Antivirus for the brain: 89 days of Headspace

Twenty years ago a French girl asked me to join her meditation class. "What do you do in the class?" "We sit and keep the mind blank", she said.

As the socially inept neanderthal I've always been, I tried to impress her by telling her that she was stupid. "You cannot not think. Sartre said it." "Who?" "Sartre. He's French too." She never spoke to me again.

Years later I moved to Los Angeles. Every woman I met talked about meditation and mindfulness. They recited the benefits but I didn't see any of them reflected on themselves. They could use the words meditation and Cartier in the same sentence. The frequent argument was that the most successful people (name a few celebrity CEOs) had one thing in common: they all practiced meditation. Confirmation bias, I concluded.

Until one day, 89 days ago, I met a girl I liked. She raved about this app called Headspace and its 10-minute guided meditation sessions and the Ted Talk of Andy Puddicombe and being present and et cetera.

So I did it in the hopes of having sex. And you know what? It was great. Not the sex (there was none), the meditation.

Again, just as in my post about cold showers, I won't repeat the scientifically proven benefits of meditation. Google can help with that. I'll simply list the benefits I have experienced, in plain English.

Focus
I do 10 minutes of guided meditation every day. Sometimes in the morning before work, other times before going to bed. I've noticed that doing it in the morning substantially increases my capacity AND my willingness to do deep work (see Cal Newport). I meditate around 6am and my most productive time occurs between 9am and 11am. Then I start thinking about lunch.

Confidence, less social anxiety
Not sure how, but practicing with Headspace has created this watchful yet non-judgmental observer inside my mind. It recognizes when I begin to feel agitated in social situations, or when my brain is losing synchronicity with my mouth and the babbling begins. This compassionate observer sends a signal that says "breathe deep". Most of the time it works. When it doesn't, I get angry. I need more practice.

Mental stamina
As I prepare for PAIN in 2017, Thomas (my fitness trainer) makes every training session harder than the previous one... 1% tougher each day. The body keeps up only if the mind is a step ahead. Sometimes my body feels weak, looks for excuses ("little sleep", "not enough food today") but I know I need to press on anyway. Victorious warriors win first and then go to war (Sun Tzu).

Antivirus for the brain, no time traveling
I always think of people's personalities as commanded by brain software. The software can be cleanly designed and efficient, but it can be bogged down with viruses, trojan horses or spam email. These are all the useless, unproductive, and harmful thoughts that try to take over and make us miserable. James Altucher talks about "time traveling": ruminating on the past (which we can't change) or worrying about the future (which hasn't happened).

Meditation has allowed me to deflect the viruses or identify them as soon as they infect my software so they can be removed.

I've learned another trick as well: say out loud (or whisper) what I am doing. For example, at this very moment I say "I am writing a blog post", or if drinking a glass of sparkling water, say "I am drinking a glass of sparkling water." Yea, sounds silly, but it is a powerful hack to eliminate clutter, viruses, and time traveling.

I am clicking save & publish blog post.