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The Tinkered Mind
A meditation app is forthcoming. Stay Tuned.
February 20th, 2023
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 12: Reflective Reflex
Take a moment to sit, arrange your posture, and take a few deep breaths with long exhales.
<18 seconds of Silence (3 full breathes + exhales with half-second counts>
Now transition to coherence breathing with inhales and exhales of the same length.
Now take a moment to do a body scan in complete silence. Remember the sheet of light suspended above you, and allow your attention to pour slowly over your entire body as that sheet of light descends over you.
<30 seconds of Silence>
Allow your attention to expand fro the internal sensation of your body to include the sounds around you. Give these sounds attention in the same way we do thoughts when they arise and interrupt our concentration. Allow them to appear, notice them and allow your attention to move on.
<wait 10 seconds>
Bring attention to any thoughts that are arising. Remember we are simply trying to notice thoughts in the mind. Perhaps there’s a mental nudge from something that is going to happen later in the day. Perhaps something you are forgetting is bugging you. Perhaps you slept poorly and you’re thinking about that, or something from yesterday is bothering you. Whatever arises, simply try to notice fully what each thought is.
<wait 10 seconds>
This process of trying to simply notice what is happening in the mind is part of the attempt to be present. Thoughts distract us from the present. Ideas about the future, memories of the past, they pull a veil over our experience and blind us from the moment.
Recognizing what is happening is the first step, but the next step is not to try and push these thoughts out of the way. Instead we embrace the fact that the thought is occurring, and by consciously noticing it, we can pop its significance and let it fade away on it’s own.
The purpose of this in formal sitting practice is to build a mental habit of consciously checking in with the state of your mind in the present moment. By formally invoking that exercise here while sitting in a session of meditation, we raise the probability that it will happen spontaneously later during the day. During an instance of anger or frustration, this mental machinery can - with enough practice - kick in and produce a moment of mindfulness. Where the angry person will normally lash out and say something they end up regretting, the mental exercise here invokes a reflective reflex, and within the drunkeness of an angry moment, a practiced meditator will pause, and it will be as if a moment of mindfulness suddenly sobers up the mind of its anger, and a thoughtful decision can be made about what should be said or done next. The anger becomes the object of frustration. During a moment of mindfulness the anger is noticed, and just like a thought, it’s power and emotion can be deflated, simply by being more conscious of the anger, or the frustration.
It’s like making a habit of asking yourself throughout the day: Am I here? Or have I been lost in thought.
Practitioners of lucid dreaming do something very similar. Lucid dreaming is the practice of becoming conscious within a dream in order to take control of it, mostly for fun. But beginners who are just getting into it will methodically ask themselves throughout the day: Am I Dreaming? Eventually this becomes second nature and they end up asking themselves this question while asleep, at which point the dreamer becomes conscious of what’s going on.
The reflective reflex of mindfulness is much the same. We formally practice to train the mind to get in the habit of examining itself and the present moment so that the mind will invoke the strength created by this training later on in the day when it can be very useful. The real benefits of a mindfulness practice aren’t experienced when we are actually sitting in formal practice, though formal practice can be very pleasant. The benefits are experienced during the rest of life itself, when an ability to be mindful can allow you to sink deeper into a meaningful experience or hit the breaks when emotions suddenly go haywire and risk making us say and behave in ways that aren’t in our best interest.
Take a few moments to focus on the breath, perhaps even counting the inhales and exhales, and notice when the mind drifts from that focus. Draw your attention to the thought and allow yourself to examine the thought. There’s no need to be disappointed for failing to focus on the breath. Just notice the thought, let it pass and then draw the focus back to the breath.
<30 seconds of silence>
Were you able to recognize thoughts as they appeared? Or did you find that you only noticed you were no longer focusing on the breath after a long string of thoughts had taken your mind on a winding ride away from the breath? Both are ok. Remember the goal here is a consistency or practice. The ability to focus and be mindful will get easier and stronger with time - it’s just like learning anything else, it takes time. Take a few more moments to try and focus on the breath and notice thoughts as they bubble up within your focus.
<30 seconds of silence>
How did you do this time? If it feels like you are having more thoughts, again, that’s completely fine. If anything it’s a sign that your focus is directing your attention with greater precision. Thoughts are not something to struggle against, but to accept, and by embracing them we can gain some agency over how much they will influence us, and for how long.
As we move toward the end of the session, allow your breathing to transition into deeper inhales and longer exhales. And as you feel the relaxation that comes with these breaths, try to notice any thoughts that try to snag a bit of the mind’s attention.
<15 seconds of silence>