Grind Well

Grind Well

grindwell.org
A daily-ish blog for a daily-ish practice. Meditations on meditation by Jon Mitchell, author of In Real Life: Searching for Connection in High-Tech Times from Parallax Press.
In the Mood
Oct 16
I don’t think you have to be religious about mindfulness by any means, but I do think it helps. For those of us who haven’t already crossed over into a timeless state where all of life is deep meditation, I think there is a mood that supports the practice…
The Shift
Oct 15
I don’t always feel an immediate, tangible benefit after I meditate, but it’s not exceedingly rare, either. Nor is it quite comparable to the euphoric relaxation after a hard workout; it’s harder to detect than that. But there is a sensation I can feel…
Should
Oct 14
I frequently hear people — often in the midst of expressing how stressed out they are — utter the phrase, “I should be meditating more.” I’m sure I utter it myself sometimes. It’s a classic Western-style cause-and-effect thing: “I am stressed out, so if I…
Building Strength
Oct 8
Meditators are so serious about the word “practice.” All its connotations seem to fit so well with what it is we do on the proverbial cushion. Meditation is a “practice” in the sense that it’s practical — that it’s primarily about doing it rather than…
The Experiment
Oct 7
On Sundays, I wake up at the exact same time and do the exact same meditation practice that I do on Mondays. Younger versions of me would be horrified at this, but it’s true. I do this for two reasons. The first is to maintain routine, which inculcates…
Repeating Yourself
Oct 5
It’s been months since my last retreat, and the memories of what it was like have faded. I remember some events, some visions, some teachings, the food. I certainly remember sitting in meditation a lot, but the vividness and intensity of what really…
The Trust Paradox
Oct 4
Here’s a paradox in meditation that bugs me sometimes: On one hand, human beings are basically slight permutations of the same exact thing. We’re made of the same materials from the same instructions with only slight alterations. Certainly, we have…
A Big Deal
Oct 3
I don’t think it’s a good idea to make any spiritual practice into a really big deal. The tendency is understandable — spirituality deals with the pain and difficulty of life. But it seems to me that treating pain and difficulty as a really big deal gives…
The Long Morning
Sep 28
The morning is a tragically underutilized resource. People seem to want to see as little of it as possible. Some people use this funny colloquialism that they’re “not a morning person” to absolve themselves from participation in the morning — whether they…
The Volcano
Sep 27
Even in a nice, long sit that feels really good, there’s still a lot going on. For me, it’s a layered experience. The metaphor that immediately comes to mind is an active volcano. There’s billowing steam and smoke at the top, swirling and mixing and…
Spiritual Family
Sep 26
When I started this site this summer, I wasn’t thinking about the High Holidays. I knew better than to commit to a “daily” blog, but I wanted this to be as regular as my meditation practice itself. I wouldn’t be writing on Shabbat, so there would be six…
Freedom of Choice
Sep 23
Every time I meditate, I feel grateful to have this spiritual practice — and hobby, for that matter — that requires no money, no tools, no books, no drugs, no travel or meetings, nothing but my time. I’m wary of dependencies, and I already have so many…
Return
Sep 21
There is one benefit to a break from regular practice. It may not outweigh the drawbacks — or the benefits of consistency — but it’s something. Coming back to the practice after a gap, there is a palpable sense of return. If cultivated sincerely and in…
Noise
Sep 13
There are lots of reasons to do daily meditation practice in the morning. It starts the day off right, it separates between private and public time, it cuts off that morning cortisol spike. But for me, the big one is that it’s quiet in the morning. Our…
Crash Landings
Sep 12
Okay, I’ll admit it: I have a tendency toward emotional crash landings after prolonged stressful experiences. I can hold it together for 97% of the ordeal, but once we start getting close to home, I let go of my resolve a little early. I turn selfish,…
Festival Time
Sep 6
Meditation practice is typically taught as a stable routine — something to do every single day in more or less the same way. This makes sense. We are creatures of habit, as the cliché puts it; we tend to do what we are used to doing. That’s why we spend…
Pause: Gone to Burning Man
Aug 19
We’ve reached an interesting juncture here at Grind Well. After a solid first month of posts, that big looming thing I wrote about a couple weeks ago has now arrived. At 6 AM tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for Burning Man. Now, I have no intention of…
Appetites
Aug 17
Last night, I ate my dinner too hungrily, and I burned the roof of my mouth. Now it’s eight in the morning, and it hurts to drink my tea. This is what I get for succumbing to my cravings. It’s nice to get feedback this instantaneous and clear! It’s not…
Mindfulness Politics
Aug 16
Meditation seems to lead me towards an ever more universal perspective on human life. The more I sit with myself, the more I encounter a radical individuality that actually undermines my sense of distinctiveness. When I remove the distractions of the…
Painkillers
Aug 15
Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, cannabis. Anti-depressants. Painkillers. You can learn a great deal about a society from looking at which drugs it proscribes, which it prescribes, and which it sells at every grocery store and gas station. I’m obsessed with…
Just Trying to Help
Aug 14
I never get up from a meditation session and think to myself, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” Even when I’ve spent the entire sit in a distracted fog of neutral-to-unpleasant thoughts, I still have a sense that I’m better off than if I hadn’t sat at all.…
Life Stories
Aug 13
After working on it for a month and a half, I finally finished writing the full story of my meditation retreat this summer. Writing the story is an important part of my process of integrating an experience like that. It accomplishes three things: it…
Sacrifices
Aug 12
This weekend in traditional Judaism, there was a lot of talk about animal sacrifices. We read the regular daily offerings, the additional offerings for Shabbat, a Torah portion that gets into the topic, and the services for a new lunar month — it involved…
Putting Out the Fire
Aug 10
For mindfulness to have any ethical weight, it must involve looking out at the world. It’s not enough to just sit there and be concerned with oneself. Some teach that the practice won’t even work if that’s all you do. It’s a beautiful teaching: Yes, you…
Contemplative Time
Aug 9
When practicing mindfulness, enjoyable mental states can be just as challenging as unpleasant ones. On the basic level, there’s grasping and attachment. Something feels good, and you don’t want it to end — pretty understandable. But this is a practice of…
Just Walking
Aug 8
I had to take my car to the mechanic at 7 AM this morning, which threw off the ol’ routine. I could have just let it go, but I sensed an opportunity to keep my daily exercise and meditation intact in a creative way. The exercise part was easy: It was…
The Hard Stuff
Aug 7
The first meditation instruction is almost always to bring attention to the breath. Sometimes it’s framed as a way of settling in. You can use the breath to slow down, to lower the heart rate, to relax the body, to open up the posture and get comfortable…
Ritual and Routine
Aug 6
On one hand, I want meditation to be a mundane, routine health activity that fits unremarkably into my life, like chores or exercise. This attitude is actually pretty hard to cultivate, since meditation is so weird and intense. But if I treat it…
Notifications
Aug 5
This morning, I did something I usually bend over backwards to avoid doing: I looked at my phone before meditation. I’m ordinarily repulsed by the very idea of seeing my notifications before I have to. I think what got me today is that I didn’t look at it…
Radioactive
Aug 3
I have something big coming up in a couple weeks, and it’s bringing up a flood of distracting thoughts. A big disruption to my routine looming two or three weeks out, ticking closer, feels almost radioactive to me. Four weeks out, I start to detect the…
Sleepy Mind
Aug 2
The last couple days, I’ve been getting sleepy by the end of my morning sit. I don’t know what to do about it other than examine it, so I have been, and I am starting to learn some things about sleepy mind. When it’s starting to kick in, the thought…
Spiritual Animals
Aug 1
I find it useful to think about spiritual practices as responses to our animal instincts. Very early in human history, it became necessary to sublimate many of our instinctive, evolutionarily adaptive behaviors, so that we could start living together and…
The Way Forward
Jul 31
It’s so important to remember how negative emotions provide inspiration for practice. There are so many counterproductive ways one can use negative emotions — dwelling on them, obsessing over them, getting angry or sad about them. Every once in a while,…
High Altitude
Jul 30
Airplanes are great places for meditation. It may seem difficult at first, between the noise, the cramped space, and the myriad anxieties travel tends to introduce, but those challenges make for great practice. That’s just the beginning, though. I think…
The Full Moon
Jul 29
I’ve been on an island for the past five days, and it’s doing something to my mind. The more I relate to the sand and the waves, the birds and the bugs, the fish and the crabs, the wind and the rain, the sun and the clouds, the stars and the full moon and…
Keeping On
Jul 26
Meditating every single day seems really daunting if you imagine it as 30 (or so) minutes of inflexible time. If that seems unmanageable in a given day, there can be an impulse to just throw up one’s hands and not sit at all. But it’s easy to reframe the…
Passing Through
Jul 25
Before sunrise this morning, after maybe two hours of sleep on a red-eye flight, I had the honor of recommitting to my meditation practice in the atrium of the Atlanta airport. All the chairs had been corralled by uncomfortable sleepers, and the…
Doing Mindfulness
Jul 24
I keep getting stuck on the word “mindfulness” this morning. I guess most of the time I can just glide past the word and experience the reality to which it refers. But you know that phenomenon where, if you repeat a perfectly reasonable, commonplace word…
A Healthy Routine
Jul 23
I have a somewhat fraught relationship with routine. On one hand, I crave it. I like to know what to expect, I like to know where everything is, I like to know what’s coming up next. I have a limited appetite for surprises. I know lots of creative people…
One Sip at a Time
Jul 22
One of my favorite paradoxes of meditation is that it’s the only activity I can keep doing after I do it. Sometimes I only start meditating after I meditate. For example, this morning, I slept in a little bit, so rather than exercising first, as I’ve been…
Sitting in Action
Jul 20
At times I’ve felt that daily meditation was too passive a practice — that the conditions of the world demand action, and blocking out time for repose is a literal retreat from the world’s battles. But when my practice is strong, I see the destructive and…
Finding My Seat
Jul 19
Today I’m grateful for the Burmese posture, and to Rav James for instructing me to finally find my seat in it. For years, I struggled in a sort of 1/3-lotus position (not a real thing), with my left foot up on my right calf — as high as it would go — the…
Work and Play
Jul 18
Last night I dreamt about taking photos and making art with a bunch of merry weirdos in a foreign country. It was a carefree, sensuous dream with a palpable sense of living with no rules. The art we made was gritty and human, but its subject was nature.…
Counting Up
Jul 17
This morning was the first time since the retreat that I didn’t look at my watch once during my morning sit. I’m settling back in after the transition. But even though I didn’t check, I still thought about checking, and noticed I was thinking about…
Resilience
Jul 16
Meditation practice has always been about resilience for me. From the very first session, that aspect of it is the first thing one encounters — as soon as you settle into your posture, you realize, “Oh. I’m going to be here a while, and I’m already tired…
Deeper Than Stories
Jul 15
When I left for the retreat two weeks ago, my daily spiritual practice had dwindled down to nothing. I felt okay, generally, and that became an excuse I would use not to put in any extra energy towards deepening and stabilizing my okayness through…
A Retreat Within a Retreat
Jul 13
I just got back from retreat. It is to my great benefit that I’ve returned not to Los Angeles but to Brandeis-Bardin, the mountain-bound retreat campus where my future-rabbi wife, Ariel is working this summer. So I got a retreat within a retreat, and I…