On our Japan trip this year, lots of people took turns sharing their skills with others. Sebastian gave an awesome talk on Sengoku Japan (AT Osaka Castle, no less), Nick Gray gave one of his signature tours at Tokyo National Museum, and Brian and Leo led a meditation session at the Kinezuka tea farm in Shizuoka.
Before we actually sat and meditated, both Brian and Leo talked a bit about meditation. One of the best pieces of advice they gave was that when you want to stop meditating, don't. When you again want to stop, don't. But on the third time, let yourself go; open your eyes and stand up.
My meditation practice is only five minutes every day, so I never really want to get up, but I apply the principle to a lot of other things.Today was an intensive day of work. It wasn't the most volume I've had, but I had to design a new feature, implement it, and then go through our existing code and deal with all of the little complications created by the change. It was mentally exhausting. My only break came at six in the evening when I went to ballet class.
At first ballet was a relaxing weekly event, but I've moved up to the second level, which is much more intense and difficult, both mentally and physically. I came home completely drained.
I sat down to do some work, and after half an hour or so, decided that I was ready to quit for the day. Then I remembered the twice and stop advice, so I got back to work. Two hours later I was even more exhausted, and again ready to quit. I persevered for a second time. The next chunk of work was only an hour long, but it was very taxing. When I finished it, I allowed myself to stop working on SETT and do my daily blog post.
With your habits, it's very important to extrapolate out and think about the loop that they create. Is it pushing you to be better and better, or to slowly get worse? I love the twice, then stop rule because it's not completely draconian, but it does squeeze out just a little more productivity each time. The effect is that you become more and more accustomed to hard work.
Quitting the first time, on the other hand, gives your brain an "out" from hard work, and can very quickly lead to a decrease in your ability to focus and work.
If you aren't pushing yourself a little tiny bit harder most times, you're probably not growing. And if you're not growing, you're probably weakening. That's okay if it's intentional and in order to focus on other priorities, but a major loss if it happens by accident.
So think about persevering twice and then stopping. It's meant for meditation, I apply it to work-- what will you apply it to?
Photo is a wood carving at the house we meditated at.
I tried the "twice, then stop rule" for meditation. Didn`t worked so well, it was too easy for me to cheat/quit. Three thoughts about quitting in two minutes and I was allowed to stop.
How do you handle this aspect?
At the moment I operate with 100% clear rules. When I meditate I always use my buzzer. 20 minutes with no room for discussion. It`s non-negotiable. Since I have implemented this rule a year ago, I`ve never failed.
I also operate with clear rules for my daily work. I set a daily goal and only stop working once I have achieved it. I fail here more often, due to unforeseeable problems.
"Twice, then stop" is a specific turn of phrase that refers to a more general rule: "Don't be self-aggressive."
Let's say you're meditating and your nose itches, and you want to itch it. On the surface you have exactly two options: itch it, or don't. But there's more than one way to not itch!
One way not to itch your nose is to steel yourself, grit your teeth, and say "No way am I itching my nose!" And then it's you versus the itch. But the itch is really just you, it's your nose, so it's you versus yourself. You are fighting yourself - it is self-aggression. This is not seen as productive.
But there is a different way not to itch your nose: it is the opposite. Instead of tensing up against the itch, you surrender to it. You open yourself wide, you feel the itch as fully as you can, you relax your muscles, and you just let it wash over you. This can be a really intense experience, but that's the point of meditation! You're experiencing the present, which happens to be your nose itching, without resisting or fighting. You're surrendering into it.
If you could always surrender to the present like that, you wouldn't need a "twice, then quit" rule for meditation. You just always surrender. But that surrender is hard, and we get fatigued, and eventually you find the itch comes back and you don't have it in yourself anymore to just let it wash over you. Your jaw clenches up, irritated thoughts arise, and it's a struggle, it's self-aggression. At that point maybe it's time for "twice, then quit" - sit with the self-aggression and see what THAT's like, because that's another experience just like the itch, so it's interesting to us in meditation. But if it doesn't stop, it's not helpful to beat yourself up for long.
Your time limit sounds like a useful tool, too. That's generally what I do, set a fixed time with a little meditation app, but I definitely get to explore riding that razor's edge between surrender and self-aggression throughout - not because I'm tempted to stop meditating entirely, but because I have the urge to fidget, or itch, or adjust my foot, or whatever, and each time is an opportunity to say, do I need to fix something that is harming me? Or is it just uncomfortable? And if it's uncomfortable, can I surrender into it? Because that's the very core of meditation right there: life itself is often uncomfortable, and meditation is about getting used to it. If we fidget every time we're restless or move our leg every time it starts to fall asleep, we;re just extending our tendency to avoid discomfort right into our meditation practice.
Hi Tynan, I just the bought your hard copy book on Amazon and I look forward to reading it soon!
1. I remember reading in a blog post that you quit morning meditation, but you still meditate in bed, right before sleeping. Is this still true and do you still feel the benefits of meditation by doing this?
2. As 2015 rolls around, I'd like to start meditation again, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on meditation. I hear so many benefits from it, but since you quit morning meditation, I wonder how I should start the meditation habit.
I'm currently helping a friend built a house. I set off two and half weeks, hoping to learn a lot and get some serious physical work going on. Comes to show, that houses don't exactly build themselves in one sitting. This stubborn foundation has been all we've been doing for 14 days now. Tonight, with the twice, then stop philosophy in mind, we passed through 1,5 hours after both having been ready to quit earlier.It was really great to push each other further and actually finish the task tonight. We might have done it tomorrow morning, but now we'll get to the building site and be ready to start anew. And also have that very appealing feeling of having faced a big problem and stayed around to solve it.I think the rule works best as an anecdote for personal motivation, rather than a 100% clear rule as Sebastian mentioned.
Particularly, exercise that works on stamina. There's a place here in Perth called Jacob's ladder. A very scenic area where people (including myself) frequently go and run up and down the 278 steps there (I think 278... counting gets a bit fuzzy when you're oxygen deprived halfway up!). After you've done the route 2, 3, 4 times.. You start to think, okay time to pack up. But persevere, take the next step and you'll squeeze that much more out of yourself.
Also, a small change that would improve SETT Tynan (IMO anyway) - When an external link is clicked, I believe most people would find it preferable that it opened on a new tab/window as opposed to redirecting away from the page.
You mean to make all links in a post default to opening in a new tab? Could do that...
Yup. Improves the flow I think.. Because if someone is reading a passage of text and comes to a link, they can open it (look at the pic/see the video/read.. whatever...) knowing that the original tab will still be at the exact same location as when they left as opposed to having to use the 'back' button or reload the whole page again.
It would also make it more likely that the reader will get to the bottom of the article (or read more comments) if there is no redirection away from the page.
Personally I am less likely to click on a link if I know I'm on a site that redirects you away from a page (or I have to go through the bother of using the right-click menu to open a new link). Just my opinion, would love for others to chip in.
It seems like almost high achiever I know finds the time to meditate and lift weights. Those are two fairly different activities which are usually associated with disparate stereotypes, but tons of high achievers do both. Not only do they do both of these things, but they ascribe some of their success to them.
Because of this observation, I've tried to meditate several times in my life. I went to a Vipassana retreat and left after two days. For a month I meditated for twenty minutes every night. The habit never seemed to stick, probably because I didn't know why I was doing it and didn't see any results.
Then I read a book called the Willpower Instinct. It said that both exercise and meditation increased will power. Further, it said that five minutes of meditation a day was enough, and that it would take two months for it to pay any dividends. Okay, I thought, I'll meditate every day for five minutes, and not quit for at least three months.
My technique, as outlined by the book, is to close my eyes, focus on my breath, and think "breathe in.... breathe out...". After a minute or two I stop the silent breathe in, breathe out chant and try to just focus on my breath. I used to find this process very frustrating, because I thought that if I strayed from thinking about my breath, that meant that I wasn't getting the benefits of meditation. It turns out the opposite is true-- meditation is supposed to be difficult, and it's this very straying and regrouping process that builds willpower.
Question from a reader --