Last June, Steve was sitting in the back of a crowded room. It was the end of a long day and he had been called back to this room by a slightly inexplicable item on an agenda. Laptop on lap, he typed next to several other people who were also typing into some device or other. No one noticed the tall, lanky man walk into the center of the room until he cleared his throat and called the room to attention. It soon became clear that he would lead the final session of the day’s meeting. Also, it soon became clear that the purpose of the activity he would be leading would be extremely unclear for most of the audience. His subject was the ancient practice of paying attention to a process that many of us take for granted — our breathing.
“In a few minutes, after some more explanation, I’ll ask you to close your eyes — if you’re comfortable doing so,” he said. And then he talked to us about how we might sit and what we might do with our mouths (everything was couched in the conditional) and how it might be best to think of our thoughts, upon closing our eyes, if we chose to, as if they were clouds floating by. “You don’t judge the clouds, right?” He didn’t want us to judge our thoughts; he didn’t want us to name our mental clouds “good” or “bad;” he didn’t want us to be hard on ourselves if we could not focus; and he really didn’t want us to work on anything. Being. That is what we were supposed to be doing in the non-doing space he had deftly and surprisingly opened up for us that day.
For Steve, this impromptu meditation session was the most surprising thing that had happened all day, all week, and probably all month. He had not signed up for this, and it did not flow logically from the event for which he had signed up. He was at his school’s version of a tech conference. He had spent the day learning about Google Tools and backchanneling and Prezi and assessment. He wanted to try out the new tricks he had learned in a session on the latest Mac operating system (OS X Yosemite, at the time). He wanted, too, to respond to some emails that had been piling up. As he tried to settle into the guided meditation, begrudgingly at best, he spotted Reshan who had engineered not only the tech workshops but also this closing event. He wondered what Reshan was up to. Was this some kind of elaborate hoax? An experiment? As he thought to himself, he heard another voice in his head, chiding him: “You shouldn’t be pursuing that, or any, line of thought right now. The purpose is to focus on your breathing. The purpose is to stop focusing on the day’s work, the day’s screens, the day’s technology.” And then Steve knew exactly what was happening.
This meditation session was not solely, or even mostly, about meditation. It was about habits and default settings. It was a forced move away from hardware, software, and the networks that bind computing devices to other computing devices. Reshan wanted us to take a break — and not the kind of break that entails logging in to other social networks or email accounts to catch up on work between formal engagements.
The leader of the guided meditation said, “If your mind is filling up with thoughts, just let them go. Don’t chide yourself. Gently return your focus to your breathing.”
Steve agreed — still feeling a bit foolish — to give this a try. When he started to think, he returned his focus to his breathing. A few minutes later, when the leader called the people in the room back to attention, Steve felt refreshed, as if he had just returned from a dip in a cool stream. Maybe there was something to this . . . maybe.
I realized I have a small collection of doodles that were created for the book but were not included in the final version because the related sections were edited out. Here is one that was connected to a section on my screen casting origins.
Explain Everything now makes it possible to insert video and audio content in an existing recording, which is really useful when you want to update an existing whiteboard video with new (or forgotten!) material.
I overlapped with Marquina Iliev-Piselli while at Teachers College, Columbia University and I received an email from her recently in advance of her upcoming publication TOUGH: Women Who Survived Cancer. You can pre-order the book today, and I am grateful to have an advanced copy to read and review.
It is one thing to consume the fruits of immediacy. It’s one thing to produce within contexts made possible by immediacy. It’s another thing entirely to change the infrastructure of interactions, large and small, that allow you to generate immediacy for others.
"The format we have chosen to deliver this section’s topic, then, is fraught with irony and opens us to possible charges of hypocrisy. We are going to teach you about immediacy in one of the least immediate formats currently available: a printed book. To compensate, we will offer some format experiments to promote active learning as you read. A good teacher might refer to using devices such as note-taking templates or mind maps. Their goal in using such instruments is to make thinking visible. Having thought through where our lesson could go wrong for our leaners, our goal is similar: to help you see and surface your thinking at the times when such a practice will, hopefully, be most valuable to you. While we are at it, we are also hoping to avoid unfunny irony and possible hypocrisy – or the eventuality that you will stop reading altogether. With all of that off our chests, that somewhat winding road of a paragraph leads to our opening analogy."
I've probably written about making animated GIF files in Explain Everything before, but recently I made some new ones as part of a fun side project I am working on. It's as easy as creating a recording, selecting a section on the timeline, and choosing "Export as GIF".
Lark Suite is a new all-in-one communication and productivity platform that was built as an internal tool for its parent company (ByteDance) and will likely continue to make inroads at businesses. I set up a trial and the feature I am most interested in checking out is the 'just-in-time' translation for organizations working in different countries.