How does an intention become an action? For years, I’ve intended to start a meditation practice. Who doesn’t want to be more fully present in life’s moments and enjoy reduced stress while enjoying personal and spiritual growth? Yes, please. I read books and reached out to expert practitioners, but nothing helped me move from intention to action when it came to meditation.
However, like so many of us during this protracted, unprecedented global pandemic, I developed new modes of being and doing that I did not envision before Covid. While my running habit pre-dates the pandemic, I slipped into a habit of longer daily runs simply because I had more time in the day to do so—and the relative safety of being outdoors remained constant. In no time, I exhausted my music playlists. Too lazy to create new ones, I turned to audiobooks to power me through these longer runs.
What happened next was a very organic evolution between running and “reading.” Listening to a book engaged my mind in such a completely different way. A great audio book is both immersive and relaxing, and listening while engaged in physical activity allowed my mind to let thoughts and ideas flow freely without judgement from my often-skeptical inner voice. The simple act of clicking on a headset created a separation between me and my external (and internal) distractions.
And this is how I landed on a type of meditation that worked for me.
I call it my Mindfulness Stacks. It’s a bit of borrowed word play from one of my favorite self-development books, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear references “stacking” actions that we want to create into habits that last by combining two or more actions that naturally go together. In my case, running + audiobooks are my stack.
I layer mindfulness into my stack by listening to a carefully chosen group of audiobooks back-to-back that teach me something new and helps me explore ways that our mind hears, processes, and uses information. Though I suspect that the books in my stacks will evolve to reflect where I am at that moment, I have been focusing on a specific set for the last year: books about the nonprofit sector and its role in serving the social good, paired with books about future trends and our overall human condition.
By stacking these two types of audiobooks and listening to them every morning during my run, I can get myself into a state of mental calm and physical relaxation. This helps me start each day with a heightened mental state that feels open, clear, and focused. It may not look like typical meditation—I’m not sitting on a cushion in a quiet corner with my eyes closed—but I do reach the same goal: inner calm and enhanced well-being.
These are my three favorite mindfulness stacks. Even if you have read some of these books, I encourage you to re-visit them with these combinations in mind. Let me know what you think and if it works for you. Happy meditations!
Stack #1: A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, What Happened to You, Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey, Know My Name, Chanel Miller, and I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou.
Stack #2: 2030, Mauro F. Guillen, New Power Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, Engine of Impact, William F. Meehan, and Kim Starkey, and The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates.
Stack #3: The 5am Club, Robin Sharma, The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch; The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle, Atomic Habits, James Clear, and How to Train Your Mind, Chris Bailey.