Friday, February 24, 2012

10 Apps to Propel Your Spiritual Practice

So, you’re a spiritually-inclined type who just shelled out some major cash for the latest smartphone, and you wouldn’t mind finding some Great Spiritual Justification to rationalize what in a harsher light might be seen as your materialistic, acquisitive side.

You’ve come to the right place: I assure you, you and I are in good company. And what better way to justify your technological habit than to put it to use in your quest to become a more enlightened human being?

So, in no particular order, here are ten apps in the category of “If the Buddha Had a Droid”:

1. ConZentrate

Okay, so you keep saying you’d like to have a regular meditation practice… and you’ve been saying that how many years now? But when push comes to shove, you hate to admit that stillness and silence don’t much appeal to your ADD, Twitter-happy nature. Well, download ConZentrate and let it provide both a visual and aural placeholder to keep your mind still for however many minutes you choose. Now your commute becomes your ashram. Find a breathing rhythm to go with the fabulous sound here and in ten minutes (or twenty, or thirty) you’ll be feeling that “I’m mellow and happy just because” high of meditation. If you’re just getting started with meditation, this is your best bet.



2. Meditation Helper

You’re ready to graduate to the big league? Just a chime at the beginning and another one at the end of your meditation? Go for Meditation helper.


iOS: None that I could find, although I was told a long time ago that ZenClock did the same thing for the iPhone.

3. My Life Organized

When you start meditating regularly your priorities typically start to shift. To keep from reverting to conditioned behaviors, try keeping track of your new priorities. My Life Organized gives you a box where you can dump the your thoughts and projects. Then, at the right time, pick and choose what you’re going to do about them, and when, and how.



4. beOrganized

Is My Life Organized too complex-looking for you and you want something simple, but not quite as simple as Do It Tomorrow? beOrganized hits that sweet spot of simplicity and power. Put it on your main screen as a widget and see your to-do list, automatically backed up and synchronized with your Google calendar. Also, try putting the recording widget on your main screen, speak what it is you want to do (“Meditate for another ten minutes today”), and let the program both transcribe and add it to your Google calendar. When you’ve complete the task, check it off, and see it disappear. Best $2.49 I’ve spent.


Iphone/ipad/iOS: None.

5. Drinking Water

What does drinking water have to do with your spiritual aspirations? Well, what does yoga? It keeps your body healthy, so you can go on to acquire insights and growth without being held back by body issues. This program is not just a way to check off how much water you’ve consumed; it regularly reminds you throughout the day till you’ve filled your daily quota… and then gives you an ovation when you’ve done it.


Iphone/ipad/iOS: None, but there’s an equivalent free app, Waterlogged:

6. Eckhart Tolle Quotes

Back twenty years ago, I was into the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti. I still am, but I find Eckhart Tolle (of The Power of Now and A New Earth fame) just as profound and far more accessible. A smattering of quotes from him when I’m otherwise less than inspired is just a finger tap away, thanks to this app.


Iphone/ipad/iOS: No free applications available

7. Tao Te Ching

Does this need any description? This Chinese classic is one of the most translated works in world literature and a single phrase can make you ponder for hours. And it’s now in your pocket.



8. Rumi quotes

The 13th-century Persian poet and mystic will remind you, among other things, that “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”



9. Hafiz quotes

I’d love to find a Hafiz (also spelled Hafez) app for Android or iPhone, because he has the lyrical quality of Rumi plus Robin Williams thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, none of the apps for either operating system do justice. The best I can suggest is an instant download of “Hafiz: The Scent of Light” and playing it on your iPhone or Android. It’s miles above anything else I’ve been able to find.

Android or iPhone/ipad/iOS:

10. Kiva

How can an app to facilitate you funding microloans to small, often single-owner businesses in theThird Worldhelp you on your spiritual path? The question is, how can it not? Anything that takes you out of your own world and opens you up to altruism and learning about other people’s lives, struggles and successes not only dwindles your perception of your own problems, but increases your humanity and makes the world a much smaller, friendlier place.



So there—you can now feel that the beaucoup bucks spent on tech toys are going for a good cause… your betterment, right?

What apps do you think should be on this list? Please share your ideas below.

Photo Credit: Ubermoe

Friday, February 10, 2012

If the Buddha Did New Years' Resolutions (the Twelvefold Path)

My guess is if the Buddha did New Years’ Resolutions, the Four Noble Truths would’ve looked like this:

1. In life there is time-wasting

2. The origin of time-wasting is unconsciousness

3. To stop being unconscious you must know what you want and what you don’t want (duh!)

4. To know what you want and what you don’t want, walk the noble twelvefold path:

  1. Focus on the main thing. If you don’t really know what the main thing is, first identify what you don’t want. From there, finding what you do want is a mere hop over the brain synapses. But be sure it’s the real goal. For instance, publishing a book to be read by a hundred thousand people isn’t the goal: affecting them is. Differentiate and conquer.

  1. Know and use your resources. They’re everything from inquisitively helpful friends to inquisitively helpful coaches (in case you have more cash than friends) to books like Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More (in case you lack both)—and that’s just to get started. Whenever there’s a stuck point, ask, “What resources could I call upon to bypass this?”

  1. Know why you want it. Regularly connecting emotionally with the reasons for doing something keeps it from fading into the background of distractions. If I want to build the 7 best pearl-studded catamarans in the world with a pink monkey logo, I need to review from time to time: how the hell does that reflect who I am? Does that kind of stuff really make me better? Why in the world does it fulfill a sense of purpose? What could it possibly do for others as well as for me?

  1. Sleep well. If you don’t have high energy, guess what? Vegging out in front of the tube is going to win out every time you think of picking up your goal. Foremost in maintaining high energy is the sleep habit. Night owls, don’t shoot me—I’m just the messenger. But Ayurvedic medicine (and now endocrinology) says that when we sleep is just as important of how long we sleep. The when is from before 10 p.m. to before 6 a.m. The how long varies from person to person and maybe from season to season. 7.5 hours is about the right time for some; others range from 5 to 9 hours. Experiment till you awaken feeling rested and refreshed daily.

  1. Exercise regularly. I know I’m sounding like your mom (assuming she exercises—mine didn’t!) but this is the second part of maintaining high energy. Keep it simple: exercise is whatever you enjoy doing (‘cause otherwise your motivation will vanish) on a regular enough basis that makes your body feel good.

  1. Be aware of how you sit and how breathe. Why is this important? Because as any yoga teacher (me) will tell you, if you sit for a long time slouching and breathing shallow, the high-energy benefits of good sleep and good exercise disappear quickly. If you can’t remember to do it, get a kitchen timer (or one of those programs that freeze your computer at a set time) and take a five minute break every 15 minutes. Yes, your productivity will go down the drain, but your productivity elsewhere will skyrocket. Folding that laundry? 5 minutes. Emptying the dishwasher? 5 minutes. Taking out the recycling? 5 minutes. Think of the possibilities!

  1. Develop a drinking habit. No, no—not that kind of drinking habit. I mean the studies that say drink 8 glasses of water a day—you know, the ones everybody quotes and nobody follows? Forget about them. Drink a gallon of water a day (that’s about 4 liters for you metrically inclined), and watch your skin glow, your lips never dry out, and your innards work with the regularity of a Swiss watch. How can you possibly down a gallon a day? 1 quart (liter) upon waking up, 1 quart (liter) straddling breakfast, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the morning, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the afternoon. Stop then, otherwise you’ll be up all night emulating mythological figures in European water fountains.

  1. Eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Preferably prepared by you, so you know all the ingredients and make them good. If you prepare everything ahead of time, when you’re hungry you can reach for something pre-made, tasty and nutritious. If this sounds like blah blah blah, think of the freedom it gives you to focus on your goal. (Unless your goal is eating better. Don’t eat twice in that case.)

  1. Make your surroundings beautiful. We’re not talking Feng Shui here. Just harmonious, which means your main goal won’t get diluted by the stacks of crap all over the place, or the further crap you packed away in overstuffed closets. Think of it this way: if you run the hundred-yard dash against people running the hundred-yard hurdles, don’t you think you’ve got quite the advantage? Simplicity, harmony, beauty are the means to remove the hurdles on the way to the finish line of The Important.

  1. Make sure you do things regularly that make you happy. What do you do to keep yourself happy? Hike an urban Grand Canyon? Partake in ballet in your gym socks? Be a mystery shopper at toy stores? Groom camels? Sweat between the linens? Engage in recreational baptism? Welcome neural make-believe? Stare at book-bound pictures? Surround yourself with shouting kids in exciting, gaudy places? Whatever it takes, your emotional environment is like a garden that needs frequent watering, ‘cause if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Which begs two corollaries: 1. Fill your life with people who make you happy. And 2. Get rid of those who don’t make you happy. There. That was easy.

  1. Have daily time for introspection. God knows we wouldn’t want to call it meditation, right? Because you “don’t know” how to meditate, or it doesn’t sound “fun.” So call it reflecting, or journaling, or being still. Most people are wiser than we give them credit for. Here’s our chance to tap into that wisdom (20-30 minutes a day) that will pay handsome dividends in the achieving our goals department.

And finally…

  1. Draw up a list of your distractions. It doesn’t matter if I pick the right goal, exercise and sleep well and do all the things that make me happy: if my life is buried under internet, environmental or consumerist distractions I’m not going to accomplish diddly-squat. A brutally honest list of my time leaks helps me become conscious of the shape of my time-wasting. That list would have to include all those so-called news items begging to be clicked on when I check my email, or all the crap I bought on- and offline only to realize I didn’t need it, or whatever other garden-variety addictions sap my time. And let’s not even get started about social media. Hey, click on the “recommend this” so your Facebook friends can read it. :-)

All right, so maybe the Buddha wouldn’t have said any of the above things (he’s more of a “Do a little and accomplish a lot; do nothing and accomplish everything” kind of guy), but while we’re on our way to those lofty heights, why not use something as ridiculous as new years’ resolutions (or our current forgetfulness of them) to get us farther along our path?