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TW πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ Meditation

πŸ§˜β€β™‚οΈ I Restarted Meditation After A Long Break

I started meditating in 2012. I’d been struggling with depression and, after reading some self-help books, I decided that meditation would help. I wanted to avoid getting involved in something spiritual that wasn’t well grounded in psychology, so I searched for a therapist who had mindfulness on their website and booked a session. He did an introductory mindfulness exercise and then recommended Mark William’s book The Mindful Way Through Depression. I did the exercises for a couple of years and it made a huge difference.

Discovering meditation groups was a second breakthrough. I’d been very isolated for some years and being in weekly contact with other meditators brought friendship and acceptance. They also introduced me to the broader spectrum of Buddhist meditations. I got a job working at Gaia House, a meditation retreat centre, and there I started reading and practicing more than ever. Meditation became as much about exploring the spectrum of happiness as a defence against unhappiness.

I ended my job at Gaia House and starting trying to get back into my previous career. Meditation started to slip into the background of my day and I hardly noticed that I was practicing less and less. Slowly, the general niggle of daily living crept back and the bright glow of mental happiness faded.

When I finally found a job, I was very relieved. At this point, I’d been away from my career for six years. The company was based in the area where my meditation groups were and I anticipated a lovely life of walking to work and spending free time socialising with my meditator friends. The company was smaller than the big enterprises I’d worked at before and had a reputation for its friendly environment. So I was shocked to discover that the work was extremely stressful and chaotic.

Faced with a sudden onslaught of stress, I turned to my meditation practice and found it wasn’t there. I struggled along for a year, trying to get caught up with my work each week and wondered what had happened to my bright, shiny future. What kept me sane was the regular contact with my meditator friends. It became increasing obvious that I was talking about memories of meditation rather than its current benefits. I’d often begin sentences with “when I meditated regularly…”.

It was the long Christmas and New Year break that made the difference. Without the pressure of work, I got into the habit of staying up late each night and not getting enough sleep. As the first day of work approached, I thought I’d better get an early night and I slept for ten hours. I woke feeling rested, warm and comfortable, and having dreamed for hours. It felt so good and pointed me back to the positive experiences and insights I’d had during meditation. I decided to start again from the beginning and, this time, do a formal course in mindfulness, letting a professional teacher guide me back into regular practice. I registered for the classic 8 week mindfulness course with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

I think I now understand why I stopped meditating and why I struggled so much when stress became the dominant feature of life. The context of my original meditation practice had been depression, including emotions of sadness and loss. I’d become very attuned to those thoughts and feelings. As the practice became strong, those issues stopped troubling me and my motivation to practice started to drift. I enjoyed talking with friends about meditation more than actually doing it. When the next crisis hit, it was in the context of stress. Not having a regular meditation practice in place, there was nothing to catch these thoughts and feelings in-flight. It seemed that the benefits of meditation, which still applied in regard to depression and sadness, had disappeared.

I restarted my meditation practice from scratch, doing the the basics like body scan and mindfulness of the breath, but this time scanning for the intrusion of stress in my experience. Doing the formal course kept me honest – I had homework to do and reported back in the weekly sessions. Knowing how effective the practice was the first time, I felt confident that the apparently solid wall of stress would turn out to be something I could work with.

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TW πŸ“š Reading Now

πŸ“š The Book of Joy – The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

Just seeing the names The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu was enough for me to crave this book. They are two inspiring examples of living and leading peacefully in the face of extreme unfairness, while maintaining their capacity for joy in life. They possess the quality of living life in its full dynamic range. How do they do that?

From the book:

Despite their hardships – or, as they would say, because of them – they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

Their conversations show that they do indeed live life in its full dynamic range. They experience great compassion and great joyfulness and fun.

They offer us a reason to be optimistic:

No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.

Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday.

By showing us where happiness more reliably comes from, they offer us agency, if we are willing to undertake the training of heart and mind:

Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It resides only in the human mind and heart.

The pillars of joy are:

1 – Perspective: There are many different angles

2 – Humility: I tried to look humble and modest

3 – Humor: Laughter, joking is much better

4 – Acceptance: The only place where change can begin

5 – Forgiveness: Freeing ourselves from the past

6 – Gratitude: I am fortunate to be alive

7 – Compassion: Something we want to become

8 – Generosity: We are filled with joy

I wonder if the 8 pillars of joy describe a process of transforming stress and worry. Perspective, humility, humour and acceptance being ways to disentangle ourselves from the immediacy of our problems. Forgiveness and gratitude enable us to turn back towards life. Compassion and generosity are ways of acting in the world in a wiser way that gives us back our agency.

We are encouraged to practice and find out for ourselves:

You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives. We hope you will discover whether what is included here is true by applying it in your own life.

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TW 🎲 Pierre’s Blog

🎲 How To Get More Bass From AirPods Pro

Smile!


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TW 🎲 Pierre’s Blog

🎲 The Racially Diverse Emoji Didn’t Work For Me

When I chose the little icons I use to distinguish the topics in this website, I had a choice of a variety of skin colours, from Caucasian to dark.

However, the light brown face that most closely matched my own skin colour came equipped with a moustache.

I turns out that, forced to make a choice, I identify more as not wearing a moustache than I do with my own skin colour.


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TW 🎲 Pierre’s Blog

🎲 Why Do I Believe What Scientists Say?

I chose science subjects at school, but I’m not a research scientist. Even if I was, I wouldn’t have the time to do all the reading necessary to come to an opinion about the various important debates of the day. So why do I think that the earth isn’t flat? Why aren’t I ambivalent about scientific conspiracy theories?

At school and college, there were the classes and then there was time in the library. I would read magazines such as New Scientist and Scientific American, and biographical books about famous physicists, chemists and mathematicians. What I absorbed was an image of the working life of scientists.

There is the discipline of the scientific method and a global community that communicates to support and to challenge each others’ work. It isn’t perfect, but at some point in the process the community may come to accept a certain view as being the most reliable one.

This is the process that I trust.

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TW πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» Behind The Scenes

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» Getting Started With My Website

The three decisions I made to get from no website to an empty website, ready to start writing were:

  1. Use WordPress as the CMS
  2. Use Pressable as the website host
  3. Make a single website to cover multiple projects

Pressed into WordPress

WordPress is a mess. However, it’s the most commonly used content management system. That means there are a lot of plugins for adding extra features, such as automated tweeting, that make the website run the way I want it to.

Semi-impressed by Pressable

I chose Pressable as my WordPress host because I wanted support from the people that make WordPress.com but with the ability to stage changes in a clone of the site before putting them into production.

They use the same servers as WordPress.com, so I expect them to be reliable. They also have the same quality of support people as WordPress.com, and I’ve found them to be very helpful.

I was disappointed that the built-in backup was only once per day rather than the real time backup that I know they also can provide. The double whammy with the daily backup is that you can’t encourage the backups to happen in a given timeframe, so the backup might happen in the middle of your working day. I’d rather set a batch of tasks, get them done and then know they were part of a set of work. Either they’d all be in production or they’d all be backed out by the restore, but not half and half because the backup happened halfway through a task.

One Website To Rule Them All

I thought about having separate websites for each of the things I write about. This would allow me to use a theme and a set of plugins ideal for each topic. An alternative was to use a single WordPress multi-site. In the end, I decided to use a single site because the content ideas are evolving and I imagine I’ll rearrange the same content many times until I’ve figured out how it’s all going to fit together.