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The following material has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Recently, Kim Shea had the honor of speaking with Adam Webber. He's the “NO BS, common sense” speaker, a published author, product creation specialist, and the owner of “Weber Real Estate Advisors” and “Weber Advisory Group.” He has also developed a coaching program called “Easy to Meditate,” which employs his very own meditation technique. He has a podcast called Meditation Not Medicine and is also the author of the book, Meditation Not Medicine.
In their discussion, Adam shared how his MS diagnosis led him to explore meditation and eventually create his own technique. They talked about the health benefits of meditation, the importance of meditation for children and adults in a COVID world, and tips for when you begin meditating.
Where My Meditation Journey Began
Kim (host): If you wouldn't mind, would you tell me about your background, where you're from, and how you got where you needed to design all this stuff in the first place?
Adam (guest): I grew up on Long Island, went to college in the Midwest, and I was always very active. Then I came back home to New York and worked in corporate real estate for one of the big commercial real estate giants, Cushman and Wakefield, for many years.
What happened was I decided it was time to go out on my own. Before that decision, it was getting tougher to commute and I'd been looking to find out why. I was always in good shape. I always worked out and ate well.
It took a number of years and a lot of tests to figure out an answer. I had knee surgery. I had all sorts of different treatments and I had a doctor from Johns Hopkins who told me I was just getting old. But at that time, I was just 40 years old and I’d been suffering for a few years before that. I'm going to turn 52 soon, so that gives you an idea of how long I’ve been dealing with everything.
I eventually had back surgery. During the surgery, the doctors found some things that they weren't thrilled with and did some tests to find out that I have a progressive form of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis can evolve a little bit, so they weren't sure that I had that the whole time, but they're sure I have it now.
I went to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Immediately, they started a very aggressive treatment with a drug that was part of an FDA trial, because I was young enough and I was strong enough, at the time, to withstand it. It’s actually the most effective drug on the market for multiple sclerosis. It’s called Ocrevus. There are commercials for it now, to make people aware of this drug. I've kind of become one of those poster boys for how it can help. I should have been a lot worse than I am now, but I'm not. A big part of why I’m doing so well is meditation.
At the beginning, I knew I needed to find a way to “address the stress,” as they say. I didn't want to take medications. I’m the son of a doctor and I was raised with the “one size fits all, take a pill” approach. I'm not a fan of that, because it only hurts you more to take more and more pills. They're very toxic. That’s where the phrase, “Meditation Not Medicine,” comes in.
I started meditating to address the stress. I actually took the pills. The doctors would prescribe them, and I would say, “Okay, I'm going to listen to the doctors.”
I’d take them for a day, then I’d throw them out. The last time, I flushed them down the toilet. My doctors weren't thrilled with that approach. They understood that I wanted to take a more holistic approach. Of course, there were going to have to be some medications I needed one way or another. But I was not going to be the guy that you just gave lots of pills to.
The Origin of Meditation Not Medicine
Adam (guest): Meditation was already becoming important in my life, but then it became more important because instead of just meditating a little bit in the morning, it became a habit that I did twice a day. I was in the corporate world, so I started going out to my car. I mean, you could even use a spare office to decompress and do a short meditation that I refer to as a “Timeout Meditation.” It was important to find a way to address the stress without the drugs. Again, “Meditation Not Medicine.”
I got to the point where people were seeing a difference in me. I wasn't the same person and they wanted to know what I was doing. When I started teaching it, people were seeing benefits in themselves.
Then we had the pandemic, so instead of doing things in person, I started doing them online and created a course. I was also working on the book. The book was originally called Easy to Meditate, after the technique. But in speaking with different people, they encouraged me to change the name, because I’m such an anti-med guy. Again, I take some medications, but I’m not a fan of them. So, that's how the book came to be.
Kim (host): I loved that you dedicate your book to whoever's reading it. In your book, you briefly touch on different kinds of meditation. Did you try focus meditation and transcendental meditation, or just mindfulness?
Adam (guest): I tried to be very mindful, in general. I did try many different meditation types, whether it was the stuff through Dr. Chopra or David Ji. I did work with transcendental meditation and learned that technique. That technique is probably the closest to what I do, although it’s not exact. I found that with TM—with transcendental meditation—when I went through the fire part of TM, where they were burning some things and shaking some things, I thought, “That's definitely not me.” It is for some people.
I needed to find something that would work for me and that I could teach to other people.
There's no chanting involved. There are mantras if you want to use one, but with my technique, you don't have to. You could just use a breathing technique and focus. It's really an approach that allows you to think outside the box and not just follow one set of rules.
I'm not ritualistic. I was raised a fairly religious Jew on Long Island, but as I got older, it just was less appealing to me. When I was studying the different types of meditation, I found that there are rules in place. And I got to thinking, “What if I'm meditating in the middle of the day? What if I happen to be on a train, or what if I got on a plane or something like that?” Personally, I'm not comfortable sitting down a certain way on the floor or doing things a certain way, because of my multiple sclerosis.
I had to find something that I can use. I think you can only meditate so many ways, so “Timeout Meditation” is kind of a combination of all the other different types of meditation.
The only rule I have is not meditating as you're lying in bed ready to go to sleep. This type of meditation is not designed to put you to sleep. Some people use meditation for that, but that wasn’t my use for it.
The Health Benefits of Meditation
Kim (host): With meditating, you said people told you that you look great. Have you noticed with numbers, or are there indicators that you could say that you saw improvements in?
Adam (guest): Without a doubt. In my physical health, there was definitely an improvement. That was noted by my doctors at Mount Sinai.
Meditation affects the gray matter in your brain and other parts of your body, like your nerves, so I think part of it is that there are actual physical changes.
Before I was having a more difficult time walking, and now I'm a little bit more relaxed. My thinking is a lot clearer. My ability to communicate with people is better. I do public speaking now. It's allowed me to have a better quality of life. My relationship with my wife, my relationship with my two sons, and my relationships with my friends are all a lot better.
I'm very active in the “stress community,” if you want to call it that, with the doctors and therapists. I play an alternative role. Some doctors are more open to meditation, like the doctors I have at Mount Sinai, and there are some doctors, like my father, who would never have said it was okay.
The Importance of Meditation in a COVID World
Kim (host): Has the meditation been beneficial to you during the pandemic? Not so much your illness, but just in terms of pandemic stress?
Adam (guest): More so than I think at any time. I've compared pandemic stress to a tsunami. It's like a giant wall of water that comes down on top of you and it overwhelms you. It affects you physically. It affects you emotionally. It affects everything from your sleep to your relationships.
The last few years have been a little bit crazy—a lot crazy—but the last year, in particular, has been super crazy. I had two clients of mine in the real estate world that went out of business because they could not operate during the pandemic.
Stress levels are at an all-time high. I think coming out of the pandemic might be even more stressful than being in it, because we're learning to readjust. People have said, “You know what, for the last year, I like not having to go to the city. I like not having to get on a plane.” In fact, some people won't want to get on planes. People who have traveled all the time. My brother-in-law does not want to get on planes, not in 2022, or 2023, or 2024. People are going to be nervous coming out of the pandemic.
If people had a way to address their stress, get up every day, and start their day right, then they would be doing a lot better. I think we'd be doing a lot better as a country. I think we'd be doing a lot better as a world.
Meditation for Children
Adam (guest): You know, I saw there were a lot of people that have been really stressed out during the pandemic and during the lockdown, including my older son who was temporarily seeing a therapist. It was just stressful not being able to see friends, and he’s athletic, so he hasn't played baseball in two years. I’ve been teaching him some exercises and things he could do, like breathing, closing his eyes for a short period of time, and focusing on that. He said he likes it and that he feels better. If your ten-year-old son can feel better, there's nothing else better.
Actually, my next book is called Our Children Are Not All Right. Unfortunately, that’s not a book I think anybody wants to write, but the pandemic has done a lot to us.
As they return to the classroom, kids are going to have anxiety because for the last year they've been hearing they have to be 6 feet away, or 3 feet away from people. You got to wear a mask or you don’t have to wear a mask. Of course, you should wear a mask.
My kids have friends. They're going to give their friends hugs. They're young kids. They sometimes run into each other and they're being forced to be at a distance from each other. And for kids, especially young kids, that's really hard.
My wife is a highly trained, Ivy League-educated special education teacher. I've unfortunately been part of some of the conversations about what's been going on with kids and teens. You know, kids who have committed suicide or have been damaged for good because of this pandemic.
If there was a way for kids to deal with their stress, a way to deal with their anxiety, they'd be much better off. Meditation is a much healthier method. We don't need to feed our kids drugs. They're toxic.
Tips When You Begin Meditation
Kim (host): I think that it's hard for some people to get started or they'll try it and they feel like they're failing at it. They can't concentrate. They get frustrated with it and they give up, because they feel like something's supposed to happen and it's not happening. What is your advice for people when they're just trying to start meditation?
Adam (guest): You’re right. People are expecting something to happen. I had one person tell me that you should be in almost a hypnotic state.
No, it’s not necessarily a hypnotic state.
People give up too easily. It's a matter of spending a little time in the practice and doing it every day. Even if you say, “I don't have time to meditate for 20 minutes or a half-hour. I can only spend 10 minutes today or five minutes.” Just do that. There are compound effects for meditation. They grow on you. I found this personally after a few months of meditating.
I meditate every day and I always take the time to do it. If I don’t, I don't start my day off right. I'm a believer that if you want to start your day off right—especially in the world we're living in now—you need to find a way to address your stress.
If you're a parent, there are stressors that come with it. Whether you're a corporate executive or a florist, there are stressors. If you're an athlete, there are stressors. They're all different, but there are stressors. But we don't need to live such a triggered life. We need to live a life where the little things don't get to us.
Meditation doesn't eliminate all stress from your life and it doesn't stop all problems, but it does help you address your stress. It's a matter of just trying it and then coming back to it every day.
Kim (host): I want to ask you, there's a book and a guy named Dan Harris who wrote a book called 10% Happier. Do you agree that meditation doesn’t solve everything as you're saying, but it takes the edge off?
Adam (guest): I'm familiar with Dan Harris. I know of the book and I've listened to some of his interviews.
If you only get like 10% happier, as he’s trying to say, well, 10% happier is better than 0% happier, or 1% or 2% happier. I'm a believer in the compound effect: the thought that when you do something, the benefits keep accumulating. So, you know, one day it might be 10%, one day might be 50%—it depends on the situation. I agree with him.
Kim (host): So how do you teach people now that you're doing it online? How do you get people to understand?
Adam (guest): Well, I try to get them to just relax and be a little more accepting.
Recently I've gotten a few emails of people telling me, “I can't do it. I can't slow down. I can't stop.”
You can. Part of it is learning how to breathe and how to focus on what you're doing. Everybody who meditates at one time or another gets “monkey mind” (where the mind feels like it's all over the place), but you can take the time to slow down.
You take the time to relax. You take time to close your eyes. It takes a little bit of practice, and we'll go through it together.
One thing about “Meditation Not Medicine” was creating a community that people could ask questions and could address their concerns. There's nothing with meditation that’s going to hurt you. The only thing I’m not a proponent of is walking meditation. Walking mindfully is one thing, but walking meditation just doesn't sit well with me, especially if you become too relaxed and you almost zone out a little bit.
Part of what happens when you develop your practice, it’s not that you're zoned out, it's just that you're focused on relaxing. You're focused on being still as opposed to moving. That’s tough for so many people these days, especially the people I work with in the corporate world, who don't know how to slow down. I didn't know how to slow down for years, especially when I was much younger. I was trying to get to a certain level on the corporate ladder and the only way you did that was just by working constantly. I wish I had known how to meditate when I was younger.
Meditation is a big game-changer, but it's a matter of just bringing yourself back. Breathing, focusing, and just letting the stress go. Let it evaporate. Use your breathing. Use your focus. Use being still to your advantage.
The Meditation Not Medicine Group
Kim (host): Do you teach privately or do you teach a group?
Adam (guest): I do work with people individually. I've been doing more teaching in groups, because it's easier to get people to come online and feel the support.
Actually, now that the kids are going back to school, I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to get into some of the schools. Like I said, our children are not all right, and this pandemic has really exposed where we are as a people and as a society and where our kids are. We need an alternative approach.
It’s a matter of getting out and seeing these people, of helping them and working with them. It's something that's important to me. And I know if it could help somebody else, it's a benefit. I didn't write the book because it made me feel good. The idea of writing the book was to help others and to give back. So many have helped me over the years.
Kim (host): I just admire so much what you're doing. You have your day job, but you're also doing this and trying to better the experience for everybody so that other people can deal with their stresses. It might not be MS, but it might be any number of things that they're facing.
Adam (guest): I've worked with people with cancer, people with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, people with diabetes… I mean, it's a matter of turning the volume down because when you turn the stress volume down, your body functions much better and you live a better life.
I never really grew up learning to meditate. I know of probably two people who were. But they didn't get to do it until they were in their teens, not as even younger children. It's a skill that is needed and it's a skill that's easy to learn.
Kim (host): You said you're doing this for your kids and you're trying to do this for other people and you're trying to change how you approach the world. Do you feel like this is part of your life's purpose?
Adam (guest): I appreciate you asking that. I have actually started to feel that way in the last year. Before, it was a way of utilizing this skill and helping others. But when you get up excited to make a video about meditation or to teach it? Yeah, it’s part of my purpose. It’s part of serving, which is important to me. That was the way I was raised, whether I agreed with my dad's drug approach or not. I was raised to live in service to others.
Kim (host): You have a podcast called Meditation Not Medicine. And your website is called meditationnotmedicine.com. Do you have social media where people can find you?
Adam (guest): Yes. I have an active group called “Meditation Not Medicine.” I have a connect page on my website, but I really encourage people to join the Facebook group. I'm on LinkedIn because I’m from the corporate world. My virtual assistant has introduced me to Pinterest and Instagram. She teaches me things that I didn't know about. She just said, “Sign up, and I'll take care of everything else.”
I'm all over the place. Right now, especially as we all come out of the pandemic, it's a matter of helping as many people as possible.
About Us: Co-hosts Lisa Thorp, John Biethan, Lisa Victoria, and Kim Shea discover and share new alternative health tools and resources from alternative healthcare practitioners and experts.
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