Educated by Tara Westover

This quotation sums up the book for me. It is about the choice and the cost of following our own truth:

“I will offer, one final time, to give you a blessing,” he said. The blessing was a mercy. He was offering me the same terms of surrender he had offered my sister. I imagine what a relief it must have been for her, to realize she could trade her reality – the one she shared with me – for his. How grateful she must have felt to pay such a modest price. I could not judge her for her choice, but in that moment I knew I could not choose it for myself. Everything I had worked for, all my years of study had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self–create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.” From Educated by Tara Westover, 2018

Deep work by Cal Newport

Adapted from a post in Smarter Living on the New York Times on 14 January 2019

Deep work is the activity of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It describes, in other words, when you’re really locked into doing something hard with your mind.

In order for a session to count as deep work there must be zero distractions. Even a quick glance at your phone or email inbox can significantly reduce your performance due to the cost of context switching.

Every time you switch your attention from one target to another and then back again, there’s a cost. This switching creates an effect that psychologists call attention residue, which can reduce your cognitive capacity for a non-trivial amount of time before it clears. If you constantly make “quick checks” of various devices and inboxes, you essentially keep yourself in a state of persistent attention residue, which is a terrible idea if you’re someone who uses your brain to make a living.

Two rules for “Deep Work:”

  1. Don’t get distracted by the internet and social media. People need to be way more intentional and selective about what apps and services they allow into their digital lives.
  2. Drain the shallows. “Shallow work” is anything that doesn’t require uninterrupted concentration. This includes, for example, most administrative tasks like answering email or scheduling meetings.

If you allow your schedule to become dominated by shallow work, you’ll never find time to do the deep efforts that really move the needle. It’s really important to aggressively minimize optional shallow work and then be very organized and productive about how you execute what remains.

It’s not that shallow work is bad, but that its opposite, deep work, is so valuable that you have to do everything you can to make room for it. Instead of focusing too much on what’s bad about distractions, it’s important to step back and remember what’s so valuable about its opposite. Concentration is like a super power in most knowledge work pursuits. If you take the time to cultivate this power, you’ll never look back.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

Marie Kondo says that we should hold each item in our home and allow it to speak to us, we should ask ourselves the question: “Does this spark joy?” If not we should acknowledge and appreciate the purpose of that object in our lives and let it go. Kondo writes in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying:”

“Sort by category, in the correct order, and keep only those things that inspire joy. Do this thoroughly and quickly, all in one go. If  you follow this advice, you will dramatically reduce the volume of things you own, experience an exhilaration you have never known before and gain confidence in your life.”

 

If you sit still….

All that you are seeking, is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time.”

CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTES

Zen Practice

Watch your mind, how it comes into being, how it operates. As you watch your mind, you discover yourself as the watcher. When you stand motionless, only watching, you discover your self as the light behind the watcher. The source of light is dark, unknown is the source of knowledge. That source alone is. Go back to that source and abide there.
NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ

Yoga gives you a way to create inner sanctuary

“Yoga gives you a way to create inner sanctuary: a safe haven that cradles you and gives you strength when you need it most.”

Plunge down and enjoy the ride!

I loved this article by Ben Dooley on 5 powerful playground metaphors. Here is a brief excerpt from “The Slide”:

“First there’s a lot of going up – usually many steps are involved. It’s hard. And there’s sometimes a line-up that slows it down even more.

It takes a long while to get to the top. And when we get there we might even be a little tired and worn out from the upwards step-by-step journey. However, what keeps us moving is what’s waiting for us when we reach the top.

We get to go down.

Going down is fast and fun. It’s exciting and thrilling, that feeling of being slightly out of control, and yet, you’re still safe within the barriers of the slide – the sides designed to keep you in a certain pathway as you race toward the bottom to top speed.

But if you try to stop you could not only get hurt, you might ruin it for others.

So what’s the metaphor here? The slide. A wonderful thing. We spend our lives working so hard to ascend all sorts of ladders in our lives. The higher we climb, the harder it is (sometimes). And yet we can’t turn back. Going back down the stairs is frustrating, humiliating, embarrassing… and not nearly as much fun. We might be business building, growing our finances or a working on a project. It could be a huge ladder in front of us or a small teeny ladder. Either way we must ascend one step at a time.

And when we reach the top, when we’ve done all the hard work building our business, or our project, or developing our coaching confidence and skills, then take a moment to look around. What a view. Sit down and scooch yourself forward just enough… so… you… can… PLUNGE DOWN AND ENJOY THE RIDE!”

 

A message from your body…..

I crave your attention.

  • Every muscle wishes to thrill with your attention. To tense and release, and release!
  • My blood calls to continue the nurturance, the diversity of foods, the sweetness of water, the soft clean air.
  • My skin yearns toward sweat and salty water, crisp dry towels, nourishing potions and oils.

I am tired of processing all this junk. Everything that goes in your mouth is my medicine.

In return, I promise to boost you in living the fullest life imaginable.

  • In being prepared to experience the full bounty of nature.
  • To support you to stand in your full presence.
  • To provide the energy for listening, enquiry, dialogue and leadership.

I will allow you “hold on,” and keep your integrity, long after the day seems done.

I am ready to be the temple for your mind and grow the wings beneath your soul.

Just give me your attention.

6 June 2017

Intimacy

I just finished reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012). It is set in North Korea and it explores the ways people are able to hold onto their humanity even having experienced the most brutal and severe conditions over years. It is a society where people regularly denounce each other for a range of things including having unpatriotic thoughts.  Our protagonist comes to learn the meaning of intimacy as “when two people share everything, when there are no secrets between them.” The concept astonishes him and he is drawn to have his own experience of it. Near the end of the book, just before he is to have his memory wiped, he explains to his torturer: “It turned out to be easy. You tell someone everything, the good, the bad, what makes you look strong and what’s shameful as well. If you killed your wife’s husband, you must tell her. If someone tried to man-attack you , you must tell that, too. I told you everything, as best as I was able. I may not know who I am. But the actress is free. I’m not sure I understand freedom, but I’ve felt it and she now has it too.”  Perhaps intimacy does bring the freedom of having been beheld, of having been seen for who and all you really are. An experience worth pursuing.

Resilience

In December the New York Times Magazine published an essay called “The Profound Emptiness of ‘Resilience.’ “ It pointed out that the word is now used everywhere, often in ways that drain it of meaning and link it to vague concepts like “character.” But resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught. In recent years, we’ve taken to using the term sloppily—but our sloppy usage doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been usefully and precisely defined. It’s time we invest the time and energy to understand what “resilience” really means.

Read this well-researched article by Maria Konnikova to follow some of the thinking about resilience over the last decades.