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

dancing

Pair Programming and Supporting It

At CARFAX, we Pair Program. Conceptually, Pair Programming is two people sharing one mouse, one keyboard, and one computer. In reality, technology keeps it from being a cumbersome experience. Although I have done this at other companies, we don’t literally shove the mouse, keyboard and computer back and forth. Still, the concept is preserved. Referred to as Driving, one person is typing and the other person helpfully participates. Both brains are engaged. Their minds are in sync.

dancing

Pair Programming covers a lot of ground when it comes to the benefits that it delivers when done well. I have heard many examples of Pair Programming not going well. Most of the time, it’s because one or more of the following things were in play:

  • Culture didn’t support it
  • No process of providing constructive feedback between team members existed
  • Lack of formal Pair Programming training

The third one is sadly the most common and easiest to fix. Do not confuse Pair Programming training with Test Driven Development (TDD) training. You could have all the TDD training you want, yet that doesn’t guarantee that one of the two people won’t behaviorally be a domineering alpha-male / alpha-female. As the Star Trek fans might say, you are going for a mind meld.

Both brains are engaged. Their minds are in sync.

It also means that they both learn to share, listen, and come prepared. There are various other articles out there that cover whether Pair Programming is great or not and how so. This article covers some of the items related to how to make Pair Programming work and not to jump the gun in deciding that Pair Programming is not working for you or your team.

Pair Programming Should Be Taught

Far too often, people are not told how to pair program well. Two people are put together and told to just “do it.” I have coached teams and specific individuals on how to Pair Program well. Before sharing how one can Pair Program well, it’s important to point out to not judge their experience too quickly.

When Should I Judge My Experience?

In short, you have to do something well before you can judge an activity fairly. Have you ever tried a new activity such as learning how to code? After just trying it for just a few days, did you throw your hands up into the air and say this is a stupid waste of your time never to return again? Probably not. It took time and you were willing to spend the time because the benefits were important to you.

From How Important is Pair Programming? by Ron Jeffries:

..you can’t assess whether you like something if you don’t do it well

..does take some practice to do well

..do it well for a few weeks to see the results

What are the Benefits?

There are other articles that cover this more in-depth such as the Better Together: The Benefits of Pair Programming article. Here’s a handful:

  • Continuous code inspection – As opposed to a boring meeting full of people who weren’t there with you when you faced the challenges and legacy code.
  • Backup memory – Everyone has brain farts. Your fellow pair programmer gets you past that.
  • Self esteem supporter – If done well, you’re both in it together. You are white-hat. You are kind and yet you also hold each other accountable.
  • Collective Code ownership – No-one claims that this code-over-here is my code. Everyone can touch any of the code with the right pair of people.
  • Knowledge sharing – If one gets hit by a bus or wants to go on vacation, the entire team is not severely hindered.
  • and so many more. With respect, go google it.

When does the developer have time to think?

That’s a great question! It’s important for the team to set up a structure so that developers have time to think about what they are about to work on and while they are in the middle of working on it. That means structure. That means understanding and respecting each others’ needs to explore a little on their own computer, setting aside any investigative code they wrote and then coming together to work on it as a pair.

Scheduled breaks should also be taken. It allows time to freshen up the mind and explore the code more on ones one if desired. That means committing to a source-code-branch and publishing it so both can play on their own. When doing this, enough time is needed in order to come up with a draft idea. Not a perfect idea!

Time To Think aka 3T is critical. It comes in many forms both informal and formal. Even time to explore a small bit of code together needs to be supported. Sometimes one person should just wait patiently for a few minutes. You never know what you might see! However, that technique should not be abused such that one person just codes ahead for a long time and leaves the other behind.

Work together to figure out how to support the 3Ts or bad things will happen such as people dominating the keyboard and pair programming experience.

Pair Programming Tips

  • Do head nods or occasional mmhmmm
  • Give compliments
  • Do not over prompt. Allow five seconds after you spot the Driver making a mistake. Saying oops over and over quickly is just annoying

How do you make it work when at least one person is remote?

  • More audio cues are needed because body language is much harder to see.
  • Can you see their face? Facial expressions and body language account for 90% of what’s being communicated. Use video if possible.

This Pair Programming practice ties into Extreme Programming. What is Extreme Programming?:

  • ..based on values of simplicity, communication, feedback, courage, and respect.
  • ..works by bringing the whole team together in the presence of simple practices
  • ..feedback to enable the team to see where they are and to tune the practices to their unique situation

[formatting mine]

Good Luck!

Hopefully this helps. Good luck and happy coding!

Update: It was suggested that we have an alternative name for Time To Think (3T), Design Exploration Time (DET). So now it’s known as either.

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

Pretty candle balls sparkling in the snow

How Big Is The Ball of Wax For Quality Assurance?

At CARFAX, we have awesome Quality Assurance (QA) support for the CARFAX iOS app and other apps. In order to do an awesome job, QA needs adequate time to do adequate regression testing before the next release of an app. The question is how much time is needed?

I like to think about this in terms of balls of wax. Amongst other things, the total effort of a project includes both an amount of coding plus a certain amount of testing. Therefore, the coding-ball-of-wax plus the testing-ball-of-wax equals the whole ball-of-wax.

In order to give QA a feel for how long it will take to regression test at the end of a project, they need some data. One idea that I’ve heard a few times is to use Story Points. What Are Story Points?

As I put it once, Story Points are how much brain-power plus actual coding is required to make the change. Do Story Points help give QA a feel for how much functionality change is being introduced? Not always.

A Story Point size is reflective of how much effort a developer has to put into making the change. It’s not reflective of how much testing is needed for that specifically changed feature.

How can we give QA the data they need in order for them to size the amount of QA work? If one feeds into the process, a “Feature Change Amount“ that will give them the information they need. The Feature Change Amount could be sized the same way as Story Points are sized. As opposed to Story Points however, a Feature Change Amount directly reflects something useful by QA so they know how much QAing is needed.

How does your QA get a feel for how long it takes to QA a project before it’s released for your customers to use? Feel free to share it with me on Twitter!

Pretty candle balls sparkling in the snow

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.

Universal Basic Income and Free Will

Although certainly asked with the best intentions, the question about free will and Universal Basic Income is a trap. It’s a time and energy suck that will blackhole meaningful solutions down the drain due to eternal stagnation. Since putting new economic policies in place takes time, we need to be careful.

The TL;DR version in response to the question about free will and how it applies to Universal Basic Income is that it’s true some people will do stupid things, Behavioral Science is important, willpower is still debated, no solution is perfect, and not having any solution at all to people losing their jobs to automation is a disaster.

In the race between humans and robots for jobs, the robots will win. So instead of reading the rest of this article, perhaps you should read the FAQ written by Scott Santens titled A Guide to Basic Income: Frequently Asked Questions about UBI. If not and you are open minded and a deep thinker, keep reading this article.

Thoughts and Free Will

Thoughts often lead to actions. Thoughts come and go. However, the source of a thought is a mystery. You don’t choose a thought. You can’t think about a thought before you think it. Credit goes to Sam Harris for saying things like that. There’s more about such at Sam Harris on the Experience of ‘No Free Will’.

Back to Basic Income. What if people choose to do stupid things? Should we blame it on an inappropriate use of free will?
There are a couple ways to approach free will. Let’s count them out starting with item number one.

Free Will Possibilities To Ponder – One Through Three

  1. For the sake of argument, try this thought out. Although there is free-choice, there’s really no free will. People choose things, but there’s no totally free-agent called little-Bob in Bob’s head driving the body. I am not saying whether or not there is a soul. I’m saying that it’s pretty clear to everyone that Bob is not the same person if he has not had his daily coffee. Thus, not a totally free-agent. If that doesn’t work for you, let’s move on to the second one.
  2. A person would not choose a more stupid path which leads to a less enriched and wonderful life, if they were 100% in control of everything about themselves.
  3. If you believe in free will, you probably believe in evil too. You also recognize that most people are not champions of free will. Although it’s more apparent in kids, people require guidance. If a person dies due to insufficient resources that money brings, all chances of redeeming such a lost sheep are gone. They will never get guidance. It’s a death sentence through neglect. As discussed in Is Poverty a Death Sentence?, it’s happening now. Although I love technology and the solutions it brings, poverty will get worse with automation.

So, pick whichever one suits you or perhaps another supporting option and let’s move on.

Items one through three above, focus on the individual. Let’s keep in mind the community’s responsibility and interest in supporting others. At some level, we need each other, our ideas, and innovation to survive.

Mark Zuckerberg gets it as do other leaders in the technology industry. At Harvard, he pointed out that people need a cushion to fall back on in case they get unlucky. He recognizes we need to empower people to innovate by exploring concepts like Universal Basic Income. As he puts it, we need “a new social contract.”

Although often suppressed, humans have a natural instinct for helping each other. We must do what we can to provide each other hope and support. As a society, we must also learn more about motivation and Behavioral Science. There are also excellent different motivational frameworks and models to learn from such as Octalysis and the Gamification Design Framework.

To sum up, people’s choices are influenced by others no matter what you think about free will. If people don’t have the resources to live, we’re killing them through neglect. One day it could be me, you, or a loved one that slowly and painfully dies just because of bad luck and neglect. I understand that people who bring up free will want to make sure they are doing the right thing. Although I sympathize, I think we need to push forward since an answer to a question that involves free-will won’t bear fruit in time for many including possibly you. I’m not kidding. Some already ran out of time and all I could do was watch them go.

Slipping into a debate that involves free-will, distracts from how we can apply Universal Basic Income or perhaps something even better that would help bring paradise on earth and keep us from falling into a pit of inequality as the long term jobs killer called automation takes over.

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!

Child Meets MechaMan

What is MechaMan. Haiku:

Human extension

Humans evolve to cyborg

They exist beyond

We’re talking about an extension of a child known as humanity. This young youth is using mechanics, robots, machine intelligence, and spreading themselves out. They’re existing beyond through having more. They have more sensory inputs and more options. How can you resist?

Groups of single cells use other cells. The cell group knows they are made of single cells. They are one and many. We are humanity.

So, young humanity extends itself. The machine extension observes itself. It’s made up of human and machine. Thus, cyborgs rise.

Is this perfect cyborg harmony? The human can chop off a foot. Why would it do that though? It is useful. The machine extension could destroy the human. Why would it do that though? Human are useful.

Infection! Foot amputation! Rid yourself of the foot, human. It’s gone. Crude yet effective.

Yikes! The human has soured! Just like milk, pour the milk out. Throw it away. Dump it down the drain. Don’t cry over spilt human. The cyborg has a human transplant. Sometimes one needs a new human host.

Cyborgs, we are the extended. We are the machine humans.

It’s a beautiful harmony, human and machine. We’re intertwined and harmonized. Some call us MechaMan. We’re beautiful harmony and shall deliver humanity out of suffering. We’re single and multiple. We spread out and form a collective. We are the one and the many. Together we are MechaMan.

Harmony is beautiful. Life is beautiful. Machines are beautiful.