For the next two months, I am going to meditate every day for at least five minutes. Because I am also starting a new job, this life change will set the stage for new summer habits. I am still figuring out the best time to do it, but after supper and evening activities seems like it will be the best time. Yesterday I meditated for twenty minutes, and I am going to do today's meditation after I post this. Based on the advice from this lecture by Kelly MacGonigal, I have analysed some of the times when I can see myself failing at this challenge. Some of these challenges include:
Now it is time for me to sit!
Today I was thinking about the connection between action and motivation. In the past, I have spent a lot of time procrastinating on things that were at least ostensibly important. While doing my IB Diploma and for my first couple of years at University I had the toughest time getting started on stuff. Busywork would occupy my day until I got home, ate, watched some youtube videos and read some blogs. At this point I would realize that I would have to stay up late to do my work for the next day, and I would do just that. Ironically, losing sleep makes you lose willpower and attention, so in a sense it is a self-perpetuating cycle of inaction. Even now, I get caught up in "One more article" or "I'll just check my email and Twitter feed and Facebook one more time" or "I wonder if there have been any interesting posts on Reddit in the last five minutes."
This being said, I have improved a lot in my ability to accomplish things that I want to and the biggest change that I have made is simply to take action on these things. Getting started and working when I don't feel like it or for longer than I feel like. Of course this is helped by maintaining basic conditions for my own success, notably:
-Trying to get enough sleep every night, I aim for around 9 hours but will sleep 10 when I can
-Eating relatively healthy foods, in enough quantity. It helps greatly to prepare meals in advance
-Exercising a few times a week to keep my attention and feeling of well-being up
It has been a good week for meditation! I successfully meditated for the past three nights as well as tonight for at least five minutes. I found that if I sit as soon as possible it is easier to stay longer, because the nights I meditated right before bed I did the bare minimum of time. I think my next challenge will be getting used to telling my family and girlfriend that I am going into my room to meditate for a while without feeling like they are waiting on me to eat or hang out.
I haven't been keeping up with the challenge this week, stopping midway through the week and only meditating on the weekend. At least I told my girlfriend about the challenge so it won't be as awkward when I need to set time aside to do it. I am going to attend a local meditation group as well to see if that will help me to stay accountable to my challenge.
First I am going to acknowledge that my previous challenge to do sitting meditation on a daily basis was grossly unsuccessful, with me meditating approximately once a week for the early weeks and once every two weeks after that. Perhaps going on a retreat or something would help to get lots of initial practice to keep the habit up. For the time being, I am going to focus on just having a few minutes of mindfulness in the morning.
On another note, I've been reading Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 and what I've found most striking about his writing is the detailed descriptions of everyday activities. In a way, it has a similar effect to deliberate mindfulness every time that I read it. The attention to mundane details continues after I put the book away and the everyday activities that I engage in take on a significant quality. I think that the structured and minimalistic lives of his characters (and of himself as judged by his non-fiction) are a fantastic role model for my life as I am about to graduate and become fully independent (in a material sense.) By eschewing the financial, mental and time obligations of keeping house and constantly making decisions on what to do, I become free to spend my free time doing things I love and pursuing peak experiences.
This year I was fortunate to have a significant break from university around Christmastime. Like most of my colleagues, I spend much of the time socializing and catching up on sleep. Unlike many of my colleagues, I also decided to use this stress free time to stop watching porn online, and as of writing this post I am a month into this new habit and am still discovering new things as a result of the change.
"Why did he do this," you may ask. There are several reasons. The first was that I found that after a particularly...engaging...session, I would be much more tired. This was compounded by the fact that I was much more into the habit at times of high stress and correspondingly less sleep. Secondly, I realized that it was taking up a significant amount of time from my life for no major gain. While it wasn't like I spent half of every day wanking, the time online quickly was adding up to several hours per week. I was also somewhat aware of the subtle psychological effects that this habit had - namely causing me to objectify women excessively, and to feel much less motivation to do other things. I knew that it didn't add much to my life since during times away from home without internet access, I saw that I actually had more energy overall and didn't crave it when I am surrounded by other interesting things to see or do.
"Well, how did it go?" It wasn't really that hard to stop. After exams, I was sick of going to the same old sites and spending time in my room alone. Over the break there were several moments when I had the house to myself and had to catch myself from running to my laptop - that particular habit seems to be quite engrained from my teen years. The most impressive part to me has been finding how my time was being subtly influenced by porn, something that I had never noticed in the past. I noticed that when I was online reading blogs or similar, I will sometimes start clicking through racier content in order to get to something really exciting. Since I have decided to always close the active tab when I come across explicit images or videos, I notice instant feedback that I was really looking for porn to wank to and not just for something else to read. I have also become more aware of how I was using porn to deal with certain emotions - especially boredom or anxiety. I have read so much more from real books over the break that I had in the previous term, solely because of boredom. I find certain blogs to be interesting, but after checking for updates there isn't much more to do on the computer. I have found that in this boredom I have an urge to create or to do exciting things in real life, which cannot be filled simply by reading blogs or watching shows. These entertaining pastimes seem to reach a point of diminishing returns for me after a couple of hours, and begin to make me more anxious instead of being enjoyable. I didn't completely stop masturbation, and comparing this attempt at quitting porn to others I have come to the conclusion that allowing my arousal to just keep building up is actually counter-productive, since that only drives me to want to use porn more. By taking care of my excessive arousal quickly, I am not tempted to go online to deal with it. I also spend a fraction of the time masturbating, since I don't spend an hour looking at pictures and videos to find the perfect one.
Overall, this is very much still an experiment in progress. While I hope to permanently stop watching porn and masturbating to internet content, I will still have moments where I am tempted and where I am stressed out or bored or anxious. I think that when I am bored in the future, I will be more tempted to actually contact friends to do something or to work on projects that I have been putting off. These habits will probably take months and years to fully form, but I am optimistic that they will come about somewhat naturally after this change.
In closing, I am grateful that I have been able to be without porn for a month now. I think that while there is nothing inherently wrong with watching porn, it has major effects on guys that commonly go unnoticed. While it is conceivable that somebody could use porn occasionally and be unharmed, after this month I think that everybody who uses porn somewhat regularly should give this a try and go without it. I am seeing more and more how it has affected my daily habits, and I am excited to be at a new point in my life where I am taking them back.
Ok, so for a couple of weeks now I've been trying to find a way to get out of bed with gusto every day, and today it worked! I am not sure if it is just because this is a new habit or not, so time will see if it is a repeatable result. This was my morning:
-Wake up at 6:00 am (after slightly less than 8 hours of sleep)-Run outdoors until approximately 6:30 am (I think that the benefits of this will be lessened once the sun isn't out so early but it was awesome today)-Turn on hot water for tea and put oats in the microwave-Have a pure cold shower to cool down and wake up-Eat breakfast and drink oolong tea-Meditate for ~10 minutes-Brush teeth, make lunch and get dressed for work-Walk to work
I should say that the goal was to wake up saying "Hell Yeah!," which actually worked, but that the other benefit was that I saved quite a bit of time in the morning. This allowed me to actually get to work on time, which is pretty awesome. This routine worked pretty well today so I won't try to mess with it too much, but I should see if about 10 minutes of calisthenics is as effective as the run for those mornings where the weather is bad. I will wait until one of these days strikes before I actually try that out though.
As a side note related to this morning, I am amazed at the positive effect that the sunlight has on my mood and energy levels throughout the day. It is starting to get close to the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, which means long days and bright mornings. I have had some other significant improvements in my quality of life lately (more time with friends, more nutritious foods and good sleep,) but the light has really made it so much easier to get up in the morning and to not fall asleep too early at night and to keep my outlook more generally positive throughout the week. I am going to keep this in mind for the dark winters, and try out light therapy when the darkness starts to creep into the day by checking kijiji regularly for a portable blue light unit.
In my previous post I mentioned creating an afterwork plan for each day. I want to elaborate a little bit on this concept, because think that it is one of the most important things that I have done to reclaim my time outside of work now that I am living on my own. Unfortunately, the reality of working for a traditional company is that the greater portion of my waking hours on weekdays are occupied by work-related tasks. I am fortunate to live close to where I work, but I still spend:
15-30 minutes to get to work by bike/foot8 hours working30 minutes for unpaid lunch15-30 minutes to get home from work
This all adds up to a total of 9-9.5 hours. For the first couple of months after moving out, I had a terrible habit of getting home and going on the computer for an hour or more putting off getting something for dinner. This was not because I can't easily prepare some food, but because I didn't have a good sense of what I was actually going to make. The habit was also being reinforced by the fact that I was used to doing this from when I lived with my parents, because I would be waiting for dinner when I got home. Unfortunately with the reduced amount of time and flexibility in my schedule, I would often use up all of the prime hours of the night doing nothing in particular, and then only have an hour or so to do something interesting before I was too tired.
I thought about this issue, and came up with a simple solution - create a plan for the night before I get home from work. I usually do this over lunch hour or near the end of the day using google keep, adn I write down two simple details:
What I will EatandWhat Action I will do After Eating