Tag Archive | Priming

The Essence of Meditation

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the essence of meditation?”

“Haven’t we gone through this already?”

“We’re going to keep going through this until I manage to implement it.”

“There’s five aspects to it:

Intention-Setting

Focus-Point

Meta-Awareness
Response
Return

Intention-Setting is essentially Priming. This is how you initiate the practice. You can set the intention ahead of time (eg I’m going to meditate immediately after I wake up), or in the moment (eg I’m going to perform this action as meditation).

Focus-Point refers to choosing one point of focus and trying to maintain your attention on it. I say ‘trying’ because your attention will INEVITABLY wander.

The last three combined form the core of the practice. Thinking in terms of rep(etition)s, like in physical training, combined they constitute one quality-rep – or beautiful-rep, as I like to call it.

Meta-Awareness refers to noticing that your attention has wandered.

Response refers to managing your reaction to it. The keys here are Non-Judgmental Acceptance, and Loving Kindness.

Return refers to gently bringing your attention back to your focus-point.

A beautiful focus-point is the breath. But it can be the sensations in your body, an emotion, or anything else. You can choose any item in your environment and focus on it.

These are the purely technical aspects of the practice. Consistently perform quality-reps of it and you can get great benefits. However you can upgrade [<link; short] it by turning it into a spiritual practice.”

“How?”

Make every single meditation a Loving Meditation.

You’re thus imbuing the practice with Meaning.

Love is a meta-practice.

Using the macro/micro model, we might think of Love as the macro focus-point, and of your chosen point of focus as the micro focus-point.

Or, using the foreground/background model, we might think of Love as the background, and of your chosen point of focus as the foreground.”

Dominant Questions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Whenever we ask a question, we’re ‘opening a mental process‘ [<link; short length], and our subconscious mind is working on it in the background. 

Using a different model, this is a kind priming – I call it question-priming. Asking a question mobilizes the Reticular Activation System (RAS) – which is essentially our pattern-recognition system.

We can open multiple processes at the same time.

Some are meaningful signal, others are useless noise.

Some give a more powerful signal than others – Jim Kwik calls these, dominant questions.

Some operate on short time-frames, others on very long time-frames. Some can even last a lifetime.”

“What are your current dominant questions?”

“They are three:

How can you master Thinking? How can you become a Super Thinker?

How can you optimize Learning? How can you maximize Learning efficiency?

How can you beautify this moment?

You can metaphorically think of them as ‘levels of magnification‘. This is an instance of hierarchization [<link; medium].”

Daily Recommitment

The human spirit is like a campfire. You need to re-light it EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Brian Johnson)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“As part of my morning activation-ritual, I start every single day by reading a selection of powerful writings.”

“What are they?”

“As a reflection of my love of reading, I like to think of them as a little book – a mini-book –, which has five chapters:

Identity
Soul Quests
Heroes
The Beautiful Game
Beautiful Practice

Identity reminds me of who I want to be and who I am at my best.
Soul Quests reminds me of my Purpose and direction.
Heroes reminds me of the people I look up to and who I want to model.
The Beautiful Game reminds me of my playful essence.
Beautiful Practice reminds me of what I’m focusing on in my practice.”

“Do you have them written down?”

“No, because I’m constantly refining them, adding and removing things. Well, more removing then adding at this stage. My tendency is to add too many things, but this makes it too long to read. I’m constantly asking myself:

What can I eliminate?
Is this essential?

I read them in Google Keep.” 

“Why Google Keep?”

“I like the simplicity of it, I like that it’s free, that it allows me to have them saved in the cloud, and that I can access them on my phone.

The latest iteration looks like this:

On Experience and Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are the boundaries of experience?”

“We can make a distinction between macro-experience and micro-experience.

An event, such as going to the cinema, is a macro-experience. The boundaries of the experience are the boundaries of the event.
Micro-experience is the moment-to-moment experience, whatever’s happening now

Any macro-experience is a string of micro-experiences.

When you say ‘experience’ I’m guessing you’re referring to micro-experience.”

“Yes.”

“One boundary of experience is what we can perceive, using all our senses:

Visual
Auditory
Kinaesthetic
Olfactory
Gustatory

We might call this the perceptual-range.

Another boundary of experience is what we do perceive, what we’re actually aware of in any given moment. This is influenced by two things: attention and meaning.

We are aware of what we attend to.
We attend to what we consider meaningful.”

“How can I improve the quality of experience?”

“Slow down. You thus create space for savoring the experience.

Use all senses. The more you use, the richer the experience.

Improve the quality of your attention. By that I mean the capacity to maintain attention on one thing. This can be trained through meditation.

Intentionally look at life through a filter of meaning. The key here is intentionality. We do look at life through a filter of meaning by default. It’s important to take control of this process. One way to do this is by deliberately using linguistic lenses [<link; medium length] – or, as I like to call them, ‘reality-filters‘. By thinking of them, you prime yourself for their use.”

“I think it’s useful to distinguish between lenses and filters.

Filters are a subtractive process. A narrowing down of possibilities in the field of experience.
Lenses are an additive process. Like an overlay to the experience itself.”

“I like the distinction.”

“What is the most powerful lens you know?”

“The Lens of the Sacred.”

Lenses

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I’m currently reading a beautiful book about game design called The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses [<link] by Jesse Schell.”

“How come you’re reading about game design?”

I think of my life as a Game [<link; medium length]. I approach it from the perspective of both a Player and a Designer. I want to get better at both.

I love Jesse’s approach to game design. He has distilled the essence of the art to a number of principles (100+). He introduces them one by one, gradually painting a map that ties them all together by the end of the book.

He calls the principles lenses (which are essentially models). 
The lenses are tools. Once activated (which is essentially priming), they allow the designer to see the game with different eyes.

The lenses have a certain structure: the lens’s title, followed by a short description, followed by a number of questions. He has even created physical cards for each. They look like this:

I think this is brilliant. It inspired me to create something similar for my Beautiful Game.

I’ve also included lenses in the classification of models that I’m working on. Lenses are perceptual models, models that influence one’s perception of reality. I also like to call them reality filters.”

Your Heroes as Resource

Bring your heroes to mind when you feel tempted to do silly impulsive, distracting things. (Brian Johnson)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“This is such a powerful tool. But I keep forgetting to use it.“

“The more often you bring your Heroes to mind, the more present they will be in your mind, so the higher the chance of remembering to do it when in need.

Make it part of your daily priming. 
Have a list of the Heroes who most inspire you [80/20], and look at it often.

To make it easier to bring to mind, identify the top three:

Who are your top three Heroes?

Why-Priming

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I keep failing to take breaks.

Why do you think that is?“

It’s hard to disengage from my work.

Why?

I forget. I forget why I want to take breaks.

One of the presuppositions of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) is that,

People are always doing the best they can with the resources available to them.

The resource in this case is the Why. When you fail to take breaks, the resource is simply unavailable. And this applies to any instance where we go astray from our lofty ideals.

Forgetfulness is inevitable.

We can illustrate it with a model:

Surface level (Conscious)
Undersurface level (Active Unconscious)
Deep level (Passive Unconscious)

At any one time, we can only process a very small amount of information consciously. To keep with the water metaphor, think of an opening in the ice covering a frozen lake. Only a limited number of water creatures can surface at the same time. For a new one to surface, another one has to submerge. However the creatures closer to the surface have the highest chance of surfacing.

To use another model, the Conscious is an information bottleneck.

Through priming, information is temporarily moved to the Active Unconscious, which makes it readily available.

To use another model, the Active Unconscious is a buffer zone.

To stop forgetting to take breaks, prime yourself with the Why of it at the beginning of every work session.

I call this technique why-priming.

Daily Rituals 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Viewed through the 80/20 (Pareto) filter, what’s the most important part of the day, the 20%?”

“The beginning and the end. Those are the parts you have most control over. They give the day structure and momentum. I like to think of them as the AM and PM Rituals.”

“What’s your process for creating them?”

“I start with two questions:

What do you want to think?
What do you want to do?

As concerns the thinking, there’s two aspects to it:

How do you want to think about the process in the moment? [as a means to make it meaningful]

eg

The process as Ritual
The process as
Meditation

What’s the first thing you want to think when you wake up in the morning?
What’s the first thing you want to think when you close your eyes at night?

You can have a (slightly different) little mantra for each.

eg

I want to start and end the day with Love and Gratitude, so my mantra has the structure:

Good morning/night Dani
Love mantra
Gratitude mantra

As concerns the doing, this has to do with creating sequences of specific actions. You can think of them as checklists. You can start by having them written down, until you internalize them.

eg

AM Ritual:
Making bed
Drinking water
Meditation
Activation [
energizing yourself]
– Mental: Writing / Journaling
– Physical: Moving
Priming [
readying your Compass]
– Recommitment
[Purpose, Goals]

PM Ritual:
Reflection on the day
– Writing / Journaling
Preparation for the next day
Priming [
something for your mind to work on over night]
– MIQ (Most Important Question)
Meditation

“Does the order in which you do them matter?”

“It doesn’t.

Play with them, experiment.
Experiment with the content,
experiment with the sequencing,
experiment with the duration,
until you find the structure that works best for you.

One important aspect is to not just go through the motions. 

How you do them is as important as doing them. 

Strive to do them mindfully, to be totally present in the doing. That’s the purpose of thinking of the entire process as Meditation. You can even ask yourself at the end:

How present was I?

On Recommitment and Stacking

The human spirit is like a campfire. You need to re-light it EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Brian Johnson)


Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“Do I really need to do it every day? Why not every few days?”

“Because this is a powerful practice. It’s a reminder of your highest aspirations and a daily recommitment. If you make it a part of your morning ritual, it also activates and primes you for the day. You can think of it as a kind of stacking

Regardless of whether you do it in the morning or not, it’s highly worth turning into a daily habit. I even added it to my habit-tracker.”

“What does your practice look like?”

“I have a selection of deeply meaningful writings which I’ve been refining (and simplifying) for a long time now. I read them slowly, lovingly, and gratefully.Identity

Identity [<link; medium read]
Values
Soul Quests (deeply meaningful goals)
Meta-Beliefs
Macro-Focus (what I’m focusing on at a macro level)
Powerful Quotes
etc.

You can make the practice more powerful by – stacking – listening to music while doing it. I have a playlist with a selection of the most powerful music I know – which I’ve also been refining (and simplifying) for a long time. It serves as a kind of background for the practice.

And you can further optimize the practice by doing it while squatting, thus also turning it into movement practice. Yet more stacking.”


P.S. If you’re curious what my playlist sounds like, you can listen to it here [<link].

Beautiful Models: Focused/Diffuse Thinking

To turn it on, learn to turn it off. (Josh Waitzkin)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is Focused/Diffuse Thinking?”

“Focused/Diffuse Thinking is a beautiful idea I know from Barbara Oakley’s wonderful book A Mind for Numbers about learning how to learn.   

Focused Thinking is a state of concentration, of deep focused attention.
Diffuse Thinking is a state of relaxation.

When people think of problem-solving, they usually tend to think only of the former. However, counterintuitively, the optimal approach requires both: thinking deeply about the problem, and letting it go. 

Focused/Diffuse Thinking is an oscillation between the two.

Taking distance from the problem leaves room for the subconscious mind to work on it in the background and make intuitive leaps.”

“So it’s a kind of priming.”

“Yes.

Not taking distance from the problem prevents the subconscious mind from doing its magic.

Moreover, Focused Thinking is energy intensive and cannot be sustained for long periods of time. Breaking away from the problem, conserves energy.

I’d go so far as to say the Focused/Diffuse oscillation is essential. In optimizing it you’re optimizing creative-efficiency and energy-efficiency at the same time.”