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On Presence and Meditation 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I practice Presence?”

“The goal is for it to become a habit.

Use James Clear’s four rules as a guide.

Make it obvious. (Cue)
Make it attractive. (Craving)
Make it easy. (Response)
Make it satisfying. (Reward)”

“How can I make it easy?”

“As we’ve talked before [<link; medium read], the Meditation practice is the fundamental unit of the Presence practice. Thinking of the Presence practice in terms of rep(etition)s, it consists of ‘meditation-reps‘, and every meditation-rep consists of what I called ‘attentional-reps‘.

Let’s turn our attention to Meditation.

There’s two ways you can structure it:

By focusing on time. eg ‘Meditate for 5 minutes.’ 

By focusing on breaths. eg ‘Meditate for 5 breaths.'”

“How about focusing on activity? Performing an activity as meditation.
eg ‘eating-meditation’, or ‘dish-washing-meditation’, or ‘shower-meditation’.”

“The idea of making it easy is to make it too small to fail, to ensure consistency of practice. To do that, you need scalable structures, structures of adjustable length. You need to be able to identify the smallest possible unit – the ‘atom‘, so to speak. 

The atom of the Meditation practice is 1 breath. I call it the 1-breath meditation.

Not only is it doable anywhere at any time, but it also incorporates the breath into the practice, which is a powerful tool on its own.”

“By why focus on time at all, and not just on breaths?”

“There’s a Buddhist meditation practice – which I know from Mark Divine’s book Unbeatable Mind – of counting to 10 breaths. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, you start back from zero.

There’s two principles at work here: mindful breaths, and counting breaths. We could call mindful breaths quality reps. These are the only ones worth counting.

I find counting breaths very useful, because it’s a way to assess how well you’re doing, which allows you to practice more deliberately. Ideally, count using your fingers, not mentally.

As long as you’re counting breaths, focusing on time works just as well.

There’s three ways you can go about it.

You can count to a set number. Meditate for x breaths. This can take a long or short time, based on the chosen number, and how well you’re doing.

You can count to a set time. Meditate for y minutes. Get as many mindful reps in as you can in that time-frame. It can be 5 minutes (5-minute meditation), it can even be just 1 minute (1-minute meditation).

You can count to a set number and a set time. Meditate for x breaths or y minutes, whichever comes first.


Modular Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“One of the biggest stumbling blocks when trying to initiate an action is getting started.

I like to think of it in terms of ‘mental chunking‘. The larger a chunk you mentally represent an action as, the harder an obstacle it seems to overcome, so the harder it is to get started. Human beings seem to have an uncanny ability to create and exaggerate mental obstacles for themselves.

Building on that, what’s the difference between a 20-minute block of time and four 5-minute block of time? On the surface, there isn’t any. But in terms of mental chunking, the difference is huge.

This can be used strategically.”


Think in 5-minute time blocks.

There are several benefits to it.

Let’s take meditation. The small chunks make it more likely to initiate the practice. The end of a 5-minute block can serve as a reminder to bring your wandering attention back to your ‘anchor’, your point of focus.”

“Like a ‘backup anchor’.”


Focusing on meditation as a practice, you can (metaphorically) think of the blocks as rep[etition]s. This can give a better sense of progress: ‘I’ve completed one more rep’. If your attention was completely off focus during a rep, if time allows, you can squeeze one more rep in. It’s also a way to create small wins throughout the day.

For me however, the most important benefit is that you can make each 5-minute block themed. For instance, you can have one dedicated to affirmations, one to gratitude, etc. You can think of them as modules. Even better, you can think of them as reusable modules, which you can combine and play with to create beautiful structures.

For instance you can alternate still and moving meditation blocks, creating a beautiful oscillation. Or you can have a balancing-meditation block, followed by tree-climbing-meditation block, followed by one whose theme is contemplation of Beauty.”

“What if I wanted to use 10-minute blocks?”

“The length of the blocks is not set in stone. It’s just one more parameter to play and experiment with.”

Macro Meditation

It’s all Meditation.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is macro meditation?

The essence of meditation lies in self-compassion and kind acceptance. Noticing your attention has wandered, and gently bringing it back to your point of focus.

The same principle can be metaphorically (and pragmatically) applied at the life macro level. Noticing you have wandered from the Path, and gently bringing yourself back to it.

I like to call these micro- and macro-meditation.

The initial quote linguistically encodes this idea, and I use it as a mantra to invoke it when the situation calls for it.

Also, every day can be thought of as a macro meditation.

I like Leo Gura’s concept of ‘the waking daze‘, the auto-pilot mode we’re in most of the time, and his distinction between low- and high-consciousness.

Just like in meditation the aim is to maintain your point of focus for as long as possible, in the day-level macro meditation, the aim is to maintain the high-consciousness state for as long as possible throughout the day.

What is the point of focus for your macro meditation?