Try This: 10 minutes of REAL conversation

This exercise is a combination of active listening and free flow creativity that has popped up in a couple of quite diverse events recently, including the Search Inside Yourself newsletter, a mediation retreat and a Catholic mens group.  Every time I do this exercise I learn something new and grow the relationship with the other person.

Grab a friend, lover, acquaintance, or even a random stranger (I did this once at a coffee shop and it was an AMAZING thing), and take 10 minutes to do the following:

Be in a place where you can hear each other clearly and there will not be interruptions and you will not be self-conscious.  Flip a coin to see who starts.  Set a timer for three minutes.  Each person 3 minutes to talk, while the other listens mindfully without comment.  The initial talking should be done stream of consciousness style – without editing or overthinking.  Talk about anything, the weather, what you are doing in the day, how stupid the exercise is, the silly looking person across the room, whatever, the key is to just keep talking non-stop for 3 minutes.  As you speak, simply notice what emotions arise, what you say and how you say it.  The key is to listen mindfully without interrupting and to share without self-critique or editing.  After both have spoken, spend the last 3 minutes in normal conversation together debriefing and reflecting on the exercise.

When I have done this, it is amazing how long talking for three minutes feels like.  It is also interesting to note all the feelings that come up while trying to fill 3 minutes.  When listening, I find myself striving to jump in and encourage someone having a hard time filling the time, or wanting to comment on something. It takes focused effort to allow the speaker to speak.  When speaking and having someone paying full attention for 3 minutes, it is an amazing gift.  Likely those 3 minutes are the most time during that day that you will be consciously aware you have another beings FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.  That is an amazing blessing and reminds me to give that level of attention to others more often.

 

DGC Glossary: Gainfully Unemployed

Gainful unemployment has gotten a bad rap as basically lazy freeloaders leaching off society who can’t risk losing benefits by getting a real job.

I am trying to rehabilitate gainful unemployment.  Or take “gainful employment” down a notch.  Often “gainful employment” involves slavish dedication to someone else’s goals in exchange for money that maybe some day you can make enough of to finally pursue your own path.  Employment implies working for “The Man”.  Usually all the money gets consumed maintaining the support systems around earning the money and the hamster wheel spins ever faster.  Regardless of income level.  Stepping off or being kicked off the hamster wheel often elicits a truly Orwellian desire to get back on.  Western society teaches us that “gainful employment” fundamental to everything it means to be alive.  I have a problem with that thesis.

What if unemployment was simply not working for The Man.  What if rather than demonizing the unemployed as lazy freeloaders, we encouraged them to take the time to examine their path and find work that more authentically fit their true selves?  Recently I have been running into more people who are getting it right.  After reading The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami, about the revered path of a wandering mendicant in India, I was struck by the stark contrast in how the unemployed are treated.  In India or Tibet, a buy on the street begging might just be an enlightened guru.  In America that thought wouldn’t even cross anyone’s mind.  The Puritan’s sure did a number on us our collective consciousness when they implanted “hard work” = “good person”, “no work” = “sinner, devil” into our collective consciousness.  What if more people took time pause and consider their path? What if we encouraged it?  Contemplation of your path is the “gainful” part.  If more people were living in alignment with their strengths and authentic selves, wouldn’t we all be better off?  Sometimes that takes a couple tries, and a couple pivots and pauses.

For the last three years I have considered myself “gainfully unemployed”.  I have not had a boss, nor have I been the boss of anyone.  While not on a 9-5 schedule, I have pursued many projects and activities to help myself and others.  I have spent quite a bit of time contemplating the path, the goals, the type and form of goals, exploring various diversions, and connecting with many people and places.  I have invested time and money into many projects across the spectrum.  This blog is part of this contemplation path.  While I don’ t know what the exact destination is, there is alot of activity.  Sometimes it is better to journey than to arrive.

So “gainfully unemployed” is actively taking time to contemplate and explore the path in life on your own terms.  Something I highly recommend for at least a year for everyone who can.

Glossary: Non-energetic joy

The kind of joy that exists without a proximate cause.  Joy experienced just by being in the world without anything specific happening.  Often achieved during meditation.  Like the sun that is always shining above the clouds, this kind of joy is always there to be accessed.  A benefit of meditation is recognizing that this kind of thing exists and can be tapped into at any time.  This is the only kind of sustainable joy.  Happiness over the long term is only possible through this kind of joy.

This is my own wording of non-energetic joy as described in Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within by the Jolly good fellow from Google.  The original Pali word is Sukha which the most Buddhists translate somewhat differently.  And should never by confused with Suka, the Slavic insult that means “shut up bitch”.

Some quotes from Tan re: the two kinds of joy:  “Our lack of joy is certainly not for lack of ways to gratify our egos and senses.  However, the joy that comes from these sources is inherently problematic since it depends on external factors out of our control.”  “By contrast, joy that comes from within – from a peaceful mind as a result of taking a few breaths, joy from being kind toward others (which involves other people but does not depend on them), joy from our own generosity, joy from doing the right thing – all this joy is ours to have, independent of circumstances.”  Yea I want more of that one please.

The opposite is energetic joy which in Pali is Piti.  Joy that requires a cause.  Like someone saying they love you. Or receiving an award. Or buying something you have wanted for a long time.  In my experience you can’t string together a happiness with alot of instances of Piti.  Although I have certainly tried mightily.

I find both these concepts very useful.  You can’t really find joy or happiness without understand the different forms.  The effortless forms, the forms that are achieved by letting go and waking up are the sustainable, always available forms.  All others are short lived and dead ends.

Try this: Trade your expectations for appreciation.

Want a formula for instant wealth?

Trade your expectations for appreciation.

Your entire life will change in that instant.  In my experience, lack of appreciation is the only thing that will make you truly poor.  I personally define “wealth” as “having enough.”  When you have enough of anything, you are wealthy in that thing.  Only you can decide when you have “enough.”  Unfortunately many of us let others (society, family, friends, work) decide what “enough” is.

I know what you are thinking.  Webster defines “wealth” as “a large amount of money and possessions.”  Yes, but further on it says “abundant supply”.  Now that leaves room for judgement of what “abundant” is as well as supply of what?  When your life has an abundant supply of expectations, goals, precursors to fulfillment, it is VERY hard to feel wealthy.  You never admit to yourself that you have “enough.”

Appreciation on the other hand works exactly the opposite way.  When you have an “abundant supply” of appreciation, it is VERY hard to NOT feel wealthy.  You see the value in everything you have and do not pine after more.  You have “enough.”

So try it for a day.  Whenever you find yourself feeling the pull of expectations, stop and replace it with appreciation.  For example, you see a guy in a Ferrari and the expectation that you want one too grabs your brain.  Stop, look around your own car.  Is it better than the car you had 10 years ago?  Appreciate it.  Thank the car you have for being there for you.  Bam!  You are wealthy.

You cannot change the world, but you can change how you react to it.

Try This: Your Character Strengths Revealed!

Try This: 5 step Life Purpose Statement Generator!

I just created this one myself.  Super fun brain teaser!

 

Review: Tribe, by Sebastian Junger

Tribe: On Homecoming and BelongingTribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard about this book from a couple pod casts and an NPR interview. Then Sebastian was in my town on a book tour. I had read his other books and was interested in one core idea that seemed quite revolutionary. Could PTSD be primarily not about trauma but about loss of purpose and poor social reintegration ?

That rang true to me. Junger explains this Thesis very well and documents historical and research to support the thesis. Basically there are well known ways to get through trauma but they lean on basically a communal society’s where everyone feels some sense of common duty and shared responsibility and every person has a way to contribute. In modern America with all our independence and two party systems and stratified work place and closed hate neighborhoods and private schools and single apartments and single occupancy vehicles, how is someone supposed to feel a part of anything?

This book will give you a brain work that will be hard to get rid of. In. A good way.

Glossary: Why I have a Glossary

Words are powerful.  And complicated.  And contextual.  And the reader bring their own definitions.  And a writer has his own frame/context when choosing which words to use.

Consider this:  “Capital letters are the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse and helping your uncle jack off a horse.”

In this section, I will share my personal definitions and context for words which are particularly important to my journey.  This is not a dictionary and your understanding of these words may vary.  That is the point.  In this section, you can get a deeper understanding of where I am coming from.  Comments welcome, my understanding will be updated over time (i hope).

 

Further Future PTSD

2016-04-30 12.04.11

Ever since returning from the Further Future gathering out in the desert I have been experiencing symptoms that a psychiatrist pointed out most closely resemble PTSD.    Night sweats, fear of being alone, nightmares of floods, constant base thumping in my brain, etc.  Sure, the unexpected rain, lack of AC, poor bathroom facilities and constant threat of lightning strikes added drama to the weekend, but were they really war like trauma?

Sebastian Junger in his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging has an interesting new theory about the true causes of PTSD.  Junger notes that while less than 10% of US troops deployed to Iraq of Afghanistan faced actual combat, over 60% of them are approved for PTSD claims.   Since the vast majority of diagnosed PTSD sufferers did not actually experience any direct war based trauma, there must be something else going on.  Junger posits that the primary trauma which causes the disorder may not be from any physical trauma, but rather from the psychological trauma of leaving a supportive tribal environment and being placed back into America’s go it alone independent competitive culture.  The trauma may be more a loss of community and confidence that comes from being in the military tribe, facing adversity but knowing there are people who have your back.  The small group tribal community living has been the natural state of man for millions of years until very recently.   When the natural state is experienced, even under duress like in war or at Further Future, then you are pulled out of that natural state and put back into individualistic capitalist America in a minivan by yourself sitting in the Starbucks drive through, the trauma can be significant.

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I am feeling some of that loss after Further Future.  The event was my first big gathering like that, I am not a regular at Burning Man, Cochella, yoga retreats or any other group events.  I did attend as part of a tribe i have been loosely associated with for about 20 years who have a regular Burning Man camp and do a number of other events together each year.  My girlfriend Jen (below) also was a first time tribal participant.

2016-05-01 00.01.12

There was really something different about the culture in that place for that weekend that is glaringly polar opposite of “normal” life.  It makes one wonder, why is “normal life” so great then?  A couple of experiences stand out as striking.

  • Talking to strangers was 10x easier.  How many times do you strike up a conversation in the coffee line?  It happened every time at FF.  Many times the conversation started over a crazy outfit like this one:

2016-05-01 12.20.09

  • Adversity brought everyone together, created memories.  On Saturday as the clouds gathered and they evacuated the aluminum structures for lightning strike fears, Jen and I were laying in a couch pod waiting for our IVs with two other people we didn’t know.  Guys from the Mid East in robes talking about missing their Ferrari and needing a cigarette.  Rather than evacuating back to the Airstream, we decided to ride out the storm with our new friends.  Suddenly a blue tarp appeared and covered our little pod.  Then as the rain started in earnest the IV guy joined us on our little couch arc.  As the wind whipped up, we all held down a piece of the tarp to keep out the rain and started telling each other stories of our childhood to pass the time.  Looking out the water was running by inches deep.  It felt like our couch would float away.  As the rain subsided, the IV guy stepped out into the mud, whipped off the IV bags and got us hooked up.  We chatted all along with our new-found friends.  While avoiding the adversity would have been easy, it would not have created a bonding experience with out fellow travelers, nor provided an improved feeling of community, common cause.  It would have been an opportunity missed.  Shared adversity gotten through with help from the tribe produces significant positive affect in life.  Individual adversity endured alone (the default “normal” life experience) does exactly the opposite.
  • Sound can unite us.  While there was 24/7 sound walls all around at FF, a couple of experiences really stood out for me in their ability to create massive shared positive affect for everyone there.  Friday night, Jen and I were wandering around and stumbled (literally) into the Envelop satellite sound stage.  Standing in the middle, the waves of sound hit just the right frequency to cause waves of happiness and love to flow through our bodies.  We stood there hugging and slow dancing for over an hour, completely lost in time and space. On Saturday night, the Pharcyde set was truly transcendent.  There is really something to sound that can align (for better or worse) the body’s energy and unlock levels of consciousness and experience that are unavailable in “normal life”.

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As I make my way through “normal life” back in Seattle, it is clear that there is some feeling of cultural loss when separated from the tribal community.  I certainly know plenty of people who spend more time cultivating their tribe and tribal experiences than I do, and now I know why.

In Tribe, Junger also noted how in early colonial America many settlers were leaving the Puritanical western culture to go live with the Indians. Even prisoners who had been captured by the Indians and lived with them for some, when “saved” and returned to Puritan New England, tended to want to go back to the Indians.  The Indian tribe was a communal meritocracy where every member had the ability to contribute in their unique way and the rest of the tribe had their back.  While the Puritans believed their form of society was the “ultimate society” at the time (we now know very different), the pull to return to the tribe was undeniable and strong enough to make it a leading issue of public debate at the time.   There is virtually no history of mental health problems in traditional tribal cultures. Everyone has a place and a value, or they move to a tribe where they fit.  Further Future, Burning Man, there are opportunities to return to the tribe today.  And loss of tribe is causing much of today’s mental health crisis.   The way forward is going to be interesting.

Review: Life on Purpose, Victor Strecher

Life on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes EverythingLife on Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything by Victor J. Strecher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Been reading alot of positive psychology books lately. As well as thinking quite a bit about what i want to do when I grow up. Am very interested in the science behind purpose and how having a purpose changes your life and even more importantly how to get focus on a purpose that makes sense and doesn’t overwhelm you. Victor does a good job in the first part of my questions, a very bad job on the second. This book has alot of his own science and research on the value of purpose in life, work, etc. He also spends quite a bit of time talking about the wonderful companies he has started to commercialize his work (two of which are now owned by Johnson and Johnson), all of which are focused on employee performance (the enterprise – where the money is). If you mostly care about purpose to drive your work career forward, you will find lots of justification for hiring his companies to do that for you in this book. In many ways, this book seems like a sales job for his enterprise software company, Jool Health.

If, on the other hand you are looking for some practical ways to develop purpose in your personal life, this book fails to deliver. While he proposes a framework of positive habits that support development of purpose : Sleep, Presence, Activity, Creativity, and Eating (SPACE), there are no detailed interventions only high level platitudes like “meditation is good” and “more sleep is good”. The analysis and direction of how to develop purpose is missing. I actually thought that would be part of the book, but it is sorely lacking.

If you want to understand Strecher’s framework for Purpose, read this book. If you are looking for how to develop or define purpose in your own life, go find another book.

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