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On Meditation

14 Jul

meditation

I am going to keep this piece very informal. I usually write short fiction stories but this subject has been so important to me as of late, I thought I would write about it. If it reaches one person and helps them, I will be elated. The subject is meditation. I have been doing it consistently now for over four months. In no way am I an expert. I can only express what someone who has done something for a miniscule period of time can. In this piece, I hope to cover the Why, How, What Happened.

Why:

I can´t explain why but I have always been drawn to meditation or at least the sexy idea of meditation. Something about being able to meld your mind with the fabric of the universe was very titillating to me. Of course, as you will read, this may never actually happen but I can tell you in my short time practicing, I feel I have gotten close. Over the past two decades every few months or so I would tell myself I would make meditation a staple in my life. I would either read a book, pre internet, or listen to guided meditations, post internet. I would “meditate” here or there and not have a plan. I really didn´t know for meditation to give results, consistency is the key.

The last push to make a plan and stick with it was given by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was a guest on the Tim Ferris Podcast, a motivational show that gives life hacking tips and has effective people as guests. Arnold described a time in his life that I related too. A time where his thoughts were jumbled and his life felt hectic and out of control. He was having success in his ventures but he was having difficulty putting it all together and making sense of it all. He said that one thing and one thing only put him on track and kept him there. Transcendental Meditation. He used TM for exactly one year and stopped. It was enough to right the ship and sail into one of the most successful careers the world has ever seen. Although my practice is not TM per se, I read extensively about it and have adopted some of its principles.

How:

Let´s get to it. The how. What do I do? Just sit there? Summon spirits and demons from other realms. Yes and no. Well, maybe to the second question. I shall explain. What I do is sit down for a period of time, usually 10-15 minutes, the most 20 minutes but that is rare. I do this two times a day, once as soon as I wake and another close to bed time. When I started I used a mantra that I got from the internet. Mine was “Enga”. I have no idea what it means, I just like the way it sounds and vibrates. The mantra is simply an anchor. When you meditate, you do not think about anything. That is the point. To think about nothing. This is where the mantra enters. You focus on the mantra. I mentalized the mantra on out breaths. I breath in, and as I breath out I would think the mantra and feel it vibrate in my head. When your mind wanders and it will, your bring your attention back to the mantra.

I have since started simply focusing on my breath and have similar results. Start thinking about your childhood? Breathe. Bring your attention back to your breath. Start thinking about that bill that is late? Breathe. Bring your attention back to your breath. That´s it. You don´t pontificate the nature of reality, the reason for your existence or anything. It´s just focused attention for a few moments per day. How is this beneficial? Shouldn´t I come in contact with the spirit world or have a chat with God? I will try to scratch the surface of that later. I am afraid I cannot even put into words the benefits, but I will try.

I know a lot of people get hung up on sitting posture. There is no need to. Just make sure you are comfortable but not so comfortable that you go to sleep. Some people can meditate laying down. I cannot. I will go to sleep. I use a “meditation chair”. It looks like the letter “L” with a pad for the butt. I will admit, I made the investment almost to guarantee that I would stick with meditation for a period of time. I used my cheapness to my advantage. I knew if I spent that money, I would force myself to do it. This worked but by no means do you need fancy pillows or chairs. Before the chair arrived in the mail, I was sitting on a folded blanket and propped my back up on a wall. I had great results.

I have done some experimenting as well. I have used guided meditations with great results. I like the ones called “body scans”. The narrator will have you focus on the different parts of your body and relaxing them. I´ve had some sessions that left me extremely relaxed. There is an app on my phone that I use called Insight Timer. It is a free app. It works as a timer, as the name implies, but there is a wonderful array of guided meditations to follow. Another advantage is that it keeps stats. I love stats, you may or may not. If you don´t, I am pretty sure you can turn this feature off. Even if you cannot, just ignore them!

Another thing I experiment with is binaural beats. I won´t go into what these exactly are. That would be well beyond my pay grade. The Wiki page explains them perfectly. Pretty much, they produce a sound that affects the way you brain functions. Again, Google my friend. I feel I have had pretty good results from these as well. Different frequencies will produce different results such as, relaxation, contemplation, creativity, euphoria, just to name a few. Again, do your research but I recommend them.

What Happened:

So now that you see how easy it is, let´s talk a little about what happens. Of course, results will vary, ask your doctor…oh, wait. The scientific community is pretty much in unison that meditation is beneficial. A simple Google search will give more information on this than you could read in a few incarnations.

First thing I need to express because I saw other people had the same reaction. For the first few days, I actually felt more irritable than usual. I just felt like I was in a really bad mood. Again, this was only for the first few days. It passed and has never happened again.

During the first few weeks, I had some absolutely sublime revelations. They are personal and not Earth shattering so I feel no need to share them here. These have subsided though. They would happen the moment I brought my attention back after it had wandered off. I would label the thought “Past”, “Desire”, “Utility”, etc. and as I realized my mind was wandering and I brought it back either to the mantra or my breath, BAM, I was hit with a deep thought that would resonate with me for days.

Overall I feel more calm in control. I have become a better father to my three year old daughter. How, you ask? Because I don´t lose my temper. Here is one of those places I fear my words will fail me, but I will try to explain. I feel like I understand her more and therefore an action that would anger me in the past does not because I see it for what it is. Maybe she is just exploring her world. That´s why she knocked over the cup of juice, on purpose. Maybe she is just exploring limits, that´s why she continues to bang on the plate after I had asked three times to stop. Also, again, it is hard to explain, I just feel overall more patient. If I miss more than one day of meditation, this is very rare, I feel a little anxiety and a little out of control. This may or may not be some kind of placebo effect but as soon as I get a session in, all feels normal again.

Another thing that I have not really read anywhere else but I have experienced is increased memory. When I read books and watched movies or television series in the past, I would pretty much forget everything, pre meditation days. I have read East of Eden three times and every time felt like the first time. I watched all of Breaking Bad. I loved it. Ask me something about it. I cannot answer it. Now I seem to be able to recall plot points and other details better after viewing something. I think it may be a function of training the mind to be more present and training focus.

I am very early on in this journey. I may write a follow up to this piece a few months from now. I may be able to articulate myself even better or maybe not. I hope if you take anything away from reading this it is, meditation is simple, you can do it, there are many benefits and consistency is key. In fact, it is probably the most important factor. It´s not how you sit, what you mantra is, if you are burning fancy incense. The most important thing is that you are doing it and doing it consistently. At least once daily, preferably twice.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will do my best to answer them. You can also e-mail me. There is a Contact page with my information. I feel that mediation is so important that it should be taught early and often. Kids should be taught meditation, now more than ever. With so many things fighting a war for attention, the loser is attention. It gets so spread thin it is rendered almost useless. Meditation is a way to own your attention and bring it back to health.

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Investing or Gambling?

7 Jul

dice

The stock market is great if you like to gamble, but dislike instant gratification. When you roll the dice, you know the outcome instantly. Either your number hit or it didn´t. With stocks, it is a little trickier. You can roll the proverbial dice, purchase some stocks or derivatives and have to wait years before you know if your number hit or not. And sometimes you can lose just because you could not wait the amount of time necessary to see your bet pay off, forcing you to cash in. But when you get down to the basic idea of stocks and games of chance or gambling on sports, there is little difference.

Even with all the information in the world, you do not know what tomorrow brings. You don´t know what new innovation will come making current technologies obsolete. You don´t know what is going on behind closed doors that could bring a company to its knees. You don´t know if the information provided to investors is in fact factual. On the other hand, nothing stops a gambler from delving into the stats and information of a sports team. One can make a pretty educated guess as to which team or fighter is going to come up victorious. With that said, no one can predict the future making both ventures very similar.

Some will use the term invest or investment instead of bet, which serves as both noun and verb. This may be a little verbal snobbery but it does not take away the fact you are putting money down now in hopes that it turns into more in the future.

Other Side of the Door

2 Nov

floating door

Open your mind, step out into reality

There is so much that your eyes cannot see

The world is yours

On the other side of the door

Bent landscapes, crooked faces are all that you see

Fog from the past does not let it be all it can be

You could have it all

But you choose to fall

Plastic Jesus, more voodoo

The primordial eye in your forehead can see right through you

Wipe the tears from your eyes

You are the one that you despise

But it does not have to be

Pain and misery

Breathe in life and you will see

That you´re free to be free

Slaves to Convenience

30 Aug

slave

 

Some people watch news about starving people in Africa and may think to themselves, “Poor them. They are days away from starvation. Look at how they depend on others just to feed themselves.”

That last thought is rather tricky. In many places in Africa, they are dependent on others bringing them food. Many NGOs, including large ones like UNICEF are the only entities keeping some medium to large populations alive. People, sometimes living on the opposite end of the globe, give money, either directly through charitable giving or indirectly by paying taxes and then having their tax dollars turned into aid sustain these populations to the extent that if the money dried up and the food stopped coming in, these populations would be devastated.

These people are usually given pre-processed food stuffs. Not seeds, not knowhow, but sacks of flour, rice, beans, etc. This drives home the point that if the money goes away, the food goes away and people will starve.

My contention in this piece is, there is no difference between the people surviving on aid and the people supplying the aid in one crucial aspect, self sustainability. Neither population is truly sustainable if left to their own devices. Just as the needy population would be devastated if the aid dried up, the rich populations would be just as devastated if their chain of food were interrupted. Neither groups have the knowhow to sustain themselves. I must admit, I am not sure if I could keep my family alive if I could not go to the local supermarket or restaurant for nourishment.

They are both forms of dependence. The needy are given food thus taking away any incentive to learn how to cultivate food for themselves while the rich cannot be bothered with such activities due to their busy schedules. Both are slaves to convenience albeit in different ways. One group’s chains and shackles are free while the other group pays for theirs.

One just needs to look at the hurricane that hit New York City in 2013. The food supply chain was interrupted due to flooding and New York was almost out of food in three days. People were going into to neighboring states New Jersey and Connecticut looking for food. Imagine if these states did not exist and there was nothing but wilderness until the Pacific Ocean. There would have been massive deaths due to starvation.

It is easy to take for granted how easy our lives are. But it is also easy to take for granted how delicate the balance truly is. We are one natural disaster, one real oil crisis, one cosmic event such as a communications destroying solar flare, etc. away from living as if we were in the Stone Ages. Are you prepared in such an event? I know I am not but it may be prudent to be at least slightly prepared. A doomsday basement filled with rations, arms and ammunition and stashed of gold may not be in order but certainly a little basic knowledge of farming, plants and basic survival might go a long way.

 

Change of Scenery

3 Sep

Despite what is said, a change of scenery is not such a big deal for it is seen by the same eyes.

The images are processed and analyzed by the same brain that has been molded by the same experiences and same chemical reactions.

Do we ever see anything new?

Or, do we see the same things, over and over again coming to the same conclusions as if our mind is on cosmic auto pilot?

If one goes to Antarctica, do they not feel the same cold once felt in another instance, though perhaps a bit harsher?

If one travels to say, South America, do they not see the same human conditions seen once before in their own land with a few exaggerations here and there but unable to see the truth for they are looking through the prism of their own prior experiences?

It is unwise to simply take one’s word for. Not even your own.

How much difference does it make?

2 Sep

How much difference does it make?

You can work out your body for years building muscles that protrude from other muscles only to have them atrophy to nothing in a few quick months of a little sloth.

You can spend years creating a fortune only to see it lost in moments due to a lapse in judgment or worse, something outside your realm of control.

You can spend years of your life and soul creating a family only to have them wiped out in the blink of an eye at the hand of a wild eyed killer or even an inebriated driver.

You build relationships, they go away. You have ideas, you  forget them. You cook food, it gets eaten.

Even the tallest grandest mountains erode at the hand of wind, water and time.

Nothing is permanent not even the stain on your favorite shirt.

You’re born, you die.

I ask again, how much difference does it make?

How the iPod could destroy the creativity of a generation

1 Sep

Since the very first time a homo-sapien rhythmically beat on a log, we as a species have been awed and inspired by music. Fast forward thousands of years and the ubiquitous ear buds can be found jammed into the aural openings of the majority of today’s youth giving them instantaneously access to rhythmic sounds of all kinds. Because they cannot be left to their own thoughts with the constant drone of the art of others playing into their head, this cannot be a good thing for their own artistic development. Furthermore, the music itself cannot have the same impact on the mind of the listener.

Imagine just a few centuries ago. To hear music, it had to played live and right in front of you. This is hard for us to wrap our heads around but not so long ago, there wasn´t even amplification of sound. You could not be more than a few dozen of meters away from the artist to hear them make music. This diminished the chances to hear music. In this way, the music could be planted in the mind like a seed to be left to germinate in the mind of the listener. Today with the constant onslaught of art being injected, it no longer has this time to sprout roots in the mind. Music is no longer reflected upon but consumed ravenously and sometimes not even deliberately.

Even as little as a few decades ago, hearing a great song was a beautiful thing of chance as you had to wait for it to come on the radio, be in a household with an archaic record player or be fortunate enough to be in the presence of live music being played. Now, we have the access to any song at any time right on our communication devices. This will decrease the creativity of the next generation as the constant feeding of art directly into their head will retard the creating of art. The mind, much like the testicles of a steroid abuser that stop producing testosterone when artificial test is introduced, will atrophy and stop producing its own unique art.