David Ernst A personal site

Meditation is Garbage Collection For Your Mind

Earlier tonight I gave a quick presentation on meditation at Hack Reactor. Here are the slides. Hope you enjoy!


Hi everyone. Thank you for being here. My name’s David Ernst. And I’ll be presenting “Meditation is garbage collection for your mind”.


  1. Please close your eyes.
  2. Thumbs up if you can you hear me.
  3. Without moving, find your right ear. Thumbs check.
  4. Now find your left knee. Thumbs?
  5. Okay you can open your eyes. That was a demonstration of focusing and redirecting our attention.


Worth mentioning there are thousands and thousands of varieties of meditation, with various different intentions.

Insight Meditation

My favorite is known as insight meditation, also called Vipassana, so I’ll speak to that. It’s a Burmese technique, from a Theravada Buddhist tradition.

It includes three different practices, each with slightly different aims: concentration, equanimity, & compassion.

Mental Garbage Collection

About the title, meditation as garbage collection for your mind–

Throughout the day, we’re accumulating mental knots. Maybe we took offense at something someone said, we’re hung up over a mistake we made, or we feel anxiety over an upcoming deadline. These things happen all day, every day, and end up distracting us from what’s going on right here and now. It doesn’t serve us anymore to be holding onto those old threads.

I’ve found meditation a great way to clear out those mental memory leaks & release some of that tension, making us much more effective at everything else we do.

Getting Started

  1. Comfortable position.
    Some people sit cross-legged, some sit in a chair. No strict rules, just sit comfortably. Sitting upright helps a lot.
  2. Close your eyes.
    Just let them lightly rest. Really allows your mind to open up, so you can go much deeper without the visual distractions.
  3. Set a timer.
    No need to overthink it. I tell Siri: “Set a timer for 20 minutes”. Picking a fixed time is super useful to allow you to let go of worrying about timimg. (And even 60 seconds is better than nothing.)


A few qualities of meditation I’d like to highlight:

It’s safe. It’s a way for us to gain awareness of our patterns, and move towards being at ease.

It’s universal. Anyone can do it, if they wish to learn. It’s not reserved for certain classes of people, nor requires winning a genetic lottery or anything like that.

It’s accessible. We can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. On our commute, mid-conversation, sitting at the dinner table, even while listening to this talk.

It’s cheap. It doesn’t cost anything, really. For comparison, American pharmaceutical sales were over $300 billion in 2014…

Anti patterns

  • “I don’t have time”.

    It’s a profitable time-investment. Put in 20 minutes now, get hours of more directed time throughout your day.

    One time Gandhi said to a group of his followers, “I will set aside one hour a day to do meditation.” One of the followers said, “oh no, you can’t do that! You are too busy, Gandhi!” Gandhi said, “Well, then, maybe I should set aside two hours a day for meditation.”

  • “I really need to meditate more”.

    The opposite extreme. It’s common to hear those who’ve found the benefit of meditation to comment that they “don’t do it as often as they should”.

    But it’s not something worth beating ourselves up over. Whenever I do that, it just backfires. So let’s not let meditating stress us out even further.


Find partners! Tell people that you’re interested. In my experience, finding supportive company has been the best thing for my growth by far.

If you’re looking for reading material, Mindfulness in Plain English is often recommended. It’s available for free at urbandharma.org/udharma4/mpe.html. (shortcut: mipe.dsernst.com)

Meditation retreats. Full supportive environment, with teachers on-hand. That’s where I got started. There are free and paid options. It’s like going to the dentist – tough at first, but gives you a real deep clean. Afterwards, you experience first-hand just how nice it feels to keep that gunk out.

Thank you

“For fast acting relief try slowing down”