As a certified mindfulness facilitator and performance coach, Melo has the unique ability to bring the best out of the people and the companies he works with. He has studied and taught mindfulness and meditation for well over 25 years. His results-based work is grounded in neuroscience, mindfulness, human behaviour and other unique tools to help his clients find self-awareness, clarity, focus and ultimately success.
Melo learned to manage highly challenging and stressful situations, build mental endurance, rise above adversity from his life lessons on the road where he cycled, trekked and travelled over 30,000 km around the planet on his mountain bike. He traversed Africa, Asia, India, Nepal, Europe and North America, along with overcoming many obstacles and demanding encounters, including near-death experiences. While travelling, he has also immersed himself in the meditative and spiritual practices from the globe’s remote corners.
He now shares that deep experience in his professional role as a certified performance coach and mindfulness facilitator with corporate CEOs, managers and directors of large companies, and sporting professionals, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and individuals who want to be the absolute best at their craft.
His work has been described as ‘truly transformational’!
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/mindfulmooves/
Chris Ippolito 2:00
Melo Calarco 2:02
Hi, how are you?
Chris Ippolito 2:03
I’m doing great. Welcome to the “Get Coached Podcast,” glad to have you on. I remember when we did our pre-interview call, I had mentioned that I had never had a mindfulness coach on the podcast yet. I’m near the end of recording my first 50 episodes, which is for the first full year, and you were very surprised. I’m surprised, as well. I think you would agree it’s such a huge topic and there’s a lot of value in it. I’m very excited for our conversation today.
Melo Calarco 2:39
Great. Yes, thank you. Thanks for having me on.
Chris Ippolito 2:41
Hey, you’re welcome. As I start every episode, I’d love for us to get to know you a little bit better. Do you mind sharing your story and basically your journey as to how you became a mindfulness coach?
Melo Calarco 2:56
Sure, yeah. Well, it’s a bit of a long journey to get here, it probably started about three decades ago where I was immersed into meditation. Probably in a period of my life, early 20s, where I was a bit lost, directionless, not sure what I was doing, just taking on any job just to make money. Then I found meditation. Actually, I found meditation through martial arts originally. Practiced martial arts for many years.
Chris Ippolito 3:21
Which martial art?
Melo Calarco 3:23
Shaolin kung fu and Chen-style Tai chi, very internal arts in many ways. I very quickly realized the importance of the mind and the importance of the mental strength even more than the physical strength. Then I immersed myself quite deep into that and continue to practice it even to this day.
Chris Ippolito 3:43
Do they do a belt system in either of those?
Melo Calarco 3:46
Not really, no. We do, only a Westernized version of it, basically. Yeah, we don’t really get too caught up in that.
Chris Ippolito 3:55
Okay. I did karate, that’s why I was wondering.
Melo Calarco 3:59
Yeah, it’s a practice that I’ve continued on. Really martial arts, or kung fu, is in everything that you do. It’s not just in the martial art itself, it’s in your lifestyle, it’s become a lifestyle for me. That basically led me on a three-decade journey of discovery and exploration where I traveled around the world actually, traveled around the world on my mountain bike. I went through Africa, India, Asia, and many parts of the globe. Wherever I was I’d immerse myself into the spiritual practice of that area, stay in monasteries, temples, and really dive quite deep into it.
That was an amazing experience, and I share that in my mindfulness practice today. I have quite a strong Eastern background, but also today I work professionally in corporate health, I work in mental health clinics, I do a lot of executive coaching. I use the best of both worlds there, I draw on my Eastern experience and also share the Western clinical perspective.
That’s led me to where I am today. Now I currently work in many sporting associations, many corporate companies, I do a lot of one-on-one CEO coaching. I love to break the skepticism around meditation. A lot of people have a skepticism or a preconception that is has to be sitting cross-legged chanting “om” or having incense burning. I’m very quick to break that, I love to break that and realize the importance of it and all of the many thousands of benefits from it. It’s a continual journey for me and it’s a continual practice that I constantly dedicate and discipline my time to do.
Chris Ippolito 5:31
Yeah. How long did you do the world traveling for?
Melo Calarco 5:38
A few years. Yeah, it was about three years altogether. Mostly living with indigenous people along the way, mostly staying with African tribes. Wherever I was, like I said, I’d immerse myself into the local cultural spiritual aspect, which was absolutely fascinating, mind-blowing, and I learned many lessons. Yes, I am a certified mindfulness facilitator and I do have papers to show me that, but really I feel that I learned my lessons on the road, I learned my lessons by diving deep into some pretty amazing situations. That’s where I learned my lessons on fear, lessons on trust, lessons on resilience, lessons on really trusting yourself in all sorts of situations. I draw upon that more than I draw upon my papers that say I’m a mindfulness coach.
Chris Ippolito 6:25
Right. I think I would probably say that applies to a lot of forms of education, that you tend to learn more out in the “real world” applying, practicing, and going through it, versus just the book knowledge and the certificate at the end of it.
Melo Calarco 6:46
Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
Chris Ippolito 6:48
Coming out of that journey, what would you say were some of the more memorable moments, some of the stories that always stick with you?
Melo Calarco 7:01
Oh, there are thousands of them.
Chris Ippolito 7:03
All right, let’s go with you had mentioned learning the lesson of fear. Is there a memorable story about that journey of learning that lesson?
Melo Calarco 7:16
Yeah, definitely. There are a few. Definitely in Africa would be some situations, even just the border crossing is dangerous in Africa, and the dangers I learned. But one particular story that sticks out to me is actually in Nepal. I was trekking in Nepal, just finished a trek up in the mountains, came back to Kathmandu, and Kathmandu was in a horrible situation. This was in 2001. I’m not sure if you remember, but the whole royal family was assassinated.
Chris Ippolito 7:45
No, I don’t remember that.
Melo Calarco 7:46
Yeah. What happened was the prince, Prince Dipendra, he actually put on his military fatigues, he got a machine gun, he walked into the royal family house, and he basically gunned down the whole family.
Chris Ippolito 7:58
Melo Calarco 7:59
Yeah, it was pretty amazing. Then he turned the gun on himself and he killed himself, but he was still alive on a life support system in the hospital. I’ll cut this long story short, but basically the Nepalese people were angry, they were confused, they were scared. I got caught in a procession that were actually there in respect for king because they loved the king, Birendra was his name at the time. They really loved him, but obviously he was killed by his son. The people turned a bit angry and hostile. I was in this procession where suddenly there was tear gas being thrown around, there was rocks being hurled, there was shooting. All the males, they actually shaved their heads off totally and they left a little bit at the back in respect for the king.
It was a pretty ugly situation, raising their fists and it was turning very ugly. I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time I’d probably felt real feel for my life, hearing gunshots in the background. I was scurrying in all different directions and didn’t know which way to run. Likewise, many people around me were doing the same thing.
Then the funny thing that happened was actually a man who recognized us from our guest house back in Kathmandu, he said, “Come over here and come with me.” We turned to follow him. The funny thing was, instead of fleeing away from the crowd, he actually turned towards the crowd and actually found a little route which went down to a river. We went towards the crowd, then we snuck down the side of this riverbank, then we had to cross this horribly polluted river and knee-deep in sewage, then we had to make our way back to Kathmandu.
The lesson I learned there was two things, basically. Trust, trust this fellow was leading us in the right direction. But also to turn towards the situation. To turn towards it, gently turn towards it, to face your fear or to look towards it. I’ve used that a lot in life. Look at what the fear is, look at what the thing is that’s happening, whatever the situation is, gently turn towards it, analyze it, and work out the best situation to cope with that in that present moment. The best situation in that present moment was actually to go towards it and sneak down this riverbank, instead of fleeing and going in all sorts of crazy directions not knowing where to go. It was actually go towards it and make our way.
That’s been a really big lesson for me. I’ve used that a lot in life. “What’s going on? What am I scared of? What’s the fear?” Gently face it, gently look at, analyze it, and respond mindfully with that.
Chris Ippolito 10:22
Right. From the perspective of the lessons you’ve learned from Eastern philosophy and Western philosophy, we’ll still use the same term, what are some of the reasons why turning towards fear? Because it’s very counterintuitive, most of the time even our natural instinct is to usually run away from fear. But in a case of something like this, having that presence of mind to go towards it, face it head on. This would be my assumption based on books I’ve read and lessons I’ve learned through other podcasts, but do the Eastern philosophies and Western philosophies ultimately line up as far as why you would want to do that or do they come at it from different angles, perhaps?
Melo Calarco 11:19
Yeah, I think there would be some different angles, but there is a common ground. Obviously we use the term “face your fears,” which is quite a strong term, I think it’s a bit strong. I like the term “turn towards it” or “gently lean into it,” so to speak. But it really comes from that presence of mind, it really comes from being present. Because often fear, uncertainty, and anxiety are a future projection, fear of what happens, “What will happen if the lion attacks me? What will happen if the gunshot hits me?” But often in the present moment, this is what I’ve learned a lot, trust that we always have the resources inside of us to cope with any situation.
This is where both Eastern and Western is that being present, being fully present to the situation, as opposed to the fear of “what will happen if.” Do you know what I mean? Thinking about what will happen right now, having that deeper trust and knowledge inside of you that you actually do always have the resources inside of you. You do, you just have to really trust that, turn towards it, and cope with it step by step, moment by moment. It’s a really strong lesson I learned and I use it all the time, I still do. It comes from both Eastern and Western, but in many ways it’s just a presence, it’s just a simple presence.
Chris Ippolito 12:36
Yeah. I’m wondering if maybe, to help the audience out, define, but in your terms anyways, what is mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness. Because I have a friend who actually is a mindfulness coach, which I feel a bit bad that maybe I should have brought him on the show. But either way.
Melo Calarco 12:56
Chris Ippolito 12:57
Yeah. From your perspective anyways, what is that practice of mindfulness?
Melo Calarco 13:03
A simple practice, essentially. A simple practice of just being present, being fully present with what is. Being in the now, people might discover it’s being in the now. Being in that flow state. Chances are you’re doing it already. Think about things that you do that you love doing and you’re fully present and fully engaged, that’s mindfulness. It’s actually nothing new, it’s not some fancy thing that we need to put into our life. We have it in us already, it’s just a matter of bringing it out.
Really it’s about being engaged, being focused, being present. When I’m teaching executive coaches and CEOs, I don’t even use the word “meditation” because it scares people off a little bit. I use the words “attention training” or “focus.” That’s really what mindfulness is, it’s training your attention to be in the present moment. Quite a simple philosophy by theory, but obviously with the busyness and the overstimulated world that we live in our attention systems are being hijacked all the time. It’s harder and harder to stay focused, that’s why we need to actually spend some time to train our attention muscle in our brain, in our mind, to stay on track and filter out the noise around us.
Chris Ippolito 14:13
Yeah. Actually, the very first episode I recorded was with Allen Funston. We ended up touching on the topic of the attention economy and how attention has become such a valuable commodity and asset as far as the way our economy works. As you had mentioned, with everybody vying for each our attention, there’s a lot of value in developing a practice and an exercise to be able to maintain focus and, in a sense, keeping your own attention to yourself and directing it in an intentional way. I feel like that’s part of mindfulness training, is it not? Learning how to be intentional with your attention.
Melo Calarco 15:01
That’s right, exactly. Research says that we are actually 47% of the time off track.
Chris Ippolito 15:08
Melo Calarco 15:10
Of this 30-minute podcast that we have right now, for example, people will be thinking about other things. I really only have you for 15 minutes because our mind wanders off to other things. 47%, it’s a whopping 50% of our time, basically, half of our attention. We have to train our attention to stay on track and train our attention with intention to stay on track.
The other research says that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. When our mind does wander off and it starts ruminating about the past or thinking about the future, that’s when your mental health can start happening, start thinking and catastrophizing about things that may never happen but we spend our time and energy on that.
Our attention systems are limited and it’s best to train them as best we can to stay on track, to stay focused, and have intention. Even starting your day like that instead of being hijacked by your telephone by your bedside. The first thing you do is you check your telephone and your attention is already gone into your telephone, you’re checking your Facebook or whatever it is you’re doing. Waking up with intention, waking up with the intention to start your day and actually own your day from the very time that you wake up.
That’s one thing I could say to people. If you want to learn mindfulness, don’t have the telephone by your bedside. It’s a great way to wake up mindfully. Start your day with a few breaths, for example. Have a shower mindfully, have your breakfast mindfully. Then you can check your phone later and respond to what you need to. But our attention systems are constantly being hijacked all the time and whatever we can do to take control of that is a great thing, that’s where mindfulness training can really help you.
Chris Ippolito 16:50
Right. What does your typical morning look like? What’s your morning routine?
Melo Calarco 16:56
My nonnegotiable morning routine is I wake up and I do a few breaths just to wake up mindfully. It might be just 5 or 10 breaths just to wake up slowly. Then I’ll get up and I’ll go for a nice walk. Rain, hail, or shine, that’s nonnegotiable, that’s my exercise, is to get movement. Then I’ll stop and do a seated practice of meditation. Sometimes I do a Tai chi practice, some martial arts type of practice, but I always end with a seated practice of usually about 20 minutes. Then I’ll go back home again. I’ll make myself a nice, healthy breakfast, and start my day like that. Then I’ll enter my day mindfully, then I’ll open my computer or whatever it is I’m doing. I’m often running seminars and workshops, I’ll do another meditation just before that. But typically those three things are nonnegotiable, typically.
The good thing about that is if you do one thing, you can anchor other things to that one thing. For example, that walk anchors me to say, “Okay, after my walk, I’ll do my meditation. Then after my meditation, I’ll have a healthy breakfast.” It’s a really great way to start the day.
Then I end the day similarly. I end the day after I’ve done all my seminars, workshops, and work. Then I’ll end my day with a bit of Tai chi practice, qigong, or some exercise, and another seated practice of some sort.
They’re two things that I never break, and I haven’t broken that for pretty much 25 years.
Chris Ippolito 18:12
Wow. As a lot of people would say, that’s some great discipline. But I would say it’s a great habit, because that’s very different. It took discipline probably to start it, now it’s just become a habit and a routine. Are you doing 20 minutes in the evening, as well?
Melo Calarco 18:28
Yes, typically. My typical formal practice, they call it, in mindfulness, my typical formal practice is 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the evening. But I also do throughout the day little snack meditations, is what I call them.
Chris Ippolito 18:42
I like that.
Melo Calarco 18:43
Yeah. They’re probably the most powerful, to be honest, because they deactivate the stress response very quickly. If I’m going between, let’s say, an executive client, then I’m going to a mental health clinic, then I’m going somewhere else, I’ll separate those with just a little two-minute meditation or three-minute meditation. Just stop, deactivate all the stress, let go of where I’ve just been, then become fully present with where I’m going next. That’s really powerful, those little two-minute meditations are as important as the longer practice, to be honest.
Chris Ippolito 19:15
Are you sitting down for that, eyes closed, and just working on breathwork? What’s your method of meditation? Because, again, if the audience isn’t familiar with it, there is a very wide range of different forms of mediation. What are you practicing?
Melo Calarco 19:37
I have a variety of practices because I like to be able to access meditation in any place, anywhere. It doesn’t have to be at home with my candles burning and an altar table. Because otherwise you’d never get to do that, that’s an idealistic world. But I can practice meditation at an airport, I can practice on the train, and that’s why I have a variety of practices. One practice will be closed eyes. If I’m in a safe place, in a safe environment, I will close my eyes. I might even practice in the foyer of a building just before going up to a seminar. I’ll put music on and I’ll just close my in the foyer, which is safe.
But sometimes not always in a safe place. Sometimes just listening to some music or just coming into my breath. My breath is my anchor, typically. That’s the one thing with mindfulness and meditation, the breath is often the common anchor we use to become present. It might just be sitting on a train and following my breath for 10 breaths. It might be sitting in a park on a park bench, still with my eyes open, but following my breath for 10 breaths and just coming present through the breath.
Because that’s one thing I did learn, is the power of the breath and how essential it is to anchor yourself in the present moment. That’s one thing you always have control on, is your breath. You have it on you all the time, why not use it?
Chris Ippolito 20:51
Yeah, it’s a great asset. Are you familiar with Wim Hof?
Melo Calarco 20:55
Yeah, he does the 30 snack breaths.
Chris Ippolito 20:58
Yeah, his saying is, “Breath, motherfucker.” Which I always think that’s funny because with his accent it just sounds awesome. Are you following a certain breathing technique, like a certain amount of seconds in, hold, out, like box breathing or anything like that, or is it just be more mindful of the breathing?
Melo Calarco 21:21
Typically deep diaphragmatic breathing is the main practice. At the moment we can bring our breath down into our belly and into our body. We can deactivate that stress response and activate what’s called the parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of fight and flight. That would be the first practice, is to deactivate any stress or busyness around, drop into that breath.
Then myself personally, I do a variety of different breaths. I do what’s called microcosmic orbit breathing, which is actually a breath that goes around the body. Sometimes I do a more invigorating breath where I do a bigger in breath to give me more energy and a slower out breath. There are a variety of practices, but essentially my first go-to is to drop my breath deeper into my body and expand the belly. Instead of just shallow chest breathing, bring it deeper. As soon as you do that, your physiology changes, actually. You change your physiology and you initiate what’s called the relaxation response. Then from there I play little games with my breath and do all sorts of different things, depending on what outcome I want. If I want to be more energize, I’ll do more energizing breaths. If I want to ground myself and let go of where I’ve been, I’ll do more slow prolonged out breaths, actually.
There’s a variety of things, but essentially the first point is to drop the breath deeper.
Chris Ippolito 22:40
I mean when you’ve been doing this as long as you have, I would assume you would want to have a little bit of almost like a toolkit to rely upon, depending on, like you said, your circumstances, as far as your physical circumstances, then your mental circumstances, then your mental circumstances, your environment. Yeah, just all of that. That’s interesting. I think, as somebody who’s practicing a pretty minimal amount of mindfulness and meditation, that piques my interest as far as, “Oh, I wonder what other things I should be looking at doing, depending on my circumstances.” I really like the idea of just doing micro throughout the day as required.
Melo Calarco 23:29
Typically when I teach, I start with that because that actually teaches people to be able to deactivate stress really quickly. Yeah, a quick trigger. Because a lot of people say they can’t afford 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or 15 minutes and they don’t do the practice. That’s one of the common barriers, is time. But just doing two minutes or 90 seconds, just stopping throughout the day. It’s a really powerful way to train yourself to actually deactivate stress and to activate the relaxation response. The quicker you can do that, then you can then extend the practice later.
But the first port of call I typically teach deep diaphragm breathing and I typically teach micro meditations, then build up the practice like that. Because it can have adverse effects, especially with people with high anxiety, for example. To ask them to sit for 20 minutes is just impossible, or 10 minutes. Actually more stuff starts rising in their mind. Just doing these little micro ones is a really good way to deactivate anxiety before it takes hold of you and nip it in the bud. I really think that’s a very powerful practice. Even meditators that have meditated many years and they come and see me, I say to still do those little two-minute ones because they’re so powerful. They say, “Wow,” it’s been a real game changer throughout their day.
Chris Ippolito 24:46
Yeah. Like you said earlier, the practice of mindfulness and meditation, really think of it as a muscle that you train and you develop. Obviously it makes sense that you would coach this because it’s very common coaching from anybody who teaches it, you start small and you build your way up.
You had mentioned that one of the more common reasons that people say they can’t start meditation is a lack of time, we’ll set that one aside. What about the one, because I’ve heard this one a few times, of they think, “I can’t turn off my mind, I can’t just sit there and not think of anything”? Because they think that’s what meditation actually is, is to dump out your mind and have it be empty. When you have that barrier being thrown your way, how do you reply to that as far as making them understand the truth behind what the practice actually is?
Melo Calarco 25:53
Yeah. Giving them permission to actually allow thoughts to come and go. You cannot turn off your thoughts, it’s impossible. It’s like saying, “Stop seeing right now,” with your eyes open. “Stop seeing.”
Chris Ippolito 26:04
Yeah, or, “Stop your heart from beating.”
Melo Calarco 26:07
Yeah, or, “Stop your heart.” Or, “Stop hearing.” It’s impossible. But you can allow those thoughts to be there in the background. After a while those thoughts will become less and less, and the frequency of the busyness will slow down. The other thing I ask is to actually observe the thoughts a little bit. Just check out what they are, just have a little observation from a third-person point of view. “What is that thought that keeps rising?” Then just observe it, then just gently let that go. Then the next thought will pop up, just observe it. “What’s that one? Is that one planning, problem-solving, or thinking?” Observe it, then just let it go.
Eventually we don’t attach to our thoughts, they’ll eventually just slide away and disappear like clouds in the sky, they often use that analogy. The spaces between the thoughts will become longer. There’s actually a space between thoughts. The more you meditate, you actually create more space. If you ask me what meditation does, it actually creates space. It creates space between a stimulus and a response. Those spaces become bigger and longer. A thought will rise, then there will be a space, then another thought will rise, there will be a space.
Yeah, when I get that barrier, it’s a very common barrier that comes through, you just allow your thoughts to be there in the background, don’t attach to them, don’t give them energy, and just let them fade away and the next thought will come.
The other common barrier is, “I’m just too busy,” “I’ve got no time,” “I’ve got all these things.” Busyness is one thing. But I say, “How about if you stop for 2 minutes or 10 minutes, your next 4 hours will be productive?” By stopping for these 5 or 10 minutes to reset, to refocus, to recalibrate the mind, strengthen all the neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of executive function. Then we can actually spend the next two or three hours in a much more high-performance mode.
I love the barriers because that helps me to overcome them with my clients. Once they do, they say, “Wow, I can’t believe I functioned without this.” I do a lot of work around burnout and executives that are in high-pressure jobs, or athletes in high-pressure situations, I do a lot of work with that. I’d rather catch them earlier rather than later.
Chris Ippolito 28:17
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I’m glad you brought up the other one because I was going to ask what’s another common barrier. But yeah, the being too busy is another common one.
You’d mentioned the physiological benefits of it. I was wondering if maybe we can dive into that for the audience that is a little bit more, what is that, left-brained? Where they’re like, “I need the evidence.” What are some of the physical benefits that are gained from the practice of meditation?
Melo Calarco 28:53
One of the main ones that comes to mind is the deactivation of what’s called the amygdala. The amygdala is that fear center or that stress center in the brain. That’s that first port of call when you’re in a stressful situation or under high pressure, that amygdala fires up and it sends an alarm through the body. Then it floods the body with chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, to get you into that fight and flight mode to cope with that situation. The more that you meditate, it actually deactivates that and makes it weaker. It even physically can shrink, the amygdala physically shrinks, it actually makes it weaker. Then you’re not so reactive to stressful situations.
Then the polar opposite of that, it actually strengthens your prefrontal cortex, which I mentioned before. Which is all about problem-solving, planning, executive function, all those things that you need, emotional regulation, that you need to function through the day. Basically it flips it around. Because when you work in a high stressful situation, your prefrontal cortex is hijacked and actually your function, your ability to concentrate, your ability to focus is compromised. That’s one main one. Then that sends a whole message through the whole body to relax and your physiology actually changes. Often we have hunched shoulders when we’re stressed or we have all sorts of physical symptoms that come through the body. But the more we can meditate, we can operate in a more calm and relaxed way.
Chris Ippolito 30:13
Yeah. Can I ask a question on that? Because as you were saying that, I’m like, “That’s crazy.” Because I feel like that was the change for me as I developed the practice and went long enough. Perhaps there is no real answer to this, but how long would it take for somebody who’s developing a daily habit of meditation, how long do you think it could potentially take before they start really getting those physiological changes? Is there a certain time frame? I’m sure it probably varies for most people, but is there perhaps a bit of an average time frame?
Melo Calarco 30:57
Yeah. With an average of around 10 minutes a day. That’s usually the protocol, in a way, 10 minutes a day. Whether that’s five lots of 2 minutes, whether it’s a 10-minute practice or longer. With an average of that, it’s a few weeks. It’s a bit like going to the gym. You go to the gym, you start exercising, and you start noticing some muscles on your body, starting to feel a bit fitter. That usually takes about three, four, six weeks. It’s very similar in a way, you start noticing things within about three, four, or six weeks. That’s why I have a six-week stress course, or a high-performance course, and that’s usually about the time frame of the regular practice.
Having said that, people can actually feel it within days. Some of my clients that I have, they say three days later. Because what happens, then the whole body starts shifting, you start sleeping better. One of the best byproducts of meditation is you have a good night sleep. Some of my clients say, “Wow, Melo, for the first time in a decade I slept all the way through the night.” Because you process your thoughts through the day or through the meditation. Then when you go to bed, you have a nice restful sleep.
You start getting all these other physiological benefits just from even a few days of meditation and just initiating that practice. That’s why I do encourage those short snack meditations, those mini meditations, because every day you’re just training your attention muscle to come back to your breath, come back to your body, every day throughout the day. That’s cumulative over a period of time. That could be a week, it could be two weeks, it could be six weeks, like I said. That’s the typical time frame that I see, and it varies between, obviously, people’s commitment to the practice, people’s jobs, pressure, and what they go through, basically. There’s actually research around an eight-week program or so, that’s a good time frame. You don’t need the dedication of a monk, 10,000 hours. Which is the great thing.
Chris Ippolito 32:53
Yeah, 60 days, which is, I think, pretty achievable for most people, especially at 10 minutes a day. Like you said, breaking it up into two five-minute segments, maybe one in the morning and one in the evening.
The better sleep thing makes total sense when you think about the other physiological benefit of reducing the stress hormones. Because if your body is just ramped full of the stress hormones, you’re probably not having a very restful sleep, even though you’re falling asleep. Your body is just firing on all cylinders, you’re not getting the deep sleep that your body really wants.
For me it just happened, or I just noticed it one day. I was in traffic, it was during rush hour. Somebody, I wouldn’t say that they cut me off, but it was close. They did something stupid that in the past I would have raged. I would have gotten mad, I would have yelled a little bit. I don’t really honk my horn that often, but sometimes I would. But I would be upset and I would feel that physiological reaction to that stress, just the compression and the adrenaline rushing.
Melo Calarco 34:10
Chris Ippolito 34:11
Yeah. I remember it happened one day and no reaction. I jammed on my brakes real quick to avoid maybe a little fender bender and I thought to myself, I was like, “Well, that was a dumb thing for that person to do.” But I didn’t physically react to it. I was like, “Wow, that’s crazy.”
Melo Calarco 34:35
Did you use your breath?
Chris Ippolito 34:36
No, it just happened that one time and I was like, “Well, this had to have been from doing meditation, I can’t think of any other reason that it all of a sudden stopped affecting me that way.” Now I’m a lot more mindful when it does occur. I do feel, the term I like to use, the blood boiling a little bit. I just make sure to take a couple quick deep breaths and it usually subsides, then I’m good. I try and use that in basically any situation that the blood gets going.
Melo Calarco 35:12
Yeah. That’s the other thing that we haven’t talked about today, is with mindfulness there’s two practices. One is the formal practice where you actually do close your eyes, you do the meditation, and the breathwork, which we talked a lot about today. But there’s also what’s called the non-formal practice. That’s all those other 10,000 things that you do in your day, and you do them more mindfully. From driving the car, to walking, to brushing your teeth, to showering, to eating. These are all opportunities to practice mindfulness.
For example, eating. Often we eat in front of the computer, we eat on the run, or we eat without thinking too much. But if we can actually stop, enjoy our meal, enjoy the flavors, we can then bring mindfulness to that. That’s the great thing about mindfulness, it’s not only those 10 minutes that you sit with your eyes closed, but it’s also those other things throughout the day.
That’s one invitation I say to many of my clients, also, is to find one or two things that you do and just do them more mindfully. It could be the shower, it could be waking up in the morning, it could be eating, it could be communication, it could be just listening, how do you actually mindfully listen to people. It could be anything, how you end your day, end your day mindfully.
All throughout the day you’re doing a practice, you’re actually practicing mindfulness just by being more present. Chances are you aren’t present. If you’re in the shower for three minutes, is your mind really in the shower for three minutes? Your mind is flicking off elsewhere. Or when you’re eating, are you really eating? Especially if you eat in front of the computer. Research says if you eat in front of the computer, you get hungry 20 minutes later.
Chris Ippolito 36:45
Melo Calarco 36:46
Your mind hasn’t taken in the message that you’re actually satisfied. Typically you crave carbohydrates, some sort of reward system, a bit of sugar or something like that, because you don’t have that satisfaction region of the brain being triggered. A great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Go on.
Chris Ippolito 37:06
I was going to say do you know if that applies to eating while watching TV, or was there something in particular about the computer?
Melo Calarco 37:13
No, it’s similar. Yeah, similar to TV. Because really your attention is elsewhere, your attention is divided into two quadrants. You’re watching that television show, you probably get to the end of your meal, you look down at your plate, and it’s empty. It’s like, “Oh, did I finish that?” Or your sandwich or whatever it is. It’s well-known research that we get hungry 20 or so minutes later.
If we can bring more attention, and eating is a great opportunity because there are at least three or four times that we eat in a day, bring mindfulness to that and just say, “Okay, I’m just going to put my phone away, put away my computer, just eat my meal, taste the flavors.” Then chances are you’ll also eat less, or eat slower, chew your food. There’s a good mindful eating exercise that is quite common where you eat a sultana, or a raisin, really slowly. It takes about five minutes and you eat it really slowly. It’s a great exercise.
Chris Ippolito 38:06
I couldn’t do it. I’m a fast eater. Both my parents were in the military, they were trained to eat quickly because you have a very limited window to eat your lunch and/or dinners or whatever it was. This is just more my theory, but because they ate quickly, I would model after that growing up. Now I’m a quick eater. But I should try that actually just to see if I could do it. It’s a raisin for five minutes?
Melo Calarco 38:41
Yeah. Pop it in your mouth. Before you even chew it or anything, get the flavors out. Actually, before you even put it in your mouth, you look at it, you see it, and you observe it.
Chris Ippolito 38:49
Oh, okay. Take five minutes total.
Melo Calarco 38:52
Yeah. That’s a bit of a luxury because when I learned it, I learned it in the monastery and we had to do it with brown rice, actually. Raw brown rice.
Chris Ippolito 38:59
Melo Calarco 39:00
Yeah, raw brown rice. We had put it in our mouth, we had to break down fluids. It took about 10 minutes, actually, before you could break it down. But then you’d bring all the sweetness out. You could do it with a piece of chocolate if you like, even better.
Chris Ippolito 39:12
That’s better, I like that, I’ll do that. All right. Well, Melo, this was a really fun conversation, we covered a lot. What would be the one piece of advice you’d want to share with the audience to help them level up most?
Melo Calarco 39:29
Yeah. I’ll give you two. I’ll give you two because it’s the formal practice and the non-formal. Number one is to choose one thing and do it more mindfully, let’s say for the next seven days, or for the next 21 days, or 30 days, whatever you choose. Choose one thing that you do every single day, you do it in autopilot, you do it in default mode, and just do that more mindfully. Whether it’s eating, whether it’s showering, whether it’s brushing your teeth, whether it’s going for a walk. That’s one piece of homework if you can, do that and just try that out every day.
Then the other thing would be to initiate even those mini meditations, just doing a two-minute practice. If you’re feeling a bit stressed or rattled and busy in the mind, you’ve got too much work or a bit overwhelmed, just pull away for a moment and just follow your breath for a cycle of around 10. That’s around about two minutes. Then just keep doing that throughout the day and just build up that attention muscle. Once you start building that up, you can start doing the longer practices.
There’s the two. Choose one thing, do it more mindfully. Then simple little two-minute meditation practices.
Chris Ippolito 40:32
Yeah, I love that. I’m definitely going to do it myself because I think everybody could be more mindful, I know there’s at least one thing I could be doing more mindfully. And I’m going to definitely start incorporating the mini ones, because I do a morning session. I should start doing an evening one, as well. But I’ll do the micro ones throughout the day.
Well, I think you for that, I think that was incredibly valuable, a lot of people will take value out of this. Where can people find you if they wanted to learn more, reach out, and connect with you directly?
Melo Calarco 41:07
I’d say the easiest way is my website, melocalarco.com. You’ll probably have it in the show notes, I imagine. It’s got everything on there, it’s got my e-mail address, some resource and things. Melocalarco.com, pretty easy. I’d love to hear from you, I’d love to support you in any way to initiate a practice, support anybody in any way I can. That’s my mission, is to share it with the world, especially the skeptics, like I said, and make it more accessible for you.
Chris Ippolito 41:33
Perfect. Well, again, thank you very much for being a guest, that was a very pleasurable conversation. I feel very relaxed right now. Because as we were talking about it, I was making sure, “Take good, deep breaths and just be present, be very mindful with what’s going on.”
Melo Calarco 41:50
Chris Ippolito 41:51
Thank you very much, I look forward to probably some future conversations.
Melo Calarco 41:57
Great. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. And thank you. Thanks, Chris.
Chris Ippolito 42:00
Melo Calarco 42:01