Woke up before 7. Took care of the boy’s morning business. Meditated. Worked. Stretched. Practiced French. Ran. Stretched. Now working again.
The dark clouds arrived—Boris returned as PM, winning a big majority, winning a mandate for more lies and bluster for all future elections.
The silver lining faded—Corbyn refused to step down, instead asking for a period of ‘introspection’, and only promising a vague ‘will not lead the party in next election.’ Labour lost 61 seats across the country, and managed to win just one from another party. Labour has now lost two elections in a row under him; elections that any other decent leader would have won comfortably. Still, the ditherer-in-chief says he wants to introspect for a few months to figure out what went wrong!
Then the interesting stuff began.
I published my second Android app: Accelereader for Instapaper. It was in beta for a few weeks, but went into public release earlier this week. It’s always scary publishing publicly, however small the audience may be.
Then I did something even scarier—I decided on the Hanson method for training for the Paris marathon. Even the beginner program has 6 days of running most weeks; I struggle to run 5 days consistently. The beginner program also has almost two months of running 80-90 km per week. My weekly cadence has only rarely been above 50 km. It involves multiple faster-than-race-pace 10-mile tempo runs, and interval sessions that go on longer than my current long weekend runs. I’ll come out of this training season at the top of my running fitness, or broken—mentally and physically.
Not everything is scary. I made progress with the pull-ups. Today I did two full ones. Twice. Last week I was celebrating almost completing one. A few weeks ago I couldn’t even do a quarter. I also do 4-6 chin-ups a couple of times a day, up from just 1-2 a few weeks ago. (Yes, chin-ups and pull-ups are different)
I’ve also made progress with weight loss (despite the muscle gain from pull-ups and running). Yesterday, I weighed-in at 76.2Kg, a nearly 5-year low, and within hitting distance of the goal weight.
And finally, the best bit: I’ve started meditating again. I’m on a 15-day streak, sometimes twice a day, and finally getting back to being able to focus for a few minutes unbroken. If nothing else survives from this period post (I really hope the current government and opposition leadership don’t), I hope at least this will.
The weighing scale read
81.4 Kg on Saturday, 10 Aug. Last time I weighed this much was on 26th February, more than five months ago.
As recently as a month ago, on 5th July, I weighed just
78 Kg. I gained
3.4 kilos in a month!
That 81.4 isn’t a single spike. My average weight last week was
80.3 Kg. A month ago it was
78.3 Kg. Even the weekly average increased by
2 kilos :(
Based on BMI (25.4), that makes me officially overweight.
After neglecting the garden for 5+ years, I finally started getting my hands dirty this year. It’s been a surprising delight. The flowers are blooming. No plants have died yet. And the weeds are more under control than any time last year. All this for a couple of weekends’ work, and 5-10 mins every morning or evening. My highlight achievement must be saving a few plants from near death—the purple petunias, the value pack bogonias and the medium-sized marigold—and seeing them flourish.
I am really enjoying the work in the garden—probably too much according to R. There must be some truth in what Cal Newport said—the joy of creating physical things with our own hands.
I’ve been running well. I like my current running form, and the times have been reflecting the improvement. I ran my Park Run PB earlier at Woking—22:42. I ran the London marathon earlier in just under 4 hours—3:58:44. This is the first year where I have run at least 100 km every month. It’s also the first year when I’ve run at least once every week. I plan to keep the momentum going through rest of the year.
Reading has been a continuing theme from last few years. I haven’t read as many fiction books this year as non-fiction. Just haven’t found too many of ones I really want to read. Amitava Ghosh released his new book, Gun Island, so I polished that off in less than a day. But nothing much else.
I’ve read a lot of non-fiction though. Quite a few are based around self-improvement and productivity— Make time, GTD for teens, Digital minimalism, Messy, Range, Sprint, Turn the ship around …
I’ve read some books from the running, swimming, cycling, hiking world, but again not as many as I would’ve liked. Goater’s Art of running faster gave some good tips, and Scott Jurek’s North was full of inspiration.
I’ve started listing the books, and notes from some of them on this site.
Head & heart
Parents were planning to visit UK this year. They’ve cancelled. I’m sad.
I stopped meditating regularly months ago. I still meditate occasionally, but without the app there isn’t much to guide me through session after session. Most of the time it is just noticing a breath (tip from Make Time).
The year, mentally, has been a roller coaster. I haven’t really touched the depths of depression like I did around October last year, but I haven’t had many periods of consistent happiness either. I have a feeling it’s all very fragile. Or is it brittle?
Finished Todo.txt for Android
I’m ending the second phase of active development for Todo.txt for Android. All core functionality works sufficiently well for my own use. Dark mode is half baked, so have moved it to the backlog for the next phase, whenever that happens.
Not doing much active development on extensions at the moment.
Next up is starting a new project, or finding a new role. Either way, it’ll be a time of flux and vulnerability. Tread kindly, por favor!
For the last 10 days, I have meditated in bed before sleeping.
I updated my pre-sleep routine. It now starts with meditating for 10 minutes – usually Daily Calm, though yesterday I tried and liked a quiet meditation. Then I massage my feet, ankles and achilles with a massage ball before wearing sleeping socks (keeping feet warm). Finally, I read a book till the eyes shut off – usually 5-15 minutes.
I have been really enjoying this routine. The meditation calms me down drastically. The massage helps the feet stay fitter while I am increasing running mileage (or at least I think it helps). Then I read something – an easy book1 or a few paragraphs of Meditations (Marcus Aurelius).
I have been having really good sleep – drifting into it peacefully, and waking calm. The anxieties from rest of the day have mostly kept at bay. I’m lovin’ it.
I usually meditate at either middle or end of the day – when the head is usually frazzled or distracted, and needs a dose of calm and care.
Since everyone talks and writes about it, today I decided to meditate in the morning. At about 6 AM, after finishing coffee and before starting work, I took 15-20 minutes to meditate with Calm.
The meditation itself was good, and I may have maintained the focus better. But due to the timing, it wasn’t as useful as usual. I was already calm and focused before the meditation (early morning is my favourite, and most productive work time). So the marginal benefit provided by the meditation was small.
Later when I felt the need for meditation in late afternoon, I hesitated – ‘because I had already done the session for the day’. It was a stupid self-argument, but I listened to it and didn’t spend the 15 mins. I have paid for it with a distracted mind and subsequent low productivity all evening.
Looking forward, I could fight that argument (‘already done it today’) in my head with logic. But that’s a system 2 action, and system 2 is lazy so I’ll probably end up failing more often than not.
I could set a fixed afternoon time to create a rule/habit, but that will have a similar constraint – I will end up meditating when its scheduled, and not when I need it.
So, instead I am declaring the morning meditation a failed tweak, and will instead go back to meditating when I want/need during the day.
Multi-tasking was considered a desirable quality when I was in college and in my early working years. In hindsight, it was an easy escape too – when things get tough in one area, switch to the other. Smartphones, social media, TV and multi-tab browsers have added to the toll – all together in the cause of making my current easily distracted present self.
Mindfulness, focus, being in the present – all define an ability to stop becoming a multi-tasker. To get back to being fully focused on just the present act – whether its working, playing with the boy, reading, or even watching TV (‘watch the TV, put down the phone’).
The reason for why the previous two changes (1, 2) are hard is mindfulness (lack of) as well. Remembering to slow down – while talking or eating – both require active focus. It would be hard to focus on slowing down when I am too distracted to even fully notice the act of talking or eating (e.g. watching a TV show while eating, or thinking of ‘what are they thinking’ while talking).
Eventually, I hope to turn them both into habits so that I speak and eat slowly even unconsciously. But till I get there, I will need to be focused in the present – be mindful of the act to be able to slow myself down.
Finally, mindfulness may help me get better at not just the tasks that I enjoy (spreadsheets, coding, running), but also the tasks that I don’t (reaching out to people, writing better copy, socialising). Continue reading Tweaks for 2019 – Practice mindfulness
Today’s meditation session was on observing, noting and not-reacting to distractions.
There were three kinds of stimuli causing distractions – external sounds, body sensations and thoughts.
Chewie made some noise a few times while I was mediating. These sounds were the easiest distraction to recover from.
I felt a bit of a tinge in the lower back, and some funny sensations in fingers. These too were relatively easy and quick to recover from.
There were thoughts. Lots of thoughts, mostly about people and things that I would rather not think about. These were the hardest to recover from. And a few of them recurred during the session.
There was progress made though. By the end of the session, I was able to have longer sustained periods of focus without distractions. I noticed this (does noticing this and feeling happy about it count as a distraction?). And, on this very rare occasion, I wanted the session to go on for longer than it did :) Continue reading Meditation observations: Reactivity
Really, really need to meditate.
But don’t want to be left alone with my thoughts.
Been watching non stop TV instead to make up.
It didn’t rain today. Mostly. There were passing showers throughout the day, but nothing stuck around long enough.
Spoke to Ma. It was a long chat, and a generally happy one. It was nice to hear her sound cheerful, after 5+ years of sleep deprivation & tiredness, and a few weeks of crying, loss and loneliness.
We went for a run. I ran 7K on the road – to the cathedral and back up – and then took the boys for a lap on the ridge (~3K). It was better than yesterday’s run – legs felt better, faster. Felt a tiny bit stronger.