hit me up and say, “Man, I’m in that now,” or like, “I just got out of that too. Oh, my God.” And that really blew my mind because I was like, surely it was such a weird part of my life in a weird experience. I thought surely, I’m the only one that’s ever experienced that, right? So, that’s just one example of dozens and dozens that I had these people hitting me up saying, “Hey, this helped me, this helped me, this helped me.” And it made me realize that, alright, as I was doing the podcast, I realized that there’s something I can do with this here with this unique position that not only am I understanding that these are human issues regardless of age, sex, culture, these people all over the world hitting me up about this stuff. But it’s also, it’s like a map. I can share this map of my experiences with other people and do it in a way that can really help people get on further down the road and kind of cut the time down it takes for them to get through the experiences and challenges that I got through. 

 

Also, I write about part of the book is also about meditation, kind of the last quarter of it and I put out a meditation course called Release Into Now about four years ago or three or four years ago. And thousands of people took that course and I had a lot of feedback on what resonated with people, what was useful, what was unique about it that really connected with them. And so, I was able to put that in there too, you know, really taking the census understanding of someone in 2020, what it’s like for them to be coming upon this stuff for the first time and how it can make the most useful. So, that’s really where all the impetus of the book came from. 

 

Hal Elrod: Got it. So, having the course. So, the course preceded the book, which gave you real-time results and feedback, right? 

 

Cory Allen: Exactly. Yeah. 

 

Hal Elrod: Now, like meditation you mentioned this earlier that people often go, “Why? I have this thing, I want to share this thing, but that it’s worked for me, but it’s already kind of out there and people have written about it or talked about it. And so, I don’t think that I have a place for it.” Meditation right now because it works, it’s a very, very popular topic and there are a lot of books on meditation. So, my question for you, the subtitle of your book, An Unconventional Approach To Modern Mindfulness, what makes your book unconventional or your approach? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. So, basically, one of the big things that people have mentioned which is always funny to me is they go, “Man, there’s so many books on mindfulness out there and meditation, dozens and dozens and everywhere,” and I used to jokingly say, “Okay, what are your top 10?” and people go, “Uhhh.” But another thing, the more serious answer is that you talk about if we look at what are the most potent and well-known books on mindfulness that are out there psych guides, you know, someone will think say Be Here Now by Ram Dass, someone might say The Power of Now. I’m sure some of you listen to Alan Watts’ book. And those are all great. They’re classics for a reason but they were written 50 years ago and there is not a secular non-denominational, conversational approach to someone of our generation taking these ideas on and translating them to the issues and things that we face today in the way that the world looks now. Because those books that are 40, 50 years old are still great, they’re still classics, but a lot of new problems and dynamics have arisen in the last 50 years in our modern world. 

 

And so, my book is unconventional in that, one, it takes a conversational, non-teachy type of approach to this stuff and also a self-righteous non-self-serious type of approach, a sincere one, but not one that’s a little, it’s not uptight or anything like that. And it also addresses all the issues of technology, of the complexity of society, of dealing with internet and all these new things that have arisen since then.

 

Hal Elrod: So, the subtitle, An Unconventional Approach To Modern Mindfulness, we can really emphasize modern. 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, exactly. 

 

Hal Elrod: Applying it to what life looks like today and all the complexities that we didn’t have 10 years ago. 

 

Cory Allen: That’s right. 20, 30. 

 

Hal Elrod: 40, 50, yeah. Man, I don’t see him slowing down. I was reading up on the book. Now Is The Way will not only give you mental clarity, reduce your anxiety, help you find your purpose and increase your focus. So, those are all obviously benefits, reducing anxiety that for me has been lately a challenge but gaining mental clarity, finding your purpose, increasing your focus. I was wondering if you could share one, something you haven’t shared, one tip for someone that is just starting out in meditation. Let’s say they order your book today. They got to wait a couple days before Amazon gets it to them. What could they implement right now to begin implementing modern mindfulness into their life? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah. Sure thing. And, one, since you mentioned Amazon, I’d be remiss if I didn’t toss out a quote from the book that’s kind of one of my favorites, talking about how the time compression of the modern world. And that is that there are still hunter-gatherer tribes living in the Amazon rainforest when Amazon.com will also deliver your groceries to your front door in two hours. It just shows how ridiculous the technological and biological evolution of timelines are.

 

Hal Elrod: Yes. 

 

Cory Allen: So, a tip that just getting into mindfulness, I’ll give you two actually. One is when you think about meditation and all this type of stuff, lower the stakes. There’s so much pressure and so much like baggage put around meditating and around even kind of scratching the surface of your own inner life that it usually makes people kind of resistant to it or not want to get into it to begin with. There’s also been so much written about it in such kind of flowery imprecise ways, that also there’s a lot of room for fat. There’s the Hallmark-ization, the kind of Eastern thought that really turns people off. So, just try and let all that stuff go, lower the stakes, and just get in the lab and experiment with yourself slowly. Don’t have any types of expectations and just see what you feel. So, someone that has never even meditated before, I would say kind of like we talked about earlier, is every morning or before you go to bed, whatever works best for your schedule, just turn off your screens and sit there, turn the lights off, close your eyes, no big deal, and just take a nice breath and you do it every night when you sleep. You just got to do it again when you’re awake. 

 

So, take a nice calm breath in and as you exhale, just try and relax the muscles in your face and your shoulders. And then you don’t even have to exhale. Your body is designed to exhale on its own. So, you just have to let your chest fall. Take another good breath in. And as you let your chest fall again, trying to relax the muscles in your body, in your face, and your shoulders a little bit more, and just make it a little game with yourself. How much can you relax and inhale and then relax and release a little bit more of the muscles, and then inhale and relax a little bit more? And just do that for five minutes a day and you’re going to feel fidgety because your hands are used to messing with a mouse or with your phone or the keyboard or something like that all day long. And so, you’re going to feel a little fidgety. Your mind’s going to get all crazy and you’re going to have a bazillion thoughts but that actually is the hardest step of achieving mindfulness because that means you’ve become aware of your thoughts. And that’s one of the hardest things to do is even wake up to the fact it’s an issue. So, wherever you see the crazy rampaging thoughts, that’s a huge success. Most people see that and they go, “Oh, man, I guess I’m not a meditator. I can’t do this. My mind’s too crazy.” Well, it’s like, “Yeah, your mind’s too crazy, because you’ve never looked at it in 40 years.”

 

So, this is the teapot thing. Now you look at it and as you continue to do this, you’ll find that not only are you able to just rest on your body without feeling fidgety but also, that steam will start slowly getting let out of that teapot, all that stuff will blow off, and that’s when the internal space begins to appear that I mentioned. So, just lowering the stakes, getting in there, doing it, not expecting anything and just see how you feel. Another one that I talked about, you know, tapping into presence. This is a good focusing thought for mindfulness is that once again, you need to read or understand or know nothing about mindfulness, other than the times in your life where you feel connected and dialed in, almost like you’re a tuning fork and you just have this beautiful resonant sound coming out of you. We’ve all had those experiences in life. Well, that feeling is available around you at all times. Your mind just isn’t attuned to it and focusing on and that feeling is more of your in accord with yourself, with your surroundings, when your awareness is clear and clean and present, when you’re focused on the present moment. 

 

So, you can begin to fold that into your daily routine by picking one thing in your morning like I use coffee as the example in the book because I love coffee. So, picking that thing you’re already doing and just setting everything aside and again, doesn’t have to be theatrical, no big deal, lower the stakes, but just as you drink your coffee instead of like chugging it as you’re checking your email or running around your house or making breakfast or driving to work, just take like a minute to sit there, put everything aside, feel that cup coming to your lips, feel the warmth rolling across your tongue, and you taste all the flavors, feel the aroma and the steam going back into the back of your nose, feel it entering your stomach and the warmth going in there, the blood vessels in your head expanding your body, feeling the chemical reaction of the coffee changing the biochemistry of your mind and body, and just feel that whole process happening for just even a few seconds if that’s all you’ve got. 

 

And what happens is that you’ve turned your morning into this spiritual sunrise all of a sudden, by simply tuning your focus to the present moment and actually being engaged with what you’re experiencing. And as you do that one time, you’ll see how beautiful and just potent it feels and how that really is tapping into what life is. It’s just the abundance of now in the present, right? Then you’ll notice like as you’re showering one day, you’ll go, “Wait a second. I’m actually feeling the warm water like rolling across my body. I feel the steam rising. In fact, my feet are touching the earth and the earth is touching my feet back.” You’re going to feel present for that experience too and you start feeling more and more and more. And then before you know it, those beautiful experiences start linking and that becomes these longer versions of that experience.

 

Hal Elrod: Well, you had me at the deep breaths. I started to go to sleep.

 

Cory Allen: And my voice is also they put you right to sleep.

 

Hal Elrod: It’s very soothing. It’s a soothing voice. So, lowering the stakes, I love that, just doing it, just meditate without any grand expectations, right? 

 

Cory Allen: Totally. 

 

Hal Elrod: I always say like just, you know, set your timer for 10 minutes and just do nothing for 10 minutes and don’t expect that day one you’re going to be like, “Wow, I didn’t have a single thought. I just was pure and pure consciousness, right?” Now, just whatever, don’t judge what arises. And the second tip, I love that, tap into presence. You just reminded me how un-present I am. And that that is the essence like if you want to live life to the fullest that your book says Now Is The Way, right? I’ve got a cup of tea here that I was about to down as soon as we finish. Now I’m going to sip it so slow. I’m going to feel it roll back on my tongue. I’m going to smell it before I sip it. I’m going to close my eyes. And then it’s like a third of a cup of tea, and I’m going to get so much more juice out of that tea. 

 

Cory Allen: Beautiful, man. 

 

Hal Elrod: So, thank you, brother. That’s a great high note to finish on. 

 

Cory Allen: Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you. 

 

Hal Elrod: So, the podcast is Astral Hustle. So, goal achievers, if you enjoyed Cory’s soothing voice as much as I do, check him out on the podcast and one of the top-rated podcasts on iTunes. And then Cory, what’s the best way to get in touch with you, get the book, whatever you’re open to? 

 

Cory Allen: Yeah, man. Cory-Allen.com, that’s where all the stuff’s there and there’s a whole variety of ways that you can get the book from my site. Of course, Amazon is the easy way to get it, as you mentioned, but yeah, that’s the best place. Everything’s there. 

 

Hal Elrod: Alright, that’s Cory-Allen.com. Cory, man, I really, really enjoyed getting to know you today in our conversation. Thank you so much. 

 

Cory Allen: Oh, man, Hal, likewise, man. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and hopefully, Aubrey’s reviews…

 

Hal Elrod: Yeah. You met or exceeded the expectations and a shout out to Aubrey for texting me and recommending Cory. Yeah, I appreciate you, brother. 

 

Cory Allen: Good to hear. 

 

Hal Elrod: Cool. Alright, man. Well, I look forward to a next time that we can connect. 

 

Cory Allen: Likewise. Thank you. Alright, brother. 

 

[CLOSING]

 

Hal Elrod: Goal achievers, thank you for listening today. Man, I really enjoyed that conversation with Cory, I really did and I got a lot out of it. I’m inspired to improve my mindfulness practice. I feel like I tend to coast. I don’t know about you but I’ll meditate and I’ll get into it and then I’ll meditate for less time or less often or whatever. So, now is the way is on its way to me. I just got the book and I’ll be excited to hear how it helps you improve your meditation and your mindfulness practice or practices in your life. So, I love you very much. Thank you for listening. I appreciate you and I look forward to talking to you all next week. Take care, everybody.


[END]

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