My Meditation Stories on Medium

Tom Nickel
6 min readSep 11, 2021

My meditation stories go back almost 50 years but I didn’t write most of them down. Maybe I still will.

I have reified my personal practice which I have sustained for many years. More recently, I have seen and felt that meditating socially adds important dimensions to the experience.

X-Meditators vs CIA, Part 1

X-Meditators vs CIA, Parts 1–7

July 28-August 13, 2021

This seven-part story focuses on the power of meditation. It looks into the intersecting lives of Itzhak Bentov and Robert Monroe as a lens for considering different threads of meditation from New Age to the Military.

Bentov emerges as a central figure, with an explanation of consciousness that becomes involved in all of the threads.

I knew Ben and I have been wanting to write this story for 50 years. I wrote it when I did because declassified CIA Reports based on his work were trending on TikTok.

Saving Mindfulness

Saving Mindfulness from the Neoliberal Agenda

July 2, 2021

Techniques for handling the suffering caused, according to some, by unregulated, bat-shit-crazy, late-stage Capitalism are seen as inherently conservative, not challenging the existing power relations.

Mindfulness, with Neo-Liberal characteristics, is palliative, not revolutionary.

This critique is often paired with the idea that the Individual-Effort path to Enlightenment is a self-absorbed distraction from the Real Problems, the structural problems that lead to inequality and a generally fucked up world.

Meditating Socially in VR

Meditating Socially in VR

June 27, 2021

Everybody knows that meditation is personal, not interpersonal. It’s something you do inside yourself. How can it be social?

It’s not the same as a personal meditation practice and I’m still exploring what the differences are. What would it mean to say one approach is a higher quality meditation than another? What is the metric of quality in meditation?

Meditation and Learning

Meditation and Learning

June 18, 2021

Dr. David Merrill is a legend in the field of Instructional Design, the outside view of learning you might call it. It’s all we had until fMRI and other measuring instruments came along to, supposedly, tell us something about learning from the inside.

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a legend in the field of meditation, an inside approach to training the mind we have had for centuries. Kabat-Zinn and others adapted Theravada Buddhist techniques and introduced them in more accessible ways as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or Insight (Vipassana) Meditation.

VR Meditation TAPAS

VR Meditation TAPAS

April 27, 2021

Many people are meditating for their first time ever — in Virtual Reality. Having no other experience, sitting in some cartoon world with a brick on their head is meditation for some folks.

One OG response might be, ‘ha, they are clueless,’ which is judgmental, but not entirely incorrect.

I am an OG when it comes to meditation and I’m very pleased that people are discovering any kind of practice that helps them feel better so safely and easily. No one owns Meditation. No organization has the trademark.

Equinox Meditation Retreat

Equinox Meditation Retreat

March 21, 2021

I’m trying to disrupt my routines periodically whether I want to or not, by my choice, or my illusion of a choice that we call, ‘agency.’

The Equinox Meditation Retreat is Exhibit A

I did it yesterday, my second scheduled disruption of this nature. My first was on the Winter Solstice, back in late December, 2020, when I stepped away from my routines and meditated instead. It seems like a very long time ago already and I was deeply back into a set of daily routines I love.

A Solstice Meditation Story

A Solstice Meditation Story

December 24, 2020

Appreciate doesn’t mean liking something or not liking something. It means correctly understanding its value.

There is significant value in an annual turning point from less light to more light. Because it’s measurable, it’s usable, by any entity that can process the information. I’m not a biologist but I’d guess that most living things are hip to the Solstice and do something on the basis of it.

So decided I’d get with the program.

Mindfulness Revisited

Mindfulness Revisited

July 16, 2020

What I consider mindfulness in myself isn’t so much about the present moment as it is about not being on Autopilot, which I am most of the time. Maybe it comes to the same thing, but for me the idea of being micro aware of what I’m doing and staying off Autopilot helps me sustain it.

I’m not sure what being the present moment actually means and when it is OK to bring other elements in. But I do know what it means to be critically aware of my actions at the micro level.

Meditation on Uncertainty #1

Meditation on Uncertainty #1

March 16, 2020

Certainty is a comfort

It lets our personal train of thought

glide easily into the station to relax with the others.

Uncertainty keeps our mind engaged,

keeps us moving along the tracks and not because we decided to.

Keeps us in Not-Knowing whether we like it or not

Leading Death Meditations

What I’m Learning from Leading Death Meditations in VR

October 11, 2019

I thought the only people crazy enough to try meditating in VR would be other long-time meditators like me who just wanted see what it’s like.

I was wrong.

I think around half the participants in the group meditations I’ve been leading in EvolVR on the AltspaceVR platform are first-timers or close to it. They weren’t seeking out meditation-in-VR. They were in VR looking for stuff to do. They’d heard about meditation and figured why not?

Death Meditations

Death Meditations

August 2, 2019

What if Meditation could be done with other people in Virtual Reality as part of a program to prepare for end of life? What if a group could come together regularly to use meditation to get better at dying?

My basic idea is simple. The prospect of dying creates anxiety because it is unknown. Death has been removed from life in every possible way. It is a stranger and strangers can feel threatening, if not terrifying.

This piece has had the most Readers in the Death category as of September, 2021.

Meditations on Mortality

Meditations on Mortality

July 28, 2019

Meditation isn’t a belief. It’s a behavior that gradually shapes us when we do it over and over. It’s shaped me, especially tamping down how I’d react almost like a reflex in certain situations.

That’s why I want to try using mortality as an object of meditation.

I’m not sure what’s Spiritual and what isn’t, but I know that our mortality matters to us every minute of every day whether we choose to pay attention to it or not.

TO: StillJustJames

TO: StillJustJames

October 12, 2018

I think you distinguish between meditation practiced within a spiritual tradition that affords guidance and meditation practiced in a secular manner which may not provide the same support. I think you are concerned about this.

I remember back in the early 1970s when TM was becoming an organized thing, a few smart people were warning of the Kundalini Effect, some spontaneous energy event that could be unleashed by meditation and be very harmful to an individual outside of the right therapeutic environment. I know at least one person who believes that happened to them, and it wasn’t good.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos