Mere Being - 008 - Cake, Reacher, and Loops

I started meditating again this month. Decided to hell with the slowly-ramping-up stuff and jumped straight into 40 minute sessions. I don't always go for that long, if I don't feel up to it I might just do 10 or 20. But as often as not I'm sitting 40. It's tough. I knew it was going to be when I started, which is part of why I started again. So far it's been tough for a nicely a boring reason – I get restless and fidgety and I want to get up and go do something else – and I haven't remembered the trick of getting into a position that's actually comfortable.

I've meditated on and off since I was introduced to it in a martial arts class around age ten, but the last couple of years I mostly haven't.

The problem is that when I sit down to meditate – when I really start to get into it, which takes maybe ten minutes or so – I start twitching. And, uh, shouting. This is, I have read, actually pretty normal, and even a good sign, a sign that you're getting your mind in alignment, but it's also exhausting.


I've been feeling kind of scrambled, lately – like someone's stuck a fork in me and stirred. Too many unfinished projects, too many minor life emergencies. Cats dying, cars getting broken into, babies born and anticipated.

I can tell that I've got too much going on when I start avoiding my journal, and find myself instead inhabiting obsessive loops on the internet, because the journal's got all the stuff I've committed myself to, formally or not, and the internet's just got new new new, punctuated by complaints, and pleas for someone else to be just as frazzled and anxious as the writer.

It isn't good for me, this internet looping. I've gotten a lot out of the internet but lord it is caustic. People want to believe that it's because of the algorithms but Mastodon's just about as bad as Twitter ever was. It's missing the automated rage amplifier but it's still a high voltage anxiety transmitter, handing a megaphone to anxious shut ins who are too stuck inside their own loops to notice that they should be stepping out of them, not inviting people in.

So – to the degree that I've got any kind of New Year's resolution,it's to spend less time anxiously refreshing, and a lot more being bored.

Hence the meditation.

The main actuator of my intent here is an app called Freedom, brought to my attention by (our high priest of boredom and loops, Craig Mod.

Stab a Book, the Book Won’t Die
On the resilience of books in the face of apps, attention monsters, and an ad-driven online economy

I'm still experimenting with exactly the right blocklist, the right schedule, and getting it working on my laptop as well as my phone, but boy is it a smack in the face to find myself repetitively refreshing a block screen.

It's some real pigeon shit.


I've been baking a bunch of these French cakes, from that book GΓ’teau.

This is a variation on a yogurt cake– a cake they teach to children. It requires one mixing bowl and it looks fancy.

One of the things she is at pains to emphasize is that the French – or at least, Parisians – do not do anything complicated at home. If they want something complicated they buy it from a pastry shop. Or they buy the complicated part (candied orange peel) and assemble it at home.

(On Parisians – you should understand that in some sense Paris is a different country from the rest of France. When the French Revolution spilled out of Paris and into the VendΓ©e, the local peasants fought on side of their local nobles, against the revolutionaries. From their perspective, the Parisians were coming in to take our guy. The guillotine gets all the press but the absolute worst parts of the revolution for my money happened here.)

French food is supposed to have a lot of steps to it but the thing about all those steps is that's French restaurant foods. The French invented the restaurant (it's right there in the name) and they won't let you forget it but not all French food is restaurant food.

Sometimes French food is
one jar of yogurt
one jar of oil
two jars of sugar
three jars of flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
mix
pour
bake

The Frenchest part of it is that to make it look fancy you put apricot jam on top, but you heat and strain the jam first. This is more complicated than it sounds because what you're getting out of the jam is big sheafs of whole apricot skin.


The problem is that a few years ago I was meditating a lot, and I got reasonably good at, and was able to sustain attention on one thing for a while, and then that one thing started to be,

"I'm a terrible person,
here's this bad thing that I did
here's this person telling me how I hurt them,
here's how bad I feel about it."

I'd start feeling sad or guilty or ashamed and then spend the next forty minutes feeling nothing but that.

Have you ever spent forty minutes thinking one thing? Feeling one thing? It's a lot

I have read enough about meditation to know that this is kind of normal, for at least some people – the twitching, and the intense emotions – and that the basic solution is to sit with it and eventually it goes away. (If it doesn't, call a teacher.) Sometimes folks will call it trauma release or energy currents. Mostly they'll tell you not to focus on it too much.

At the time this was happening I was going through some shit, and I didn't have the energy to turn a high power microscope on it for forty minutes a day like this, and keep up with everything else that was going on, so I stopped trying to meditate for a while.

I'm wary of recommending meditation to people, because of this. It kinda sets me off when, like, HR tells people to meditate, because they think that meditation is relaxing. It can be, but the main thing is that it's practice focusing.


You know what's back? That's right! It's Reacher! The TV show where we watch a Large Man solve Large Crimes.

Why should you watch Reacher? Simple. Him big.

"Him big?" you ask. "That's it?" Yes. That's it. If that's not enough, Reacher is not for you.

Oh, and I'm told his gun handling is pretty good.


Last up, a couple of notes on projects.

I'm wrapping the year up with I got myself well caught up in a startup this year, and that's been the majority of what I've gotten done since July.

This is good – I joined the startup because I think it's worth being the main bet I'm making right now – but it's been a sort of slow-motion asteroid, blowing a crater in the rest of my projects and plans.

I've been plugging along with the Neovim Newsletter, picking up a surprising number of e-mail addresses from just a half an hour of attention or so a week,
but the unfinishedness of it is killing me. The project is in that awkward middle where it's not clear what it's going to be or if it's ever going to be finished, and I am caught between "just get it done and ship it already" and "this isn't worth it, cut it off" and "if you're going to do it you'd better do it right."

The biggest thing that's unsatisfying for me right now is how untidy the Simpler Machines website itself feels. The tags are a mess, it's hard to understand what you're actually signing up for, there are three newsletters on there and that's not actually even all my newsletters. I'm unhappy with the URL – people mishear it pretty consistently as "Simple Machines" – and with the theme – and I keep trying to fix both those things, getting caught up on the same problem

– looping.

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