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Tag: meditation

Beyond Noticing: Putting Mindfulness into Action

A critical part of mindfulness is paying attention to our experience in the present moment.

In fact, every definition I’ve ever heard of mindfulness includes this element in some form. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

The very first step is recognizing what your present experience is. Paying attention to and noticing whatever we are perceiving, thinking, and feeling in the present moment is a crucial aspect of mindfulness. There’s a risk — particularly as mindfulness becomes more popular in the West — that we will end up merely practicing mindfulness as if that’s all there is and being mindful is the end goal.

Moving Beyond Noticing

Within traditional Buddhism, mindfulness is not the only thing. It is only one part of the overall path. I get the feeling that there is often a misunderstanding as people get introduced to mindfulness: The assumption is that the goal is to simply become more and more mindful…and that’s it.

If you want to address your problems and interactions with technology, start by noticing how you feel and what you’re thinking while you interact with technology. This is important as a first step.

However, this is the beginning and not the end.

Noticing is a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing the problem. If all we do is notice and never turn that noticing into action, then we won’t improve. Noticing has been so focused on in the West because we do so little of it, but we need to be careful not to just stop there. We have to move. We need to go further and come to a greater understanding of everything.

Tap Into Mindfulness

The mindfulness teachings I’ve encountered didn’t specifically address our current relationship with technology. It was also assumed that practicing mindfulness on its own would help people with their relationships.

That may be true, but it may not be the most effective or targeted way to address problems.

Moreover, when I saw people who had developed specific tech-related teachings, they tended to focus on noticing but stopped there. They would teach things like “Look at your email and pay attention to how you feel when you look at it. Make note of your thoughts and emotions. The end.”

I noticed my own frustration with this and felt like I wanted to go beyond just noticing. As a result, I developed the Tap Into Mindfulness exercises based on my combined experience in both traditional mindfulness meditation and martial arts (which you could think of as an applied mindfulness).

In self-defense training, you learn how to pay very close attention to a punch when it’s coming at your face. You learn to become incredibly mindful and still so you can be focused and not wrapped up in fear. It takes a lot of practice to see that punch coming at your face. There is a lot of noticing that you work on. But you don’t stop there. There are all kinds of actions you learn to do in addition to the noticing, and that’s why I’m calling all of this “beyond noticing.”

With all of the problems we seem to be having due to our use of technology — the stress, distraction, and disconnection between people — I felt like we needed to go beyond noticing.

That’s what Tap Into Mindfulness does. It gives people practical ways to develop and practice how to act based on what they’ve noticed in order to become more mindful and less enthralled by technology. It’s all by supplementing mindful noticing with action.

This is the next stage of mindfulness’ development in the West.

How to Manage the Pull of Your Smartphone

Do you ever feel like your smartphone is calling to you even when it’s just sitting in your pocket not doing anything? When your phone beeps, vibrates, or buzzes at you, do you ask yourself, “Why is my phone doing this to me?!?”

When I speak to people about using mindfulness to help develop healthier relationships with technology, these are the kinds of things that I often hear from them. I feel these things myself — the feeling that the phone is like a living thing that’s doing something to us. It’s calling to us or trying to attract our attention.

From my experience of working for many years in technology and mindfulness, it seems that this feeling about our smartphones and other devices is very common. It feels as though these devices are acting on us. I’m calling this a feeling rather than a fact. It is something that we feel, and as real as it may feel to us, it is a feeling. And it’s a perfect type of feeling to apply some mindfulness to.

What I’ve found from my own personal experience and working with other people is that not applying mindfulness to that feeling can contribute to many of the problems and pains we experience in relation to our technology.

Think about the situation. Your phone is sitting in your pocket or somewhere else, but not in your hands.  You feel an urge, which is often called a craving in Buddhism, to pull out your phone and check Facebook or your email. At that moment, it may feel like the phone is pulling you, but if you were to pause, engage in some mindful reflection, and ask yourself, “What is actually happening now?,” what would your answer be?

This is part of what mindfulness is. It is an intention to see the present moment for what it is without a filter.

Step back at that moment and ask yourself, “Is this phone doing anything right now?” If you see the phone for what it is, you will see that the phone is not physically doing anything. It’s just sitting there. If you feel as though the phone is pulling you, I would strongly suggest that the pull is coming from somewhere within you rather than from the phone. Practicing mindfulness can help you to stop perceiving your feeling that the phone is pulling you as if it reflected reality.

What is true is that you feel like the phone is pulling at you. This is an exercise in separating the reality of the feeling from whether the meaning of the feeling accurately reflects reality. By detaching yourself from the feeling, you can separate the reality of the feeling from the reality of the meaning of the feeling.

I know how alluring or tempting that feeling can be in the moment. It can feel completely real. And it’s so natural and mindless that you can easily react to it.

If we apply some mindfulness when it arises, however, we may be able to short-circuit that automatic habit which leads us to pick up the phone and start using it as a reaction to the feeling that the phone is pulling us.

That craving is coming from within us. If we apply mindfulness, we can actually create an opportunity to make a mindful choice as to whether or not to use the phone. Practice mindfulness so that when you do reach for the phone, it’s the result of a mindful, conscious and intentional choice — not a reaction to the feeling that the phone is pulling you to it.

None of us is perfect at applying this.

With that said, I can pause some of the time and make a conscious choice, and whenever I do that, it has great side effects. It decreases my general feeling of anxiety. It’s a good feeling to know that I have a choice — just that feeling of freedom to choose is much better than the anxious, tight feeling that the phone is pulling me and that I have no freedom not to react to the pull.

When it surfaces, investigate the feeling that the phone is making you do something or acting on you. Use that to cultivate some mindfulness in that moment. Spend some time separately when you’re not experiencing that feeling in your practice. Then see if you can draw on your practice in your daily interactions with your phone.

The Pros and Cons of Mindfulness Reminders

There are many apps out there that can remind you to meditate or be mindful. You can set them to remind you at a certain time and configure them in all kinds of ways. Some of them ring a bell to remind you to be present, and then it’s up to you to do what you want at that time, such as pause and breathe, stretch, or meditate. Some of them will ring a bell and then actually play a sound to help you in your meditation. Some of them will offer you an inspiring quote or guided meditation.

I’m a big fan of these apps — I’m actually using two of them right now. I suggest you experiment with them and find which ones work best for you. It’s always up to you to experiment, investigate, and pay attention to what feels good to you.

But there’s an interesting paradox here. As I’ve said many times, when your phone or computer pops up a reminder or notification about something, that itself can be distracting, create anxiety, and therefore be counterproductive to your mindfulness. The very apps that are reminding you to be mindful — if they remind you too much, in a wrong way, or at the wrong time — can actually end up creating the problems we’re trying to help to alleviate with mindfulness.

I was at Wisdom 2.0 a couple of years ago in San Francisco and attended the breakout sessions on technology and mindfulness. Some of the people in the group were app developers and one of them talked about a category of app that he called “Nag Apps” — apps that nag you to be mindful. I really like that term because when an app is bothering you to be mindful, it can indeed feel like it is nagging you.

Lately, I’ve been test-driving a new app. I’m not going to say what it is, but it has a very wide range of notifications that can provide reminders during the day. After installing it, I found that it was popping up notifications left and right. “How are you feeling now?” “Check in with your body,” asking me to write a journal note about how I was feeling. The frequent reminders were really frustrating.

That’s an example of the potential downside of using technology too much to be mindful. That’s why we have to be mindful of our use of technology, how we configure it, and how we choose to automate it.

What I like about this app is the settings: I can get complete control over when and how I receive notifications as well as what I am notified about. After some trial and error, I’ve struck a balance that’s good for me. Kudos to the app developers for thinking that through and giving the user the power to configure the app. If it wasn’t customizable, if it just always reminded me when it wanted to, I probably would have stopped using it because any mindfulness benefits would have been counteracted by annoyance with the many reminders.

As users, we also must take responsibility for how we configure our technology and how we choose which technology to use. We must also stay aware over time of whether the apps we’re using remain helpful.

There might be some apps that are beneficial for six months, but then you find that you no longer need the app to remind you anymore. Pay attention to how you actually feel when you’re using these apps. Pause and think: “Is there something about this that I like and something I don’t like? If so, are there any settings here that I can change to make it work more like how I want it to?”

I don’t know if it occurs to a lot of people, but if there aren’t any settings to change, you can contact the app developer to request an improvement. While I’m not saying they will necessarily be responsive, there’s so much competition among apps these days that developers are just craving feedback from their users — it’s one of the things they spend the most time, money, and energy on. If they’re using something like a lean startup methodology, a key aspect of that is staying in touch with their users and keeping in mind what works and doesn’t work for the users.

So if you’re thinking, “There’s no point in contacting an app developer. What are the odds they’re going to make a change for me?” You might be wrong about that. Get in touch with them. And I don’t just mean by posting a review. Send them an email or message them on their website and let them know what you would like changed. You may be surprised.

I’ve even done this for software from my law firm. The vendors I’ve contacted have made changes based on my feedback. When a company gets feedback from one user, they usually assume that for every one user, there are probably a hundred others with the same issue or concern.

Another thing: Contact app developers when you like something too. Don’t wait until you have a problem and only tell them about the negatives. If there’s something that really works well for you, let them know. Or if you found a problem or bug that you want fixed, tell them something that also works really well that you don’t want to change. That’s really helpful for them and may actually make someone’s day. Most businesses — not just app developers — often only hear from customers when they have a complaint. That means they never hear back from customers when things are going really well.

In the end, it’s tough to strike a balance between the benefits of mindfulness reminders and the risks that they will actually frustrate you and impede your mindfulness.

But even if you are not a programmer or software developer, there is a way to take a more proactive stance to influence how the technology you use is developed and deployed for your own benefit, others like you and the technology companies that put a lot of time, energy, money, and other resources into creating apps that will help people be mindful.

Using Technology to Bring Mindfulness into Your Day

Typically, when we think about mindfulness, we think about avoiding technologyUsing Technology to Bring Mindfulness into Your Day—putting away our smartphones, taking a break from TV or computers. But really, technology and mindfulness aren’t so different. How? They’re both tools to help us solve problems and achieve certain objectives… one is just focused on external problems while the other focuses on the internal.

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The Best Apps to Help You Live in the Moment

Today, people use their phones for a variety of different tasks and we’re using the-best-apps-to-help-you-live-in-the-momentthem all throughout the day! In fact, many people spend 5+ hours per day using their smartphones. And while technology can help us in countless ways, it’s not always the best thing for us. I mean, take a look at Generation Z, the generation that has grown up with technology, and you’ll see the changes it brings about in us as individuals!

As even more studies on how technology impacts us come out, researchers are urging us to start limiting our screen time.
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November Mindfulness, Meditation, and Technology Roundup

Interesting Reads & StudiesNovember Mindfulness, Meditation, and Technology Roundup

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Study: Meditation vs. Yoga for a Brain & Energy Boost

If there were something that you could do for free, something that took less than study-meditation-vs-yoga-for-a-brain-energy-boosta half hour per day, that was scientifically proven to boost energy and brainpower, would you do it? For most of us, that answer is a resounding YES! Unless it’s hard or takes a lot of effort…

Well, I have news—it exists. Honestly, it could take as little effort as sitting silently and focusing on your breath for 25 minutes.

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What’s A Mindful Company & What Does It Take To Be One?

We’ve talked before about using mindfulness at a personal level in the workplacewhats-a-mindful-company-what-does-it-take-to-be-one to reduce stress. But you may have also heard the term “mindful company.” So what does it really mean to be a “mindful company”? This term has only started to gain popularity in recent years. In fact, many still question whether this is really possible or just a term brands like to toss around to sound more appealing to customers and employees.

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Reduce Your Digital Clutter, Reduce Your Anxiety

Most people regularly (or at least semi-regularly) go through their stuff and Reduce Your Digital Clutter, Reduce Your Anxietydeclutter. We donate old clothes, we throw away broken items around the house, we host yard sales to sell off those things that we no longer want or need. It can feel cleansed and refreshing! So why should our digital clutter be any different?

Plus, eliminating digital clutter can have another benefit: reduced anxiety.

With everyone online account you have, with every device you own, your cyber security decreases. It’s great that you’re watching out for phishing and got strong, unique passwords on all your accounts, but what’s even more helpful to your cyber security—and your peace of mind—is cleaning things up!

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Technology Changes Us, And Generation Z Is Proof

We all know that each generation has different experiences, they grow up in a Technology Changes Us, And Generation Z Is Proofdifferent time, so it’s impossible not to! But is the latest generation, generation Z, missing out? Has their generation been destroyed by technology? We’ve all see the articles online saying things like “Millennials are killing fabric softener” or “Millennials are running the wine industry,” but what about the generation after them? The generation that is now beginning to reach early adulthood?

Generally, from generation-to-generation characteristics will change gradually. But Jean Twenge, a Psychology professor at San Diego State University, who has been studying the changes among generations for years, noticed a huge shift in the Z generation.

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