Issue № 90


An extremely fast way to get to mindfulness—this is the fastest way I’ve found so far—is to think: This may well be the last time I do this.

The last walk. The last boulder I scramble upon. The last conversation with this person. The last conversation ever. The last word I type. The last sentence I jauntily scribble with a pen. The last time I drive a car. The last time I ride a bicycle. The last time I wrench my back shoveling snow. The last time something scares the crap out of me. The last time I laugh until I lose control of my bladder. The last time I’m stuck as part of the traffic. The last time I’m part of the solution. The last time I’m the source of the problem. The last time I smash the hell out of my toe on something.

In every one of those cases, I can now enjoy it… if I can manage to remember: This could be the last time I get to experience this.

During rare, spontaneous moments, experiences of very special quality and great import emerge from the depths of the human brain. To each person, these awakenings seem awesomely new. What they convey is not. It is the simplest, oldest wisdom in the world. The message is that ultimate meaning is to be found in this present moment, infusing our everyday lives, here and now. But one can’t predict such major peaks of enlightenment. Their insight-wisdom is next to impossible to describe. Even so, these fragile events inspired our major religions in ways that still shape our cultural development.

~ James Austin from, Zen and the Brain

Because in reality, none of us actually understands how our minds work. We only know that sometimes, our minds do some pretty amazing things. It would be great (we, I hope, all think) if I could tweak my mind to do that a little more often.

The first element to consider when creating a more realistic “ideal day” is that unlike Franklin, we have many more places to be and many more opportunities to lose focus. We have to account for this, not fight against it.

~ Maneesh Sethi

So how do I practice mindfulness?

I think of it like tied shoelaces. It’s important my shoelaces be tied, but I don’t obsess over them by constantly checking my shoes. I simply tie them when I notice they are untied.

I practice mindfulness when I notice I’m not being mindful.

You don’t have to pretend that you’re in top shape. If you’re not in top shape that very day you just do what you can. You can be yourself and the whole notion of ease is actually very profound, and that’s where my personal training connects with meditation […] One of the first things we learn with Buddhist Meditation is to be friends with yourself. I don’t want to confuse the whole discussion and mix our metaphors here, but there’s this notion of learning to be friends with your own mind, and that can translate into the way you approach movement and any kind of training.

~ Vincent Thibault from the Movers Mindset podcast, episode Connection with Vincent Thibault

I’ve long been 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.

It’s a shame that it took me a long time to learn the self-kindness lesson that Thibault is suggesting. For too long, I treated pursuit of mindfulness as something I could assault. Some effort I could really push through. Some physical, irreversible transformation—like smashing rocks—that doesn’t happen without some minimum, significant level of brute force effort.

There is a required activity. By that I mean, a complete nothingness of no effort and no thought won’t move me towards mindfulness and more of those magic moments of enlightenment. Ryan Holiday, for example, does make a valid point about starting the clock:

It struck me that this has become a kind of dividing line between success and failure within my team. Those who haven’t worked out haven’t been able to start the clock or return the ball very quickly. It’s not just my team—it’s a source of frustration that fills the letters and dispatches of just about every great general, admiral, and leader throughout history.

~ Ryan Holiday from, You Can’t Succeed In Life Without This Skill

I’ve never had the nothingness problem. I’ve always been a starter (and an over-achiever, and an over-thinker.) For me the challenge is always to find ways to create change, without destroying myself and health in the process. Set goals, yes. But also leave no-goals-today space. Have aspirations, yes. But don’t assess my self-worth based on my distance from those aspirations.

The reality is, behaviour change is hard, and many people have not been taught effective goal-setting. For example, someone might know that they’re unhappy and have intentions to change, but they focus on something too broad (‘I want to be happy’) or on what they don’t want (‘I don’t want to be depressed’). An ill-defined focus can lead to trying many things without following through on any one thing.

~ Kiki Fehling from, How to stop living on auto-pilot

I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

Haruki Murakami

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 makes the immediate area a better place.

Don’t expect anything to happen. Just wait. This waiting is a deep acceptance of the moment as such. Nietzsche called it amor fati — unquestioning love of whatever has fated you to be here. You reach a point where you’re just sitting there, asking, “What is this?” — but with no interest in an answer. The longing for an answer compromises the potency of the question. Can you be satisfied to rest in this puzzlement, this perplexity, in a deeply focused and embodied way? Just waiting without any expectations?

~ Stephen Batchelor

Until next time, thanks for reading!



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