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The Tinkered Mind

A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.

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November 21st, 2022

On Monday Tinkered Thinking releases a draft of a lesson from the forthcoming meditation 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 2: The Body’s Pendulum

Take a comfortable seat. There’s no need to worry about a particular posture just yet. That will be covered soon in a future episode. For now, just try to be comfortable. For this session we are going to explore a couple breathing techniques, their different physiological effects, how such breathing methods aide a meditation practice and how they can also be leveraged to increase the likelihood that the habit sticks.

Once you’ve found some degree of comfort, take a deep and relatively quick breath through the nose, keeping the lips closed and the tongue gently resting against the roof of the mouth. Pull the air down into your core. Allow the ribcage to expand outward instead of lifting up toward your chin. Briefly hold the breath for a moment or two, and then slowlyyyy exhale. Try to make the exhale roughly twice as long as it took to inhale the breath.

A count can be helpful to get a feel for this. Inhale till 4, starting on

 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

then hold for a moment and exhale 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1. 

And let’s repeat, inhale till 4 starting on 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

then hold for a moment and exhale 

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1.

If it feels as though you can’t take a deep enough breath it might be because the lungs are already full. It’s common to have very shallow breathing caused primarily by never actually evacuating the filled lungs, like trying to fill a glass of water that is already full, so it can be helpful to pay extra attention to fully exhaling.

Inhale again till 4, starting on 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

hold for a moment and then exhale  

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1

Continue with breathing with this method of long exhales for a few more moments. The purpose of this specific rhythm for the breath with a long exhale is to simply help relax the body. By breathing in this way we engage the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system and create a small cascade of changes in our immediate biology. These deep breaths with long exhales slow the heart rate and in turn: we feel calm. This technique can also be used to help you get to sleep. And for those who struggle with a lot of anxiety it may take a little while to feel that sense of calm, but this method of breathing will eventually be particularly effective with anxiety.

All future guided sessions will begin and end with a few breaths using this deep exhale method.

The purpose of it at the beginning of these sessions is two fold - not only does it have a positive effect on our quality of attention and focus, but it also just feels good, and in order to help maximize the chances that we continue developing the habit we’re after - especially during these early days - it’s incredibly powerful to simply get into a state that feels good - it makes it more likely that we’ll return to it tomorrow, because we are drawn to positive states, especially those that can be reliably reproduced.

After four or five of such breaths, allow them to even out so that exhales are the same length as inhales. Ideally each inhale and each exhale should be 5.5 seconds long. This method of breathing has been referred to as Coherence Breathing and it is optimal for the body’s efficiency, placing the heart, lungs and circulatory system into a state of systemic coherence.  

Counting can again be helpful here. I’ll count out 2 sets of inhales and exhales.

Breath in on:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 

And breath out on:

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

Breath in:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Breath out:

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

Continue breathing like this for the next few minutes.

This slow, even and equal breathing method is what we will aim for during the bulk of each session.  So moving forward we will bookend each session with the deep exhale method, and we’ll fill the middle of the session with our equal length Coherence Breathing.

Now, in the long run, you’ll find what works best for you, but for the first month of our meditation program here, this structure for the breath for each session is designed to help you feel as refreshed and calm as possible by the time the session is over. And as mentioned before, part of the aim here is that you’ll naturally be incentivized to come back tomorrow to get more of this positive, feel-good state, created particularly by those long slow exhales. 

But of course it’s not just an incentive for tomorrow, it’s also the first thing we can do in the context of this practice that will immediately add to the quality of your whole day right now - and that is the entire reason why this meditation app exists - to try and help as many people as possible raise the quality of their life on a day to day basis. Taking time to slow down and make a meaningful impact on your own biology with a breathing practice is one of the fastest and most effective ways to make the rest of the day a little bit better. It’s a subtle tweak that has a profound effect.

Breathing practices are of course ancient, and in fact the word yoga originally had little to do with stretching muscles and in fact referred specifically to breath work. There’s recently been a resurgence of interest and research in breathing, and the routine just described is informed by a lot of that new research.

Eventually, as we move into exercises that engage the mind, the breath will take on another level of importance. The breath is like the body’s pendulum, it’s the one thing that we can’t stop doing, and because of this, it’s an excellent anchor for exploring the nature of our attention and focus. The breath will become a proxy for the present moment, and what I mean by that is often we don’t even realize we’re breathing, we do it unconsciously, and the same goes for the present moment. Often we’re lost in thought, daydreaming about the future or worrying about something that happened in the past, and we fail to notice what is going on right now. And if any of that sounds confusing or odd, don’t worry, we’ll get to it with increasing depth in future sessions. 

For now, as we come to the close of this session, begin the transition from equal, even breathing back to the long slow exhales. 

Breath in till 4 on 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

And… Breath out

8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

Breath in, and continue these slow exhales for a couple more breaths as the session comes to a close. 

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