Starting a meditation practice

I started meditating regularly at the beginning of 2019. It took some getting used to, but it’s become a part of my daily routine. Taking some time out to be alone with my thoughts has been peaceful, relaxing, and enlightening.

I’ve found it to be especially important given how busy and frantic day to day life has become. We are bombarded incessantly with ads. The news cycle never ends. Our devices make us constantly available. The distraction of the internet is only a click away. Our personal and professional responsibilities are always pulling at us. It makes taking time out for one’s self more important than ever.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a meditation practice but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few suggestions that helped me.

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Book review: Meditations

Book cover for Meditations (Amazon Classics) by Marcus Aurelius

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an interest in ancient philosophies. More specifically, I’ve found Stoicism, which I was introduced to through Ryan Holiday’s writing and The Daily Stoic, to be particularly intriguing. It has shown me that the things humans do in our daily lives has evolved a lot throughout history, and it continues to change rapidly due to technology. However, the character traits of being a good person have not changed. The same values and principles that made up good character over two thousand years ago are still applicable today. What humans do has changed, but human nature has not. It reinforces the adage – “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

When reading Stoic philosophies, it is impossible to avoid references to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 AD – 180 AD, and Meditations is a collection of writings from his personal journals that reflect his thoughts during his time as emperor. Since most of my reading of Aurelius’ writing were excerpts from and interpretations of passages from Meditations, I felt is was best to read it on my own, to get it from the horse’s mouth.

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Life is a journey

It’s easy to live life looking back and telling ourselves a story that life would be different if ‘this’ or ‘that’ would have happened. Likewise, it’s easy to live life looking into the future and thinking that we’ll be happy when we do ‘this’ or when ‘that’ happens.

I know. I’ve been there – in both places, sometimes at the same time. And what I’ve found is that neither one of those places, ruminating on the past or worrying about the future are fun places to be.

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Book review: Permutation City

Book cover for Permutation City by Greg Egan

I’ve read a few books on the topic of neuroscience and how the brain functions. I’ve also read a few science fiction books about artificial intelligence, robotics, and simulating human behavior. A few of these books have went as far as portraying the concept of uploading the contents of the brain to a computer. It begs the question, what is human conscience, and can it be portrayed in software? It’s an ambitious and complex topic, and one that Greg Egan tackles in Permutation City.

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Amazon Linux 2: Upgrading from PHP 7.2 to PHP 7.4

Wordpress PHP Update Recommended warning message

I finally got tired of my WordPress installation complaining about the version of PHP I was running. I decided it was time to upgrade.

My WordPress install operates on an Amazon EC2 instance running Amazon Linux 2. I used Amazon’s excellent tutorial, Install a LAMP web server on Amazon Linux 2, to set it up which uses their lamp-mariadb10.2-php7.2 package as the basis for the web server. After reviewing a few resources on installing or updating to PHP 7.4 on Amazon Linux 2, I put the following together that goes through the steps necessary to update if you used their tutorial to set up your server.

If all goes smoothly, it should take less than 15 minutes from start to finish.

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Book review: The Power of Habit

Book cover for The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

My best source for book recommendations are from those who I know well, whether they are family, friends, or close acquaintances. We talk about books enough that they have a good feel for the types of books that I might like. It’s also easy for me to figure out how to prioritize a book by how they describe it to me. It’s how I learned about The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. A couple of years ago, my daughter Courtney read it for one of her college classes and recommended it to me. She even went as far as to lend me her personal copy, which was an old school traditional hardback. Before we dive into this review, I only have one regret with this book – that I let it languish on my book shelf for the better part of two years before opening it up.

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Wouldn’t it be great if life had an easy button? Something you could press when you wanted to take the shortcut to success. Instead of putting in the time and effort to learn, to do the hard work, you could simply wish what you want into existence.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t seem like it from what you see on the internet, but what you read isn’t reality. These stories can generally be broken down into the following categories:

  1. The lies
    Yes, whether you want to believe it or not, fake news is real. The story of the person who put in the hours is not interesting. People like to hear about the instant rags-to-riches stories. Unfortunately, most of these aren’t real.
  2. The glamorized success story
    While not a lie, some success stories are made to look like they happened overnight when they were actually years in the making. Following someone who’s plodding along isn’t interesting. What’s interesting is taking years of hard work and boiling down into the 5 minutes of fame YouTube video, which seems to be the limit of our attention span these days.
  3. The long and winding road
    While not popular, these stories are out there. They’re not fun because it shows that real success takes time, a lot of time. They take work, a lot of work. Not only is the reward worth the effort but so is the journey to get there.
  4. Getting rich quick
    Rare, but they do exist. They’re like the searching for Moby Dick. You can spend you’re entire life chasing the short path to success and miss out on the rewards that are part of the long journey.

So what’s my point? Life is a journey, and our reward is that journey. Instead of looking for the easy button, life is about putting in the time and effort, learning and growing every day, and committing to the hard work it takes to achieve lasting success. It’s both more rewarding and more fulfilling.

Don’t fall into the trap of searching for the easy button. It’s easy to do, and even if you do find it, you might be surprised that it’s not all that’s it cracked up to be.

Inspired by Seth Godin’s post, Chasing the cool kids. It’s worth the read, and some of the best advice I’ve seen on searching for shortcuts on the internet.

The Office of the Future

It’s been an interesting year for people who used to go into an office to work every day. The pandemic has forced almost everyone into a work from home (WFH) situation. With vaccination rates rising and infections starting to wane, companies are starting to mull over plans for returning to the office. It begs the question, what will the office of the future look like? Will it be a return to the way it was, or will companies ditch their office spaces en masse and embrace the WFH model?

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