And we have arrived at the last blog post reviewing my 2019 New Year’s Goals. Although some people save the best for last, I procrastinated and thus saved the hardest for last.
The short answer is that I guess I meditated maybe 4 out of every 5 days this year.
Let’s see how I can turn that into an entire blog post.
A Streaky Habit
Although I blog about ambitious goals and making progress, I think my self-discipline is quite average. In other words, it’s hard to make a habit. It was surprisingly difficult to consistently find 10 minutes a day to meditate.
I said 4 out of 5 days above, but that’s a quite a guess because it was streaky.
Through March, I was meditating almost daily and worked myself up to 20 or 30 minutes a day. Then I noticed how tired I was. I found those 20 minutes by waking up early, but our bedtime had gradually slipped by a half-hour. Together, I lost almost an hour of sleep every night. The drowsiness was far outweighing the benefit of meditating, so I started sleeping in again, and meditation became something that fit in wherever I could.
During the summer, I participated in a company wellness challenge, and I set a goal of meditating daily. The social pressure worked, and I started meditating in the evening while Julie was getting ready for bed. Since I shower before her, I have about an hour to myself when I try to avoid stimulating activities like playing video games. I usually try to journal or read, but I added meditation as well.
After the wellness challenge, I slacked off again. Even though I had time in the evenings, it otherwise wasn’t a conducive time to meditate. Because I was getting sleepy, it was hard to focus and be mindful. Because meditation involves some amount of relaxation, I think my body was confusing meditation with trying to go to sleep. It was consistent but not good meditation.
It’s the oldest advice in all the books in philosophies is know yourself. We’ve heard it from Socrates, from Confucius, from Buddha: get to know yourself. But there is a difference, which is that now you have competition. In the day of Socrates or Buddha, if you didn’t make the effort, okay, so you missed on enlightenment. But still, the king wasn’t competing with you. They didn’t have the technology. Now you have competition.Yuval Noah Harari
This quote comes from a discussion about the potential dangers of AI and is probably my favorite quote of the year. It’s funny, accessible, and profound. In short, Harari is concerned that unsavory actors will collect enough data to use AI (think more like Amazon’s recommendation system than HAL 9000) to manipulate us in what we buy, who we vote for, and more. The AI doesn’t have to be perfect: it just needs to know us better than we know ourselves, and then suddenly, our free will doesn’t look so free.
At the end of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Harari strongly recommends meditation, which made me feel validated in setting this goal. Apparently, he meditates for 2 hours a day. Part of me wants to meditate that much to be as smart as him, but perhaps a more enlightened perspective is that he just makes a good argument.
I think most people find meditation through an interest in spirituality or self-improvement. It does seem a bit backwards that it took a rational argument to get me back into meditating, but I’m glad wherever it came from.
Over the past month, I have got back into habit of meditating, and I’m doing it in the morning. Due to some unrelated changes, I have had more time before work, so rather than waking up early, I just meditate after breakfast.
It’s the best solution I have come to so far, and it’s my fault I didn’t think of it sooner. I tried to add meditation while changing as little as possible about my mornings, but there had to be trade-offs. I usually multi-task and fly through my morning routine to get out the door from my alarm as quickly as possible. If I want to meditate, I just have to slow down and take the time to do it, which is maybe the entire point of meditating in the first place.