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Meditation’s biggest secret

It actually works.

Crazy ey?

It seems a strange activity. Unnatural. This put me off meditation for years- it just doesn’t seem like something we’re designed to do.

Yet that’s the point. 

To explain what I mean let’s turn to the biggest cliche in psychology- we are not built for 21st century life. We’re built for the simple life of a hunter gatherer yet here we are.

The result? We’re dramatically over stimulated. We’re drowning in a constant stream of activity. 

Meditation then, is simply a tool to bring us back to our default. To de-stimulate.

It’s always interesting to hear “meditation is not for me, I can’t concentrate on it..” It’s the equivalent of “exercise is not for me, I’m too unfit!”

One can always start. However small. 

There’s Always More

How on earth can we keep up with all the work?

There’s a simple solution.

Don’t.

The working world today is hectic. We’re inundated with emails, slack messages, requests from our boss, not to mention the stream of notifications from social media.

It’s a full time job just replying!

There’s the problem- that’s all we do. We’re so engrossed in our ever growing workload that we fail to stop and see the bigger picture. 

What are we actually trying to achieve?

Last year I ran Growth (marketing) for a tech startup. 

The goal? To grow the customer base.

My time? I put together an elaborate strategy involving numerous initiatives. Myself, along with a four person team then spent the year running experiments, building campaigns, dealing with stakeholders.

The results? Nothing. I may as well have spent the year sleeping under my desk. 

All that work was in fact detrimental. I was so focused on my marketing strategy that I was blinded to the fact that it was a complete waste of time.

Granted, many in that position would have fared better.

However, I suspect I’m not alone. We’re so focused on getting work done that we lose sight of whether we should be doing it in the first place.

Restarting

One we stop it’s tricky to restart.

Hobbies or habit.s can slip for a week or so and they become just a weight at the back of our minds 

“I really should pick that up again.”

I found this with blogging in fact! A couple of days off slipped in to weeks. Fortunately I stumble upon a solution: Restart.

Just get started. 

The best time is now. 

Exercise, healthy eating, a long lost friendship- whatever it is. It’s never too late to restart.

Stop

The antidote to busyness.

When I’m overrun I find my natural reaction is to throw more work at it.

The solution is usually the opposite of this.

Stop.

When I stop, I’ll often find I’ve been running in the wrong direction entirely. Sometimes for weeks or months. Or years…

You’re never too busy to stop.

Idleness

Via Bertrand Russell’s amusing “In Praise of Idleness

“Every one knows the story of the traveler in Naples who saw twelve beggars lying in the sun (it was before the days of Mussolini), and offered a lira to the laziest of them. Eleven of them jumped up to claim it, so he gave it to the twelfth.”

Excellent.

A lesson in that perhaps?

The lost art of leisure

Whatever happened to leisure?

Author Ryan Holiday defines leisure as- “freedom from the work needed to survive, freedom for intellectual or creative pursuits.”

Many of history’s greatest figures, from Ben Franklin to Churchill, took leisure seriously. Reading, writing, painting, socialising, walking even, all scheduled into their days.

Leisure is following our curiosity and delighting in the world around us.

Yet today, it has been replaced by seeking stimulation.

From binging Netflix to scrolling through Social Media, our downtime is today about stoking our overstimulated minds to drown out the stresses of everyday life.

The cost?

We no longer get the restoration leisure once provided.

Costly indeed.

The upside of getting it wrong

On Thursday we (Unplugged) tried to install our first cabin.

Unsuccessfully.

At time of writing it’s sitting abandoned at the side of a (quiet) road in Hertfordshire.

Fingers crossed no one steals it.

So what went wrong?

We took a gamble.

The site we chose is accessible across 200m of arable field.

This poses a problem for a 25tn lorry carrying an additional 8tns of cabin. Yet we weren’t too worried- “It’s June, it’ll be bone dry” we thought.

Cue a week of storms.

Initially I was agitated. Another £1.5k to finish the job next week. Plus a further delay.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m seeing the upside of getting it wrong. The more we f**k up for this first cabin the better (in reason).

Because now is the perfect time to learn.

We have no experience of cabins. No experience of solar panelling, land dealings, farms, the list goes on. And whilst a successful install would teach us some of the above, it is in failure that we really dig in and see the truth.

Viewed through this lens, the situation becomes rather enjoyable.

In fact, short of the cabin being stolen or trashed, I hope we have a few more upsets along the way.

Default State

When was the last time you took a digital detox?

Give it a try!

I’ve started switching off my devices between 6pm and 9am.

What I’ve noticed (after the initial anxiety subsides) is an unusual sense of calm and level headedness.

“That’s strange.” I thought on one occasion. “Where’s this come from?”

Then I realised my mistake:

This is our natural state.

We ‘re designed to be calm and level headed (when not being chased by a lion).

Yet due to the overstimulation of life in 2020, we rarely experience this! Instead we’re a jumpy bundle of nerves.

Unplug. Try it.