Topic

Mindfulness

Reframing our perspective in order to find a greater sense of peace with ourselves and the world.

The Paradox of Mindfulness

One of the first things you learn when starting a meditation practice is that fighting the thoughts that inevitably pop up only serves to amplify them. Like blowing air into a smoldering fire to put it out, trying to stop the mental interruptions typically has the opposite effect.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung understood this paradox of mindfulness when he said "What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size."

When you sit in stillness, the best way to quiet the mind isn't to try to push thoughts away — it's to welcome them. Embrace thoughts. Then gently release them and return your attention to the breath or other object of focus.

If you do that, you'll often find that the mind gets quieter on its own. Sometimes, simply letting dust settle is better than sweeping it to the side.

Or as Alan Watts said, "Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone."

Calm Mind

How much would you pay to keep your mind calm most of the time?

If you react to every little negative thing with stress, outrage, or anger, you'll never be content. A calm mind isn't free – it's earned.

Once you accept that small, bad things will inevitably happen, you can learn to navigate them with grace.

A broken glass, torn shirt, spilled coffee, someone cutting you off in traffic, getting caught in the rain – you can let these events send you on an emotional roller coaster.

Or you can simply accept them as the price for having a calm mind.

And at the end of the day, aren't they a small cost in exchange for inner peace?

Better Than Average

A useful statistic to keep in mind next time you're on the road: The vast majority of people believe they are an above average driver.

When surveyed, as many as 80% of Americans were confident they rank in the top 50%. And this confidence extends to a wide range of other areas as well.

Over a 15 year period, only 8% of actively managed, large-cap funds outperform the overall stock market. In other words, picking stocks is a losing game over a long enough time, compared to passive index funds.

Of course, there's only one way to find out if you're among the 8%. If that's the game you want to play, go for it! But be sure to enter into it with eyes wide open.

In this case, acknowledging you're probably not in the 8% will likely leave you with more money when you retire.

To be clear, confidence in oneself extremely important. But when confidence turns into hubris, we can lose the ability to see ourselves and the world clearly.


Thanks so much to everyone who donated to Support Hospitals in Ukraine! 🙏 For transparency's sake, here is my matching gift:

Destination Addiction

If the source of your unhappiness is internal, you're unlikely to find an external solution for it.

We are naturally drawn to the next thing – the next job, the next home, the next vacation.

But at some point, if you want to experience lasting contentment, you must step off of that infinite ladder to the next destination.

Each of us has the privilege to decide when we have enough.

Perhaps you've already arrived.

Do It Scared

Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients overcome anxiety.

Once someone has expressed a willingness to confront their fears, their therapist will slowly start to introduce the stimuli that incites panic over a series of weeks.

A person who's scared of spiders, for example, might start by just looking at small pictures of spiders before slowly working up to interacting with a live one.

It can be an incredibly effective technique. Fear doesn't typically vanish on its own. It takes practice – you have to lean into it just the right amount. Give your mind a chance to realize that this is not a life or death situation, then lean in further.

And you don't need clinical anxiety or a severe phobia to apply this to your life. For anything outside of your comfort zone, you can start small by finding your personal adjacent possible, then go big.

Find Out Who You Are

As we age, we get better at regulating our emotions. In turn, we also get better at being ourselves.

When bad things happen, you’re able to brush them off more easily because you’ve built up greater inertia. It takes more to stop your forward momentum, and you can roll with the punches more easily.

This process isn't necessarily linear. There will be ups and downs, of course, sometimes spanning a year or more.

But ultimately, you'll get better at leaning into what brings you joy with greater intent.

Or in the words of Dolly Parton, "Find out who you are, and do it on purpose."

Jealousy

When you’re jealous of someone, you have to be willing to totally swap places with them. If you want something that another person has, you also need their health, relationships, upbringing, and more. Every thought that goes through their head would be yours.

In the process of changing places, you’d also have to give up everything you love about your current self and life. Your favorite memories and formative experiences would be gone.

This principle also holds true when you examine your own life. Maybe you wish you could have something you had when you were a child – innocence, playfulness, someone else preparing all your meals, etc. – but you’d also have to give up the wisdom and independence you acquired with age.

When we step back to consider the sacrifices that envy demands of us, jealousy often starts to recede.

Via @naval

Daily Butterflies

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Her quote has stood the test of time, because nearly everything we want is on the other side of discomfort. When we put ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we grow as humans.

Do this regularly, and you'll train yourself to lean into the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. You'll start to associate it with the rewards of growth.

Over time, staying in your comfort zone too long becomes uncomfortable, because it's a signal that your personal development has halted.

So dance with the butterflies daily.

You'll soon find yourself flying.

Velcro for Wellbeing

Some people call it contentment. I prefer the phrase “ambient joy,” because it speaks to the subtle bliss we get from the total effects of the little things in life.

Studies show that regularly writing down the things you're grateful for can have a profound impact on your emotional wellbeing. Here's Jenée Desmond-Harris writing for Vox:

There's a growing body of serious research that expressing gratitude can really, concretely make your life better. The best part is, you don't even have do to any mental contortions to make sure you feel it — you can just go through the motions of acting as if you do.

The findings are dramatic. The practice of gratitude (which can truly be as simple as jotting down notes about what you're thankful for) has been called "velcro" for wellbeing and deemed "the new willpower."

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some of the little things I'm grateful for:

When we give thanks for the little things, they help hold together the tapestry of a life well-lived.

And of course, I'm grateful for many things that are not so little, including the people like you who take time to read my work.

As always, thanks for reading.

Conducting

There’s no shortcut to being healthy, fit, calm, and content.

Maintaining that place of wellbeing comes from so many different areas: Nutrition, exercise, relationships, work, medical care, sleep, mindfulness, your physical environment, and more.

Like in music, if one instrument is off, everything can fall apart. A piano with just a handful of out-of-tune keys can muddy the entire song.

It’s a balancing act. Your wellbeing is a symphony, and you are the conductor.

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