Loading Episode...
Dead America - Ed Watters EPISODE 6, 7th April 2021
Dr. William Jackson

Dr. William Jackson


The views expressed on Dead America podcast are the views of the person expressing themselves.

We are here for entertainment only for any Medical or Mental Health concerns you might have. We always recommend seeking local listings for a qualified provider in your area.

We will always consider other points of view on any subject. We do not necessarily agree with our guests all of the time. We value everyone. All of our guests deserve respect and a platform to voice concerns.



Transcript Download

Dr. William Jackson



mindfulness, people, mind, life, meditating, develop, meditation practice,

psychologist, monk, psychotherapy, world, stages, practice, studied, skillful

means, talking, understand, experience, behavior


Dr. William

Jackson, Ed Watters

Ed Watters 



the world that we live in, can be very exhausting. It can make our minds do

unthinkable things. Today's guest Dr. William Jackson incorporates

psychotherapy, positive psychology, and the most accessible core methods of

meditation into his practices, with 7000 plus hours of total time in retreat.

While a monk, he practiced with an organized retreat of Buddhist teachers

around the world, including His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He's here today to

help us understand his contemporary evidence-based meditation practices. Let's

not waste any more time and get into today's exciting episode.

Ed Watters  01:07


overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself but educate anyone

seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To

learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is

through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others. However,

some of the best conversations happen with ourselves. Reach Out and challenge

yourself. Let's dive in and learn something right now. Dr. Jackson, could you

please introduce yourself and let the audience know, just a little bit more

about you and how you got to where you are today? Sure. My name is William

Jackson, I I'm a health psychologist and a former Buddhist monk. And what that

sort of means is, as a health psychologist, I help often people who have both a

chronic illness and something that they're dealing with psychologically. And I

found that sort of niche for myself, after being a Buddhist monk and deciding I

was going to take the robes off, I wanted to find a way that I could utilize

what I had learned in meditation to help people. And it just so happens that

mindfulness has found a niche in the chronic pain community, and then sort of

expanded into the rest of the medical community from there. So that's what sort

of brought me into doing the work that I'm doing now. And, you know, I'm sure

we'll get into it a little bit later. But there's certain types of practices

and certain structures of courses and learning meditation that are more helpful

than others. And I've sort of veered in the direction of these more comprehensive

meditation programs.

Ed Watters 



off when I saw you on Poddit, I saw that you were a former Buddhist monk. Yes,

that just fascinates me. Could you walk us through? What made you become a

Buddhist monk? And then why would you decide to walk away from that lifestyle?

Dr. William Jackson  04:30


Yeah. So before I became a monk, I was actually an actor. So I started in my

junior year of high school acting because I wasn't doing so good academically

in my public high school, and, you know, getting into a little bit of trouble

here and there. But I had one teacher who saw me do a bunch of impressions and

characters and he really encouraged me so I went with a friend to this

Performing Arts, high school audition, they gave me a little bit of a

scholarship and things went from there. And then in college, I was studying

Shakespeare in England. And I was in a Christian missionary so that they had

just an open space that they rented out to the these acting groups. And I found

a book by the Dalai Lama. And the book was called How to practice the way to

meaningful life. And I had a lot of time on my hands, I started reading the

book, and it said, you know, enlightenment is when what is good for you and

other people happens to be what you want to be doing day in and day out, I

thought, okay, it's not too hard to believe in, or I don't have to believe in

too much, it's pretty evident, I can take that at face value. And then he said,

to develop a meditation practice, you should start by meditating 30 to 45

minutes a day, for three months. So I had a lot of time. And he had these cool

names for what you could develop, develop calm abiding, I thought, Well, that

sounds cool why don't I try it. So I started practicing 30 minutes a day. And

you know, within a month or so I really started to develop a comfortable space

in meditation, all these sort of magical things started to happen. But what was

most important for me is I started to understand my feelings. And my mind a

little bit more deeply, I started becoming familiar with the arc that feelings

had anger, frustration, and anxiety, I was able to watch it come and watch it

go. And I remember one specific moment, sitting across from one of the

actresses, and she was talking to her friend, and she said, Oh, I'm so jealous

of dah ta dah ta dah And when she said that, I thought, that's not what she

actually means, right? Her words don't match up, she's not actually jealous of

her friend, actually, she's really happy for her and wonder why people do that

we don't actually share how we're feeling we don't, we're not vulnerable with

each other in some way. Part of that is because often we don't feel safe to do

so or we're self-conscious, or whatever it is. And I started talking to her

about this, you know, out loud, and just, you know, pondering out loud. And

what I noticed is that the whole table had gotten quiet, and they started

listening, and they wanted in on the conversation, they found it to be

valuable. And for somebody who, you know, got in a lot of trouble when they're

younger, and had this sort of bad perception of themselves, to be offering

something to a table full of, you know, Christian missionaries, who are

listening and feel that there's value in what I'm saying, that came from a

meditation experience of mine. That was really meaningful to me and sort of

started to change my perception of myself. Started meditating more that got me

hooked. And then a monk came to our, to our college when I was back in the U.S.

One thing led to another, I asked him if I could come and do a meditation

retreat at his monastery, he said, through a translator, oh, you can't become a

monk. That easy. And I said, No, no, no, I don't want to be a monk. And then he

said, okay, you can come. And three months meditation retreat turned to five.

And after six months, I had a shaved head and was wearing a robe. The first

couple years was really difficult because you have to let go of all your

coping mechanisms and find new ways to deal with stress, which I had all sorts

of bad habits that were sort of propping me up. And when I let go, those I was

anxious and stressed and everything for the first couple years, but as my

meditation developed, I found new ways to cope and more healthy ways to relate

to myself and to the world.  I continued

with my meditation practice, I got deeper and deeper, I ended up studying more

than Tera vada tradition going into the forest in Burma. And there was a

meditation that I was in, in Burma after a couple months in meditation retreat,

where you're meditating 10-14 hours a day, in a hut, in the woods, and I was in

one of those meditations. And I had this realization that my mind was changing.

I was becoming a different person in meditation. I was really crafting my mind

day in and day out for well being. And I thought about my family and friends

and thought, like, what are they crafting their mind for? And like, you know,

just everybody in the world? What are you doing with your mind every day?

Because what you do changes your mind. And are you using your mind in a way

that's going to lead to more well being? And it was just this sort of deep, You

know, you can understand it intellectually, but the experience of it was this

profound thing. And I realized in that moment that I wanted to come back to the

United States. I wanted to share what I learned in meditation with other

people. And to do that I really needed To develop the language to express what

I had learned, I couldn't just share it with somebody, they had to go through

the experience themselves and learn it. So that was 10 years ago where I had

that realization, or 12 years ago now. 

It's taken me a good, it took me about a good 10 years to develop

system, meditation practice that I feel like, was in like a common language,

that people could understand that I tested it out going step by step and could

take people along this sort of journey with me and experience something similar

to what I've experienced, in terms of my greatest well being. And part of

coming out of that, and realizing, you know, what's important to me, I wanted

to have a family that was important to me, I wanted to have a group that I felt

a part of, and that was of like-minded people. And I wanted to go back to

school because I found science would be a really helpful way to express what I

had learned. And I had sort of a respected tradition that sort of took me out

of the meditation, life, or rather the monastic life, and brought me into being

a professional psychologist did some collaborations, first with scientists and

meditation, and then that brought me into going back to school for

psychotherapy. So as a clinical health psychologist, I think about psychology

fitting in the meditation and mindfulness system. So psychology helps you to

practice meditation better, rather than how maybe most psychologists think of

mindfulness as just an addition to the world of psychotherapy. So that's sort

of just my my journey in brief of how I went from being the bourbon punk to a

monk and back.

Ed Watters 


I love

that. Yeah, that's good. You know, you talked about the arc of change there.

And earlier, I listened to a video that you did, it was called, I could use a

drink. Can you talk about the stages of change in that? Could you walk our

audience through the stages of change?

Dr. William Jackson  12:19


sure, there's a system in psychotherapy or some research that was done on how

people actually make change in their life. This is Prochaska and DiClemente,

his work on the stages of change. And this was originally used in working with

people who were working through alcoholism, being an alcoholic, and trying to

reduce that negative behavior and adopt new healthy behaviors. And there's

really a couple stages that people go through. So the first one is called pre-contemplation. So pre-contemplation is that there's no problem, you know, that

drinking is fine, it doesn't really bother me, you know, it's not really

affecting my life. And then the next stage is contemplation. And contemplation

is, Hmm, I think something's wrong. There might be something, there might be

something to this, everybody's telling me that I should stop drinking, and I'm

a different person when I'm drinking, like, maybe I should do something about

it. But I'm not really I'm not really sure about it, I'm still thinking about

it, then there's planning. And usually, people jump to action, but the planning

stage is well, okay, now I know I want to do this, I want to take some action

on reducing drinking and that sort of thing. Let me plan out the best way, I'll

get rid of all the alcohol in the house, I'll tell everybody that I care about

that I'm doing this so they can support me, I'll get a psychologist. So I can

meet weekly with somebody I'll join a group. This is these are the plans that

somebody will make to make sure that successful action. Usually, people jump to

action without that planning it out really well. Then there's action, you take

the action, you stop drinking, you get rid of all the alcohol, you tell people,

you join a group, you get a therapist, whatever it is, and you try to sustain

this. So the next stage is maintenance. And often, maintenance takes a

different energy than action does. So maintenance is what are the ongoing

things that I need to do to keep this good behavior? Well, that might mean

like, well, now I'm going to take up running, and I'm going to get into a

relationship with somebody who also doesn't drink, and all these other

supports or I make friends with people who don't drink, right, and then you're

changing your life to keep this new way of being as new way of being going to

enhance your well being. And then sorry, the last piece is relapse. So we screw

up. And then we go back to planning. Right? And it's not about oh, I screwed

up, let's throw the baby out with the bathwater, that Forget it. It's knowing

that that's part of the process it's a normal part. Because we're human beings,

we're not robots. So we go back to the beginning, we plan a little bit better

this time. And then we take the action we create a system. That's a little bit

more comprehensive to make sure that we can kind of get through it. So you can

apply this to anything, adopting a new healthy behavior, whether you're trying

to learn how to meditate, or whether you are trying to let go of overeating or

eating too much sugar or smoking or whatever it happens to be, you can use this

process to create new healthy behavior. And I think when I'm teaching

meditation, I'm helping people to do this too not just to develop meditation,

but to change their life to look at the areas of well being in their life, the

things that mean the most to them, and to take action on those. And for me,

meditation is a really key piece, because the exercise is the part of your

brain that allows you to make that executive decision that helps you to stay motivated

to stay on task to catch your mind when it drifts off where you don't want it

going. And bring it back on the wagon. So yeah, those are the sort of the

stages stages of change adopting a new healthy behavior.

Ed Watters 



that's interesting, because we all go through that curve in life, somewhere

somehow, that's where meditation kind of comes in to help us when we learn to

meditate. And I'm just learning to understand meditation, I'm diving in to

understand how to calm our minds down. Meditation is a big part of that

maintenance part, is it not?

Dr. William Jackson  16:31


absolutely. And you know, it can also help you build that energy, that

momentum, that motivation to actually take action. Because it can be a really

soft beginning. So you can, you know, just start being mindful in your day to

day and be more aware of what you're doing with your body more aware of your

speech, more aware of some of your thought habits and how that's affecting your

day to day. And that starts exercising that muscle. And then if you develop a

sitting meditation, something like focusing on the breath, we are noticing,

when your mind drifts away, come back, mind drifts away, come back, mind drifts away, to wake up in the moment,

that's going to help you to wake up in your day to day as well and recognize,

whoa, I'm acting in a way I don't want to be acting, I my value is to be kind.

And here I am getting upset. I'm yelling at somebody who doesn't deserve it,

or, you know, waking up in the middle of eating a piece of chocolate cake and

you're like, Wait a second, I'm working on my health. What am I doing? Like,

I'm just following my desire. And I got lost in the moment. And that's natural,

that that's who we are. As human beings, we get caught up in those things, we

get taken away by a distraction from the outside or from the inside. So it

really is almost going against the grain going upstream, so to speak, to wake

up out of those out of the default mode way of thinking and being in the world.

Ed Watters  18:01


that, I was just finishing up your interview with Andrew Wood. He talked about

the don't know mind is, is that really the purpose of meditation to, you know,

introduce this I don't know mindset?

Dr. William Jackson  18:23

Yeah, so

Andrew Wood who's a he's a psychologist in the Boston area, and he's studied

psychoanalysis, and which is like a Freudian approach to psychotherapy. And he

also studied with Seung Sahn who was a Korean Zen master. So Jon Kabat-Zinn,

who's a big mindfulness guy, he also studied with Seung Sahn in Cambridge,

Massachusetts, in Boston, he would have a lot of Harvard students come into

Harvard and MIT students were bright kids, right? They would come into some of

his meditation classes, and they'd be expounding philosophy and being very

analytical with him. And he would just yell, 

don't know,  don't know my

friends. And, you know, which is sort of shocked people. But that was his

intention was, you might know a lot of things you might logically think your

way through something. But how do you actually feel? You might be able to

logically reason out why you made a particular decision. But is that truly

honestly, where you are what you want out of your life, right? So reason

doesn't necessarily we're not always reasonable. Or if you if you come into

meditation, saying that you already know what meditation is, you're gonna miss

the experience. And this is sort of the core of mindfulness is we're letting go

of our previous conceptions. And we're just staying with the bare experience.

As simple as something like when I say I am angry, or I'm anxious. We use these

words to communicate with each other. And when I say I'm anxious, you might

think you know what I mean, because you have an experience of anxiety. But

actually, how it happens in my mind, it might be a racing mind where you might

think it's an unpleasant feeling in your stomach. Or I might think it's my

hands get sweaty, and you might think that you feel paralyzed, right? So it's a

different experience. And so we often think we know what somebody else is

talking about, or, you know, any any type of concept like that. And mindfulness

is letting go of our preconceptions and just being present. What is actually in

front of me? And can I keep the mind that I don't actually know what is in

front of me yet, I'm going to perceive it, I'm going to let it in. And that

allows you to actually be present for your life present for who's sitting in

front of you, rather than thinking you know who they are. Even if it's somebody

that you've lived with, with for 20 years, they might something might have

happened to them today, where they're a different person where they've changed.

And that will allow you to actually be there, or your feelings about what you

want to do, or what kind of job that you want, or what direction you want to

move in your life might have actually changed overnight. And if you're present

with yourself, you can actually be more authentic, you can be more grounded in

who you are. Because we are changing all the time. And I think that sort of

don't know mind, as that Korean Zen tradition sort of talks about is the core

of mindfulness, which allows you to be grounded present in your life and and be present for your life.

Ed Watters 


Yeah, I

found that very enlightening, because we all kind of need to get to that point

where we wipe it all away. It's a baby step thing. On your sheet you sent me.

It says, What is the difference between mindfulness, meditation, and

concentration? And why develop those?

Dr. William Jackson  22:11

 Yeah, yeah. So mindfulness is a state of mind.

It's something that we have been sort of pointing to in our discussion already, which is this non-judgmental,

open sort of connected to your heart present moment awareness, where you're letting

go of your conceptions about the world. And as one monk, Fanta Gunaratana wrote

a book called Mindfulness in plain English, which is free people can just find

the PDF online. Well, he says, mindfulness is what happens before we clamp down

section off our experience of the world. Right? This this sort of continual

stream of awareness. It's just taking in all the sensory input and feelings and

everything. And then we put it into words, right, which is words are never

quite perfectly describing the experience. So mindfulness is what happens

before words, but what is your experience before you just start to describe it.

And if you return to that state of mind, again, and again, you'll gain a deeper

understanding of the world that is deeper than an understanding that's just

through words, because words ultimately are just pointing at an experience. And

mindfulness is continually trying to be with that experience, whether it's with

another person, whether it's with yourself, your mind, your feelings, your body,

whatever it happens to be, you're getting more information than words can can

describe. So this is the mindfulness state of mind. And this is a mind that can

be brought about, and it's actually pretty well researched, they know sort of

what parts of the brain are involved in being mindful. And they also know how

to bring that state about. So bringing that state about, again and again, is

meditation. So mindfulness-based meditation is the practice of bringing about

that state of mind, again, and again, sort of in bouts. And then you start to

keep that state of mind over time, so you can be mindful of something. So in

mindfulness of the breath, so Anapanasati meditation is one of the most common

meditation techniques. So you are staying with the sensation of breathing. So

you might feel a sensation of breathing around the nose, and you're mindful of

that sensation over time. And that is sort of concentration. So developing

mindfulness of one thing over time, and eventually, you can watch it change. You

can watch as the sensations of the breath change, they come in, they go out,

they're cold, they're warm sensation around your nose or your upper lip, you

watch it stay present with that continuous unfolding of the sensation. And the

concentration is not focusing really hard it's concentration, like a good

tomato sauce, right? So you put it the simmer on low And slowly, it

concentrates into a nice, delicious, flavorful sauce. In the same way, when we

are concentrating our mind, it's not focusing really hard like in your third-grade teacher says, concentrate, it's different. It's overtime, slowly, gentle

persistence, the mind starts to concentrate starts to come together and get

powerful. And it gets rich, and it gets deep. And so when you come out of

meditation, where you develop concentration, your mind is vibrant, it's clear,

it's clean, it's refined, and concentrated. So that's sort of the difference

between those those three.

Ed Watters 


Talk to

us about your skillful means program, what is it? And how will it help people?

Dr. William Jackson  25:47

Sure, so

I've taken a number of mindfulness courses like Mindfulness-Based Stress

Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, mindfulness training for

primary care clinicians, and you know, there's lots of fantastic these are all

great programs, those are in the medical field. And, you know, the Benson-Henry

Institute of Mass General Hospital, the Center for Mindfulness Compassion in

Cambridge, Massachusetts, these are beautiful centers, they're doing great

work. And then I also have taken, you know, training with, you know, Zen

Buddhism, Vietnamese, and Burmese Tera vada, some Tibetan traditions of practice

in all these different traditions, and they're all great, they're great

approaches, but I feel like they had they were missing something, and at least

missing something for me. And I think, for some other people as well. One is,

they have a clear meditation technique, I think that's great. But they're

missing a couple other things that I think psychotherapy actually can help

people with. So one is motivation to practice. So a lot of people will learn a

technique, and then they kind of lose the motivation to keep practicing. One

thing that I found is really helpful to keep that going, is clarifying your

picture of well being so why are you meditating? What are you trying to move

towards in your life? What is the motivator for you? So in my skillful means,

skillful means program, I have people identify the domains of their life that

are really important to them, that will help bring them closer to well being.

So for somebody that might be physical health, or somebody might want to lose

weight, somebody's trying to exercise more to feel stronger. Another person

might want to develop relationships with their family, another person might be

working on career. And in all of these, as we were talking about earlier, they

all involve behavior change, they all involve letting go of some bad habits,

and accepting and building some new, some new positive habits. So in this

meditation course, it's not just sitting on a cushion, we're identifying your

domains of well being, we're helping you to move towards those, we're helping

you to develop a systematic meditation practice, to build those muscles to make

that adoption of a new behavior easier, quicker, and more sustainable. In the

meditation, you're also managing anxiety, depressive feelings, all of those

sort of benefits that you get from meditation, better concentration, memory,

sleep, all that stuff. And then we help you actually integrate it. And I think

this was another thing that was missing in a lot of meditation programs is they

teach you the technique, and then they say bye, bye. So in my program, we also

take you through step by step and have you apply these meditation techniques in

the domains of well-being in the areas of your life that are important to you.

And there's partners there's accountability partners, as a group that you meet

with every week, where people are supporting you, and sharing insights about

how they've applied meditation in their life. And this is over 12 weeks. And

then at the end of the 12 weeks, we have people who go on to do it for a year,

so meeting weekly with that same group that they started with. And it's really

supportive. You know, this is a way that people can continue practicing and

applying it because it's a long term skill. So when you decide you're going to

act in a new way, in whatever domain of your life, it's a choice to start. But

then that maintenance phase that continuing to make that choice again, and

again and again, in your day to day that takes support, that takes long term

sort of commitment, it's not a one time, sort of sort of choice. So the last

part is really cultivating a community for yourself. And we do that

intentionally. Who are the people in your life who really love your picture of

well being and support you? who aren't going to make fun of you for loving to

do some quirky thing, but rather, they are your biggest cheerleaders and how do

we spend more time with these people? And how do we create common habits and

hobbies and that sort of thing in which we can interact with them more and

more? So these are the four pieces, defining your picture of well-being

developing a systematic meditation practice, integrating the insight from that

practice into your life, and then creating a community of support. And we do

this with online courses and meditation recordings and all that sort of

business. So people can can do it from from anywhere in the world.

Ed Watters 



you've got a lot of good insight and your experience level is astronomical. You

don't find a lot of Buddhist monks that come back and help the Western culture,

overcome their mind. You know, because here in the United States, especially,

we can really start churning our mind, especially right now during our COVID

period. We're all going to get through this. But what you do can help people

through this time period, how can people get ahold of you and connect with you?

Dr. William Jackson  31:04

Sure. So

I think the best way is going to my website. So we have a new website actually

going up this week, we're at the end of January sort of recording this right

now. But it should be up in in a week or so where you can see we have a couple

different courses, we have the big 12-week program, we have some smaller

courses, if you want to just get a taste like one week or four-week course,

they'll be going up. We also have meditation challenges. So if you want to try

to meditate for seven days straight, or do a big one, where you're meditating

30 days in a row for an hour a day, that may be a lot for people, but it's

exciting for others. And then not just with meditation specifically, but

insight just developing insight in your life. We also have programs that are

coming out for developing nutrition, a picture of your, your well being in

terms of what you digest, and we talk about the science of the microbiome, and

not prescribing somebody a diet so to speak, but letting them sort of

organically find that in terms of what they want out of their life and energy

and, and understanding the science behind what types of food bring you what

type of well being both physiologically and mentally as well. And then we will

also have some yoga courses for emotional health and well being that are based

on the same concept of helping you define your picture of well being not as

sort of telling you what that is. And then being part of a community where

people really respect your own unique picture of well-being so going through

the website. Skillful means dot life is probably the best way to connect with

us. Or you know, we have the Facebook's skillful means community or skillful

means on Instagram and we're always putting out some content that we hope will

be helpful for people.

Ed Watters 



William Jackson, we thank you for being on the Dead America podcast. It's all

about sharing, helping, and providing that mechanism of hope. Thank you.

Dr. William Jackson  33:10



Ed Watters 



you for joining us today. If you found this podcast, enlightening,

entertaining, educational in any way. Please Share, Like, subscribe, and join

us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America podcast.

I'm Ed Watters your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.

More Episodes
Season 5
6. Dr. William Jackson
5. Josh Cary
4. Paul Katzoff
3. Erin McCullough
2. Dr. Krishna Bhatta
1. Kay Neal
bonus Season Five Is Here
bonus Bonus Episode 1 Season 5
trailer Season 5 March 3rd
Season 4
9. Thank you for a wonderful 2020
8. Overview of Season 4
7. Roman Mironov
6. Fitz Koehler
5. Greg Edwards
4. Alec Sorensen
3. Twyla Dell
2. Jacqueline Maddison
1. Ja'Quintin Means
trailer Dead America Podcast Trailer
bonus Season 4 Starts next week
Season 3
9. Season three Final
8. Dustin Miller
7. Andrew Seaton
6. Brenden Kumarasamy
5. Miha Matlievski
4. James Perdue
3. Terry Davies
2. Julia Kristina
1. Tracey Maxfield
trailer What is Dead America
bonus Andy Hooser
bonus What Road
bonus Episode Lineup Of Season Three
Season 2
3. Stanley Milgram
2. Abraham Lincoln
1. Anne Sullivan
The Forefathers Monument Explained
Rosa Parks
Better Communities Begin With You A Look Back
Season 1
Backbone By Encroachments
End Of The Road
FDR Part 1
Jim Garland
bonus Looking Back At Season 1 Jess
Clara Barton
Get In Order
Ruby Ridge The Red Horse Rides
Walt Disney
bonus Union
Dedicated To Death
FDR Part 2
Johannes Gutenberg
bonus Thank You For A Great 2019
Problems Vs. Issues
bonus Just a Talk about Podcasting.
Can you let it go
Charlie Chaplin
I am not you
Harriet Tubman
Ripples That Last A Lifetime
bonus First Podcast Episode 2021