“I thought, ‘Who's writing about that first big heartbreak? Instead of the mid-life crisis, who's writing about the quarter life crisis where you're figuring out what you want to do for work?’ So I said, ‘I know very little … but at least I can open up a conversation around this.’” Buddhist meditation teacher Lodro Rinzler, author of “Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken” (which he wrote in one week as a writer-in-residence in the window display of a New York City retail store) and five other books. Lodro talks with Dan about his life of meditation, starting at the age of six. Lodro is the co-founder of MNDFL, a trio of drop-in meditation studios in New York City, which offers a place to meditate across a variety of traditions with experienced meditation teachers.
- Meditation is so simple and fundamental that it can be practiced by young children. Lodro’s parents practiced meditation, and Lodro started his own practice at the age of six.
- Meditation as a practice is beneficial, but it should also translate to off-cushion improvements in the behavior of the meditator.
- When talking with new meditators, it is important to avoid inflated expectations on the benefits and outcomes of a meditation practice. Studies indicate it takes at least two months of regular practice to begin to see changes in one’s brain.
- Lodro speaks about how he came to write books about Buddhism and meditation for a younger generation, those just experiencing their “quarter-life crisis” as they find their path of their career, navigate love and heartbreak, and build their lives.
- Having a meditation teacher or coach is important for beginning meditators. Being able to ask questions and discuss experiences and difficulties in meditation is essential for healthy practice.
- Lodro and Dan, as two people running businesses in the meditation industry, discuss the ethics of profiting from mindfulness practice.
“We were just talking about sort of befriending yourself as you are. Just learning to … to actually learn to be kind to our self. To actually learn to love our self.” -Lodro Rinzler
“When you think about Buddhism, for example, going from India to Tibet, it took hundreds of years before they figured out the right language around these things. Here, we're like babies trying to figure out how to talk about this.” -Lodro Rinzler
“The 90 millionth time that we're beating ourselves up for wandering off in meditation, can we just stop for a second and be like, "Is this useful? Is this actually helping me?"’ -Lodro Rinzler
“Consciously train to show up for certain things, whether it's a conversation or a food, drink, whatever it might be, to the point that we actually end up with a fruition where we feel uplifted.” -Lodro Rinzler
Other Content Mentioned
How to learn more about Lodro:
Introduction from Dan:
Dan Harris: Before we get started, a little special announcement for you. We started a 10% Happier newsletter. The word newsletter doesn't sound particularly exciting, but let me just say this in its defense: I have found, personally, that a great way to stay engaged in meditation and mental upkeep, generally, is to read about it. It's really easy if you're trying to meditate with any regularity, for it feels kind of stupid, just to sit there watching your breath coming in and going out. You can lose touch with the intellectual infrastructure of the thing. So, reading great articles can really help.
We started this newsletter, you can sign up for it at 10percenthappier/newsletter, and you'll get all of the ... We're sort of collecting all of the latest and greatest writing about meditation and putting it in one place for you. So there you go. Also, we'll have link in there to free guided meditations, if you want to do it, on the 10% Happier app.
Anyway, this week, a really cool guy, Lodro Rinzler. He is a meditation teacher based out of New York City, doing tons of interesting things. One of the things he's doing is he's started a chain of drop-in meditation studios that are secular and really lovely in their décor. They're called MNDFL ("mindful"), M-N-D-F-L they're spelled, so they've taken all the vowels out. MNDFL. He's got one in lower Manhattan, one in the upper east side of Manhattan, and another in Brooklyn. This is a really interesting trend of meditation studios that are opening up all over the country. I think that it's actually a really positive trend.
Lodro's also written a bunch of books, including, "The Buddha Walks Into A Bar," which is a funny book designed to make Buddhism relevant to young people. His most recent book is called, "Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken," which is a really interesting book and actually the focus of much of this interview. So here he is, Lodro Rinzler.
Conversation with Lodro & Dan:
Dan Harris: Well, thanks for doing this.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me on. Dan, it's great to see you, it really is.
Dan Harris: Yeah, it's always great to see you. So, how did you get into this whole meditation racket? You were born into it, weren't you?
Lodro Rinzler: I was. Yeah, it was just always around. My parents started practicing meditation in the Buddhist tradition when they were in their twenties. Then by the time I came around it was just sort of in the household.
They came across me when I was six years old and I was just sitting there. They were like, "Should we disturb him? Is he doing something?" They asked me later. I mean, this gets to all of the beautiful things that you talk about in "10% Happier" about the simplicity, the dumbfounding simplicity of meditation practice. They said to their six-year-old son, "What were you doing in there?" I said, "I just sat upright and I started paying attention to my breathing." They said, "That's it?" And I said, "That's it," and they go, "Sounds like he was meditating."
Dan Harris: Yeah? Wow. What came over you to do that?
Lodro Rinzler: No clue.
Dan Harris: Had you just heard them talk about it a lot?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. Again, I think it was environmental. I get a lot of question from people who are interested in meditation, they've got young kids, "How do I get them into it?" I think it's just we show up for people and they start to pick up on certain cues. Definitely, with kids, we all know this for kids. So for me, it was just around to the point that I thought, "Oh, this is something that is not only acceptable to do, it's encouraged."
Dan Harris: So, you were six years old when you started meditating?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. And I started doing longer retreats when I was a teenager, did this whole stint in temporary ordination, became a monk when I was 17, lasted all of the summer before I went back. At the age of 18 went to the polar opposite extreme, went to college and did keg stands.
Dan Harris: Yeah, nice, nice.
Lodro Rinzler: But kept practicing.
Dan Harris: I have a two-year-old. Do you have any advice about how to get that little mongrel to meditate?
Lodro Rinzler: I mean, I think there's something about young kids that they really are quite present already.
Dan Harris: He's definitely present, but he's present as he's ripping the face off of a cat or shoving a cupcake into my face.
Lodro Rinzler: Applied mindfulness practice, yeah, the cupcake sādhanā, yeah.
Dan Harris: (laugh)
Lodro Rinzler: No, I think, you know, for people with young kids, it's really just showing up and being willing, I think, to talk about it. I think a lot of parents who do meditation and have young children, it's almost a shyness of wanting to keep it separate and not letting the kids on what ... But it's sort of a generally accepted thing in the household, the kids want to pick up on it and they want to do it too.
Dan Harris: So you saw your parents do it? Because I don't do it with my kid in the room because it's impossible to do it because he's going to scream in my face or pull my hair or whatever.
Lodro Rinzler: That's the thing. I have a meditation student named Nicole. Nicole lives outside of Minneapolis, she's got, two young kids. She wakes up to meditate before anyone else in the house gets up. The kids, somehow, have this spider sense, they hear her meditating-
Dan Harris: Hear her meditating?
Lodro Rinzler: They get up, like, just have this sense of, "Oh, mom's up, she's meditating." Run into the room, tackle onto her, and fight over who gets to sit on which knee. She still gets ten minutes of meditation in a day. I honestly think if she can do it, anyone can do it.
Dan Harris: Yeah, absolutely. It's not that I don't get meditation time, I do. It's just that I do it when he's-
Lodro Rinzler: You have kid meditation time, yeah.
Dan Harris: No, I do my meditation in whatever room he's not having a tantrum.
Lodro Rinzler: Right.
Dan Harris: In other words, he's not really exposed to it. Hopefully, he's exposed to me being a better parent because I do it.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. I mean, that's part of it, right? It's just sort of in the environment as opposed to you having to come up with a 10-step plan for why your kid's going to end up meditating down the road.
Dan Harris: Anyway, I made us digress. You were talking about you here. Although I reserve the right to ask you-
Lodro Rinzler: To always talk about your kids.
Dan Harris: Or just talk about me at length or to ask you advice on anything that happens to be bothering me.
So your parents were Buddhist? Like, of what flavor?
Lodro Rinzler: I was born and raised in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition.
Dan Harris: Which is?
Lodro Rinzler: It comes from Tibetan Buddhism.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: It has a special emphasis on really being in society though. Really, very much like, "Okay, we do meditation practice and we practice for our everyday life." So, there's a heavy emphasis on how do we show up for other human beings?
I think that's sort of like community service-oriented aspect, that view of, "We do this so that we can be helpful to the world was always imprinted in my brain, growing up." Right alongside of meditation I also became more involved in activism, in skillful and also totally not skillful ways and found my own way about that. Continued on to the point that I ended up going full-blown into a career after I graduated from college. I started as the Executive Director of the Boston Shambhala Center.
Dan Harris: Oh, wow.
Lodro Rinzler: I did that, served as their Head of Development for Shambhala internationally for a number of years before writing my books. Just starting to teach more and more.
So, I've been teaching meditation for about 15 years to all different types of people. But it's been really beautiful to continue to reflect back and say, "What a treat, that I was actually raised with this view, that we could do meditation practice and that this is just a normal thing that we do."
Dan Harris: Where were you raised? Did other kids in your life think it was normal that you were meditating?
Lodro Rinzler: I was raised in this very bizarre foreign land called Manhattan.
Dan Harris: Oh, right here.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, right here. And it was, though.
Dan Harris: It was cool for you to do it?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean honestly, I think it was weird.
Dan Harris: Oh, it was weird.
Lodro Rinzler: Honestly, at this point, I grew up meditating. I also grew up reading comic books. No one has ever asked me to come to their company and talk about the X-Men.
Dan Harris: No.
Lodro Rinzler: For whatever reason. But now, all of the sudden, with all of the science that has come out around meditation, it's this super amazing mainstream thing that everyone wants to talk about.
Dan Harris: So how did you deal with it when your friends were like, "Wow, this is weird. Why are you meditating?"
Lodro Rinzler: I don't think I dealt with it well.
Dan Harris: (laugh) Did you punch them in the face?
Lodro Rinzler: Right. Honestly, Shambhala training level one, the very intro weekend, I think it used to be called something like, "The Art of the Warrior." My parents were like, "Let's give you 'The Art of the Warrior.'" And it was just sitting there. I thought that I was going to get tools for how to deal with bullies, and I did not. Warrior, of course, in that tradition meaning one who is brave. By bravery we mean one who looks at their own aggression.
So, the idea of a warrior being someone that's willing to look at their own neurosis and their shtick and get past it. Which, I think, wasn't the best bully preventative, and so I ended up getting pushed into a lot of lockers.
Dan Harris: Yeah? So did I, and I wasn't even meditating. Mostly just because I said the wrong thing to large people, frequently. I still do that, but-
Lodro Rinzler: And no one's pushed you into a locker in this month.
Dan Harris: No, no. Anyway, digressing again. So, you really kind of burst onto the scene with this book, "The Buddha Walks Into a Bar," which I have to admit, I'm really embarrassed to admit, I've known you for a while and hadn't read, but just actually downloaded and have been listening to in the gym.
It's really good! Actually, I think our goals are really consonant. I was writing "10% Happier" because I wanted to make meditation accessible to skeptics. You wrote, "The Buddha Walks Into A Bar," and then a bunch of sequels, really as a way to make Buddhism accessible to 20-somethings. So, that's a statement. Can you just amplify that and describe a little bit how you went about this?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, so-
Dan Harris: Wait, sorry, why did you think that was important, and then how did you go about that?
Lodro Rinzler: Sure. Okay, I mean, a lot of people, at this point, have probably heard of Pema Chodron. She's a very well-known Buddhist teacher and author.
Dan Harris: In the Shambhala tradition.
Lodro Rinzler: In the Shambhala tradition in particular, yeah. Although, honestly, I really do think that she's like Oprah mainstream at this point.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: I picked up her book when I was in my mid-20s. I was going through a breakup-
Dan Harris: Which one? She's ...
Lodro Rinzler: "When Things Fall Apart."
Dan Harris: Okay, yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: I believe her first chapter is about how she comes home and she realizes that her marriage has fallen apart and she's getting a divorce.
Dan Harris: And she picks up a rock to throw at her husband or something like that.
Lodro Rinzler: Something like that.
Dan Harris: Yeah. I interviewed her. She's cool.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, right? So I immediately connected to that. I was like, "I know about heartbreak, but I don't know getting a divorce, because I'm in my mid-20s," and I was not married. And I thought, "Who's writing about that first big heartbreak." Instead of the mid-life crisis, who's writing about the quarter life crisis where you're figuring out what you want to do for work? I just looked and looked and looked, and I couldn't find anything, any Buddhist teachers talking about it.
So I said, "I know very little," I still know very little, "but at least I can open up a conversation around this." So, I think all of the books are conversational. Here's my understanding of the Buddhist philosophy, the teachings that were presented. Here's how I've put them into use in my life.
It's really opened so many dialogues around, "Okay, what does it mean if we are going to go out with friends and have a couple of drinks, could we actually bring some of the meditation practice off the cushion and show up and actually deeply listen to our friends?
Dan Harris: Can you? Can you go get hammered mindfully?
Lodro Rinzler: I wouldn't say hammered. But I think there's different aspects. When we go out on a Friday night, it's actually pausing and saying, "What's my intention here? Am I looking to get drunk and forget about my week? Am I looking to just connect with a friend?" Knowing that actually starts to guide our behavior to the point that we could approach it with a little bit more intentionality. Could we actually mindfully sip our one glass of whiskey, or whatever it might be, and enjoy the company that we actually set out to enjoy, as opposed to looking around the room, seeing if there's anyone hot that we want to hook up with.
Dan Harris: Well, what's wrong with that?
Lodro Rinzler: If that's your intention, then that's different, right? It's literally saying, "How much can we actually bring a sense of intentionality?" One could even say "applied mindfulness." Consciously train to show up for certain things, whether it's a conversation or a food, drink, whatever it might be, to the point that we actually end up with a fruition where we feel uplifted, as opposed to completely hungover and spaced out.
Looking at all of those aspects, both in going out with a friend, but work life, romantic life, you name it.
Dan Harris: So then you wrote, "The Buddha Walks Into The Office," which was about applying this stuff at the office.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, leadership principles, in terms of how to show up and be more compassionate at work.
Dan Harris: Was that the end of, "The Buddha Walks Into A ..." or was there one more?
Lodro Rinzler: There was, "Walk Like A Buddha," which was literally, I had this column for a number of years in the Huffington Post called, "What Would Sid Do?" Which was horribly offensive to traditional Buddhists.
Dan Harris: What Would Siddhārtha Gautama Do?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, Siddhārtha Gautama.
Dan Harris: The historical, yeah ...
Lodro Rinzler: I imagine ... Well, do you really think all of his friends were like "Siddhārtha Gautama, Siddhārtha Gautama..." I think they would have called him Sid, you know?
Dan Harris: Or they called him The Buddha.
Lodro Rinzler: Well, when he became The Buddha.
Dan Harris: The Awakened One.
Lodro Rinzler: But this is the whole point. Back before he was The Buddha, he was a human being that probably had ... He made mistakes! He was a fallible person. So, so do we. So how do we deal with ... If we're not enlightened, which I'm not. I suspect you may be, but we'll see.
Dan Harris: Mmm, trust me, no.
Lodro Rinzler: (laugh) But, you know, how do we actually start to apply these principles to the nitty gritty things in our life? So, that column got ... I kept going with it, and it got made into a book, which was, "Walk Like A Buddha." Literally questions from people that would read my columns and write in and say, "I've got this weird scenario that no one's ever heard of," that I've heard ten times before, of course. So I would answer it in the book.
Dan Harris: So a lot of walking-themed-
Lodro Rinzler: A lot of walking-themes. Then we did, "Sit Like A Buddha," though. That was simple, it was just how to meditate. Very small volume. As small as, "Sit there and follow the breath." But, you know, how do you actually launch a meditation practice? Which I'm sure you must get this question all the time. Like, "I tried it once and it didn't work for me."
Dan Harris: Yes! Yes. What do you say to that?
Lodro Rinzler: So literally just a small volume to like ... I say "It's a little bit like going to the gym once and being like, 'Ah, I didn't lose 10 pounds.'" That's just not how it works! It's cumulative in nature. So it's giving our self a wide berth and trusting that over time we'll start to see subtle effects, even if the subtle effect is, like, "Oh, I didn't snap at my spouse as much as I used to."
Dan Harris: Yeah, but what do you say to people ... because this is what I really hear is that, "I sat and tried to do it and I couldn't stop thinking."
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah! Well, that’s part of it. So I always use the definition in the Tibetan tradition, because I get geeky sometimes around this stuff.
Dan Harris: I think you start geeky around this stuff.
Lodro Rinzler: I start geeky and then I relax. The word, “Gom,” G-O-M, in Tibetan, can be translated as meditation. It can also be translated as “Become familiar,” or “familiarization.” So it was the idea that meditation is us becoming familiar with all of those thoughts, becoming familiar with the strong emotions that come up. Ultimately, I’m of the school that, actually, the thing that no one talks about with meditation that we should be is that ultimately where we go with this is that we learn to accept ourselves as we are. As opposed to thinking we should be better. It’s not a self-help thing. We’re not trying to improve and level up and be something different. We’re actually improving our understanding of who we already are. And that’s part of it, our thoughts.
Dan Harris: It’s also referred to as “gom,” I guess the Tibetan term for familiarization. But in Pali, the ancient Indian language, Vipassanā is “insight.” Seeing clearly.
Lodro Rinzler: Mm-hmm.
Dan Harris: It’s not some lofty thing. It’s just actually seeing clearly what is happening in your mind and your body right now so that it doesn’t yank you around. Not complicated.
Lodro Rinzler: Not.
Dan Harris: Not easy to do.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. I mean, our mutual friend Sharon Salzberg, I love this because anytime she gets this question, she goes, “Simple, but not easy.”
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: And I think that’s it. There should be a heading under any meditation book or a disclaimer that says, “Simple, but not easy.” It’s very simple to come back.
Dan Harris: So if somebody says to you, as people say to me all the time, “I sat, I tried to meditate, I couldn’t stop thinking.” Your answer is, “You don’t have to stop thinking.”
Lodro Rinzler: Not in the least. Asking the mind to stop thinking is like asking the heart to stop beating because you don’t like the sound of it. That’s not practical. The mind is always going to generate thoughts and concepts and emotions. It’s just us starting to look at them and befriend them to the point that we learn to become more okay with who we are.
Dan Harris: And really, though, if you’re practice is, and I think this is the kind of practice you teach … to pay attention to your breath. Then you’re going to be invaded by all of these thoughts, they’re going to arise. Don’t get uptight about it, notice that you’re thinking, maybe even make a mental note about the variety of thought. Anxious, impatient, rushing, planning, whatever, and back to the breath. And you may just have to do that a million times.
But it’s so funny, everybody needs to hear this a million times in order to get comfortable with it.
Lodro Rinzler: That’s 100% right.
Dan Harris: I need to hear it a million times.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah.
Dan Harris: I say this all the time. Basic meditation instructions are like the opposite of the airline safety instructions. The diminishing returns on airline safety instructions are very steep. There’s very little value, my apologies to everybody in the aviation community, of hearing these over and over and over again, right? Which is why they have to sex them up now with all sorts of animations and all that stuff. But every time I hear the basic meditation instructions of like, “Yeah, pay attention to your breath, and when you get lost, start over. It’s totally cool.” It’s a hugely important and useful reminder.
Lodro Rinzler: And just simple changes, where as opposed to someone saying, “Pay attention to your breath,” you might say, “Feel your breath.”
Dan Harris: Yes, yes, yes, right, exactly.
Lodro Rinzler: “Oh, wait! You’re right, it’s not a mental exercise all of the sudden.”
Dan Harris: It’s not thinking about your breath, it’s the raw data of the physical sensation.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. The visceral aliveness of, “Oh, I’m breathing. Okay, I can tune into this.”
Dan Harris: Mm-hmm. So you did, “The Buddha Walks Into A Bar,” you did “The Buddha Walks Into The Office,” you did “Walk Like A Buddha,” “Sit Like A Buddha.” Am I missing anything?
Lodro Rinzler: “How To Love Yourself and Sometimes Other People.” Which is obviously completely different. But it is this notion. We were just talking about sort of befriending yourself as you are. Just learning to … meditation as a practice, to actually learn to be kind to ourself. To actually learn to love our self. In the same way that if you met a new friend, you started spending time with them, you wouldn’t immediately be like, “Hey, you do exactly what I want you to do. You just follow my lead, and the moment you stray from it I’m going to be upset with you.” We would actually be gently inquisitive with them. We would get to know them, we would become familiar with them.
Maybe months, years pass, we look over our shoulder, we’re like, “Oh, I love my friend.” Same thing with our mind. So, meditation as a practice to not only just become familiar with ourselves, but actually, learn to love ourselves. And the more we actually have love for ourselves, the more love we have to offer to other people in our lives.
Dan Harris: I’m not quite sure how that works, though. Because I definitely see how meditation makes you more familiar with your mind and makes you see what’s happening more clearly so that you’re not driven blindly by it. But I don’t necessarily see how that makes me like or love myself more.
Lodro Rinzler: Here's the part that no one talks about with meditation because everyone's so focused on, "I'm just going to become more present," which is great. I mean, all of the science around it is incredible. Most of the time, I don't know about you, most of the time for me, meditation is for me, "Oh yeah, I just drifted off, I've got to come on back."
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: But here's the thing that we don't talk about: What voice do we use when that happens?
Dan Harris: Often a very judgmental one.
Lodro Rinzler: A very judgmental voice. My friend actually has a term, I'm just wondering if I'm allowed to say it on the podcast.
Dan Harris: Yeah yeah, just go for it.
Lodro Rinzler: It's Inner Bitch Radio. This little channel in our head going, "Oh my god, you jerk, I can't believe everyone saw that." Just constantly self-aggressive talk. So when we drift off we might be like, "Oh my god, you jerk, I can't believe that you keep doing this. Everyone else is sitting here completely peaceful except for you. And instead, can we actually transform ourselves to the point where we say, "Oh, it's not a big deal, everyone drifts off, it's okay. Just come on back."
Dan Harris: But that's taking it easier on yourself, which frankly, after seven and half years, I'm getting a tiny bit better at. But that's not necessarily loving yourself.
Lodro Rinzler: I think that's offering yourself kindness.
Dan Harris: Okay.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, I really do think it's actually being like, "Oh, I don't have to think that there's some horrible distant part of myself that I'm trying to get rid of in meditation." We think of meditation, often, as like this rigorously corrective process.
Dan Harris: Well it's described often as purification.
Lodro Rinzler: Right. Which, I mean, we're in, literally, how many decades has it been here in the states? Not that long. When you think about Buddhism, for example, going from India to Tibet, it took hundreds of years before they figured out the right language around these things. Here, we're like babies trying to figure out how to talk about this.
So, I don't know about anyone else, but my own experience is the more I actually treat myself with kindness when I drift off, come back, the more I actually feel like I'm accepting myself more as I am. And I think that is love. I think that's a big part of love. That we actually learn to be with things as they are, as opposed to how we think they should be or how they used to be, or any of it.
Dan Harris: So, I'll just talk a little bit about how it works for me. I notice that when I wake up ... Well, first of all, one of the things I think about is just the blatant hypocrisy, because I'm out there telling people all the time, "It's not a big deal if you wander. You should expect to wander a billion times. Bake that into your baseline, blah blah blah."
Lodro Rinzler: Sure.
Dan Harris: But then what I wonder, of course, this is self-laceration central. What I've noticed is that I really can't control what my initial reaction is going to be. All I can do is make the good, clean, mental note that I'm judging myself, and that's when I can relax.
But to expect to train myself to be warm and loving in the face of incessant wandering seems to add another layer of pressure on top of things. So all I'm doing is just saying, "Okay, if I'm judging myself harshly when I get lost, just make a note of that, and then you're cool."
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, I think that's where we start. I honestly do. I think it's just, in the same way, that the first step on recovery for an alcoholic is admitting that you have a problem.
Dan Harris: Mm-hmm.
Lodro Rinzler: Right? At first, we're like, "Oh, I'm admitting that I'm extremely judgmental here." That's a big part of how I've habituated my mind. Okay, I acknowledge that I come back. But over time we're like, "Oh, this is something that I'm doing a lot. And, you know, go back to this great book on meditation called "10% Happier" ...
Dan Harris: (laugh) Overrated, yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: At the end of your meditation retreat ... overrated (laugh). You asked your question of Joseph Goldstein, not to give away the ending of it to anyone.
Dan Harris: Go for it.
Lodro Rinzler: But, what was the advice that he gave? He said, "After the 50th time that you're running in your mind to go catch your flight and you're going through security, you can just ask yourself, 'Is this useful?'" Right?
So same thing here. The 90 millionth time that we're beating ourselves up for wandering off in meditation, can we just stop for a second and be like, "Is this useful? Is this actually helping me?"
Dan Harris: I can intellectually grasp, firmly, the dis-utility of beating myself up in meditation. It's just that in the moment of waking up, there is a reflexive self-laceration. That, I feel like, adds a lot of pressure on me, at least, to expect that not to happen. To expect, actually, to embrace the waking up with this loving response toward myself. Actually, that seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the practice.
Where, I just allow myself to have the moment of self-laceration, and then notice, "Oh, yeah, I'm judging myself." And then I get on with it.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. I mean, it is a different way of doing it. I think just sort of allowing ourselves to be how we are, which is a big part ... the new book, the "Love Hurts" that just came out, it's however many pages of me just being like, "It's okay to feel exactly how you feel."
Dan Harris: Right, that's my point. If when you wake up from distraction you feel annoyed with yourself, it's too late. What are you going to do? Lacerate yourself for feeling annoyed?
Lodro Rinzler: That's what I'm saying, we don't perpetuate it at that point. We sort of let it go and we're like, "Okay, I notice that tendency I have to beat myself up."
Dan Harris: Yes, that's what I'm saying.
Lodro Rinzler: And that moment we're like, "Alright, I give myself a break."
Dan Harris: Yes.
Lodro Rinzler: And then we come back. I honestly think that's Love. Just giving ourselves a break, a sense of kindness when we notice that we're wandering off and starting to get annoyed.
Dan Harris: I agree with everything you're saying, as usual. But you could make an argument, and I've heard it made, and I find it attractive, that actually you could use the moment of waking up as a celebration. Like, "Wow, I'm waking up! I'm getting better at this!" You are training the mind to be lost for shorter periods of time. Then, "Wow, look at how amazing it is to be awake, as opposed to lost in thought. Look how much better it actually feels than it is to be lost in thought."
So I could see, I can see on the horizon maybe gently training enough over time so that the moment of waking up could be seen as-
Lodro Rinzler: Good news.
Dan Harris: Yeah!
Lodro Rinzler: Extremely good news. And then it translates into off the cushion behavior. We had someone come into ... I run something called MNDFL, which is a drop-in meditation studio here in New York City. We're just going from one to three locations, which is insanity. We had someone who had been coming every single day, which I never expected, that people would come every single day for a drop in 30-minute class, it's just part of his routine. He started bringing friends. You know, we got to know him pretty well. He brought this one friend, and I said, "What are you doing hanging out with this jerk?" She said, "You know, it's so funny you mention that, because he really was a jerk for a long period of time, and then all of the sudden he started being really nice to me and actually paying attention when I talk to him and trying to be really helpful, and I said, 'What's going on with you?'" Like the skeptical New Yorker, she was. And he goes, "I don't know." And then goes, "Oh! I've been meditating."
It was such a subtle thing that he was like, "Maybe I'm learning to be kinder to myself and to others because I've been meditating. It's my experience, but I'm also seeing it in all of these meditation students that are coming through our doors, that the effects are such a variety of things that are beyond just being present.
Dan Harris: Yes. So, I want to talk about MNDFL, your drop-in studio, but let's talk about the new book. Okay, so you had five books before this new one?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah.
Dan Harris: Okay, so the new one is called ...
Lodro Rinzler: "Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken."
Dan Harris: Okay. And I just want to say, for the record, that I, as a podcast host, take pride in reading my guests' books before they come in. But you are a bad boy and didn't send me the thing. So now I'm going to go into this blind. So, "Love Hurts," what's it about? Because I don't know anything because I didn't read the book, because you didn't send it to me.
Lodro Rinzler: I know, and I apologize on behalf of everyone at Shambhala Publications.
Dan Harris: (laugh)
Lodro Rinzler: Like how I just threw them under the bus there? Yep. No, I should have also followed up.
So, "Love Hurts," it's a choose your own adventure-style book.
Dan Harris: Really?
Lodro Rinzler: Which is new for me. Because if you're heartbroken you don't know how to just go through a 10 step plan. You're not interested in that. So the chapters are, "If You Feel Angry," you go to that page. "If You Feel Depressed," you go to that page. "If You Feel Like You Will Never Love Again," you go to that page. There is advice or a story or a Buddhist practice, or something.
Dan Harris: This is great. I was just ... I'm sorry to interrupt you because I was just excited because I was just this morning talking to a close colleague, a woman who I've known for a long time, who is heartbroken. Deeply in the throws of it, and is crawling out of her skin.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, it feels that way.
Dan Harris: Totally anxious.
Lodro Rinzler: It feels that way. I mean, I've gotten these emails from people being like, "Hey, I flipped to that one page, because I didn't think anyone knew how I was feeling, and now I don't feel so alone," which is the best part.
Dan Harris: So how many times have you had your heart broken so that you can categorize all of these?
Lodro Rinzler: Um, about a million.
Dan Harris: Really?
Lodro Rinzler: But I think ... So here's the thing, there's romantic heartbreak-
Dan Harris: You're so lovable. Who's dumping you?
Lodro Rinzler: Everyone. (laugh)
Dan Harris: (laugh)
Lodro Rinzler: No, okay, so the personal story that goes with this book, my mother was always like, "Oh, this is what we get because so and so dumped you." No, it was this eight week period in 2012. I had been meditating for most of my life, I had been teaching meditation for 10 years, at that point, already. The bottom just fell out. I lost my full-time job, which was a big sting to my ego, and heartbreaking in that way.
Dan Harris: What was the job?
Lodro Rinzler: I was the Head of Development for an international Buddhist nonprofit. It was sort of shocking at the time that they would be like, "We have no funds, we're limiting the development department." I thought, "Okay?"
Dan Harris: (laugh)
Lodro Rinzler: So it was a shock. It was heartbreaking. So there's that sort of heartbreak around job loss. There's ego sting that comes with it. My then fiance, who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, woke up and said, "I think I want to move to London, and you're not invited."
Dan Harris: Ooo.
Lodro Rinzler: And we broke up that day. That was incredibly heartbreaking because I had the whole expectation story that we were getting married.
Then a few weeks after that, one of my best friends from college passed away, unexpectedly, at the age of 29, from heart failure. Which just was a complete shock. There was nothing physically wrong with him until his heart stopped working. That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I was devastated. And I wasn't meditating at that point. I was sleeping a lot. I was drinking more than I should, I was not treating my body well, wasn't taking care of myself. I did have a great community of friends that were taking care of me. They really stepped up and got me to the point where I realized, "Oh, I should probably go seek therapy, like a normal human being. Start talking to someone." That got me to the point that I started meditating again and started to work with some of the strong emotions that came up. That got me to the point that I could start eating better and exercising again. To the point that, at this point, I can talk about this not from a place of open wounds, but from scars. It's still on me. I still feel the heartbreak every time I talk about it, but it's not defining who I am, it's just one part of me.
That really, I mean, it was a life-changing event, for me. I've rebounded in many, many different ways. I have other work. I'm engaged again, and all of these things. But the topic of heartbreak, I think, is not something we often talk about. It's something that we often deal with in isolation. So I wanted to just open up the conversation around that, after all of these other conversations that I've been having, to say that you're not alone. That there are ways that we can take care of ourselves.
And I did it in a completely bizarre way. I wrote this book in the course of a week at ABC Carpet and Home, this giant store here in New York City. I have no idea why they let me do this, to be honest, but they let me take over one of their storefront windows for a week, sort of did an Author in Residence situation where I would right in the afternoons and evening, just get into it. And in the mornings I would meet with people one on one in a space right about the size of this studio. I would just hold the space.
I literally only had four questions. Most of the time I couldn't get through all four with the time that we had. Just one or two. One, "What is your experience of heartbreak?" For anyone that has been listening so far, I honestly think would probably say, "Oh, so you heard a lot about my boyfriend or girlfriend did XYZ." Everything from, "I give my kid up for adoption and I don't know what happened to him," to, "I fell in love with my heroine sponsor and I relapsed," to, "I look exactly like that person who was the victim of police brutality. I look exactly like her."
I was so touched and honored to bear witness to these stories.
Dan Harris: So this book is not just romantic heartbreak.
Lodro Rinzler: Not in the least. It's personal, interpersonal, societal heartbreak, all of it. But the emotions, the storylines are all so different. But the emotions of feeling devastated, or the emotions of feeling angry or that you are feeling rejected or betrayed, these are all things that we feel. So how do we work with this?
Dan Harris: So once you taxonomize in the book the various kinds of heartbreak, are you then recommending meditative interventions?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, it really is based more on like, "What are you going through?" As opposed to, "Oh, I feel heartbroken because my boyfriend left me."
Dan Harris: That would require too many varieties. It's more like anger, shame, etcetera, etcetera.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, exactly. Relief guilt is one of them. Like if you break up with someone and you feel complete relief, but you also feel guilty that you feel relief.
Dan Harris: That's an interesting variety of guilt.
Lodro Rinzler: I get pretty down into the weeds of it all.
Dan Harris: And it took you a week to do this? That's it?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. I mean, I honestly feel like I was a little bit on fire.
Dan Harris: I've spent a week working on a paragraph. It took me years to write the book. You're a fast writer.
Lodro Rinzler: I had something in my head and heart, I needed to go with this topic, and honestly I'm so thankful to everyone that came and met with me and shared these stories. Because it really ... in addition to talking about their heartbreak, they also shared how they took care of themselves, and that fed into the book. So it's not just my voice. It's all of these other people who ... They would always say, "I know the thing that I shouldn't do." That would always be the first thing they would say. "I know I shouldn't reach for the junk food and overeat. I know I shouldn't reach for the bottle and have a drink. But here's the thing that I know I should do, and I do. I spend time with my kid. I go for a long walk with a friend. I take the day off and I sleep a lot." Whatever it might be.
Dan Harris: Well, congratulations on the new book.
Lodro Rinzler: Thank you, and I swear we will get you a copy in 24 hours.
Dan Harris: Well I want a copy for my colleague who's heartbroken.
Lodro Rinzler: Well I'll bring you stack.
Dan Harris: You mentioned before, MNDFL (mindful), and that is M-N-D-F-L, which is the name of this meditation drop-in bar?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, it is. It's 30 and 45-minute drop-in classes all day every day, which is great for the busy New Yorker and horrible for my sleep schedule.
Dan Harris: First of all let's just soak in how absurd it is that you can have a successful little business teaching meditation in this very chic little space, now three chic little spaces, in Manhattan. 10 years ago people would have laughed at you.
Lodro Rinzler: This is the thing that we were talking about earlier. I can't believe that, for being pushed into lockers for meditating, now it's like people want to come do it. Probably the same people.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: But now, I mean, I think there's something really special, because it's not just me, by the way, teaching. At this point, it's 35 teachers from different traditions. Some of them are Buddhist traditions, some are Vedic, Kundalini. You know, you even have Jewish mindfulness instructors, Hindu teachers. But they're all speaking in plain English. It's not a religious experience necessarily, even though these people come from religious traditions. They're trying to really make these very ancient traditional practices accessible.
So, that's why there's these short classes, so you just get a taste of these different styles of meditation, and then you can ... you know, we're the gateway drug, really. You can check out a bunch of different teachers and styles, figure out what you most connect with, and then go deep within that tradition.
Dan Harris: Do you find that people come once a week? Three times a week? How often are people ... Because it's not quite like a gym.
Lodro Rinzler: Right. Yeah, it is interesting. We have people who come often two to three times a week. We have people who come every single day. We opened our first studio November 6 in 2015, so just a little over a year ago. In that first year, I won't give his full name, but a guy named James came 335 out of the 365 days. Isn't that incredible?
Dan Harris: Mm-hmm.
Lodro Rinzler: So, it's just sort of like, okay, I have a cramped New York apartment. I need the support and accountability of going to a class in a beautiful space, that I can actually train with people. The teachers all know me. We had a situation where there was a woman who was very, very pregnant, and she disappeared. She was a daily practitioner with us, she disappeared for a few days, and we were like, "Oh, I bet she had the baby!" We were able to put two and two together and find her address and run over flowers and things like that.
It feels very much, it's not just like a gym. It's actually a real community that sprouted up that's incredibly diverse and incredibly kind.
Dan Harris: How do you keep people motivated? Because you go to the gym, you might see your biceps grow, you might see your waistline shrink, etcetera, etcetera. Not quite the same thing with meditation.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I think there are two things. One is the personal connection to teachers, right? The fact that Megan knows that you come to her one o'clock class every Monday. There's a group of you that always go.
The other thing is we're brutally honest. We're not the sort of meditation space that's like, "Come once and you're just going to feel happy!" It's, like, literally, we're very clear, it's going to take weeks for you to start to see the effects of this, but if you want to try it, it is life changing. And people who are motivated to make a real change end up sticking around.
Dan Harris: What do you think are the biggest hurdles to adopting a meditation practice?
Lodro Rinzler: The fact that we live in an instant gratification culture, and this is not that. I really do.
Dan Harris: Inflated expectations.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, if you go to SoulCycle and you're like, "I feel awesome after!" That's something that you immediately feel. With the meditation class, you might be like, "I don't know if I did it right," after, and that's not so helpful.
Dan Harris: I got this immediate thing from SoulCycle of I immediately felt insufficient because everybody was so much better looking than me.
Lodro Rinzler: They're so much better, and they're so much better at it.
Dan Harris: It worked really well. It was fast and long-lasting. But back to the obstacles for meditators, because I'm really interested in this, as an app guy now. What are the hurdles, and then how do you help people get over them? You just identified the inflated expectation thing. So how do you manage that? And then I'd love to hear about some of the other obstacles.
Lodro Rinzler: One of the things we do is, if we say, "Hey, honestly, all of these studies around mindfulness, so many of the things say it's two months. So give it a month and see what happens." We have a 30-day challenge we run twice a year, where you come 30 days in a row you get your next month membership on the house. People are like, "Oh, the financial incentive there sounds very good." Just the challenge aspect, people end up saying, "Well, whatever about the next month membership," but there's a little punch card that they cut. People love their punch cards.
Dan Harris: The punch cards, yeah. I like punch cards.
Lodro Rinzler: It's like, "I'm on day 10 and I'm tracking my progress, and it just feels good." So we find those things to be incredibly effective in just keeping people on track. But I think there is something to be like, "Hey, please talk to us about what you're experiencing per class," and we can make recommendations.
Actually, like, this is the difference, unfortunately, between having an app that's out there with beautiful guided recordings and having person to person transmissions is that with apps we're not just able to say, "and here's your next obvious step based on what happened at work this week." To have a human being say, "That sounds really difficult, that difficult person at work. Have you tried loving-kindness practice? You might like it."
Dan Harris: This is why we built a coaching feature into 10% Happier.
Lodro Rinzler: That's awesome.
Dan Harris: So we have actual human being, and we find that our users are talking to these human beings. It's asynchronous, so you don't get to hear back from them immediately, but within 24 hours you'll get a limitless amount of answers. You can ask whatever you want and they'll help. They're not going to help you cook soup, but ...
Lodro Rinzler: I was going to say, I'm going to start playing with this coach.
Dan Harris: Although we've gotten some strange questions. But I do hear you. I think a personal touch is super, super important.
Lodro Rinzler: Mm-hmm. I really believe that.
Dan Harris: So what else do you think stands in the way with people who want to meditate, who are into it ... because I feel like there's this huge population, I think a lot of them are listening to this podcast because they're into meditation, kind of, they know they should do it, but they're more likely to download and listen to this podcast than they are to actually sit for ten minutes and do the practice.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. That's a great question. I think there is something about having to get it right that holds us back from meditating.
Dan Harris: Bingo. I'm doing it wrong.
Lodro Rinzler: I'm doing it wrong. There is something isolating if we are sitting at home on our own, like, "Is my back even straight? I can't even see it. Should I set up a mirror?"
Dan Harris: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, this is the beauty of a class.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. There is a teacher that says, "Hey, do you want to sit down and let me see how you're sitting on a cushion? If you're having knee problems, let's look at where your legs are." I think, we actually, we've added a mindful body class just for posture correction, because people are like, "I want to make sure that I'm getting it right."
Of course, we don't want to feed into, like, there is one right way to meditate because there are so many different types of meditation out there. But for people that want the very basics of posture correction and things like that, we wanted to make it available so that people could feel confident.
Honestly, it might mean, and we've had this happen a lot, people come regularly to us, and then they get their techniques that they really love and they go and do it at home. We never see them again. And that's okay. It's just getting more people meditating.
Dan Harris: So you have three meditation studios. You've just published your sixth book. You're engaged to be married. How often do you meditate, and for what length of time?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. Well, so there's periods of time where I'm teaching a lot, and periods of time when I'm not, which is really nice. The periods of time when I'm not, I feel like I have more time to deepen the well of my own practice and study. So right now, actually, I've been doing a lot more practice, particularly in the morning. The way we do MNDFL is that I often don't roll in until eleven, and then I'm there to like seven o'clock at night. So, the mornings are for exercise and taking care of myself and practicing.
I have this puppy-
Dan Harris: Oh, you have a puppy too.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I have a puppy too. I associate ... it's definitely not the same as having a child, but the idea of a puppy jumping on me while I'm meditating is probably the closest I have to a screaming kid.
Dan Harris: I had three cats for a long time, my wife and I had three cats for a long time, and we would say, "Oh, these are our babies." And then you actually have a baby and you're like, "That was the most ridiculous thing to say."
Lodro Rinzler: I'm sure. This is why I'm always careful about it.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: But I do have a puppy jumping on me, and depending on the morning, anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half, you know? It just depends on what's going on that day.
Dan Harris: So sometimes you'll get a 90-minute sit in?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah! Absolutely. When it's less than that, I often feel hypocritical. And that's okay because that's my own journey of figuring this stuff out. What is my, as someone who is doing a lot right now, there's going to be periods of time when I ... It's sort of like what I call "maintenance sits." Sort of like I'm holding it down, and I'm sort maintaining some certain level of insanity in the midst of the storm. Then there are times when I can go away on retreat for a week, too.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: That's where I can go really deep. And I try to do that at least once a year.
Dan Harris: So what is your style? When you sit to meditate in this Shambhala tradition, what do you do? What does that look like, in your mind?
Lodro Rinzler: I often still do what we call, in this tradition, "shamatha," calm abiding, or peaceful abiding meditation. That opens and closes my sessions.
I studied with, my teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche since I was 19. He has given me different practices to do over time within the Vajrayana tradition.
Dan Harris: Okay, wait, wait, wait. Tell us what calm abiding is before you ...
Lodro Rinzler: Okay. It's mindfulness meditation. It's actually bringing your full attention to the breath.
Dan Harris: Eyes open in your case.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. Often eyes open.
Dan Harris: Kind of cast down at the floor.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, even with shamata, there are so many different ways of doing it. There's raising your gaze at a certain point, there's just putting your gaze about two feet down, four feet down, and it has different effects on the mind. We can focus on different things. Some traditions you might focus on the in breath or the out breath, or count your breaths, or just focus on the out breath. There are different ways of doing it.
But the idea here is that it doesn't always feel calm, as anyone who's ever meditated once knows. But that inherently, innate to who we are, is the sense of peace and calm, and that it's right beneath the surface if we can peel back the onion, so to speak.
Dan Harris: So calm abiding is you're noticing the feeling of your breath, coming in, going out. You're actually feeling it, and then when you get lost, you start again.
Lodro Rinzler: That's it. Simple, but not easy.
Dan Harris: Exactly. Okay, so that's the beginning and end of your practice. But then what do you do in the middle?
Lodro Rinzler: The particular style of ... I used the foreign term "Vajrayana." Vajra being indestructible. Yana being path or vehicle. So it's a Tibetan Buddhist series of practices. There are contemplations, there's mantra recitation.
Dan Harris: Like, bowing?
Lodro Rinzler: I have at periods of time done prostrations, yep. But most of my practice, these days, is visualization and mantra recitation.
Dan Harris: Interesting. So tell me about the visualization.
Lodro Rinzler: I can't. You come do the Vajrayana practices, you get initiated into the practice, I'll tell you all about it.
Dan Harris: Don't you think that's a little undemocratic, that you can't talk about it?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah!
Dan Harris: So then why don't you just break the rule?
Lodro Rinzler: I'm sorry, did you think that the Tibetan monastic system is democratic? (laugh) This thing that's been around in Tibet for hundreds and hundreds of years? You know, these particular practices, it's often best to be shown by a teacher directly, as opposed to reading up on it, or just watching a YouTube video. Because, in the same way that we were talking about before, there's something about having a teacher guide you through a practice so that you really understand what you're doing, as opposed to someone who's only been doing it for however many years, like myself, just talk about it out loud without knowing any of it.
Dan Harris: So kind of what you're saying is I'm Lodro Rinzler, I'm Mr. Meditation For Everybody, I wrote six books, and I have three meditation studios, but I do some stuff on the side that I can't talk to you about.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. It's actually really interesting-
Dan Harris: I'm not trying to make fun of you.
Lodro Rinzler: No.
Dan Harris: A little bit, but ...
Lodro Rinzler: It's not even me. It's also like all of the Vedic teachers.
Dan Harris: Okay, those are the Hindu teachers, that's a different tradition, yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: So, yeah. The Vedas, they've been around five, eight thousand years, depending on who you ask. The whole thing around that, whether we're talking about transcendental meditation as a form of Vedic meditation or teachers like Emily Fletcher or Tom Knowles or Hunter Cressman, they have to initiate people into that practice, and then they receive the mantra that they do 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the afternoon. But until you do that, you don't really know much about it. It's sort of hearsay and gossip.
I think there are longstanding traditions, not just within Buddhism, but within that system and other systems that you sort of need a teacher to guide you and show you what is best for you in order to have a whole practice, a wholesome practice.
Dan Harris: Am I a lesser Buddhist because I'm doing this stuff? I mean, there's nothing I do that I can't talk about.
Lodro Rinzler: Honestly, if I'm doing 20 minutes in the morning and not the full 90 minutes that I could be doing, I'm just doing shamata. I'm mindful of the breath. That is as awesome as the practice, because no matter what practice I'm doing, Dan, my mind is my mind at the end. Am I actually working with it? Am I actually becoming more authentic, present, and kind? I honestly think these are just different skillful means, different tools on a toolbox to work with yourself.
Dan Harris: Back to MNDFL for a second. You're now a businessman.
Lodro Rinzler: Someone told me that recently, and I'm still catching up deciding, "I guess I am."
Dan Harris: You better hope your investors aren't listening to this. Because they think you're a businessman ...
Lodro Rinzler: Yes, they really ... And it's going great!
Dan Harris: So I'm a businessman too and also readily admit I don't know what I'm doing, although I have a CEO who's awesome and totally knows what he's doing.
Lodro Rinzler: I do too though! My business partner, Ellie Burrows.
Dan Harris: Right, okay, but that's not my question.
Lodro Rinzler: Okay.
Dan Harris: My question is, there are those who have the view that you shouldn't be making money off of the dharma, or spirituality, or contemplation, or whatever you want to call it. What do you say to that?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. It's interesting because what we're talking about is these ancient practices, whether it is Vedic or whether it's Buddhist. I'll just speak from Buddhist because that's my experience. 2600 years of generosity within a culture that actually allowed these practices to flourish. It's not like the Buddha just sat down somewhere. It's like, "Hey everyone, gather around, let's talk." It's like, people actually donated land and would bring out food for all of his followers and himself so that they could feel supported in doing this endeavor.
I always joke that if someone wanted to buy us this beautiful townhouse in Greenwich Village and just pay for all of our teachers' rents and stuff, like, awesome! I would love that! And we would not have to charge money. But in our consumer society, there is an exchange where people say, "I offer this so that I can support the work you're doing and keep this business open, because I love this business, and it's actually helping me." And I think it's actually a more sustainable model, and I'm sure we'll get lots of feedback about this, I think it's more sustainable, having served as the Executive Director of nonprofit Buddhist centers, than the nonprofit model.
In my own experience, there's a certain sense of poverty mentality in many of our nonprofit Buddhist centers where we're just trying to stay afloat and just trying to keep our doors open, as opposed to saying, "Hey, this is what it actually takes for us to run this thing. We're being honest with you, we also want to pay our teachers well. I think MNDFL that actually is able to say, "Because you actually come and you pay for a class, our teachers are able to pay their own rent and not have to take on lots of other jobs, or not have to only teach at nine o'clock at night because they're working all day. They can actually be teachers.
Dan Harris: Okay, so I'm down with all of that. I'm a capitalist, so I don't really have a problem with any of this, and clearly, if I did I'd be a massive hypocrite because I'm helping run a company. But, I think everybody would see what you're saying is reasonable. But where it becomes interesting, potentially, is if you guys are like the McDonald's of meditation, where you've got MNDFLs all over the place, and you're making a ton of money.
Or, with 10% Happier, the app, if we become as popular as Twitter and everybody's got our app on their phones, and we just have hundreds of millions of dollars. Does that get into a funny space?
Lodro Rinzler: You know, as a meditator, this is also going to get a lot of critiques, but there is some element of all of us running the business at MNDFL, we're meditators, and we are just trying to focus on what's going on right now. Right now it feels in complete integrity because we have these beautiful teachers who are able to do what they do. I honestly think we have some of the best teachers in the entire city, from all of these different traditions, all under one roof, which is the first time I've ever seen that happen.
At this point no one's getting rich off of this. We show up and we honestly believe that we're a service business. We are in service to absolutely every single human being that walks in the door. And if I'm sitting there, I'm not sitting there like, "Oh, I'm the author of six books and I've been teaching meditation for 15 years." I'm the guy that's checking you into class and showing you around and showing you where the bathroom is because that's kind.
So yeah, I mean, maybe if there were a hundred of them. I just, I honestly, Dan-
Dan Harris: But isn't that your goal? Isn't that our goal, to grow?
Lodro Rinzler: No!
Dan Harris: No?
Lodro Rinzler: That's the weirdest thing. I can't imagine there being 100 of these. I couldn't have imagined, at the same time, that there would have been three of these a year ago.
Dan Harris: I guess what I'm saying, I'm not saying your goal is to have 100, but your goal is to grow. Businesses are like sharks, you've got to keep moving.
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, right now we're just focused on ... We're focusing on creating a kind community across three studios. That's my main focus for the next six months to a year is just to say, "Can we replicate the completely kind, accepting, diverse community that we have at our first location, where people are coming and actually having life-changing experiences over time because they're launching a meditation practice? We've had people meet and fall in love there, we've had people start lifelong friendships, all sorts of really funny things that are wonderful. Can we do that across three studios?
That's as far as my mind goes. I'm not even bull (bleep)ing. Like, "Oh no we've got some secret 10-year plan in my back pocket that I'm not talking about on the radio."
Dan Harris: No, I don't suspect that you have some secret plan. I guess what I'm wondering is is there ... It's a bit theoretical, but it doesn't even have to do with just you, but for any of us, there's a growing number of people in the meditation business. Me, you, the guys from Headspace, there's some company out now that's selling cushions, there are companies that are doing meditation inside corporations. I guess somebody is going to potentially get really, really successful and then take a lot of crap for being really, really successful, and I was just wondering whether you think that's legit?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah. I mean, I feel like Headspace is getting knocked up in the media right now. There was a piece in New York Mag that was really critiquing their ad campaign. I think something like Headspace, which is helping eight million people? Something remarkable ... If you ran an ad campaign that gets some critique, and that's where people are attacking you, I think that's probably a good sign.
Dan Harris: Yeah.
Lodro Rinzler: So similarly, like, I think that's a great position to be in. It's the nature of the beast, that, I think, even as we talk about this, I'll probably get a lot of flak for saying ... for example, I don't think ... if at any point I feel like we are no longer at integrity in representing traditional techniques and teachers in a way that is acceptable and helps people, if we fall out of integrity with that, I walk away. Also, I think we'd need to scale down until we can really nail that, across the board. That's really important to me, in particular. That's the entirety of my roll. My half of the business is to make sure that we remain in spiritual integrity.
That I take extremely serious. I don't think I've ever actually talked about this openly. But that's the guiding thing. Every day I wake up and I say, "Okay, that copy in the newsletter sounds a little bit too love and light-y, to me, it doesn't feel like that's actually representing what meditation is. I've got to change it. I've got to be honest with it." So I think we can only grow to the extent that we can do that, across the board. That probably means the massive education process that's going into the meditation industry right now ... All of the questions that you were asking me earlier, like what are the obstacles? You've gotten these questions, Headspace has gotten these questions, the meditation cushion people have probably gotten those questions. So there's a giant part of education right now saying what is meditation making sure that it's being responsibly communicated. I think it has to happen first.
Dan Harris: Yeah, very exciting. Also daunting at the same time.
Lodro Rinzler: Absolutely.
Dan Harris: Lodro, for people who want to learn more about you and MNDFL, where should they go? Where can we get info?
Lodro Rinzler: Yeah, I mean, we're actually launching this online channel for all of the MNDFL videos. So everything, from the studios, and of course if you're not here in New York, visiting New York, you can watch our teachers at home and check them out for yourself. Because I think, as I said, they're absolutely wonderful. And it's MNDFLmeditation.com. All one word. And I'm at LodroRinzler.com, which is very easy to spell.
Dan Harris: (laugh) L-O-D-R-O R-I-N-Z-L-E-R.
Lodro Rinzler: For the spelling bee win, thank you.
Dan Harris: Great to see you, my man.
Lodro Rinzler: Great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Dan Harris: Thanks for putting up with my obnoxious questions.
Lodro Rinzler: I love them.