Jonathan Lehmann practiced business law in Paris and New York for 6 years. After a burnout, he quit his job to get an MBA from UCLA.
While there he studied the science behind happiness, deep dove into ancient wisdom and learned to meditate. Nowadays, he meditates Les Antisèches du Bonheur and publishes guided meditation sessions on YouTube and via the Insight Timer app.
I/O: What brought you to meditation?
Jonathan Lehmann: It all started with a book I read: A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle, which is about ego and the tyranny of one’s own mind. It made me realize I was incapable of living in the moment, and I understood the way to cure that was through meditation.
I/O: What does a typical session look like?
JL: Three to 5 minutes of focusing on my breathing, trying to slow it down, and observing my thoughts without chasing after them. After these first minutes, there are different approaches I take, depending on the type of meditation. Either it entails affirmations - to reprogram my brain so it produces happiness naturally, and is more open to giving and getting love; visualizations - to let my mind wander and escape, to prepare for big moments, confront fears, or be more at peace with the pain one experiences; exercises to connect my body and mind; etc….
I/O: Is there necessarily a spiritual element to the practice, or can it be approached as a personal growth technique?
JL: Good question! Only if you want there to be. Meditation helps the brain, and in that sense, it can be practiced as a simple way to stay healthy. But often, those who practice meditation feel something changing within themselves, something that can become spiritual.
I/O: What do the first twenty minutes of your day look like?
JL: I drink water, and hand-write about 3 pages, just to get rid of the overflow, so I can get a better picture of my thoughts, and where I stand mentally. I meditate 10 to 20 minutes, depending on what time it is. I eat a bowl of unsweetened muesli with almond milk and a cup of coffee. After I’ve done all that, I turn off the airplane mode on my phone.
I/O: How about the last twenty minutes of your day?
JL: I put my phone back on airplane mode, at least an hour before bed. I read in bed, usually something about personal development or spirituality.
I/O: In which cases can meditation really help to move forward in life?
JL: There was a real explosion in the number of studies about the benefits of meditation in the 90s. These can be boiled down to three major categories:
Meditation makes you smarter by helping your memory, concentration and creativity. It makes you happier, by allowing negative emotions, such as sadness and anger, to pass quicker. It is actually more efficient than most medication against depression and anxiety.
Meditation makes you live longer, by slowing the ageing of cells, diminishing the risks of cardiovascular disease, and diminishing inflammatory disorders. It’s nothing short of a superpower!
But mostly, meditation makes you feel better. It helps us reconnect with the joy of simply being, the satisfaction of breathing well, with the fact that life is magical. It allows us to see our problems aren’t as insurmountable as they can seem, and to realize that what’s on your mind is usually not that big a deal!
Thanks to meditation, I was able to change careers, stop smoking - I was smoking over a pack a day. I’ve made progress in all the activities I like, such as writing, playing chess and tennis. I’ve learned to harness my anger, to be a better listener, to be more in touch with nature. Also I’ve reinforced my memory: I remember my dreams a lot more, and I know where I last left my stuff! I’m more patient, more calm, I don’t get bored anymore, I have better ideas. And I’ve got a new tool to face feelings of sadness or panic!
The benefits of meditation are different for each person, and their specific set of problems in life. But meditation transforms your life in more ways than any other practice I’ve tried and studied. To feel its effects, you just need to practice a little each day, even for just 10 minutes. Regularity is key, and will make meditation a great tool for your life. 10 minutes a day for 10 days, and I guarantee you’ll be surprised.
I/O: Anything else you would like to tell us? Some of your expert advice?
JL: Try guided meditation to start with, it’s the easiest way to begin. Meditate a little each day, regularity is key.