Dear Big Selfer,
The more things change, the more they remain the same. This cliche wrapped in a paradox has never felt more true than the past year for me. It’s amazing how much whizzes past in our 24-hour news feeds, and yet for the millions of us still isolated in our socially-distanced safety nets, every day has an incredible sameness.
Many of us are struggling with the malaise of burnout. We’ve fallen into ruts and routines that are surprisingly hard to climb out of. How many levels of resistance can we experience one solid year into this pandemic?
Trevor Noah has a major point about what we project so much paralyzing fear and attention on: rejection. Failure and rejection give us feedback. They can’t say yes if you don’t ask. They can’t say yes if you’re afraid of a few no’s. Maybe a lot of no’s. Each time you get a no, you can reassess your approach, your delivery, your content, and/or try again, start over. What you really should fear is the regret you’re going to have when you chose not to try things, not to put yourself out there.
During the Pandemic our lives have become more screen-based than ever— and that is saying something. We Zoom, we do our social media, we game, we yoga, we take classes, we research, we livestream, we write, we hit up Google to prove we’re right about who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.
Our eyes can only take so much screen time. Digital eye strain is a real thing.
Remember those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books? I loved them when I was a kid. So much, in fact, that as an adult I tried to launch a book company called Game Time Books which were interactive-fiction books for youth. They were fun and challenging to write. I published three and have seven more unpublished (which hurts to think about to this day).
It took about a year-and-a-half for the company to run out of money. I failed.
For a long time, I was bitter about the circumstances that led to my failure. It was a financial disaster and massive waste of effort…
For many, desire is a four-letter word. It’s a cliche in a rock song that all-too-conveniently rhymes with fire. U2’s Bono says this about their song “Desire”:
“Sometimes, I come across as if I got into U2 to save the world, whereas I got into U2 to save my own ass. ‘Desire’ is my way out. In Downtown LA, South Central LA, the people have different ways out. The crack dealers, that’s their escape…I’m not passing judgment. It’s their only way out. I’ve found mine. I’m singing about sex!”
That’s just it: desire leads you out. Paying attention to your…
This quote is an incredible summary of some of the most powerful statements about personal transformation. We have emphasized in other from the Two-Minute Takeaway readings that it begins with you, the “self.” We have emphasized that one of the possible doors through which healing and growth occurs is through a pain, scar, or trauma.
We have also covered how hopefulness and courage can always make what doesn’t seem possible, possible. We have seen examples of how helping others, serving others, is a way to greater fulfillment. This captures all of that, and also speaks to the transformation of suffering.
Change in the United States has come slowly. Partly there are discriminatory practices that are layered upon layers so that there is always plausible deniability to social conditions. There is also the way we destroy failing institutions and simply ignore or refuse to talk about the past. These actions (or inactions) literally “whitewash” history.
The unrest we saw in 2020 has led to more open, vulnerable, and authentic discussions about these issues into this young decade. Here at the start of Black History Month, we want to give voice to these issues.
During times of unrest, the same discussions resurface…
When the shine wears off the habits we’re trying to form, when we begin to merely show up rather than put in the hard work of consistent, effortful focus, we lose hold of the very skill we’re trying to develop. Trusting the process implies patience and that you’re aware you’re taking a long-view approach. But it also implies that you take very seriously the small micro-task in front of you.
Do each step of the journey with your whole attention. …
You hear the idea a lot. James Clear’s Atomic Habits just passed the 3 million sales mark for good reason. Habits (the ones we break and the ones we make) are as important as ever, especially now that we’re spending more of our time at home. I’m in the middle of a “Dry January” as a case in point.
You already recognize it’s the process of your actions that lead to improved outcomes. The problem is the story. The story you tell yourself.
We can think about this quote in grand, philosophic ways about the nature of the universe and human behavior. We can also think about it in terms of our own identity and actions and experiences.
In The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts argues with equal parts conviction and compassion that “the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East.”
He explores the cause and cure of that illusion. The profound unease…