Other

Sitting around working while I wait for fiber to get installed at my new place, which is clearly the most important part of moving. If anyone has a recommendation for a good router that works with CenturyLink fiber, let me know.

Opinion

Having used Perforce for several months at my previous job, I am thrilled to be back on Git. Also, Git Tower is a treasure. I happily signed up for their subscription as soon as the version came out.

The Guest House

Mindfulness

This poem by Rumi was sent to me by one of my meditation teachers, and I liked it so much I wanted to share it.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning is a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What I take from this is that you shouldn’t judge our feelings or label them good or bad, but instead try to live with, experience, and understand them. If you remain gentle with yourself and really internalize that you are not your feelings, you stop getting swept up and inhabiting whatever emotional weather is passing you by.

Opinion

The August Smart Lock Pro and Keypad I ordered for my new place showed up this morning. Pretty excited to live in a place that’s a little more smart home conducive than a new apartment building.

Opinion

Considering I’m typing this on a 2012 pre-Retina iMac, I think I’m allowed to say I really need a new computer… but, wow it does not take much upgrading to get these new MacBook Pros up into the $4000 range.

Be Focused: Pomodoro Timing App

Productivity

I don’t know about other people, but for me, if I want to be the most productive, it’s essential to have systems in place to help stay focused and remind me what I should be doing. Lately, I’ve been using an app called Be Focused for that. It’s a fairly basic app for doing Pomodoro style time tracking — although, if the idea of a “system” scares you, the app never calls it Pomodoro. I’ve tried a few of these in the past, and this is probably the best one (and the most maintained).

You tell if how long you want your interval and break periods to be, and it does what you’d expect by timing and transitioning between those periods. The one more advanced feature is that if you pay for the pro version (or get it on SetApp), there’s an integrated to-do list, which is nice if you want to reminders of what you were actively working on.

I’ve mostly used the Mac version because that’s where my work happens, but it’s also on iOS, and they do sync. Be Focused is available on the App Store and in SetApp. If you find yourself needing something like this, it’s a good option.

Opinion

Ordered an August Smart Lock Pro with the keypad for my new place. Excited to try it (assuming the deadbolt is compatible). One thing I found out is that if you have an Apple TV, you don’t need to buy their August Connect hub, which lowers the price by $70.

An Automatic Watch for Under $100

Tools

When I mentioned the other day that I was interested in getting a non-smart watch which wouldn’t be so expensive I’d feel bad for not wearing it every day, I ruled out the idea of an automatic watch of any kind. It turns out I was wrong. There’s a bunch of options under $200. The ones which appealed to me the most were the Seiko brand watches.

The one I ended up getting was a Seiko 5 Automatic, which you can buy for between $60 and $70, is a real automatic (no batteries!), and looks pretty cool too. For a little more you can upgrade to something like the Seiko SKX007, which is a bit chunkier (being a diver’s watch) and also quite attractive.

Opinion

I started an Instagram for my dog, so, now he has one, and I don’t. I have to admit, personifying a tiny blonde wiener dog with a bad attitude is pretty fun. http://instagram.com/heroofwhine

The Purpose of Meditation

Personal

Something I keep hearing from friends when they find out I meditate is that it’s not for them because they “can’t clear their mind.” The thing is, that’s not really what you’re trying to do. Our brains are machines designed to generate thoughts, there’s no use trying to stop it. The purpose of meditation isn’t to stop thinking; it’s to change the relationship you have with your thoughts and feelings.

The way you get there is by regularly practicing being present with those thoughts and feelings so that you can learn to let them go when they arise. Most of the time when we encounter feelings we don’t like we want to get away from it as quickly as possible. Someone who is practicing mindfulness might try to stay with that feeling, understand what it is, and then gently let it go. When we haven’t been practicing mindfulness, it appears that emotions are something happening to us that we can’t control. We tend to embody the thing that we’re feeling right now instead of recognizing it for what it is or ever examining it.

Learning to relate to ourselves in this way isn’t easy, and it isn’t particularly fast either. It does, however, have the chance to make a lasting and positive impact on our personalities and lives. If there are two things I’ve discovered so far that help the most, it’s first to be always gentle with yourself, and second to be consistent in your practice.

Learning to be gentle with other people is important too, but you have to start with yourself. That means no negative self-talk, and not getting upset with yourself if meditation was hard today or you let yourself get caught up in emotion. The only way to do meditation wrong is not to do it. Any day that you sit is a good day, and if you missed a day, that’s okay too. Start fresh tomorrow. Being hard on yourself is never going to fix what’s already happened, and it’s not going to encourage you to continue either, so don’t do it. Instead, use it as a chance to do better the next time by understanding what happened.

Remember: this is supposed to be hard. If developing mindfulness were natural, you wouldn’t need to sit, because you’d already have it. Weirdly, you do already have everything you need to be mindful, but getting in touch with that in a different story.

Being consistent is also incredibly valuable. As best you can, try to sit every day. Meditation has made the most significant impact on me when I’m the most consistent. There are days I’m able to sit for forty minutes, and there are days that I only get ten, but I do make sure that it happens every day. Some days my mind goes crazy, and sometimes I sort of lose awareness and drift off, but I do sit, and over time I’m making progress. That’s all that matters. It’s a lifelong process. What happens one day or the next isn’t what matters. What matters is coming back it over and over again for weeks, months, years, and decades.

If you want to start meditating, and you’re not sure how, I can tell you what’s been working for me, but please remember I am not an expert by any means. I do have some recommendations:

Meditation Apps

You don’t need to pay for a guided meditation app. If you want an app for timing that syncs with Apple Health and tracks your progress, get Insight Timer. It’s free, there are some community features I like, and it works well.

Reading

Read some books. Learning about the philosophy behind this stuff helps deepen your practice and keeps you motivated. If you’re looking for a short one to start, try Sit Like a Buddha by Lodro Rinzler. It’s specifically about getting started establishing a meditation practice. I also like Alan Watts quite a bit and think The Wisdom of Insecurity is a great place to start. Zen Mind, Beginners Mind is one that I read a couple of years ago, probably didn’t understand that well, and need to read again.

Basic Meditation Instructions

While keeping in mind that you should get your information from someone who’s qualified to teach, here’s the straightforward meditation practice that I do (the same one you’ll learn in Sit Like a Buddha):

  1. Sit crossed legged on the floor using a cushion to elevate your pelvis slightly above your hips. If that’s not comfortable, use a chair.
  2. Sit up with your back straight, and tilt your head forward slightly. If it helps, imagine a chain pulling you up from the crown of your head and then releasing you your spine stacks up. If you’re in a chair, try not to rest against the back if it.
  3. Gaze a few feet in front of you with your eyes open. The term people use here for your gaze is “soft focus.” You don’t want to go cross-eyed, but you’re also not boring a hole in the floor. Just be relaxed.
  4. Place the tip of your tongue against your front teeth, and relax your jaw, so your mouth is slightly open.
  5. Rest your hands comfortably on your legs.
  6. Start your timer. Begin by focusing on your breath wherever you feel it — nostrils, the expansion of your stomach or chest, etc. You want to get into the physical sensation of breathing.
  7. Continue to breathe naturally. Try to stay with that. If you catch yourself following a thought, recognize it, say the word “thinking” to yourself in your head, and gently let it go. If it keeps happening, that’s okay, don’t be hard on yourself. If it helps you, try counting with every out breath up to seven, and then start over.
  8. Continue until the time is up.

That’s all. It doesn’t need to be complicated; you just have to do it every day. Try to get up to twenty minutes, but if ten is more comfortable to start, do that. If ten is too hard, try five and work your way up. It will get easier.