Need some end-of-year mindful listening? The Mindful editors share their picks for this year’s best podcast episodes about meditation and mindful living.
The world of mindfulness podcasts has grown by leaps and bounds in 2021, and we’re here for it. Major news outlets like NPR and Vox now frequently cover stories about self-care and emotional wellness; if you dig a little deeper, you’ll also discover an ever-expanding list of offerings from mindfulness teachers, experts, and authors, many of whom have started their own podcasts.
Whether you’re looking for insightful conversations with teachers, skilful advice for working through a challenge, or simply inspiration for how to approach life with a little more mindfulness, we hope you enjoy the following podcasts that stood out this year.
The 7 Best Mindfulness Podcasts of 2021
1) Life Kit
Maggie Smith wrote Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change at a time in her life when everything felt unsure. By mere happenstance, the book was released during a global pandemic when the world began collectively grappling with the same feelings. Prompted by perceptive questions from host Kat Chow, Smith explains the “notes to self” found in her book, in the context of holding on to hope with “self-pep talks” and daily practices like making time to do something “that makes you feel like you.” Smith says this felt like “trying on hope every day, even though it didn’t fit well, like it was scratchy and oversized.” But after a while, she says, she was able to connect with a “kinder story” about herself. – Kylee Ross
2) Walking Each Other Home
Old friends and mindfulness experts Mirabai Bush and Rhonda Magee engage in a rich conversation about how narrative—listening to others’ stories and experiences—helps extend our empathy and understanding. Magee draws a direct line between mindfulness and antiracism work as “a way in which to fully engage our practice…to move from the cushion into the world, supported and informed by our practice. Mindfulness is a perfect technology for working with racism and other isms.” Magee notes that being inclusive with our language, and imbuing it with love and kindness, is vital if we are going to hear each other’s stories and learn from them. – Stephanie Domet
3) The Prize of Possibility
Mindfulness teachers and authors Shelly Tygielski and Mitch Abblett have a laid-back conversation about Tygielski’s new book Sit Down to Rise Up and what it means to show up. Early in the pandemic, Tygielski founded Pandemic of Love, a mutual aid group to help those struggling to make ends meet in her Florida community. Overnight, the initiative went viral and is now an international organization that has given her story after story to tell about the power of openheartedness. Showing up doesn’t have to be a big event, though, she says. All you need to do is tend to the part of the garden you can reach, and the blooms will spread from there. – Ava Whitney-Coutler
4) Taking Off the Mask
Episode: “The Conqueror Narrative”
In this insight-filled conversation on his recently launched podcast, Ashanti Branch and social entrepreneur and engineer Chris Ategeka discuss their experiences with the “conqueror narrative”: When we talk about success stories, we often neglect the complexities of where someone came from and how they struggled to “conquer” their circumstances. They bring in Branch’s Million Masks movement and why being vulnerable, even with those we trust, can be difficult. “Everything in life comes down to two things. It’s safety and security,” Ategeka says, and that includes how readily we allow ourselves to be open and honest about what we’re going through. – Amber Tucker
5) Vox Conversations
Neuroscientist, psychologist, and author Lisa Feldman Barrett talks to Vox Conversations host Ezra Klein in this densely scientific, but enlightening episode about emotions and how they don’t actually work the way we think they do. Feldman Barrett explains current research that shows emotions aren’t inherent in our biology, but are constructed throughout our lives (the principle at the heart of Barrett’s 2017 book How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain). This highly individualized view of emotions means we’re past due for a major rethink of our systems, our behaviors, and even the way we understand reality. – AWC
6) Metta Hour with Sharon Salzberg
Episode: “Ep. 153 – Scott Shute”
Scott Shute wants to spend the rest of his career “operationalizing compassion at the company level.” In this in-depth conversation, the former Head of Mindfulness and Compassion Programs at LinkedIn tells Sharon Salzberg about what that might look like in the corporate world. It’s about what Shute notes as moving from “me behavior to we behavior.” In day-to-day operations, it shows up in the workplace as choices that prioritize employee and customer well-being—honoring a user experience over generating clicks, or building a relationship over meeting a quota. And at the root of this shift is cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. – KR
7) Meditative Story
Episode: “Stories of New Beginnings”
In the season 2 finale of Meditative Story, we get a melting-pot perspective on new beginnings from five different people. Each of their stories is rooted in a shared human experience, from the unspoken conversations surrounding life and death to feeling like an outcast and finally finding a space that feels like home. It’s a podcast that makes you feel a little less isolated, reinforcing that you’re not alone in your feelings. Among the wide range of guests you’ll be sure to hear a voice that resonates, especially in the times we’re living in right now. It makes us excited for what season 3 has in store. – Oyinda Lagunju