Yesterday I started a series of posts on mindful blogging with the recommendation to begin the day as an information producer rather than a consumer. In order to get in the mindset of content creation and to establish habits of healthy information consumption, I challenged readers to try writing 500 words before opening email, browsing Facebook or reading the news.
My second tip for mindful blogging goes more to the heart of mindfulness – meditation. I am taking my own advice to start the day writing… but not until after I complete my daily routine of meditation. In my opinion meditation is the best and most powerful tool to help establish a more focused, disciplined balance to content creation and consumption.
Tip No. 2 – Start a daily meditation routine
I (try to) meditate every morning, first thing. I sit cross-legged in a half-lotus position on a meditation cushion called a Zafu, hands in my lap, eyes closed (pictured left). Then I meditate.
What does that involve? Meditation has different meanings for different people, so let me be specific — I’m talking about mindfulness meditation in the Buddhist tradition, which is called Vipassana or “Insight” meditation and has been practiced for about 2,600 years. In the western world, people often refer to meditation as thinking deeply, or reflecting on something. That’s a valid use of the word, but not what I’m talking about.
Vipassana meditation refers specifically to the practice of mindfulness of breathing, a meditation practice in which one maintains attention and mindfulness on the sensations of breathing. It’s that simple (in theory, not practice). The benefits of regular mindfulness meditation practice are significant and proven by extensive empirical research.
Google meditation/happiness/research and you’ll get droves of hits. An explosion of research has demonstrated mindfulness meditation makes people happier, less stressed, healthier and even nicer. Mindfulness meditation is also becoming a powerful tool in dementia care, which our good friend Dr. Richard Taylor explores in this blog post.
It may seem hard to believe, but by disciplining your mind to pay attention to your breath you will, over time, develop incredible insight and understanding into your own mind. It is a complex practice and process but it has the potential to significantly change how you understand your identity. Most people report a deeper sense of calm, regardless of external stresses, and greater freedom from the emotions, desires and cravings that Buddhists believe control our behavior.
What does this have to do with blogging? I hesitated before recommending mindfulness meditation because it is, in essence, a lifestyle practice, and I don’t like telling people how to live their lives. Meditation is an intimate and intense exercise and something you have to come to completely on your own.
I’ll try to be impartial, but here’s why I think meditation is critical. As human beings, it’s normal for our brains to wander. We thrive off stimulus and research has shown our brains are highly malleable and influenced by media consumption. Nicholas Carr makes a compelling case in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” that our brains are in fact being rewired by the way we consume media online, to the detriment of our attention spans.
I’ve found that the very tools I depend on and teach others to use to blog effectively and keep up on trends do exactly that. Every day I pour over RSS news readers, Twitter feeds, Blogstream updates and my never-ending email. The more information I consume the hungrier my brain craves new updates, faster. It’s a vicious cycle.
Meditation helps me start the day with focus and intention. It helps calm my mind, disciplines it from wandering, and curbs my craving for stimulus. It gives me perspective. It helps me make decisions and react to the inevitable stresses of life in ways that were absolutely out of my reach before practicing. All of these benefits make it easier for me to write.
The concept and benefits of meditation are too big for one blog post but I want to end with some resources and tips for getting started. I also promise to revisit the subject in more detail.
There is an incredible amount of resources and information about breath meditation available online to help you get started. Below are links to a few excellent introductions to Vipassana meditation:
MINDFULNESS IN PLAIN ENGLISH, BHANTE GUNARATANA
This is a free, “How To” introduction to the practice of Vipassana meditation. It was written specifically with the westerner in mind, providing a nuts and bolts approach to practicing meditation.
A GUIDED MEDITATION BY THANISSARO BHIKKU
These short article are the perfect place to start if you want quick instructions on how to start breath meditation:
GIL FRONSDAL, INSIGHT MEDITATION CENTER
My first guided introduction to meditation was actually through audio podcasts from Gil Fronsdal, a meditation instructor at The Insight Meditation Center in Redwood, Calif. His series for beginning meditators provides an excellent introduction and overview. There are many podcasts to choose from but I recommend starting with the Introduction to Meditation series:
Finally, you’ll find all these resources and many more at this blog post by Dan Benjamin, the founder of 5by5 Studios. That post was one of my very first introductions to Vipassana meditation and an invaluable resource for this post.
So, now that I’ve laid the groundwork for a mindful day of blogging, what would you like to hear about next? Please let me know in the comments. There’s a lot more to talk about concerning meditation, but I also want to explore the many tools and applications available that can help, or hinder, productive content creation.