Mindful Intent, Vitality and Improvement

Overheard view of a woman seated at a desk multitasking between two computers and an open notepad

It doesn’t matter how many hours you lay in bed—what matters is how many hours of this laying part you are regenerating.

The more vital you feel, the better you ability to actively create something, create a life you enjoy living. But you can’t do that without the proper methods and character traits.

Shi Heng Yi

This quote is a metaphor suited for many circumstances. But basically, the takeaway it insinuates is that mindful intent is the most importance consideration/quality for optimizing performance and development with any skill, conduct or activity.

That means eliminating distractions, your fixations, and bad habits.

Using the Momentary Method as an Example

“The Three Treasures” or “Intentful Corrections” of qigong – body (or posture), breath, and mind (awareness) – can be used to encapsulate this philosophy.

The first two, body posture or movement and breathing are used to mobilize and send naturally-occurring healing resources throughout the body. This process becomes more efficient and has a more powerful benefit when you can harness the mind and release it into your body, i.e., bringing your awareness to the present, and your internal world.

“The Four Baskets” are comprised of these three along with self-applied massage, which when added to the mix, serves to direct the healing energy to the spots it is needed most.

Something else I’ve noticed with my own practice is that just directing the mind and the intention/breath to my inner world greatly heightens efficiency, and thus I can achieve the same improvements and benefits in much less time than if I had let myself be distracted by thoughts or external things in my environment.

The key is eliminating what is detracting from your full immersion in the experience, and thus preventing optimization. These distractions can manifest in the form of material attachments, worry about the future, expectations or clinging to past events, among others.

I’m dedicating another post in this series to attachments (impulses, fixations, and self-identity) so I won’t really talk specifics here.

While it’s difficult for many to remain in the present and not tread on the past or stress over the future, a habitual mindfulness meditation practice will help with that. However, your material attachments and fixations can be leveraged to develop habits that actually serve you.

Eliminating What Doesn’t Serve You (Distractions and Attachments)

Can you change your habits to read the kinds of books you think will serve you best in the long term, the foundational books?

Read what you love until you love to read. So, just fall in love with the idea of reading itself. It’s okay to read the junk stuff—just fall in love with reading. Eventually you’ll get bored of the simple stuff and go to the more interesting stuff. Now I’m reading for the long-term, but I’m not giving up too much of the short-term pleasure.

I love to read enough that I don’t watch tv or watch movies. People start talking to me about shows they’re watching on Netflix, and I just give them a blank look. I don’t watch shows on Netflix because they’re not interesting.

It’s far more interesting to me to go on a walk and be meditative, and I’ll be in a very happy place. Or to read a book, which will be intellectually-stimulating.

And so I think it just boils down to choosing the long-term over the short-term. And all the hacks – the good hacks – help make the long-term choice palatable. Or they help inspire you to keep your eye focused on the long term.

Entreprenuer and investor, Naval Ravikant

You have probably heard the saying, “if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”

Using this concept, you can adapt your lesser behaviors or to ones that offer you long-term benefits. The key is making slight changes to your activities that gradually result in significant progress.

The quote above by Naval Ravikant uses reading as an example. But it also mentions television, which I’ll use to exemplify this process.

Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’ve watched 20-45 minutes of tv in bed before dozing off, streamed from my laptop. It was really my only form of mindless entertainment activity of the day, and I used it as a way to decompress.

The programming would range from sitcoms or dramas (always with some comedic element) to MLB baseball or NHL games, depending on the night. Even though I knew this habit was not really benefitting me (sensory stimulation before sleep and blue light exposure) it had become engrained, and I had great difficulty kicking it.

But,I begun to gradually ween myself off of it. I started instead streaming educational videos on YouTube, like lectures or tutorials, that I still found entertaining or inspiring.

Ideally, they would also contain some comedic value, as I knew laughter eases the stress response, tension and anxiety—Bruxism (teeth grinding) at night has been a long-term issue for me.

Some examples of specific content I would watch include lectures by the brilliant and hysterically-comedic neuroendocrinology professor Robert Sopalsky, or discussions and tutorials on qigong and tai chi practices and benefits by (the also humorous) internal arts practitioner and instructor Damo Mitchell.

Over time, I’ve been able to remove the visual stimulation component and blue light exposure altogether, and now most nights I opt for podcast listening or reading.

Occasionally, I’ll treat myself to an episode of the 70s television hit, “Kung Fu,” as this show, unlike most others, calms my flight-or-flight stress response, and the positive message conveyed in many of the episodes often leads to my self-growth.

This process uses mindful intent in the sense it creates a positive call to action for something you want to do, instead of something you’re not compelled to do, but feel you “should.” But, it’s not necessarily beneficial regarding eliminating distractions and improving your immersion.

However, one proven technique for cutting out behaviors or information that create inefficiencies, and thus don’t aid in your development or vitality is using the 80/20 principle.

Applying the Pareto Principle to Improve Vitality

Try to reduce the amount of linear behavior, linear movement that you are doing in this lifetime—meaning investigating something that ultimately comes to a hard stop.

What does this hard stop mean? It means that all the energy you have invested at one point is just going to vanish. This is kind of pointless.

Regulate and keep an eye on the amount of time and awareness you are allowing yourself to get lost out there. That means first of all, it’s important that you see it in yourself, which means you don’t turn the view out there and look out. The first thing to do is turn around and see yourself.

Shi Heng Yi

You may have very likely heard of the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, coined by management consultant Joseph M. Juran and based on the work of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.

Another moniker is the “law of the vital few.” In the context of productivity or improvement, it essentially means 80% of results are driven by 20% of effort.

One example is going back and forth between wording in a paragraph, or searching for and editing ‘the perfect quote.’ While these elements do bring value to the article, punctuation and wording aren’t the crucial components—the points being conveyed are, and they can probably be understood without the perfect grammar.

Elimination – Adopt a “Low-Information” diet

One technique under the 80/20 umbrella is ignoring things or (sensory) information that is irrelevant, time-consuming, and not useful. This includes news or television consumption in your free time, and even just over-consuming information or material in your work life or when you are trying to develop a skill or discipline.

Another instance from my blog writing is when I get inspiration from a lecture or podcast I’m listening to. I’ll begin frantically taking notes to use the inspirational passage as an intro quote or a thesis for an articles, and it’s easy for me to lose the forest for the trees.

Often, I’ll continue to type away rapidly even after extracting the critical kernel of insight, for the sake of not wanting to miss anything else significant. In the end though, this is largely wasted time, effort, and energy.

I would have been much better off had I quit when I got the enlightening tidbit, and went back to refining my own thoughts and sharpening the article—which, of course, would have resulted in better development of my writing and increased article output.

It would have also helped me elaborate on the insight, as I wouldn’t be taking in additional non-essential information.

You can also apply this elimination principle to learning in a broader sense, as consuming too much information (sensory stimulation) detracts from immersion in the material, and thus memory consolidation and recall later on.

But, I’ve touched on that plenty already.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you find these tactics useful for refining your practice, whatever it be. Applying mindful intent – through any method – will help you feel more vital and thus operate more efficiently in many facets of your life—mentally, energetically, and physically.

And whatever benefits arise out of that, are a byproduct. You have the freedom to use them at your discretion.


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