Category Archives: meditation

How To Lose Your Mind

Losing your mind is usually associated with diminishing mental health — that’s not what I’m encouraging here. Instead, consider the perspective that all pain comes from the mind.

As Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself says,

“When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, “What should I do about it?” Ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?”…”Eventually you will see that the real cause of the problem is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.”

This goes along with the buddhist idea that,

“Attachment is the root of suffering.”

There are certain activities that naturally cause us to feel like we’ve ‘lost our minds’ — or in other words, cause us to detach from the labels, worldviews and interpretations that we’ve developed over our lives, and be deeply centered in the present moment. Mosh pits, deep work, movie cliffhangers — these experiences teach us that losing our minds is possible. But too often we fail to see these experiences as a glimpse of what our minds are capable of and use them only as distractions to cover up temporarily what is bothering us.

It’s impossible to be distracted to the point of avoiding all pain — but not for lack of trying. A study has shown that people would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts:

“For 15 minutes, the team left participants alone in a lab room in which they could push a button and shock themselves if they wanted to. The results were startling: Even though all participants had previously stated that they would pay money to avoid being shocked with electricity, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict it on themselves rather than just sit there quietly and think”

What if instead of constantly seeking more distraction as a way of avoiding suffering, there was a way to train your mind to not let thoughts cause suffering in the first place? This is the promise made by Vipassana meditation, where concentration on breathing is used as a tool to sharpen awareness of the illusion that thoughts and feelings are real. Meditation gradually cultivates mindfulness and awareness of the inner workings of reality itself — to lose your mind in everyday life.

Instagram – How To Get Outside The Aura

This supercut of cliche instagram travel photos reminds me on Don Delillo’s book White Noise.

It’s the chapter where Jack and Murray, both professors at a midwest college, go to see “the most photographed barn in America.” On the drive to the barn they see five signs touting the barn and when they get there they see 40 cars and a tourbus, everyone snapping pictures of the barn. After a moment of taking it all in Murray says, “No one sees the barn.”

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”

He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.

“We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.

“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”

Another silence ensued.

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.

He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re part of the aura. We’re here, we’re now.”

He seemed immensely pleased by this.

I love this. We don’t live in reality. We live in a version of reality that’s been translated by out minds. We label and categorize and compare and observe a version that’s solely in our heads. And these judgemental, biased thoughts are the source of our suffering.

Chuck Palahniuk in his book Choke makes the same observation:

“That big glorious mountain. For one transitory moment, I think I may have actually seen it.” For one flash, the Mommy had seen the mountain without thinking of logging and ski resorts and avalanches, managed wildlife, plate tectonic geology, microclimates, rain shadow, or yin-yang locations. She’d seen the mountain without the framework of language. Without the cage of associations. She’d seen it without looking through the lens of everything she knew was true about mountains.
What she’d seen in that flash wasn’t even a “mountain.” It wasn’t a natural resource. It had no name.
“That’s the big goal”, she said. “To find a cure for knowledge”.
For education. For living in our heads.
Ever since the story of Adam and Eve in the bible, humanity had been a little too smart for its own good, the Mommy said. Ever since eating that apple. Her goal was to find, if not a cure, then at least a treatment that would give people back their innocence.
“The cerebral cortex, the cerebellum”, she said, “that’s where your problem is”.
If she could just get down to using only her brain stem, she’d be cured.
This would be somewhere beyond happiness and sadness.
You don’t see fish agonized by wild mood swings.
Sponges never have a bad day.”

The pessimistic stance is the one Murray takes when he says you can’t know what the barn really looks like because you’ve read the signs and seen the people snapping the pictures. You can’t get outside the aura.

Meditation promises that you can, in fact, get outside of the aura. With enough training you can elevate your mind to be above the commotion the mind makes — clinging to desires and avoiding pain — and see things as they really are. You can have a present, conscious and deliberate direction of awareness. Making it possible to see the barn.

Boredom is at the root of device addiction, meditation is the cure

The verdict appears to be in: smartphones are ruining us. They’re making kids depressed, causing parents to neglect their kidsripping our society apart  and ruining our attention spans.

As a result Apple shareholders recently wrote a public letter to Apple, petitioning the company to make changes to it’s devices.

France is making rules to outlaw phones in schools for kids 15 years old and younger.


These are welcome attempts at solving the problem. But ultimately each of us has to acknowledge how our devices are manipulating us and take responsibility for our device consumption. And it isn’t an easy task because social media apps sink their hooks in deep. They’re designed to take advantage of our brain’s vulnerabilities.

Being proactive about taking back your mind from these devices requires going on the offensive; not unlike deliberately avoiding the ice cream isle if you want to lose weight, you need to disable notifications, leave your phone in a different room or remove apps from your phone altogether. But I think there is still a root problem here that will always be working against our efforts to thwart device addiction — boredom.


The threat of boredom has never been more real, no thanks to our devices training us to always be stimulated. And it shows: waiting in line, while taking a break or between sentences in conversation with friends, the phone is out — the ultimate filler.


There are plenty of articles pointing out that boredom is a useful tool. It’s crucial for developing “internal stimulus,” which strengthens the creativity muscles  by allowing us to notice the thoughts and observation boredom sparks.

Boredom has also been cited as a necessary to get good at things. To get good at something takes effort and there’s a stage — sometimes a long stage — that’s tedious. Like composer John Cage is quoted saying,

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”


But what if boredom isn’t something that needs to be used, struggled through or solved at all? Maybe boredom is an invented affliction designed by marketers so they can sell you a solution; similar to the premise of “wearing occasions” — the made up idea from apparel companies to sell you multiple kinds of jackets even though they all do the same thing.


So what is boredom? It’s a label that we’ve put on the feeling of being uncomfortable with ourselves and with what’s in our minds and hearts. Now while there is no diversion good or long-lasting enough to solve this, meditation provides us with a laboratory situation in which we can examine this syndrome and devise strategies for dealing with it — a practice that can leave us never feeling bored again — and therefore never longing for a quick fix from the facebook newsfeed.

In boredom we can see how we ceaselessly run from our problems and after our desires. Buddhism advises you not to implant feelings that you don’t really have or avoid feelings that you do have. If you have a problem, you have a problem; that is the reality, that is what is happening, so confront it.

Look it objectively without flinching. Study the phenomenon and learn its mechanics. The way out of a the boredom trap is to study the trap itself, learn how it is built. You do this by taking the thing apart piece by piece. The trap can’t trap you if it has been taken to pieces. You can come to realize that You are not the boredom. The result is freedom.

The goal of meditation is to learn to control your mind, to step outside of the endless cycle of desire and aversion. You can learn not to want what you want, to recognize desires but not be controlled by them.


In this light, you can swap boredom with presence. Boredom isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something you can do.