Look at me, don’t get distracted. Why are you so distracted? Mindfulness yada yada is all about this one simple thing, don’t fall to the myth of multi-tasking. Be fully present and immersed in that book, that article, that blog post, that song, that artwork, that movie, that pastry, doesn’t matter how trivial or how important!
Ikigai, a Japanese concept which means a reason for being, literally translated to “reason to live”. What’s your reason to live? What is your reason to wake up in the morning?
At first, I didn’t see the connection between Ikigai and starting small, one of the pillars of Ikigai. To live a life of purpose, one need not imagine a grand vision of being the best or biggest or the fastest at something but it’s important to start small but with a purpose behind it and continuously improving it over months and years.
Our struggles in life are not because we don’t have talent, not because we don’t know what to do but because we don’t do what we know. We lack the discipline to build good habits. Talent is overrated, just as someone said 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration is the recipe for success, I would say 99% habit and 1% talent is the recipe for success in this new world where the distractions are many. There is a ding on the phone every minute, distractions are limitless, habits are limited. You can only make so many habits, you better choose the right ones that will help you make progress towards your goals. The choice is yours.
I have often heard people say, you are the masters of your destiny and the captain of your soul. I have heard people say we are defined by our choices. I will admit that not everything is our choice, there are circumstances in life that are way beyond our control. The choice to pay attention to them or not is in our control.
On rethinking how audio is captured, represented and retrieved in this new world of AI
Ishwarya Ananthabotla completed her BS and MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. She is pursuing a PhD in the MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group, exploring ways to capitalize on our knowledge of human perception, cognition, memory, and attention, to re-think traditional paradigms for audio capture, representation, and retrieval.
Don’t compromise, ever! – She will never eat food that she doesn’t like even when the food is lying around in the bowl whole day and she has not eaten anything.
Don’t eat if not hungry – She won’t eat food when she is not hungry how ever much you plead or force.
Play like a dog – She always loves to play, in the middle of the night or early in the morning or middle of the day. No questions asked.
Always be cheerful (ABC) – She is happy and cheerful, never a dull moment with her around.
Always greet visitors – She is always the first one to welcome guests into the house and she greets them by playing with them for a minute or two.
Never eat while driving – When we are on a long drive, she never eats any food during the travel. She likes the “less luggage more comfort” policy.
Never get mad – Whatever you do to her, she will never get mad, it’s impossible to make her mad. I’ve had a couple of dogs before and man they get mad when you touch their food bowl, however, this girl is super cool!
Every man has his day, my turn is next. Meanwhile, I might as well enjoy some good music.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ― Patanjali
Meditation has become a regular part of my daily life. I had meditated quite a bit when I was in middle school, fell of the track for a long time and then it was on and off for many years. In summer of 2018, a stressful day shook me up and harshly reminded me of how much I have been gifted in abundance and how I’ve been sleepwalking without ever thinking about these gifts.
Over the past few months, I have been trying to sit down in meditation for 5 minutes right after waking up and about 20 minutes in the evening before bed and it’s been helpful in calming the mind. It has been helping me clear out fears and anxieties and clarify my thinking. What is my meditation like, it’s just silent sitting, observing my thoughts, my body, my surroundings, listening and being fully present. It’s hard and I have not been able to do all of these things consistently for longer than a few seconds at a time but I know it’s a muscle that needs to be built over time.
I have tried a few meditation apps including Calm and Headspace and the one app I have come to use regularly is tarabrach.com. In particular I use the smile meditation which runs for about 25 minutes. It relaxes my mind and body. When I’m really distracted, and desperately trying to come back to the present moment, I use the Be Here mediation which is roughly 20 minutes. Thanks to Tara Brach for her dedication, great gift of meditation to the world and for inspiring me to meditate.
“Distractions arise from habitual thought patterns when practice is intermittent.”
I’ve heard my friends say that meditation is hard, that they can’t sit quietly for so long and they get bored or distracted easily. It is true. Meditation can be hard and like many good things in life, meditation will get easier as we start practicing in small sessions, my recommendation is to do it immediately following an activity that we already do and in the beginning keep it tiny, like 1 minute. So tiny that you can’t say “I get bored, it’s long etc”. From there as you spend a few days or weeks doing 1 minute meditation, increase to 2 or 3 minutes. Meditation is a mind game and tricking the mind into believing that we are not “wasting” time sitting quietly requires increasing time spent very gradually and not trying to do it 20 or 40 minutes on day 1.
“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”
Meditation can be a life long practice that can only get better and more beneficial as we grow older. As I make progress over the next few months, I’d like to wean away from guided meditation to going solo. Guided meditation is an amazing tool to keep us engaged and focused on the present moment, it’s like giving the monkey a task to repeat e.g. going up and down the totem pole. It’s necessary but it should not become a meditator’s crutch.
“Because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live”— Seneca
We are stingy with our money but when it comes to time, our only gift of life, we don’t hesitate to give it away generously. We believe there is plenty of it in the bank and how does it hurt to give away few hours to binge watch our favorite shows, a few hours to watch our favorite sports team get destroyed and a few hours to catchup on social media.
Life is not short if it’s not wasted. Time is all we have and yet we squander it away in things that do not give us joy or satisfaction. Seneca distills much of the agony we experience day to day:
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.
If you think about it, it’s startling how we fancy all the time in the world to do the things we want to do. Fear forces us to lead a bogus life. A life lived in fear can be anything but authentic. Seneca puts it beautifully:
“You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals.“
Future is uncertain and past is past and present is all we have, that’s why present is a gift. In other words, past is a voided check and future is a lottery ticket, it’s a good idea not to pin our life on them.
“They form their purposes with a view to the distant future; yet postponement is the greatest waste of life; it deprives them of each day as it comes, it snatches from them the present by promising something hereafter.“
On accumulating wealth beyond necessities, Seneca extols the minimalist lifestyle and admonishes amassing things. Life is not short, it becomes short with distractions.
“However much you heap up for it will not mark the end of greed, only a stage in it. So the man who restrains himself within the bounds set by nature will not notice poverty; the man who exceeds these bounds will be pursued by poverty however rich he is.“
Seneca calls on us to be cautious in multitasking, many pursuits at once distract the mind, as the proverb goes, “if you chase two rabbits at once, you will lose them both”
“no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things—eloquence cannot, nor the liberal studies—since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it.”
“Remember how long you’ve been putting this off, how many extensions the gods gave you, and you didn’t use them. At some point you have to recognize what world it is that you belong to; what power rules it and from what source you spring; that there is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don’t use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.”
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Not only Seneca reminds us how to live but also how to die:
“It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and—what will perhaps make you wonder more—it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.“