Hello there. I'm this guy and this is my home page. Below are all blog posts I have written since 2007. Some of them are silly, but self-censorship would be worse I guess.
The other day I stumbled upon a Facebook argument about meditation: is it about suppressing bad memories, or processing bad memories? The person thinking meditation suppresses memories naturally considered it harmful, and a possibly dangerous fad.
IANAB (I’m not a Buddhist) and my experience in meditation is very limited, but I’d be willing to argue meditation is neither. It’s more about being ready when the next bad thing happens. Or a good thing for that matter.
The reward from meditation is to gain clarity and to be ready for whatever life throws you. Sometimes life throws you lemons and it pays to realize that it’s something that does happen from time to time, that it might not even be anything to get angry at, and maybe even see the lemonade-making opportunities that await you.
There are certain aspects of meditation that might give a ‘thought suppression’ vibe. From Wikipedia’s great meditation article:
Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way. Meditation is often used to clear the mind ...
But in this context clearing your mind or self-regulating your thoughts does not mean not thinking certain thoughts you feel are ‘bad’.
The point of meditation exercises is to build a transparent layer between your thoughts and you. That layer’s job is to detect and acknowledge the thoughts that run through your mind, to understand how they make you feel and why, and to assess if there’s any real reason to get upset about that email you got.
All in all, I’m a bit more positive about using meditation to process memories, but way more using it as a tool to better survive everyday life without stress and being prepared for any possible future.
You go into the woods and come back with an idea. How does that work?
Walking. The answer’s walking. For walking an hour in the woods you are guaranteed at least one actionable idea.
Now, this is my personal experience. It’s not a scientific fact (that I know of). There does exist some walking related research (see links at the end) that could be summarized: walking increases creativity and relieves stress. So.
What kind of ideas are we talking about?
Examples of ideas I’ve had while walking:
- A simple solution for that one programming problem at work
- How to improve our client’s processes. (Really a small thing the computer could do when we push new versions live but it solves one really old problem.)
- What blog posts to write. Sometimes blog posts basically write themselves. The trouble is writing the ideas down.
- What to do with my website
- How to word a presentation
- Tons of new startup ideas :)
To generalize, it’s usually stuff you’ve already thought about for a while, sometimes subconsciously. You might know the problem but not the answer.
Clarity is a good word for it. Things become clear. You know what to do, how to do it, and what not to do.
A whole hour though?
I know, one hour is a long time to take out of a day for doing “nothing”. You could also stay home and spend one hour brute-forcing your way through your life’s little problems. Walking is more fun.
Why a one-hour walk works is this: after 30 minutes of walking in one direction your brain goes: “Hmm, we are kinda far away from home. I guess there isn’t much more to do than to just keep walking until we get back home.”
This brief moment of your brain turning off is the valuable part. It’s a bit like how you often get the best ideas in the shower. Not having to do anything or think anything is rare these days.
This pause from actively doing stuff or reading Twitter lets you pick up stuff from your subconscious, think it through, and piece something sensible together.
Sure, you could maybe achieve the same in less time. But consider this old Zen proverb:
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you're too busy, then you should sit for an hour.
A busy brain needs more time to unwind. Dont’ get me wrong: for example short lunch walks work well when you want to quickly clear your head. As the research shows, it’s a great way to boost your creativity when you know you need to do something… creative. But often it’s like they say in Inception: “we need to go deeper”.
Just walking around?
Mostly. However, there are a few implementation details that yield better results:
Make it easy
- Look up a route of roughly 6 to 7 kilometers beforehand. Not having to navigate leaves more time for thinking. Although sometimes getting lost is fun too if you have the time.
- Technical Sportswear baby! Well, having at least comfortable shoes and warm clothing does help.
- Don’t run. At least if you are starting out. I know people how can slice and dice their problems while running but for me that would focus my mind too much on breathing and not dying.
- Avoid roads. The quieter the better. Walking alongside a highway, or any way really, doesn’t work as well. Cars are loud.
- Leave your headphones home. I’m a bit on the fence about listening to podcasts while walking. Some podcasts are thought-provoking and have actually inspired new ideas. Some podcasts are mindless filler. Either way, simultaneously listening someone talking and deeply thinking something yourself is super hard: one of them will suffer.
You might want to take notes on your walks. One option is to use Siri or Google Now to record reminders. On iOS you could also sync your recorded reminders to OmniFocus. Notes are a bit of an unsolved problem. I’ve sometimes copy-edited whole blog posts in my head only to forget most of that when I get back home.
Bonus round: research
- Wikipedia: Neurobiological effects of physical exercise is a good place to start if you want to know exactly how exercise affects the brain
- Stanford study finds walking improves creativity
- Walking off depression and beating stress outdoors? Nature group walks linked to improved mental health
- WSJ: Coffee Break? Walk in the Park? Why Unwinding Is Hard
What’s interesting is that these studies found out that even walking inside on a treadmill and just looking at pictures of trees improves creativity.
There are some proven benefits, see? But don’t take it as “exercising is important and you should run every day!” All I dare to say is that walking probably isn’t bad for you.
I’m very well aware that telling people how awesome any form of exercise is usually does little to convince anyone to try it. (I’ve been at the receiving end many times.) So I’m just going to leave this here, and maybe if you need fresh ideas you could get some fresh air. Pow!
It seems that blogs are more or less on their way out. On the other hand people publish more material than ever, but it’s divided into a multitude of services based on content and context. Personal life updates go to Facebook, vacation photos to Instagram, goofy links to Tumblr and professional stuff to Twitter.
My blog is no exception. Its updates have slowed to a steady pace of one or two posts a year while I happily tweet on Twitter and code on GitHub. This led me to thinking that I could save my blog and create one central place for all the stuff I produce elsewhere on the net. You know, to better build my personal braaand.
Of course, if you think about it for a minute, the answer is pretty clearly no. Not only would it be a great hassle to set up, but it would duplicate content somewhere where people didn’t expect to find it. Audiences on different services have formed there for a reason. People who follow me on Twitter probably don’t care about the food shots in my Instagram feed.
The kind of websites I’ve enjoyed lately are often personal blogs that just have clear and concise writing, and none of the cruft. The kind of pages that almost look like Instapapered before instapapering them. Granted, I don’t always know whose blogs I’ve been reading, but those who are particularly good I will follow on Twitter and maybe share their post there too.
Subscribing to a blog might be a bit more rare these days, especially after Google Reader died. But I’m not sure if it’s all bad. Old-fashioned blog posts still tend to work on their own because people find them through Google or social sharing.
Anyway, following this train of thought I ended up with two criteria for my future website:
- I want to have a place where I can easily put text on the Internet
- I could have a starting point for people googling me (or more realistically just to answer “what is your website?” questions on web forms.)
- (I would like to own the content1.)
In the end I decided to host my blog content on Github Pages, accessible through my own domain2. Easy, and totally building my brand. It remains to be seen if that helps me write any more blog posts. The chances are low, but who knows.
David Foster Wallace - “This is Water”
So happy this video is available again. (I think DFW’s estate DMCA’d the original post a few years ago booooooo)
I can recommend watching this a couple times a year. We all really need to hear it.
Here’s another example: a video about how Edgar Wright does visual comedy (via Merlin Mann).
There’s also a long, long (but good) review about The World’s End which explains how Wright foreshadows future events in his films. Fascinating stuff.
David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrongfrom Tony Zhou on Vimeo. →
Beware: the posts below are all in Finnish.
OpenStreetMap on projekti, jonka tarkoituksena on kerätä yhteisöllisesti karttatietoa ja jakaa sitä vapaasti eteenpäin. Vähän niin kuin Wikipedia, mutta kartoille. →
Pysäkit on iOS-applikaatio, joka näyttää HSL:n pysäkkiaikatauluja. Se on ensimmäinen tekemäni Phonegap-applikaatio ja ensimmäinen App Storessa julkaisemani applikaatio. →
Näin uudenvuoden jälkeen on hyvä palautella mieleen miksi uudenvuodenlupaukset ovat huono idea. →
Olin vuoden 2012 juomatta alkoholia. →
Miten päädyin käyttämään OS X:ää, mutta en aina Applen tietokoneilla. →
Aika ajoin joku kirjoittaa netissä siitä, miten saa liikunnasta ylimääräistä puhtia elämäänsä. Yleensä joku menestynyt kaveri. →
Muutamia podcasteja, joita sinunkin kannattaisi kuunnella. →
Kaivurissaistumiskilpailu päättyi kisan järjestäjän päätöksellä kun kisaa oli kestänyt puoli vuotta. →
Kauppakeskus sellossa on käynnissä kisa, jossa nuoren miehen pitää istua minikaivurissa kauemmin kuin muut nuoret muissa kauppakeskuksissa →
Miten päästä eroon paperien arkistoimisesta kotona? Vähentämällä kotiin tulevan paperin määrää ja digitoimalla loput. →
Web-palvelimenani tähän asti toiminut iFuse Hostingin VPS otti ja kuoli viime viikon alussa. Tai ei kuollut, vaan tuhoutui. →
Länsimetro ei ole vielä valmis. Paitsi jos luet tätä tulevaisuudessa. →
Tiistai 13.4.2010 oli se päivä, kun vihdoin ja viimein sain diplomityöni valmiiksi. →
HuffDuffer on muutaman vuoden ikäinen verkkopalvelu, jonka avulla voit löytää uusia podcasteja, sekä kerätä itsellesi oman podcastin. →