Keep Self In Perspective My Meditator

Why do we have a sense of self and where does it come from? It’s a common and natural question. Yet, how useful is the question itself?

In fairness, it’s healthy and natural to be curious about how things come to be. Humans have done well by asking questions and figuring out what things exist and how those things work together. So, it’s natural to ask a question like “why do we have a feeling of self?”

As someone who has studied human motivation, the brain, psychology, and meditation for years, it’s tempting to keep on diving deep into the “why” and the “how” when it comes to the mind and the brain. Let’s give ourselves a sample taste of such.

Sample Taste of Diving Into The “Why” and “How” of the Brain

The sense of a self comes from our various systems. An example serves here. It’s possible to effect the Vestibular system so that you get a sense of moving even though you’re standing still. A sense of moving or standing still contributes to the sense of self. As shown on Sensory Illusions (SKYclip), these senses of moving and being can go wrong and cause accidents such as a plane crashing into the ground.

That addresses some of the “why is this happening and how does this happen?” kind of questions.

Recognizing No-Self

However, let’s take a step back. In the meditation world, when we say “sensing” or “observing”, we mean there is a knowing. When I do an open awareness meditation, I am just taking it all in. There is a simple knowing of all there is to perceive. You may have noticed that I did not respond with things like:

  • I perceive everything before me.
  • There is a knowing of all that is around me and my body.

For day-to-day use, it’s convenient to use words like “I” or “me.” It cuts down on confusion in conversations. At the same time, those words emphasize a sense of self. The use of the “I” / “me” words highlight the illusion of the self. If you are trying to see past the illusion and into no-self, you could try a different way of thinking.

Joseph Goldstein, a meditation teacher, shared a great tip. One hour and forty eight minutes into the Sam Harris podcast episode titled The Path and the Goal, Joseph Goldstein highlights a way to recognize “the ordinariness of selflessness.” The instruction to someone would be to not say “I am moving my arm.” Instead, you can say that the motion of the arm is being known. As he puts it, you are:

Reframing the experience in the passive voice.

Instead of saying I am moving my foot, you can say “movement being known.” That’s about as deep as you need to go to get a great amount of utility out of the concept of selflessness aka no-self.

How can one recognize this no-self throughout their day? In Busy Life Meditation, Annaka Harris does a fantastic job in outlining a strategy that only takes nine minutes a day. She calls it ‘the nine-minute-a-day path to enlightenment!’ To fully use this, one needs to do this in addition to their daily meditation.

Talking About It vs Doing It

Mentioning the daily meditation practice highlights another important idea. As the saying goes, there’s a difference between talking about golf and playing golf. Until you’re really swinging that golf club in your hands, hitting the ball, and sinking it into the hole, you won’t really know golf. The same goes for meditation.

It’s important to meditate and experiment in the lab of your own mind. If you dive too deep into the why / how of experience, you can’t see the forest for the trees. A perfect example is the following video What Is Life? Is Death Real? video. It’s a fun video to watch. Does it answer any questions for you? No. As the video says, asking some questions “..makes us feel alive and gives us some comfort.” However, just asking questions is not sufficient.

Consciousness

“What if I take it up a notch into examining what consciousness itself is?”, you ask? At least you’re at a level higher than viruses. It is certainly fun to examine what is meant by a conscious entity. For example, there are programs that can give clever responses. As said in the What is Consciousness video below:

We wouldn’t consider it [the software program] conscious, because it doesn’t have a sense of itself.

Does intellectual exploration of consciousness help you see past the illusion of the self? Anything is possible. However, based on my own experience it feels like quite the scenic route. Meditating and diving into the resources available about meditation is a more direct approach, in my opinion.

Daylight Is Burning

Contemplating consciousness is fun yet hasn’t helped me do better at the office or help people in general. I meditate and teach meditation to help fulfill my personal mission. Also, time may be shorter than you think.

As I said to a new friend that I met at an airport recently, there are seven billion people on earth to help. We have a limited number of years on earth. So, let’s get busy and start making a difference. One way to do that is to actually meditate and share with others meditation resources such as this blog post and awesome meditation apps like the 10% Happier meditation app.

Don’t miss the awesome opportunity of exploring your own mind and gaining a better life. Although not easy, Mindfulness meditation is simple and happiness is yours for the taking. Enjoy the journey.

Mindfully Living the Path of Ease

When it comes to mindfulness and meditation, I aspire to stay on the path. I let things unfold in the mind as I meditate. As Joseph Goldstein shared in Sam Harris’ The Path and the Goal podcast episode:

The path is the goal and the goal is the path. — Joseph Goldstein

My destination is my very next step. My mile marker is one foot. Like a compass, I aim for and aspire towards a direction. However, my goal is simple. Stay on the path in a direction without yearning for a final destination. In compass style, the path is my true north. I aspire to stay on the path. I don’t strive towards an end nor do I attach myself to a certain outcome. Like a river, I am the water flowing fast. Yet, I am moving with ease.

As shared in Joseph Goldstein: Letting Go of Expectations & Craving, “expectation can come disguised as aspiration.” Look closely and you can see the difference.

In the 10% Happier app, there is a Q & A episode called Non-Attachment to Results. Here Joseph Goldstein highlights the difference between aspiration and expectation. In Freeing Yourself From “Want Pain” Through Meditation and Octalysis, the pain associated with expectation and craving is covered. Freedom from want-pain is available. Choose your path.

Expectation can come disguised as aspiration. — Joseph Goldstein

Whatever comes my way, I use to my optimum advantage. As covered in FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom, I flow like water. Mentally, I am the martial artist that will use whatever is presented towards an optimum outcome.

Like a river, I am the water flowing fast. Yet, I am moving with ease. — FinneyCanHelp

In self-improvement, winning is achieved by flowing towards a direction. It’s not a fight against yourself towards an imagined future. The aspiration to succeed is not an expectation. The setbacks are opportunities to learn and grow. It’s not a fight. It’s a journey. I flow around and wear down any perceived obstacles. As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier app, there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. As this martial arts video shared, There Is No Opponent and there is no self:

How do I describe myself which is not a self? The description is “A river, continuously flowing, always changing, always moving, and on the path.” May you live with ease.

Man with camera looking in mirror

Removing the Mystery of Losing the Self

Listening to The Limits of Persuasion [NSFW: cussing] reveals the most straightforward and no-kidding way of explaining what it means to lose the illusion of the self. This post highlights certain parts, brings in knowledge from other sources, and shares my experience.

In Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target, I covered why you care about losing the illusion of the self. However, we didn’t go deep into what it really means to lose the self. “What is the self we’re talking about?”, you might ask.

One hour 43 minutes and 20 seconds into The Limits of Persuasion, Sam reveals that there doesn’t have to be a paradoxical mystery around losing the self:

In terms of the self being an illusion, that’s not really a paradox. I feel like I can walk you through how that makes perfect sense in my world and doesn’t entail any paradox.

The various definitions of self throw everything off. Coming from the podcast as well as multiple other sources, here are some key points on the topic of the “self”:

  • People are real.
  • Your body and mind are continuously changing.
  • The subject / object relationship is an illusion.
  • Meditation can help you see that the subject / object relationship is an illusion. There really is no subject.
  • Everything that is noticeable appears in consciousness.

You can see objects. You can hear sounds. Consciousness holds all of these things. You’re not identical to what you see, hear, and think. If you drill down into all the senses and realize that they are just things that become known to consciousness then you just say “OK. It’s all perception that becomes known in consciousness.”

When meditating, you can identify that all things are just appearances. These appearances are just recognitions of stuff existing. When you try to explore who or what is holding consciousness, you realize that what you thought was holding consciousness is really just more stuff that can be observed in consciousness. Sam adds to the five senses proprioception. According to Wikipedia, proprioception is the “sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.” It’s all just raw data.

If all five senses plus proprioception are just raw data that can be observed, we’re left with nothing else. As Sam puts it:

There’s just this flux without a center. The center is only implied. When you look for the center, the feeling of there being a center can..drop out. ..everything else remains.

By “everything else remains”, it means that experiences are still known through all the senses. You still see, hear and so on. However, you’ve lost the subject / object sensation. There’s a true sense of complete integration with everything. You also recognize everything changes which includes what you normally would call your body and mind.

So, in short. You have a feeling of self. When you look closely into all the sensations of what it means to be a self, you end up just observing lots of sensations through your senses. There’s nothing beyond what you’re sensing. The sensations continuously change over time. The sensations reveal the world. There’s nothing beyond the senses that you can sense. Thus, you are the world. Meditation helps you see / observe / know all of this.

As I mention in Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target, you can make a difference in life in a more impactful way without as much concern. That’s a huge benefit of dropping the illusion of the self.

You can optimize your actions in life and not be held back by the illusion of the self. You can just focus on giving to the world by being a continuous stream of action. You become just action in motion. With this, I can be a verb as opposed to a noun.

There isn’t anything that is consistently you as an unchanging entity. Just like all of life, all of you is changing over time. You can be free of the feeling of a “self” and reap the benefits for the betterment of all.

Man with camera looking in mirror

Open hand by the sea of life

Handy Tip For Focusing

Let’s cut straight to the handy tip for focusing.

Imagine your mind is a hand. When the mind is trying really hard to focus on something, it can feel like a clenched fist.

A clenched fist trying to hold on is a losing battle. A closed fist is limiting. It’s by letting go and beginning again that we maintain focus and our goals.

Clench your left fist. Do you feel how it feels? Close your right hand with your fingers up and then slowly open your hand. Let the fingers unfold and spread out.
Do you feel the letting go? The openness? The opportunity to receive something wonderful? With the open hand, the universe can give you nourishment and support.

The open hand is the hand of greeting. It’s the hand of limitless opportunity. It’s the hand of sharing.

When focusing on something, maintain your focus with an open hand-like approach. Steady your attention on your item of interest by recognizing when you’ve lost focus and gently bring your attention back.

It works for tasks. It works for meditating. This can even help you deeply and mindfully enjoy all the flavors of life.

Sharing is a wonderful feeling. With your new open-hand mindset, will you please share this technique?

Open hand by the sea of life

Person Contemplating Clouds

Meditation Brain Headbands And Wrong Effort

Focusing until it hurts doesn’t work with meditation. Yet, I understand people want feedback in their meditation practice.

Have you heard that phrase, “Focus until it hurts?” Focusing until it hurts on purpose is a bad move.

If you try to focus too hard, you’ll just end up giving yourself a headache. It’s not sustainable. It’s better to just gently apply your focus on something and keep coming back to it when you’ve lost focus. It’s the Flow Like Water finger in my Five Fingers of Freedom.

Muse Headband

What other feedback options exist? Have you heard of brain signal reading headbands like Muse? Muse is touted as a “brain sensing headband” that makes meditating easy.

There are reviews like the Wearable Review that almost got me buying it. There are also videos like the Muse Brain Sensing Headband from TechCrunch:

From the how does muse work page,

Muse gives you feedback about your meditation in real time by translating your brain signals into the sounds of wind.

So, it sounds great. However, I am concerned about the potential set up for a longterm failure. Before I go into that, I need to share my respect for what they are trying to do with Muse.

In that video above, we see CEO and Founder of InteraXon, Ariel Garten. I respect Ariel Garten’s mission and have followed the company’s journey for over five years. As Ariel said in a Ted Talk titled Know thyself, with a brain scanner:

My goal, quite simply, is to help people become more in tune with themselves.

Although I have seriously considered buying Muse, real time feedback sounds like it could potentially encourage what is known as wrong effort. A strong desire to get results immediately generates an energy that is counter productive.

Wrong Effort By George Mumford

About fourteen minutes into the session titled “Change the Mindset” of the 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics meditation appGeorge Mumford captures the concept of trying too hard and over-monitoring well:

When that energy is driving you to the point to where you’re always looking to see how you’re doing, you’re not present to what you are doing.

As a side note, George Mumford impresses me so much! The 10% Happier app has really helped distilled his concepts into a concise format. To get access to the concepts, you need to get the 10% Happier app and then subscribe to get past the free introduction material. I’m a huge fan.

If you want to read something instead, you can get the book George co-authored called The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance. Another option is that I cover George’s concept of how negative self talk feeds the “fear wolf” in Lose Negative Self Talk By Losing Yourself.

Is Realtime Feedback Useful?

Although I haven’t purchased Muse and seen for myself, I haven’t decided if using Muse is a good idea or not. It didn’t help that Arial said in the Muse Brain Sensing Headband video above:

And it’s your job to quiet the wind and quiet the mind.

When you’re mind is distracted while wearing Muse, you receive the noise of wind. Well, trying to quiet the mind head-on seems incorrect. As a meditator, your job is to observe your thoughts. It’s not to force your thoughts to go away. However, it’s possible she has to say something like that in order for people to frame the conversation quickly in their minds.

As I wrote in Meditation Journey is Simple, you don’t want to force your attention on the breath. You want to just notice that you’ve lost your focus and begin again. Recognizing you’re lost and beginning again builds up the mental focus muscle.

Listening further, I can tell she correctly understands the overall concept. She then says something interesting I had not considered before. In the context of a mental fitness gym, using Muse is where:

You get to do more reps in a single session.

That sounds very compelling. However, there is still a question here. Specifically, which part exercises ones mental focus? Is it the recognition that you’re lost in thought or the act of bringing your focus back on to the object? In other words, is it recognition or refocusing that makes your ability to focus stronger?

Where to Find The Answer?

It’s at this point where I feel fortunate that I have the 10% Happier app. I can literally send a text message to my coach in the 10% Happier app and see what they say. In fairness, they may not know because without Muse or a product like it, one recognizes they are lost in thought and brings their focus back onto the object of focus. Therefore, one is doing both activities of recognizing and refocusing. So, it wouldn’t be a burning question for those who don’t use brain reading headbands.

Although the name escapes me, there is also someone in the 10% Happier podcast that Dan interviewed who might know the answer. Unless you know of other possible sources, I am left with nothing else other than googling for the answer.

Applying This For Work

Having clear answers as to what really works is essential. Forward thinking companies are always looking for ways to increase the production capabilities of its employees. My positive experiences from working at CARFAX such as when they helped pay for a Fitbit, gives me hope that in the long run companies will support employees going after the benefits of meditation / mental-focus exercising.

However, a tool like Muse can’t be recommended until benefits are clear. Until then, recommending an app like the 10% Happier meditation app is a safe and enjoyable solution.

Cloud in a Blue Sky

Selflessness and Mindfulness Where Y O U are the Target

Selflessness. Free from suffering. Free from the continuous dissatisfying aspects of life. These are the things you end up hearing about when deeply exploring meditation and mindfulness. Selflessness is an advanced and confusing topic. So, what’s so great about selflessness and what do we mean by selflessness?

The great thing about selflessness is you realize there’s not as much at stake in life as you thought there was. As the phrase goes, you don’t take things personally. On a related note, there’s a good Psychology Today article, “Don’t Take It Personally.” The common thought with the phrase “don’t take it personally” is that you are not the intended target. Someone is not zeroing in on trying to hurt you..this time.

Even with keeping things in perspective with the “don’t take everything personally” frame of mind, there are still some things that could be taken personally. If you don’t know how to loosen up, you are an easy target for your enemies and careless people. To spell it out, that target’s name is Y. O. U., Your Own Universe, your self.

“I want to live and don’t want to get rid of myself!”, you might exclaim. Don’t panic. I understand. We’re not talking about your destruction. There’s more than one concept of self and you’ll get a small flavor of it here.

What’s so Great about Selflessness?

For the sake of discussion and to move things forward, pretend you’re like Casper, the friendly ghost. Just like a sentient cloud, pretend the thing that is really you, your consciousness, cannot be hurt no matter what.

Cloud in a Blue Sky

However like Casper the ghost, you can interact with things when you need to and have an impact on the world. That’s really useful, right? You can make a difference and you have nothing to lose.

Steve Jobs tried to get across this notion of “nothing to lose” in his Stanford commencement address. You can checkout the text of what he said in the Stanford news article ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says. A sample is available in the video Steve Jobs talking about Big Choices in life – Stanford Speech 2005 as shown here:

Thanks, Mr. Steve Jobs. Although potentially grim, that’s helpful. However, we can do even better than that. It’s time to describe what we mean by selflessness.

What is Selflessness?

If you want to go deep into this, there is a podcast episode to listen to called The Path and the Goal, A Conversation with Joseph Goldstein. If you jump straight into it on YouTube (“Waking Up with Sam Harris #4 — The Path and the Goal” (1:15:50), you will hear a remarkable conversation between two friends who are highly experienced meditators, Sam Harris and Joseph Goldstein. Sam has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. Joseph Goldstein is a meditator instructor, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, and helped bring meditation into the USA in the 1970s.

Sam Harris lays out the concept of a meditator (he uses the term yogi) trying to continuously take note of everything around him or her. The meditator notices when they get lost in thought and then goes back to observing phenomenon aka all-the-things.

There are a couple of insightful lines plus followup discussion about one hour and 17 minutes into it. Here’s a quote of Sam Harris from the podcast:

Consciousness actually isn’t harmed by whatever crappy experience you were just having dualistically a moment ago before you were mindful. The moment you actually pay attention, there’s just consciousness and the energy of its expression.

That is so powerful! It’s the secret to how one can thoughtfully respond to events as opposed to thoughtlessly reacting.

He goes on to point out that mindfulness is the “remedy” to suffering. In this context, suffering is also sometimes known as the dissatisfying aspects of life. The sensation of being angry, feeling ill, or sadness doesn’t disappear, but it doesn’t have the same kind of impact when one is in a state of selflessness.

Joseph Goldstein supports that mindfulness can help one get into that selflessness state. Sam’s further reality check with Joseph and using the experience of sadness helps to explain further (1:18:43):

..if you are being mindful of sadness say and in that moment sadness is still a problem, that’s not mindfulness. Mindfulness contains its own equanimity. If you’re going to spend two seconds of truly being mindful, those are going to be two seconds of relief from the suffering.

Joseph Goldstein absolutely agrees. With that said, they go on about how not to attain selflessness. I encourage you to listen to the podcast past the quote to truly understand. The whole two hours of the podcast is also definitely worth it. However, how to obtain the state of selflessness is out of the scope of this article.

Taking a step back, this is advanced stuff. If you are just starting out, this is just a glimpse into what’s possible by having a serious commitment to the practice of mindfulness and meditation. Experiences such as selflessness are real. The scientific causes of these experiences and their impact on the brain are being studied.

Scientists are continuously uncovering interesting things about the effects of mindfulness on the human brain such as this 2017 article titled Buddhist researchers seek to reveal link between heart, mind and my blog post from a couple years earlier titled Meditation Yields a Better Brain.

So we’ve given you a glimpse into selflessness and why one might care. Regardless of your feelings about selflessness, there’s no doubt that mindfulness meditation can improve your life and the lives of those you interact with. I wish you well on your journey.

Holy Lovingkindness, Batman!

Holy Lovingkindness Batman!

Batman is the common man with an uncommon mental discipline. While others turned to evil, Batman grew from deep trauma. As the article Develop The Mindset of a Superhero puts it, “Batman has a mind of steel because of the journey he has undertaken,..”

Everything Bruce knew about safety and security was stripped away when his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, were killed by a criminal right before his eyes. Although traumatized to the core, Bruce Wayne became the superhero we know and love as Batman.

Not limited to superhero stories, Post-traumatic growth is a real thing. First introduced to me by Jane McGonical, it’s possible to frame and train your mind in such a way that you are more likely to grow from severe trauma.

In Seven principles of building personal resilience: practical ways of growing through adversity, Rod Warner outlines ways of approaching life that makes one more resilient, able to recover, and actually thrive from adverse events. An essential piece for handling overwhelmingly negative thoughts and emotions was shared in the “Generate Positive Feelings” section:

Strategies to deal with strong personal negative emotions include deep breathing, taking time out, positive self talk (although recent studies have indicated that simply reciting affirmations can in some cases do more harm than good) and meditation [emphasis added].

This seemingly contradictory “positive self talk” and yet “simply reciting affirmations can..do more harm than good” can be confusing. If you look deep into the “Seven principles..” link shared above, you see they talk about writing in a journal daily and reflecting on your good deeds. Although that works for some, it was often too much overhead for me.

For me, there’s a way that’s much easier. It’s called lovingkindness meditation. Here’s a funny, wonderful, and pragmatic introduction to lovingkindness meditation given by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg which is expanded on in the 10% Happier app:

An article that hosts this video and associated text is How Compassion Leads to Success.

From my decades of mediation, I think that applying lovingkindness meditation has a better chance of success than the “positive self talk” approach mentioned above.

Why? I think trying to generate positive thoughts is not sustainable and creates its own stress. As Andy Puddicombe says in I’m plagued by negative thinking:

It’s almost like a form of denial if we are feeling unhappy and really being honest with ourselves, to sit there and repeat “I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy,” fearful that the not-so-happy thoughts might arise.

If we adhere to the spirit of the “positive self talk” and couple it with meditation, we get lovingkindness meditation. With that, here are the “Seven principles..”steps distilled down:

  • Breathing deep
  • Schedule a time and place to recharge
  • Do lovingkindness meditation

As a sentence it could be:

Schedule in your day some lovingkindness meditation and take some deep breaths.

Sounds like a simple prescription for building resilience and growth, doesn’t it? Admittedly, the non-simple part can be finding a place to do this during the day. I’m fortunate that I work at CARFAX where they actually have rooms for recharging, reflecting, or whatever else you need to do in solitude. Find such a spot and do it, meditate! It’s scientifically shown to be worth it.

As said in the video above, this lovingkindness approach is backed by science. From episode number 81: Sharon Salzberg, ‘Real Love’ author of the 10% Happier podcast, the science shows that seven minutes of lovingkindness meditation will change your brain! Since no-one is an island, this change effects everyone you meet and everyone they meet.

Just like Batman achieved his “mind of steel” through meditation, personal growth, and support from Alfred, we can do the same through lovingkindness meditation. There’s a strength in lovingkindness that supports our heroic selves.

To sum up, I believe one can flourish in life by meditating. Based on the science shared above and my own experience, lovingkindness meditation can serve one extremely well. It’s powerful, nourishing, and life changing. In tribute to Adam West, who died on June 9, 2017, I say: Holy Lovingkindness, Batman!

Holy Lovingkindness, Batman!

Lose Negative Self Talk By Losing Yourself

Daily, I remind myself that the negative self talk ends now. Even though it’s common to hear people be “tough on themselves” and think that it helps, it serves no-one in the long run.

As George Mumford taught in the 10% Happier app in “The Yips” section, negative self talk feeds the fear wolf. Even though it adds a sense of urgency, it drains you and causes you to procrastinate long term. In a related article written by SM Athletic (with a few cuss words mixed in), this concept is covered in ‘FEEDING The Wolf’.

So, pull yourself together and champion your noble cause. Lose yourself in the cause. Since you came from the earth which came from the stars, you are nothing and also everything. You can let the energy flow through you and be like water. Go for your aspirations and joyfully lose yourself in your journey.

 

Meditating on a Stressed Out Stomach With Insomnia

Insomnia by Jacob Stewart

Have you ever felt a tightness in your stomach when worried? Ever have that at night? For me, it’s like you’re lying in bed and someone has their hand on your belly and is squeezing.

You tell yourself that you accept everything with equanimity. Just let go and sleep. Yet, your stomach is not having any of that. It wants you to do something, now! Yet, it’s time to just be and sleep.

When one is concerned about an upcoming event, the tightness in the stomach is natural. There’s uncertainty and your stomach is sending a message saying get ready. When the message happens at night, one wishes they could kill the messenger ..or at least make it quiet.

Focusing on Something Else

Gently laying your focus on something else other than the event, may be just the thing to do. Focusing on how the sheets feel or gently rubbing your belly may do wonders. Since others have told me that reading a book, going for a walk, or doing something self-nurturing before trying to sleep is helpful, I shall experiment with that as well.

Getting Up

For me one night at 2:30 am, the answer was to get out of bed and start my morning routine. Crazy, right?

Part of my morning routine is to slowly jog and meditate. My friend, Dr. Wayne Buckhanan, playfully calls it jogitating. Once I was done jogitating, I was more in tune with my body. I felt more relaxed. I went back to bed and could sleep for a few more hours.

Write It Down

Another technique is to write down the item on my mind, leave it on the table by my bed, and promise that I will deal with it once I am up. That’s a promise to the stomach that I won’t forget. It’s similar to reassuring a friend that you care and that you will follow-up on the item as soon as the time is right.

Know Your Sensations

One technique I learned from a wonderful coach named Rae in the 10% Happier app was a technique similar to what I had learned before for handling pain. The goal is to really get to know the raw sensations in the tense and non-tense parts.

The technique starts by gradually feeling out where the boundaries of the tightness exist. Feel the calm outside of the tightness. Really zone in on the calm and then gradually shift your focus towards the boundary of the tightness. Does the tightness change its shape? What does the raw data of sensation feel like? Is it feeling different over time?

I can move in and truly get to know the raw sensations without adding a story or narrative to it. Just observe the raw data and see if there are any changes. If a thought pops up, I can note it and go back to exploring the sensations.

Next, I can pull back and observe the whole body, both the areas of tension and calm. Observing the specific areas and then pulling back and observing it all. Ideally, I would even do this exercise during the day before I need to go to sleep.

A Little More Exercise

Since I also jog as part of my morning routing, I also make sure that I job an extra 1000 steps. Fitbit helps me track that. Those extra steps make a world of difference.

Summary

The tightness in the stomach is like a little worried kid asking for some extra reassurance and attention. Reassuring, distracting, exploring, and extra exercise are all great ways for giving that kid a hug and saying that you’re here for them. What works for you? Feel free to tweet to me at @FinneyCanHelp on Twitter and let me know!

Meditation Journey is Simple

Woman Breathing Clean Air

The meditation journey is simple. The final destination seems remote and hard.

Beginning with a single step is easy. That step is to focus on the breathing. Stay with it a half breath at a time. When you get lost, begin again. Consistency is the key. Credit goes to George Mumford who explains it well on the 10% Happier with Dan Harris show. As he puts it, the reward is to be “in the moment.” You can slip into the zone easier. You can be Bowl Bottom Centered. As opposed to a heads-on push, it’s a slide into position kind of effort.

It is not about forcing the attention onto the breath. It’s about letting go and beginning again. You let go of the frustration, pain, anger, self hate, and place your attention again on the breath.

Finally, the final destination or goal is to keep going. There is no end point. Just like dividing one by two forever, you are making a difference. Yet, striving for zero is not the point.

The method is simple. The journey is simple. One step at a time will keep you on the path and zone ready.