Pokémon made me do it

2016-07_PokemonGo_meme

A confession

I’m writing a book that puts a lot of emphasis on dealing with distractions.
And… since a couple of days I’m addicted to Pokémon Go.

I’m not a total junkie but it’s bad enough.
Let me give you an idea:

  • I’m 38.
  • Where I live I haven’t yet seen anyone my age or older playing it.
  • When I go for a 10 minute bike ride, I come home an hour and a half later.
  • I talk incessantly about it to my daughters (now 8 and 6). The oldest one isn’t impressed.
  • I catch Pokémons while I pick up my kids from summer camp in the evening.
  • So far this week all my Instagrams are screenshots of the game.
  • I ask strangers with smartphones if they are playing it and if they have tips for me.
  • I started a local Pokémon Go Facebook group.

Yesterday I started wondering: “How can I turn this into meditation practice?”

The urge

This morning I decided not to give into the urge to play before 14:30. I turned off my phone and set an alarm to remind me when I could turn it on again (14:25).

All morning I noticed I was thinking of the game, resisting the urge to Go or browse forums and watch vlogs about it.

Even though I’m thrilled about my book project, the past hours I struggled to focus on it. It took more effort than usual to finish the draft of another chapter.

Just now (10:42) I took a pause to go for a walk.

I played with the idea to simply turn the game on without really playing, so this Pokémon egg that’s about to hatch would come out. I tried to convince myself that I would mute the sound and not look at the screen until I was back at work.

But I didn’t fall for it. I deliberately left my phone at my desk. It was just me, a juicy red apple and my (low-tech, off the grid) camera.

As for meditation practice…

I’ve set limits on when and how long I play.

While I’m out and about, I focus on my breath and observe what’s going on in mind and body. I keep coming back to that after (or sometimes even while) swiping at Pokéspots and training at “gyms”.

When I’m doing other stuff and suddenly catch myself (!) craving a Pokémon fix, I observe mind and body and inquire: “Who is it that wants to catch ‘em all?”

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Nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award!

versatile-blogger-award

Looky here! Omnipleasant has been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award. How cool is that? Thank you Moxie Luster! That ice cream flavored New Belgium beer has inspired you well. 😉

I’m going to play by the rules, but I don’t want people I nominate to feel any pressure to do the same.

The Versatile Blogger Award rules

  1. Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  2. Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  3. Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  4. Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link back to the post on your site announcing their nomination.
  5. Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

15 WordPress blogs I’d like to nominate

  1. Moxie Luster
  2. All about being human
  3. Livia Lobo Yogini
  4. Unwind
  5. Muddletation
  6. Harsh Reality
  7. Aloha Dharma
  8. eatpraylove(mom)
  9. Hello from Sandy
  10. Field Notes From Fatherhood
  11. A holistic journey
  12. The healthy GP
  13. Urban Food Gardening
  14. e MORFES
  15. Baffled Baboon

7 Things About Me

  1. Recovering scatterbrain.
  2. Meditating daily since 2009.
  3. I love to make music. Usually electronic.
  4. Psychological tests say my Myers-Briggs personality type is INFJ.
  5. Happily married with my high school sweetheart.
  6. We have 2 daughters (born in 2008 and 2010).
  7. It is NOT a good idea to wake me up at night.

Anything else you’d like to know?

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A method to be calm or be quiet

Be Calm or Be Quiet

Some of my friends at coach.me have asked about my “BCBQ” habit.
Here’s what it’s about…

Bonkers!

Are you a parent? This might sound familiar.

This morning my daughters were dawdling in the bathroom again. Nothing Res (35) or I (37) said convinced them to get cracking. Their fun and games soon turned into hitting and kicking.

At breakfast Amp (7) threw a milk carton at Midi (4) because she claimed the cereals first. A bit later Amp accidentally knocked over her cup and spilled milk on her chair and the kitchen floor. Moments later Midi did the same.

We were finally out the door and on our bicycles when Amp realised I was right about the clumsy bag she had wanted to take to school. It was impossible for her to carry it while riding her bike.

We could hear the first school bell ring in the distance. But Amp still had to go back inside and transfer her things to her regular bag.

Stress anyone?

Be calm or be quiet

Could you spot the 7 triggers that drove me insane in the past? Today I didn’t even raise my voice. Read on and I’ll tell you how this change happened.

Eventually the girls stopped fighting (twice), made it downstairs in time and cleaned up their mess. Amp apologized to me (without being asked) and solved her schoolbag problem herself. Finally they were in school on time, smiling. And I rode my bike home, smiling.

All the time I didn’t raise my voice, nor did I threaten with punishment. I did not clean up for them or nag (well, only once or twice).

I’m not saying I never loose my cool anymore. Yes, I often get into a trance and add fuel to the fire by starting a big rant, but the difference with some months ago is significant.

Here’s how I’m making progress.

The 4 Ms

Whenever I notice unrest in myself or people around me, I use the same heuristic:

  1. Mouth: My mouth is shut with the tongue curled inside.
  2. Mudra: Some fingertips touch lightly, as if I’m holding a pen.
  3. Mantra: Synchronised with the breath, I think: “This is temporary. I remain quiet.”
  4. Meditation: I observe how all sensations change constantly (mind, body, environment …)

When I feel peaceful myself, I only apply this loosely.
I try and help the other to calm down, while I keep words to a minimum.

The instant I feel the slightest unrest growing in myself, I get back to being quiet and using the 4 Ms deliberately. Often I leave the room before negative feelings get intense. I take some time to be alone and focus on all 4 steps. The insight “this is temporary” works like magic for me.

It also helps to write down what I want to discuss later on, when I’m calm again. This reminds me I don’t have to try and force a solution right here and now. Usually it’s not a matter of life and death.

It doesn’t happen overnight

BCBQ is a test I’ve been running for a couple of months now. It’s the hardest habit change I’ve done in my life. I’ve tried it in the past with less success.

The difference now is that I’ve made it my number 1 priority.

  • I train myself to rehearse the 4Ms when I wake up, at breakfast, lunch, dinner and when I’m in bed before falling asleep.
  • During morning meditation I think “This is temporary” when I breathe out and “I remain quiet” when I breathe in. (When you know about non-dualism or the 3 characteristics of existence, you can appreciate these words on a different level.)
  • I apply the 4 Ms as often as I can. Not only with my kids or when there’s a conflict, but whenever I notice frustration, impatience, irritation … big or small.
  • All over the house there are “BCBQ” post-it notes to remind me.
  • I’ve asked my wife and kids to say “calm please” when I start to rant.

Celebrate

I used to be quite hard on myself when I had snapped at my kids. But beating myself up about it, didn’t help at all. Since I prioritize the BCBQ habit, I focus on celebrating every time I succeed.

The biggest payoff is that I get to help my kids to be calm or be quiet as well.
Lead by example, right?

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Don’t take yourself too personally

David Allen and David Demets
David Allen and David Demets

Grey is the new black

I’m 36. My first grey hairs have appeared. In my eyebrows! I didn’t expect them there. They just pop up when and where they please. I have no say in the matter.

I’m taking control! (Right?)

I read a lot about life-hacking, productivity, effectiveness … I adopt better habits and see how they lead to positive changes both at work and at home.

For example: years ago at the office, we just took work as it came. In between copywriting, audio editing, video editing, designing websites, brochures or posters (and occasionally serving as a substitute yoga instructor), I did whatever landed on my desk.

There was no clear focus. Things didn’t get done when they were due. Stuff piled up. I had little to say and felt like I was constantly putting out fires. Something had to change, and it most certainly did when I introduced GTD at work.

Now surprises still pop up and there are a lot of loose ends, but we deal with it in a more relaxed way. We’re better prepared, take more time for what matters and our service has improved a great deal. I even work from home a couple of days a week.

It feels like I’m proactively taking life into my own hands.

But am I really?

If I pause to take a better look, I notice how this body and mind do everything by themselves. The heart beats, lungs breathe, eyes blink, hairs turn grey … The body keeps on hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling while the hands move to type these words.

Where do the ideas come from that lead to this text? I don’t know what my next thought will be. Yet: suddenly there it is! Something approves of it or rejects it. All by itself.

Meanwhile a nineties song is on repeat in the back of my head, ever since I heard it yesterday. I’d prefer something by Jamie Lidell right now, but I can’t simply will Hole away.

It all happens automagically. And yet I take it all so personally. Without much thought I feel responsable for what this body and mind do. But if “they” do it all on their own, what is this “I” anyway? And what is this “you” then?

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Common questions about meditation

Image by limegreen367

Q: Why meditate?

A: What appeals to you?

Q: How should I meditate?

A: Observing the breath is a good start. Look for “Meditation basics” in my previous article.

Where you go after that, depends on your why. Try both guided and unguided meditation. Pick a method that makes sense and you enjoy doing. Otherwise it won’t stick long. For a bunch of high quality free resources, look for “The best things in life are free” in my previous article.

Q: Do I need a formal meditation practice? Isn’t it enough to be mindful or focused during daily activities?

A: I strongly recommend informal meditation during daily life. I also strongly recommend a formal daily session, because :

  • It’s a more reliable habit.
  • You make it clear to yourself that meditation is a priority.
  • There is far less distraction.
  • It can be a big contrast with informal meditation, which is insightful.
  • Even if your formal session is only 2 minutes, it’s a good foundation to build upon.

Combine formal and informal meditation. Give it time. It won’t disappoint you.

Q: When is the best time to meditate?

A: Whenever there is little or no distraction.

The usual recommendations are to meditate first thing in the morning (good start to the day), not to do it after lunch (the brain gets less blood supply), to pick the same time and place every day (habit formation 101) … That’s all great advice, but only if it works for you.

Because of my particular job and family life, every day looks different. Some days I work at our home office, other days I work in Bruges. Some days my wife takes the kids to school, other days I do … I have tried getting up even earlier than I already do, but that habit didn’t stick too well.

Arriving home is the most reliable trigger for me. I meditate right after. For you it might be an entirely different trigger.

Q: Where should I meditate?

A: Wherever there is little or no distraction.

Our home office is my sanctuary, but I also meditate in the bedroom, on the train, in the garden, in a field, on the bank of a river …

Q: For how long should I meditate?

A: However long you feel like. The only bad meditation is the one you didn’t do.

There’s also much to be said for increasing your formal meditation time. But do it gradually. Over the years I went from 10 to 30 to 60 minutes a day. Relaxation has deepened. I have learned a great deal about mind and body. My perspective on life has dramatically changed … Just try it for yourself and let me know how it goes.

Q: Should I close my eyes?

A: Do what helps you focus.

If you get too sleepy with eyes shut, leave them open or half closed. If you get too distracted with eyes open, close them. This need can change in the course of longer sits.

I used to be unable to meditate with eyes closed. I would drift off to La La Land right away. This slowly improved and nowadays it’s no longer a problem.

Q: How should I sit to meditate?

A: Check this Posture Pedia by Stephanie Nash.

As mentioned before I like the Burmese posture and seiza (see my YouTube at 6:45 and 35:08). When I use a chair, I often get sleepy, unless I don’t lean against the back.

Q: What if I lose motivation? What if I don’t find the time anymore?

A: Go back to basics. Pick a new trigger. Sit for shorter times again. Choose a different technique.

Q: Why does my favorite technique no longer work?

A: No worries!

Maybe you used to get very peaceful and focussed during meditation, but now you seem to have lost this skill?

Something might have changed in your life that brings new challenges, with a busy mind as a result. Nothing personal. This too shall pass.

Maybe relaxation is no longer the main reason to meditate and it’s time for insight practice, self-inquiry or contemplation?

You simply lost interest in the technique? Or it has run its course? That’s okay, but don’t just hop from one method to another. Stick to one at a time for at least a month.

Q: I have many doubts.

A: That’s great! Stay curious. Trust yourself. Go with the flow.

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This is why you don’t meditate daily

Above is the most boring YouTube you’ll ever discover. It’s an hour long recording of my daily meditation practice. Please don’t watch the whole thing. I’ll refer to parts of it in this article.

So you know about the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and the most inspiring teachers are just a mouseclick away … but still you’re not meditating daily. Why is that?

You think it’s more difficult than it is

All you really need is a minute to yourself and a simple technique. You don’t need an exotic method, incense, a guru, a perfectly peaceful place, or lots of time. You don’t have to spend an hour pondering “What am I?” while going through series of yoga postures. For now, you can just read “Meditation basics” below and get started right away.

You’re not sure if it’s for you

There are lots of techniques and theories out there. Teachers contradict each other. Info overflow. It might take a while before you find what really resonates with you. If you continue to feel drawn to meditation, just trust yourself, pick something that speaks to you and give it a go. In my experience you’ll only know if something is for you after you tried it for at least a month.

You haven’t made it a priority in your daily routine

It’s probably clear at what time you wash yourself in the morning, how late you arrive at work, when you have lunch, what you do after dinner … but have you made up your mind about when to meditate?

To make this habit part of your routine, start small, pick an existing daily trigger and do your meditation right after. Some examples:

  • First toilet visit in the morning: As Deepak Chopra would say: “Rise, Pee, Meditate”.
  • Daily commute: Not the most reliable solution because there can be a lot of distraction, but you can meditate while walking, on the bicycle, driving your car, waiting for public transport, on the bus or train …
  • Arriving at work Are you the first one in the office? You’re too nice! Rebel and spend a couple of minutes doing absolutely nothing (but breathe).
  • Lunch break: You figure it out.
  • Screen-time: Take a mini-retreat before watching your favorite TV-show or browsing your favorite website. Or skip the screens altogether and see how long you can be with yourself without getting bored.
  • Bedtime: This trigger is pointless if you fall asleep as quickly as I do, but many people meditate in bed last thing at night or first thing in the morning.

Meditation basics

Sit, stand or lie down. Notice that you’re breathing. Isn’t it amazing it’s happening all by itself? When distracted, gently bring your attention back to the breath. A 1000 times if necessary. There’s no need to get frustrated. Just be kind to yourself, the way you would train a cute playful puppy to stay in its basket. You gently bring it back again and again.

You might find it useful to count the breath. When you inhale, think “1”, when you exhale “2”, up to “10”. Then start over at “1” … repeat. When you lose count, start back at “1” as well. Remember that you don’t need to change anything about your breathing, just observe how it happens by itself.

Go a bit deeper

  1. Get interested in all the details of the breath. Are you breathing through the nose? How does it feel to breathe in? Can you follow the stream of air flowing from the nostrils to the lungs? Can you feel your chest expand? What about your belly? What tenses? What relaxes? Can you feel the pleasure of breathing fresh oxygen? It’s like quenching a thirst with every inhale. Bliss!
  2. Notice the pause when the lungs are full, right before the exhalation.
  3. When does the outbreath start? Can you feel the warmth of the air you exhale? Can you feel your chest, belly and shoulders relax? Savour the relaxation with every exhale. Bliss!
  4. Notice the pause when the lungs are empty, just before the inhalation.
  5. Go back to step 1.

In stead of focusing on the breath, you can also meditate with sound, music, a question, a mantra, while moving … but maybe I’ll write about that another time.

Helpful but optional

  • Use a timer. I like to use an old fashioned kitchen timer or Zazen Meditation Timer on Android.
  • Need some guidance? HeadSpace or Calm will do.
  • Keep a log. Lift is nice, but so is a paper notebook. The latter has helped me a great deal to make my formal meditation practice a daily habit. I just write down the date, time, place and technique after every meditation session, and maybe I’ll add some thoughts about my experience.
  • Sit properly. I like the Burmese posture and seiza (see the YouTube above at 6:45 and 35:08). When I use a chair, I often get sleepy, unless I don’t lean against the back.

The best things in life are free

… and so are these excellent resources:

Who am I?” by Ramana Maharshi
The Way of Liberation” by Adyashanti
Happiness Beyond Thought” by Gary Weber
Five Ways to Know Yourself” by Shinzen Young
The Work” of Byron Katie

But don’t forget to keep it simple

Remember, to meditate well all you really need is some minutes to yourself. Use a simple technique like observing the breath. Start with a minute or two a day and go from there. It’s better to meditate daily for just a minute than to meditate for 2 hours once a month.

Let me know (in the comments or via e-mail): what trigger will you use to add meditation to your daily routine? What technique or app will you try? How long do you plan to meditate every day? Will you use an analog or digital timer? Will you keep a log? Also let me know if you have any doubts or questions.

Up next

My next article will be a collection of answers to Frequently Asked Questions about meditation. For example: “What if I lose motivation?” or “Why does my favorite technique no longer work?”

Some more info about the YouTube at the top, featuring yours truly:

  • 4 x 15 minutes pondering “What am I?”
  • 1st quarter: Sitting, Burmese posture
  • 2nd quarter: Yoga asana flows
  • 3rd quarter: Sitting, Seiza posture
  • 4rd quarter: Yoga asana flows + corpse pose

Take care now! Bye bye then!

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I cannot succeed (or fail)

I cannot succeed (or fail)
So I’ve been ill all week. Fun times! For 5 days I did little more than cough, sweat and sleep. An awful lot of sleeping. Psychedelic fever dreams. Surprisingly empty mind during daily meditation. Probably because I was unable to do anything anyway, so why worry? Sweet!

Now as I get better, the mind is less concerned with sfinx cats being worshipped by trunks and whistles, and more with day to day business, voicing all kinds of importantness to tackle:

  • must improve immunity!
  • must eat healthier!
  • must restart vegetable garden!
  • must turn compost heap!
  • must cook more!
  • must write weekly blogpost!
  • must must must!

Apart from the cooking, not much has happened yet. Through sheer sluggishness the mind sabotages its own projects. It has no problem telling me what to do, but when I sit down to oblige and ask to help me write about the planned topic for today, it falters and turns all lazy and indecisive. Where did that big mouth go now?

So here’s a quote to comfort myself and you, my precious reader:

If you surrender your attachment to the results of your actions, that will purify your mind and provide a path to liberation.

Rather than performing actions focused on achieving something that you want, perform actions as they arise with no attachment to the outcome.

Remain open to whatever occurs instead of operating with the sense of you as a doer who will succeed or fail. This will loosen the grip of your mind and open the way to freedom.

– Ramana Maharshi & Gary Weber
(from the book Happiness Beyond Thought)

Now I’m going to turn that compost heap! (Or else I won’t.)

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