Anant Jain

100 hours of Headspace


Until recently, meditation had a marketing problem. It was too often confused to have something to do with the spiritual (or even the religious), but it doesn't. Headspace solved that problem by giving meditation a new verb. I've been doing Headspace on and off since Summer 2017 and wanted to share a few thoughts I had.

Meditation and associative activation

I believe that the biggest win of meditating regularly is getting associative activation a little more under control. Daniel Kahneman describes associative activation in Thinking Fast and Slow as follows:

Just like you can train a physical muscle, you can train your mind to wander away a bit lesser. Make a resolve to focus on something — your breath, an object, or anything else. Watch this associative activation process unfold over and over again, it inevitably will. The beauty of meditation is that it teaches you that it's normal for this to happen. However, as soon as you find yourself lost in your thoughts, note down whether you were thinking or feeling, and let it go and get back to your center of focus.

When you meditate, you're learning to control your "System 1" — it tries to fire every associated thought to distract you from observing your breath, but you train yourself to quickly get your focus back. The more you practice, the earlier you realize that you're losing focus. You will still get lost eventually, but you keep increasing the time you can stay focussed before your mind starts off another chain reaction of associative activation.

What's next for me

I'm profoundly grateful to the folks at Headspace for introducing me to this amazing mental exercise. However, as more and more time has passed, I've realized that apps are just training wheels for beginners. Going forward, I'm going to try unguided meditation, and see where it takes me.

1/ No apps, no noise, no guidance. Sit in a comfortable position first thing in the morning, back upright, but ok to use cushions etc.. One hour at a time, no less. Just surrender to and accept whatever happens. No energy for and no energy against. Resist and reject nothing. — @naval June 5, 2019