Environmental factors in planning

This is going to be a short post on how you might make your planned activities better through the use of environmental factors. For some, this isn’t going to be news because it’s probably common sense to many, but I am still going to present it because there might be some that don’t know about it.

Environmental factors are anything in your environment that might make a difference towards your planned activities. It could be purely physical (heat, wind, altitude), but it could also be more abstract (amount of money you have, perceived stress, etc.) For example, you plan a bicycle trip, and you take into calculation the heat, the state of your bicycle, the amount of time you have, and so on…

When you plan your activities, it is wise to take into consideration not only what you wish to do, but also the things that the environment presents to you. My personal example is this: I wish to become more resilient toward cold, so this is why I planned cold-resilience exercises when it is cold – in the winter.

Not only do you plan and just then take into consideration the environmental factors, you actively look at what your environmental factors have to offer. For example, you see that in the following months you will have no money and a lot of time. What activities can you plan for that period? How do you make best use of such a period? Or you have an upcoming period of very little sleep, a lot of work and high levels of stress. How do you make most use of that? Do your self improvement goals change? Maybe your general goal is incredible physical fitness, but you know that from lack of sleep, a lot of stress and no time (because of work), you won’t be able to work on this goal effectively (if at all). Maybe you change this goal into “being kind and polite despite the stress and overworkedness”. Maybe you change this goal into something else.

If you’re injured, how do you best make use of that? I know that in Parkour, if I have one limb incapacitated, I just go on with training – the only thing I change is I adapt and train with only 3 limbs. What is interesting is that this sort of training wouldn’t have been available to me if I hadn’t injured myself.

All of this is basically practical Stoicism: every misfortune is a chance to learn something new and to improve. Every sort of hinder is actually an obstacle that will definitely improve a certain aspect of you. If you cannot use a car when you would normally use it but you have to walk – then everything that can improve while walking, and not while driving, should improve. If you hurt your right hand and you’re right-handed, is this not the best opportunity you’ll ever have to learn to be ambidextrous? If your Internet connection is off and it absolutely won’t work, is this not the best chance you’ve had in months to read books?

Change your perspective and you will honestly change your life.

You are exactly where you want to be

Right now, you’re probably sitting or lying. Maybe you’re standing. You are somewhere, maybe outside, maybe inside. Life is happening around you. Maybe there is some music in the background, maybe only cars, maybe silence. You have some things you have to do today, or tomorrow, or in a week from now. You’ve also had some obligations today, or yesterday, or a week from now. You also have things you want to do, not just things you have to do. The things you have to do you don’t want to do, maybe all of them, but probably some of them. These things can be relatively unimportant (i.e. errands) or they could be important, but you still don’t want to do them.

If you have too much things you have to do, and not enough time to do the things you want to do, you probably get stressed. If you have a lot of things to do, you might procrastinate, do other things instead of some things.

In the post Where does stress come from, I describe that one of the main reasons for stress is a conflict in motivation, and that this conflict can be solved by deliberately deciding a certain course of action and sticking to it, not doubting yourself or your choice.

In this post, I want to explore this concept a bit further and see how exactly it is that our own internal motivation conflicts lead us to live unfulfilling lives, and how those that have no motivation conflicts (or at least solve them early-on) lead lives packed with greatness.

So, first things first: honesty.

This is a prerequisite for the continuation of you reading this post. You have to be able to be honest with yourself. If you lie to yourself, you won’t get far in self improvement. What is it that you don’t acknowledge about yourself? Have you heard several people comment on a certain characteristic you believed you didn’t have? Maybe you do have it? Have you seen yourself behave unexpectedly in various situations? Does this unexpected result maybe tell you something about yourself? For example, if your friend got into a fight and you didn’t rush in and save him (even though you always thought that you wouldn’t hesitate a second), does that tell you something about yourself? If people always comment how you’re so lethargic and unenergetic, do you think about that?

If you’re a dishonest person to yourself, you should listen to what other people say. Sometimes they’re wrong, sometimes they’re right, but their explanation is countered by something you know and they don’t, but often, they’re right and you’re just fooling yourself.

You can’t try to become successful if you do not first acknowledge that you’re unsuccessful. You can’t try to become strong unless you admit that you’re weak. So on, and so on. Consider this:

All your actions up to this point have led to this very day.

How fucking terrible an idea is that, huh?

Everything you did, from your birth to the moment you’re reading these words, has led to this exact moment. And this here… This moment right now is the tipping point.

Now you decide what you’re going to do further.

If you’re like “Dude, what’s with the drama, I’m just going to have a shit and watch some cat videos, I’m not that important, what I do isn’t going to make a big difference” then you’re wrong.

For you see, your life is important.

At least, it should be important to you. And what you do with it should, by extension, be ever more important. And thus – what you do is going to make a big difference.

I repeat:

This moment right here, the moment while you read these very words, is the tipping point of your life. It is now that you make the decisions that will define the rest of your life.

Maybe some of these decisions can be changed afterwards, so it isn’t all a big drama as it looks like. But what if some of them cannot be changed? Use of time cannot be changed.

If you just spent half an hour of watching skating videos on Youtube, that half an hour is gone. If you’ve just exercised half an hour, that half an hour is gone. You can’t have it back. And seeing that life time is (at least for now) finite for humans, it would make sense to make good decisions about how we use time, wouldn’t it?

Now we come to the secret piece of advice I will give you, and you will struggle with accepting it:

You are exactly where you want to be.

If you are honest with yourself, and as I said, it truly is a prerequisite for this advice to work, then you will either accept that you are exactly where you want to be or you will change your life so that you get there, stop doing things that you know aren’t going to bring you to where you want to be.

Example: you study a certain subject, but you feel the whole time like that particular subject isn’t at all what you want to do, or you feel that studying in general isn’t what you want to do and that it won’t get you where you want to be. What you do, naturally, is you stop studying that subject.

But… What if you have a family to feed, and they rely on you obtaining a degree and then a job and then money? What if what you’re studying could prove to be useful in the future, even though you do not wish to dedicate yourself to it all the time?

As I wrote in the last post, this is a conflict of motivations, and you solve it through being honest with yourself and deciding a certain course of action. Is feeding your family more important to you than leading a fulfilling life? Is feeding your family possible if you do something more fulfilling? Is the problem of feeding your family a false one, i.e. can they actually rely on themselves and the task imposed on you is actually an illusion? These questions, alongside many more require honesty to be answered, and you must answer them.

You must decide and give weight to your decisions.

If you decide that you’ll continue on pursuing that college degree because of you need to feed your family, and if you truly investigated other options, and none are available, then that is your decision, and your decision alone. If you feel like you’re being forced into it, do not, because you’re not forced into it. You can always decide something else, but you won’t: maybe because of moral obligations, or love. Some people would have other options available. Some people wouldn’t have to make that decision. Some people have it easy all the time. “I wish I was one of those people”.

This kind of thinking leads only to frustration and rarely helps you towards your goals.

If you have no legs, it is completely unnecessary to fantasize about having legs. If you have no money, it is completely unnecessary to fantasize about having money. So on and so on. Fantasizing about things you do not have will not lead you to have them. Objective appraisal of your situation, a firm decision between conflicting options, a coldly rational plan of action – these things actually will get you towards your goals, and maybe solve the problem you were ruminating on. Maybe you’ll invent a revolutionary type of bionic prosthetic limb and then you’ll have legs. Maybe you’ll create a brilliant start-up and have money. You most certainly will not do that if you only fantasize of having something you believe “you deserve to have”.

So what do you do with your college degree, with your studying? I don’t know, but I know you must decide and stick to that decision and NOT BE BITTER ABOUT HAVING TO CHOOSE IT.

This is what you were given, this is what you get, some people get more, some people get less. Learn to deal with it and make the most use of it. That way, the idea that “You are exactly where you want to be” becomes something else, something even more revolutionary…

You are right now in the perfect position to create the rest of your life.

Whatever misfortune life has brought to you, look at it as limits to a game. Some people play easy arcade games with their lives, and some people play really difficult puzzles, and whoever you might be, you’re in the perfect position right now (as in AT THIS VERY MOMENT) to make use of it – and create the rest of your life.

Where does stress come from?

Everyone knows that odd feeling. You’re kind of tensed, unfocused, probably biting your lip, scratching your face and your neck, your abdominal muscles are rigid, you breathe shallowly… It’s stress.

The evolution of the human brain has given us many benefits. Indeed, the neocortex, “the logical brain” is what differentiates between us and our animal comrades. We have the capacity to think, to plan, to analyse, to deduce. This is what allows us to make bridges, build instruments, write books and surf 9gag. But the original feeling of stress every animal experiences is still here, and there is something weirdly annoying going on with it.

If you look at the symptoms I listed, and if you google the medical definition of stress (“a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension” source), you see that these are the manifestations of the same “fight or flight” response, namely, “a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems.”

So in a nutshell, stress is when something makes your body produce a lot of weird chemicals in order to keep you strong and fast, and thereby, alive.

Let’s see what’s wrong with this picture.

On the left hand side, this is your genetically more or less identical great-great-great-(…)-grandmom. On the right hand side is what caused her stress.

I credit Wait But Why with the idea of drawing ancestor stickmen in Paint.

I credit Wait But Why with the idea of drawing ancestor stickmen in Paint.

You would be pretty callous to blame your great great great grandmom for being stressed out with no reason. During her time, it was good that she’d feel stressed because if she ever got into contact with an animal instrument of death and destruction, that stress would be what got her out of that situation. She would be stronger and faster, and quite honestly, that’s what made us survive in the first place.

Now let’s see what’s usually going on today. On your left hand side is you. On your right hand side is what is (usually) your greatest stressor.

Notice any similarities?

Notice any similarities?

Do you ever notice the connection between thoughts and stress? Usually, stress is accompanied by a disarray of thoughts – stupid, unnecessary thoughts. Many claim that getting in control of your thoughts (through meditation) gets you in control of your stress.

I think it’s only a part of the equation.

You see, this sort of stress, which is not induced by big fucking animals trying to eat you, is basically always perceived stress.

Usually, a situation is not stressful in and by itself: it’s perceived as stressful. Some people do fine in situations other people see as stressful. It’s pretty clear-cut: we create our own stress through our perception of the world.

If you see the world as inherently stressful, you will be stressed out by it. If you see the world as inherently peaceful, you won’t be stressed out by it. Sounds simple, but it’s a bit hard to get there.

Studies like this one have shown that mindfulness meditation helps with diminishing our perception of stress and increasing the sense of control. So if it were only as simple as meditating and starting to perceive the world as non-stressful, it would be all the solution we need.

But I fear not. You see, there is another component to stress, at least in my personal case. It’s the problem of conflicted motivation. I’ll explain on my personal example with time:

The first and basic conflict is this: I want to have free time, and I want to have fulfilled time. Obviously, this is not possible, for if you have one, then, by definition, you cannot have the other. The second conflict is this: when doing something, I want to do another thing. And since it would be highly ineffective to try to do both at the same time, I must do one or the other, thereby losing time for the thing I’m not working on.

For some reason, I feel stressed by this. I feel as if Time flies by, and I’m slow in doing whatever I’m doing and I’m losing my time and I’m wasting my life.

This kind of thinking is dumb. Pure and simple. It’s dumb because it’s not true.

Buddhists would say that in order to solve this problem, I should get rid of my wants and wishes, for they are the cause of my suffering. I don’t think so. Wanting something means that you have a will for something. If you never want anything at all, it means that you have no will for anything at all, and such a life I’m not inclined to live.

The solution to this problem (which I believe many people have, but not all are aware of) is actually pretty simple:

Give weight to your decisions.

You basically freak out because you think you should be doing the other thing, and if you were doing the other thing, you’d freak out because you think you should be doing the first thing. Stop doing so through DECIDING for one course of action and acknowledging that it was the best decision and that anything else is just lying to yourself.

If you have to do A and B, and you can only do one, give it some thought, figure out which has the priority and then proceed with doing whatever it is that has the greater priority. Simply forget about B if your working on A. Give your decision to work on A some weight. Don’t treat it like “oh… but maybe I could have gone with B… I dunno…”


If you chose A, then you chose A, period, full stop, end of story. If you chose B, you chose B.

Do not fret over if it was a bad decision and do not falter in your decision – unless you get new information that makes you change your mind.

Otherwise, chose one or the other, and stick to your decision. This technique, however, has a problem in it. It demands complete honesty. If you are not capable of admitting to yourself why you are choosing a certain course of action, you might not do the good thing if you employ this technique. It is key that you are always absolutely honest in why you decide A and not B, and B and not A.

For example, this morning, I was presented by a choice: write this blog post or study for an upcoming exam. I find that both are equally valuable choices and I can only do one at a time. I want to write this post because I haven’t written any in the preceding weeks, and I want to study for the exam because I want to get rid of it. Both are good options, both are necessary, both are valuable… Seeing that I do have some time on my hands before the exam, I decided to write the post. I did not stop every 5 minutes thinking if I should maybe stop and go study. I will study afterwards (and while doing so, I will not wonder every 5 minutes if I should maybe be exercising).

Decide and then do, don’t question yourself. Change your course of action only if you have new information that changes your mind. Otherwise, keep going.

The idea for the Paint drawings was taken from the page Wait But Why which I wholeheartedly recommend as it is both hilarious and highly educating.

Plotting in the real world

Okay, first things first, if you’re a Harry Potter fan (and quite honestly, if you’re not, I don’t understand you as a human being) there is this incredible fanfiction called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and believe me when I say it’s one of the best new things I’ve read in a long, long time. And I do not say such things lightly. The reason why this fanfic is so great is that it challenges my ideas about the world. Might be that I’m just getting old and my brain is getting calcified, but I’d wager that there’s not so much out there that is challenging – not to read, but challenging to the mind. (There are, naturally, a lot of books challenging to read, but absolutely debilitating to the mind – complicated doesn’t necessarily mean smart.)

So anyway, go and check it out. You might like it, you might not, I personally don’t like the style, but there are many wonderful things on that website and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Inspired by this fanfic, I’ve thought about today’s problem – plotting.

Plot (noun): a secret plan or scheme to accomplish some purpose, especially hostile, unlawful, or evil purpose: a plot to overthrow the government. (source)

I’ve never been much of a plotter. Whole my life I’ve lived in a world where people are nice when they want to be nice and where they are rude when they want to be rude. In a world where you get invited to a cup of coffee because that person actually wants to hear from you, not to accomplish some hidden goal. As I grow older, I grow wiser, and I begin to see that around me, people have hidden agendas, hidden goals, hidden wishes and wants. And they plot. Without being cynical and saying everyone does it – even though, quite honestly, everyone does it to a certain extent – I’ll say that there are real plotters among us and that they do plot.

First thought that comes to mind: who gives a fuck? Let them plot, I won’t be a part of their game.

Response: not so easy. You can chose to remain on the outside, but if you don’t understand what’s going on around you, you’re a pawn and that means you’re the weakest figure in their game.

So the only responsible thing for an aspiring overhuman is to understand plotting. I’m not saying practice it. Pracitice it, maybe yes, to a certain extent, somewhere, sometimes. But understand it as good as the best plotter would.

Petyr Baelish - one of the best plotters I know.

Petyr Baelish – one of the best plotters I know.

Who are these plotters among us? Well, obviously, politicians. But also people around you, people you wouldn’t even suspect. I’ve written a post on the matter: The secrets of the everyday. Just to give you a short version: there is always something around you to discover, something other people don’t want you to know, and you have to 1. accept this fact, 2. perceive what goes around you and 3. ask the right questions. There are secrets to unveil. Some might find this worrisome, I find it beautiful. This means that your little stupid boring everyday is everything but not that. But I digress. Politicians. They plot and you’re an idiot if you think you’re not a part of their plot. Do you want to be blindlessly carried and pushed and controled? Or do you want to actually understand the game that’s being played? Because even if you live in a cottage in the mountains, having no contact with the state, the state can still decide to make a mine of your precious mountain, or cut down your precious forest. Ignorance is never a good strategy. You might be thinking “well, it’s not fair, why do I have to know about these things? Why can’t I just live my own life and have fun and enjoy?”. Why indeed. My response is more or less the same as for the question of martial arts (“Why do I have to learn the martial arts, why must I give away precious time and energy to learn to fight when there are many more interesting and better things to do than to fight other people, like reading, or building a house, or discovering a cure for cancer? It’s not fair!”)

It is not fair. It would be better to do these other wonderful things with your time, and not, well, waste it on plotting or fighting. But you know the cliché: the world’s not fair. If you just accept it right away, it’ll make the transition much easier.

But there is a catch. Nietzsche says:

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

If you do decide to do the only rational thing and learn to fight and learn to plot, do not become a person who solves their troubles through fighting or plotting. These things are bad, but they must be known. They must be understood. But they really are very bad.

One big issue with plotting is that it becomes the cultural norm. This relates to the previous quote – people that usually wouldn’t resort to plotting do it but then it becomes something normal to do, the regular way to do things. Let me be clear on this: plot only when you have to. The truth is a better weapon than empty lies. Open dialogue, truthfulness, discussions, honesty – everything should be tried before escalating to plotting, that is the only way plotting doesn’t become the norm, and we don’t want a bad thing to become a norm. In other words, if you’re in an organization where there is a culture of open dialogue, make sure that you do not destroy that culture. If however you’re in a plotting culture, try to turn it away from the dark side and begin a practice of honesty. Plotting is the last resort, something you do if you have no other way.

Plotting is always a way to gain power. It basically goes like this: I have a great idea, I want to change the world to fit to this idea, I see I need power to change the world, I go after power, I plot to get power. Some do it because of their ideals, others because of money and self-interest, but basically everyone goes through these steps and that’s how the current political situation has come to be.

Let’s summarize:

Understand that there are plots all around you.

Understand who benefits from what.

Learn techniques and strategies that really good plotters would use.

Identify the smartest people around you and among them, identify the smartest plotters. Keep an eye on them.

Question all motives.

Don’t become paranoid.

Plotting is always a way of getting power, so understand the relations of power around you.

Some practical exercises you might do:

  • Read the politics section in the newspaper and imagine that what happened is the intended result. Ask yourself who benefits from this result.
  • Whenever somebody wants something, question their motives and try to discover true motives if you have a feeling that they’re lying.
  • Identify powerful people around you and discover how they rose to power.
  • Whenever there’s a confrontation, ask yourself if that’s  just a part of a bigger picture i.e. if somebody provoked this confrontation deliberately.
  • Look for signs of deliberateness everywhere around you.

Become the best plotter you can without actually plotting and you will see that it’s a whole new world that just opens up if you look at it the right way.

No rest for the wicked

If I still have a noticeably weak side, it’s sleep. Man, I have to get my beauty sleep. Going without food or water can make me a bit cranky, still being all under control and cool – but man, I become a different person without my sleep. So that’s an issue I’ve been working on for some time now and I feel like it’s going well.

One of the things that needed to change was not only how much I sleep but how I sleep. I have a natural ability to fall tight asleep and not hear my surroundings while sleeping which is probably OK and even a good thing for a peaceful city dweller, but it’s a strategic weakness that has got to go – or I have no place talking about becoming overhuman.

You know how you always hear about supernatural abilities of ninjas? One of their amazing abilities is their capacity for light sleep. Even while resting, even while sleeping, there is still an awareness, a trained primal awareness that expects an imminent attack. Not claiming that all of it (or any of it) is true, I would say that it’s a thing worth examining and trying before rejecting as impossible. And that’s what I’m doing at the moment. To be sincere, that’s what I wanted to do before, but I didn’t know how. How can you train something while you’re sleeping?

And after some time I found the technique, and the technique is as follows:

Listening meditation.

So firstly, you’re going to have to accept the fact that this thing is no quick fix. If you’ve never meditated before it’s not going to work that well for you, so I suggest you start meditating on your own (or you can wait for my 30-day meditation program to get you through a month, but you might wait for some time in that case. :) )

Secondly, even if you’re an experienced meditator, it’s going to take some time in order for the technique to really show itself while you’re sleeping. It’s like training your body an entirely new trick, and that takes time and effort.

What you do couldn’t be simpler: you focus your awareness on sounds you can hear. It’s what you naturally do as a kid when you’re afraid in the dark, and you heard a weird cracking sound in the room next door. Only this is deliberate, whereas a child’s fear is by no means under control. You listen, and then you listen some more, and you take time to acknowledge each and every sound you hear, be it indoors, outdoors, near or far away from you – you acknowledge it and listen on.

As you go on through your listening meditation, your thoughts will start to wander naturally because there’s basically nothing interesting going on – or apparently nothing interesting is going on. Here’s where your experience in meditation kicks in – you are (or at least should be) able to put these first few waves of wandering thoughts under rein.

Then you’re slowly falling asleep, losing awareness and letting thoughtdreams flow over you – this is a natural process. Let’s just take a moment and appreciate the word ‘thoughtdreams’. Okay, we can go on now. What then? Well, at this point you’ve lost control and it’s going to happen for a while, better just accept it than try to fight it. Just keep on listening every night and you’ll realize that at one point, even though you’re not conscious, even if you’re fast asleep, you’ll be able to hear what goes on around you.

Test it: ask your friends and family to walk around at night at random times if they’re the night type, or if you have someone to train this with, ask him/her to sneak around you at night at random times. Later during the day, talk about when they sneaked around you, how many times during the night and so on. You’ve heard the person 2/3 of the times? Good job. Keep on training.

The quality we’re after here is that shallowness of sleep which let’s us go from full rest mode to full fighting mode in a matter of seconds. Naturally, sleep comes in stages and in some stages of deep sleep, I’m not even sure it’s possible to do this, but in all other stages, I’m pretty much positive that we can be much more strategic about them.

Stages of sleep. In stage 3 and 4, I think it's going to be near impossible or impossible to make this technique work, but I have to do some research on that before claiming anything.

Stages of sleep. In stage 3 and 4, I think it’s going to be near impossible or impossible to make this technique work, but I have to do some research on that before claiming anything.

As for the health implications of such sleep habits, I have yet to experience drawbacks. I get the same amount of rest – but that might be because I’m new to this technique and it’s necessary for some time to pass so that I can evaluate this. I don’t know if it’s healthy, but I think it’s worth a try. What I know for sure is that getting killed while you sleep is certainly not healthy.

Good night!


Modern common belief, especially amongst the wisdom-seeking population, would have it that we’re thinking too much. After all, if meditation is removing thoughts or at least distancing yourself from them, and meditation is what you should be doing if you’re looking for self-improvement, then the conclusion that we’re thinking too much and feeling (or meditating) too little is quite logical to make.

But I disagree. I think we’re not thinking quite enough. What meditation proponents call for “too much thinking”, I would call “too much non-mindful thinking”. See, when have you last spent some time just thinking? If you haven’t, do you know someone that has, or does on a regular basis? Do we actually have a specific time, designated solely for the purpose of thinking? It is my belief that for the most people, thinking just happens along the way and that nobody has a time for thinking. Maybe it’s not that we don’t have time for thinking, we just don’t have a time for thinking.

le penseur

Thinking is an evolutionary gift, a necessity imposed to us by our environment. Instead of running away from thinking, we should strive to improve it, and meditation is, among its other uses, a way of improving our thinking. Through meditation, we learn mindfulness, and mindfulness in thinking is what stops you from analyzing a problem and making a mental turn towards that funny cat video you saw yesterday or imagining what you would say in an argument with that jerk that you dislike so much. Of course, meditation is only one of the ways we can improve our thinking. Designating a specific time for it, stating “Now I’m going to think” and seeing what happens is also one of the tools. Nootropics, chemicals that enhance your cognitive capabilities are also one of the tools. Surely there are many other tools people use. Maybe you think best while playing an instrument or while just picking at the strings, or maybe you think best while walking or while knitting, but the point is that there is a way to improve your thinking in terms of results.

Don’t avoid thinking and rely on feeling alone. Feeling is great, but it’s not all there is to the human mind. We have these cold, logical machines inside our heads, each and every one of us, yet many of us don’t use them as much as they could, or maybe should. Some out of pure inertia or ignorance (bluntly put, because they’re stupid) and some out of personal conviction, because they believe the thinking, cold, logical mind is not good. Neither are commendable, but the people that intentionally lessen the importance of logical, analytical thinking are blameworthy, in the same way that exclusive reasoners shun feeling and emotions. Only through accepting the both sides will the mind flourish in its entirety.


Unworm your ear

Earworm: A song that sticks in your mind, and will not leave no matter how much you try. (source: Urban Dictionary)

If you’re okay with earworms and they don’t bother you, stop reading and go on with your day.

If you mind earworms, if they bug you (wow much pun amaze lol wow), then keep reading.

I'm getting better and better at this stuff.

I’m getting better and better at this stuff.

I dislike earworms because there is essentially nothing different between an earworm and a thought. And I haven’t been meditating for the last 3 years for nothing. Nagging thoughts that repeatedly resurface and you can’t seem to let go of them – meditation is for you. You learn to observe and not think; perceive and not judge; feel and not reason. This is all good, but how do you meditate, how do you do such a thing, if there is a tune stuck in your mind and whatever you do, you just keep hearing it over and over and over again?

Well, luckily for you, I’ve come up with a technique (two actually). And they both work.

The first one is sleeping: I’ve come to realize that I have earworms when I’m tired. And what should you do when you’re tired? That’s right, rest. So rest. Sleep. That’s number one.

The second one is a variation on classical Zen meditation. In Zen meditation, you observe the feeling you get from your breath. In your “unworming” meditation, you close your eyes and listen to the world around you. To the birds, the trees, the wind, the cars, the people. If it’s silent, you just listen to silence (silence actually has a sound, that was amazing for me to realize, there’s this extremely silent constant beep or screech that you never perceive because it’s so impossibly silent. But I digress.) If you do this, you don’t listen to the song in your mind but to your surroundings, which also has a tactical positive side: you learn to mind the sounds around you. Think of cats – have you ever seen a cat that ignored a sound? I haven’t. They always react to sounds, even when they’re sleeping their ears move around, listening for danger. Try to be more like a cat.

That’s it. Next time your earworm starts bugging you (oh I’m just so funny), do one or both of these things and you’ll be fine in no time.