Week 7

Trees are beautiful.

They stand as an inspiring counterpoint to the urgency and frenzy of everyday life. They stand stoic, dignified, and proud. They are vibrant but stable. They are tall but rooted.

They change over the course of the seasons but remain resilient.The world around them changes rapidly and they adapt - shedding leaves or blooming when they need to. Their bark is course and brown but their leaves are soft and green.

Creatures depend on them to eat and live in. They cannot move yet they are an essential part of a vast ecosystem that reaches far from their location. They grow as a part of this ecosystem - slowly and conscientiously.

Trees reach for the skies with branches that multiply and become more complex, subtle, and fragile as they reach higher. Looking up at a tree with the a blue sky in the background has a symbolism that cannot be easily expressed in words.

I’d like to be a tree.

Week 6

I’ve been thinking about money as a metaphor for time.

We have 24 hours of time to allocate each day and we have to choose how to “invest” each one of those hours (and minutes and seconds). And you must allocate all of it, for example eating, sleeping, working out, talking to friends, watching TV, meditating, etc. And it is not possible to not allocate any part of the day - the default state may be to check Facebook or drift off into a daydream, but that is still time being “spent” on a specific activity.

It interesting to think about time in this way, because we are trying to “invest” all of our time to achieve certain short-term and long-term outcomes. This could be peace of mind, professional success, artistic output, or health.

Therefore, it seems we should be very thoughtful about where we “invest” our time in order to maximize the “return on investment” - the greatest progress towards our goals given the limited time that we have each day, week, month, and year.

This raises the question: if we are not intentional about how we allocate our time and allow the world to do it for us, or just do the most convenient things, what happens? Is intentional allocation time important?

Week 5

I love the concept of dignity. I love it both as a concept and as a practice in everyday life.

The concept so perfectly incapsulates something that everyone desires for themselves (and hopefully, for others). Namely, to be respected for who you are, to be heard, and to be able to hold your head high in society. Everyone deserves this, but for some reason there is a lack of it in the world.

And in everyday life, it seems like enabling others to feel dignified shouldn’t be so hard. It requires just a small amount of effort to show someone that they are respected and that their perspective and contribution matters. This can be incorporated into just the small interactions we have with people on a daily basis but also as leaders at the institutional and organizational level.

I think this relates to seeing the humanity in all people and feeling a sense of real empathy and respect. It seems so critical to the functioning of a health society and for the individual quality of life for all of the members of a society.

I wish we’d collectively put more effort into cultivating dignity for all.

Week 4

Fine, I’ll admit it: I don’t like being alone with just my thoughts.

I have become so accustomed to constantly talking t0 people, consuming content (like NPR or podcasts), and listening to music, that I’m not sure I know how to be alone in silence anymore.

I experience this pretty sharply when experimenting which what methods of meditation work best for me. I feel relaxed and comfortable when I meditate with music playing, but feel uncomfortable and even anxious when trying to meditate in silence.

Another place this plays out is my preference for music playing while I’m getting work done or am home alone cooking or cleaning. Doing this in silence feels awkward.

It’s almost like a part of my brain really needs to remain occupied because it will be hyperactive and distracting if it’s not kept busy. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the “monkey mind,” and perhaps for me playing music when I want to stay focused on a task is a method of giving the “monkey” a toy for a while.

But I imagine monkeys get bored of toys… and perhaps my mind is the same way. Or, I’m just overextending the metaphor.

Week 3

I don’t think I’m too attached to many things, but I recently discovered something to which I am surprisingly attached.

When someone says they are going to do something by a certain day or time, and if they don’t, I feel a lot of negatively towards the person. This is above and beyond any rational response based on dependencies I may have on this person’s work. I judge them and am even offended by their lack of follow-through.

I think some of this stems from the fact that I have learned hard lessons from the past which has resulted in me holding myself to my word at all costs. I value my reputation for being reliable and hard-working, perhaps more than anything else.

It turns out that not everyone has this expectation for themselves, and it irritates me to no end. I want to let go of this. But letting this go feels like an exercise in double-think. I don’t intend to lower my standards for myself but must somehow not hold those same expectations of others.

It seems like both the right thing to do for my peace of mind and for practical reasons. I will be less upset or irritated, which are emotions that are destructive and avoidable. But also a clear understanding of the likelihood of other people executing on their tasks is an important input to planning and in achieving outcomes.

Week 2

I’ve been thinking recently about denial, escapism, and self-delusion.

Often it seems to be easier to not think about a problem rather than to understand it, accept it, and take action. But this can be corrosive, where problems fester and result in larger long-term issues. Sometimes it feels like a lot of what we call “entertainment” are strategies to forget about our everyday lives and drag our attention elsewhere. Going to the movies, getting drinks with colleagues or friends, going on vacation, and even listening to music all have a feeling of escapism to me. Is life really so tortuous that we need to escape it? Or do we really get so much benefit from ignoring our realities?

I’ve been trying to cultivate a habit of relishing life for what it is, and therefore embracing problems and applying solutions immediately, perhaps to a fault.

I think there is a fine balance required here, which relates to the discussion we had in class about self-compassion. It is not always kind to ourselves to immediately dissect and address problems as they are identified. Perhaps certain things we can let be for a bit and come back to it when we have more mental capacity available.

But the challenge is figuring out when this is a meaningful balance and when it just turns into a habit of denial and procrastination…

Week 1

The metaphor of a person as a stone in a raging river resonates with me.

The world really seems to be raging around us, swirling and frothy. And sometimes I wonder why. But, like a river, it’s a force of nature that behaves as it not because he has a deeper purpose for doing so, but because that is simply what it does. It seems that the best thing to do is accept the world’s chaos and remain as still and stoic as stone. That sounds better than getting swept up and carried forward to some unknown destination.

This sounds great, but I struggle a bit with reconciling this with another “truth” that I have learned about myself. I love to remain deeply engaged in the world and with the people around me - I find that it makes my days more meaningful and I can achieve more impact in personal and professional endeavors.

And this requires, so some degree, being swept up into the world. Into the ups and downs, the successes and failures, and the goods and the bads. It seems unavoidable because being engaged and being committed to a cause leads to me being emotionally invested in its outcome.

As soon as the the stone becomes attached to the water swirling around it, the water’s force can overpower it and pull it away.

Who knows… maybe I can find a balance between being present and committed, and being detached and in control.