Wu Wei: The Foundation to Systems Thinking and the Game of Life

If ever forced to choose one philosophy, Taoism seems like a rad path to wander.

One of my favorite Tao parables is about a farmer.

Alan Watts spins a nice esoteric yarn… [hat tip Kottke]

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. Ran away. And all the neighbors came ‘round that evening and said, “that’s too bad.”

And he said, “maybe.”

The next day, the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. And all the neighbors came around and said, “that’s great, isn’t it?”

And he said, “maybe.”

The point, according to Watts’ interpretation of Lao Tzu’s teachings, is “to try to live in such a way that nothing is either an advantage or a disadvantage”.

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad, because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune. Or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.

[Hat tip Medium]

Making the most of whatever comes your way. Flexible. Accommodating. A level of emotional intelligence to remove labels – no good, no bad. Taking responsibility to maintain the flow of the every day, every moment.

Much easier said than done.

The simple always is.

The Tao refers to this idea as Wu Wei – literally, the art of non-action, or non-doing.

The Tao, like life, is a paradox.  How do you “do” nothing?

The Wu Wei of the farmer is a great model.

Brue Lee offers another metaphor – “Be like water, my friend.” [Hat tip BrainPickings]

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

I’m tempted to share a personal example. Yet, better left undone.

We ALL live so many examples of Wu Wei every day. Every moment is an opportunity.

If the Game of Life is won with happiness, Wu Wei keeps a smile on your face.

If systems are designed to maximize success, Wu Wei leverages available strengths.

I like this description by Stuart Wilde – find your middle way…

Aligning to nature and its softness is the middle way. It involves no struggle, or confrontation, you can act coherently in life, but you do not need to force your way along, as the emotion of that often pushes things away from you. It’s like the Zen philosophy, it’s a solid calm, it’s the way of love and the path of least resistance. The Tao is full of love because it respects animals and nature, and other humans, also in the calm of the middle way you can communicate more clearly with yourself, aware of your feelings and intuition.

Related Posts:

If Life is a Game, Then You Make the Rules [Leverage the Compounding Effect of Consistency to Accomplish Great Things]

consistencyThis seems like a good post to kick of the New Year.

I recently shared the idea that it may be helpful to think of life as a game: The Tao of Tetris. A quick sum…

  • Use your resources wisely
  • You compete against yourself
  • Life moves fast
  • Play in the present

I’ve enjoyed this perspective. It’s allowed me to seek opportunities to improve, but not take life, and myself, too seriously.

That balance between improvement and enjoyment is a tight line to traverse. Erring on the side of fun seems the wise choice, and games are meant to be enjoyed. Good match.

Your gaming strategy becomes the art of improvement. Your systems are your daily practice. The practice is the set of rules we choose to live by.

The daily routines, rituals, and habits. The consistency that accomplishes great things.

This is not an invitation to make promises we won’t keep. It’s an opportunity to make daily progress, keep score against yourself and enjoy the process.

Where to start? Gather info, make a plan, get to work.

Take what you can from others, but this is your life, your time, your skills. You are unique. Build your unique game.

I’ve kept the eye on the interwebs and located some ideas to kick us off.

There are more great ideas to be found. But no need to wait. Now is the time. Simple. Actionable.

Mindset

The greatest tool at our disposal is the right attitude. Open. Creative. Excited.

Inflexibility breaks. Flow creates.

In my humble opinion, meditation may be the best training ground to build the right attitude muscle.

Ryan Holiday shared a post about the great power of greeting it all with a smile – awesome story about Jack Johnson…the boxer, not surfer/singer.

The world is going to try to knock us down. We will face unfairness, animus, even evil. How will we respond? With anger? With rage? By letting it get to us?

No. We should instead respond with the excitement and smile of a Jack Johnson.

Personal Rules Lead to Great Things

Every game starts with a set of rules. A framework to build the game.

Understand the rules so we know how to bend them. Know the standard so we can exceed expectations.

Rules may seem limiting, but personal rules offer freedom. The freedom to simplify and clarify.

Reduce decision points. Stop negotiating with yourself. Know your clear direction.

Your personal rules lead to power, independence.

Kaizen Method

A strong overarching strategy is 1% progress, daily. The Kaizen Method.

Leverage the compounding effect of daily progress.

It applies to all aspects of life, and you can tackle many habits at once. Simply ask…

What is one small thing that I can do to improve X?

The Art of Manliness has a great post discussing the Kaizen Way – interesting background and simple suggestions.

System-focused, not goal focused. Build your systems to continually improve. The goal is progress.

Kaizen has become my first thought when considering how to improve. But the game of life is broken down further into multiple systems.

Each of these systems is broken down further into individual steps – habits. Each of these habits is the opportunity to improve by 1%.

Regardless of your goal, narrowing down your focus to small manageable tasks that can be done daily is the secret weapon to achievement. – 10x Your Results, One Tiny Action at a Time

Fail More

The vast majority aim for mediocrity. It’s a bit of a paradox, but the medicore has the most competition, while few aim for great.

99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive. – Tim Ferriss

Ryan Holiday wrote a great book on this subject a few years ago – The Obstacle is the Way.

Obstacles are exciting. The large majority will give up. Keep pushing.

Aim high. Don’t be afraid to fail…seek failure!

Present, Pause

The Ancient Greeks had two concepts of time – Chronos and Kairos.

Chronos is the time we refer to on the ticking clock. Kairos carries a spiritual significance – a sense of presence and attention to the moment.

Chronos is a necessity to operate in the daily world. But Kairos is where we find joy, motivation, and greatness.

Create Kairos – know your purpose, set aside quiet time, create quiet space.

Be ready to pause when the opportunity presents itself.

There is a new Leonardo da Vinci biography the interwebs are buzzing about. One of the highlights the author has pointed out is da Vinci had distractions just like we do today. One of da Vinci’s strengths was the ability to pause and focus when he was inspired.

You can’t always schedule quiet moments for reflection. Even when we can schedule Kairos, inspiration may strike off schedule.

Cultivate the habit of the da Vinci Pause. Cultivate Kairos.

Be present. Be aware. When inspiration strikes, pause. Focus on the moment. Focus on the inspiration. See where the flow takes you.

Create Your Time

The game of life is a long game. There are daily, moment to moment, opportunities to improve.

Systems and daily practices evolve. The game evolves. We evolve.

The evolution of the best you is a fantastically rad process. But it helps to have a few reference points to start from…

  • Bullet Journal
  • Deep Habits: Plan Your Week in Advance
    • Cal Newport – “[T]he return on investment is phenomenal. To visualize your whole week at once allows you to spread out, batch, and prioritize work in a manner that significantly increases what you accomplish and goes a long way toward eliminating work pile-ups and late nights[.]”
  • Perfect Morning Routine to Have a Good Day – AOM
    • 10 minutes
    • Rule of 3 – three most important items to accomplish
    • Set Intentions – purpose helps Kairos time…see above
    • Plan for fires – what distractions could come up today
    • 15-20 minutes of physical activity
    • Set a reward for the end
  • Fixed-Scheduled Productivity – Cal Newport
    • “Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way. The beneficial effects of this strategy on your sense of control, stress levels, and amount of important work accomplished, is profound.”
  • Productivity tips that could be worthwhile…
    • Single task – forget multi-tasking, one task at a time
    • Nightly prep for the AM
    • Sunday prep for week
    • Text to audio – pro tip, 2X speed
      • I just realized Instapaper does this, and I’m “reading” more now than ever.
      • Only way I listen to podcasts as well.
    • Meditate
    • 1 minute rule – if it takes less than a minute, do it
    • 7 second rule for clothes and dishes – do you have 7 seconds to put them away?
    • 1 touch rule – only touch things once; clothes, mail, dishes, emails, etc.
    • Stand while on the phone – conversations go faster, less distractions, and motion creates emotion
    • Big projects before lunch
    • Automate repetative tasks
      • Outsource, virtual assistant?
    • Know when/where to work. Know your personal cycle

The Tao of Tetris: Life is a Game. Choose Your Strategy Wisely.

Tetris RocketSimplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.

― Lao TzuTao Te Ching

Simple isn’t easy. Life gets in the way of simple. Life is complicated.

Or perhaps we make life complicated.

Crossing into my fourth decade on this wild ride is driving me to drink determine the Tao of the Dude.

What are the rules I live by? What are my guiding principles?

If we don’t consciously determine our personal Tao (Way) than outside forces will determine the Way for us. I have let this happen far too often in my 40 years.

I need a simple framework to create a simple Tao. A Way that is easy to apply from sun up to sun down, through thick and thin.

One foundation that has caught my attention recently is the idea that life is a game. A simple mindset that adds a layer of fun to the ups and downs of the daily grind and switches the focus from survival to strategy.

This cool cat Oliver Emberton wrote a great post outlining his view of life as a game.

I’ll let you jump to the post for the full monty, but a few highlights…

  • Life is the big game with a lot of “mini games” within it.
  • Crucial to manage resources and master your use of time.
  • Everything you do affects your state and skills.
  • State = health, energy, willpower.
  • Willpower is a finite resource that fades throughout the day.
  • Important tasks first.
  • Reduce choices.
  • Choose the right tasks at the right time.
  • Ensure a healthy state and then work on skills that open new paths.
  • Combinations of skills are most effective.
    • S. Adams discusses the idea of “talent stacks” to build unique expertise.
  • All players die after about 29,000 days, or 80 years. There is no cheat code to extend this.
  • By the time most of us have figured life out, we’ve used up too much of the best parts.

I dig this simple framework to maintain focus on the important strategies of a “successful” (IE happy) life.

But there is room for this framework to grow, to deepen, to expand to life’s nuances.

If life is a game, what game is it?

Nintendo Gameboy was glued to my hand in 7th grade, and Tetris was my weapon of choice.

Are you aware that a rocket blasts off if you hit 100,000 points in the original Tetris?! You need to be dedicated to see that rocket. I was.

I wasn’t aware I was building the Tao of the Dude with each block I rotated into perfect position. But in hindsight, a life strategy was slowly taking off. 🙂

This great post by Tor Bair adds the next layer to our life is a game framework…

Our first inclination may be to view life as a game of chess where we agonize every move to vanquish our foes. But life is much more fluid than chess, and our most formidable opponent is the person we were yesterday not an enemy across the table.

Highlights to ponder:

  • Life is not us vs. them; not a zero-sum game where there needs to be a loser.
  • Your only opponent is yourself. The real game is internal.
  • Life is a game against time (29,000 days) with a random stream of inputs for you to orderly configure.
  • Life doesn’t get harder, it just gets faster.
  • Master life – like Tetris – by playing with self-control at high speeds.
  • Play for the present moment – you can’t control the board.
  • No one tells you when you “win” – you determine your path and your end goal.

Play to play. Enjoy the game. Keep it simple.

Life Lessons from the End: What can Aging & Death Teach Us?

Considering the recent post about my Grandfather, this seems like a good time to share some life lessons from the end of a life well lived.

We push through our daily lives struggling, clawing, fighting for…????

We are continually distracted by all of the things we think we need to do. Places to be. People to impress.

In the end, what really matters?

  1. Marcus Aurelius on Mortality & the Key to Living Fully – Brain Pickings: Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is an all-time classic. Sits on the table next to my bed. A few thoughts on the end of a life well lived…
    1. Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter.
      Cold or warm.
      Tired or well-rested.
      Despised or honored.
      Dying … or busy with other assignments.Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: “to do what needs doing.”
  2. Top 5 Regrets of the Dying – Guardian:
    1. I wish I’d had the courage to live the life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
    2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
    3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
    4. I wish I had let myself be happier.
  3. What Can a Man Lear from His Grandparents –  Art of Manliness: You have their genetics. They are you. You are they. Learn from their…
    1. Work.
    2. Idiosyncrasies.
    3. Gifts to you.
    4. Activities with you.
    5. Strengths.
    6. Aging.
    7. Legacies.
  4. 7 Questions You Will Ask at the End of Your Life – Marc & Angel:
    1. Am I proud of how I lived?
    2. What did I discover?
    3. How well did I play the hand I was dealt?
    4. Did I take enough responsibility?
    5. What struggles did I conquer?
    6. How sincerely did I live through love?
    7. How much of my story did I actually write?
  5. 25 Life Lessons from a 100-Year-Old: Here are my top 5…
    1. Always maintain a good sense of humor.
    2. Your family is the most precious thing you will ever have in life.
    3. Education is important, but not necessary. Life can be an education in itself.
    4. Explore your world and stay curious.
    5. Life is a gift that you must unwrap. It’s up to you to determine if what’s inside will lead you to happiness or dismay. You have the power to make that decision for yourself.

Meditation: The Ultimate Life Hack? [A Dude’s Guide to What, Why & How]

The Dude is all about some life hacks.

Simple. But effective. That’s my jam.

As I travel down life’s path, I continue to refine. Every aspect of my life. Daily.

How can I improve? Make this better. Easier. More efficient.

Everything can be improved. Always.

Regardless of the area of life I place my attention – work, art, fitness, relationships, health, well-being – a common thread that binds is the suggestion to practice mediation. It is astounding how often mediation comes up from all walks of life.

I’ve tried to create a mediation practice for years. Read. Researched. Started. Stopped.

I never felt I was doing it “right.” Or my mind would drift, and I felt my efforts were wasted.

Practice was consistently inconsistent.

Almost two years ago, I hit my stride. Daily practice has become a reality.

What changed?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the magik bullet. I did land on a style I dig (check out Theurgy), but mainly, I think I’m at the right place at the right time.

I may not have the magik bullet, but the interwebs sure do have A LOT of valuable info.

During meditation tenure, I’ve collected a variety of articles, blog posts, etc. that discuss the vast benefits of meditation. Coupled with the real-world effects I feel on the daily, I’m starting to believe mediation just may be the ultimate life hack.

Let’s take a gander at what the interwebs have to offer…

What is Meditation

  • The Paradox of Meditation: Great source. Subscribe. The book reviewed here has been on my Amazon list for a while. Time to buy.  In Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (public library), neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris argued that cultivating the art of presence is our greatest gateway to true happiness. After his extensive, decades-long empirical romp through the world’s major religious traditions and humanity’s most potent psychedelic substances, Harris returns again and again to meditation as the holy grail of self-transcendence, the single most promising practice for slicing through the illusion of the ego to reveal what Jack Kerouac so memorably called “the Golden Eternity.” (You can also find a great interview on Tim Ferriss’ podcast. Book AND source. Foreshadowing?)
  • Ram Dass on Meditation (Polishing the Mirror): Meditation is basic spiritual practice for quieting the mind and getting in touch with our deeper Self, the spirit. Meditation provides a deeper appreciation of the interrelatedness of all things and the part each person plays. The simple rules of this game are honesty with yourself about where you are in your life and learning and listening to hear how it is. Meditation is a way of listening more deeply, so you hear how it all is from a more profound place. Meditation enhances your insight, reveals your true nature, and brings you inner peace.
  • Meditation & Theosophy: Builds on my Theurgy link above. Meditation is thus a continual process of remedying our ills by remembering who we are and adapting to the circumstances we face in life. The techniques of meditation are varied.
  • The Rituals of Kumar Pallana: Kumar loves mediation. Wes Anderson love Kumar. You should love meditation AND Kumar.

Why Meditate

  • A Scientific Revolution Driven by Meditation: Harvard level professors giving attention to mediation. Meditation vs. Mindfulness – same? Maybe. Maybe not. Seems pretty close to me. This article discusses Jon Kabat-Zinn– one of my first entrants to mediation/mindfulness and still one of my favs.
  • The Power of Meditation & How it Affects the Brain: Great mediation overview on Buffer (Don’t know Buffer?! Dude!) – 4 types of mediation, how mediation affects the brain, how mediation affects us, getting started.
  • Meditation Enhances Creativity: David Lynch, famed movie/TV director, uses mediation to find great ideas. Agreed. Keep your bullet journal nearby…sweet creative ideas will bubble to surface.
  • Meditation Alters Genes: Methodology – Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Subjects trained 26 adults with no prior experience in meditation for eight weeks. Results – All of the subjects’ blood samples revealed changes in gene expression following meditation. The changes were the exact opposite of what occurs during flight or fight: genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance were turned on, while those involved in inflammation were turned off. These effects were more pronounced and consistent for long-term practitioners.
  • 10 Benefits of Meditation: The length of your practice isn’t as important as the frequency; you’re far more likely to experience the many benefits if you meditate for five to 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week than if you squeeze your meditation into a 30-minute session once a week.
  • Meditation – Key to Longer, Stress-free life?: Telomeres are portions of repetitive DNA at the ends of our chromosomes that protect our chromosomes from deteriorating. Meditation was the focus of research at UC Davis and UCSF by Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD. The 2011 study found that meditation increased activity of telomerase — enzymes that can rebuild and lengthen our chromosomal telomeres — when meditation was conducted twice a week for three months.
  • How Meditation Can Boost Your Brainpower: For skeptics, this study showed how the brain literally changes with meditation in order to provide dozens of positive benefits for anyone who starts a practice. The sizes of key regions of our brain improve as a result of meditation, memory is made far more efficient, and empathy, compassion, and resiliency under stress are also improved.
  • Meditation Appears to Produce Enduring Changes in Emotional Processing in the Brain:  A study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating. The researchers also found differences in those effects based on the specific type of meditation practiced.
  • Increase Happiness, Bravery & Attention Span: Great post from a great source. A number of good quotes. Will motivate you to take five minutes out of your day to test a habit that could offer widespread, lasting positive effects.
  • How Changing Your Breathing Will Change Your Life: Think you know how to breathe? You do it every day. Even right now! Yeah, nope.
  • Google’s Jolly Good Fellow: Meditation, emotional intelligence, and Google. Safe to say it’s worth the read.
  • Meditation & the Brain: A team of researchers from Norway and Australia are trying to sort the different forms of meditation and the benefits each one yields.
  • Superhuman Energy Cultivated by Meditators – It’s Science: The energy emitted by people who have reached an advanced level in meditation practice has been shown by multiple studies to exceed normal human levels by hundreds or thousands of times.
  • Meditate Before You Medicate: There have been numerous studies of the health and financial benefits of meditation including: 28% cumulative decrease in physician fees, 55% less medical care utilization with lower sickness rates, including 87% less hospitalization for heart disease and 55% less for cancer.
  • Does Meditation Make You Smart?: A new study claims that meditation activates parts of the brain that simple ‘relaxing’ cannot.
  • Does Mediation Slow Aging?: A Nobel Prize-winning biochemist is engaged in serious studies hinting that meditation might – as Eastern traditions have long claimed – slow ageing and lengthen life.
  • Think Meditation is a Waste of Time? Watch This – The Neuroscience Behind Meditation: Despite its continued growth and popularity, meditation -like so many other practices -is not without ridicule, as a large portion of the world’s population are still happy to classify it as pseudoscientific, or a waste of time. In response to this common classification, the group at Big Think have created an easy to understand short video that explains the neuroscience behind meditation.


How to Meditate

  • 10 Ways to Work Meditation Into Your Day: Surprisingly good suggestions for a quick list. Great accompanying quotes as well.
  • Meditation for Beginners: 11 easy tips to get you started.
  • 100 Breaths Meditation: Increase concentration by using the breath as a focal point for meditation. It should take between 10-15 minutes depending on your natural pace of breathing.
  • Guided Mediation – Destress in 5 Minutes: Thinking is the cause of stress. The most effective way to relieve stress is by taking a break from thinking. Guided meditation does not involve thinking. Guided meditation is one of the easiest meditation techniques available. All you have to do is press play, close your eyes, and follow the voice instructions. Meditation downloads can be found by searching for guided meditation in any search engine.
  • How to Finally Start Meditating (Like a Pro): Without guided meditation, I could barely last for 3 minutes without getting bored, anxious, and giving up.
  • TED – All It Takes is 10 MinutesTransformative power of refreshing your mind for 10 minutes a day.
  • 5 Minute Guide to Meditation – Anywhere, Any Time: All you need to meditate is yourself.
  • 12 Meditation Apps: Guided meditation is a great way to start. These apps have you covered.
  • Mind the Gap: Notice that in between thoughts, there’s a small gap of “no-mind.” Thoughts run in succession, interspersed by gaps of empty space. Over time, with practice, we become aware of the feeling, and we learn to extend the gaps, feeling more and more stillness and inner peace.
  • Two Minute Meditation: The most important two minutes of your life.
  • 5 Methods of Meditation: There’s a myriad of methods for meditation. Some are easy and some are difficult. All require daily practice to perfect. Here are five of the most popular methods of meditation and what they each bring to the Meditation Table.
  • Four Primary Skills of Meditation: Presence, awareness, focus, concentration.
  • Learn How to Meditate in 8 Easy Steps: We all already know how to meditate. Meditation is the natural state of all human beings, and we have had to work ourselves very hard to condition ourselves out of that natural blissful state of unity with the universe.
  • Solitude as Meditation: Losing oneself in solitude is a means to the end of finding oneself in meditation.
  • 7 Day Meditation Challenge: 7-Day Meditation Challenge to see the positive affects it has on your life and on reducing stress.

Mindfulness Meditation

  • Science Behind Mindfulness: Researchers highlight six neuropsychological processes that are active mechanisms in the brain during mindfulness and which support S-ART (self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence). These processes include 1) intention and motivation, 2) attention regulation, 3) emotion regulation, 4) extinction and reconsolidation, 5) pro-social behavior, and 6) non-attachment and de-centering.
  • Mindfulness – Meditation for People Too Busy to Meditate: Practicing mindfulness – and reaping its benefits – doesn’t need to be a large time commitment or require special training. You can start right now – this moment. These techniques quite literally train the mind and rewire the brain – ability to concentrate increases, see things with increasing clarity, which improves your judgment, and develop equanimity.
  • How (Mindfulness) Meditation Works: In a practical sense, “sitting” is really all there is to the meditation aspect of mindfulness meditation. You sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath as it moves in and out. Your mind will inevitably wander, which is where the mindfulness aspect comes in. Instead of growing frustrated with your lack of focus or getting caught up in the web of your thoughts, you train yourself to observe the thought or emotion with acceptance and curiosity, and to calmly bring your focus back to the breath.
  • How Mindfulness Meditation Works: Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have devised a model that sheds light on the science behind mindfulness. Instead of a single dimension of cognition, the researchers show that mindfulness involves a large framework of complex mechanisms in the brain that lead a person down the path of developing self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART). Practitioners can begin training themselves to become less emotionally reactive and to recover more quickly from negative emotions.
  • A Simpler Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners: Learn how to do your daily routine activities mindfully.
  • Brief Mindfulness Yields Long-Term Results: Even brief mindfulness practice—typically, a kind of meditation that focuses on a particular aspect of the present moment, like your breath, your body, or a particular sensation—has a substantial positive effect on mental well-being and memory. It also appears to physically improve the brain, strengthening certain neural structures that are tied to heightened attention and focus, and bolstering connectivity in the brain’s default mode network, which is linked to self-monitoring and control.
  • Inhabit the Moment: Practice occupying the current moment. Inhabit it, by really being in it, fully experiencing all our senses in everyday ordinary actions.
  • The Shadow Side of Mindfulness Meditation?: Every yin has a yang. Meditation shouldn’t be viewed as a cure-all. But from my experience, it’s a pretty rad addition to your daily.

Kids & Meditation

HeartMath

Prime Your World: Why Quality Matters

I may, or may not, have been referred to as frugal. Ok, definitely have.

Lack of dinero tends to drive frugality. But I’m realizing quality matters.

Perhaps it is the maturing taste that accompanies my maturing age, but quality has become a sought-after value recently.

Years of frugality leads to disposal junk. (You’re welcome local thrift store.)

Quality, on the other hand, is lasting.

Quality stays with you and helps define who you are.

I’ve been instinctively seeking greater quality, and then I happened upon a great post about the Priming Effect:

Priming: an increased sensitivity to a particular schema due to a recent experience. In other words, priming is when an experience or exposure to a stimulus puts a particular schema at the forefront of our mind. When this in turn influences our judgments and decisions, it’s called the priming effect. (Great explanation – including video)

Quality is everywhere. The words we use, the thoughts we have, the clothes we wear the food we eat, the pictures we see, the people we hug and the time we spend. Everything.

The world moves fast. Modern attention spans are short. It’s easy to lose focus on quality.

That lose of quality is changing who we are. Who we want to be.

A few quotes from the above mentioned post to help build some perspective…

Your visual cortex is only about 1/200th of your brain. Your auditory cortex is about 1/1000th. If you can’t even consciously fathom what these relatively small brain regions are doing computationally, what hope do you have of maintaining awareness of what the rest of your brain is doing on an ongoing basis?

Your conscious mind doesn’t have anywhere close to the capacity that would be required to intelligently monitor and maintain all the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that are constantly firing inside of you. Most of the time you’re not even aware of what’s happening inside your mind.

The reality is that different patches of neurons are processing different thoughts in parallel at all times.

Dude! We are SO cool.

Our bodies just work. And we have no idea how or why. It just is.

But here’s the magic. We can influence. We can drive.

We can work with our ability to “prime.” When we prime with quality, we’re more likely get quality.

In fact, we need to consciously prime. If you’re not aware of what is priming your world, then someone else is – Pepsi, Chevy, Facebook.

It’s a battle for your mind Neo. 🙂 But you’re in control…if you want to be.

Your brain is always bouncing around between linked associations. It does this in parallel, subconsciously, all the time. The vast majority of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors occur without your conscious awareness or conscious involvement.

The lesson here is that seemingly subtle influences matter. If your senses perceive it, your brain is processing it. And this processing is seldom isolated. One little change in input can create significant ripples throughout your neural net. And this in turn can have a significant influence on the results you get to experience.

By exerting some control over our priming influences — which may involve just a few small changes that can be made within a minute or two — we can create a permanent and lasting improvement in different facets of our lives.

By giving your brain slightly different input on a subconscious level, you can enjoy some truly significant benefits on the results side. This is easy. It works. And there are many ways you can apply this for free.

Small changes. Big impact. I dig.

How do we put this into practice?

We need to consciously prime our world. Start on the inside and work our way out. Surround ourselves with the right thoughts, feelings, words, people and sensory input.

Start small and grow. Perfection is overrated. Take the next step and see where it leads.

Get  primin’ y’all!

  1.  Let Your Values Drive Your Choices: Blog post about a great approach to making decisions. Mi Padre preached the gospel of only making decisions you would be happy seeing in the newspaper the next day…more accurate than expected considering social media.
    1. Every decision is made within some type of constraint. Maybe it’s how much knowledge you have. Maybe it’s how much money you have. Maybe it’s how many resources you have. Why not what values you have?
  2. #1 Secret of Astronauts, Samurai & Navy Seals: Develop a practice to build calm mindfulness. Decision points are crucial and keeping a calm mind in tough situations makes an amazing impact. We need to train ourselves to make this happen.
    1. Meditation, spirituality, breathing, yoga, Tai Chi…it’s a long list. How are you going to prime your mind to stay calm when you don’t have time to think about it?
    2. One of my fav quotes – Thomas Jefferson: Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
    3. Side Note: This blog post mentions a book called Musashi. Supposedly the best samurai book ever written. 900+ pages. 6 months later, I’m almost at 700. It’s awesome. Well worth the time.
  3. 10 Regrets You can Avoid: Don’t steal paperclips from the office. Make good choices. Be true to yourself. See #1 & #2.
  4. Keep a quality journal
  5. Quality pens: The Best Pen evaaaaaa?! From Wirecutter.
  6. Quality mug (for your bulletproof coffee)
  7. Take a nap.
  8. Take distractions and negative vibes out of your view. Keep your world clean and happy.
  9. Keep your world smelling good.
  10. Quality tunes or background noise
  11. Keep some power words lingering in your view (whiteboard?): Flow, Focus, Success, Complete, etc.
  12. Clothes
  13. Food
  14. Technology
  15. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

You get the gist. Quality matters. And everything is quality.

Focus on the things that are important in your world, and make sure you surround yourself with quality. Spend time on the things that matter, the influences that make you the person you want to be.

The Putter: A Great Example of Quality

Quality…scissors. Amazing. I now want quality scissors. Who woulda thunk it?

Hat tip to A Continuous Lean

Big Lebowski Buffet

The Dude

The Dude

I’ve professed my love for The Big Lebowski in the past.

The Dude abides. And that’s a nice way to live life.

I’m always excited to come across something Lebowski related, and this week I was blessed with three Dude sightings in my online travels.

A bit of a Big Lebowski Buffet to share with you…

1. An Esoteric Take on The Big Lebowski

This article gives a nice, quick history of The Big Lebowski, and digs into what makes The Dude so great – in this Dude’s humble opinion any way – The Dude’s approach to life.

The spiritual, philosophical, or esoteric undertone of The Big Lebowski that is oh so groovy. This is the idea behind Dudeism – by the way, I’m ordained. 😉

Here’s a taste of what the article offers about The Dude’s groovyness…

  • [N]othing seems to phase the Dude. Yes, he gets angry (to the point that Walter tells him: “Come on. You’re being very unDude.”), swears constantly, and talks back to Walter and many other unreasonable people who seem to surround him like mosquitoes, but soon he will be stirring himself another White Russian, or will have a smoke, or relax in a warm bath.
  • Occasionally he resorts to the gentle movements of Tai chi to keep stress at bay. Like a mystic, he focuses on the big picture. Better yet, like a true mystic, he doesn’t focus at all.
  • There is something transcendental about this: the Dude rises above all circumstances.
  • Dudeism: Much has been made of Dudeism, a philosophy of life inspired by the Dude. But there’s nothing new in this, as he seems to belong in the great stream of Philosophia Perennis which, down the millennia, has produced strikingly similar concepts even if expressed in different ways and from different cultures and ages. And in fact the proponents of Dudeism cite Lao Tzu, Epicurus, Heraclitus, the Buddha, and the pre-ecclesiastical Jesus Christ as examples of ancient Dudeist prophets.
The Dude and the Zen Master

The Dude and the Zen Master

2.  The Dude and the Zen Master

Is Jeff Bridges The Dude in real life? He just might be. Here’s a new book with Bridges and his Zen Master/friend Bernie Glassman – The Dude and the Zen Master. I’m sure there are some rad thoughts on life tucked away in here.

3. The Big Lebowski Explains the Fiscal Cliff

In my opinion, the “Fiscal Cliff” is a joke. The US/world is definitely facing a massive fiscal cliff – probably a wide variety fiscal cliffs – the political/media charade that we’ve watched promoted over the past few weeks hardly addresses the BIG issues.

But thank the holiest of holy that the great politicians saved the day at the last minute on New Year’s Day! Just like a Hollywood movie. Hmmm.

However, with the out of the way, here’s a quick use of The Big Lebowski to try to explain what went down in Washington as politicians continue to convince themselves they are saving the world while they are actually steering towards the ice berg that is “dead ahead.” And any reason to share The Dude is good with the Dude.

PS – Here’s one of my fav jams – 75 & Sunny from Boston native Ryan Montbleu – that I was grooving to while slapping away at the keys this morning. Great vibe for a Saturday morning contemplating The Dude.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM8fHHvsLpw[/youtube]

What’s up 2013?!

Adios 2012. So much for the end of the world. Ho hum.

Hello 2013!

The year of the Dude?! Fo sho. We expect big things every year. 🙂

Although, 2013 is most definitely going to get off to a fantastic start. The newest addition to the Dude Clan did not make an appearance during the holidays – although we were pretty darn sure we were close a couple times. So, we’ve crossed into a new month and a new year.

The Dude can only nest so much. I don’t think the house can get any cleaner. So, we’re just relaxing and waiting for the bambino to decide it’s (he or she?!) ready to say hi. Apparently there’s some cooking left to be done. No rush, baby, no rush.

I’m generally not much for New Year’s resolutions. I’m of the mindset that if you want to get ‘er done, then get ‘er done. We don’t need no stinkin’ resolutions.

However, we’ve had some time to kill, and I’ve come across some nice thoughts in my online travels, so here are some New Year’s thoughts – not resolutions – I’ll share with y’all…

Carpe Diem 
I subscribe to an online magazine called Bearings – “A Southern Lifestyle Magazine for Men.” It’s pretty great – food, music, fashion, drinks. I highly recommend it. They sent along a great end of the year message, and since you’re not a subscriber – yet, I thought I’d share a piece of their great message…

Seize the Day –  We are living bridges between who we were yesterday and who we can become, but the difference between the masterful and the mundane life is whether we make the most of the here and now. While some languish in their ode to past failures and others give up on their becoming because tomorrow never arrives, may we seize the day – purposefully living with the time, people and resources we have today.

Resolutions?!
Like I said, I’m not much of the resolution type, however, this is a pretty great list of 12 Powerful Resolutions You Should Make Every Year. Although, these feel like great life lessons more than fleeting resolutions.

I just started following this cat, but I’m digging what he’s laying down. I’ll let you click over to see the full list, but here are a couple good examples…

5.  Focus on solutions.

Life gets better when you choose to make it so.  Negative people make lots of noise about how bad things are, while positive people quietly and steadily improve things.

There are always problems, there are always challenges, and there are always people willing to transform those problems and challenges into great opportunities.  Those who have the courage, commitment and discipline to do so, create a better life for everyone.  Be one of these people.  Focus on solutions and work your way eagerly toward a brighter future.

9.  Set a good example.

It’s not about what you say; it’s about how you live your life every day.  The people who look up to you are watching you all the time.  These people are like sponges – what they see or feel you do, they will imitate.  So remember that your words mean a lot less than what you’re doing.  Choose to believe that you can and will change lives with what you do each day, and you will.

Let your actions speak for themselves.

Life Lessons
Speaking of life lessons, here’s a good list of 50 important pieces of advice that people usually aren’t told. Day 1 of a new year – a great time to soak up some great pieces of advice. Click on over for the full list, but here are a few of the Dude’s favs…

  •  Don’t lie to yourself.
  • Wealth is measured by your happiness and not by your financial statement.
  • Nobody has it all figured out.
  • Take your time.
  • Make mistakes  and LOTS of them!
  • Stop thinking so much and act.
  • Swallow your pride and apologize.
  • The grass is only greener where you water it.
  • You and you alone control how happy you allow yourself to be.
  • Be present here and now. You are lucky. Your life is a gift. Realize it.

Here’s to an awesome 2013! Keep on keepin’ on.

PS – Here are 10 great inspirational manifestos if you need a little added motivation.

99 Problems But a Hack Ain’t One

Have you noticed the word “hacking” creeping into everyday conversations lately?…or is it just me? Like when you get a new car and you start to see them everywhere?

I’ve been learning about different ideas for “hacking” lately, and it seems to apply to everything. Hacking is a computer term that in a general sense means to look at systems holistically to test and measure how the system can be improved.

The Dude digs the idea. It carries an anti-authoritarian connotation. Everything is part of a system, and everything can be improved. In a sense, we are all “hackers.” And we are all trying to improve our personal “systems” each and everyday.  Or, at least we should be.

In addition to the common idea of computer hacking, I’m starting to see the idea of bio-hacking, life-hacking, fitness hacking, etc. more and more. And I think it’s a pretty great development. It shows that we are taking control. We don’t need no stinkin’ authority to tell us what to do. Let’s hack a better future.

I’ll continue to share some “hacking” ideas, but for now, let’s focus on some great “life hacks”…

Here are “99 Life Hacks” that will leave you amazed. You can use just about all of them…seriously. So simple. So brilliant.

And let’s follow-up with a sweet “Life Hacks” infographic

Amazing Life Hacks

Amazing Life Hacks

 

Life Lessons from Jack Kerouac. An Original Dude.

On the Road - Jack Kerouac

On the Road - Jack Kerouac

Did I just coin an awesome phrase? Original Dude – O.D. Like O.G. – Original Gangsta? No, reminds you of overdose?

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and The Dharma Bums are two of the Dude’s favorite reads. Jack was on original dude. I’m sure the Big Labowski had Kerouac on his shelf.

So I was psyched when I saw this list of 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life by Mr. Kerouac on Brain Pickings. And the list does not disappoint. Great life lessons and classic Jack.

A few of my fav’s:

  • Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  • Submissive to everything, open, listening
  • Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  • Be in love with yr life
  • Something that you feel will find its own form
  • Accept loss forever
  • Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  • Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  • No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  • Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  • Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  • You’re a Genius all the time