A while ago I signed up for a meditation retreat (https://www.dhamma.org/), got approved to attend it, and have now just returned. First, the logistics.
- The retreat is 10 days long (+2 to account for arrival and departure days)
- It is supposedly non-sectarian and non-religious
- Every day starts at 4am and goes till 9pm
- You meditate up to 10 hours a day, in stretches of 60 and 90 minutes
- During the ten days, you don’t talk, read, or write, nor you do any heavy exercise (walking is OK)
- Breakfast is at 6:30AM, lunch is at 11AM. At the lights out time at 9PM, you will not have eaten for 10 hours already
- The course is completely free, donations are accepted only after you have finished the course
Keeping crazy hours, going off grid, minimising mental noise, and maxing out on meditation, looked to me like an excellent quadruple whammy to try out. I went in with very little expectations and then just let the process carry me.
To jump ahead a little, it was quite awesome, at times trippy, I learned a good few bits about myself as well as about my meditation and, at times, it was odd, annoying, and even infuriating, with the negative categories serving a meta game of extra holding-your-shit-together-ness.
The hardest part, of course, was to sit without fidgeting for long periods at a time. The longest back-to-back sessions were 90-60-90, with 15 minute breaks between them.
I feel quite ambivalent about the whole thing, however in the sum I think it was a strong net positive. Though if you are considering the course yourself, I would suggest doing some more softcore meditation first, e.g. using the headspace app or similar. Speaking of headspace: if you go through the 10 day trial and find out you’d like to try it out for longer, give me a shout and I’ll send you a code for a 30 day subscription.
I thought I’d share my Japanese learning tool kit, or how you can end up spending about an hour every day studying Japanese without having to think too much about it!
I’ve been in Edinburgh for four years now, and that also means four Fringe festivals. For the ones not familiar with Fringe – it’s the month-long festival in August, when the city turns into a supersized stage, and there is total of about 2,000 shows to see.
Even though he is still alive, I refer to him in the past tense—was—as he is not, and has not been my father for a long time. This story will most likely evoke ambivalence – you will want keep reading, and at the same time, you might want to turn away. However, I do believe my story is another drop in the sea, and it is important that I share it, in hopes to give strength to anyone who might have had a similar experiences, just like I’ve received strength from the recent uproar in the media. This is the first time I share this with anyone in full detail. This is the first time I’ve compiled it all together for myself, too.
Given the opportunity and a tiny boat, if you are as bad at sailing as I am, you might find yourself very wet, cold and in the middle of a sea. A moonless night will dawn shortly and leave you in pitch blackness, so alone, and so very very cold. This is an analogy. This—is your life.
The goal is to get dry before it’s too late. The sea is treacherous, and you are severely unqualified, but there is hope for you. Miracles do happen. Althought becoming dry will not make you less alone, nor will it make you less hungry, at least you won’t be freezing, and that’s something. And, maybe, just maybe, freed from freezing, you might figure out the next step.
This goes back a little to Kahneman’s et.al. observation that there are two very obvious and different ways of how we treat the present moment – namely the experiencing self, and the remembering self.
The experiencing self is the one that is right here and right now, fully present in the moment, breathing in the current events.
The remembering self, on the other hand, is the one who thinks about where we are now, the one who curates the experience so it will be remembered, and the one who takes the pictures, sends snapchats, and texts while being in the experience. It’s the one who follows the urge to say “OMG this is crazy” out loud, imprinting the words on the memory in bold. And it’s not just making notes for posterity – the act of conscious remembering itself is being remembered. It’s quite similar, if not the same with, when you remind yourself to not forget something.
The humble rise of the remembering self began with the photography going mainstream, where you would end up attending parties of someone who had gone abroad and flicked a ton of pics of faraway lands. And, as the imaging technology went digital and then prevalent via smartphones, everyone’s now become a tourist in their own lives. I use whole 4 separate apps to capture my life (instagram, snapchat, whatsapp and facebook/messenger), and I find myself reaching for friends when I experience things.
The natural reaction, I think, is to despise the remembering self, and lament the departure of the experiencing self. We worry that our experiences have become mindless, that something went lost in this transition, that by always worrying how to remember the moment, for example, worrying that you can’t capture the supermoon on your shabby phone, ruins the experience of the moment itself.
But maybe it’s not all bad. Maybe by embracing the remembering self and being present through the remembering, we can get best of both worlds.
So I say – take that picture, send that snapchat, text that friend, and don’t worry – you are still here, very present (hopefully, anyway)!
Unless you are going into it eyes wide open and knowing that spending time with people is an utter waste of time as nobody can be as smart or as interesting for more than a few minutes as months and years of preparation, condensed into books and music, and performances, and TV series, and movies, and that all you are doing is getting high on a mentally arousing positively skewed reflection of yourself, where you like people who like you, and that the crowd you surround yourself with is quite probably mediocre, but because of the culture, and biology, and your monkey evolution-winning pack-brain, you are blind to it, it looks right, beautiful, exceptional, filled with passion, as it feeds you with what makes you feel right, makes you stuck in a reaffirmative loop, holding your gaze low, making you content with not staring out to the stars for too long, and setting your aim for a most pedestrian, and thus valid, lifestyle, with goals like family and getting a car and a house and fixing the fence and becoming good at cooking, and being very very happy, and sharing your opinions as if anybody would or even should actually care, and then buying another car and another house, being very very very happy, and then buying a new car because the old one is old now and the weather has gotten much nicer and it will be a fine summer after this cold winter, the winter was rough, and procreate, stringing your DNA into the future, for how else could we possibly find meaning, and then wake up at age of 95, incredibly, beautifully, fantastically, pathetic, with nobody there to lay it out to you, that your life was as if it hadn’t been at all, and you sit there, chewing your toast, looking through the window, and the sight of the white cherry blossom trees blooming in the garden makes you happy, you sigh, and after uttering your final platitude, keel off, pupils spinning into a previously unseen configuration.
Unless, that is, you are going into it eyes wide open, you should most likely not surround yourself with people. Though if still, make them ones you don’t want to become, the ones you could never become, and the ones that you don’t understand at all.
Staring out into the ocean from a beach recliner half a continent away from his home, Fraser took a sip of mojito. Drowning in the ocean, the juicy orange red of the setting was going redder and redder, turning the evening sky pink. Not your average tropical mugginess, it was room temperature warm, and pleasantly dry, with just the tiniest of winds blowing about. The evening had gone by in a blur.
“Mr Finch,” the bank’s representative had greeted him, once Fraser had been seated at the table. He had seemed friendly if a little nervous. “I’m Tom,” he had said, “the owner of Second.”
Simply put, Aren could adapt to anything faster than he could think. It was as if all his thinking was instantaneously fed to both, his conscious and unconscious, but while the former still digested the information, the latter had added context and solution.
It was just like if you would look outside window and your vision would get filled with temperature readings, UV levels, wind strength, time of day, the direction of sun movement, list of friends that are free this very moment, matrix of friend’s overlapping interests, income projections, and then summarised in a shortlist of “awesome things you should do right now”, where awesomeness could also include “working like a champ” and “quitting your job”.
And job Aren quit, on this 10 degrees celsius, cats and dogs raining excuse for a day with no friend around to talk to, because his unconscious had brought up compelling points on why it wasn’t fiscally beneficial anymore.
He composed a short resignation email to his boss, hit the send button and sat, waiting for the spinner to go away. The spinner wouldn’t go away, however, and so it seemed that Aren had lost the internet connection. He turned on tethering on his phone but found that there was no internet on the phone, either. He forwarded the letter to his printer and then noticed that printer wasn’t online either. He attempted to start the printer, and the machine gave out a pop, followed by a stream of fumes, followed by catching fire. Aren yanked the printer’s power plug out of the wall and poured water from the flower vase on the fire. Then he procured the slightly damp paper sheets from the belly of the printer, and having selected the driest of the stack, went fishing for a pen.
The ink ran out at “concern” of “To whomever it may concern” of his letter and he switched over to pencil, that broke upon touching the surface of the sheet. Aren mentally struck out “writing in blood” from his shortlist, grabbed his jacket and headed out.
As Aren got outside, he realised that something must be off, as despite the heavy rain, the street was unusually crowded. People were standing, unmoving, and Aren threw a look upwards as that’s where the people seemed to be staring, mouths agape. A skyscraper sized, vertically oriented flying saucer hung in the middle of the sky, with twenty story building tall, gun-looking protrusions poking out of it in all directions. Aren sighed and, for change, his subconscious offered him a “10,000 awesome things to do during an alien invasion” shortlist.