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Mindfulness is the Opposite of Neediness

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Whenever someone tries to convince you that eating breakfast prevents weight gain or that cold weather makes you sick , just send them one of Tyler Vigen’s charts. He graphs strange similarities between seemingly irrelevant statistics, demonstrating that you can find apparent links between all kinds of unrelated events.

Per capita cheese consumption appears to mirror the number accidental deaths due to being tangled in bedsheets. The number of pool drownings rises and falls with the number of films Nicholas Cage has appeared in that year. Tyler has written a book on this phenomenon, called Spurious Correlations.

Still, we can’t help but notice patterns in life, and they aren’t necessarily coincidence. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’m convinced meditation makes your phone battery last longer.

I’ve tracked this relationship informally over a few years, and I believe there’s a causal effect. Whenever I get away from meditation practice, my phone needs charging earlier in the day. During the summer, I got inconsistent with my practice, and my phone’s battery died really fast. Now that I’m back to two brief sessions a day, I don’t have to charge it until bedtime.

The explanation is pretty simple, but it hints at something more profound going on. A simple usage-tracking app would surely confirm that the more consistently I meditate, the less time I spend dicking with my phone throughout the day.

There are other behavior changes I’m sure are related. I’m eating less junk food, I make fewer dumb purchases, I get out of bed with less fuss, I’m more attracted to work.

Basically, I’ve been much less impulsive. And that’s because regular meditation makes me more mindful throughout the day. Whenever you’re being mindful, the present moment doesn’t seem to need improvement.

This means there are fewer moments that I feel could be improved by pulling out my phone and checking my Twitter. So my phone stays in my pocket, I stay in the moment, and my battery stays green. 

When ordinary moments are good enough

When I’m meditating consistently, I simply have fewer impulses to entertain and comfort myself, because ordinary moments feel more than good enough, most of the time. The smart phone is good barometer of this impulse, because it’s used as an instrument of escape much of the time—escape from boredom, escape from making the next decision, escape from troublesome thoughts. It’s a kind of “sure thing”, even though it’s never that great.

Checking a weather app before you go outside is one thing, but checking Instagram for the sixth time in a day is obviously a kind of thoughtless pleasure-hunting that we wouldn’t bother with if we were finding contentment in ordinary moments.

As my practice became consistent again, I noticed signs that a particular kind of confidence had returned. Social anxiety has gone dormant. I look forward to errands. I interrupt myself less while I’m working. I spend little time ruminating and a lot more time moving, doing, finishing things. I find myself enjoying strange details: the hem of my shirtsleeve, the blackness of a tree’s shadow, the orderliness of city blocks, the hum of my fridge.

General insecurity—about the future, about my capabilities, about particular dilemmas in my life—has waned, even though I have more work to do, under greater time constraints, than I did in the Summer. It’s as if a layer of “okayness”, which seems indifferent to day-to-day circumstances, has been laid down on top of my daily routines.

This is a familiar feeling by now, this background sense of assuredness that comes with living mindfully, even though it always sneaks away quietly when I get away from my practice. I’ve known for a long time that life gets easier the more frequently I sit and meditate, but this time the principle behind it is very clear: mindfulness is the opposite of neediness.

The more consistent my practice, even when I’m only sitting a few minutes a day, the fewer of my moments seem to need something added to them, least of all the low-brow thrill one gets from flipping through social media updates on their phone.

Ordinary, unheralded moments—the walk across a parking lot being my favorite example—begin to carry a certain sense of satisfaction that doesn’t depend on outcomes or results. They feel strangely fulfilling in themselves. And because life contains a nearly unlimited supply of these kinds of moments, you can’t help but feel rich.

Mindfulness is a basic respect for the present moment

For those who don’t know quite what meditation is, essentially you are taking a bit of time to sit down and notice what it is like, in detail, to be a human being sitting there. This is more interesting than it sounds, because there’s a lot going on when you pay attention.

Firstly there’s a whole variety of bodily feelings: breathing, pressure, color patterns behind the eyes, tiny aches and twinges, unidentifiable pulsing andbikeshadow tingling, air touching the skin, tongue touching the teeth, joints and muscles all reporting back to you. There are sounds and vibrations in the room around you. On top of these concrete details is an ever-drifting skyscape of thoughts and feelings, desires and urges.

The basic idea is to gently observe some part of this sea of experience, usually the breath at first, and whenever you notice the mind has wandered, you return it back to the present. The most important part is of this attention-paying is to do it mindfully—that is, to simply notice what it is currently like, suspending any intention to change it. What the experience is is more important than what it should be or what you want it to be.

This “observing something without trying to immediately change it” is a new experience for many people, and it’s what’s responsible for that emerging feeling of okayness and confidence. You learn what it’s like to allow a moment to unfold without fearing or hoping it will go a particular way.

This fearing and hoping we attach to many experiences is a kind of visceral neediness—a demand for the present moment to be easier, safer, or more comforting than it actually is. Developing mindfulness means practicing a kind of unconditional courage. You are always willing to experience reality exactly as it is when it arrives.

This is not something we do automatically. We’re highly reactive creatures, still calibrated for the savannah. We can experience a fight-or-flight adrenaline reaction over a dot of mustard on a shirt cuff. Non-reactivity and non-neediness have to be practiced, and there’s no safer and easier a time to do that than when you’re sitting on a cushion in your home for a few minutes.

Think of it as developing a certain respect for the character of the present moment just as it is, the same way we learn to respect a person despite their faults and imperfections. Essentially, your whole life is a progression of such meetings: a moment will present itself, warts and all, and you can either respect and welcome it as the imperfect thing it is, or you can insist that it needs to be better, prettier, more sympathetic to you. And of course, at that moment, it can’t be.

The side-effects of this kind of basic respect appear in unexpected places, and depend on your own personal quirks and hangups. Work ethic improves because you’re willing to work through tough spots and ugly dilemmas. Social interactions improve because you’re willing to accept that you may be judged or misunderstood.

And your phone battery lasts longer, because not many moments make you want to turn away from them and look at a tiny screen instead.

Photos by Joe del Tufo


Introducing Camp Calm 

Next month I’m launching a virtual workshop for those who are interested in developing some basic mindfulness skills and want some day-by-day instruction.

campcalm-165You will be able to enroll in mid-December but the course itself will start in the first week of January, because a lot of people are super busy in December.

I hope you join us. No experience necessary! More info here.




David November 30, 2015 at 3:11 am

Hi David,

This is definitely something I can relate to. I can tell if I had a particularly worrisome day if my phone doesn’t last until the evening, but on a good day there’s still 70% battery left.

I’m intrigued by Camp Calm, maybe it’s a good opportunity to firm up that meditation habit I’ve been failing to build…

And I don’t know, I think someone out there could give you a plausible explanation for the cheese thing. Cheese causes nightmares, which mean you’re more likely to tangle yourself in the bedsheet. How’s that?


David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:28 am

I think I might get a usage-tracking app and chart my phone use for an experiment. I’d record whatever else happened that day and see if I see any patterns. Whenever I do an experiment I discover patterns I couldn’t have guessed at.

Camp Calm is meant to help people actually get down onto the cushion and meditate consistently. Making Things Clear tells you every thing you need to know but it doesn’t provide accountability for actually developing the habit.

InDaylight November 30, 2015 at 4:12 am

Thanks for this post David,
I love this and agree – Developing mindfulness means practicing a kind of unconditional courage.

It is funny how our mind is wired to look for correlations, explanations and reasons. Perhaps it is also one way, we don’t respect and accept what is as what it is.

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:33 am

Your last sentence here gave me something to think about. One aspect of mindfulness that it is unassuming. In meditation you suspend conclusions about what you observe, which is a good thing to learn for off-the-cushion life, especially when it comes to people. We quickly make judgments about people based on their posture, clothing, language and other circumstantial attributes, and often it prevents us from really seeing them.

Burak November 30, 2015 at 5:02 am

David, I really like the way you touch our lives. Thanks for that!

P.S. I don’t remember where I read it but there is a famous saying (or one form of a saying): “There are lies, there are damned lies… and there are statistics” :)

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:35 am

I looked up this quite and there’s actually a wikipedia entry on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lies,_damned_lies,_and_statistics

I had heard it and never quite knew what it meant, but the idea is that statistics are often used to convince hold up weak arguments.

BrownVagabonder November 30, 2015 at 6:55 am

“It’s as if a layer of “okayness”, which seems indifferent to day-to-day circumstances, has been laid down on top of my daily routines.”
I love the way you put this because this is exactly what I have been trying to describe to people around me. When something goes wrong at work, or with anything else, most people might think that I don’t care, as I am not running around in a panic trying to figure out a solution. I’m sitting there calmly, thinking through it. It is because I know that this will pass as well and a day later, there will be another crisis to deal with, another panic to be a part of. This general ‘layer of okayness’ as you describe it, is ever-present with me, and makes me realize I don’t need to do anything or be anything. Everything is fine. I am fine. It’s a weird feeling unless you’ve experienced it.
Thanks for the great post as always.

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:42 am

I’m glad you know what I mean, because I don’t think I did a very good job of conveying that feeling in this post. When I’m living mindfully, the first thing I remember when something happens is that it’s fundamentally okay — not because I want it to happen, but because it’s already real. There’s no sensible choice but to deal with it, and everything is easier to deal with if you’re not freaiking out. So the response is always the same: open up to whatever’s real at this moment, to minimize panic and resentment, and decide what to do. Another way of putting it is “Every moment is spilled milk” — once it happens, resentment is only self-destructive, so it’s worth practicing real-time acceptance of everything that happens regardless of its preferability, and that’s one thing meditation is great at teaching us.

Jessica M November 30, 2015 at 7:32 am

Hi David! I loved this entry. (I love them all, really.) I felt compelled to write you on this one because it spoke to me in particular. I have always “been a fan” (insert laughing at myself emoji here) of meditation and mindfulness, but my practice has been inconsistent at best. I find myself checking social media way too often, and I’m quite surprised I haven’t already created a blog of some sort to occupy more of my mind. (This is not a “good” of “bad” qualifier- just an observance.

I get married to a wonderful man in less than a week. It will be a small, intimate ceremony. We
both wanted it to be small, and I was particularly good with this because I have always wanted to “focus on the marriage, not the wedding” but as the day gets closer and closer I find my mindfulness at 5% and craziness thoughts at a 95%. I am sure this is NOT abnormal, however, I know that there is a peace within me that I am not accessing when it comes to this major life change.

Thank you for this post, and I REALLY look forward to Camp Calm. I already submitted my email address for it!

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:54 am

Hi Jessica. First of all, congratulations! I wish you a beautiful ceremony and a long and happy marriage.

I think that certain life events are always going to make us crazy, but practice can definitely take the edge off. Human beings really don’t get a lot of lessons in “the art of not freaking out”, and a regular meditation practice is the best basis for that that I know of.

I’ve designed Camp Calm to give people a framework to wade into some basic meditation and mindful living practices without it being a chore. Basically we will do a little bit a day for a month, and develop enough a habit that you can take it as far as you want to.

Jessica M November 30, 2015 at 9:54 am

Haha thank you for your thoughtful reply, David!

I am really glad you decided to do Camp Calm. Sounds right up my alley! Looking forward to more details as they come out via my email. =)

Joe November 30, 2015 at 7:56 am

terrific post. life goal: strive towards unconditional courage.

I will.


David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:54 am

*high five*

Delma November 30, 2015 at 8:15 am

I’ve always had a hard case of apophenia (seeing connections where none exist) and for five years wrote an online journal by that name.

There’s a crazy kind of wonder and beauty in connections, because the possibilities are endless. Indra’s Net comes to mind and suggests that those connections may not be entirely spurious after all. It may be that since all is connected on some level, in the more suspect links, it’s a matter of not being able to see the nodes in between. Kevin Bacon and degrees of separation may be at play.

Although I must admit that the cell phone scenario makes good sense and are probably nodes much closer on the net. :)

Count me in for Camp Calm.

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

I think about this a lot too. Humans seem to be good at seeing patterns, and clearly we are sensitive to the beauty in that — our poems and stories are often based on metaphors, which are a rather sophisticated kind of pattern. It’s quite amazing that an animal has evolved that can understand microcosm and metaphor. Anyway, I’m sure there are many orders of patterns that we haven’t noticed yet, just as we spent the first 99+% of our existence unaware that we live among stars that are organized into galaxies.

If you’re interested in Camp Calm, check out the link at the bottom, and submit your email so I can keep you posted.

Paula Millhouse November 30, 2015 at 10:50 am

Such an amazing article, David.
Is it weird I tweeted it?

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 4:02 pm

It is awesome that you tweeted it. Thank you!

Omika Jikaria November 30, 2015 at 11:58 am

Really great article. It puts into words what I have been feeling lately but haven’t been able to verbalize to others. Thanks for such an articulate explanation of this practice.

uncephalized November 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Nice post, David. You are really quite a writer and thinker.

Are you planning at any point to do a long-term update on how ‘tidyness’ a la KonMari is working out for you? I’d love to hear more about that. Thanks for everything you do and are!

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Yes, I am. I’m pretty sure that my last post this year will be an update on all 20 or so of my experiments.

uncephalized November 30, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Excellent. Looking forward to it.

dh November 30, 2015 at 12:17 pm

What a lot of people don’t understand is that meditation itself is a part of the ever-drifting skyscape. In other words, meditation is a thought form which also has to be dismantled. Meditation is ultimately a form of what Chogyam Trungpa called “spiritual materialism,” i.e., this notion that *I* am meditating to get *something.* But the reality is that you are *not* the meditator or the object of meditation, but rather you are the consciousness on which the meditator and the meditation arise, subside, and disappear, along with all the other bullshit: thoughts, feelings, desires, urges, etc. The *idea* that you are doing a meditation is *already* an obstacle (a heavy thought) and part of the problem: the preconceptions, the expectations, all the extra thinking that comes with the term meditation and the practice of meditation. For those of us who have found peace, all we are doing is NOT THINKING– that’s the open secret. Meditation and spirituality come from the world of thought and thinking. In fact, they are some of the *heaviest* thought forms out there — that’s why when you sit down to meditate the mind goes back and forth and you battle with it along with your breath or whatever, and the whole thing feels like an absurd game that leaves you more stressed out than when you began. The first step on the journey to inner peace is to throw meditation away. I always recommend this Youtube video as the best starting point for beginners:


David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:09 pm

I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t agree that it’s a good starting point for most people. Meditation, for the vast majority of people, has to start as a concept and a technique. The concept of “meditation”, or any other thought, doesn’t need to get in the way of meditation. It can take a while to learn how to stay aware of thoughts, but it is not an insoluble problem as you frame it here.

Some people might find Barry Long’s or Eckhart Tolle’s “skip the concepts, skip the techniques” approach to be useful, or maybe even sufficient, but for many others it isn’t going to click. Meditation, using some basic verbal instructions, is enough to get people interested in looking deeper into any one of the many possible approaches.

Another point worth making is that the transcendence of the self or liberation from suffering are not the only reasons to meditate. It is perfectly worthwhile to pursue it solely as a self-improvement or stress-reduction technique. Spiritual types don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. Quite often people come to it for one reason and stick with it for another.

dh December 1, 2015 at 10:08 pm

But a technique implies something that you practice daily or whatever, something different from regular life, something that you “do” among many other things that you do, like going to the gym or feeding the dog. A technique means conforming to a pattern, imitating, twisting the mind into something, giving the mind yet another damn “thing” or problem to deal with, the problem of meditation. Everyone already has enough problems and crap they have to do everyday, so why add another extra problem or chore to a human being? I think the quickest route is to simply tell people over and over to stop thinking: stop thinking during the bad times, stop thinking during the good times; in fact, stop thinking around the clock — as much as humanly possible. The ONLY thing that all these enlightened spiritual types are doing is not thinking. That is their only trick and the only thing they have to teach. All the spiritual books on earth can be summed up in two words: “don’t think.”

David Cain December 3, 2015 at 10:04 am

All a technique means is that you know what to do. There are things you need to do to be in a position to meditate, even if you regard meditation as being rather than doing.

It doesn’t need to be a chore, and in fact nothing does, which is one of the major insights meditation can provide.

I do not agree that non-thinking is the bullseye for most contemplatives, and it certainly doesn’t represent the entirety of the benefits of meditation. There are layers and layers of insights about the nature of thought, reactivity and sensation. Most contemplative traditions I know of include a long conditioning process because the human mind is so reactive. There is a whole range of reasons people come to meditation, and many levels of benefits. Enlightenment, whatever it means to a particular person, is not the only goal and it isn’t the same as simply not thinking. Enlightenment would imply the person can still function in the world and I don’t see how a person can live without thinking at all.

dh December 3, 2015 at 9:04 pm

“I don’t see how a person can live without thinking at all.”

Have you tried it??? Have you really experimented and gone into it? And don’t ask “how,” because that implies that there’s some kind of method, and their really isn’t. All I can maybe do is convince you to try it as an experiment and see what happens. The idea is to make your mind so still that there is only the functioning of the body and nothing else. If you can do this, you almost won’t even know what you are looking at (like an animal, you will still see, yet without the heaviness and energy drain of “looking” ). It really behooves you to find out what I’m talking about. What could it hurt to try? You will still be able to function in the world strangely enough, and if you need thought for some practical aspect of your life, it will be there. What I’m describing is what all real masters are pointing to, the end of the “me.” Meditation is the *beginning* of the me, as it depends upon an “I” or a “me” to focus one’s attention. Enlightenment, like all spiritual vocabulary, is totally meaningless. It’s used to inspire and motivate, but it is a heavy, totally destructive, *evil* piece of spiritual materialism that puts up a false impression about what’s possible and adds a mystical reflection to what is an ordinary human non-magical endeavor (the cessation of *all* thought from the brain). Having a firm grasp of spiritual materialism is essential. I wish you peace, bro! Take care. :)

Raquelita November 30, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I discovered your blog when I lived in Colombia last year and used to read it on my way to school on the bus. Now that I’m back home (UK) and with a little half-Colombian on my knee most of the day, I’m striving to actually take what you say (especially about mindfulness and meditation) and put it into practice. Partly for myself, and partly because I want to be able to pass on the benefits to him as he grows up.

I remember having a class on meditation as school once and everyone thinking it was a bit silly (we were teenagers), but as a teacher myself, I really think it would be beneficial for children to learn too, then it would just be a habit.

I can see the benefits of meditation, it’s just cultivating the habit I am finding difficult.

David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:15 pm

I hope one day mindfulness is something we introduce to children as a normal subject. Most of us come to it as an adult, with deeply-carved thinking habits that can hinder us.

Annika Harris has started a site (and maybe written a book?) about simple mindfulness exercises for children. I haven’t tried these but here they are:


Dan November 30, 2015 at 12:49 pm

“Dispelling dread isn’t a matter of trying to forget about washing dishes. It’s realizing, in actual fact, that you only have one dish to wash ever, this one. Only one step to take ever, this one. And that is Zen.” – Alan Watts

A sentiment that was oddly confirmed in a recent scientific study doing that exact activity:

The Daily Chore That Can Increase Mental Stimulation and Decrease Anxiety

As to the essay’s overarching theme, it’s a wonderful (and unique) summation of “mindfulness” and the dynamic ‘goal’ of the popular movement that’s gaining steam in its name – but I recently came across another article/perspective that, while sharing the same aims and principles, offered a semantic shift that led to a seismic shift in my own view/understanding (and helped me to better slip into and remain in that preferred state). That is, it isn’t “mindfulness” at all – it’s “mindlessness.” The idea is best expressed and explained in said article:

The Mindless Pursuit of Mindfulness, or: Why it’s Better to Mindfully Pursue Mindlessness

Deserves a full read, but here’s the capper:

“Furthermore, take one more look at that quote at the top there by Dogen. What does it mean? He’s talking about the art of living. And it means that the ultimate expression of life occurs not when you attempt to impose your mind on a moment, but when you allow a moment to impose itself on your mind. ***It’s the exact opposite of mindfulness. It’s mindlessness.*** Or, as the Zennists refer to it (again, the thread returns to “zen,” see?) “No-mind.” It’s not about being in the moment or not being in the moment. It’s about BEING THE MOMENT. It’s not complicated. You just need the courage to give your ego monster a quick boot over a deep abyss, which almost no one does.”

After all, when you are mind-“full,” you don’t have space for anything else. As he points out, it’s the Zen principle of “mushin” – or, roughly, no-mind. And it seems to me to line-up precisely with Douglas Harding’s “headless” philosophy. “On having no head” could equally be stated as “on having no mind.” As the master says in the koan, “empty your cup.”

On a semi-related not, Aeon recently had a great article on how websites (via their smartphone portals) go to great (and subtle) lengths to sink their mental fishhooks in you:

User behaviour

David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:26 pm

These are really interesting, thank you. I’ll give the mindlessness article a full read later, but it sounds to me like he’s discussing a problem that has probably been caused by language. We use the word mindfulness to describe both the “mind-fullness” you describe, and at other times the mindlessness referred to in the article, and also just general awareness (as in “be mindful of the attic beam”).

We have the same problem with the (I think false) dichotomy between “being in the moment” and “being the moment”. To one person “being in the moment” means a non-dualistic experience of the moment, and to someone else it means to pay attention to what you’re doing, and to yet another person it means you should get married impulsively in Vegas one weekend.

All of this has to be sorted out by exploring mindful living practices and meditation practices, so that you can map your own understanding of each concept onto your experience, and then eventually let go of the concept when you gain an true familiarity with the experience, and know it that way. This is why I’m so keen on getting people to get down on the cushion and try things.

I hope that makes sense? All I’m saying is that we will all gravitate towards different language to describe certain universal experiences, and it causes confusion until we really know it in our own experience.

Dan December 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I do feel precision of language plays a crucial role, and the way we turn a phrase can cause a turn in our understanding. But your point is very well made, in that wording/framing can have different effects on a per individual basis. To me, though, “being the moment” rather than “being *in* the moment” points more directly to that oceanic/”headless” experience that Harding so often describes, and helps to erase/assuage that individualistic, ego-driven, separated, “skin-encapsulated” idea we have of ourselves. A better gateway to connect to that “total field.” Speaks as well to that “flow” or “zone” state that many athletes and artists often describe. In that same way, then, we find that we aren’t *in* the present, we *are* the present. We are entropy fighting entropy, time contemplating time, gravity experiencing gravity.

That said, and far more importantly, the proof in the pudding is ultimately in the eating of it – which you quite rightly and deftly underscored and articulated. True to Zen’s “the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon,” the fundamental apprehension lies beyond conception and in the actual doing. And it is that “moon” of experience that no amount of pointing fingers can clarify and make intimately known, but they can do plenty to confuse. To paraphrase Manly P. Hall, under many names It is known in all lands. He goes on:

“Now, we may say, if this is true, why are all these revelations so definitely different? Why should the Chinese approach it one way, and the Hindus another. The answer is very obvious. They are both approaching it in the same way, but with different terminology. The symbolism in its obvious physical form is different. The symbolism in its principles is the same. All of these great systems…have one solid foundation. There can be but one Right, as there can be only one light of one sun shining upon the world.”

The Tower of Babel serves as an excellent cautionary tale, for – as helpful as symbolism can be – it can lead to great obfuscation and confusion (not to mention brutal conflict).

Lastly, have posted it on this site in the past, but all the same I’m quite partial to Alan Watts’ talk on/introduction to meditation (which I feel lines-up quite well with your take):

The Art of Meditation

David Cain December 3, 2015 at 10:07 am

Really well put Dan. I love Allan Watts too. He finds a good balance between being articulate and accurate without being too dry. I’ll listen to the lecture after work today.

Dan December 3, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Love the way you put that re: Watts’ work. He is one of few I have come across who has a striking ability to condense, summarize, and tie-together a broad range of subjects/philosophical thought, while keeping his discourse not only insightful and engaging, but entertaining. He seems to at once grasp complexities/obscurities, and be able to keep his explanations simple (but not “simplistic”). With masterful use of metaphor and analogy, you get hit over the head with a lot of “duh, why didn’t I think of thats” on an almost sentence-by-sentence basis. The whole “stating the obvious” that first needs to be stated to become so obvious.

On that same level, to me, is Manly P. Hall (whom I previously quoted). Like Watts, he has given a wealth of free-form lectures that are entirely engaging and jaw-droppingly off-the-cuff. Here is one, for whenever you find time after the Watts lecture, that fits in nicely with your blog post on ‘bad faith’ (“You Are Free, Like it or Not”):

Integration of the Ageless, Timeless Spiritual Laws

And, if you’d like to explore more of his work after that, there is an almost complete collection of audio recordings of his talks on YouTube (I like to think of them as proto-Podcasts):

Manly P Hall – Lectures

As you’ll discover, it’s a veritable buffet for the brain – with fascinating, wide-ranging subjects (some in multi-part series form), and insights that remain at the cutting edge/timeless.

Lauren November 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

So cheese dreams are real, and potenially fatal!

David Cain November 30, 2015 at 6:21 pm

That’s what the data seems to indicate:


Rose Costas December 1, 2015 at 7:23 am

Thanks David
This is a great and timely post. most of us are so wrapped up in the season and everything else that comes along that we are just going through the motions and mindfulness will take us right back to where we need to be so we can relax, unwind and breathe.
Thanks again.

David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Tis the season of mindlessness!

Free to Pursue December 1, 2015 at 11:44 am

I can relate to the idea that a smartphone’s battery is a reasonable measure of mindfulness. I find there’s a high correlation between contentment and reduced consumption of the superfluous (in my case it’s superfluous status updates and news via social media). The more preoccupied and unhappy I am, the more meaningless busy work I do and the more I seek silly distractions.

It’s a classic case of acedia and the only cure is to reawaken awareness. The more I’m aware of living life moment by moment, both as I experience it and observe myself experiencing it, the better I feel. It’s definitely the best way I know how to avoid seeking out destructive behaviours and small distractions.

dh December 1, 2015 at 4:36 pm

It’s interesting how you say, “observe myself experiencing it.” I think most people in the West are using the “watcher” or the “witness” or the “observer” as taught by Eckhart Tolle and many, many other popular teachers. But once you take away the watcher, you’ll find you have even more space inside you. Just like meditation, the watcher takes up a lot of room in the brain. The watcher is also a hefty piece of “spiritual materialism,” no different from the other forms of clutter in life — the extra lamp, the papers on the floor, the Blu-ray discs no longer watched. In other words, spirituality itself (which includes things like meditation and the watcher) is part of the illusion. This is the problem with most Western teachers — they entangle us and capture us in the world of knowledge, the world of illusion and spiritual materialism. Instead of buying more IKEA furniture for your house, you are now buying things like meditation for your brain. Or you are now buying “the watcher” and the complicated heaviness he brings to your mind to stay on the lookout so that nothing is missed!!! It’s ALL clutter. People have simply traded one kind of materialism for another. The thing is, *real* calmness (and reality for that matter) is completely *prior* to all spirituality and spiritual paths. For further information, check out Chogyam Trungpa’s classic book “Cutting through Spiritual Materialism” (which Steve Jobs claimed was his fave book) and Nisargadatta Maharaj’s book “I am That” for a pure hot source of transmission.

David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:34 pm

That’s a perfect way of putting it and I wish I’d thought of it so elegantly when I wrote this. It really is about the relationship between “contentment and the superfluous”. We can’t get enough of what we don’t really want. Something’s missing, so we fill it with screen time. You have identified the malady and the cure very clearly :)

StephInIndy December 1, 2015 at 6:06 pm

i don’t take the time to comment as often as i used to, but this was a great article and i’m glad i took the time to say so ;)

thanks David.

David Cain December 1, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Thanks Steph.

Sara December 2, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Great article, David. You’re right on the money here. Being mindful allows us to be open to joy whereas worrying about the past leads to depressive-type feelings and obsessing about the future just contributes to anxiety. It would do us all some good to be mindful of the present. Thanks for the reminder.

trillie December 4, 2015 at 4:15 am

“We can experience a fight-or-flight adrenaline reaction over a dot of mustard on a shirt cuff.” => This made me snort-laugh. That is all. ;-)

Chris December 4, 2015 at 10:34 am

Do you ever feel like someone who has a mental disorder which requires constant medication? “I’m feeling better now so I don’t need the medicine.” I do this with Reddit, food eating/healthy living, and probably other things too. I put a concerted effort towards improvement, feel great when I’m doing it, and then slide out because “one more bowl of potato chips isn’t bad since I’m eating so healthy” and then boom. 10lbs later and I get the “shit, not this again” feeling. Same thing with working out, meditating, or writing daily. I feel better when I do it but sometimes I need to just let loose. I haven’t found a happy medium yet.

Meditation side note – I love to feel how heavy I am in a chair. It’s just amazing that I don’t notice that all day long. Or where my arms are pushing on the desk, or where my feet are pushing on the floor. Crazy how we can just shut that out!

sandy December 5, 2015 at 5:28 am


Katie December 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

Love this, you’ve really nailed it. It’s so simple.
It was so clear and articulated, it brought me a moment of mindfulness just from reading it. This will stick with me.

Thank you!

Linda December 11, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Super keen for Camp Calm – looking forward to hearing more about it :) Great way to kick off the New Year!

Michelle Leigh December 28, 2015 at 8:35 pm

I must be doing meditation wrong. After a month of nightly meditation, the only thing I’m getting is less insomnia. I’m still distracted, scattered and moody…

Vish January 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

A stunningly beautiful article that touch so many challenges we face day to day in such elegant and succinct manner. I can relate to every single theme explored here.

omar mustafa January 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm

it’s awesome how when mindfulness unfolds, that a kind of weird sense of immediate acceptance accompanies it. even if i’m full of angst, driven by thoughts of judgment etc, when i “become” fully mindful, the very irritable thoughts become welcome somehow. they no longer constitute some sort of an aberration. they don’t feel like a mistake, like some unwanted child. a strange stillness becomes the prevailing disposition, and life just feels right. at that point, i have really no need for anything. neediness simply disappears. it’s awesome. just wanted to share. truly appreciate your work, man. cheers!

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