Being present

When we work out while listening to a podcast or checking messages, we lose out on being present with our bodies, feeling the experience of moving, exerting ourselves, being in nature.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/meticulous/

I try to walk as much as I can. Usually I make it out to walk every day for about an hour. For years I was simply walking in nature with myself and my thoughts. A few years ago, when I got really into podcasts as a listener, I started listening while walking.

But about a year ago—after noticing I’d stopped writing things down about my walks—I realized that I had lost something valuable: My time alone with my thoughts. So I cut back to listening to podcasts for about half the walk.

I’m often asked if I meditate. Yes, particularly in the past year, and it looks a lot like walking.

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Willful ignorance

Now when I pass the sign, I try and think of at least one thing I do myself that willfully ignores truths I’d rather not accept. Things I know I should change about myself that I choose not to.

~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2015/01/willful-ignorance/

On one hand, I disagree: The sign’s purpose is to save ducks; it was not created “for everyone.” In that sense, the bad grammar of the sign makes it work better. But, the ducks sign is simply an example. Pressfield’s point about willful ignorance is clear and—at least for me—on target.

A question I like to reflect on periodically in my journalling is: What habit did I curb [today or yesterday]? Also, reflecting on what parts of my behavior I dislike—which was a huge part of my initial journey rediscovering movement 10 years ago—gives me specific things to work on. I think it’s a deeply useful practice to ask oneself difficult questions and to reflect on the answers, (or lack of answers as the case may be.)

Are there any questions you ask yourself on a regular basis?

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Check yourself

But in order to be to be self-aware, first one needs a self to be aware of.

~ Hugh MacLeod from, https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/12/05/check-yourself-before-you-wreck-yourself/

I see what you did there, Hugh. But aside from the clever word play, there’s an obvious level to “having a self.” Everyone certainly has a self, so this just seems banal.

But I see this as a reminder that self-awareness of a static self is not good enough. I need to be aware of my self, and constantly working to improve my self.

How do I do that?

Chop wood; carry water. Write. Read. Seek out challenges great and small.

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2020

My touch-phrase for 2019 was, “no.” In terms of self-imposed stress and crippling depression, 2019 was the worst year ever; I’ve more than 10 years of journals and I’ve checked. 2018 was bad, but 2019—the year I set out specifically to reduce the problems—was definitely and significantly worse than 2018.

I remain convinced that it is not possible to optimize one’s way out of burn-out. If I have 500 things I want to get done and I’m burnt-out, the solution is to reduce the number of things, not get better at getting things done. I’m speaking from personal experience, not from theory.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In 2019, the “no” touch-phrase was meant to guide me to developing the habit of saying no to things coming towards me. A huge amount of ideas and opportunities come at me, and I’ve gotten much better at saying, “no.” (I’m not quite ready to say I’ve gotten “good” at it; but I’ve definitely gotten better.) I’ve gotten better at evaluating Big Asks from the world, and saying, “no.” A textbook example of that is people/groups which reach out to me, asking for my input or participation.

“No, I do not have the time to do that well.”

“No, I cannot to do that the way it deserves to be done.”

…and so on. Note particularly the absence of the societal lubrication, (a.k.a., the usual lie,) “I’m sorry, but…” Because, I’m not sorry. I’m defending myself, and I’ve reached the point where if my candid, timely, and honest response feels like a wack on the head… Bummer. Life’s hard; get a helmet.

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

In a previous post I mentioned the idea of leverage; positing that I should focus on asking myself, “how much leverage does this opportunity afford me?” This still doesn’t feel quite the right fit for 2020 because leverage per se isn’t a value I’m interested in maximizing.

So that leaves me where?

2020 has to be the year of getting less done.

GLD — Get less done.

Maybe that’s the touch-phrase for 2020?

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One more walk

A few years ago, I started walking to Mordor. Based on my counting and tracking, I’m at walk number 499 and I think I can finish the mileage in the final walk.

…but I’ll cover the details when I’m done. Today I want to linger on the feeling of knowing that the end is nigh.

My motto for 2019 was, “no.” It wasn’t intended as a sour-puss negativity sprint, but rather an attempt to get myself to be mindful about what I commit to. As the year closes, and my walking goal nears completion, I want to think very carefully about what I expect to feel and experience. Where did I first hear of the goal? Why did the goal call to me? What did I want to accomplish by setting out on the journey? What will change when I finish the goal? How am I different?

Most importantly, I want to not replace the goal—and the work, and the time investment, and the mental energy—with another thing. Am I able to have a little less daily work? Am I able to have one less project in the works? Am I amble to have one less thing on my mind?

…or am I going to scurry back to the comfort of “busy” and add something?

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Humility

The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in ideas, but who can say where the next one is coming from—or even if there will be a next one?

There’s a wonderful quote from John Gardner or somebody that, alas, I can’t find. The bad paraphrase goes something like this: …

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2010/08/humility/

Yes, I left out the best part to make you click through to his site.

It seems there are three choices:

  1. be a braggadocios asshole, “I am the King of Awesome!”
  2. be faux humble, “little ‘ol me? …I’m nobody, I’ve not done anything.”
  3. be actually humble, “I’m in love with this idea, and I’ve over here quietly working on it.”

Of course, there’s an infinite range of coloring on those axis. But I think my point is clear. I spent a lot of time over in zone 1; that didn’t work out well (for me or anyone else.) I’m disqualified from zone 2; there are simply too many things I’ve done.

Which leads to the problem: Over in zone three, one would necessarily want to sacrifice everything else to nurture the idea. That way lies madness, I think.

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Get out of the way

This is why “culture” in business matters. Because it allows people to see whether or not they’re allowed to cut the metaphorical knot.

~ Hugh MacCleod, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2019/08/28/gordian-knot-culture/

I was recently asked, “What’s the hardest part, for you, about podcasting?”

Staying out of the way.

I’ve spent so much of my life diving in and fixing things, that it has become my first instinct. To rush in and grab the controls. To attach a sense of artificial urgency to everything. To become frustrated that others aren’t immediately taking action now that a solution or idea has been found.

Certainly, an important step is to first cultivate a team who can do great work. But once that’s done enough, the hard part for me is staying out of their way.

Many people would say that I value action over thought. This is absolutely not the case. I am driven to find evidence, to investigate, to look for previous examples of similar solutions and ideas, to gather data, to analyze, to sort, to organize, to imagine… and then I act— often frenetically.

It is right before that last step that I’m learning to self-intervene.

Ready!

Aim!

Get out of the way.

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Waiting for the next one

What, I can experience an entire trip to the mall without sighing, grimacing or silently cursing? I can sit through an entire red light without fidgeting? I can make (or miss) my connecting flight without losing my shit even once? Can I live my whole life this way?

We can, if we’re willing to give time, as a habit. Nothing else makes sense really—it’s just experimenting with a willingness to live in reality as though there’s nowhere else to be. (Not that there ever was.)

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/07/how-to-be-patient/

Occassionally I get the urge to attend a week-long, silent meditation retreat. (For example, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vipassanā retreats.)

Why?

Because sometimes I experience small periods of blissful serenity. I’d particularly like to be able to go there on a more regular basis. It seems to me that spending about 10 days doing nothing but meditating in silence would be a delightfully mind-altering experience.

Rarely, but with increasing frequency, I find myself enjoying sitting pefectly still. Doing perfectly nothing. Paying attention to the moment instead of being completely obliterated by an endless torrent of thoughts. Eventually a thought which I deem worthy enough arises urging me to go do this, or check on that, and I rise from my glimpse of serenity.

I always wonder what would happen if I just kept thinking: That’s not quite worth getting up for just now, I’ll wait for the next thought.

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Antler-locked

Today, it’s alarmingly easy to find yourself antler-locked with some remote, faceless person who’s trying to tell you that universal healthcare is a communist plot, while you’re waiting for your potato to finish microwaving. This facelessness turns up our impulse to argue even more. You may have noticed it’s a lot less pleasant to argue with someone when you can see their eyes.

~ David Cain from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/02/the-art-of-letting-others-be-right/

I find it, in fact, so unpleasant to argue with people that I’ve effectively given up the effort entirely.

The first phase comes of self-reflection once you think you might—at least some of the time—be wrong. The second phase comes when you realize that your sometimes-wrongness might apply to the interactions with other human beings. Phase three is when you wonder why it is important to change the other’s mind. Phase four is when you stop judging people at all.

This has the side effect that you also give up trying to get people to stop arguing at you. If I don’t argue, then the other person assumes their idea has carried the argument, when in reality I’m focused on how delightful my iced tea is, or the weather.

I’m reminded of the ages of roots, fire, water and air that I mentioned a few days back; Once you start flirting with the age of air, the only person left to argue with is oneself.

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