Posted by: David | January 2, 2021

Mindfulness Is Not That Hard

Around the end of 2019, at the recommendation of some friends, I started daily practice of mindfulness meditation, using a smartphone app called Insight Timer. Today is the first anniversary of using it every day. It’s free. Really! They’d love for you to buy the MemberPlus plan, but you have access to thousands of guided meditations without that. Having someone tell you in your headphones exactly how to meditate, is not only free, but stunningly easy.

Common misconception that blocked me for years: Meditation means stopping all your thoughts. NOPE. Your thoughts don’t stop until your heart and brain do. So, unless you’re dead, there’s not stopping that train.

No mantra chanting, hand clapping, eastern esoterica or other overtly spiritual content if’n you don’t want that. Plenty of Buddha if you do. Or Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna … name your favorite flying spaghetti monster (shoutout to atheists) … Mindfulness practice helped me get through 2020 without any pills, surgery, amputations or other invasive procedures (there was, however, an unfortunately large volume of vodka). Fifteen minutes (my minimum) every morning of attending to breath, trying not to get caught up in the story lines of the tumultuous thought-tumbleweeds blowing through my dusty old noggin. A few times a month these tumbleweeds woke me in the wee hours, twisting my stomach in fearful knots, terrified by what our idiot president would be doing next … or when the civilization-ending asteroid would thump into the sea …

Wish I’d started this years ago. It wasn’t magical, but subtle results were noted in just a few weeks. It was a very pleasant surprise as very little effort was required and nothing was expected. A little less anxiety, a little more ability to avoid the expectational spectrum, evaluative index, the Central Scrutinizer (thank you Mr. Zappa) … whatever you want to call it … you know what I mean. That part of your mind that’s always telling you how to feel about shit. The Judge. Simply put (I know, too late for that) I was more able to resist being swallowed by irritability. Guess you could say I was 10% happier!

There are many of these apps out there for free. Started with the free, introductory week of Ten Percent Happier, then moved to the permanently (hopefully- I’d pay $60/year if I had to) free Insight Timer, which comes from Australia. Many of the teachers have Aussie accents, which I love. In the first few months I was drawn to guided meditations with spacy background music, but then I met Stephen Procter. His sessions are probably 80% silence. His voice is calming but precise. His instructions are basic, flexible and easy to follow. He’s a proponent of MIDL: Mindfulness In Daily Life. “MIDL is also a play on words and points towards the middle balance or ‘Middle Way’ (MIDL Way) as discussed by the Buddha in his first talk given on mindfulness meditation.” So there’s a Buddha mention, but don’t worry, Mr. Procter’s content is more about neuroscience and the attributes of attention than about spirituality. Not that there’s anything wrong with spirituality …

So, have you had it up to HERE with stress and insomnia? Have you eaten ALL the guacamole? Is your attentional posture like the Wheel of Misfortune? Think you can’t stand sitting still? Or can’t sit standing still? Well you are fooling yourself! You’re caught in the story line. Lost in the never ending stream of your thoughts. Maybe that’s okay with you, and that’s fine. I decided to try this easy thing, investing very little, and the reward was more than expected.

Yeah, I’m still destined for the boneyard, but the journey is a little less fraught now.

Light a candle for 2021. It looks like turbulence ahead.


Responses

  1. “I’d pay $60 a year if I had to”? Now you’ve done it! You know that comment will get back to them and then where will you be? 🙂

    Oops sorry. I suppose you’re right, but I’m not worried. It’s well worth $5/month anyway. I’m kind of numb to that “freemium” sort of progression, working in IT. Lots of software-based products start off free and slowly move toward monetization. It’s okay. Surprising that there aren’t more ridiculously overpriced apps than there are. The big ticket packages are sold to commercial institutions … security, ERP, CRM, etc.

  2. Thank you for the tip on the instructor! I lost 20 pounds and my blood pressure went UP! So on the advice of a doctor- I tried this too. There are couple of voices that honestly I just cannot relax with the fake gravel and weird

    pause

    s

    😉
    Peace good to hear from you!

    Hi Rsbense! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ve followed your watercolor work on your blog for a while now and it’s really great! So cool that you found that artist in yourself.

    I know what you mean about some of the Insight Timer teachers. I’ve tried a bunch of them, and there are so many! After a year I’ve learned some of the common themes that more often work for me. Focus on breath, sensory input, some instructors like to run through a body “scan”, while others give very few instructions. For me part of the hook was to not get too hooked … sounds silly. I had no goals or aspirations, just tried them out one day at a time and after some months, found ones that were pretty dependable. Still, most mornings I’m just as lost in thought as ever, and feel like I’m just “dialing it in” to get the “credit”, since the app tracks how many consecutive days. You get stars!! LOL But, like I said in the post, there was a perceptible benefit after only a few weeks. Pretty good ROI I thought.

    Peace to you too!


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