A tiny commitment

To suddenly “go mindful” and try to be present all the time is about as easy as running a marathon when you’ve never even run around the block. Since most of us are not present the vast majority of the time, occasional stabs at “being in the moment” are quickly overrun by the colossal momentum of a lifetime of being lost in thought.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2010/03/how-to-make-mindfulness-a-habit- with-only-a-tiny-commitment/

There’s much worth reading on David Cain’s Raptitude website. For example, his How to walk across a parking lot, is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read. But the piece I’ve quoted from above stands out as a terrific “how to…” for working on mindfulness.

I’ve been actively working on first self-awareness, then self-assesment and finally mindfulness, for many years. (And writing about my journey as I’ve done so.) But mindfulness is still something that comes and goes for me.

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Entering this moment

To be in any kind of balance state, especially if it’s new is incredibly valuable to bring you into this moment, because the moment is in constant change. That’s why we call it infinite, right? You can’t grab hold of it and then be there. The second you’re there, it’s gone and you’re in the next one, and that’s this awake kind of living. Balance is the fastest way to enter into that space.

~ Thomas Droge from, Body work, writing, and parkour culture

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Like waves crashing on the beach

It isn’t clear why you’ve been sent back. Maybe it was a cosmic accounting error, or a boon from a playful God. All you know is that you’re here again, walking the earth, having been inexplicably returned to the temporary and mysterious state of Being Alive.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/06/how-to-remember-youre-alive/

But first, pardon me while I get a song stuck in your head… like, all-day stuck.

She could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441
Like waves crashin’ on the beach
And for one desperate moment there
He crept back in her memory
God it’s so painful
Something that’s so close
And still so far out of reach

~ Tom Petty, but you knew that

Tom Petty died in 2017—I hope that wasn’t a spoiler. It seems, based on my quick search, that his last public performance included this as the last song he performed. omg the feels. Stop, go watch that entire 7-minute video. If that doesn’t move you…

There’s a moment late in the video where the jumbo-screen behind them says, “without YOU, there’d be no US” — or something close to that second part, it’s obscured. I think that points to something exceptional about TPatHB. Forty years, and grateful for the experience of that specific night.

Now, reread the pull-quote and then read Cain’s suggested practice.

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Embracing all the moments

I’m starting to see the unifying principle behind all the philosophies that really appeal to me (e.g. Buddhism, Stoicism, Arnold Schwarzenegger). They view all of life’s moments as having equal value, at least where it counts, and what counts is your skill in embracing the moments that make up your life.

It’s a genius idea, possibly the smartest thing human beings ever came up with. Embracing all moments as a rule transforms every day into precisely what you’re looking for: an interesting variety of experiences, every one of which offers you what you value, regardless of what happens in particular.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2021/05/when-all-moments-have-equal-value/

In addition to the sources listed by Cain, I’d add Jerzey Gregorek.

To me, this is all about mindfulness. Practicing being aware of each moment is a terrific way to swim in the joy of life. All the struggle and worry comes from my setting expectations—reasonable or otherwise makes no difference—which are always frustrated by the vast complexity of reality.

I’m fond of the Chinese proverb: “If things are going badly, relax, they won’t last. If things are going well, relax, they won’t last.” It’s of course super-helpful to be reminded to relax. But it’s far more helpful to be reminded that there’s really no difference between the “going badly” and “going well” parts, which brings me again to Cain’s point.

Choose what at first appears to be the harder path, because it is—as you soon discover—actually the easier path.

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Recovery is key

Not only do most deliberate practitioners not spend all day at it, they also devote a lot of time to recuperation and recovery. They sleep as much as their bodies need. They nap if necessary. They take frequent, refreshing breaks. Most of us understand that rest is necessary after physical activity. But we can underestimate its importance after mental activity, too. Deliberate practice needs to be sustainable for the long term. How long a person keeps at a skill is often far more important than how many hours a day they spend on it.

~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2021/04/deliberate-practice-guide/

I’m going to trot out a rare: HOLY CRAP! Because that post is a small book on deliberate practice. If you’re only up for some skimming, click through and smash-scroll to the summary and book list at the bottom of that post.

Then I’m going to briefly stride over one of my fave soap boxes: Sleep.

…and settle onto pointing out that I make a deliberate practice out of working on writing these blog posts. I’ve been working, (off-and-on, one break involved some lawn mowing,) for four hours this morning from that one Parrish post. I’ve read it, blogged [this] about it, posted about it in another community, captured a few quotes, learned more about the Oddyssey, and wrote a blog post about a common Homer quote.

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The great ability

Depending on how willing a person is to take this experiment seriously, they will at some point discover why human beings have made such a big deal of the Great Ability. To the degree you can meet experience exactly as it is, without resentment, it ceases to cause you suffering and drive your behavior.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2020/09/the-inner-superpower-that-makes-us-human/

Unless you live under a rock—or “lived” under a rock since you’re not now under a rock; Welcome to the Internet! :)

Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard about “mindfulness practice” and “meditation” and probably “Metta” and maybe “one-point” and “zen” for sure. Cain hits it right out of the part, without even swinging, just by setting it out clearly. Every single time I realize I’m not currently exercising the great ability, I immediately pull myself back to it.

Now if only I could realize it more frequently.

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Convenience

I’m not a full-on coffee snob; I’m more like a middling, level 14, coffee-snob-poser. I’ve had world-class pour-overs—beans weighed to the gram, water temperature to a specific degrees, controlled pour-over rate, beans roasted by the person brewing, one 8oz cup at a time—and I’ve made instant coffee from freeze-dried crystals… “Any port in a storm,” as they say. But most of my coffee is upper-middle: A local roaster’s beans, but ground incorrectly using a Krups bladed grinder, then electric-drip brewed, using filtered water. It’s fast, it’s reproducible, it’s a solid middle-ground “good.”

Recently I’ve been percolating coffee over a Whisper Lite gas camping stove. This is super fiddly. Set up the gas stove, connect gas canister, hand bur-grind beans, set up the percolator, (picture old-timey cowboys around a campfire,) set up the wind-screen around the stove, light stove with match, balance the percolator on the stove’s spindly, (but super-strong stainless steel,) legs, crank up the gas, (audible, I’m-not-kinding-around-over-here roar,) then about 5 minutes to boil the water, dial the gas down to a whisper, check the time and get a nice perc going—but not a rolling boil—then hover close-by for ten minutes… turn off gas, wrap stainless steel pot in a tea-towel cozy…

There are a million things in life that we do every day, quickly. Selecting one or three and intentionally doing them the less-convenient way is the absolute-best salve for the hustle-bustle busy and mental noise we create for ourselves.

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Focus on what’s before you

And when you’re distracted? See what’s distracting you and choose, mindfully, what’s most important in that moment. Maybe what’s distracting you is worth your time after all.

But where your energy goes is where you’re going.

~ Hugh MacCleod from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/06/27/how-to-stay-focused-at-work/

Slowly I changed how I interact will waiters, how I reply to email, how I use my phone (note particularly that I use it and it never uses me,) how I chop wood, how I show up for video calls, how I walk, and so on, and so forth…

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Mindless or mindful?

Have you noticed how often we all repeat what we say?

Too many people simply begin talking at another person, before having obtained their attention. This happens all the time! Once you start to notice it, it’s everywhere.

Too many people aren’t paying attention. Although, I suspect it’s partly in response to too many people [and computers and phones and our entire culture] clamoring for their attention, that they’ve stopped paying attention as a self-defense mechanism. Withholding attention shifts the default setting of how attention-getting something must be to actually get their attention.

Many years ago we create a house-rule that we would not talk to each other unless we were in the same room. It took a long time until it became the norm in our house. No shouting from one room to another with a question, or an order. How often do things like, “Hey, could you…” travel from room to room in your home? Our rule forces us, when I want your attention, to go to you. This puts some actual effort onto me, exactly where it belongs. No one is permitted to call from the living room, “Hey, can you bring me…” because we both know full well we should get up and get it ourselves.

Settling into that rule was tough. But part two was far harder. Improving the other side of the exchange: that of the person who is being interrupted, even if it is ever so politely, by a demand for attention. Having reached a point where we each travel to the other, (the first part,) we then had to learn to treat the arriving person with respect, (the second part.) For example, when I’m knee-deep in computer work and she arrives, I had to learn to pause from my work and turn my full attention to this person who is vastly more important than anything happening in my computer. Frankly I’m still working on this.

After a few years of all of the above, I noticed my attention was becoming a much sharper tool in my interactions out in the world. Some of this was surely due to years of martial arts training, but much of the change was due to my intentional practice described above.

(Then I realized just how much of my attention my phone was demanding, and I fixed that shit right quick. Then I threw my participation in social networks under the bus.)

Now, I see countless examples of mindlessness any time I venture out into the regular world. But I also see examples of mindfulness! They’re not as common, but some people I encounter are awake. Some people I encounter are interested and interesting. Some people’s presence make the immediate area a better place.

Which are you, mindless or mindful?

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