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Modular Meditation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Remember Kenton Whitman’s wonderful GLOW meditation [<link, video]?

Yes. Remind me what GLOW stands for.

  • Gratitude – bringing to mind one or more things that you are grateful for, focusing on the feeling.
  • Love – bringing to mind one or more things that you love, again focusing on the feeling.
  • Oneness – releasing your sense of self and feeling the connection with any and everything.
  • Wonder – accessing curiosity: ‘I wonder what magical amazing wonderful unexpected surprises are going to come into my life today.’

I’ve recently discovered another wonderful meditation by Vishen Lakhiani. He calls it the 6-phase meditation [<link, video]:

  • Love and Compassion feeling the energy of love and compassion radiating from you, and gradually expanding the feeling to all humanity and every living being on Earth.
  • Gratitude – bringing to mind multiple things that you are grateful for, to produce an emotional flooding [<link; short read] effect.
  • Forgiveness – bringing to mind someone you haven’t yet forgiven and forgiving them.
  • Future Dreaming (Creative Visualization) – thinking of some aspect of your life a few years into the future and imagining yourself experiencing the ideal outcome, feeling the joy you would feel as if it were already happening.
  • The Perfect Day – thinking about what you want/have to do today and visualizing each of them unfolding in the most perfect way possible.
  • The Blessing – imagining there’s a loving higher power above you that’s supporting you in your vision and intentions and giving you endless strength and energy.

I notice a pronounced imagination component in Vishen’s meditation.

That’s the beauty of it. It’s also imagination and visualization practice.

Which one do you like more?

“Notice how both have the same structure in that they are made of several components. I like to call this kind meditation structure modular meditation. Each of the components that make up the meditation is an interchangeable module

I like both meditations, so I’m taking pieces from both and creating my own meditation.

What does it look like?

It’s a play in progress. I’m experimenting with it.

On Meditation and Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

There are two aspects to the practice of meditation. One is about the mechanics of the practice – what to do, and how. The other aspect is about meaning. You can make the practice more powerful by making it meaningful.

How can I make meditation meaningful?

You’re essentially imbuing it with meaning and connecting it with your values. You’re weaving a personal story around it. Here’s a glimpse of my own personal story:

Meditation is Mental Training. You mind requires training just like your body does. On the Path of Mastery, meditation is a fundamental aspect of that training.

Meditation is Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge. Meditation is a playful exploration of your inner world, and through that, a fundamental means of learning about yourself.

Meditation is Ritual. Meditation is a gateway into the universe of The Sacred.

Meditation is Self-Love. Meditation is a profound act of Self-Care and Self-Love, thus an expression of Love. The practice of meditation is the practice of Love.

Meditation is Peace and Joy. There’s a quote I love by Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you feel happy, peaceful, and joyful, you are practicing correctly. (Thick Nhat Hanh)

Meditation is the practice of coming home to yourself – a sacred Homecoming. Peace and Joy are the sign that you’ve arrived.

You can get inspiration from my story and shape your own.

Two types of meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s the best time to meditate?”

“We can think of many types of meditation. Two of them particularly stand out: meditation in comfort and meditation in discomfort

Meditation in comfort requires optimal conditions. Meditation in discomfort does not. In fact, meditation in discomfort requires suboptimal conditions – thus teaching you to adapt

Ultimately, meditation is a tool. It’s important not to lose sight of the scope of the tool.”

“What is the scope of the tool?”

To prepare you for life. The best way to prepare for life is in the turmoil of life.”

Moving Meditation 2

Meditation in activity is a thousand times superior to meditation in stillness. (Hakuin Ekaku)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Why is meditation in activity superior to meditation in stillness?”

“I call them moving meditation and still meditation.

Both are beautiful, and both have the same end: practicing concentration, achieving and maintaining inner stillness.

The difference is, still meditation requires preparation, whereas moving meditation does not. 

You can practice moving meditation anywhere, at any time

Wherever you are, you can choose to turn the next 5 minutes into meditation. (Time Focus)

Whatever you’re doing, you can choose to engage in it as meditation. (Activity Focus)”

Contemplative Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is contemplative meditation?”

Meditation that has as a point of focus an item you take for granted. Unlike regular meditation, it has a reflexive component. 

Let’s take this pencil you’re writing with for example.

What is it?”

“It’s a tool that allows me to write down my thoughts and build upon them. I use it as a thinking tool.”

“We can think of technology as an extension of our capacities. The pencil is an extension of your mind.

In essence, reflection is a process of directing attention.

You can direct attention to simply having it. Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have it.”

“I wouldn’t be able to play with ideas the way I love to. I find that imagining the opposite really helps me appreciate it.”

“This is a contrasting [<link; short read] effect. 

You can direct attention to being able to use it. Think of your beautiful BodyMind. Think of the immense complexity of the operations mobilized at a cellular level in the simple act of writing.”

“It’s mind-boggling. This realization always makes me think of a miracle.”

“Miracle is the perfect word for describing it.

Expanding upon it, you can direct attention to interconnectedness. Remember the ‘I, Pencil’ video [<link]?”

“Yes. Thought-provoking.”

“As you contemplate the pencil, think of the vast network of people involved in it reaching your hands. Another miracle.

Think that, if you zoom in [<link; medium read] far enough, the pencil is made of the same basic building blocks you – and everything else – are. Yet another miracle.

Interestingly, most miracles are invisible [<link; very short read] to the eye. You can only see them with the mind’s eye: Imagination.”

“So the purpose of the meditation is revealing the miracles that are hiding in plain sight?”

“You could say that.”

On Meditation and Compounding

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Your breaks after a pomodoro (30 minutes) of deep work are 10-minute long, right?”

“Yes.”

What if you did a 5-minute meditation during every break?

All these little meditation rep(etition)s compound [<link; short read].

You start and end the day with a 10-minute meditation. That’s 20 minutes. 8 breaks – 4 hours of deep work – mean 40 more minutes. That’s easily one hour of meditation every day.”

“Beautiful idea.”

Impromptu Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by impromptu meditation?”

“Impromptu meditation is an unplanned meditation that can be done at any time, anywhere, improv style.”

“Is that even possible?”

“It requires some mental magic.

We all form a default mental image of the minimum length a meditation session is supposed to have. I like to think of it as our default unit of practice. The larger the size of the unit, the less flexible it is. If my unit is 5 minutes long and I only have 1 minute, I’m unable to practice. 
This is a top-down process. I’m metaphorically trying to fit something into a small space.

For maximum flexibility, the unit needs to be smaller. I call the smallest atomic unit of practice micro-meditation. A micro-meditation is one embodied breath (EBreath [<link; medium read]). 
This is a bottom-up process. I’m metaphorically filling up the available space, however small it is.”

“Like water.”

“Indeed.

So impromptu-meditation requires two things:
– a mental structure: the micro-meditation model
– a mental attitude: the Improviser mindset / model

On Presence and Meditation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I practice Presence?”

“The goal is for it to become a habit.

Use James Clear’s four rules as a guide.

Make it obvious. (Cue)
Make it attractive. (Craving)
Make it easy. (Response)
Make it satisfying. (Reward)”

“How can I make it easy?”

“As we’ve talked before [<link; medium read], the Meditation practice is the fundamental unit of the Presence practice. Thinking of the Presence practice in terms of rep(etition)s, it consists of ‘meditation-reps‘, and every meditation-rep consists of what I called ‘attentional-reps‘.

Let’s turn our attention to Meditation.

There’s two ways you can structure it:

By focusing on time. eg ‘Meditate for 5 minutes.’ 

By focusing on breaths. eg ‘Meditate for 5 breaths.'”

“How about focusing on activity? Performing an activity as meditation.
eg ‘eating-meditation’, or ‘dish-washing-meditation’, or ‘shower-meditation’.”

“The idea of making it easy is to make it too small to fail, to ensure consistency of practice. To do that, you need scalable structures, structures of adjustable length. You need to be able to identify the smallest possible unit – the ‘atom‘, so to speak. 

The atom of the Meditation practice is 1 breath. I call it the 1-breath meditation.

Not only is it doable anywhere at any time, but it also incorporates the breath into the practice, which is a powerful tool on its own.”

“By why focus on time at all, and not just on breaths?”

“There’s a Buddhist meditation practice – which I know from Mark Divine’s book Unbeatable Mind – of counting to 10 breaths. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, you start back from zero.

There’s two principles at work here: mindful breaths, and counting breaths. We could call mindful breaths quality reps. These are the only ones worth counting.

I find counting breaths very useful, because it’s a way to assess how well you’re doing, which allows you to practice more deliberately. Ideally, count using your fingers, not mentally.

As long as you’re counting breaths, focusing on time works just as well.

There’s three ways you can go about it.

You can count to a set number. Meditate for x breaths. This can take a long or short time, based on the chosen number, and how well you’re doing.

You can count to a set time. Meditate for y minutes. Get as many mindful reps in as you can in that time-frame. It can be 5 minutes (5-minute meditation), it can even be just 1 minute (1-minute meditation).

You can count to a set number and a set time. Meditate for x breaths or y minutes, whichever comes first.

Modular Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“One of the biggest stumbling blocks when trying to initiate an action is getting started.

I like to think of it in terms of ‘mental chunking‘. The larger a chunk you mentally represent an action as, the harder an obstacle it seems to overcome, so the harder it is to get started. Human beings seem to have an uncanny ability to create and exaggerate mental obstacles for themselves.

Building on that, what’s the difference between a 20-minute block of time and four 5-minute block of time? On the surface, there isn’t any. But in terms of mental chunking, the difference is huge.

This can be used strategically.”

“How?”

Think in 5-minute time blocks.

There are several benefits to it.

Let’s take meditation. The small chunks make it more likely to initiate the practice. The end of a 5-minute block can serve as a reminder to bring your wandering attention back to your ‘anchor’, your point of focus.”

“Like a ‘backup anchor’.”

“Yes.

Focusing on meditation as a practice, you can (metaphorically) think of the blocks as rep[etition]s. This can give a better sense of progress: ‘I’ve completed one more rep’. If your attention was completely off focus during a rep, if time allows, you can squeeze one more rep in. It’s also a way to create small wins throughout the day.

For me however, the most important benefit is that you can make each 5-minute block themed. For instance, you can have one dedicated to affirmations, one to gratitude, etc. You can think of them as modules. Even better, you can think of them as reusable modules, which you can combine and play with to create beautiful structures.

For instance you can alternate still and moving meditation blocks, creating a beautiful oscillation. Or you can have a balancing-meditation block, followed by tree-climbing-meditation block, followed by one whose theme is contemplation of Beauty.”

“What if I wanted to use 10-minute blocks?”

“The length of the blocks is not set in stone. It’s just one more parameter to play and experiment with.”