Lab Report: Meditation -The First 6 Months

“If you continue to this simple practice everyday you will attain a wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special.” – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki

The Lab Report – 008 – “Meditation: The First 6 Month”

For me these first 6 months was about establishing the habit of sitting daily. With that now in place it’s time to take it to the next level.

Instead of counting both inhalations and exhalations I’m now moving on to counting only my out-breath. The end goal is to not count at all, but that’s when I built up my ability to concentrate enough.


Mid term effects: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

– I still dose off from time to time.

– Resistance to the practice and boredom is no longer an issue.

– I had a mystical experience (a positive one) when I was a the peak of frustration and boredom with the practice (day 130). I can’t really share the details.


Long term effects: ❓❓❓

– Still unknown. I’m aiming for doing 365 consecutive days in this experiment. It’s still to early to tell.


Sustainability: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

– The habit has become automatic. I have missed 3 days so far which leaves me with a 98,3% success rate. Now I just need to find time to sit for longer sessions.

– Meditation time is in direct competition with my reading time.


FINAL VERDICT: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I don’t feel the same frustration about the practice that I felt in the beginning. Maybe it’s because I’m back on coffee and therefore don’t dose off as easily? More likely it’s because of habit and the well-being I get from sitting. It’s hard to put finger on the exact benefits but they are there and they are noticeable. I feel more calm, yet alert; more detached, yet more engaged.

What are your daily rituals? 🤔

Check out Lab Reports for more!

Lab Report: The First 100 Days of Meditation

We keep reading about it; the most important endeavor one can undertake is self knowledge – “Know thyself” as the inscription reads at the Temple of Apollo – and what better way to start that examination than practice of meditation?

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The Lab Report – 005 – “Meditation:

The First 100 Days”

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The meditation style I do is Zazen. This first phase of the experiment is about establishing the habit of sitting everyday (I prioritize consistency over duration) and building up my capacity concentration.

I count each inhalation and exhalation starting from 1 and going up to 10, then repeat. Its easier said than done!

This meditation is done with open eyes. I started with 8 minute sessions and I’m now at ~20 min sessions and I’m gradually increasing the duration.


Short term effects: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

– It can be quite frustrating to observe when one’s mind wanders off.

– I dose off all the time.

– Observing one’s thoughts and “monkey mind” creates a gap between Me and my thoughts.

– Outside of meditation I feel that it is easier to catch myself when getting lost in thoughts and snap back to presence.


Long term effects: ❓❓❓

– Still unknown. I’m aiming for doing 365 consecutive days in this experiment, so it’s still to early to tell.


Sustainability: ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️

– I find activities like this one, that should be performed everyday, to be tricky. I only missed 1 day out of 100 so far. But the only way for me to achieve that was to make meditation my number one priority during this period. So that’s what I did.


FINAL VERDICT: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

It’s still the early days but I’m happy to have established a solid habit. But it can be a frustrating practice. I guess Being is hard when you are used to Doing. Still, I love taking a few minutes out of my day for self care!


Tell me about your experiences with mediation? 🤔

Find more experiments in the Experiment archives.

Thoughts on: “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts

I’m focusing on notes this time around!

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Watts does a really great job at explaining ideas that seem to be at the core of most religious and spiritual teachings.

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📝 The Law of Reversed Effort. ”When you try to stay on the surface of water, you sink; but when you try to sink you float. When you hold your breath, you lose it— which immediately calls to mind an ancient and much neglected saying, “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.”

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📝 There is a contradiction between the desire of being secure and fact of change. We want to be separate from the life of flux and change to feel secure and that, paradoxically, create the sense of loneliness and fear. “The desire for security and the fear of insecurity are the same thing”.

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📝 “You want to escape the pain, but the more you struggle to escape, the more you inflame the agony”.

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📝 “Look!”

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📝 Money is as a token for wealth. “In somewhat the same way, thoughts, ideas and words are “coins” for real things”. They represent them but are not those things. Words are fixed while what they represent change.

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📝 “When each moment becomes an expectation life is deprived of fulfillment, and death is dreaded for it seems that here expectations must come to an end”.

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📝 “So long as there is the motive to become something, so long as the mind believes in the possibility of escape from what is at this moment, there can be no freedom”.

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🤯 Is the brain really good for us? Or is it taking on a destructive evolutionary specialization by our focus on trying to predict the future?

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⚖️ This book is a given in the library of the spiritually minded reader, alongside modern classics like the works of Eckhart Tolles, and timeless classic like Bhagavad Gita and Tao Te Ching.

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5/5

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Double review: “Good to Great” and “Autobiography of a Yogi”

Good to Great (GtG) lays out the result of a study that was set out to find the universal distinguishing characteristic of companies that went from good to great performance and sustained it for over fifteen years.

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Autobiography of a yogi is the is the life account of Yogananda Paramahansa; the yogi than introduced Kriya Yoga to the western world.

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How do these books have in common? Not much! But let’s do a combo review anyway!

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A reoccurring theme in Yoganandas life what that people materialize out of thin air. This did not happen to the “good to great” companies. On the contrary, a key ingredient for these companies success was to find the right people for the job; following the concept of, “first who, then what”. And “when in doubt, don’t hire”.

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And this is exactly the problem with both these books. GtG states the obvious and Yoganandan’s book is so out there that I have to check from time to time that it’s not a Harry Potter book you’re reading.

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📝 The characteristic “Level 5”-leaders of the GtG companies have a lot in common with Yoganandans guru. Humble, with a stoic resolve and a subdued ego.

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📝 “Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, not you biggest problems”.

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📝 “Continual intellectual study results in vanity and the false satisfaction of an undigested knowledge.” Yoganandans guru about about futility of mere book learning.

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📝 Autobiography of a Yogis Goodreads reviews are some of the most polarizing I have seen so far.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

I need to stop being a completionist when it comes to books. It’s not that these books are bad, I just think there is better ways to spend reading time. It’s okey to throw lesser books aside for better ones. Jump from good to great so to speak. 😎

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2/5

 

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Thoughts on: “The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei” by John Stevens

My major feat this summer was to inflate a pool in preparation of a BBQ party (see pic. 2). Due to lack of proper equipment it had to be done manually. It took quite some time and effort on my part to get it ready; But I persisted and felt a little bit of pride afterwards.

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When the guests arrived their reaction was; “That’s crazy! I can’t believe you didn’t use a pump for that!”.

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Now cut to the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei:

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Instead of being dressed in traditional black Buddhist clothes, they wear white, the color of death. They carry a knife in their belt. This is to take their life if they fail in any element of their practice. Knife for self-disembowelment – belt for hanging.

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These buddhist monks and super athletes reaching for enlightenment in the here and now thought physical movement.

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Their training schedule is crazy. The “1000-Day Marathon”, a big part of their practice, takes 7 years to complete. For the first 5 years they run a marathon a day for 100 days straight. This is repeated 7 times. For the last 2 years the distance is increased to two Marathon distances a day (84km!). They also throw in a 9-day fast into their practice, with continuous meditation, without water and sleep, to keep things interesting.

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: When we get familiar with feats like these, either through books or elsewhere, our ability to complain about trifles is diminished.

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Our standards and expectations of ourselves and others are so low nowadays… SO LOW.. (at least in Sweden where I live), that learning about stuff like this can, at least temporarily, raise the expectation bar a bit. So that you don’t get too cocky for blowing some air into a pool. Or praise the one that did it. 😀😎

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And yes! It’s a great book! The writing is so-so but the content is truly fascinating!

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5/5

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Thoughts on: “Advice not Given” by Mark Epstein

“When we let the ego have free reign we suffer – but when we learn to let go, we are free.”

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Dr. Epstein explores where psychotherapy and Buddhism can complement each other in the persuit of mental wellness.

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The Buddha and Freud, Dr Epstein says, came to a similar conclusion. Ego is the enemy, the limiting factor in our wellbeing.

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Sure! We can control our egos to a large extent if we put in the effort, but I’m not as convinced as Dr. Epstein, that Sigmund’s Id, ego and super ego – and the “self” of buddhism are too similar – other than that the burden of societal norms increase our suffering – and that breaking free of those bonds is the key to inner

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📝 The Eightfold Path: Right view, right motivation, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

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📝 “Death is Apart of Life. Don’t make a big deal out of it!”

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📝 Right speech goes for both the external and the internal. Catch loops of bad self-talk!

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📝 We all need to find a way to deal with the truth of impermanence. ”Change is the Only Constant.”

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📝 Freud was a badass, Buddha was a badass!

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Epstein gives you psychotherapeutic case studies and personal stories interwoven with Zen parables – All tied together neatly with each chapter representing one of the 8 fold paths of Buddhism.

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I solid read for winding down and getting over yourself!

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3/5


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Thoughts on: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer

Christopher McCandless was found dead in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. ——————————————

He graduated 2 years earlier, having what we would call a “promising” career ahead of him. But Alex had other plans. He donated his 25.000$ worth of savings to charity, left his family and society as a whole.

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Disgusted by the rat race, conformity and addiction to security that defines the middle class, and inspired by writers like Jack London, Thoreau and Tolstoy, he started to search truer way of living. Trying to find the essence of the human experience.

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“…The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

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📝 Don’t go to the Alaskan wilderness without a map if you lack wilderness experience.

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📝 Be careful with seeds. They can be poisonous even though the plant is edible.

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📝”Happiness [is] only real when shared” The last written statement of McCandless. Some people find this statement to be profound. But i think it’s more a result of that he is starving to death, alone ,in the wilderness than a profound insight. ——————————————

Overall great book! Reads like fiction and gives you a lot to think about.

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Which books would you bring if you went Into the wild?

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5/5

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Thoughts on: “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner

Brad Warner is punk rocker turned Zen master. He is “controversial” because he is not part of either of the two dominating fractions of Zen in the west; the overly intellectualized one or the woo-woo New age version. ——————————————

He wants to make Zen available and practical for to regular people with normal lives and jobs. Not having rules for the sake of rules. In the end, zen is all about silent sitting. No more, no less.

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When his publisher was slow to take action on turning the book into and audiobook, he recorded the it himself with GarageBand in his kitchen.

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This recording style definitively adds to the punk vibe. Cats interrupting the recording by walking on the laptop keyboard is quite charming. The book being a bit unstructured is also punk, but it makes the message less powerful and takes away more than it adds.

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The book also has autobiographical parts about his bands and how he got is dream job. To work with Japanese monster movies. He realizied that reaching that goal didn’t made him happier and deepened his journey into zen. ——————————————

📝 “You may find that having is not as pleasing a thing as wanting. This is not logical but it is often true” – Mr spook

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📝 The origin of suffering is desire

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📝 Instead of accepting reality for what it is, we often compare reality to our ideal version of it. Suffering comes from the comparison between our ideal and what is.

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📝 The most poisonous lie that religion spreads is that truly moral people never have immoral thought. The truth is that they have. They just only act on the moral ones.

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📝 Reaction to anger is a habit. It takes more energy resisting than to go with it.

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📝 Do what you do as well as you can. How you approach thing matters.

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3/5

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Thoughts on: “Wherever You Go There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn

What does the expression “Wherever you go, there you are” point towards?

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Wherever you travel you always bring yourself with you. It’s easy to think that with a new job at a new company will finally make you happy. A few months later, after scoring that new job, you start to think: “if only I could escape this small town and move to a big city, then I will be happy.

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Believing that external circumstances will bring inner peace is a trap. You will re-live the same pattern over and over again til you die. OR you start to appreciate where you are right now, come to terms with yourself, and surrender to the present moment. When we are fully present, the world in which we live becomes extraordinary.

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I’m have definitely not mastered this myself, but I think I have caught glimpses of it, and I believe these yogi people might be on to something!

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📝 “So at the beginning, you might want to stay with your breath, or use it as an anchor to bring you back when you are carried away. Try it for a few years and see what happens”

Quite a different timeline from the “10-min abs” and “get rich quick”-schemes you see everywhere! 😎

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📝 In ancient times, when it got dark people gathered by the fires. There was not enough light to continue doing stuff and we got a natural break for stillness. Today we don’t have to be limited by daylight and we can be kept busy 24-7.

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📝 “The joy of non-doing is that nothing else needs to happen for this moment to be complete”

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

“Going to 10 day meditation retreats might not be a big deal for some, but when you decide to start a family it gets harder.”

See the children as your practice and teachers! They will test your mindfulness and selflessness and push all your limits. It’s like a 18 year retreat!

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This is a great book for inspiring the already initiated, but there are better alternatives for people not yet familiar with the topic of mindfulness and meditation . Eckhart Tolles “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” will teach you the same concepts, but in a more powerful way in my opinion.

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3/5

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Best Books of the Year – #4

#4 “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

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The gripping biography of the most prominent innovator of out time.

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Parts goes to Isaacson for being able to write a 600 page book without any real low points, and parts goes to Steve for being such an interesting fella! Anyhow – it’s just an excellent biography!

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These is something with the intensity and focus with which Steve engaged with the world that I find truly fascinating. That’s what I’m taking away from this book.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

⁃ Steve Jobs

——— 🤔QUESTIONS🤔——-

What’s your favorite biography you read last year??

Find more over here: Favorite Books of 2017