The next time someone tells you that you have the attention span of a goldfish, you should rejoice at the compliment. A Microsoft survey in 2013 seems to suggest that the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds, while the average attention span of a human is 8 seconds. That has fallen dramatically from 2000 where the average attention span of a human was 12 seconds. We may all blame the advent of social media and the rise of the smartphone. I would rather focus on exercises and practices with the goal of outperforming a goldfish.
We grow up honing our ability to apply pressure and tension physically - cracking an egg, ripping open a packet of crisps, hammering a nail, closing the car door and so forth. We develop a sense of the amount of strength, pressure and tension that we need to apply to the tasks at hand. The same also applies to effectively leverage the potential of our minds. We may hone these mental skills through meditation. For example, during single pointed meditation such as meditation on the breath, we focus and place our mind onto the object of meditation. However, the state of our mind cannot be too lax or we would be in a general state of dullness, nor should the state of the mind be too tense, with too much pressure applied resulting in the grasping at the object of meditation. During mediation, we experience the dancing of 2 'minds' the mind that focuses on the object of meditation, and the mind that is aware of what the mind is focusing on The ability to apply the necessary amount of 'pressure' on our object of meditation, and to apply a gentle amount of 'force' to guide our minds back to the object of meditation requires practice.
I enjoy gardening. It's one of my favourite activities. It keeps me in the moment. Not only is it peaceful, but to me, it's really so reflective of life. Planting the seeds of plants that I would like in my garden is a joy. However for the garden to flourish, it's critical to manage the weeds that quietly grow within. Weeding: "remove an inferior or unwanted component of a group or collection" In the past week, I have had the chance to dedicate my time and attention on gardening, and it has reminded me so much of what I also need to do, mentally. As I weeded, I had to be so careful and gentle not to destroy too much of my 'good' grass but at the same time, ensure that the roots of the weeds were extracted and removed best I could. I recognized that I would need to necessarily commit time and effort to keep the weeds under control. It's the same in our minds and in life. Like weeds in our mind garden, cluster and noise in our minds crowd out the good thoughts we wish to cultivate, and hinder the development of our positive intentions. Let us figure out how we may be able to remove these unwanted or inferior components within our minds so that the good and the better may flourish.
Anger sometimes makes people do unfortunate things. Fear sometimes makes people do unfortunate things. Anger and fear arises within us. It's human to do so. But let not these emotions control us.
I had my whole day planned out, with the morning schedule filled with an errand, 2 hours of meditative gardening, followed by an afternoon of family and spiritual activities. On my first errand, I dropped and lost my car keys. Over the following hour as I retraced my route several times, I had a sparing battle with myself. I managed to refrain from beating myself up for being careless, but was extremely bothered by the prospect of spending the best part of of my Saturday sorting out this 'silly' mistake. Recognizing that I couldn't change this outcome, and instead of fretting about it, I told myself to figure out how I could transform this into something positive. I reflected for a few moments, embraced the situation and then directed loving kindness to myself. Just like a child who has tripped and hurt himself or herself, the best thing a parent could do is first to direct care and affection to the child. It wouldn't be wise to yell at the child for being careless! I mentally went through what I am done earlier and knew what I wouldn't repeat again. I had even earlier thought that if I put keys here (I was wearing running shorts), it may actually fall out! Unfortunately I did not heed the voice inside my head. I made a mental note to make two extra copies of my car keys and as I fixed the situation over the following 3 hours, I managed to write and finish a podcast (I love learning throughout podcasts). It's [...]
We are humans and possess minds with incredible potential. Often we may feel that we are working the mind only when we analyse and solve intricate problems. I am a major culprit here. But the ability to just experience the present is potent. Try letting go of active thinking once in a while. Stop thinking about what is to be done, what needs to be finished and accomplished, datelines etc. Instead, just experience everything around you, everything in you. Just BE. MIND BE ME.
I have had the luxury of much more time for internal reflections and observations in the past weeks, with increased time spent on subway trains. Today I took a moment to generate gratitude for all who have helped make this efficient transport system happen. So many of us have benefited indeed. Thank you. Take a moment next time you use something, or eat something nutritious and delicious. Take a mental moment to trace it back to its origins and generate a feeling of gratitude for everyone who has been involved in its journey so that you may enjoy its benefits. This is a wonderful practice to be grateful for much of what life offers us.
Triggers. These set us off on actions or reactions which we are not consciously in control off. Often we regret our actions. There are also positive actions that we are able to cultivate which may be triggered. For example, I am used to the ringing of medicine bowls prior to my meditation sessions. Each time I hear them now, an instant doze of calm courses through my mind and body. How do we reduce the probability of negative triggered responses and increase the probability of positive triggered responses? Mindfulness should help - being aware of our triggers and anticipating situations where these triggers present themselves. We may also be able to influence our seemingly automatic responses through meditation. Something I will work on this week.
Essentialism. The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This book by Greg McKeown has had an incredible impact on my life in the recent years. I have made several major physical home and office moves in the past few months and this simple concept of the pursuit of less has been ever so helpful in these times. Reduce the clutter and keep the essentials. My investment partner and I have also had deep reflections in the past week. We admit that we have taken some commitments that have caused us to traverse sideways and not forward on our journey. To keep progressing, stick with what's truly essential.
It's in the nature of the mind to wander. It happens to the best of us. We've all been there. We're at a meeting or lecture, but our mind has long wandered off on its own private adventures, leaving only our physical self at the meeting. Some of us take fantastic long mind journeys, only to realize that we are no longer present when everyone in the meeting room is staring at us in anticipation of an answer to a question directed at us. Then there are the few who seem to always be "present" and attentive throughout. How do they stay so present and focused? The good news for the rest of us is that we have the capacity to tame this wandering mind of ours. If you are reading this post, it would suggest that you are already meditating or would like to do so. Meditators all expound the benefits of meditation. I certainly cannot do without it. It is an essential part of my daily routine and I start each session first by settling my mind with a simple mindfulness exercise on the breath, sometimes referred to as breathing meditation or single pointed focus meditation with the breathe as the point of focus. This exercise is also extremely helpful in calming and stilling the mind when we are experience stress or are overly stimulated. We spend hours on exercise and nutrition for bodily health, but ironically, we generally hardly ever exercise our mind for our mental health. It's our mind that interprets the world and how we [...]