The pandemic definitely is forcing many of us to take a hard look at our lives. It’s hard not to be depressed, particularly as climate change, racial injustice, the possibility of an endless pandemic are all too real.
I recently read something where the author urged us to make at least one hard decision in our life. I’m spacing where I read it – but it made an impact. Of course, many of us make hard decisions all the time – we’re often forced to do so. But this particular notion was about taking a big risk to try to better align your life with where you perhaps once saw it. That kind of thing.
An obvious change of that nature is quitting a job you don’t like anymore. Or maybe you never did. This article about quitting discusses that. Changing a relationship. Having a child. Getting a pet. Jumping out of a plane. The list is endless. It will be interesting to see how many people decide to make big life changes – if they haven’t already – once they’re vaccinated.
For me, I left a comfortable job to go seek my fortune in “Just Saying Yes” right before the pandemic hit. So I never got to say “yes” too often – but I did realize that I’m the type of person that needs to be working. In addition to launching a free instructional video site for those in my field a few months ago, I just took a job with a law firm ranked among the “100 Best Places to Work” – the law firm ranked highest on that list (there are four firms listed, believe it or not) to do something experimental and innovative.
So I’m really leaning into my passion – being among like-minded people, striving to build community and educate in a way that is truly genuine. I am a lucky man…
I’m a wee bit superstitious, unconsciously relying on “signs” when I feel challenged to rely on my own intellect. I guess looking for a sign is some form of intuition. Anyway, I almost never look at my horoscope – but yesterday I decided to take a peek and it fit the bill:
With the Moon in Aquarius, you are relying on strange coincidences, surprises and synchronicities that are all around you, and feel like you must protect yourself from issues that aren’t rewarding enough. This is a good moment to decipher the stars or numerous events that took place in your life, so you can collect information and get deeper understanding for your own situation.
Don’t waste energy on superficial contacts and small talk. Things that are difficult for you don’t have to be overcome and you can simply commit to those that make you calm.
Of course, I’m well aware of confirmation bias and that we imprint our own motivations – consciously or subconsciously – into most of what we do. But I’ll take what I can get…
Last week, I blogged about a recent dharma talk from Jonathan Foust about managing your energy wisely. At the 43:36 mark, Jonathan delivers one of lessons that I just love – “an autobiography in 5 short chapters” – here’s a summary:
1. I walk down the street and I fall into a deep hole in the sidewalk.
2. I walk down the same street, I pretend I don’t see the deep hole and I fall in again.
3. I walk down the same street, I see the deep hole, I still fall in. It’s a habit.
4. I walk down the same street, there is a deep hole and I walk around it.
5. I walk down another street.
As always, I loved the latest dharma talk from Jonathan Foust about managing your energy wisely. Here are a few of the many nuggets:
1. You have finite amount of energy & time. How are you gonna use it?
2. You should balance how you challenge yourself with some recovery time.
3. Ask yourself: “What’s between you and feeling vital”?
4. The key is slowing down & figuring out what you really want. Otherwise, you are doomed to learn the lesson over and over again. You’ll have constant anxiety wherever you go.
5. It takes energy to stay on the path of knowing what you want and really pursuing it.
6. The more you practice, the more confidence you gain that you can sit with anything.
“We all know at times what it’s like to be wearied in spirits. Mine, I confess, are exhausted.” – Emma (2020 movie)
Man, this has been a bear. As we get closer to the end of the first quarter of ’21, I can see the end of the tunnel. But sometimes I feel like it’s a mirage. The trauma we all feel undoubtedly will continue beyond when things get back to “normal.” There truly is a ‘new normal’ coming. And getting used to that idea is tough. Real tough sometimes.
This note from Elizabeth Lesser about “Facing the Grief in Our Hearts” captures that sentiment nicely and offers an interesting insight: allowing the grief. Here’s an excerpt:
I know I am not alone. We all have lost so much. For some, the losses are big: the lives of loved ones, family we can’t be with, our own health, our jobs, school for the kids, financial security, physical safety, mental stability. Some of the losses are more subtle: routines that keep us grounded, predictability, companionship, pleasure. The disruptions pile up so that we don’t even know how much we have lost, what we are feeling, how much grief is gathering in our hearts.
It may sound like a counterintuitive strategy to turn and face the grief. There’s a lot of advice and inspiration flying around about NOT doing that—about being strong, hopeful, positive. That’s all good. I’m a big fan of strength and hope and positivity! But I have found that unless I get in touch with my very human feelings of sadness; unless I tip my hat to the reality of loss; unless I let myself mourn…the inspiration stuff is a layer that wears off pretty quickly.
I learn a lot about technology from Steve Dotto and his “DottoTech” site. Lately, he’s shared his wisdom over a 4-part webinar series devoted to explaining how to use tech tools for time management. Flow state, time audits and focusing. The “Pomodoro” technique.
Interesting stuff, but I’m a little scared to even attempt to improve my level of organization because I’m a tad OCD. I have my “to-do” list on paper and I always beat expectations. Every day. So I worry that by becoming more organized, I will actually spend more time working, not less. I’m not someone who needs that.
Then again, it would be good to track how I spend my time as that’s the definition of mindfulness. Conscious of what I do, day after day. So I’m going to give the pomodoro a try for a week and see if I improve my work lifestyle. Or if I get too wrapped up in the stats…
As people I know get vaccinated, I can feel that day coming when I join the ranks. Could still be a few months, but it’s coming. I know.
So I’m trying to take some time to ponder the lessons I’ve learned during the pandemic. Actually draft up a list of “Top Ten” things I’ll miss about it. I’ll share that list soon enough. But one thing I know will be on that list is having the time – making the time – to read more of the writings of others. Learn about topics I’ve cared little about. Appreciate how I feel about certain things and stay attuned to those feelings. [Um, do more of the things you like – and less of the latter.]
One set of writings I’ve enjoyed are the musings of a daughter of a friend. I’m just loving the tidbits, the ramblings, shared by Abby Seethoff. In this one entitled “Juan Leyenda,” Abby covers a wide range of ground – as always – and here’s how she winds up this particular note:
A hundred years ago Warren G. Harding won the United States presidential election with the slogan “Return to normalcy.” These words promised a balm in the aftermath of WWI. Like Gambuto, I urge you to beware the temptation of “normalcy,” to interrogate the entire standard of “normal.” Is it “normal” for the richest country in the world to still lack a nationwide form of paid family leave? If “normal” means that Native women make 57 cents on the dollar compared to white men, do we want to go back? (This year’s Equal Pay Day took place on March 31; it’s not until August 13 for Black women, October 1 for Native women and October 29 for Latin@ women.)
So here are some ways to challenge a supposed “return to normalcy”:
If you want to distribute your money (IRS check or otherwise)—
Save lives by donating to groups that bail people out of jail; consider Taraji P. Henson’s foundation, which has responded to coronavirus by offering five sessions of free virtual therapy for black people who sign up; or invest in local artists and regional systems of production (such as the Northern California Fibershed Cooperative.)
If you want to use your words—
Call your representatives this week and ask that the phase four COVID-19 response package include funding to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault (as well as the people who serve them). More information/scripts here.
You can also volunteer to call voters in your community’s get-out-the-vote campaign(s) and/or write letters to the editor (the word count is typically quite small) that call into question continued construction on Keystone XL, if you live in Montana, or other fossil fuel shenanigans, if you reside in another state.
If you want to share health—
Donate blood, if your health and vulnerability permit. And, it hopefully goes without saying, wear your mask, wash your hands, hold off on hosting parties, etc.
If you want to educate yourself—
Sign up for this workshop hosted by the Highlander Research and Education Center about “Becoming a Middle Class Traitor” (takes place tomorrow, Monday, May 18) and/or listen to Christy Harrison’s podcast Food Psych.
If you need to take care of yourself—
Turn off your phone, the Wi-Fi, or both. Take naps. Stretch your hips and hamstrings.
Remember: you cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good you can do.
Until next time,
Ever since I spent a weekend up at the Omega Institute about 5 years ago now, watching Pema Chodron in action talk about death, I have been piqued by the stories I hear about those that receive a hard medical diagnosis and how sometimes that feels like a “wake-up call.” Fortunately, I haven’t had to face that type of hardship.
But I have read a few books about death, and recently learned about “The Five Invitations” authored by Frank Ostaseski. As noted in this book review, the five invitations include:
1. Don’t wait.
2. Welcome everything, push away nothing.
3. Bring your whole self to the experience.
4. Find a place to rest in the middle of things.
5. Cultivate don’t know mind.
These surely fit into everything I’ve been learning about mindfulness and I can’t wait to read the book…
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
A bunch of folks have been thought to have been the first to express this chain of thought. Who first said these words doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take them to heart. I love when Jonathan Foust reminds us of this mantra…
I’m enjoying a 30-day “intentions” sangha right now. And on one of our Zoom calls, a friend mentioned “The Courage to Be” by Paul Tillich, a book that describes the dilemma of modern man and points a way to the conquest of the problem of anxiety.
Well, when I googled the “Courage to Be,” I stumbled upon this blog by Donna Cameron entitled “Do You Have the Courage to Choose Kindness?” It’s great stuff – so thought I would share an excerpt:
Being kind is making eye-contact, saying something beyond the superficial to another person, seeking connection. It’s accepting them without judgment and going out of your way to offer assistance or to brighten someone’s day.
Being kind also means taking a risk. Perhaps your effort will be misinterpreted; maybe your kindness will be rejected. Maybe you’ll appear clumsy or awkward. You could be embarrassed. Kindness makes us feel vulnerable — and that’s not a feeling many of us seek out.
Above all, kindness asks us to extend ourselves — to reach out, to be exposed, to open ourselves to ridicule, and to offer who we are to another human without any guarantee that they will like us, accept us, or offer themselves in return. That takes courage.