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Grumpiness doesn't pay the bills

It's easy to get grumpy, and not very helpful. What is helpful? Meditation has its uses. I keep intending to establish a regular practice. I recently completed the introductory 10-day course in meditation using an app called Headspace. It only took me 12 days to complete the ten ten-minute sessions. Thereafter, Headspace wanted me to pay money to subscribe to their on-going encouragement to meditate. For someone with a job in the tech industry, the monthly fee would be trivial. For a broke-ass podcaster and freelance videographer living in rural Vermont, the monthly subscription fee is non-trivial. So, I searched for and found a free meditation app, but I'm using it even less consistently than I used Headspace.

Ideally, I would meditate first thing in the morning. I do use electronic devices to achieve specific states of consciousness most mornings, just not the state of mind I'm after. I often start the day with a cup of tea and a game or 5 of Plants vs. Zombies Heros. Then comes email, and as often as not a link in an email leads me to Facebook. Most mornings I confine my Facebook use to the Friends of the C-Realm group. I'll catch up on comment threads and at least open linked articles in new browser tabs. I try to read them all, but I would guess I actually manage to read 1 in 3.


Both yesterday and today I went to the gym, got changed into my workout clothes, did some abdominal exercises to warm up and then got a familiar headache on my first set of actual weight-lifting. Yesterday, I opted for an hour of yoga in place of weight lifting. Today, I left the gym with the intention of taking a long walk. It was warm today. A good day for a walk. Did I take that walk? No. I came home and went right back to editing the video that I'd been working on before my aborted trip to the gym. Why didn't I walk? Because I wanted to listen to a podcast while I walked, but my phone wasn't charged. Can't walk without a full charge on my phone, right?

I'm bummed out that I haven't had a decent workout in nearly a week, but I know better than to ignore that intense pain behind my left eye. I got an exertion headache when I joined a gym back in 2013. I tried pushing through it, and that made things much worse. I ended up having to work with very low weights for several weeks to prevent the headaches from recurring. I don't want to lose what gains I've managed to make in the gym over the past year, but my muscles won't melt away in a week, nor will my established exercise habit go to seed in so short a time. Still, it's easy to get grumpy when the body doesn't seem to keep its end of the workout bargain.

It's easy to get grumpy about the news, about politics, about idiocy on display on Facebook. It's easy to get grumpy, but grumpiness doesn't pay the bills or connect me with fun new people or spark novel insights. Some people enjoy listening to me rant, but when I feel the rant take on a life of its own I try to remember to ease back from the edge. There's a ranter and a rager lurking inside me, waiting for its chance to run the show. It's an energetic show, but it isn't useful.

What is useful?

Meditation is useful. And money. Money is also useful.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Michael Roper
Mar. 9th, 2017 04:14 pm (UTC)
meditation
So why might you, or anyone, believe that you need an app (paid for or not) to meditate? Not being a member of the 'app generation' myself, I wouldn't know. So what the heck is meditation anyway? It's maximal awareness and alertness coupled with a silent (no thinking) mind.

How? Well, select something upon which to direct your attention. Could be a mantra (repeated silently), the breath moving in and out of your nostrils, some point in or on your body or, if you're so inclined, some visualized image that you find compelling. Personally, I endeavor to bring and hold my attention onto the silence that's always present underneath thought. You might find some other object of concentration more useful/helpful,...feel free to experiment.

The guidelines: When NOT to do it? Immediately after a heavy meal or when fatigued. How to sit? Chair is fine (not too cushiony) Floor is good,but, unless you can sit in lotus easily you'll be sitting in an easy cross-legged pose therefore you should use a cushion under your butt to tilt your pelvis slightly forward so that a straight spine is maintained. Floor or chair, what's most important? Straight spine,..NO SLUMPING!

Format: When you're in your preferred seated posture, begin with a number of deep, full abdominal breaths, 3, 5 ten,...whatever you like. Then just let your breathing relax and do its own thing and bring your attention to whatever you've chosen for your object of concentration and every time you realize that you've become lost in thought gently bring your attention back to your chosen object of concentration,...and just keep on doing that for the duration of the sit. The chattering 'monkey' mind (default mode network) is like a dog you're training,...and after a while it will finally get the point that it might be nice to just shut the fuck up (at least for a while). And even if you find that you're lost in thought for 85-90% of the time (totally normal), it really drives home the point that: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MIND! And please know: even a 'bad' meditation is still good, in fact it's VERY GOOD!

How long to sit and how often? What's better: 35 minutes once a week or 5 minutes per day? The latter, without question. Regularity is key,...make it habit, that is to say: DO IT EVERY FUCKING DAY! I'd be willing to bet that you (or anyone) spends at least 15 minutes per day on physical hygiene (shower, toothbrushing etc), so why not another 15 minutes per day on mental hygiene (meditation).....mental floss, if you will.

So there you have it, no more apps needed,....and..it was FREE!
szaszhareen
Mar. 12th, 2017 11:02 am (UTC)
no beginner succeeds alone
hmm... a livejournal comment character limit! didn't know there was such a thing. so two parts:

i'll preface this with a story. in 2014, i moved from san antonio, texas, across the country and back to maryland to live with my dad. the proverbial prodigal son, i came back a little ashamed, but glad that i had somewhere to come back to. i left because i had been driven nearly to suicide by a relationship i was in. before meeting this person, i never really struggled with anxiety. if i had panic attacks, i didn't know what they were, and just sort of shrugged them off as part of life. i plowed on day by day and never really had too many problems, though i was prone to overthinking things and reading too much into situations. being with this person completely changed all that, and made my life a living hell of constant panic attacks and physical symptoms that couldn't be explained or addressed by conventional doctors.

even though i knew this situation was untenable, it was incredibly hard to leave this toxic relationship, and i continued to suffer horribly from feelings of loss and guilt for two years afterward. the only thing that saved me from eternal privation and misery was meditation - with some important caveats that i'll share below.

within a few weeks of moving back in with my dad, i spoke with a friend of his and the topic of meditation came up. i let him know that i was interested, because of the pleasant dissociative state that i thought meditation could evoke; i basically thought that maybe through meditation i could attain the sort of "all one" euphoria that i experienced on mushrooms or lsd. at the time, he nodded understandingly, but i could tell there was a mischievous glint in his eye - it suggested that i didn't know the half of it. he invited me to two free weekly meditations that he participated in, and i immediately started attending both.

i started meditating as many do, being frustrated that i wasn't getting "results" and convinced that i wasn't "doing it right". but i had an advantage that many new meditators don't give themselves - other people.

remember that i said there were two separate group meditations i was attending? fast forward about three years - i consider myself mentally stable, and i know that i have the tools to deal with what life throws my way. but i know for a fact that without the other people in these groups, i would have given up on meditation, like so many other people who try it alone and give up within a few weeks or even hours. I can't quote any buddhist scripture here, but grok this: the traditional method of buddhist meditation teaching is to meditate as a group with people in your community and a teacher, to listen to a brief lecture, then discuss what came up during your sitting, then meditate again, then go your separate ways until the next time you meet.

I am convinced that this, more than anything else, is what gives meditation its power to help people take advantage of its benefits. once you have confidence in your ability, it becomes second nature to fall into a pattern of returning to a single point of attention, and aim that focus at whatever goal you're trying to achieve, whether that be change in your life, numbing of pain, experiencing of difficult emotions that must be felt to be released, etc.
szaszhareen
Mar. 12th, 2017 11:03 am (UTC)
Re: no beginner succeeds alone
It's too late to make my long story short. but this is my point: beginners who meditate alone WILL fail. they will never achieve their goals if they don't work with a group of people who are also meditating. In general, humans work better in groups. meditation is no exception.

so as much as i respect comments like Michael Roper's above, and i see so many of them across the internet, in places like /r/meditation, they ALWAYS 100% miss the most important part of any beginner's meditation practice, which is not the technique, of which there are many, and we can describe them in millions of different ways, but the OTHER PEOPLE!

until you're experienced, and you have capacity in attention, you're pretty much doomed to fail if you meditate alone, even with an app. luckily there are meditation groups all over the place (UU churches, christian churches, friends groups, quaker meetings, small groups of interested peers, etc), and if there really isn't one around you, it's possible to start one, online and by skype if necessary.

I'm in the odd position of watching my younger brother go through literally the exact same things i experienced a few years ago, and struggle to phrase my thoughts on his situation in a way he'll understand - we all know that no one takes good advice, so i don't bother giving it.

but when he told me he's tried meditating, because everyone talks about how great it is at relieving anxiety (think dan harris, pop spirituality, "feel better in 5 minutes!" etc), and that he feels like he failed and "isn't any good" at it, i told him that no beginner learns to meditate alone, and that it's not even worth doing if you're not going to do it with other humans. i don't think he gets it yet. I know i didn't, until i did. that's another human problem - we never get it until it's already over, or too late.
szaszhareen
Mar. 12th, 2017 11:16 am (UTC)
and on the topic of headaches during a workout, that's troubling. check out "why isn't my brain working" by datis kharrazian - it details case studies of deficiency and brain inflammation that are common in our culture, and how you can deal with those types of symptoms. before reading it, i knew that inflammation was an issue, but never considered that my brain might also be a victim of inflammation that needed it's own methods of redress.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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