“Slow Down” — it’s the mantra I’m stepping into 2021 with. Do I really need to be reminded to slow down after a year spent indoors without much to do? Yes. Yes, I do.
The way I think of a mantra is a short phrase I keep in mind and say to myself often. A reminder to do something or lean in a certain direction. For me, a mantra is more like self-talk, rather than something that might be found in Transcendental Meditation or Kirtan Music.
I didn’t always think mantras and self-talk possessed value. For many years I believed they were quaint at best and delusional at worst. As rational beings, I believed that if we knew what we wanted to do, we’d simply do it. In hindsight, I “knew” this despite heaping mounds of evidence that I behaved otherwise. …
Angels walk amongst us. Not the winged kind with halos and white robes, nor the chubby spooky baby kind that comes out every Valentine’s day. There are real flesh and blood angels who walk through life just like you and I do. They don’t draw attention to themselves but when we meet them, we know it. They smile a lot, laugh a lot, and give everything of themselves without a hint of self-righteousness or expectations of getting something in return. They draw from a deep internal well and pour love into the world. I know they exist. …
When I tell someone that my college degree is in philosophy I nearly always get the head tilt to the side look of “really?” Despite the quizzical looks or the quick, “I could never study that” response, I’m confident that my deep interest in philosophy is not weird or special. It’s one of my defining characteristics. However, if not for a small kindness shown to me when I was in High School, I may never have allowed myself to pursue my natural curiosity and find my ‘love of wisdom’.
My wife and I have been watching the show, “The Good Place” on the recommendation of our 17-year-old daughter. If you are familiar with the show you might have already guessed that I’ve become particularly fond of the character, Chidi Anagonye. Chidi is a (fictional) moral philosophy professor at St. John’s University in Australia. The criticism he gets from the other characters is that “nobody likes moral philosophers.” The joke works because of challenges Chidi presents to his friends but more broadly because many find philosophy both boring and impractical — if not downright nonsensical. …
“Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy.” Milton Erickson
After getting up early each morning to swim, bike, and run for months, I had done it. I’d completed a triathlon. Jolene and some of my training friends were at the finish line waiting for me. It was an intense day of overcoming obstacles and pushing myself to achieve something I had never done before. I expected to feel the joy of accomplishment. The reward for all the work.
And I did for a brief time.
But then a thought began to creep in. My accomplishment wasn’t worth celebrating. It was only a sprint triathlon. Not anything close to an Ironman. Who did I think I was? Even within my age group, I’m nothing special. Just another name on a list. I started telling myself with increasing despondency that my cheap bike and poor swimming ability would never allow me to accomplish anything worthy. I’d just embarrass myself if I even tried. …
Have you ever been in a conversation that raised your levels of fear and anxiety? So much so that it seemed like people were drawing out your frustrations like a snake charmer?
What if there was a way to take part in conversations that left you feeling curious and not anxious? Excited and not fearful?
The way to better conversations is to put down your ego and listen.
Listen with curiosity.
Listen to understand.
Listen with empathy,
with your heart.
Greg McKewon referred to listening as magic in this most recent 1-minute Wednesday newsletter:
I want to be a better listener. Because it’s the closest thing to magic that we have in relationships. When I listen with empathy to a client, an employee, or a family member everything changes. Isolation is turned into connection. Distance is turned into presence. Frustration is turned into understanding. …
“Is it useful?”
Joseph Goldstein, the meditation instructor asks us this simple question when we find ourselves worrying and fretting about the future.
I was introduced to this question while utilizing the 10% Happier Meditation app (I recommend it) by the television anchor, Dan Harris. Like him, I have tended to want to answer this rhetorical question in the affirmative. I get wrapped up in the importance and strategic value of my worry. I have convinced myself that my worry keeps me sharp and ready for the challenges ahead. …
It was 2016. I was turning 40 and feeling listless and adrift. Everything was going well, but I didn’t feel excited about where I was headed. I triumphantly decided that I was going to set some goals. I was going to move away from the mediocre and into something that looked unequivocally like success. I would set motivating goals in each domain of my life.
I was listening to Zach Even-Esh who, on his podcast and Instagram missives, preached to break out of mediocrity and to fear being stagnant like it was a terminal condition. …
There is a poignant quote that is often attributed to a Chinese proverb. It says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
It took a Medium post/Instagram story being shared with me by my wise, kind, and beautiful daughter to open my eyes to the reality of my privilege. My complicity in the plight of so many members of our community.
I’ll be honest, as I believe that it is required of me at this moment. I only watched the video because my daughter shared it with me — and I had mild (at best) interest in what this, sometimes goofy, internet/youtube personality had to say about a topic that was infinitely weighty. I know I’ve ignored other similar messages in the past — but as fate would have it my daughter's nudge gave me the push I needed to listen with care. …
It’s a season of critical self-reflection and reexamination. I am coming to terms with some hard truths about racism and choosing to move in a direction that aligns with my values more.
In a recent reread of the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr., I was struck by something I had glossed over before. I felt the sting when King calls out the “white moderate.”
He writes, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to Justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of Justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’” …
The opening lines from Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “ The Great Gatsby” have come back to me in numerous ways over the last month. The latest was in Ryan Holiday’s “ 33 Things I stole from people smarter than me on my way to 33. “ For those who may have forgotten these lines from their High School reading, they are as follows.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. …