Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

What is the point of thinking good thoughts?

April 3, 2016


Having a hard time because I’m thinking about what happened today when I was in meditation. I’m starting to understand the purpose of some of the “fluff”, if you will, in a few of the styles you see in Zen.

There are a few concepts I feel like I have to go into. They are new to me so I’m probably getting them wrong.

First, I’ve started thinking about time as divided into meditation and “post-meditation”. If you are not currently meditating, then you are obviously in the post-meditation state. (Unless, of course, you have never meditated). 

The purpose of meditation was to prepare you for right now. But did it? What should happen so that next time you meditate it will better prepare you for your next post-meditation?

This kind of brings me to mettā.

I have had a hard time incorporating “thoughts of goodwill towards others” into my practice because it feels more like something to include in a prayer. Who is responsible for putting this goodwill into place if your thoughts aren’t aimed at something with power? Compared to teaching myself to be more aware of my own body and mind, thinking happy thoughts about people seems like a waste of time and effort.

But the concept of thinking about your life as alternating periods of  meditation and post-meditation draws an arrow through time between positive thoughts in the meditation phase with positive action later on. Without understanding everyday life as post-meditative, there’s no arrow–no connection. Without a connection this gap in time makes me feel powerless and stupid during meditation, and I guess this is what makes some people choose to either not bother, or to pray (or otherwise delegate) instead.

Brains are terrible with short term memory–this is why we try to enact systems we can trust to make sure things get done. I’m talking about calendars and lists. (This is the way David Allen describes things in the GTD book. I’m starting to get why he mentions Zen in passing in the prologue.) So is meditation practice the system we can entrust our goodwill into, because otherwise our terrible brains will simply forget to be kind?

I know that this is wishy-washy. (It’s getting kind of dangerously close to total bullshit woo like “the secret”.) My point in posting this is to communicate that I’m finally starting to at least be capable of brainstorming about the subject of mettā at all.

This post is too long, so I’ll stop here and write about further concepts I’ve been starting to think about later. Including what I hope to gain from koan study, why I’m spending a single second doing anything besides koan study, and what actually inspired this post, which is a set of guided meditations for anapanasati, or “breathing mindfulness” which included a bit of mettā.

(I wonder what thoughts of goodwill my cats have for all the beings in the universe. Do cats understand the idea of even having mettā towards mice?)


March 27, 2016


How do I stop the sound of that distant temple bell?

For all of the hard but actually easy answers, the most useless I’ve found by now is “the bell is actually me”.

Because then I thought, if it’s me, why isn’t it actually my cats? And how can I stop the ringing of that distant temple bell when I can’t even get my cat to stop shredding paper at 4AM?

Or maybe there is a preliminary answer, and it’s that if I’m the bell and the cats are the bell then I have about as much discipline as they do.

[How can this post possibly have a title.?]

[I am trying to do something along the lines of koan study. IDK if this is a “real” koan that would actually be assigned by a Rinzai teacher, it was from some “how to meditate” website of questionable autenticity. But despite it being much simpler and shorter than any koan I’ve heard it’s still presented me with a struggle, I guess.]

My current zen meditation teacher:


“Do An Easier Version of it”

October 25, 2015

is something that I try to convince myself to do when I’m having a hard time getting the things I want done accomplished at all. It’s not quite the same, but sort of the same, as breaking up a large task into smaller task, or in GTD-speak, it’s not quite the same as recognizing that some tasks are actionable but some are actually projects that contain their own actions. Whatever.

The idea is that I’ve taken a goal or project or plan and I’ve decided to do it, so I’ve inserted it into my system, broken it up into actionable items, etc. but for some reason I’m still not doing it.

One thing I want to be doing is daily meditation. I tried out Headspace and found it useful but difficult. Once the free part ran out I didn’t feel like paying for it because even the easiest level was kind of difficult. But what I noticed is that while ten minutes of meditation is obviously more useful than five minutes, I’m more likely to actually convince myself to do it if it’s five minutes.

For about a month now I’ve had “five minutes meditation” in Omnifocus as a daily repeating task and I think I’ve checked it off, instead of leaving it for the next day, a total of twice. So I thought about how much more likely I was to do five minute than ten minutes, and I thought about how the meditative practice in the way I’m seeking to actually practice it is really about reminding yourself to be more aware of all things by having a special time just to focus on that awareness. So, you know, thirty seconds of this kind of meditation per day is actually still going to be providing a benefit.

In practice I’ve found that I can give myself a 100% guarantee that if I tell myself “you should meditate for 60 seconds”, then I will actually do it. I’ve decided to think that this is a lot more valuable than a 90% guarantee that I’ll do it for any other space of time.

And the part that makes me not want to do it is that it’s difficult. I can keep my mind from wandering for a minute easily. I cannot easily keep my mind from wandering for two minutes. The frustration of attempting to meditate every day and “catching myself” failing is what convinces someone with my personality that it’s not worth doing at all.

So Do An Easier Version Of It.

Everyone I’ve read has suggested to me that starting for shorter times is the way to go about this, but their ideas of “short” times are usually ten minutes. I don’t want to do a slightly easier version of it, I want to do a version of it so easy that I will succeed almost accidentally.

This post wasn’t supposed to be about meditation, it was supposed to be about Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, of which “do an easier version of it” could be one. I was thinking about taking OS and trying to apply it to productivity. But I’m not going to rewrite this post because “posting a hastily-written unedited post” is my easier version of “post a post”.

I’m using an app called Due to time my meditations. I started at one minute, and I’ve been adding one second every day. One minute is so easy I can’t fail. One second added per day is so easy I can’t not laugh. I won’t be up to the ten-minute-long Headspace-sized sessions for over two years from now, which is hilarious, but I don’t care, and I can already feel how good it is for me to tell myself to do something and then actually get to watch myself do it.

P.S. Follow the podcast on twitter: @andstuffpodcast