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Based in Chicago, USA, X-Oriente is a podcast by R.W. Eric Diamond and W. Jason Van Dyke that explores the ideas and values of Freemasonry in the 21st century.

105: Mindfulness

105: Mindfulness

It seems our technical issues are not quite behind us yet. Still we soldier on. Originally, we remembered a secret service agent and brother Freemason, Leslie-who gave his life protecting President (and brother) Harry S. Truman from an assassination attempt by Puerto Rican separatists, or Nov. 9, 1950. Unfortunately for us, the whole clip was lost due to technical issues. After a few false starts, we finally got going.

In this episode, Jason and Eric discuss how the practice of mindfulness can not only improve your life and health, but it can also enhance your practice of Masonry. There are a lot of resources and recommendations to help you get started or get better at meditation.

Books and lectures

There are a number of good books and courses that can help you learn about Mindfulness:

The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being. Part of the Great courses series, Ronald Siegel, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, reveals the science behind mindfulness in compelling detail and demonstrates its application to a wide range of issues - psychological, social, and medical. He examines the neurobiology underlying ancient practices that are now profoundly influencing the contemporary world, and shares many practical ways you can use mindfulness techniques in your own life.

Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Guide to Finding spiritual Fulfillment in Everyday life, by Rick Fields. Eric read this book 25 years ago and it is still holds up as a great beginners guide to integrating mindfulness practice in everyday life.

Tools

Malas, are strings of beads that Buddhists use to count repetitions of mantras or sutras. We use them like an abacus to count our breaths doing meditation. They also make a hip fashion accessory. Here is a good video on how to use a mala for meditation. You can pay as little as $5, or as much as thousands of dollars for rare, antique malas made of precious gems. Heck even Mardi Gras beads will work in a pinch. Malas are also great to fidget with.

108 bead Mala.

Traditional malas have 108 beads and can be worn around the neck or wrapped around the arm. Tibetan style malas are the simplest, and the Japanese styles can have lots of tassles, and fancy knots in them. Sakura designs makes nice simple ones, but you can find a ton on Amazon, or make your own. If You go cheap, stick to un-dyed wood, plastic, or gemstones. Dyed wood sometimes sheds its dye on your skin, especially if you wear it around your neck. Sakura does not use dyes in their malas. Look for malas with 108 beads and a larger "guru bead."

27 Bead Mala

In Japan, people often use smaller Malas made of 27 beads. The best ones are made in Kyoto. You can find a bunch on Amazon. Eric has one like this that he got at a temple in Kyoto. You can even use a simple bead bracelet as a Mala. These types of Mala beads are known in Japan as Ojuzu. These types of Malas are pretty sturdy and fit nicely into your briefcase or backpack.

Tech

There are some great technological tools to help you meditate more easily.

Breathe (Apple Watch)

This simple app that comes with every Apple Watch reminds you to count your breaths several times a day. You can do simple 1 minute, 5 minute or longer sessions. It's like having a mala without the beads.

Headspace

This is one of the more popular meditation apps that provides guided meditations and tracks your progress. Developed by Andy Puddicombe, Headspace is constantly updated with new guided meditations being added. A yearly subscription is around $100, but there is a free version.

Calm (iOS, Android)

Beautiful App with guided meditation, but requires a subscription of about $5 per month $60 per year).

Binaural Beats

A binaural beat is an auditory illusion perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves, both with frequencies lower than 1500 Hz, with less than a 40 Hz difference between them, are presented to a listener dichotically (one through each ear). Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, a German experimenter, first discovered binaural beats in 1839. Much of what we know about binaural beats comes from an article by Gerald Oster, published in Scientific American in 1973

For example, if a 530 Hz pure tone is presented to a subject's right ear, while a 520 Hz pure tone is presented to the subject's left ear, the listener will perceive the auditory illusion of a third tone, in addition to the two pure-tones presented to each ear. The third sound is called a binaural beat, and in this example would have a perceived pitch correlating to a frequency of 10 Hz, that being the difference between the 530 Hz and 520 Hz pure tones presented to each ear.

One way in which binaural beats may influence brain waves is through entrainment. Entrainment here means that the activity of your EEG becomes similar to a certain frequency set by an external stimulus. An example of entrainment is repetitive clicks: if you hear clicks at a certain frequency, your EEG is likely to show waves at this same frequency.

Another way binaural beats may influence your brain waves is through phase synchronization. It has been suggested, but not thoroughly tested, that auditory beats increase the synchronization of the phase of brain waves in different brain regions. In other words, you can use binaural beats to help you get into Alpha wave states (the state you are in when you close your eyes and relax) and move more quickly into Theta brainwave activity (deep meditation, deep relaxation).

There are several audio recordings of binaural beats available commercially, and a bunch on YouTube. You can also get apps, that play binaural beats. Beyond Meditation Binaural Beats (iOS), is pretty highly rated and simple, And Binaural Beta is also easy to use. Eric's fave is BrainWave. It is a pretty busy interface, but very flexible.

Do you practice Mindfulness? Do you meditate? Drop us a line at xoriente@gmail.com and let us know. Finally, we leave you with this. It is from NPR Music's excellent Tiny Desk Concert Series. It made us laugh all weekend. We are still laughing.

106: Winners & Losers

106: Winners & Losers

104: Ego

104: Ego