Paying attention

Back when I got deeply into running and jumping and playing again, I spent all the rest of my time stiff and achy and sore. It was glorious. I began intentionally working on restorative practices. At first I was doing vanilla stretching routines. Then I started doing more exploratory work with foam rollers and lacrosse balls and resistance bands. Then things got more organized with little, light activities focusing on weak parts. These days I have a finely tuned sense of what needs to be attended to. A little exploratory movement here, an extension there. Something or other feels off—or perhaps it’s better to say: Something or other is noticeable. That attracts my curiosity and exploration.

Scientists call our ability to feel what’s happening inside our bodies interoception. A portmanteau of “interior” and “reception,” it differs from perception, which comes from our five senses, and proprioception, which tells us how we are oriented in space. Interoception is an inner sense having to do with our bodily processes. It can be divided into three rough categories. The first comprises feelings that break through into consciousness based on need; this is how we know when we need to pee or sleep or hydrate, and how we grasp that our hearts are racing after a good jump scare. The second encompasses the unconscious ways in which our brains and bodies communicate; our brains detect high glucose levels in our livers, for example, then release hormones that trigger our metabolisms, and we are unaware of the process. A vast number of these silent interoceptive processes are going on within us all the time.

~ Jessica Wapner from, https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/the-paradox-of-listening-to-our-bodies

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If this liminal space—between the clear and objective, and the fuzzy perception of our bodies—interests you, you’ll also like How to Be Animal.

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Hey, pay attention

I have a routine with my journaling. Over time, that routine has changed a lot and I’m sure it will evolve farther. Currently, I start a clean A5-sized face of a page for each day. I do not read the previous day’s entry; I’m never trying to continue where I left off in my thinking as I journal. No, the journal is simply a place for me to talk to my future self. Here’s why I did that thing I did. Here’s this really great idea… but I’m letting go of it, and writing it down hoping future-me gets a chuckle at the dumb idea I was wise to drop. Sometimes I record really big wins. Sometimes I record really big losses. A wedding! A birth! A death! But mostly, I’m just capturing how I feel, why I feel, what I think, why I think, … Sometimes I spend hours painstakingly handwriting long texts. Sometimes it’s just 60-seconds and a bulleted list. Vanishingly rare is a sketch. Occasionally a flourish of colored-penciling. There are often inset headings in block letters at the sides as signposts—first instance of this, last instance of that.

It helps me pay attention to my life.

~ Austin Kleon from, https://austinkleon.com/2018/02/20/what-is-the-point-of-keeping-a-diary/

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Yes, there’s much paying of attention to my life that happens in the writing.

But the true wizardry is in the years-later rereading.

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I appreciate your time and attention

There are countless instances where I’m reminded that “tomorrow” is not a given. I pay attention to those, and do my best to do it now. To say— Thank you. I appreciate you. I appreciate what you did there. I appreciate you’re taking the time to… You get the gist.

For me, I’ve tried to take from this experience a relatively simple lesson: I tell people how I feel about them when I have the chance.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/this-is-why-you-cant-wait-until-later/

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Memento mori.

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Your attention, please

I’ve a strong drive to seek attention. I’ve a desire to be seen as clever. Being clever isn’t the problem; The desire is the problem. Being clever is, sometimes, just the right ingredient to help someone solve a problem. But more often than not, being clever is not helpful.

It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that my work is really about attentional design.

Becoming aware of attention. Shaping and directing it. Shifting its quality and inner experience. Leveraging it to produce work of real value.

~ Tiago Forte from, https://fortelabs.com/blog/the-topology-of-attention/

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Magic happens when I’m able to cleave the attention-seeking from the useful clever. When I’m able to remove stressors (stressors which invariably are of my own creation) then I’m free to frolic and create. Exhaustion can be a limit. Day-dreaming can be a limit if in excess. But ruminating is a certain road to ruin, every time. I regularly need to aim my attention inward: What specifically am I ruminating about? …and how, surgically, can I cut that out?

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Mind your attention

I’m sold on the idea that mindfulness is the key which unlocks everything else. I get chuffed when something grabs my attention. I’m fine with noticing; It’s good that I notice emergency vehicles. But realizing I’ve blown the last 5 minutes doom-scrolling in Instagram? Not cool.

There’s a reason for this. Our experiences in the digital realm are usually very novel—and this novelty leads to the release of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine doesn’t lead us to feel happy and satisfied in and of itself—it leads us to feel as though pleasure is right around the corner, so it keeps us wanting more. The more novel an app, the more we get hooked—we feel a constant rush and keep using the app until we remember to stop. (Here’s looking at you, TikTok.)

~ Chris Bailey from, https://chrisbailey.com/5-lessons-i-learned-switching-to-a-flip-phone-for-a-month-2/

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This is a longer than usual article from Bailey and it’s stuffed full of insight. One item of note is he frequently gets very intentional about testing things to their logical conclusion. This article comes from him trying to live his life without a smart phone. His conclusion (and I agree) is that smart phones are awesome. Unfortunately, there’s some bad opportunities mixed in too. (Ocean and surfing, yay! Sharks, not so much.) Want to see how addicted you are to your phone? Try this.

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Focus your attention

One of the most powerful things you can do as a human being in our hyperconnected, 24/7 media world is say: “I don’t know.” Or, more provocatively: “I don’t care.” Most of society seems to have taken it as a commandment that one must know about every single current event, watch every episode of every critically acclaimed television series, follow the news religiously, and present themselves to others as an informed and worldly individual.

~ Ryan Holiday from, The Daily Stoic, p39.

Stoicism is a terrific tool. (It’s not about suppressing your emotions.) One of the practices is to pay attention to where your attention is. If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information—this news show, this political argument, this batshit-crazy conspiracy theory, this story, that solicitation, this bit of entertainment, that bit of distraction . . . If I know I’m not going to do anything with this information, then it turns out that it is trivial to not be distracted by things. People think I’m ignoring things, or that I’ve not noticed things. I’m simply choosing where to allocate my attention, (and therefore my time and efforts.) I choose to be in control of where my attention is placed. Only then can I apply it where it will do good.

What in your life can demand your attention? Are you okay with each of things that you just thought of?

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Possibility

I have rarely sat down at my desk with something to say, other than I am ready. The sitting comes first, turning up with a certain alertness to possibility. Only then does the idea feel free to settle. It settles small and very tentatively, then, through your active attention, it can grow into something much bigger. Sitting in a readied state can sometimes last a long and anxious time. But you must not despair! I have never found a situation where the idea refuses to come to the prepared mind.

~ Nick Cave

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Recognizing

There is a phrase I like to trot out: “Any day at the crag.” And you need two details for this to make sense: First, that a crag is any outdoors place where one goes to climb rocks. Second, the part left unsaid is that any day at the crag is better than any other day. Thus, any day at the crag. Yes, despite the litany of things that normal people would list as negatives at the crag.

To be clear, by “appreciate” I don’t mean “enjoy” exactly, although you might also enjoy the experience. I mean “recognizing the unique or worthy qualities” of the experience itself: the texture of it, the aesthetics of it, the heft of it, the heat of it, the poetry of it, the poignancy of it — whatever strikes your sensibilities when you pay attention to what’s happening.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/12/appreciate-what-happens-as-a-rule/

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And yet, despite that litany, the density of “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” moments is much higher, any day at the crag. Dappled sunlight. A cool breeze in the shade. A view. Friends. Food tastes better. Sleep is less troubled. You don’t have to climb (or go to a crag), but you do have to find your something.

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Not me, I’m certain

Three words matter much: Not me, I’m certain I am uncertain. I’m not simply uncertain. Not simply indecisive, beset by unknowns, nor stymied by possibilities.

The virtue of intellectual humility is getting a lot of attention. It’s heralded as a part of wisdom, an aid to self-improvement and a catalyst for more productive political dialogue. While researchers define intellectual humility in various ways, the core of the idea is “recognizing that one’s beliefs and opinions might be incorrect.”

But achieving intellectual humility is hard. Overconfidence is a persistent problem, faced by many, and does not appear to be improved by education or expertise. Even scientific pioneers can sometimes lack this valuable trait.

~ Michael Dickson from, https://theconversation.com/intellectual-humility-is-a-key-ingredient-for-scientific-progress-211410

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The compass for me is, “so what?” When I’m certain of something, I ask myself: So, what? Connecting that which I’m certain of, out into the world via, “so, what?” challenges me to look at the underpinnings of my beliefs, and the integration with my knowledge in total.

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Awareness – with Anna Bezuglova

Anna Bezuglova transforms the mundane into sacred practice, challenging our perceptions of daily life and movement with insights from her unique journey and teaching philosophy.

“The dialogue of sacredness of deep meaning is something that is often connected to daily things. It’s not only the physical practice that I treat in such a way but also just daily moments and living life. Being present to it all the time— and it doesn’t matter whether I’m doing an official session of practice, or I’m driving a car, or I’m talking to my husband, or I’m teaching a class, or I’m just walking down the road. I think this mindset shifts something in the way you do things day to day.”

~ Anna Bezuglova, 3:00

In a deeply reflective conversation, Anna describes how she treats daily practices as sacred, a wisdom imparted by her Zen teacher. She shares her journey of recognizing the sacredness in her routines, initially performing practices that outwardly seemed sacred to others but later realizing their intrinsic value to herself. Anna emphasizes the importance of being present in every moment, whether it’s in a structured practice session or the simple acts of daily living, highlighting how this mindset transforms the mundane into something deeply meaningful.

Anna’s reflections extend into the lessons learned from her father, a martial arts teacher and a Buddhist, who, despite never directly teaching her martial arts, deeply influenced her perspective on life and practice. She recounts growing up in the challenging times of the 1990s in Russia, drawing resilience and a unique outlook from her parents’ examples. This background informs her teaching philosophy, where she advocates for a holistic approach to movement that intertwines physical, cognitive, and emotional aspects.

Anna argues for the significance of continuous change, consistency, and awareness in practice, underlining how these elements contribute to a fulfilling and transformative journey. Through her narrative, she challenges listeners to see movement not just as physical exercise, but as a comprehensive method to engage with life, fostering change, and personal growth.

Takeaways

The sacredness of daily practice — a reflection on how integrating conscious intention into routine activities transforms them into meaningful practices.

The influence of upbringing — discussing how parental examples, especially in the face of adversity, shape resilience and perspectives on life and practice.

The concept of change in practice — emphasizing that constant evolution and adaptation in one’s practice mirrors the dynamic nature of life itself.

The importance of awareness — highlighting how paying attention to the body’s movement and presence in space can significantly improve one’s practice and overall well-being.

The role of a teacher — the necessity of embodying the principles one teaches, as coherence between words and actions fosters trust and facilitates learning.

The power of coordination — explaining how developing coordination through movement practices can enhance the ability to adapt and succeed in various aspects of life.

The commitment to long-term learning — advocating for the importance of dedication and persistence in practice to experience genuine transformation.

Resources

Having a Practice — Anna’s blog post mentioned by Craig.

The Bamboo Body — Anna Bezuglova’s movement school in Barcelona based on Ido Portal teachings.

@anna.bamboo — on Instagram

The Bamboo Body — on YouTube

Feldenkrais Method — A movement pedagogy designed to improve body awareness and enhance movement efficiency through gentle exercises and mindful practice. The method was developed by Moshé Feldenkrais and is used worldwide to assist in rehabilitation and promote physical and mental well-being.

Ido Portal Method — A holistic approach to movement culture pioneered by Ido Portal, focusing on developing strength, mobility, and the physical and mental aspects of movement practice. It encourages exploration of various disciplines, from martial arts to dance.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

The trick

The only thing better than well-thought-out articles, with a nice water–color image, that refer to a good book, that tie together some thoughts I was already having, published on the open web making the Internet a better place? When it’s written by someone I know personally. Here, have this…

The good news is that, according to Csikszentmihalyi, it is totally in my power to maintain flow, or at least maximize the amount of time spent in the flow state. After all, the attention split between the conflicting objectives happens entirely in my head. The trick, for the lack of a better word, is to convince myself to take interest in what needs to be done and to apply mental energy in order to increase the complexity of the activity at hand.

~ Peter Oshkai from, http://peteroshkai.com/2023/09/17/more-on-flow-and-photography/

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For me, that attention split—my perception that there actually exist conflicting objectives—is the source of struggle. When I simply don’t invent the need for anything I enjoy doing to be a successful business… Boop. It’s all pleasant creation, heavy lifting and flow state.

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What’s in your way?

I’m fond of saying that the first 90 percent of something is vastly easier than the second 90 percent. There’s so much wisdom packed into that, and it’s funny—if you know how to tell a joke. Gee Willikers! I’m almost done! When in fact, I’ve only just scratched the surface.

In practice, this means you need to limit distractions to the full extent possible. Pull quotes, so effective near the top of an article, become a nuisance further down; many readers will find themselves unconsciously drawn to them, even when they want to focus on the text. Attention to the basic typographic details, line length, a readable typeface, the right balance between font size and line height, appropriate contrast between the text and background, can make the difference between a reader who makes it to the end of the article versus one who tires and gives up.

~ Mandy Brown from, https://aworkinglibrary.com/writing/in-defense-of-readers

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I can say, without exaggeration, that I’ve tortured myself over every single tiny detail of what you are looking at. That includes the fact that 7 for Sunday looks slightly different in email. (It looks great in email; but what you see isn’t quite as controllable as a web site.) It would probably be good enough if I hadn’t tortured myself about the details, even though I think craftsmanship matters.

But of course readers matter most.

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Presence – with Pete Machalek

Presence – with Pete Machalek

Pete Machalek discusses presence, in-person, and in both audio and video mediums.

I do think there is something about the challenge of presenting to a camera that a lot of folks can benefit from practicing. […] It’s something that I recommend challenging yourself about, if your presence is something you want to get better at. There’s a visual component to it. [But] it’s certainly not all visual.

~ Pete Machalek 24:42

Pete Machalek and Craig Constantine explore some of the intricacies of presenting in both audio and video formats. They discuss the advantages of audio-only presentation, noting it limits what the audience can judge you upon. Some video presentation strategies and formats are discussed, including the challenge of accommodating different visual perspectives as seen by viewers. Pete also shares the evolution of his content creation, explaining experiences and improvements in his vlogging journey.

Takeaways

Medium Matters — The choice between audio and video content impacts how your audience perceives you. Audio content limits judgment to voice and content, while video adds a visual dimension, demanding attention to body language and other visual aspects.

Practice Makes Perfect — Improvement in content creation comes with practice and persistence. Your initial attempts may not be perfect, but experience refines your skills over time.

Embrace Challenges — Stepping into new formats, such as video, challenges your comfort zone and offers opportunities for growth in personal and professional presence.

Resources

Sage Presence — Empowering people to communicate their value in all the venues of today’s world.

Vlog with Pete Machalek and his partners.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Connection – with Staci Boden

Connection – with Staci Boden

Staci Boden shares her journey from helping individuals turn dead ends into doorways to guiding leaders and change makers on their transformative paths through the art of following energy.

The question is, how do we navigate daily life. That’s really what following energy is about— it’s meant to be a practice to support individuals in learning how to navigate their daily lives while feeling connected with themselves.

~ Staci Boden ~18:28

An expert in somatic practices and a generous guide for those who’ve appeared in her life, Staci discusses her journey and the evolution of her podcast. Staci talks about her book, “Turning Dead Ends Into Doorways” and how her podcast transformed, becoming the “Following Energy” podcast. She emphasizes the importance of grounding oneself and paying attention to energy, which can lead to personal growth and a more compassionate world. Staci describes her role as a guide and change maker, supporting individuals and empowering them to make an impact, emphasizing the importance of taking life step by step.

Takeaways

Following Energy and Grounding — The concept of “following energy” as a practical way to navigate life. The importance of grounding oneself, slowing down, and paying attention to the energy in the present moment.

Evolution of her Podcast — Evolving to focus on following energy and birth. This shift aligns with the need for a new paradigm in the world and reflects her commitment to supporting individuals in their personal growth journeys.

Empowering Change Makers — Her role as a generous guide supporting individuals to make an impact.

Resources

Staci Boden’s web site, https://dancing-tree.com

Her book, Turning Dead Ends Into Doorways

Her podcast website or search for “Following Energy Podcast” wherever you listen.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

Civility

At the kickoff of an unusually long issue of 7 for Sunday, I’ll try to keep this first part short, because (as I often say, because I really do mean it) I appreciate your time and attention, and I don’t take it for granted.

Civility fades in the face of entitlement.

~ Seth Godin from, https://seths.blog/2023/10/no-thank-you/

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Godin’s point—that sometimes we choose to assert that something was ours to take, when in fact someone was kind enough to give a gift—really landed for me. I’m reminded of a recently-run-here quote from Kevin Kelly about the growth opportunities pointed to by irritation with others.

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Festina lente

Festina lenta is a phrase I once used as my touchstone for a year. It means, to make haste s l o w l y. It’s inherently ridiculous, but also points to the very old and very excellent point about taking one’s time. It’s an antidote to the venoms busy and hurry. “These days” things are not simply faster, they are glossed over. The super-power I need to cultivate more is discrimination: What experiences are valuable? What pursuits are valuable? There’s [almost] always a faster way… but which is the better way?

In that spirit, consider the two paradigms that follow, not as you would two spirited debaters but rather two paintings hanging at opposite ends of a gallery. You are in the middle, bathed in natural light, forced by history to judge their color and attraction.

~ Mark Helprin from, http://ayjay.org/helprin.html

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“You are a director of a firm that supplies algorithms…” Egads, no.

“In the two days it has taken to reach your destination…” You have my attention.

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Issue 52

First, thank you for reading. :)

A year ago, when I set out to reimagine what my email (this thing you’re likely reading in email, which is based on some of the stuff I post to my blog) should be, my first thought was: “What do I like to get in my email?” What I like is when the entire email is actually in the email; no bait-and-switch, here’s-a-taste, but now you have to come to the web site to actually read it. I like when images are special; when they are just rare enough to be surprising and interesting. I like to take my time reading. I like when the font and colors are easy on the eyes. So that’s what I tried to create.

I wasn’t sure whether I should write this celebratory item to be in issue 52 or 53. (Or maybe I should celebrate on round numbers like 50 and 100?) Thinking about this reminded me that most of you (I imagine) don’t know these weekly 7 for Sunday emails have issue numbers.

You see, for obtuse technical reasons there are three features that are only available if you go to the web site to read 7 for Sunday. First, the issue number is in the header at the very top. Second, each issue starts with a reading-time estimate. I really like that feature; I love when what’s inside is clearly labeled on the can. Third, at the bottom of each issue are buttons to navigate through all of the issues. If you’ve never seen the web page version of 7 for Sunday, now would be a fun time to take a look (and it would take you about 4 hours to read through all 52 issues.)

This modular way to consider goals removes so much trepidation. A major win in your life is no longer at the end of “a journey of a thousand steps.” It’s a journey of nine or fourteen or fifty-five Blocks. It’s a staircase, not an ocean to be crossed.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2023/08/how-to-inherit-a-fortune/

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A year ago, when I set out to reimagine what my email should be, I was looking forward to seeing how it turned out after 52 issues. I think it turned out pretty well, and I hope you agree. Again, thanks for reading. I appreciate your time and attention, and I don’t take it for granted.

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