The Facebook Toilet Solution

There’s an old Zen proverb, “You should sit in meditation for ten minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

I meditate. Every day. Have done for over 9 years now. I really dig it. Lots of people who know me know that I like meditation. Sometimes I get into conversations with people about meditation. A lot of people seem to be of the opinion that they “should start meditating, but…” That “but” has a variety of follow-ups, but the majority of them are about not having enough time. I call bollocks. This is the one excuse I am no longer willing to accept. Most people seem to think that for meditation to count, you need to spend at least an hour with your legs twisted up on the cushion every day. That’s just not so. Meditation, once you learn how to do it, can be done at a moment’s notice, and even a few moments will make a tremendous difference.

Usually, I tell people who say they don’t have the time to meditate that just ten minutes a day will make a world of difference. Often they follow that up by asking where to get that ten minutes a day.

Here’s an idea: Let’s be honest about something here. There is a (much) better than average chance that you take your smartphone with you when you go to the toilet. There is also a very good chance that, while doing your “business” you spend ten minutes checking Facebook on said phone. (If it’s not Facebook then it’s Twitter, or email, or Google Plus, or Candy Crush, etc.) I would wager that you do this at least twice a day. So, my suggestion for finding the ten minutes a day to meditate is this – Instead of sitting on the toilet checking Facebook for 10 minutes, twice a day, just check Facebook for 5 minutes, twice a day. Presto! You have your ten minutes to meditate. Though I strongly suggest you not meditate on the toilet as that would be very bad for your hips.

The other thing to consider is that, much like exercise, the time you spend meditating will very likely actually give you more time during the day. With a regular meditation practice, you will have better focus, more equanimity, less stress. You will go through your day lighter, and you will make decisions faster. If you are a procrastinator (like me), you will find that you procrastinate less. I am not saying these changes will be huge, or miraculous, but they will be cumulative. Here and there you will pick up extra time, and you’ll get your ten minutes back. You can put those ten minutes a day back into your Facebook time on the toilet, or you might consider meditating for twenty minutes a day. Who knows where that could lead.

photo credit

Manic-Depression for Fun & Profit

Manic-Depression

Manic-depression runs in my family. For some of my relatives it has been a crippling condition. For some it has been lethal. For myself, it has been a long standing condition that colors my reality-tunnel in a number of ways. Thus far I have not had to medicate to manage the condition. I have nothing but good opinions about using meds to deal with clinical depression in all it’s forms. The careful use of prescribed pharmaceuticals have been a great relief for several of my family member, as well as several of my friends. I have simply fallen on the portion of the spectrum where the use of medication is not indicated. So far. Depression can be a progressive disease, and I often take stock of my fluctuating moods to see if I might need that help.

That is not to say that I do not self-medicate to a degree. I do. Mostly that self-medication comes in the form of daily meditation, and frequent journaling. Some may not think of these activities as self-medicating, but I do, and having these tools has helped me a great deal.

This post isn’t about medication though. It’s about a shift in how I operate within a context that contains manic-depression. I have come to see that I have been on a particular cycle that is less than fruitful. One of the less-than-skilled ways in which I operate during the manic cycles it to spend money. Often a bit more than I actually have. That leaves me with the depressive cycle for earning money. Not such a good combination.

So, I am building the habit of reversing this trend. I now focus on doing work that pays when in a manic phase, so that I can enjoy the afforded comforts during my depressive phases.

This all seems like a complete no-brainer, but then again most good epiphanies do in hindsight.

I would not have been able to see this pattern were it not for journaling and daily meditation. I guess they worked! 😉

Photo Credit: Rick Stegeman

Meditation with a K.I.S.S.

Meditation

Recently I had occasion to do the math on how long I have been meditating daily. Of course the number of days is listed via widget on the very site, but I wanted to be able to state it in years. I’ve been meditating for a bit over 7 years and 4 months. Whew! The reason was someone had asked on Facebook for opinions about meditation. I offered mine, and was immediately embroiled in a conversation about why I was wrong. It was quite amusing.

Meditation is a very personal thing. I do happen to think there is a set of activities that qualify as meditation, and as well as a set of activities that do not. That being said, it takes on flavors as needed for each individual practitioner. I feel it’s important to honor that distinctiveness. If we don’t, it’s all to easy to fall into fundamentalism in our practice.

For myself there is a good working definition of meditation. It’s lightweight enough to allow for variance between the needs and proclivities of the practitioner. It also has enough structure to not drift into allowing anything to fit. To come up with it I held firm to the philosophical guideline of, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” This definition is what I tell everyone who asks my advice on meditation.

Here it is – Meditation is staying in one place, for a stated duration of time, moving as little as possible, attending to the contents of the actual moment and situation of the practice period.

Like I said – simple. The one thing I add to this definition, as advice for beginning meditators, is this: The only way to do meditation wrong is to not meditate. As far as I am concerned, if you are intentionally doing something that fits at all into the definition I gave, you are meditating. Once you’ve got a regular practice going (whether that’s once a day, twice a week, or once a month) there are refinements we can get to. Until you’ve got a regular practice going, this bare minimum is sufficient.

As for whether people should meditate, I’ll leave you with this quote by a Zen master, “Everyone should meditate for ten minutes a day. If you are too busy to meditate ten minutes a day, then you should meditate for one hour a day.”