There are a few things I’d like to share. First, the Gathering of Good Minds is almost finished for this year and I just watched my first session and it made me feel good to hear stories of resilience and equanimity.
Which way does one go when stuck in a hurricane? That’s how I’ve felt these last couple of weeks. Some things that have kept me grounded have been those with a good story to tell.
Disney Plus released a recorded Hamilton performance to streaming, which was even better the second time. The first time I saw it in person, I didn’t do much research and missed much of the storyline. This time I looked up Alexander Hamilton and did a fair bit of research. What I found is another story about the Federalist Papers ( Amazon 😉 ).
One thing that struck me about this talk with Jewel was her lesson on hope being the flip side of fear and that she was taught not to hope, but rather to act. I think there is a lot we can do to protect the elders, the vulnerable. My mom mentioned transitioning from transitioning from delivering quantity to quality.
The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) I’m just starting this book, but it has already been helpful in understanding my creativity. The premise is that we are all creative and learn to not be creative from outside forces. In order to recover our creativity, the book offers exercises and insights to help protect our inner artist. It has helped me to try drawing, writing and water colors on my hikes.
The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Thich Nhat Hanh) This book has been instrumental in learning how to transform my own suffering. It goes into a teaching that is over 2500 years old by Buddha, who considered himself a man and not a deity. The book is broken down into 3 sections, the first goes into The Four Noble Truths, the second The Noble Eightfold Path, and the third Other Basic Buddhist Teachings. The book offers a deep understanding of what is called Interdependent Coarising, which has taught me to see myself in all things. It has greatly simplified my life.
Finding meaningful work amid a pandemic can be confusing, but Buddha suggests we repeat The Five Remembrances: 1.) I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. 2.) I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health. 3.) I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. 4.) All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. 5.) My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
It’s Ok to take care of yourself, you are worthy. When you fill yourself with joy, you start to radiate joy. By watering the wholesome seeds of joy within ourselves, myself, I spread joy. The middle way is balance, self-awareness and stewardship of the outside world. Ignorance is failure to recognize suffering.
Some general thoughts on what I’ve found helpful are:
1.) Committing to Journalling 3 pages a day, switching colored pens along the way, based in prompts from the app Grateful, but writing freehand and only putting the summation of my thoughts in the app. The app has many default prompts, but I’ve added many of my own from books on Blinkest.com. This was brought about by a Buffalo is Creative event called Journaling for Deeper Insight and Greater Presence, which was great. Anthony’s business www.apexleadergrowth.com looks pretty great too. It’s worth reaching out for his reflection guide and book.
3.) I open sourced my long time project Bottlecaps as an attempt at being helpful. The link to the code is at the bottom. Giving back is a great way to make yourself feel good. I also updated my causes with causes I’m supporting.
I hope something in here was helpful to someone. Thanks for reading.
Finding a purpose can seem possible, but detecting your purpose is what is more lasting(1). What shapes our understanding of the reasons behind what we’re trying to accomplish and the outcomes can vary tremendously. For instance, by running, I am convinced that there are secondary benefits to those around me, yet in some ways, I feel powerless over influencing those around me.
As a first-year student, you might be struggling to figure out what to take classes in, to stand the best chance of living a life you want after graduation. One way to go about detecting your purpose is a series of classes to figure out what you want, but this can be expensive. Another option is to not worry about it too much and do what feels right. A third way that I will discuss, is taking input from others in a process with long-term wellness in mind.
Perspectives on wellness
There are a lot of things that work for wellness in a variety of situations. While we don’t have a time machine, if we did I’d imagine it would allow us to relive a single event in similar ways. In this vessel, we could see that the choices we make and what outcomes they produce. We would realize the benefits were different, but that none lead to the utopian ideal we envision in the first place. Wellness is not a utopia, but rather a place of rest.
Wellness is rest and rest is rejuvination .
Wellness is about rejuvenating yourself and there are an infinite number of ways to rejuvenate. Obviously, sleeping is rest, however, too much sleep can be unhealthy. Building a repertoire of wellness activities enhances your capacity to rejuvenate the purpose.
Finding your natural equilibrium means familiarizing yourself with an inner vulnerability that is in its most genuine state. From this state, you can remember the purpose, objectives, and values behind your actions.
A coworker commented that if you’re not awkward you’re not fun. Understanding emotion is the essence of being genuine. When we feel awkward, there is a belief that can provoke strong feelings. Being capable of managing emotions is essential to social interactions. Outdoor activities provide ample opportunities to experience circumstances where we can practice this skill.
Social anxiety is a challenge for everyone, however, we cope with it in different ways. Some talk more, some shut down, but the outcome is the same, we are learning what makes us feel comfortable in different situations.
The trick is not to avoid the feeling of being awkward
Feelings, however strong, are separate from purpose and reason. Results in the classroom are more manageable by practicing having a purpose in spite of strong feelings like anxiety. For instance, going on a hike and managing the social interactions along the way means that when you’re back in the classroom, you’ll have less distraction.
Outdoor activities can nourish the cool, calm collected sense of self that is relatively unphased by minor disturbances. The experience of walking and talking to friends with the birds chirping and the ever-changing scenery is a therapeutic way of relieving daily stress. Simply by walking, our imaginative creative power is increased.
Perceptions of the landscape and perspectives reinforce the constellation of neurons in the mind that promote stronger pattern recognition and emotional regulation. Hikes are relatively inexpensive and the side by side movement facilitates conversation with new perspectives.
Climbing the rock wall can be nerve-wracking, but the perspective from the top can be spectacular. Who knows the view other than those who climb the wall? Having courage is a continuous wellness activity. There will always be that next line to push past, but the perspectives gained along the way are worth it.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
Wellness is different things to different people, but to me, it’s about making my actions apply to circumstances that sound appealing. Being proactive about wellness means both envisioning the future I want to create, and enduring the pressures to make that vision a reality.
One of the hardest lessons to learn is there really isn’t much we can do about some things. In school, we learn about all the things we have some control over, but life is more like a flowing stream of change.
Wellness is not the pursuit of perfection
Perfection constructs in exercise or meditation might seem logical, but in essence, wellness is more sensory. Art, beauty and the limitless mind are different than reason. ‘Reason’ is a theoretical construct created by the thinking mind. Wellness is about bringing us back to the present moment to appreciate reality, even aspects beyond our control.
Say I am supposed to run 5 miles in 7 mins per mile. If I run the last mile at 8 mins per mile, have I been less perfect? The thinking mind says yes, but the limitless mind is different. It reminds me that the quality of the workout depends more on my perception of the result than the result itself.
Why are we so relentless in our pursuit of perfection?
As I run, training for a sub 3-hour marathon, I cope with thoughts that it’s too hard, etc. Except there is always that limitless mind that has a new way of looking at things. Taking time to familiarize myself with my limitless mind through meditation is a cornerstone of my wellness routine.
This is not to say the thinking mind doesn’t have merit, it certainly does, for I would not be able to plan my training without it. However, the thinking mind has limits. The thinking mind is only interested in what it can control. When I am actually running, the limitless mind is what is yearning to approach zero.
Both mind states are needed and both have needs. The limitless mind needs time to rejuvenate. This is why outdoor activities like hiking are so helpful, there are no distractions of ‘should,’ there is simply being.
It’s not the vase that’s important, it’s the space that the vase creates that’s important ~Proverb
Comparatively, the thinking mind needs input like lectures, reading, and videos to improve. For instance, one is not born knowing advanced calculus. Reducing distractions through a wellness routine enhances the capacity to learn.
Wellness happens when there is a clear purpose the infinite mind and the thinking mind agree on. Which is one reason exercise is so useful. It’s clear to the thinking mind that through exercise we become more fit and capable. The infinite mind is satisfied because exercise is inherently challenging. One can exercise and achieve great results, yet there will always be another line to push past. Thinking too much about exercise can make it harder.
The thinking mind constructs a ‘line of improvement,’ which can symbolize a measure of success to push past (ex. sub 3-hour marathon). For some, aspirations of physical fitness are useless, because the line of improvement is reconstructed when we reach the goal. This continuous improvement paradox is a construct of the thinking mind and a solution could be to replace it with a continuous redirection mentality.
Proactive wellness means renewing the sense of purpose by balancing the needs of the thinking mind and the infinite mind. This is a continuous process of improvement and redirection.
Counting our blessings is a saying that is repeated so often that it can seem cliche’, however it’s sage advice. This habit builds resilience by increasing our understanding of what we cherish. Family, friends, even our free time is a blessing, which we don’t appreciate until we are hungry.
Our needs according to Maslow can be turned upside down as in, the more we want something the less we need it and vice versa. So by staying closer to the bottom of the hierarchy, we can express the side of wellness that has to do with building connections with others.
Having friends that you can rely on, along with building a constellation of neurons with a sense of curiosity and wonder, are both ways to proactively achieve wellness.
Flow from wellness is a measured withdrawl more than a determined action.
Through Headspace, Andy Puddicombe, who studied to be a Buddhist Monk, presents this idea of strength being the capacity to let go of thoughts, which becomes salient under the pressures of the day. By proactively taking steps to develop your own wellness routine, you can develop a sense of what works.
Another resource I recommend is the Stoic Daily Journal, to develop the daily habit of journaling. Journaling can be tough to start, but this journal prompts you based on investigating stoic philosophies.
Finally, I remember getting this idea from somewhere, but I can’t remember where. I think it was from an article from the Harvard business review, but I forget which article, my apologies. Experiment cards are index cards that you can write anything on and the idea stems from the sense that it’s an experiment. I have something like this index card box with a bunch of experiment cards in it full of insights that I pull from my readings. I have dividers and have 9 cards that I review and revise every morning. I’m not sure why this habit is so useful, but I think it’s because I internalize the concepts better by adopting them into my daily script. On the one hand, the top concepts I want to remember have bubbled up to my top 9 cards; but, on the other, I have not thrown out the concepts that might be helpful someday. It’s the most disorganized heap of stuff, but it makes perfect sense to me.
These are some ways I’ve integrated a wellness routine into my daily habits. The key takeaway is that the wellness routine can enhance balance by stimulating curiosity, building connections and giving yourself space to breath.
Wellness, like water wells, springs from what occurs naturally. The sound state naturally is the source of performance. Exercise can create the sound state by eliminating distractions, clearing the mind and improving attitude as well as increasing fitness. However, excess exercise can also be a distraction. Overworking the body adds more stress physical such that it’s detrimental to overall health. Wellness is the time in the state of optimum health, which can be a combination of a healthy mind, body, spirit, and context. (1) Balancing these 4 quadrants through meditation, exercise, faith, and work blend our actions into an integrated wellness lifestyle.
Here are a few things to do to create the sound state of a wellness lifestyle:
First, don’t rely on technology to maintain your relationships. The connections we have are only as deep as the effort we put in, so take the time to show people that you care and likely they’ll reciprocate. Deep relationships can be meaningful sources of joy.
Second, develop daily habits into a wellness routine. Gentle meditation in the morning builds a sound state for the day ahead. Journaling in the evening provides an opportunity to reflect and process emotions. Exercise can be cathartic in moderation, even light stretching reduces stress and anxiety. Eating right is also important. Don’t let the routine run your life, but rather expect it to evolve to meet your needs.
Finally, integrate the insights from your wellness routine. Recognize what works and anticipate how to integrate those insights into your day. For instance, pack a salad for lunch, ride your bike, check your bank account and be kind to others. Improving the routine takes time and can seem hard or unmanageable at first, but the benefits are realized as increased performance, health, happiness, patience, and resilience.
Take commuting by bike for example. At first, everything needed to commute seems overwhelming, but piece by piece a kit comes together and before long commuting is part of life. In fact, riding past traffic is an active reminder of the benefits of making the choice to commute by bike. When you arrive to work, you’ve already had a bit of a workout, so your mind is primed for work. Further, after a long day of sitting in chairs, a bike ride is perfect to unwind. Integrating bike commuting as a daily habit means that you don’t have to spend as much time going to the gym. The net benefit is that you are exercising rather than sitting in traffic.
Obviously, there are drawbacks to commuting, cold weather, stolen bikes, rain, expense, however, another layer of the wellness lifestyle is mental. Learning how to develop the habit of seeing such things as obstacles and not roadblocks means you cultivate the tendency to persevere in everyday life. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned in Ironman triathlons, of which I’ve done two. There is a mental advantage I recognize between when I’m training and when I’m not. One of my favorite quotes is from Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer, in his book Discipline Equals Freedom, and it is something like:
“rely on discipline, not motivation.”
To have discipline means to understand why you do what you do and how it connects to a larger purpose. Being grateful is a habit, not a fact, so remember to count your blessings often.