New music Friday!

Happy happy happy Friday!

This week I’m happy to share with you a playlist of some of the chill electronic music I’ve been making lately. If it strikes your fancy, maybe bookmark it so you can grab a quick meditative moment at work or on the go.

Hope you have an amazing day!

-Schlomo

Against epiphanies

Happy Monday!

I want to make the weird argument this week that we should pay less attention to our epiphanies. Or at least put less stock in them.

Epiphanies are those “aha” moments when you suddenly grasp something you didn’t before, maybe without even realizing you didn’t know it in the first place. They come as sudden waves of knowledge, normally the kind that can change your life.

Except…is that realistic?

I remember learning once in Russian class that it takes your brain 75 exposures to a word for it to become part of your useful vocabulary, i.e., that you can use it and understand it when other people use it. It makes sense; if you could just hand someone a list of words and they learned them instantly, we wouldn’t need foreign-language degree programs.

Our brains don’t fully capture and absorb all the information they’re receiving from the outside world, and there’s no reason to expect the same from our inner world. (You can peep this cool talk for more on how our consciousness is both outside-in and inside-out.)

So then what of epiphanies? These jolts of mind-bending information that can bowl over our belief systems?

Well, what about five minutes later when you’re thinking literally the opposite thing?

Bad, you tell yourself, god, it’s like I had that epiphany for nothing. I sure am stupid and useless!

What! No! You just stop that right there! – and believe, I’m mostly talking to myself.

Your mind played a weird trick on you and now you’re pissed off at yourself for being a normal person. You’re not wasting an epiphany, you are having a human brain.

I don’t mean that we can’t receive important messages from wherever you believe important messages come from via epiphany, but it’s unfair to expect the reception of the message to be the same thing as living it.

Because you might receive the crystal-clear message that you could be happy if you just stopped blaming yourself for the past, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to shake your head and forgive yourself for the past. It means that you’ve got work to do.

We think of epiphanies as our brains instantly downloading and applying an important software upgrade, but I think they’re more like a post-it note with a suggestion to go software shopping.

Epiphanies say YOU CAN DO THIS NOW, while you’re brain is saying something else entirely, and the feeling of doing nothing and feeling upset about it is the average of those two things. So what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Don’t try to live your whole life based on a passing thought. Because, just like all our thoughts, epiphanies are fleeting. (And probably everyone over the age of 16 knows epiphanies aren’t always even good ideas!)

Instead, if it really does seem like a good idea five minutes later when you’re calm, accept the epiphany as a goal. See it as a place you’re going, not as a place you should be now. Think of the epiphany as your brain advertising a sunnier side of itself to the part of your brain that holds the passport and credit cards. You’ve seen the brochure, now you can think about booking a trip.

And always remember your “travel agents” – your journal, your friends, your pets, your walls, your therapist or online/mobile therapy service (*not a sponsor/not an endorsement*) – anything or anyone that can help you get where you want to be.

TLDR: sometimes you have to overwrite memory to incorporate new programming. Let epiphanies be a process, not an event.

What’s your experience with epiphanies? Let us know in the comments!


Monday bonus link: The evolutionary history of your incredibly awkward feelings

Mindful Monday for March 27, 2017

Happy Mindful Monday! This week:

Spreading MS awareness through yoga: Fox 2 Detroit speaks with yoga therapist, author and entrepreneur Mindy Eisenberg, director of Yoga Moves MS, who highlights her organizations efforts to help those with MS and similar conditions through yoga practice.

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Dr. Stanley Rodski highlights “colourtation,” a practice named following findings that five minutes a day coloring can have benefits similar to an hour of meditation.

In the ever-developing world of animal yoga, CNN this week highlights cat yoga:

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[Not actual cat yoga. lol]

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Cari Vander Yacht

And finally this week, the New Yorker offers a little satire with Puritan Yoga.

Say hi in the comments, and let us know how you’re being mindful this week!

Jack Donaghy: guru?

A lot of people – maybe Americans – seem to view mindfulness a lot like Jack Donaghy:

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Having never meditated before, Jack exhorts himself into an altered state and discovers the answer he seeks just by seeking.

Bad news: it doesn’t work that way.

That part’s probably intuitive, though. It’s funny to us that Jack thinks he can meditate perfectly by saying “meditate perfectly,” because even those who don’t meditate get that that’s probably not how it works.

Today I’d rather talk about the implications of this, though.

Even though a lot of us understand that mindfulness requires practice, diligence, and attention, and even though we know it is a pursuit that some people spend a lifetime engaged in, always growing, nevertheless: we still get pissed off at ourselves when we don’t “meditate perfectly.”

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I submit this comes from applying consumer logic to wellness. In the market, we’re driven to buy things that meet our needs and desires. The acquiring of a thing is equivalent to the enjoyment of a thing.

Mindfulness culture has a strong consumer component, too. You can’t pet a live cat without self-help books, meditation workshops, crystals and soothing candles all clamoring for your money and attention. In our society, you can go to a bookstore and buy enlightenment… right?

The tin never says, “involves lifetime commitment to difficult, arduous practice that will challenge your assumptions about yourself and the world.” The tin always says “be a better mom, lover, and business partner in three hours!”

We’re familiar with “some assembly required,” so we’re often willing to put in those three hours. And when those three hours don’t work out, we might be willing to put in three more hours to have someone tell us why the first three hours were never going to work. Any multiple of three hours later, has anything had an effect?

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So damn, maybe you think. Look what I’ve done. I’ve spent this money, and this time, and I’m still unhappy. I meditated like three times and I still have problems!

THESE CRYSTALS ARE BROKEN!

It sounds funny, but if you’re anything like me, you can really beat yourself up about this.

When you want to buy a TV, you buy a TV. It doesn’t take years to realize the benefits of having bought a television. You plug it in, you get your S.O. to figure out how to connect it to all the other devices, and in half an hour, you’ve got a TV.

It’s just not the same for inner calm. You have to understand that you can meditate and have a panic attack on the same day, and it doesn’t mean that 1) you’re bad at meditation or that 2) meditation isn’t worth it.

You can go to yoga and still end up flipping someone off in traffic. You can drink chamomile every waking minute of every day and still not be able to abide your mother-in-law.

Becoming aware of mindfulness doesn’t make you mindful in the way that buying a TV makes you the owner of a TV. And you didn’t “do it wrong” if you failed to attain nirvana within 12 minutes of deciding to try mindfulness.

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When I was 19, I went with the Jewish outreach organization Chabad House to New Orleans to help clean up after Katrina. I used to tell this story more often (it’s been over a decade since then), but back then I noticed people always asked, “did you build houses/work with Habitat for Humanity?”

We did briefly work with Habitat for Humanity for a day, but in most of New Orleans when I was there, it wasn’t time for that yet. Most of our days were spent tearing down existing structures left standing by the storm but so damaged as to never be livable again.

You can’t build fresh on top of rubble. It’s in the way. It will spoil new plans. And you can’t expect yourself to build a fresh new psyche – in minutes or hours, no less – on top of everything that’s happened to you in your life.

You will have to clear the rubble away. You’ll have to scrub and disinfect and then shower and wake up and do it all tomorrow. You will. But if you stop thinking you can and should do it all in an afternoon, the journey will be that much easier.