John Lockwood

Unboxing a Mind

Two New Mind Hacks - Insight Meditation and RSS Readers

This week I’m revisiting two tools that have been absent from my life for too long, insight meditation and an RSS reader. There’s really not much relation between the two, other than I wanted to re-introduce both of them into my life in the same week. Something you do that you might find useful or beneficial is a good working definition of a mind hack, so I’ve glued them together that way. I hope they like each other!

The RSS reader I’m using, which is working out well for me so far, is feedly.com. There’s a free version that I think will meet my needs well. It offers the ability to track up to 100 feeds. As I said when I bought my first hard drive (20 megabytes), “I’ll never need more than that.” In case I do end up (inevitably?) needing more than that, I’m also simultaneously looking into Digg Reader. The jury’s still out on which one I’ll settle on

More important than the specific reader to me is what any decent feeder represents: the ability to more specifically find high quality posts without the filter provided by Google, Twitter, or some other intermediary. Sure, since blog feeds tend to be shown in popularity order, there’s some selection forces at work. But I still choose what to include, try out, or exclude, so I can better zero in on brain-food for topics I enjoy and want to follow. I don’t care what Twitter thinks the trends are for my area (usually some combination of who died today, some hop-on meme, and the latest political gaffe).

The other hack, insight meditation, is a time honored approach to beginning to live a happier life. There are many great books and free blogs that can teach you the basics of the approach. To name just one personal favorite of mine if you need a starting point, try Mindfulness in Plain English. The specific approach there is in the Buddhist tradition, but there are contemplative practices in all major religions as well as secular versions.

To share one experience I had this morning that I enjoyed, I noticed how much calmer and more at peace I was when I focused on the object of meditation (the breath), than when I wandered off. My active mind shifted to technical problems I could solve at work and other issues, but often there was a feeling of tightening or tenseness when that happened – as though the mind reflecting on itself was the happy version of the same mind that could pursue plans and strategies.

Is there something you used to do that made you happy but you’ve abandoned the practice? Maybe it’s time to think about letting it back into your life.