A great article from Lifehacker on how to improve our attention spans in an overstimulated world. It focuses particularly on technology and working as a writer, but the same principles can be applied to any area where a boost of focus would be useful.
To get a longer attention span — even a span long enough to read this article — don’t worry about managing the information. Worry about managing your attention. Paying attention, for long periods of time, is a form of endurance athleticism. Like running a marathon, it requires practice and training to get the most out of it. It is as much Twitter’s fault that you have a short attention span as it is your closet’s fault it doesn’t have any running shoes in it. If you want the ability to focus on things for a long period of time, you need attention fitness.
July 21, 2020 5:35 pm - Steve Peters
Before I begin, I should point out that you can’t grow old. Who you are, the collection of thoughts and feelings and memories that you refer to as “I”, doesn’t age. It’s why some people are wise enough to feel like they’re in their 20s when they reach their 80s. Nonetheless, it’s true that if…continue reading on Medium…"Meditation isn’t an escape from life. It’s an encounter with it."
Chris Bailey on the subtle difference between a mind that is distracted and one that is actively seeking out distractions:
We think the problem is that our brains are distracted. But after looking at the research, this is what I’ve come to know as a symptom for the deeper problem. It’s not that we’re distracted, it’s that our brains are over stimulated. It’s that we crave distraction in the first place.
Distraction isn’t an inherent property of our minds, it’s something we’re doing, albeit subtly, because we’re compelled to. This means that by mastering this craving, the extent to which we’re distracted during our daily lives is something we can learn to bring under our control.
The video is 16 minutes long. Try keeping a tally of hw many times you have the urge to seek distraction during that time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if building new habits was as simple as brushing your teeth or taking a shower? This is the principle behind habit stacking; the concept of anchoring a new desired habit to an existing, well established one. James Clear explains:
You probably have very strong habits and connections that you take for granted each day. For example, your brain is probably very efficient at remembering to take a shower each morning or to brew your morning cup of coffee or to open the blinds when the sun rises … or thousands of other daily habits. You can take advantage of these strong connections to build new habits.
When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.
July 20, 2020 7:21 pm - Steve Peters
We’ve all been there. You have a friend or a loved one whose life you know would be changed by meditation, but however many hints you drop they just don’t seem interested. Short of forcibly signing them up to a three-month silent retreat, how can you rescue them from their emotionally reactive, spiritually inconsequential existence?…continue reading on Medium…
In the business world there are two kinds of company; vitamin companies, and aspirin companies.
Aspirin companies are easy to market, in fact they hardly need to be marketed at all. People will seek them out because they promise to solve an immediate problem.
Vitamin companies are a little trickier The benefits they offer are ephemeral, their effects take time to accumulate, people need to be convinced of the benefits they offer.
Meditation, if it were a business, would definitely be in the vitamin category. It’s a practice, the benefits of which only become clear after a certain amount of time. For this reason, many consider it to be ineffective at dealing with the more immediate demands of our lives.
But this isn’t necessarily the case. Here, Tiny Buddha offers a few simple mindfulness exercises that can be employed at difficult moments. Some “mindfulness aspirin” if you will. Just don’t forget to keep taking your vitamins…
You might have heard of a mindfulness exercise in which one is encouraged to eat a raisin mindfully. The entire process; holding the raisin, losing at it, the feeling of it in your mouth, and of course the taste, are treated deliberately as a means of bringing your full attention to the experience of something we might otherwise consider insignificant.
I was reminded of this practice this morning by Gretchen Rubin as she described a little experiment she did on the connection between the senses of taste and smell:
…To test this, I told my daughters, “Pinch your nose, shut your eyes, and put a Life Saver in your mouth without looking at it.” I did the same. The candy tasted the way it usually did, I thought, with an intense general sweetness.
“Now let go of your nose,” I said. When I started to breathe normally, flavor flooded into my mouth. Before, I realized, I’d tasted mere sweetness. Now that I could smell, the Life Saver’s flavor became much more complex and distinct.
We take so much of our sensory experience for granted as we go about our busy lives, so a reminder to stop and appreciate the “little things” is always welcome.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so much easier to spend hours scrolling through social media or watching Youtube videos than it is to study or work on a project? This video from Better Than Yesterday does a fantastic job of explaining why your brain’s reward circuitry sometimes seems to work against your best interests, and how it can be tweaked with something called a dopamine detox:
For one whole day you will try to have as little fun as possible. You won’t be using the internet or any technology like your phone or computer. You’re not allowed to listen to music, you’re not allowed to masturbate or eat any junk food. Basically you’re going to remove all sources of external pleasure from the entire day.
You’re going to embrace boredom. And trust me, there will be a lot of boredom.
July 19, 2020 6:53 pm - Steve Peters
Take a second to think about all the things you should be doing today. Maybe there’s some work you’ve been putting off or an errand you should run. Maybe you should be looking for a job or working on a business idea. Even if you’re taking a day off — as you should, it’s a…continue reading on Medium…
I’m not too familiar with zazen so I had no idea what the difference between zazen and meditation might be, but it turns out it’s pretty interesting:
In most meditative traditions, practitioners start a certain method of meditation (such as counting breaths, visualizing sacred images, concentrating the mind on a certain thought or sensation, etc.) after getting comfortable sitting in full-lotus position. In other words, it is kekka-fuza plus meditation. Kekka-fuza in such usage becomes a means for optimally conditioning the body and mind for mental exercises called “meditation,” but is not an objective in itself. The practice is structured dualistically, with a sitting body as a container and a meditating mind as the contents. And the emphasis is always on meditation as mental exercise. In such a dualistic structure, the body sits while the mind does something else.
For Dogen, on the other hand, the objective of zazen is just to sit in kekka-fuza correctly—there is absolutely nothing to add to it. It is kekka-fuza plus zero. Kodo Sawaki Roshi, the great Zen master of early 20lh century Japan, said, “Just sit zazen, and that’s the end of it.” In this understanding, zazen goes beyond mind/body dualism; both the body and the mind are simultaneously and completely used up just by the act of sitting in kekka-fuza. In the Samadhi King chapter of Shobogenzo, Dogen says, “Sit in kekka-fuza with body, sit in kekka-fuza with mind, sit in kekka-fuza of body-mind falling off.”
If you truly embrace the idea of mind-body unity, this approach probably won’t strike you as particularly outlandish. Rather than saying that zazen and meditation are not the same, I think it’s more accurate to say that they approach the same thing from different perspectives. Still, it’s always interesting to hear about those different perspectives.