Thirty days after my first Vipassana meditation course

In the last 40 days I have spent 160 hours meditating and it’s been the best investment I’ve done in years. Here is why. Earlier this year I came across an interview with Yuval Harari in which he talked about Vipassana, a meditation technique that he has been practicing for 17 years. I found it interesting that a lay person would spend two hours per day and a full month per year meditating, so I looked for more information and this is what I found: you learn the technique by attending a ten day course where all you do is meditate for ten hours a day.

Heidiland: love of nature, vineyards and brown grasshoppers

A few days ago we went to Maienfeld to hike near the area that Johanna Spyri used as a setting for her 1881 novel, Heidi. Since I moved to Switzerland I been reminded of Heidi weekly because at work there is a weekly social event whose start gets announced with a broadcast of Heidi’s theme to the whole office. So when I saw that there was a hiking area named after her I talked to Loes and she agreed to go.

Science vs pseudoscience

Atul Gawande explains on The New Yorker how to differentiate pseudoscience from real science. The main idea is that a lot of people mistrust science because they cannot tell the two apart. A compounding problem is that research shows that trying to debunk specific examples of pseudoscience doesn’t work to convince people to believe in the true facts (science). So how do we go about increasing knowledge and decreasing misinformation in ourselves and others?

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

What if a Lunar colony rebelled against Earth? The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein (1966) is really a book about revolutions, colonialism and alternative family structures. There is some science fiction like the setting and the fact that one of the characters is an AI but they feel secondary to the main topics. **WARNING: Spoilers alert** The plot centers around a human Lunar colony that decides to rebel against Earth because it’s exploiting all of its resources.

Trogen to Appenzell (Alpenpanorama trail)

On Sunday we escaped the intense rain that was falling over most of Switzerland. This time we tried a new national route, stage 2 of Alpenpanorama Trail, as it passes through the smallest canton of Switzerland, Appenzell. The name means “cell (state) of the abbot (of St. Gallen)” and religion had indeed a strong influence in its history: the canton is divided into two parts, the Protestant one and the Catholic one, and the capital.

What to say when you talk to yourself

What to say when you talk to yourself is the most effective book on personal growth that I’ve read in the last year. The premise of the book is that our behavior, feelings, attitudes and beliefs are all a direct product of our mental programming. And our mind’s programs get recorded not based on whether they are true or false but simply by how many times and with how much attention we listen or “experience” the programming which, most of the time, happens as we talk to ourselves in our heads.

The man of wisdom

“[…] the man of wisdom stands upright under any load.” Seneca, Letters 71.25-28

Spotlight (2015)

A group of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe uncovers a decades long cover-up of Catholic priests abusing children. Sadly the movie is based on a true story.The Spotlight team. Why did the abuses happen? According to a couple of studies, one of them by a psychotherapist who treated these priests for 20 years, the main causes were insufficient candidate screening and insufficient training to prepare for the challenges of celibacy.

Ancilliary Justice

What if an entity whose consciousness spans thousands of bodies suddenly gets restricted to a single body? And what if we lived in a world with only one gender? Ancilliary Justice by Ann Leckie is a sci-fi story about spaceships, AIs, colonization and the moral struggle between doing what you know is right and face death or follow unjust orders. The story felt more like sitting on the Assembly of Ancient Greece than an adventure because of so much philosophical dialogue but I found the exercise of imagining myself owning multiple bodies very interesting.

Staffelegg to Brugg (Jura Crest Trail)

Yesterday we almost hiked from Staffelegg to Hauenstein and we almost saw its five passes. Instead, due to an unjustifiably confidence in my prep skills combined with me field testing a new hiking app, we took the wrong turn after getting off the bus and went in the opposite direction. I recently read about the power of visualizations so for this hike I prepared: I visualized where the sun would be during most of the hike, where we would begin and end.