Quieting the Tumult Between Your Ears

Over the past year I’ve had a meditation practice. It’s one of those things that makes a noticeable difference when I practice consistently but is easy to forget about when I don’t. There have been months when I practiced daily, and stretches when I didn’t practice at all. Recently I’m trying to get back into the groove of consistent practice and it’s reminded me of an important truth: there is a lot of noise going on in my mind.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a confession of insanity or hearing voices. We all have noise going on in our head. The degree to which we recognize it for what it is can be an indicator of the strength of our mental muscles. Why? Just like our physical muscles become stronger through exercise, through practice and repetition we can learn to turn down the noise and control it.

A corollary to the truth that we all have noise in our heads is that you are not your thoughts. Thoughts may flit through your mind, but just because they appear in there doesn’t mean you put them there. Just because thoughts are in my head doesn’t mean that those thoughts are who I am. This is part of the human condition and learning to control the noise, the torrent of thoughts, is one of the important skills that we all need to learn.

During my practice today I felt like I was playing a word association game:

focus on the breath – that book Breath that I read last week was really good – I need to read more books – Hunt for Red October is one of my favorites – Sean Connery was in Red October, I’m sad he passed away – we’re all going to get Covid and die – why am I sitting here again? – where did that come from? so morbid – focus on the breath

Should I feel like a failure? Of course not. It certainly wasn’t a meditation session that I’ll win any medals for, but then again I’ll never win a medal for meditating. I think it’s more like one thread in a grand tapestry. If every thread is the same it’s going to make a boring tapestry. It’s the variety and variation that makes the whole interesting.

When you feel like the tumult and noise is too much, simply recognize that it likely is. Focus on your breath, appreciate the small victory of recognition, and know that your mental muscles have grown just a bit stronger.

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Learning a New Skill is Terrifying and Satisfying at the Same Time

The last few Wednesdays have been big days for me. I started hosted YouTube live broadcasts for SpiderOak. While I’ve done similar things before, making training videos, running a webinar, or recording audiobooks, I had never hosted a livestream. It is an exciting project to get started on, but terrifying at the same time. If you’re interested in taking a look at how the first one turned out, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpHoJ2V68xI

So how did it go? I’m pretty pleased. The number of attendees was in line with what I was hoping for, the presentation worked well, and I was able to start on time, end on time, and not have any technical glitches in the middle. Hooray!

The other side of the story is that with only 15 minutes left until start time, I wasn’t sure it would happen.

I spent a lot of time preparing the technology stack on my computer and the hardware in my office. I used the excellent mmhmm as the camera and presentation software. I have a green screen which attaches to the back of my chair so I can have a nice virtual background. I got out my Blue Yeti microphone and had it hooked up and ready to go so the audio would be decent. My slides and software to demonstrate was all loaded into mmhmm and I had practiced the presentation several times. With 30 minutes to go I was feeling great.

Then I went to YouTube and tried to start the stream in preparation for going live. No dice! When I scheduled the livestream, I chose the option to create it with an encoder instead of my webcam. Turns out once you’ve scheduled it, there’s no way to change that setting. YouTube’s documentation was pretty good, however, so I figured all I needed to do was install a software encoder, enter the correct settings, and I would be good to go. 20 minutes to go!

I installed three different software encoders, but couldn’t get them running. I had missing drivers for some, some preferred a different version of Mac than what I run, and others were just confusing. With 10 minutes until live, I found Stage Ten, got mmhmm set up as my streaming source, connected it to the YouTube account, and confirmed the stream was ready. Looking up at the clock, I had two minutes to spare. 😅

At 12:30 pm the livestream started on time. I’d been so busy trying to get everything set up that I didn’t have time to be nervous! That was the hidden gift in the whole adventure.

Had I known this was how the prep would go I don’t think I would have volunteered for the project. What a great learning experience it turned out to be! Here’s my big takeaway: if you take a leap of faith and work hard, great things can happen. You’re not guaranteed a happy ending, but the journey itself will make the experience worth it.