I continue to listen to “Back To Work” while at work, and I continue to love it. I finally realized (after 19 episodes!) that when they go back and forth with their pop culture references, they’re actually playing a pop-culture word association. It was funny to realize this, and even funnier to realize that it took me that long because I am so SO out of the loop with pop culture that I didn’t even get that they were bullshitting.

But now I know, and so it’s funny. I don’t even know if the people and movies they’re talking about are real, but it’s so clearly off-the-cuff, it’s just fun to see them playing the game.

Today I heard a lot of talk about getting started. I hear this a lot from some of my favorite photographers too, but essentially it comes down to this: you have to do the work. And you have to do the work today with a sort of dual mind: you need to build on yesterday, but without being controlled by yesterday. That is, on one hand, you want to be learning and moving and improving every day, right? Or at least trying to. But on the other hand, yesterday’s success or failure (at least in the sense of “did you ship”) is irrelevant for today.

The fact that you didn’t sit down to write or meditate or whatever yesterday has nothing to do with whether you’ll do it today. That is, we know that mentally this does carry weight for us, but the point here is to turn away from the role it can play in preventing us from getting started.

Getting started is so absurdly hard, isn’t it?

I do this all the time. Something simple, like the dishes. I know I have to do them, I know it will only take 5 minutes, but I put it off and off until it becomes stressful. Why not just do it, right? Just take the five minutes and get it done instead of spending the entire evening trying to not think about the fact that I haven’t yet done the dishes!

Three strategies I’ve found that have helped:

1. Trick myself. I’m not *really* going to do the dishes right now, I’m just going to get the water running. And then the soap going. And might as well get the dishtowel damp. And hey, as long as I’ve done that, I’ll just do a dish or two…

2. Don’t think. Head to the kitchen purposefully thinking about something, but not about the dishes. Start doing the dishes while consciously not thinking about the fact that I’m starting to do the dishes. Once I’ve started, I’m good to go.

3. Think about how good it will feel once I’ve done them. How good it will feel to not have that chore hanging over my head.

Our minds are such weird complicated places, aren’t they? For myself, strategy #2 definitely works the best. I think this is why ingrained habits, like bike commuting, stick really well. I’m not actually giving myself the option of biking vs driving, so there’s no thinking. If I go to work, I get there on the bike.

Of course I haven’t managed to do this for the grocery shopping yet…

Merlin said, in episode 20, something that I really loved, because it is so true:

“there’s a million things I can’t start because my brain doesn’t feel ready yet.”

My brain doesn’t feel ready. That’s the problem. If our brains were easier creatures to deal with, a lot of things would become easier!

I have decided to start meditating. Or at least to start trying. I’ve tried at various times in the past, with mostly not great results. But I’m in a place right now where it will be easier, thanks to the biking.

A friend was giving me some links on the type of meditation that he does. (Who knew that there were *types*?!) It was really weird to me. He doesn’t seem like a judgemental type, but in explaining that there are two essential types (zazen and mindfulness), he basically said that everyone benefits from zazen and some people seem to benefit from mindfulness even though it’s from a completely different school.

Odd way to put it.

So I followed his zazen links. The first was a few pages of photos showing how to approach your cushion, make a few bows, how to sit, how to hold your hands. Uh huh. The next link was some guy’s blog that he really liked. A zazen master, presumably. The blog had a lot about why it wasn’t really meditation if you were sitting in a chair, and why they (the zazen community in general) weren’t being exclusionary or discriminatory even though they will come right out and say that unless you were physically capable of sitting in their super special way, you weren’t welcome.


So suffice to say I wasn’t interested in reading more about zazen. I like mindfulness. I have read a few things by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and I like their approach, I like what they say about mindfulness. My therapist had a mindfulness focus – it’s the reason I chose her – and it works for me. So I told my friend who kindly had given me these links that I was going to check out the mindfulness meditation because I felt it would suit me better.

This guy is really into the zazen thing. He responded that he didn’t think it would do any harm to experiment and cross over, though the zazen master (the one whose blog he linked me to) wouldn’t agree.

Weird, really really weird. To me.

So, within two emails, he told me two things, and I am not even sure he’s aware of how weird it was for him to say these things.

1. He doesn’t believe that most people are helped by mindfulness meditation (as opposed to zazen, which helps everyone).

2. He thinks mindfulness meditation can be harmful, which he reveals by assuring me that he doesn’t think it’s harmful to “experiment” and “cross over”.

Is it me? Or is it weird, really really weird, that someone would say that of two “styles” of sitting on a cushion to meditate in exactly the same way (but one with an obsession about the sitting as it’s own Thing), one is helpful and the other is harmful?

They’re the same damn thing! Seriously, the only difference between the two “styles” is the people talking about them!

I don’t have a special cushion or a secret handshake.

I’m just going to sit. Mindfully. And I’m going to start tonight.