Recently on Facebook, someone asked what the best meditation practices were. Most people answered with things like deep breathing and honing your awareness. In other words, most people had the right idea.
But a few too many said things like Headspace.
Honestly, I was surprised. The best meditation involves listening to someone telling you to meditate? That can’t be right. If it were, monks would train their rosary beads for iPhones.
Serious meditators master everything from mindfulness to metta. They don’t rely on other people to micromanage their meditation sessions.
So meditation apps aren’t “the best” practices around.
And I’d go further than that.
In fact, I’d barely call them meditation.
I love Dr Strangelove. It’s a damn bizarre and tragic piece of cinema. It’s scarier than most horror films and funnier than most comedies. What’s not to like?
The highlight for me is Slim Picken’s character. Right from the first frame to when he rides the bomb to annihilation, every moment is perfect.
Is that character the funniest in the movie? Or is he the only serious character in a movie full of clowns?
Who knows. I’d rather keep that mystery alive. And speaking of questions I’d rather not answered, there’s a story about him rattling around my brain. I might be misremembering an urban legend or something. Two minutes on Google would sort me out.
Well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s say that it’s true.
Fun neuroscience fact: 100% of your decision-making is emotional. Yep – everything. Even the stuff that seems so obvious that it doesn’t need it. If you damage the emotional centres of your brain, it can wipe out your ability to make decisions.
And this isn’t some hypothetical. It has happened to people.
Some unlucky folk, through infection or injury, lose all emotions. They retain their memories, intelligence and skills. They just don’t feel anything. It’s different from the flatness that some people describe depression as being like – they aren’t even capable of feeling that.
The strange thing is that they can still perform tasks. They can follow a recipe as well as anyone else can. And they’ll do it if someone tells them to. But they won’t choose to, even if they’re hungry.
Charles Duhigg spoke about a woman with this condition. She was sunbathing to the point of sunburn. She knew she should move. Her skin was roasting red. There were no tradeoffs to weigh – intellectually and instinctively, she wanted to get out of the sun.
But without that spark of emotion, she couldn’t so it.
It’s interesting to think about.
Back in my university days, I spent time in a chemistry lab. That was a great experience. I might not have been great at chemistry, but it lead to a lot of great stories.
Like the time octanol fumes cured my hangover (or at least made me numb to the pain).
Or when I created a silver solution that clung to glass. Imagine a beaker with a smooth, metallic finish and you’ll know why that was cool.
I won’t mention the time I tried to stabilise a colleagues equipment and, in the process, knocked it over…
And there was that one time where I gave a carrot cancer. That was fun.
One of my favourite stories, though, is much more mundane than tumorous vegetables.
People accuse me of being productive. I won’t comment on that, only to say that I run my site in my spare time. That’s on top of a fulltime job, hobbies, exercising, meditating, other commitments… plus the stuff for Guided Thought that you never see.
So, sure, I get a lot done.
Keep that in mind when I say that procrastination is awesome.
It truly is.
I use it all the time to produce high volumes of great work.
A recent example:
I needed to record something for a hypnosis audio. I planned what I was going to say, checked that it ticked the boxes and…
And nothing. I sat with that note on my desk for weeks, if not months. I added it to my to-do list, only to ignore it. A simple task with a simple plan, only I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Let’s get our Greek mythology on for just a moment.
Chiron was a centaur. Unlike most of his kind, he was a wise and noble creature. More than that, he was a great healer.
Apart from him having a horse’s butt, you would do well to aspire to his example.
Or rather, you should live as Chiron lived. You would do well to not die like he died, though. In the course of healing and protecting people, he died by an arrow dripping with hydra venom.
So what’s my point?
“Stay away from hydra venom”?
Great advice, thanks mate.
Queensland researchers reckon that Prozac might cause antibiotic resistance. I can’t talk to the science behind this. Maybe it’s right, maybe they missed something.
Either way, it’s not like we can turn around and say “phew, no problems then”.
Just to be clear – I have no issues with antidepressants. That category of medicine has done more than save lives. For many people, it’s the difference between living an amazing life and lying in bed all day.
I’ll never talk down about those drugs or anyone who needs them.
Let’s just consider groups of people for a moment.
There are people who take antidepressants because they need them.
There are those who take them because they needed them once. They’re past that point now, but they keep popping pills. Either because they don’t know they could stop or they don’t know how to.
There are folks who never needed them. A medical professional talked them into taking them and no one talked them out of it. Or they shopped around until they found a doctor willing to sign a prescription, thinking that pills were the answer.
If you think antidepressants are as awesome as I do, then this abuse should tick you off. I’m not mad at the users or the doctors, but the whole damn system.
Sure, there are always going to be people taking these things when they don’t need to. You can’t eliminate that.
But, as a society, we sure as hell could reduce it.
For most of you, drugs are not the only answer. They may be part of the solution. Or they may be unnecessary.
Just know that functioning well is more than chemistry.
If you’re struggling, then talk to a medical professional. All I ask is that you find one who looks beyond drugs for the answer.
Most of the good ones will tell you to try meditation. After all, it’s proven to reduce stress. Forget the other benefits – that alone makes it restorative to your body and mind.
And if you’re going to do that, then take it seriously. Be as serious about meditation as this guide is irreverent.
100% pragmatic, secular and unique advice inside.
And only the stuff that works:
I know many people get squeamish about influence tactics. It feels wrong, as if you’re manipulating people for your own purposes. Only con artists, sleazy creeps, ruthless businesspeople and the worst politicians manipulate others.
I’ve a truckload of bad news for anyone who believes this.
If you breathe, you’re manipulating someone.
When you smile and greet someone, that changes their thinking. That psychological hack gets them to like you more, even if you’re not doing anything for them.
Even if you stop doing that, you’re still using mind control. Whether you ignore someone or pay attention to them, you’re influencing their thoughts.
There’s no escaping it. You could become a hermit and still influence anyone who hears about it.
So you could feel off about the whole topic.
But you might as well embrace it.
The world is full of ironic fears. What do I mean by that? Well, so many people take action to avoid one outcome… only to make it more likely.
Someone might have a fear of flying, so they spend three days slamming coffee to drive across the country. It’s an ironic fear because, statistically, flying is safer than driving.
Especially when you do it like that.
My point isn’t to pick on anyone like this. It makes sense to avoid things that twist your insides into pretzels. You don’t have to live with that, of course, but for now, scary things are scary.
I get it.
But I can’t help but spot the irony. Fear’s purpose is to drive you away from danger, not towards it.
Some ironic fears are much more common than others.
Like with, say, hypnosis.
Evil twins are great and not at all unrealistic, clichéd messes.
That’s why I would be one. You know, in some hypothetical where I have a twin and I’m murderous.
Really, it just makes sense.
The biggest challenge about murdering your twin and then assuming his place isn’t that it’s hard to impersonal people. Or even that it’s morally and logistically questionable.
No, the biggest obstacle is that genetics predispose you to violent tendencies. If I’m a cold-blooded monster, then there’s a good chance so is he.
Sure, he might appear to be a respectable businessperson. That could be a façade though. A raw, savage, untamed animal might lurk beneath the surface. He may have suppressed that all his life, but the moment his life is in danger, he accesses something deep inside him.
Even so, I like my odds.