Archives for September 2010

30 day challenge update: meditation!

It’s time for an update on my 30 day challenges. Here’s what I’ve done the last few months:

June: I didn’t respond to email after 10 p.m. and I read the New Testament of the Bible. Both were interesting in different ways. It turns out that 10 p.m. is a pretty good time for me to turn off email (I’ve tried 9 p.m. in the past and that didn’t work–Google can be a very email-heavy place at times). I’d like to get back to this habit, because it made me distinctly more mellow at night. I noticed that I slipped pretty quickly back into the “email anytime I’m awake” habit.

Reading the Bible was more work. I’ve mentioned before that I grew up the son of an evangelical Christian and a physics professor, which was helpful to learn how to respect other people’s opinions. I hadn’t read the Bible in recent years, so it was enlightening to read it as an adult. If I had to sum up the New Testament in a sentence, it would be “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (the golden rule). However, for all the talk about mercy and compassion in the New Testament compared to the Old Testament, there was still quite a bit of fire/brimstone/judging. I enjoyed reading some books (e.g. Acts and Romans) that I didn’t remember much from growing up. Other parts I enjoyed less. But I got a lot out of reading the New Testament, including some appreciation of the text as literature and as history.

I grew up on the King James version of the Bible. But newer translations are a lot more readable in my opinion. I enjoyed the New Living Translation. By the way, I really enjoyed an Android app called CrossConnect Bible (here’s more info on the app on AppBrain). CrossConnect Bible has really solid spoken-word audio of the Bible. It’s perfect for listening on commutes.

One meta-lesson I learned is that for some people, any discussion of a religious book in any context (even as literature or its role in history) is considered as rude as farting. That was something that I didn’t expect in oh-so-open-minded California. Heck, a few people may complain that I discussed the Bible (without endorsing or condemning it) even this much on my personal blog. Sorry if I’ve offended.

July: I tried to use only cloud-based software. For the most part, this was pretty easy, but in a few instances I wasn’t completely in the cloud. I needed to open a terminal window from time to time to type various UNIX commands, and I had to take and crop a few screenshots. Side-note: for taking Chrome screenshots, I now recommend Screen Capture by Google because it can save in .png format really well, with a close second-place of Awesome Screenshot.

After about a year of conscious effort, I pretty much live in the cloud at this point, and I love it. My data is usually in the cloud, so I can get to it from any computer. I’ve switched all my daily software and operating systems to open-source projects such as Linux/UNIX, Chrome, and GIMP. I try to live by the principle “don’t put data where you can’t get it out,” which means that I don’t give my data to some companies and I try to avoid proprietary file formats or things locked down with DRM. I don’t use any pirated software. The latest version of Ubuntu (Lucid Lynx) is fantastic, by the way. This was mostly an easy, fun month. I think lots more people will live more in the cloud in a few years.

August: I took a picture a day. I knew that I’d be climbing Kilimanjaro in August and wouldn’t be near a computer, so I decided to take a picture a day. On the plus side, I started to be more aware of unusual sights around me. On the negative side, I missed a few days and I haven’t posted the pictures anywhere yet. I think reviewing each day’s photos (and posting them for public comments) would be a much better way to improve my sense of composition and photography skills. I still hope to post my favorite daily pictures though.

September: This month, I plan to meditate or quietly reflect for 15 minutes a day. I started today, and quickly learned that quieting my thoughts is pretty hard. I lasted about 2.5 minutes before so many to-do items were bouncing around in my brain that I had to take a break and write a bunch down before restarting. But I did enjoy my first session. I also managed to get my pulse rate pretty low. Now I have to avoid the trap of seeing how low I can get my pulse to go and just enjoy the quiet.

Feel free to join me in my challenge this month–at only 15 minutes a day, it’s a pretty good way to try out a 30 day challenge! 🙂