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.

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!

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.

Bowl Bottom Centered

There is an easy approach to relaxing into focus and thus calm. It’s a concept I created called Bowl Bottom Centered.

Imagine a curved bowl. The center of the bowl is balance. It’s the calm and focus you seek.

As George Mumford says in the 10% Happier app, the goal of mindful meditation is to be “Resting in the body. Resting in the breath.” It is to slip into focus.

If you see yourself off track and off task as George might say, observe that you’re crawling up the side of the bowl and out of focus. You’re not in the bottom of the bowl. So, let it all go. Begin again.

Allow yourself to slide back down the side of the bowl and be centered. Observe yourself sliding down the side of the bowl into the center. Be in the center.

Everything slopes down to the center of the bowl. Harmony, goodness, peace, tranquility, and focus is in the bottom of the bowl. Let it all go and rest. Be “Bowl Bottom Centered.”

Bowl by Rebecca Siegel

FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom

The FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom framework empowers one to take action and live with freedom in one’s heart.

FinneyCanHelp Five Fingers of Freedom

  1. Feel Freedom – Choose to see this freedom.
  2. Flow Like Water – This was inspired by a Bruce Lee quote.
  3. Fantasize about the possible – We’re only limited by our imagination.
  4. Forgive yourself and others – Lose the emotional luggage.
  5. Faith – Have faith that there is a lawfulness to the universe. This was inspired by George Mumford. See George Mumford: “The Mindful Athlete” | Talks at Google video and the 10% Happier app that has George Mumford in it.

We choose to see by AM Renault

How to Mindfully Take Risks and Joseph Goldstein

Oh, Joseph Goldstein. I wish I knew him decades ago. He always generously shares his wisdom about mindfulness, meditation, and living a good life. Recently, I finally got to thank him!

I first encountered Joseph in the Waking Up With Sam Harris podcast episode titled The Path and the Goal. Listening to that podcast episode and a followup episode titled Questions Along the Path, led me to the iPhone app known as Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier.

How ironic that 10% Happier made it possible to thank Joseph!

10% Happier holds video events and in March they had the Joseph Goldstein Live Q&A by 10% Happier event. (Logistical side note: If you don’t have a Crowdcast account, you can create one for free and then see the video using the link.)

Since this was a Q & A event, I felt it proper to ask a question on my mind first. 50:10-ish into the event, I asked “How does one mindfully take risks?” In other words, how do you take big leaps of faith in a career or elsewhere with “right action” in mind? His generous wisdom flowed forth.

My takeaways from Joseph were to explore:

  • Fear – Relationship of oneself to fear. He has worked with fear a lot. Favorite phrases of his are “If this fear is here for the rest of my life, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel this.” It’s important to work with the fear.
  • Letting go of attachment – Act without attachment to the outcome. There are too many variables at work in life. So, work with what you have, try your best, and accept the outcome.
  • Checking the motivation – The value in the action is based on the motivation behind the action. As he said, “Is this a wholesome motivation or not?”

So, if you deal with the fear, let go of outcomes, do a motivation check, and they all checkout OK, you can “go for it!”

At the end, I gave him the FinneyCanHelp thumbs up of approval which made him chuckle. That’s from the heart. If all of humanity took his lessons to heart, the world would be a better place.

Finally, I was able to share my gratitude with Joseph. I said:

I just want to conclude by saying it’s an honor and thank you for everything you have done.

His lessons and the lessons of other wonderful meditation teachers are in the 10% Happier app. I recommend you download the iPhone app and give it a try. Subscribe if you want to explore it further. Use the coaching feature!

No iPhone? You can go to 10percenthappier.com and checkout the Web App.

My 10% Happier subscription is the best ROI I have ever had! If you have any questions about my personal experiences or just want to share your excitement, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @finneycanhelp. Also feel free to checkout my other posts about 10% Happier and meditation.

Update: You can now see the specific video segment where I ask how to mindfully take risks in a video titled Mike asks Joseph Goldstein a question during 10% Happier Subscriber Q&A

Cold Dark Eerie Fear

Wondering about the Wandering Retreat on 10% Happier?

Is the “Wandering Retreat” the most ambitious and craziest course on the 10% Happier meditation app? I say yes!

Dan gave us a preview tweet tease back in December with this picture of Jeff Warren and Dan Harris:

Since then, I have been waiting for this release with great excitement! It has arrived and I am overwhelmed with how good it is. The course is heart warming, insightful, pragmatic and frankly a work of art.

It's a work of art.

Discussing the Plan and Working on Dan’s Face

The course begins with seeing a little bit of Dan’s work day which is quite fascinating. While a little bit of makeup is artfully applied, he discusses the retreat. As he says, part of the plan is to literally get lost.

Next, I’m seeing a sweet and cute family scene that makes me smile brightly. It transitions to hearing family goodbyes of “Bye Daddy!” and “I love you!” It’s truly touching.

This switches to a funny scene where Jeff and Dan meet and choose where to go. Dan initially suggests a luxury beach retreat! There’s some playful back and forth where the choice is between luxury and the woods. In a lighthearted way, Dan says “Coursing under everything you’re saying is a raging river of like you’re a sissy if you don’t do the latter.” Jeff playfully says “That’s right.” Meeting adversity head on, they chose the woods.

Meditating On Day One

Camp is set up and the day ends with their first meditation. Now, here’s where the app does something truly magical. As opposed to a hard transition from video to recorded meditation, you are led into an experience that goes like this. You’re watching the video, you close your eyes, and then you’re meditating with them in the woods. That is exactly how it feels! Well done!

In the meditation itself there’s a mixture of nature sounds, Jeff’s guiding voice, and what I will describe as the occasional technology related sounds. This demonstrates a great integration of meditation practice with real life. Here there’s equanimity and really just taking it all in.

After the meditation, there’s a funny and insightful followup discussion around the campfire.

Meditation Follow Up Discussion

Dan doesn’t hold back his innermost thoughts where he has “an embarrassing moment.” Although I don’t want to spoil it by sharing this hilariously funny moment in detail, I don’t think Dan’s going to hell for it.

After their first day, the adventure continues with hiking, swimming and insightful wisdom shared along the way. It’s worth watching the videos multiple times and listening carefully to the wisdom that is shared. Among other things, a great thing that Jeff shares in the “Field Naturalist of the Mind” is:

You’re experiencing your own experience through the only means that you have available which is your own experience.

It’s clever and deep. That might take time to sink in and context is needed. He’s saying this in the context of meaningful and playful exploration that is available by training the mind. What Jeff is sharing throughout the course is practical and pragmatic yet it’s life changing.

Jeff and Dan touch on so much in this short retreat such as pain, equanimity, compassion, and Jeff’s favorite of muditā which Jeff says is “like celebratory joy.” What I especially like is at the end where they deal with “a mathematical impossibility” of logistics that Dan is facing. Will Dan make his meeting? Will Jeff make his flight?

Jeff says he has the perfect meditation for this common ailment titled “Where is a Thought?” The context is to work with the thinking process as it is. It’s extremely useful and I will be using this meditation often!

Logistics and a Meditation

So, wonder no more. This latest “Wandering Retreat” course is a beautiful gift to the #10PercentHappier community. With humor and beautiful nature scenes throughout, wisdom and practical tips are shared.

If you wish, check out my other posts about the 10% Happier app or better yet check out the 10% Happier app itself now!

On Fire

Shining sun

Sun energy by yogialessandra

Oh! Such a rush! In an explosion of ecstasy, I experienced something like the sun’s rays shining through my mind.

For a few mornings, I found a way to repeatedly experience a rush of happiness. A happy mental “boom” and a tingling rush of energy throughout. How I got there is summed up like this:

In the video, I gave special attention to the words: “sacred” and “on fire.” I played until he says “Love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” It’s a great video, but for this purpose I stopped the video.

Why did this happen? Many possibilities. Most importantly, how one holds the world in her or his mind matters. As said in the video:

If you really learn how to think, how to pay attention then you will know you have other options.

Learning how to pay attention is what mental focus exercises like mindfulness meditation is all about. Through such mental exercises, you can recognize that we’re all in this together. We’re all experiencing life and it is life which binds us all together. We’re all on fire with the same forces. As he said in the video, we can experience a situation as:

…not only meaningful, but sacred. On fire with the same force that lit the stars. Love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Note: I broke the above quote up to give the concepts separate emphasis. They are: “Sacred”, “On fire”, “Love”, “Fellowship”, and “Oneness.”

These aren’t just nice words. They are universal truths that tap into how we’re wired as social interconnected beings. It’s because of these truths that I experienced the happy mental rush and more importantly why we might survive together. Like all things though, the series of mental rushes have faded into the past.

If I searched long enough through the 10% Happier iPhone app, I could probably find the specific meditation that helps trigger this experience for me. It’s probably a Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness meditation. Even now, if I do a five minute Loving Kindness meditation and do the video as described above, I get the energetic buzzing in the face. It’s fun, but it’s not all there is to life.

For me, life is about love, fellowship, and oneness. A connection with the whole human family and all of life. A connection that is to be continuously explored and deepened.

For the curious, I’ve blogged about how great the 10% Happier is since the year 2015. Feel free to explore the blog posts and then if you wish checkout the iPhone app that you can download for free at http://www.10percenthappier.com.

I want now!

Freeing Yourself From “Want Pain” Through Meditation and Octalysis

I want now!

Pain by Nathan Phillips

“If I don’t get this, I’m going to just die.” Ever heard something or said something like that? Did you ever want something so bad it hurts?

How does one free themselves from an undesired want? How does one still respect the aspirations which guide us in life?

As Joseph Goldstein had said in the 10% Happier app in “Non-Attachment to Results”, aspiration is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with it. Expecting and becoming attached to the results of going for something is when things turn sour. There is a difference between wanting something with a unhealthy attachment to the results and energetically striving for something. It’s ok to go for something. It’s undesirable to get so caught up in the outcome that you set yourself up to suffer.

Now if you are not yet fortunate enough to be enjoying the 10% Happier app subscription, there is something else you can listen to called Joseph Goldstein: Letting Go of Expectations & Craving.

However, I recommend getting the 10% Happier iPhone app or getting on the web and listening to:

  • “Will Meditation Kill My Edge?”
  • “Non-Attachment to Results”

Yes, to get to those two items, you have to subscribe. If you’re not ready yet, get the app and listen to the free Q & A and courses first. I share more about the app in a slightly older post titled 10% Happier Meditation App Is 100% Satisfying.

Equanimity

Releasing yourself from painful wants can also tie into equanimity. This insight came upon me while listening to the “10% Nicer” section of the 10% Happier app. If you are not subscribed to 10% Happier, you have to spend more time digging around more. Since I really dig people like you exploring meditation, I dug into the internet for you.

There’s a funny and enjoyable video titled Sharon Salzberg on EQUANIMITY for InsightLA (Part 1). It’s a great video. Yet, it takes time to digest.

 

Octalysis

Is there a totally different way to view this? Absolutely! Let’s view this from a human behavioral design approach using Octalysis from Yu-kai Chou.

In Octalysis terms, it’s best to focus on what you want in life from a Core Drive 2 (CD2), Accomplishment and Development approach as opposed to Core Drive 8 (CD8), Loss and Avoidance. With CD2, you try something. If it doesn’t work out, you change the approach and try something else or you decide to try for something different and perhaps better. CD2 is white-hat and one is energized by pursuing it. CD8 is black-hat and the most you can hope for is the avoidance of pain. The avoidance of suffering. There’s a lot more to Yu-kai and Octalysis and even an Octalysis Explorers Facebook community if you want to explore Octalysis and its application to your life further.

Now What?

So, “now what” you ask? Although you effect every single person you interact with, how you approach life is your choice. What I have found useful is to remind myself why I am striving for something. What is the good and higher purpose of what I intend to achieve? I win the game of life by trying, being resilient, letting go of attachments to outcomes, and changing direction as needed. I also keep listening to the 10% Happier app and exploring Octalysis (TEDx talk). May you be happy, healthy, and at peace as you energetically strive to achieve great things in life.

 

 

Anxiety? How Does One Start To Meditate?

Let’s say you feel anxiety. It’s a natural state of being that almost everyone experiences sometime in their life. Sometimes one feels it daily. How does one start to meditate and where does anxiety fit into the picture?

Good questions. It took me years to find the answers which you can have in mere minutes.

It depends if you want to start alone or with someone who can cover some common questions. Let’s start with a basic focus concept.

From Meditation Yields a Better Brain:

Is it that easy for adults to get started meditating? Yes, one can practice the vipassana, a mindfulness meditation. As described in the Huffington Post article by Sam Harris, one can meditate by focusing on the breath, recognizing distractions, and reverting ones attention back to the breath.

It’s a simple instruction. That’s all you need to start alone.

Yet, it’s often not easy to do and questions arise. So, there are people who are happy to share what they know. The two instructive meditation solutions that have resonated most strongly with me are the Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier and Headspace.

In my opinion, 10% Happier does a great job with instructing a person how to meditate. Yet, Headspace does a great job of sharing certain concepts through animation. Let’s start with a Headspace concept and then move on to instruction.

An important concept was introduced to me originally as Blue Sky. Technically, the title of the following video is “Underlying calm”:

Once you understand the concept of Blue Sky, you can apply it within the context of anxiety or other dominant thoughts and feelings. Here is a Headspace video about anxiety from a meditation instructor, Andy:

Andy knows what he’s talking about. As seen on this TED Talk, he began this meditation journey due to his experiences with anxiety.

So, you have been introduced to some concepts. It’s okay if not everything in those videos make sense right away. We’re laying the foundation. Now it’s time to move on to the basic instruction of meditating. Here we shift our focus to 10% Happier.

If you have an iPhone, great. You can download the 10% Happier app for free. If you can, I suggest downloading right now.

If you can’t download the iPhone app, you can access the starting 10% Happier course material on the web for free. When you start, you will hear Dan Harris (ABC News anchor) and meditation instructor and Joseph Goldstein go over the initial ideas and first steps. If you need it, the front door to the 10% Happier website is http://www.10percenthappier.com

So, there you go. Hopefully, this helps you get started down a path of less suffering and more freedom in life. All I ask is that you share these concepts and resources with others. Together we can make life better for us all.