01 Jul

by Justin Standfield

This blog post highlights four of my favourite meditation-related podcasts, in no particular order. Over the last 18 months, I've had more time to commit to listening regularly and due to the pandemic I've been hungry for new ways of understanding the turbulent world we've been living in. In different ways, these podcasts have helped my personal development immensely and I recommend them highly to anyone who wants to explore wellbeing, purpose, happiness and mindfulness.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha

Lee Mack & Neil Webster 

This very amusing podcast features comedian Lee Mack and his friend Neil Webster as they explore the world of mindfulness, meditation, Buddhist thought and some modern-day philosophies based on Eastern wisdom. I’m not a massive fan of Lee Mack’s stand-up work yet I find the banter between him and Neil hilarious; however, the humour isn’t really the focus. Lee has practised Transcendental Meditation (TM) for a few years and both he and Neil have dabbled with leading a more spiritual life on and off.

Through their weekly podcast episodes, they invite you to join them as they try out different retreats, read books, watch YouTube videos and discuss meditation techniques and related wellbeing ideas such as the Wim Hof method. The pair manage to remain respectful of the assorted authors, thinkers, teachers and gurus that they discuss, while also having fun with their own experimentation and sense-making. They regularly read out emails from listeners and respond to their questions. I particularly like their down-to-earth approach to meditation and the challenges of sustaining a regular practice.

10 Percent Happier

Dan Harris

I don’t think Dan Harris was well known to those of us in the UK prior to writing the bestselling book ‘10% Happier’ and going on to develop this podcast. Dan was a news anchor with ABC News who had a panic attack live on air during ‘Good Morning America’, which led him to try meditation as a method of improving his mental health. Prior to this, he describes himself as being a total sceptic. These days in his podcast he delves into all the different things that contribute to increased happiness and fulfilment in life, drawing on a range of sources from the latest developments in neuroscience to traditional meditation, and everything in between.

Dan has attracted some fantastic guests on the 10 Percent Happier podcast – some of my favourites include the Dalai Lama, Emiliana Simon-Thomas (see also The Science of Happiness podcast below), Gretchen Rubin, Jon Kabat Zinn and Jack Kornfield. I appreciate Dan’s openness about his own journey to better mental health and how he had to overcome his own cynicism about the value of meditation. Like all of us who meditate, Dan highlights that it isn’t always plain sailing! It’s probably due to his background in broadcasting that he’s able to put his guest speakers at ease and know matter who they are, I think he gets the best out of them for that episode. 

The Science of Happiness

Dacher Keltner

This varied podcast is co-produced by PRX and the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre. I’ll declare some bias up front here, in that I’ve taken two courses with UC Berkeley and really love their research and ethos. I completed their Science of Happiness programme which was led by Dacher Keltner who is a psychology professor and co-director of the Greater Good Science Centre; not only that, he provided the psychology advice to Pixar when they made the animated film ‘Inside Out’ (if you haven’t seen it, please do – it’s not just for children!).

This podcast has given me the opportunity to learn some research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life that can be as simple as shifts in mindset or more practical things like random acts of kindness. In addition to exploring how mindfulness has a key role to play in happiness, Dacher and his colleagues draw on the science of compassion, gratitude and awe. Emiliana Simon-Thomas (also from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre) features in several episodes and there are guests from the world of music, science, meditation, entertainment and psychology. Each episode has a theme and the hosts link various aspects of happiness to everyday activities that I believe have relevance to everyone.

Being Well

Rick Hanson & Forrest Hanson

My fourth choice of podcast is Being Well, which is hosted by father and son, Rick and Forrest Hanson. This podcast was a bit of a lifesaver for me during the pandemic – every week they release new content which is delivered with an easy, natural flow between both presenters. Rick and Forrest clearly love each other and at the same time display a professional respect for each other’s viewpoints and competence. There’s plenty of warmth, humour, banter and gentle energy.

Quite a few episodes of the podcast were connected to experiences during the pandemic that many people can relate to and shared ways to recognise, accept and process the emotions being triggered by all things COVID-19. Some of my favourite episodes covered topics such as resentment, compassion, letting go of the need to try and control things, plus of course lots about mindfulness meditation. Rick Hanson has a knack for cutting through some of the myths about mindfulness to present the very real benefits to the average person on the street. I’d quite like to be Rick Hanson when I grow up (also Jon Kabat Zinn).