Monk Mode: Plans for Jan 2024

Monk Mode: Plans for Jan 2024

(Photo by Amy Chandra)

During the last two months of 2023, I took stock of what happened during this year.

It was a big year for me. Formative, if one can still have those in their 40's.

It was a terrible year, really. But also a life-changing valuable one.

I won't go into all the gritty details, but among the major things that happened was my father passing away. Lessons were learned, insights arose.

I've also started contemplating my future, what I spend my time and mental energy on, my personal spiritual journey, and my health.

I thought about what worked this year, and what did not.

What did, and what did not work.

I started pondering what would happen if I focused more on what worked, and set aside - even if just for a while - that which not.

And then I thought that maybe I should inaugurate the new year by focusing the entire first month only on that which worked, and to see if it resulted in any meaningful and positive changes in my life.

What did not work in 2023, was my side projects.

I've had zero success and saw practically zero interest in any of them. 2023 was a bad, bad year for indie-hacking for Rik, let me tell you. 😄

I've also started to feel rather alienated from the indie hacker community as a whole.

I don't know if it changed, or me. But I do know it does not bring me joy anymore. I do not relate with the trends, memes and conversations in it any more. It feels empty. Other.

What did work was my personal spiritual growth.

I've had tremendous insights, growth in my understand of life, and what I can only describe as "subconscious optimisations and alignments" regarding what it's all about.

I bet most of you will drop off at this point.

Fair enough. This is not what you signed up for. But this is were life is taking me, so here I go.

For those of you that didn't run off(and are, perhaps, a little bit intrigued), this will be the theme of the rest of this post - how I plan to double-down on personal and spiritual growth for the month of January 2024.

Preamble for the experiment

The idea for January 2024 is to follow, as strictly as I can manage, the religious ideals of the particular faith I follow(Thai Forest Buddhism).

As it pertains to a lay follower, at least.

I hope that this controlled, experimental period of strictness will result in real, measurable, welcome impacts on my life.

Will I be happier? More content? Less nervous about the future? More at ease with both setbacks and success? Getting older?

In other words; will I be more equanimous and at-ease with the inevitable ups and downs life serves me.

The results of this experiment will hopefully allow me to parse out a good map for going forward into the wild, abstract forests of the future.

I will be tracking everything as I go, and hopefully have a follow-up post in Feb with some metrics to look at.

So, in essence, I'll be going as close to monk-mode as is feasible. That is, without actually ordaining and becoming a monk.

Indie making moved aside

I started this post contrasting my lack of indie-hacking success with my comparatively more fruitful spiritual journey of late.

The idea is that I will be sacrificing the former to focus on the latter, and see what happens.

Why the need to sacrifice one for the other?

Well, this experiment is to determine what the effect on my life would be if I changed things up. A holiday from the status quo.

I will still be working on side projects in January, but only after doing my spiritual practices.

Additionally, I will not participate in the indie community on social media anymore. I'm neatly dropping that part of my assumed identity. I will no longer be creating my "self" as being an indie hacker anymore.

From February onwards, who knows, but January will be a 100% prioritisation of the spiritual for me.

Monk Mode: an outline

Let's break down exactly what monk-mode will entail.

It will be a program of simple, tiered of rules and practices. Some of it will be easy to adhere too, and some of it hard.

Tier 1: A Moral Foundation.

The base would be to follow the 5 precepts for lay Buddhists.

  1. The prohibition of the intentional taking of any life.
  2. The prohibition of theft or related activities such as fraud, forgery or piracy.
  3. The prohibition of sexual misconduct.
  4. The prohibition of lies or deceptive actions, as well as malicious or divisive speech, harsh words and/or gossip.
  5. The prohibition of indulging in intoxication, either through alcohol, drugs, or other any mind-altering substances that could lead to heedlessness.

I already adhere to all of these, but it's good to be intentional and reflective on what's the ground zero of our morality.

Tier 2: Creating optimal conditions for practise

On top I'll layer the following rules:

  • Eating only for health. Not for pleasure, desire, boredom, habit, aesthetics or any other reason.
  • Meditating at least one hour a day.
  • Exercising every day.

The idea behind these set of practices is to optimise my daily life to be more conducive to, and offer fertile ground for reflection.

It will help me prevent spending needless time and energy on unnecessary decisions and distractions, and encourages the development of a healthy, capable body and optimal mental clarity.

Let's unpack these a bit more.

Eating only for health

The idea behind this is to prevent wasting time or mental energy on deciding what to eat, and to prevent getting caught up in glutinous or desire-driven actions or distractions surrounding eating.

I want to remove the probability of getting caught up in greed or aversion.

The setup is super simple: eat the same, health-optimised meals every day. These meals should provide only the exact amount of calories and nutrients my body needs.

No snacking, unless I feel exceptionally low on energy - and then only fruit or a simple protein, like an egg. Excessive needs for snacking would signal I need to up the calories in my meals. Snacking is most a result of boredom or stress.

Absolutely no takeout, sugar, candy, refined carbs or artificial drinks.

I don't have the time or inclination to get too pedantic about creating my own diet, so I'm just adopting the one of someone who does: Bryan Johnson's Blueprint Protocol.

I'm not getting into the controversy surrounding Bryan here, I'm just interested in coopting his seemingly well-researched and data-backed diet.

Others seem to have gotten good results with it too, so it's good enough for me for the time being.

I won't be adding all the supplements and drugs he does though, it's overkill and hella expensive.

I will, however, be adding lean meats, since a lot of the additives he consumes is due to the lack of nutrition a purely vegan diet provides.

In short, I'll stick with natural, unprocessed food that's easy to get, easy to prepare and won't be distracting. It will taste good-enough and do the job.

Drinks will mostly consist of plain water with a squeeze of lemon juice, Rooibos tea or coffee.

Meditating for at least one hour a day

Meditation will be the primary activity replacing time previously spent on side projects.

I will do formal, sitting meditation every morning for one hour.

It will be a form of Anapana sati, with alternating periods of concentration building(samadhi)and reflection(vipassana), as feels appropriate.

I anticipate that this will be a super hard activity, especially initially. My current sessions are only 40 minutes.

Additionally, I'll aim to do walking meditation for at least 15m a day, weather permitting.

Then, if I have some time before bed, I'll do another 30 minutes of sitting meditation.

Exercise every day

I will be doing mostly the same exercises I currently do, just more sessions. This will thus also be time claimed from working on side projects.

Exercise will include alternating days of the following;

  • Prescribed physical therapy for the treatment of chronic neck and back issues.
  • Weight lifting(bench press, overhead press, squats and deadlifts).
  • Walking

The benefits of exercise would include less bodily aches and pains, better sleep, improved mental clarity, better blood glucose levels and hormonal regulation.

Tier 3: The Practice

Tier 3 consists of the actual mental practices I'll be incorporated into my everyday life.

I consider these to be recurring, moment-to-moment self-reflective practises that would lead to insights and more skilful behaviors.

I'll attempt to be mindful and follow these mind-regulating heuristics;

  • Drop any thoughts or actions that could lead to increased thoughts of desire, aversion or heedless distraction. This means no mindless browsing of the news, X, YouTube, Reddit or any other media. I'll have a fixed bracket of time every morning to stay up to date with the world, mostly by reading HackerNews, but after that, no more doom scrolling.
  • Avoid and drop any thoughts or actions that could lead to any extreme spikes in emotion. Avoid drama, both creating it or participating in it. Tangentially, avoid drama-prone people and environments too.
  • Encourage and reflect on thoughts of the temporary nature and uncertainty of everything in my life. This is reflection on Anicca. Expecting good times to last will result in disappointment. Fearing bad times will last will result in needless mental anguish. Everything changes, everything passes.
  • Interrogate and reflect on any thoughts that lead to creating a sense of identity, beyond just being basic awareness. This is reflection on Anatta. Trying to create a sense of identity based on changing conditions or ideas will lead to confusion and pain.
  • Act with loving-kindness towards all people and creatures I encounter, even if I do not receive the same treatment in return.

Tracking my results

I will be tracking everything with my app Spieel.

This will allow me to have a somewhat objective way of reflecting on the results at the end of January.

Spieel is not currently working, I broke it in production, but it'll be up and live before the end of the year. I'll do a post on it on X before going dark.

I will be tracking;

  • My mood (4x a day)
  • My weight (1x a day)
  • My energy levels (4x a day)
  • My concentration (4x a day)
  • My quality of sleep (1x a day)
  • Meals or snacks (every time I do it)
  • Exercise sessions (every time I do it)
  • My perceived levels of stress (4x a day)
  • My mediation sessions (every time I do it)
  • Cravings for junk food (every time they come up)
  • Unexpected good events (every time they come up)
  • Unexpected stressful events (every time they come up)
  • Cravings for distracting behaviour (every time they come up)

The updates I'm making to Spieel will allow me to compare all of this data in one space and on one chart, and hopefully I'll be able spot correlations over this period.


January will be a hard, but interesting month. I hope to gain some valuable insights that will help me optimise my life for real happiness and contentment going forward.

If you think you want to do something along these lines too, please let me know how it went.

Show Comments
👇 Get $100 in credit DigitalOcean Referral Badge