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The Tinkered Mind
A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.
November 14th, 2022
On Monday Tinkered Thinking releases a draft of a lesson from the forthcoming medtitation app, currently called The Tinkered Mind (If you can think of a better name, please reach out. I'm not crazy about the current one, but I'll be damned if I let an imperfect name keep me from developing a good idea.) The rationale here is simply to stave off project stagnation by taking a wish to work with words on a daily basis (Tinkered Thinking Posts) and combine it with adjacent projects. This also gives regular readers a chance to get a preview of what I'm cooking up and to get feedback before the app launches, which is a tactic that has proved extremely useful with other projects unrelated to Tinkered Thinking.
One further introductory note: The goal of this meditation app is predominantly aimed at helping individuals build a robust daily habit by breaking that habit down and tackling it's consitituent parts one at a time and aiding the process with a new and innovative way of tracking progress, the likes of which has not been seen in other meditation apps or habit tracking apps.
Again, if you have any feedback, please reach out via Twitter
Session 1: Introduction: Why Meditate?
Hello, and welcome to The Tinkered Mind, a meditation app from Tinkered Thinking. Just a quick note here at the beginning: for this session, there’s no need to sit with a particular posture or breathe in a certain way. All of that will be covered in future sessions. For now, with this introduction, just make sure you are comfortable and that you have the time and the space to concentrate on what will be said. And of course, feel free to listen to this introduction and any future session multiple times. There’s a great deal of benefit in repeated exposure since we almost always pick up on details we missed the first time, or details we’ve simply forgotten about.
Now when it comes to meditation apps, there’s quite a selection to choose from, and because of this it might seem like the issue has been settled, but all of the apps out there seemed to fail on one key issue - a subtle issue, but a profound one on the grounds of whether someone sticks with the practice, long term, or not. Perhaps this is your first exposure to meditation, or perhaps you’ve tried it before in a touch-and-go sort of way. Doesn’t matter: you’re in the right spot, and I’m going to be totally transparent about the strategy designed into this program, and why it’s compelling and hopefully, effective.
The reason why it’s so important for a person to stick with the practice on a daily basis long term, and why this app is geared toward that very aim is because the fruits of meditation are slow to arise. Yes, studies have been done that show that people can achieve impressive amounts of stress reduction with just a few sessions, but it takes at least three to four months for changes to register on an MRI brain scan, and there’s a decent chance that these early reductions in stress are due to deliberate changes in breathing more than anything having to do with a mental exercise. And beyond that, the two year mark seems to usher in a very subtle but profound shift in one’s experience. So while the possibility of stress reduction in the short and long term is certainly a good thing, and part of the aim, it’s not the whole story, there’s an entirely different experience of our daily life that we are seeking to unlock and explore here, and the mental training required takes time.
There’s a witticism attributed to Einstein who apparently said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” It’s embedded into our culture as a part of common sense, and may even contribute to our likelihood to give up on something new when it doesn’t immediately yield the results we want. Einstein’s statement makes perfect sense in the realm of physics, but not in the world of learning where different results often pop up after many attempts that at least feel like doing the same thing over and over. Riding a bike for example, or ice skating. After enough falls, suddenly we seem to find our balance and finally glide forward.
Meditation is no different. In the beginning it can seem like a constant state of failure - being asked to do the same thing over and over and getting frustrated with an apparent inability to do it. In the case of meditation, however, the ability to even recognize that failure is a sign of progress - a true success. But… we’ll get to that.
The larger point is how important it is to stick with a meditation practice. And what most if not all meditation programs seem to miss is that a meditation practice is not a single habit that we install in our life. It’s actually a collection of smaller habits, and the curiosity behind this app is contained within this question: what if we tackle one habit at a time? Would that make it easier for people to stick with the practice long term?
Asking someone to carve out 10 minutes from their day and sit in a certain way and breath a certain way and try to make their mind do a trick is a lot to ask from someone who is busy, stressed and maybe doesn’t clearly understand the rationale behind all of these details of the practice.
This app deconstructs that situation. For example this first session that you’re listening to has required only that you take the time to listen to it, which is as easy as listening to a podcast and can be done while doing other things. The other pieces will be introduced systematically in time, with the idea that we gradually add details with fully explained reasons over the course of days as opposed to all at once with little to no rationale. The first habit we need to build is the habit of simply committing the time needed for the practice, and if you finished listening to this first session then you will have made the most important step required to establish that small habit. Tomorrow we’ll address the topic of sitting, and the following day we’ll talk about breathing, and eventually we’ll get to the issue of what can be done with the mind, and how to go about it. But by the time we get there we will already have some behavioral momentum when it comes to the underlying habits that support this mental training. We’ll delve more into the philosophy and logic of this strategy in upcoming sessions.
The next lesson will unlock tomorrow, and if you miss days, and you have your progress set to “Run Streak” in your settings then it will naturally go to zero. By default it is set to the new Momentum Score which is a concept we will cover in more detail later.
With lessons, if days are missed, unlocked lessons will begin to lock back up, but gradually and in proportion to the amount of time missed. So especially in the beginning, do try to stick with it. Again more of the logic of this system will be covered when we talk about the Momentum Score.
In the mean time, the short of it is to try and a daily discipline without making a you feel completely demoralized if you miss a day. Life is hectic and messy, and because of that adopting a new habit IS particularly tricky, so some wiggle room has been very deliberately built in to the app. But miss enough time, and naturally everything resets to zero.
And of course , In addition to these lessons, the silent timer is always available to dedicate extra time to developing a practice and playing around with the ideas we’ll cover.
The silent timer also maintains access to lessons. If, for example you don’t feel like doing a lesson, or if you only have a minute or two to sit down and it’s not enough time for a full lesson, a session with the timer will keep the momentum score or the run streak going and ensure that access to lessons stays the same.
As a parting note, there’s one idea I’d like you to take with you as you go about the rest of your day: why do you want to meditate? What’s the reason you find yourself now listening to this particular lesson on this app?
The reasons can be quite diverse. Some people are here to reduce stress. Others are maybe overwhelmed by their own minds. Maybe some have been urged by family or friends, or a therapist has recommended meditation. Perhaps you have issues with anger and you’ve been told that meditation helps with this.
Regardless of your specific answer to the question, it almost certainly falls into one category in particular along with all the other possible reasons. And that’s a sense of compassion that you have, for yourself.
Even if it’s mere curiosity, it’s curiosity fueled by a desire give yourself the freedom to explore. And if it’s at the urging of people in your life, despite your reluctance and disbelief, there’s still the issue that you’re willing to try something new on the chance that it will improve YOUR relationships, if only to be able to tell those people that you’re trying it out.
The fruits of meditation are many, but even getting to the starting line is a gift in itself. It’s a small proof that you care about the person you are, and you’re willing to put in the work to make tomorrow a little bit better for that person.