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.

Opinion

Considering a non-smart watch for wearing, and especially for outdoor activities when I don’t want screens. Looking for durable and classy. Mechanical is ideal, but I feel like it’s probably above my price range to fulfill what I want. Where’s a good place to start looking?

Opinel N°8 Knife

Tools

I’m not a “knife guy,” but I wanted something to carry around that would be reliable for camping and general cutting things, so I picked up an Opinel N°8 at REI the other day. Works well, classy looking, and only about $15. The one I got is stainless still, but if they’d had it I would have gone with the carbon steel version.

Opinion

I visited the new Apple Store in Seattle at University Village the other day. It’s right next to where the old small one was, but probably three to four times the size and way nicer.

Thoughts on Apple Rebuilding Maps

Apple / Opinion

Eddie Cue gave an interview to Matthew Panzarino on TechCrunch where he detailed Apple’s project to rebuild Apple Maps using their data, instead of relying on partners, as they’ve done. Also, it’s launching with the next beta of iOS 12, so that was surprising.

Since I just started driving a new car with CarPlay, I’ve been using Apple Maps for driving directions almost daily. And it’s been fine. In fact, in the places I’ve lived (Portland, San Francisco, Seattle), it’s pretty much always been fine. For other people who don’t live in major cities on the West Coast, it seems like it’s been less fine, but has improved a lot for everyone since it launched in 20121.

The thing I don’t think it’s ever been and doesn’t have any indication of becoming with the previous strategy was remotely competitive with the quality of Google Maps.

When the decision was made to move away from Google, and create their service, my feeling is that it was on a less-than-ideal timeline and they needed to come up with a solution that would get it out the door. Partnering with a bunch of companies to launch who have all the data you need makes a lot of sense when you have no experience or infrastructure to do this, and it’s beginning to look a little embarrassing that the iPhone can’t do turn by turn directions.

That strategy was the only way Maps could’ve happened in 2012, and after a rough launch, they’ve managed to incrementally get up to the level of “good enough” over the last six years. For it to be great though the incremental improvements and relying on third parties weren’t going to get them where they wanted to be. I don’t know if the new way will fix all of Maps problems at once, but something had to change, and this seems like the way it had to go.


  1. If they’ve been working on this project since 2014 like the article says, that means Apple Maps has been in the process of being rebuilt for two-thirds​ of the time it’s existed. 

Opinion

I do not understand walking dogs off leash in a neighborhood. It’s dangerous for the dog, other animals, and everyone. Leash laws exist for a reason — animals do unpredictable things. We don’t get to decide our dog is unique and the rules don’t apply to them.

Opinion

I moved Link’s bed next to where I work. All he’s wanted is to do is lay next to me and sleep all day (with only occasional breaks to defend us from/bark at people walking through the alley downstairs).