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A Squid Brain

Published onMay 01, 2019
A Squid Brain

30 April 2019: A good or bad day?

I just wrote an entire post and hit “save” but none of my text actually saved. I am feeling pretty frustrated because I liked the set of questions and string of thoughts I previously poured out. I’m going to bullet out as many of the things as I can remember:

  • Class yesterday: What makes a “good day”?

  • The moment before I sleep and how that defines good vs bad

  • Framework replacement for good and bad: things I would change vs. things I would not change

  • Changing my practice time to the evening before bed

  • Formula for sticking to something and not skirting it

  • Noticing my reluctance to post ONTPD

I’ll come back again to update this and hope I can do the other missing post some justice. R.I.P., post.

14 April 2019: The mundane things like weather

The emergence of warm weather has overtaken our ONTPD thread as it ebbs and flows with the tease of spring in our midst. Along with that, more people are outside in public areas which has been very contagious and a reminder to slow down and enjoy the present.

9 April 2019: Recalibrating

This week we had 1:1 with the teaching team. There were a few themes that stuck out to me:

  1. I have a hesitation to write in this blog each time I think about it during the week. After talking with Karthik, I got a nice reminder that this class is a process. I defaulted to a sense of wanting to "publicly show progress” with my peers and classmates. Writing in this blog publicly is counterintuitive for me to translate vulnerable thoughts into a mode that is properly curated for a very public audience to potentially view. Are these thoughts something I want attached to my name forever? Probably not. However, I’d like to get to a space where I am able to remove the hesitation and document learnings and reflections more regularly, regardless of whether I write on this publication medium or not.

  2. I learned I am able to recalibrate what to preoccupy my brain space with when there are more and higher stakes decisions that are happening. Things that might have stayed bothering me for days after are now just a blip in the day. I would like to get to the point where I am able to recalibrate on my own terms rather than being forced into it.

  3. I am making progress in my process. I am more sensitive to the days when I have not had *that threshold of sleep* that I need. When that happens, I must better manage some of the things that tend to amplify because of it: stress, reduce attentiveness in interactions with people, and a general predisposition to be less optimistic.

2 April 2019: On physical awareness

Today we heard vivid stories from a navigator at sea and how he gathered a sense of “knowing” that something is true. He was humble and explained being in scenarios that were incredibly foreign and familiar at the same time.

This reminded me on a project I spent 3 years on: a landmark-based navigation application that used geotagged photos of landmarks to get someone from Point A to Point B. This is because there is a large swath of cultures around the world who navigate and give directions using landmarks. However, similar to the speaker today, he had a sensitive intuition for the direction of the sun, the waves, and the wind. I remember interviewing dozens of people. Athletes tended to have a good sense of distances in meters and feet such as track runners or baseball players. I recall a man who was born and grew up in Iowa and always tracked the direction of the sun for his crops in the field. All of these lived experiences shapes our sense of awareness. I would like to be more aware of the senses I am not very strong at and try to build those strengths to continue my practice of awareness.

11 March 2019: Transactions vs. Compassion (and cows)

The first day of class, we were asked to discuss, “is it possible to have a transactional human relationship?”

This week, we talked about the ability to give compassion and to minimize expectations in return.

I believe a transaction requires some base level expectation and a personal driver behind the value: equality. You give me something. I give you something in return. Most times, this is not explicitly stated, but context, place, time and culture give the backdrop for the expectations met by both people.

Our conversation about compassion brought forward this tension between transactional tendencies and the ability to minimize your expectations. This also reminds me of an earlier string of ideas I had about thoughts and emotions. At any given point in time, processing happens: a thought “wins” by having appeal to some of your emotional triggers and lived experience. Similar to that, it might be possible to try to exhibit compassion on a moment-by-moment basis. But at any given point, every person has their own values, drivers and emotions that “win” and intervene in the goal of moment-by-moment compassion.

For example, last week, I outlined justice and equality as values that are important to me. One of the drivers I have is to ensure I never leave a conversation or situation feeling like I got taken advantage of. While I could feel compassion for the dentist who is charging me for 18 unnecessary procedures and squeezing me for every dollar, I also feel like it is unjust to place monetary gains over the patient’s best interest. In this case, there is a fiduciary relationship. The dentist knows far more than I do about teeth and gums, but my lived experiences gives me a sense of what it is like to feel like I am valued as a patient and given enough information to feel empowered to make decisions.

The scenario I outline above is the ‘flavor’ of scenario that often sticks in my head for days after— the ones that remind me I didn’t stand up for myself or prepare enough to make the best decision possible. I often replay these moments in my mind on infinite loops until something else more recent pushes it out of my memory for the time being. In my journey of personal awareness, I would like to minimize the amount of anguish I bring throughout the day by being better able to be aware of my emotions and let go of the things that I cannot change.

As an aside: I went to my family’s farm today. We drove on a tractor that transported the large bale of hay across the field. We lowered the hay into the metal “container” that holds it in place and I was reminded that all species have different forms of awareness they exhibit each day. It was nice to get out of my daily routine in Cambridge and be with family to enjoy hay-shuffling, quiet cow moments like this.

5 March 2019 PM: Values, drivers, emotions.

What are your values, drivers, emotions in an ideal state?




  • Equity. I define this as people are contributing equally to something- whether it is a project or friendship. However, this value often causes me distress when I expect more from someone than what actually happens. 

  • Effort. Semi-related to equity. I do believe in  putting in hard work to achieve outcomes you may not have gotten otherwise. I respect people who actually put effort into things (relationships, work, etc.) Far too often, people do not give credit where credit is due and narratives are lost in those who are loudest or the most powerful in a room. 

  • Patience. Investing in things for the long term rather than take advantage of short term satisfaction.

  • Loyalty. Honesty. Consistency. Justice.

  • Acceptance and approval from my parents and loved ones. I often feel most upset and guilty whenever my parents disapprove of something I’m doing. I want them to like me and what I am doing with my life. 

  • Feeling empowered and not taken advantage of. I like to know that in the moment, I stood up for myself against individuals or groups that may have more institutional or social “power” than I do at the moment. 

  • Uniqueness. Doing what I want to do and what is best for me and my family— as opposed to following what society says or what path is paved for you to follow with a life or career. 

  • Actual impact in the world. Am I known as a good person to be around? Do I contribute meaningfully to the world (as opposed to for selfish reasons)?

  • Respect from my colleagues. 

  • Calm and present. Not thinking or stressing about 10 other things while I am with people. 

  • Not-hyper excited or sad.

  • “Bring my best self to a room and expect nothing in return” mentality. 

  • Try to give the benefit of the doubt where possible so I assume the best in people. 

What are my dominant emotional states?

  • My dominant (internal) emotional states are usually frenetic and scattered. I often overanalyze things and sometimes get lost in the emotion that may trigger something negative from my past. These emotions would probably surprise others if I don’t know them well. I don’t think I “show” this very often.

  • However, people have called me confident, quiet, and someone who is always working. Often, I am so focused on something that I forget to turn that off when I switch contexts and become present. Going swimming in the mornings has helped me iron out any emotions or discomfort from the previous day and allow me to focus on the day moving forward.

5 March 2019 AM: Transactions

This week I thought a lot about whether all human interactions are transactional. The framing in general seems to be the “cynical” perspective.

Perhaps this is all in the framing and choice of words, but I believe that a core piece of human existence (and perhaps animal existence among their own species) is the need for human mental and physical connection. From my parents, I gain comfort, financial aid, education, a home, love, and emotional support. My parents (I assume) gain the opportunity to be parents, to unconditionally love, and to extend the family to another generation.

Rather, if all humans benefit from human and physical connection in some capacity, these moments are not just an exchange to live. They are the opportunity to

26 Feb 2019: On purpose

This week I got an email that ended with this sign-off: “Have a great day on purpose.”

The statement stuck out to me because often people just use the hollow saying “Have a great day!” and because it suggested that there was some form of agency I held each day I live in the world.

It also reminded me of the “energy distribution” that Joi Ito spoke about— how people are energy giving or energy draining. I am trying to think more aboutt: Can I be more deliberate about structuring my day to be surrounded by “energy-giving” people? Perhaps this takes more of a mindset shift on my end. Can I shift the way I feel about people so I am not so reliant on the osmosis of those around me? Can I control my emotions, energy and outcome of a day without people?

My initial sense says no just based on my previous hunch that it is incredibly difficult for me to go about my day without thinking of another human being or people in some capacityt. Regardless, I’m trying to be more thoughtful about how I handle interactions. After I meet with people, I often replay moments I could have done better or statements that made me off-kilter. These moments are usually negative ones that overpower the positives. I’m thinking a lot about my “steadiness” and presence this week. Not too forward, not too backward.

18 Feb 2019: Living vicariously

Today I listened to Hidden Brain’s latest podcast: Close Enough. The podcast explores the “why” behind why many of us enjoy watching others do things: painting with Bob Ross, reality television romances, cooking on YouTube. One quote stood out to me: “When life gets too hard, our screens serve us solace.”

The other day I watched the entire docu-series of Netflix’s Ted Bundy. The first two episodes followed the two dozen or so women he brutally murdered. The last few episodes got into how the logistics of the court case played out.

I was completely engulfed. Part of me felt like a fly on the wall, in the 70’s and 80’s. There’s that safe buffer of a screen. I can pause or close my laptop whenever I’ve decided the plot is too much. I’m not part of the drama, but I like to follow it, so I keep watching. What stood out in this case is the rareness of such an extreme moment. Seeing this National tragedy unfold almost half a century ago opens the mind to inevitable comparison. How would this story have changed if there was advanced forensic technology? How might his face have gone viral on Twitter? I found my mind wandering to draw comparisons in history, the present, and the future naturally. I found my mind wandering to my own life and my family. I could only imagine a parent’s fear of letting their child experience the world. And I thought of how I’d protect my loved ones in the future.

17 Feb 2019: Presence in a pool

Human connection seems to thread throughout my day. I had to think hard about what are the moments where I could just see beauty in something* without thinking about another person in my life or the broader public in general? That something*, when I tried to imagine, tended to default to nature scenes: flowers, bugs, trees, pretty looking things that nature that I often experience in isolation when walking to somewhere. I defaulted to the extreme version of “beauty” like the snapshots taken for screensavers on a Macbook.

This morning, I went swimming at the recreation center pool. I found myself reflecting on the day before, thinking about all the things I could have changed. I found myself thinking about the day to come and all of the things I needed to do until then. I realized I was everything but present: both stuck in a cycle of past to future. I caught myself and remembered, I was submerged in water, doing the same freestyle movements over and over. Right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm. I tried to “feel” the water through my fingertips with each stroke. I remembered my legs were slightly kicking. And thirdly, funny enough, I remembered I had an abdomen. It’s the thing that held me up, but was doing the littlest in terms of motions through water. Like a boat, it just needed to keep me afloat enough to sail through the lane.

Carmelo Presicce:

I also noticed I became reluctant to post ONTPD lately. Why do you think that happened to you?