August 2020 Monthly Signal Boost

Monthly What?

2020 has not been a kind year. This last month has been hectic and at times very overwhelming. Here’s some of what has worked to keep my spirits up.

Mindfulness

I’ve been trying to get back into mindfulness & meditation practices, since I’d like to more skillfully recognize when my mind or emotions wander to realms I’d prefer they not go. It’s also good practice at finding joy in small things, to better recharge and practice the hopefulness necessary to keep doing difficult things.

I’ve only listened to the first few practices of the Waking Up app by Sam Harris, but it seems like a great fit for anyone interested in mindfulness practices—and particularly anyone of a more analytical bent. Tai chi (offered as P.E. classes at UC Riverside!) was the first way I was able to connect with a mindfulness practice in a sustained way. I think this was largely because the slow physical exercises kept my ADHD tendencies occupied just enough to help me also pay attention to my breath, my sensations, and whatever else entered into my attention. Waking Up is the mindfulness instruction I’ve encountered that’s closest my experience of learning moving mediation though tai chi, largely because of how deftly Harris blends his verbal instructions with periods of silence to help you experience what he presents. I’m not sure yet if a subscription would be right for me, but I definitely recommend trying the first few (free!) days of the app if you’ve been curious about mindfulness. That’s especially true if you’ve tried mindfulness previously but were turned off by some aspects how it was taught. Harris’s approach seems resolutely non-religious and non-spiritual/mystical.

The Plum Village app, on the other hand, clearly centers mindfulness practices in the engaged Buddhist approach of Thích Nhất Hạnh. The app is entirely free and features guided meditations, other practices, texts, and more from the Plum Village community. If you’ve previously encountered the original version of the app (released back in 2018), the newest versions (up to 2.2 as of mid-August) are greatly expanded and refined. I can’t speculate what it would be like to learn mindfulness or Buddhist practices primarily through this app, but I definitely appreciate what the Plum Village community has made available through it.

Music

Love Genius by Sonic D has consistently brought a goofy grin to my face since the first time I heard it. It’s a footwork / bass music version of a Tom Tom Club tune you might recognize through a bunch of songs that sample or remix it—in particular Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” You might also dig some of his other stuff, such as what he’s got on Soundcloud or his Math & Science mixes.

Time Flex is basically a compilation of early releases by John Tejada under the moniker Autodidact. Originally released in 1996 & 1997, these tunes have more of a Warp Records / Polygon Window vibe than Tejada’s later stuff. If you’ve ever wanted something like Polygon Window but with more groove & shuffle, this will be right up your alley.