“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

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I love this quote because it captures so much in such an aphoristic statement. To move a mountain may be a miracle, but it’s a miracle that comes through incredibly hard and persistent labor and (self) belief. It’s a lesson on habits. It’s a lesson in persistence.

What I also find so inspiring about this book is that it gives you hope that you can and will succeed in finding your path to happiness if you still with it. You have to try and you have to keep trying. It will happen. You can live a virtuous and contented life.

The Analects by Confucius may be the most influential book of all time. …

You don’t have to be a monk to shift your emotional framework.

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People were stressed before the pandemic for different reasons than they are ten months in. Now, people are stressed even more. Some of the reasons remain the same, but everything is cranked up a degree. If you are lucky enough to have kept your job, now the work/life balance issues are more acute than ever. If you were having trouble maintaining relationships, it can’t have become any easier having to mask up everywhere you go. If you were having trouble sleeping before, today’s anxiety is all the more likely to keep your circadian rhythms disrupted.

The pre-step when situations change for the worse is to work on your emotional awareness. Bringing emotions into active consciousness can help you pause, and give that prefrontal cortex (your rational brain) a little more time to respond. …

“You learn by going where you have to go.”

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Afew years ago, my family and I came to find ourselves perched on a small ridge overlooking a good part of the Chattanooga valley. That ridge is a historic one, named Missionary Ridge after the missionaries, some of the first white settlers who infiltrated this land and evangelized to the Cherokees and built a school here.

A key battle of the Civil War was fought all up and down this ridge. Human remains have been dug up on our very property over the 115 years since this house was built. Are they heroes? The ones who won? …

Break through between facts and theories.

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Some say a habit can be formed in 21 days of consecutive application. Many others say a good rule of thumb is to expect something more like 90 days before a habit is truly in the automatic category. No doubt, the longer you stick with anything, the more likely it is going to become ingrained.

Habits can be transformative. Little by little, day by day we can crack the code of the change we want to manifest in our lives. We like to think about habits because habits are actions. Habits are the outward behaviors we integrate into our lives. Topics like mental health and self-awareness aren’t as tangible. But most of the time we find our habits are unconscious. They’re on autopilot. …

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.”

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Research over the past 25 years especially has shown us that our brains feel as much as they think, and that we don’t actually “think” as much as we think we do. The new work in emotional literacy draws a more holistic view of our social interactions, decision-making, and behavior overall.

In Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman reports from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience. The book offers startling new insights into our “two minds” — the rational and the emotional — and how they together shape who we really are. …

It’s all about creating a chain reaction of processes

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Stanford professor B.J. Fogg says, “You can never change just one behavior. Our behaviors are interconnected, so when you change one behavior, other behaviors also shift.” Fogg goes on to say that “behavior travels in packs.” In other words, microshifts in one direction (whether positive or negative) tend to impact others. James Clear calls it the “Domino Effect.”

Why do behaviors have a chain reaction? The simplest answer is that when one commits to a certain direction, then one begins to inhabit the identity related to the goal in question. That’s why inhabiting an identity around what you’re choosing to do will prove so valuable over time. Together, with a focus on the process over the result, with consistency that comes from commitment, you won’t even have to choose a basketful of habits. …

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

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People like to make the peace sign and say, “Follow your bliss, dude.” When taken out of context, it does come across as a vague statement. There is a great deal more to mythologist Joseph Campbell than his commonly misunderstood coined phrase “follow your bliss.”

What he actually said was:

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. …

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May you surf the world famous waves
off the dunes of Porto Bay
de Liberdade. May you trundle
to the darkest bleach-blonde
bosomy bartender babe and consume
mojitos like they’re going out
of style with the surfer dudes
whose bodies never do.
May you crack the hard shell
of a Portuguese woman. May you live
in her womb and birth yourself
with your own forceps. May you be
one of the kids dancing
on her round hip. May you tread
the riptide thinking mercado,
pescado, Jaoa I
, of the Castelo
de Sao Jorge, of ruins until nothing
remains but the images you collect
like broken shells. May you awaken
to the print of a 1935 escudo
stuck to your cheek in the late
afternoon, and may it not turn
to twilight as you stumble through
the Bairro Alto looking for her, for anyone,
to ask them to leave with you
wherever they might like to go.
May the alleys of the empty duos
with their laundry alive
on the lines, and half-opened
second-floor windows, remain
out of reach. May the bay smell roll
through you. May your soul
remain out there,
because if it is nothing it can always
be filled. May this dream
be the barnacle you crack,
the wind that luffs your sail. …

Which wolf do you feed?

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For many of us, the inner voice is generally loving and encouraging, maybe not enthusiastic, but in your corner, calmly evaluating. In fact, a good internal dialog should function much like a reasonable judge. Or like Lester Bangs tells his young protege William Miller in Almost Famous:

“I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.”

In other words, sometimes you need a good truth-telling even if it’s not what you want to hear.

With that said, there is a reason we universally struggle with self-talk. Struggle implies conflict. And conflict with the self is what we call inner conflict. But the problem is two-fold. Not only is it hard to do something about the way our inner critic talks to us, but a great deal of the time we’re not even aware we’re doing it. …

“If, with a warm heart and patience, we can consider the views of others and exchange ideas in calm discussion, we will find points of agreement. It is our responsibility — out of love and compassion for humankind — to seek harmony among nations, ideologies, cultures, ethnic groups, and economic and political systems.”

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You would think the aspirational thoughts of the Dalai Lama would be entirely possible. It sounds so easy, yet when faced with reality feels so discouragingly impossible. There is a way to do better, and that way doesn’t begin with others. It begins with you.

The beginning of change always begins with you. You must not speculate on what others believe and think. You must seek understanding by listening. You get to listening by centering yourself and going into deep discernment through meditation. That’s the message in this challenging book.

The Heart of Meditation: Discovering Innermost Awareness by the Dalai Lama XIV provides intimate details on an advanced meditation practice called Dzogchen using a visionary poem by the 19th-century saint Patrul Rinpoche, author of the Buddhist classic, Words of My Perfect Teacher. …


Chad Prevost

Big Self Podcast host. Creative Writing Ph.D. I write on Self-Improvement, Mental Health, and Psychology. Join us at bigselfschool.com. @bigselfschool

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