Tag Archives: meditation

Find Time To Meditate This Holiday. Tip 7/7 Series 2

Do you meditate? If you’ve often thought about it but never made a start, or it’s something you used to do but now neglect, the winter holidays might be the right time to begin (again).

Those lovely dark afternoons when you’ve already taken a bracing walk outdoors and you’re ready to settle by the fire provide the ideal opportunity to spend some time chilling out on your own if you can. If you’d like a little help to begin, I recommend using an app like Insight Timer, which offers all kinds of experiences from guided meditations, to music, to silent periods punctuated only by bells at the start and end. And if you don’t want to be totally alone, its map will show you who else is meditating alongside you right now, across the world.

meditate

To help you get started, here’s an excerpt from ‘Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ which describes using Insight Timer and tells the story of my online meditations with a group called the Buddhist Geeks.

Coming to your senses: meditation

The practice of meditation stands outside biophilia and environmental psychology, yet it seems to be so obviously relevant to everything in this book. The state of mind it produces is very close to the way we often feel when we’re focused on nature, a feeling which can only be enhanced by mindful and conscious awareness of the moment.

In the autumn of 2013 I decided to learn mindfulness meditation. Years before, I had enjoyed reading ‘Zen Computer’, a light-hearted spiritual guide for the wired user, in which the author Philip Toshio Sudo advises: ‘Don’t ask where the path is. You’re on it.’ In that spirit, I decided to try two different paths for my explorations: Insight Timer, a smartphone app which maps and connects fellow meditators across the world, and The Buddhist Geeks, an online community producing podcasts about dharma, technology, and culture. For both, the chosen spot for contemplation wasn’t a temple or a church hall or a sitting room, but cyberspace.

Insight Timer can be used in a number of ways. At the simplest level, you set the timer and get started on your own. Alternatively, you can choose from a large number of guided meditations. Not only will it log your meditations in a tidy graph, but every time you start a session you appear as another yellow star on its little world map. On my first day, I learned that I was meditating alongside 438 other people across the world. Although it was impossible to pick out individuals, I could see that my fellow meditators were in the US, Europe, down the coast of China, in Australia, and in Africa. I used the app at home most of the time, but occasionally listened with earbuds at a quiet spot outdoors.

So how does it feel to meditate with invisible people? If you have spent a lot of time in virtual worlds, gaming online, or even just chatting in Facebook, you’ll know that there can often be a strong sense of co-presence. I’ve also felt that connection while spending time ‘on the cushion’ next to others in the virtual space of Insight Timer. It’s not so much a sense of connecting with individual people, but more of a mind-meld moment with everyone involved.

Working with the Buddhist Geeks turned out to be intimate in a different way from Insight Timer. At the daily Open Practice sessions, we switched on our webcams and logged into Google Hangout to meditate in small groups. Each thirty minute session was usually attended by around half a dozen members. At the scheduled time we logged in one by one, greeted the others with a smile or hello, then someone quietly tapped a bell and we settled down to our individual meditations.

We sat together but not together. Sometimes we turned off our microphones to avoid making distracting noises, sometimes we kept them on and listened to each other breathing. We were thousands of miles apart, sitting in front of computers, tablets or phones, logged in from homes, offices and gardens. Although we were in different countries and time zones, I somehow felt very close to my companions. We were side by side on the path, being mindful in cyberspace. In many ways it wasn’t very different from the physical meditation meetings where I had shared similar silences.

My experiences of online meditation have made me wonder whether, if we can be together like this in virtual space, can mindfulness be extended to cyborgian or machine space? In other words, rather than meditate in Google, might we some day meditate with Google? Imagine that: entering a mind-meld with the great consciousness which is Google itself.

This is the last of a series of tips I’ve posted every Tuesday for seven weeks, highlighting Christmas gifts and activities which promote digital wellbeing. There are gifts you can enjoy making yourself, as part of your own tech/nature practice, and gifts to buy for the geeky people in your life.

Season’s Greetings and Best Wishes for 2018!

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Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital AgeBuying for geeky friends or family? Here’s the perfect fireside read:  Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age: how to feel better without logging off.

Add Meditation To Your Technature Balance: 3 Books And 2 CDs

Do You Meditate? Want To Start?

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, is in the habit of meditating every day. His company’s new building in San Francisco has a dedicated meditation room on each floor. The design was inspired by a group of Buddhist monks who had visited the old Salesforce offices and were very concerned about the intense levels of activity: “Everywhere we go, everybody’s talking all the time, they’re working all the time, you got to stop this.” (Business Insider).  Speaking at a recent Forbes CIO summit, Benioff explained that he believes the new quiet zones will enhance creative innovation. “employees can put their phones into a basket or whatever, and go into an area where there’s quietness.”

Do you meditate? Perhaps you’ve thought about trying it. Today is always a good day to start, so here are some ideas to help you begin.

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Kindle £8.99*

When I began learning to meditate a few years ago, Jon Kabat-Zinn was my first port of call. I don’t even remember now where I heard about his work, but his research into Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has improved the lives of millions of people. It is used for dealing with pain as well as general stress and anxiety, but Kabat-Zinn’s calm and very un-mystical approach will appeal to all kinds of beginners as well as more experienced meditators looking for fresh thinking.

Even just the title of this book is enough to inspire!

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life

Wherever You Go

Mindfulness for Beginners Audio CD – Audiobook £17.99*

Jon Kabat-Zinn also wrote Mindfulness for Beginners, available as an audio book which includes a number of meditations.  He invites you to “cultivate mindfulness as if your life depended on it, which it surely does”. Also available in other formats including Kindle, paperback, and hardback.

My favourite Kabat-Zinn CD, though, is Guided Mindfulness Meditation £21.25* .  I always really enjoy the Mountain Meditation, which is very strengthening, and the Lake Meditation, which explores embodiment in a really fascinating way.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) £10.55*

Chade-Meng Tan was a Google engineer and mindfulness practitioner. An early employee, he was Google employee number 107 and his job title was Jolly Good Fellow. The company invited him to share his mindfulness techniques with his colleagues, and this book is an account of the work they did together. Could it really be true that Google is underpinned by meditation? See what you think.

Surprisingly, there’s no Kindle edition, but you can dip into the physical world and see how it feels to have the print version sitting in your hand.

Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)

The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide to Meditation by the World’s Most Revered Master £5.99*

This is the book I’ll be trying out in the next few weeks. I’ve heard of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who founded the famous community of Plum Village, but I haven’t yet read his work. The Miracle Of Mindfulness explains how to acquire the skills of mindfulness.

“Once we have these skills, we can slow our lives down and discover how to live in the moment – even simple acts like washing the dishes or drinking a cup of tea may be transformed into acts of meditation.”

*Price at the time of going to press.

Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance – free online course

Tired, distracted and stressed by the pace of modern life? Mindfulness might be the solution. 

Learn mindfulness techniques to reduce stress and improve your wellbeing and work/study performance in this free online course at Monash University. It’s just started but there’s still time to sign up.

Mindfulness is essentially about being more aware and awake in every moment of your life. It is about intentionally paying attention to each moment, being fully engaged in whatever is happening around and within you, with an attitude of friendliness and compassion.

Research shows that when we are not deliberately paying attention to something, our brain clicks off into default mode, which is characterised by mind wandering, operating on “autopilot,” dwelling on the past, and worrying about judgment, criticism and the future.The result can be increased stress and anxiety, poor communication, and impaired academic and occupational functioning.

The great opportunity of this online course is that you can study at your own speed and work with fellow students around the world. Find out more at the website.