An Open Letter to Phone-Addicted Friends and Family

I know we’ve talked about this casually before.

“Everyone’s addicted to devices these days.”

“The average human being now has the attention span of a goldfish”

But it’s more than that.

On the other side of every conversation we have is another human being with an experience as rich and complex as yours. Today I want to try to share with you what it’s like to be me, on the other end of things.

When your phone is out and you are impulsively reaching for it every few moments, it changes the conversation.

It become an arms race for the most interesting, most stimulating topic. I feel this weight, my mind urgently searching for something to keep your attention, otherwise I see your eyes start to wander. I see your hand reach for your phone, in the middle of my sentence. Like a child, I rush. I speed up.

There’s this feeling, like your self worth is only what you can come up with to entertain those in your presence, because you know they’ll turn away from you if you don’t… it’s one of the worst feelings in the world Disappointed Face on Google Android 7.1. To watch someone important in your life consciously or subconsciously – literally and physically – turn away from your face as you are talking…. Disappointed Face on Google Android 7.1… for this to happen again and again… all day long… in every moment we spend time together Disappointed Face on Google Android 7.1  Disappointed Face on Google Android 7.1

I know this might seem like a naggy pet-peeve, but for me, it’s as important as being kind to someone, being a good friend, being there for your people.

The alternative is actually hurtful. It’s the same feeling of worthlessness you might get if you asked a good friend for help in a moment of serious need, and you could feel their turning away from you when they text back, “nah, I’m busy.” Abandoned, simply because there’s something more interesting.

Being turned away from, big or small, is hurtful. And being turned away from as a matter of habit, well…


–  –  –


Maybe the next time we spend time together, we can silence our phones. Turn them off. Leave them in the other room.

What a relief it would be, just to be me, to have the space and time to really share who I am, instead of constantly trying to win the arms race for your affection attention.


P.S. – This is not just a think piece. Most of this was lifted verbatim from real emails and conversations.

Thoughts on the Meditator Ego

If your practice is good, you may become proud of it. What you do is good, but something more is added to it. Pride is extra.

-Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I started writing about the mind last year, but haven’t published a post in a while because some time ago I uncovered yet another layer of my meditator ego.

My meditator ego is a little sneaky, you see. Yours might be too.

I think we all start (or most of us start) as a humble beginner: “Ugh, I’m so bad at this meditation thing, *googles ‘meditation tips for beginners'”

But eventually we, we grow. We build concentration, have insights, and maybe even have some “cool” experiences.

  • At its most bottom layer, maybe we think to ourselves: “Wow, that guy is totally mindless, he needs to meditate.”
  • Maybe we think we’re beginning to get good at this thing. Maybe we start to tell others how awesome meditation is.
  • Or, maybe it’s just that we think we’ve learned at least a thing or two about the nature of the mind, and think about it with a certain confidence (or, write a blog/forum post).
  • Maybe it’s more subtle than that – maybe we now sit with an expectation of what’s supposed to happen, and seek to recreate it. We “know” how things are going to be, and so some part of us sits to get that thing or feeling.

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Beware of the Hazardous “I know things” Phase

Most of us interested in meditation and the world of the mind will spend a huge amount (if not a majority) of our time in an awkward middle phase.

This awkward middle phase lies somewhere between the beginner and the expert, and comes with one particularly insidious trap:

knowledge graph

As beginners it’s easy to admit to ourselves that we know nothing.

But as we advance our ego steps in – we’ve been doing this for a while… two weeks, two months, two years, two decades, two centuries (hey Yoda). So, hey, we feel like we know some things.

But are you really in the Expert phase (even if you just know something specific), or are you actually in the Hazard phase?

While the graph above isn’t exactly a scientific endeavor, it matches up with the psychology in this area. A phenomena known as the the Dunning-Kruger effect provides evidence for a common intuition: that people with partial information do a bad job at evaluating just how partial their knowledge really is. In other words, the less you know, the less apt you are at recognizing how little you know. And as you know more, your ability to fully understand your own ignorance grows. Or, in the psychologist’s language, the unskilled lack the ability to “to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately.”

In meditation circles, everybody thinks they know how it is. On Facebook, on Reddit, on Youtube, in person. “Conscious experience? I know something about that.”

And as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and writing about this stuff, I get it. I fall into this trap on a regular basis.

I’ve revisited beginner techniques that I thought I’ve mastered, and have been truly humbled by the realization of how much power my ego had over my sense of “what I know.” I don’t want to be at the same place “on the path” in ten years because I was wrong about something I thought I knew.

So, do you know things?

Or do you “know nothing?”

If so, you’re in good company, standing right alongside Jon Snow and I. Come on in. Our minds our open, and we’re ready to learn.


How to Actually Make Meditation A Habit

meditation rocks

“This year I’m going to start meditating regularly.”

It sounds good, but in the real world we rarely follow through.

Maybe we meditate a few times and nothing exciting happens. Or we make some progress. But after a few days, a week, a month, we stop. It doesn’t become a regular part of our life.

It doesn’t become a habit.

If you want to get the benefits of meditation, talking about it with friends, reading about it on Facebook and Reddit, and meditating “every so often” is not going to cut it.

It’s time to start thinking about how to turn it into a habit, robust enough for the long run. We know meditation is a practice much like exercise (it only works if done consistently) – so treat it that way!

Today we’re going to abolish the casual: “ughh, I need to meditate more.” If you ever expected to evolve from a Facebook-addicted mind to a Zen master in a matter of weeks, this article is for you.

Meditation is amazing – it rewires our brain, literally building gray matter and undoing years of conditioning.

That’s why today I’m going to give you a blueprint to actually make meditation a part of your life.

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Why You Should Know the Difference Between Scribe Knowledge and Warrior Knowledge

Warrior Knowledge Vs Scribe Knowledge

Words often limit us in ways we don’t even know. That’s why I love words like schadenfreude – apart from just being plain fun to use, it helps illuminate the limitations of language itself.

The way we talk about things has a profound impact on the way we think about things – and ultimately – the decisions we make… even how we act without realizing it. Words are powerful, even when we don’t realize the power they have over us.

Today I want to talk about one instance where the power of words often secretly sabotages our mindfulness and meditation practice: the lack of a coherent way to distinguish between experiential knowledge, and intellectual knowledge

In the simplest terms, think of this as the difference between knowing what [the western version of] love is (scribe), understanding it through pop culture and worldy observations… and feeling love. Being in love (warrior).

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You are NOT your first thought: Understanding Your Dual Mind

thought light bulb

We usually think of ourselves as having one mind. You’re you. I’m me. We’re each one person.

But if you’ve ever set your keys down and realized you have NO idea where, weren’t sure if you left the iron/stove on, or skipped ahead and lost time because you went into “autopilot” mode during a commute, you should know your mind isn’t so simple.

Sometimes, our “observing” mind takes a back seat entirely. Othertimes, it’s there, but without any power:

  • You look back and get angry at yourself for watching TV instead of doing work. In fact, you feel guilty in the moment, but just keep going!
  • You rationally KNOW and WANT to exercise more or eat healthier, but when the time comes to make a healthy decision, you just can’t make it happen.
  • You know you need to start that big project, but… you will in an hour. Promise.

Most of us can intuitively conclude that something tricky is going on here.

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What’s the Difference Between Concentration Meditation and Insight (Mindfulness)?

concentration vs mindfulness (insight)

When I first started meditation, I simply followed whatever the guided meditation, book, or instruction I had in front of me.

I had no idea there were different types and categories of meditation, and that they differ significantly in their approach.

If you are working within a tradition – these distinctions and categories may be irrelevant. Learn from a legitimate teaching source completely, and just do it.

But many in the West are cobbling together and learning on their own, and may be conflating two common meditation techniques: concentration (or Samatha) and mindfulness (or insight).

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