Adam Weber was working in commercial real estate in New York City, in an industry known for serving up stress on a silver platter, when back surgery led to a shocking diagnosis. Adam, a husband, and father of two young children had multiple sclerosis. Soon, Adam was unable to walk without falling and life became a blur of anxiety and depression as he struggled to meet the overwhelming demands of day-to-day life.
That’s until he discovered meditation. Through the daily practice of meditation, Adam was able to calm his mind, reduce his stress and see improvements in his pain and other symptoms. In his new book Meditation Not Medicine, Adam simplifies meditation with an easy, practical approach that anyone can follow to get results, even in the most challenging circumstances.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Adam Weber, author of Meditation Not Medicine: Survive and Thrive in Our Stress-Filled World. Adam, thank you for joining, welcome to the Author Hour Podcast.
Adam Weber: Thank you for having me, Drew.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s kick this off. Why don’t you give us a little bit about your background?
Adam Weber: Well, I worked in the corporate world for more than two decades. I worked in a fast-paced, highly-stressed environment in New York City where things never seem to slow down, and when you do that for more than two decades, stress builds up. Then along the way, I was diagnosed with a progressive form of multiple sclerosis.
I knew I really needed to slow down and put the brakes on and deal with my stress. Because I was already taking a lot of medication, I knew I needed to use something that didn’t involve a “take a pill approach” or “take an injection approach.” Meditation, having tried it before, was a natural fit and it was something I really enjoyed.
I use it every day. I haven’t missed a day in over seven years. I’d only missed a day because I was in the hospital and they asked me not to go to sleep because of what they were doing, and they were scared that if I’d meditated that I was going to fall asleep because some people do.
Drew Appelbaum: Wow, why was now the time to write this book? Was there an inspirational moment, an “aha moment” or did you simply have more time on your hands now?
Adam Weber: Well, a little bit of all. The reason I say that is, I was already in the process of writing the book and then I was going to turn it in for editing and COVID hit. I live in New York, that’s where I’m based, and everything shut down in many other parts of the country here in the United States too, and I knew that there were new stressors out there, and there were new challenges out there.
I actually went back and rewrote part of the book, thinking about COVID, thinking about the new challenges, the new roadblocks that people were facing, and I knew people needed a simple and easy way to deal with their stress–to address it–without taking another pill.
We were locked inside, in some cases, they were urging you not to go out, not to do things, maybe a little overboard but you know, people were wearing masks everywhere and that’s not necessarily good if you’re going for a run down the road. I knew this was something that was needed and again, I had to rewrite part of the book and bring it to today.
As it’s being released, it is still very, very relevant. Probably more so now than it was even before because in the United States we’ve been through a tumultuous year. We’ve had to create, not just with COVID, but with kids being home from school.
My wife is a special education teacher, and he was teaching from home, one of my children is a special ed student. He was learning from home with new challenges, there were people working from home, just a lot going on. Then, towards the end of 2020, we had the presidential elections. No matter which way you think, no matter who you vote for, it was a crazy time in the United States.
The stress was everywhere. I would go to the grocery store and people were looking at each other strange, you’d be 30 feet away from somebody at a gas station, and they’d look at you as if, “Don’t walk over here.” Then when you compound all these things, compound the US election, you end up with people really overstressed.
If there had been no COVID, no election year, the book would be very, very relevant but now, it’s really coming out at a perfect time, as we are having the change of the guard here in the United States. A lot of change is happening and not everybody thinks alike, not everybody believes alike. Now we have the stress of the vaccine and when can I get it, where can I get it, will it work, when are we going back to work?
I’d worked in the commercial real estate world for more than two decades and people are wondering, will they ever be able to safely go back to an office or to a retail center? A lot of your online services are doing record numbers because people are scared to go out. People are scared to socialize.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, were there any learnings or breakthroughs during the writing of the book? Clearly, you have been doing meditation for a while, you are comfortable that you know what you’re doing. But sometimes, during the writing process, you’ll discover new things, either about yourself or about the subject of the book.
Adam Weber: Yeah, I ran a couple of small focus groups, as I went into my research for the book and writing of the book, I found that there were a lot of people out there that were familiar with the “woo-woo” type of meditation–not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Meditation had been associated with the Far East or somebody like Deepak Chopra or something along those lines and people thought, “Well, that’s not for me.” Again, I come from the corporate world myself and a lot of people, to them, stress relief is going out after working and getting a drink.
Maybe playing a pickup game of basketball or going to the gym during the week or on the weekends. They didn’t frame it the same way. What as I found as I did my research and I talked to people, people would look at me and say, “You don’t look like the kind of guy I ever would have thought meditated.” Because I don’t dress like it or I don’t look like it–I’m a big sports fan, and I dress more like a teenager than I do an adult.
So, people like and trust you because you’re just like them. I have kids like them, I have a dog just like them, I have a wife, I have all that’s just like them and a job, and again, while I’m not in the corporate world per se, but my real estate business helps support the corporate world. I found that avenue when I left the corporate world to support them, I found the niche that I could get into, that I really enjoyed, and I could make a really good living with.
People said, “Well if Adam can do it, why can’t I do it?” It’s almost as if they had to prove to themselves, and then, being associated with one of the bigger hospitals in New York City, because of multiple sclerosis–Mount Sinai. I had doctors who were actually impressed.
I found something that worked for me and that I was turning down prescriptions from them for the drugs to help calm you down and help you stay relaxed. I’d said, “You know, we could endorse what you’re doing,” because although I’m a son of a doctor and a nurse, not all doctors like to write endless prescriptions for everything.
The doctors I deal with at Mount Sinai utilize a more holistic approach, whether it be through stress relief, through diet, through exercise, through work. All sorts of different things. They don’t look at it as somebody like my dad used to look at many years ago where it was the cut to cure approach.
Doctors are now looking for a different approach, with the cost of drugs and the cost of insurance, meditation is an alternative. Again, it’s a skill, once you learn that you can keep it with you for the rest of your life, you don’t need to keep paying for it.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you made a decision to say, “Hey, I’m going to write down my experiences with meditation and everything I’ve learned along the way,” and while you were writing, who did you have in mind that this book was for?
Adam Weber: Well, thank you for asking that because I thought of what’s often referred to as the avatar, but my ideal person is probably a mother in her 40s with two kids that are now in their mid-teens, maybe going off to college.
I thought about people that I went to high school with or went to college with in the late 80s and early 90s. I found these people were having challenges in their lives. In a lot of cases, people were getting divorced, remarried, all sorts of things were going on in their lives and so, I thought of somebody, it was almost like looking in a mirror but seeing somebody like my wife because I found that moms tend to spend more time with the kids.
Not always, but in a lot of cases. I know my wife does. My sister does. The moms–that’s who I pictured when I thought of who my ideal person is that this would be written for, but it’s very applicable to people in the business world, it’s very applicable to small business owners, the technique is not discriminatory in any way. It works for everybody.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, what does this book bring that other books on meditation do not?
Adam Weber: I personally take a lot of the mysticism out of things. I take no “woo-woo” approach to things and I take a very modernized approach to meditation, as opposed to the “take a pill approach,” or, “somebody sitting there, cross-legged on the floor.”
Meditation could be done with a mantra, without a mantra–the way I teach it and the way I talk about it is that it’s a customizable practice for whoever wants to use it. There’s no one size fits all approach to meditation. That was one of the most important things I needed to get out there.
Drew Appelbaum: Let’s start with the basics. What is stress, and what are the effects of stress on the body and the mind?
Adam Weber: Well, as cortisol races through your body, which is the chemical that’s produced during stress, it’s dangerous, it’s very dangerous to you. I don’t want to overstate it or understate it, but it’s almost like poison running through your body because it does have negative consequences on you, especially when it’s running through your body the way it does. My doctors have even said, they feel that the stress that I went through with my extensive travel and working on high-profile assignments may have had an effect on my body.
That stress was definitely having an effect on my body. Again, the one size fits all approach is to take a pill, or maybe take a pill and go to the gym, as opposed to learning to meditate, helping to slow things down, slow that stress down. Meditation allows you to live a better and higher quality life.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, I think a lot of people listening, maybe they’re questioning and they’re saying, “I don’t know if this is for me yet, I have a tough job and I deal with it.” Can you set us up here–you were working long days in the corporate world, you had some medical issues but what really happened to you, what was your breaking point when you said, “I know I need to make a change?”
Adam Weber: I was having a problem sleeping, I was having problems with my relationship with my wife, I was having problems with my relationships with friends. I was having problems in general. I was very restless, and I knew something had to change.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you started meditating, what did that look like and how did you choose, there are many disciplines of meditations, many different ways to go about it. How did you choose which one was right for you and that you would continue to practice?
Adam Weber: Well, I purchased a number of courses, I went to a couple of seminars and a couple of sit-ins, I guess if you could call them, meditating. I live in New York and I’m based here and there are quite a few people here that teach and study meditation.
I was looking for something that would work for me. I tried about a half dozen types, I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with most of it, so when I decided to create my technique, it was almost like a blended approach of them all, almost like a recipe.
A little bit from here, a little bit from there and putting it all together and coming out with what’s referred to as Easy to Meditate. It is coined what it actually is–it’s easy.
Drew Appelbaum: What are the expectations when somebody first starts out and starts experimenting with meditation?
Adam Weber: Well, there are some people that expect to sit down once and get all sorts of benefits. Yes, there are some people who get benefits right away from the first time, but you really need to be able to create the habit. The expectation of working right away is not a realistic one. The expectations are, “If I try for a while, I will try it for a week, I will try it for two weeks.” Now, not everybody responds the same way.
Fortunately for me, I found a response within the first couple of weeks. There are others that I’ve worked with that say they found a response from the first time they sat down, and others who have said it has taken close to a month or even longer. Expectations really vary from person to person, so everybody’s expectations need to be tempered down until they take a seat, and they try it and they learn and they experiment.
Not everybody’s going to sit in the same place, not everybody is going to do it the exact same way. I recommend people do it first thing in the morning. There are benefits to doing it first thing in the morning but there are some people who want to do it later in the day or feel they need to do it in the middle of the day, almost at their lunch hour at work.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, do you have any other tips? I love the morning hours, but do you have any other tips helping to build that habit and make it a part of their daily practice?
Adam Weber: What I used and what I recommend for some of my newer students is to use a meditation log. That is just a piece of paper. At Meditation Not Medicine, my firm, we do not publish any journals or anything like that. It is simply a piece of paper, where people can sit down and say, “I meditated Monday for five minutes. I meditated Tuesday for 10 minutes. I meditated Wednesday for seven minutes,” and can really help create their own practice that works around themselves.
There are days I meditate longer than others, but I meditate every day. I make a point of doing it every day, even if I don’t know I have a lot of time, it is at least 15 minutes, but for some, they can only do it for three or five minutes. I’m part of easy to meditate. I teach people that what they can do also is even if you’re meditating in the morning or in the afternoon, a lot of us have crazy days at work, so why not take a few minutes on your lunch hour?
Go sit in a room by yourself, go sit in a car, sit at your desk, if you work from home sit on the couch or wherever your meditation spot is, just meditate for a few minutes–like a time-out meditation or release meditation, and those are terms just to help. It is a portable skill.
I hired somebody this morning who is just really trying to get me–I felt at least, they were trying to get me going, as you would call it. I needed to take a few minutes, sit down, close my eyes and meditate for an extra five minutes, knowing I was getting on a call today with you and I wanted to make sure I was in the right place. Not too slow, not too fast, but as they say, your normal temperature is 98.6, or something in that range. You don’t want to be at 90, you don’t want to be at a 103, 105.
You want to be at 98.6. So, it is about taking a seat, slowing down, and taking a couple of extra minutes. Again, whenever that time happens during the day.
Drew Appelbaum: The number one excuse that people give to you to not start meditation is that they simply don’t have the time in the day.
Adam Weber: I’m glad you mentioned that because what I found is you can make the time. If you can take the time to sit down and watch television, if you can take the time to work out, or sit down at work and talk with people for a while, before you work, during your work, after your work, you could find a few minutes. I found it’s really nothing more than an excuse. As human beings, it’s natural for us to make excuses to give us a reason not to do something that is beneficial to us.
What I have found is that when people create their own practice, and they are doing it regularly, they don’t want to do the things that cause extra stress. They just want to take a few minutes a day at least, to sit down and meditate.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you mentioned a really interesting situation this morning. Somebody was trying to rile you up, you took a moment, you collected yourself and meditated a little bit and you moved on with the day. Can you talk about how meditation can help in everyday situations like that and how it can impact many lives and many situations?
Adam Weber: Well, I just want to make sure I am getting your question right. Again, meditation can impact so many in so many different ways each day. It’s a matter of creating the practice and then following up on the practice and doing it every day. It’s important, it’s worth doing so, it’s a matter of just telling yourself, “It’s worth doing, let’s do it.”
Easy to Meditate
Drew Appelbaum: Yeah, I guess my question was that I think people try to wait for big moments to say, “Oh, I’ve hit the wall. Oh man, I have this hugely stressful event in the world,” but meditation can help with the little things on a day-to-day basis too.
Adam Weber: It can help with the little things, and the big things don’t seem as big when you actually find time to meditate every day, because you know that you’re not stuck. You know that you can find a way around it or through it.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you have a step-by-step approach in the book, which is incredibly helpful, and I want to ask, why did you pick this particular approach, and could you give us a little bit of an overview of that approach?
Adam Weber: It’s a very universal-type approach and as the technique is called Easy to Meditate for a reason–you want to make it easy. It’s a matter of taking time to sit down, relax for a few minutes, close your eyes, it’s important to breathe. A lot of people don’t think about breathing, it’s almost as if they’re holding their breath, breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth–it’s important to do that.
Then just sit and relax. I recommend you close your eyes and that if you’re in a room with a lot of light if you’re able, turn it down or turn it off. If you’re in a car or in an office, you’re not doing it in a busy place. Try to get to a place where there are as few distractions as possible. Try and take a seat, try and be comfortable. This is time for you, and this is time for you to help yourself. There are so many benefits from it.
Once you look at it from the benefit perspective, it’s definitely worth doing. It is sitting down, breathing into your nose, breathing out through your mouth, focusing on a place in front of you. If you decide, as when I teach it, that you need a mantra, something to help you focus, I can help with that. I don’t use a mantra personally, and you can do it that way as well. It’s really what’s comfortable for you, it’s a very customizable practice, and I found such success with that working for people because they feel they’re not stuck doing it one way.
Drew Appelbaum: Adam, I just want to say writing a book, one like this one, which will help so many folks de-stress and really make meditation more digestible like you said, less of the woo-woo, more of the here’s just what to do and here’s how to build a habit around it, is no small feat. I want to say congratulations on publishing this book.
Adam Weber: Thank you, Drew, I appreciate that. It is important, especially at a time like now. It seems to be coming out at the right time. As we talked about earlier, there is so much divisiveness, so much craziness, the kids are home from school, people are home from work and people are at each other’s throats, and spending too much time on social media, instead of taking care of themselves because they’re not out and about.
They’re not doing the things. I’m a big New York Yankees fan. Well, this past year, there were no New York Yankees games for me to go. Well, there were games, but I couldn’t go to any. I went to Ohio State, and I usually go out for a game a year. There’s no ability to go out to a game this past year. Maybe there would be some family and friends in the stands of the players. That looks like what it’s going to be in 2021–the same thing.
A few Yankee games that you can go to, a few of any college football games that you can go to, and now as we’re speaking, it’s towards the end of January 2021, and my son’s, both of them, their little league has already been canceled for the year because there is too much liability in it for the people running the little league. Those kids are not playing.
I am in New York, and there had been a lot of lawsuits because people just want their kids to get out. They’ve suffered so much. My older son has had to see a therapist via Zoom once a week because he was a kid who spent so much time outside, riding his bike, playing with his friends in the neighborhood, playing sports, that sort of thing, and he can’t do it. Parents are scared to let their kids see other kids.
Down the block I live in, in New York, my wife, our family, and one other family are only two of 10 families on the block that have not been directly affected by a COVID-sick person. That is a small percentage.
Drew Appelbaum: One last question for you, if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Adam Weber: Give it a try. Give it a try, if you don’t, read and learn. It’s a short book for a reason. There are a lot of authors that write a lot of longer books. Personally, and my research has shown some people prefer smaller. It is an easy to digest book. It’s an easy to implement book, so just give it a try. Give meditation a try. At the end of the day, what’s the worst thing? You don’t do it? I mean, I would recommend you’d stick with it but if you didn’t end up on a lifelong meditation habit, there are worse things that could happen.
It’s just giving it a try, being open to the experience. Again, I teach a no woo-woo approach and that’s how it’s laid out in the book. I think more people are going to be comfortable with that but if they’re not, pick up another book. Maybe the “woo-woo approach” is better for you, maybe somebody else is better for you. Maybe somebody else’s teachings are better for them but just give it a try.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Adam, this has been a pleasure and I am really excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Meditation Not Medicine, and you can find it on Amazon. Adam, besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Adam Weber: People can visit my website at www.meditationnotmedicine.com. We’re constantly looking to make little changes here, little changes there to help serve people who are visiting. There is no cost to visit the website. You will find a lot of great information. We are also available on most social media platforms, whether it be Facebook or YouTube. We’re working to get into a couple of the others, we’re on Instagram and Pinterest right now.
Wherever you like to consume content, we’re trying to be there. We’re not trying to be everywhere, just where you are. Some of these newer platforms that we’re hearing about during this whole political season Parlor and the others, we’re not there. I never heard of them even until this, but you know, Instagram, LinkedIn, again Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest, are platforms we’re on and we’re constantly putting out very good free content.
Drew Appelbaum: Well, that’s great that you’re out there and I really hope that readers will not only check out the book but will find you on the Internet as well.
Adam Weber: If I can say, we have a podcast. It’s actually being released, Meditation Not Medicine Podcast at the beginning of February, and I apologize for that. I don’t know how I forgot that but it’s just launching and it’s going to have free masterclasses every month to help you learn the easy to meditate technique.
Drew Appelbaum: Adam, I just want to thank you so much for coming on the show today and congratulate you again on writing the book and wish you the best of luck with publishing.
Adam Weber: Thank you, Drew. I appreciate your time.