CNN reporter Anderson Cooper is used to being under the spotlight. The 47-year-old news anchor has been reporting for decades, breaking through the noise of the media cacophony. But one thing Cooper was not accustomed to was the refreshing nature of silence.
Recently Cooper went a meditation retreat for a story, spending a weekend taking mindfulness classes without his phone. Skeptical at first, Cooper admitted that mindfulness "changes your life."
"I realized on this story, sitting in that meditation retreat, this is exactly what I need," Cooper told 60 Minutes Overtime. "It sounds like I've sort of drunk the Kool Aid, but in a way I have sort of drunk the Kool Aid."
Meditation is Like the Ocean
In the interview, Cooper discussed the internal dialogue that's always buzzing around in our heads. We're always creating a narrative, whether it's worrying about a meeting next week or reminiscing on a distant memory. He compares mindfulness to the waves on the ocean.
"If you've ever swum in the ocean, and you go underneath the waves, you know, you're kind of moved by the currents, but you're not being slapped around at the top of the water by the waves," Cooper explained to the source. "And that's sort of what meditation is like. The idea is to at least for a few moments, sometimes just a few seconds, sort of not be agitated by the thoughts but to kind of be aware of your breath."
Focusing on your breath – from the diaphragm all of the way to the nose – is the core of meditation. Breath is the involuntary life-giving force, yet we rarely pay attention to it. The idea is, for a few seconds, not to be thrown off balance by your thoughts. Concentrate on your breathing and let your ideas pass over you like the waves. Importantly, don't judge yourself while you're doing it. If your mind takes you on a tangent, always return to your breath.
During the retreat, the reporter practiced eating silently without talking and walking meditation, in which you simply walk back and forth for an extended period of time. Although he conceded he shrugged off the exercises at first, he found they were actually quite eye-opening.
"It's not another thing you have to add to your list of things to do. It's just being," Cooper told the source. "And, you know, we're not used to just kinda being."
Digital Detox and Living Longer
One of the things that Cooper said he enjoyed most was ditching his cell phone. Sometimes disconnecting from the outside world can be very refreshing. Here's a tough test: Try not to check your phone for at least an hour during the day.
Aside from easing the burden of our click-click-click culture, meditation may also help you live longer, but not in the traditional way that we think of it. Cooper explains that while you may not be extending your life, you can live more of the present moments, enjoying each breath to the fullest.