A personal journey of lifelong learning, sharing resources, creating things, and trying to be better.

Tag: Mindfulness

21: Structure → Chaos

Evolution of Atomic Models Source

Musings on privacy, disruption and mindfulness.

Note: This is my second Year-in-Review, check the link down below for the first.

https://medium.com/@brennanbrown/becoming-an-adult-10fd7135ce3c

This post was meant to come out on my birthday, but that was over two weeks ago now. I wasn’t writing on a schedule. I haven’t been writing much at all on Medium, in spite of how much I’ve been thinking about writing lately. Which is fitting, because that’s largely what I’m going to be ideating about.

Last year, when I wrote my yearly review, I focused mostly on the past. It made sense since I essentially had twenty years of material to cover. This year is different, though. I only have to really think about what’s happened in the past twelve months. There’s still plenty to talk about, though.

I’ve decided to tackle a few themes — and subsequently, their opposites — which have been resonating with me the most.

1. Privacy → Publicity

In the past year, I’ve become a lot more mindful about my privacy, mainly online. Since I began using the internet at a young age, I had been rather liberal with the amount of information that I put out. I idealistically didn’t see an issue with it — why not display things I’ve done or created beside my real identity? Being open is considered an especially good idea for potential employers to find you, even.

I’ve come to the realization of the bigger picture, though. Services like Facebook and Google are so ubiquitous today that many users do not have any realization of the rights they’re giving away when using any ‘free’ part of the internet. I could get into the weeds about this, but that’s how I feel.[1] Every person deserves the right to privacy.

Which leads me to this post itself. Where is the line when discussing your personal life between oversharing and providing proper context? It has become so easy to delve into and get entangled into the personal lives of most modern content creators. I’ve decided to take a more mindful and cautious approach, shutting down most of my social media channels as well as my publication Wander Notebook, I don’t want to find myself getting too caught up in vanity. (I’ll be writing a post soon about specific privacy tools to help you feel less exposed online.)

At the same time, being in the public eye creates accountability for yourself. It requires you to be responsible and consistent with what you produce. To create something that is powerful enough to break through the chaotic white noise of social media is another task of its own. That requires a lot of work.

Useful Tools:
TrackMeNot — a lightweight browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.
AdNauseam — a free browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from tracking by advertising networks.

2. Stagnation → Disruption

The more comfortable your position in life is, the less inclined you’d be to take risks. Why work any harder than the status quo if you’re happy?

This feeling of contentedness is, however, the enemy of progression. When you allow yourself to get comfortable, you stop hungering for more. You subside into the routine that has been working, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up here the rest of your life.

When you’re put into a dire, desperate position in life — not out of choice — that’s when you truly work your best. That’s when you hustle your hardest — because that’s the only option.

Developing the discipline to work as though life is on the line is far easier said than done. It requires the disheartening feeling of letting go of what you’ve plateaued. Brilliant ideas and work come from disruption of yourself and your life. Light a fire under your ass. Activity begets activity, inactivity begets inactivity.

What exactly does disruption entail, though? Recklessness does not equate improvement. You can’t just throw away structure and hope for good things to come out of tackling life in a wayward direction. Randomness is ineffective. You still need routine and structure, it just needs to be redesigned, sometimes radically so.

3. Autopilot → Mindfulness

I’ve been doing research on neurology lately, specifically metacognition, or the act of thinking about thought — and learning how to learn. This is because I’ve been wanting to answer the rather difficult question of what causes some people to act lazily and others to work incredibly hard.

There is plenty of literature that tries to pinpoint what exactly a person can do to become more productive, but these are external factors. The fundamental root of the problem of laziness stems from the mind itself. If you do not focus on that, any and all change would be temporary. No matter how much something inspires you or motivates you, you’ll always find yourself declining back into the same original state. It’s no different from people that lose weight only to regain it.

Of course, there’s no simple solution to this: You must become your own personal lab rat and experiment. Be more aware and mindful of your actions and thoughts throughout the day. Try to figure out where you lose focus and ask yourself why. When you waste time and procrastinate, it’s so easy to shut down the cognizant voice of reason in an attempt to suppress the guilt of wasting time.

We try our best to choose the path of least resistance when we aren’t actively pushing ourselves otherwise. This is how we stagnate. The act of trying to hold ourselves responsible is itself a difficult task.

It takes a lot of work to rewire yourself to become a person that can choose to do the difficult thing effortlessly. It’s something that needs to be practised constantly, every day. You have to push yourself to enjoy disruption over routine, to push yourself to be mindful instead of mindless.

It’s far easier to waste time if you don’t have anything but a blank screen in front of you, as opposed to writing things out and having that in front of you instead. But to-do lists are often ineffective due to the fact they don’t touch on what actually matters.

Zen of Housekeeping

Kitchen Sink | Source

Life as a kitchen sink.

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” — Xinxin Ming

Since last August, I’ve worked casually as a housekeeper. I’ve been assigned to clean in a variety of environments such as hospitals, large business offices, and college campuses. Most of my friends have taken jobs in retail, and while it’s easy to joke about how I’d rather clean than deal with people, the reality is that it’s been a humbling — and sometimes daunting — experience.

It’s not something I aimed for, it just sort of ended up happening — as life often does. However, being a teenaged boy meant that I didn’t really have any experience in this field, so a lot of my initial training was haphazardly on-site. There are times when I’ve found myself without knowing where supplies are and only having an hour to do three hours worth of work.

It can sometimes feel like a hopeless task, in the beginning, but the feeling of satisfaction when you’re finally finished makes it worth it, without fail. After half a year of I feel as though I’ve maybe learned something— and I’d like to share that.

Paradox of Work

Cleanliness, by definition, is next to impossible. Nothing you ever do will stay done. It is human to make a mess by mere existence. The input of our actions — our daily living — results in an output of waste.

Cycles, cycles, cycles. It is an endless repetition. But that’s what life truly is — you’ll have to wake up tomorrow just like you did today.

We create order for ourselves constantly, we have plans and we organize. Or we don’t, and find ourselves constrained and in a rudderless mess. If you dislike repetition, what you’re really saying is that you dislike life itself.

Benefits of Mindful Cleaning

Researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25% and lowered their nervousness levels by 27%.

The group that didn’t wash the dishes mindfully did not gain any benefits from the task. “It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

Spirituality of Chores

I’m not going to pretend that there’s actually some sort of meaning in our daily chores. The truth is that the expectation of meaning is what robs life of greater meaning.

The spirituality comes from you. When you pay attention to the meals you cook, the clothes you wash. Carefully paid attention is our way of expressing care and love. To complete the menial and mundane tasks in order to show that we care about our environment and our loved ones in this environment. Most importantly, to show that we care enough about ourselves to work on our surroundings

Cleaning and decluttering can — and should — be mindful practices. To practice living in the present moment. Each time you do a chore, imagine as though you’re doing this chore for the first time. Instead of looking at a sinkful of dirty dishes, look for the bubbles instead.


“If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, then I will be incapable of drinking the tea joyfully.” — Thich Nhat Hanh


Gratitude and Compassion

As I’ve written about before, our lives are an endless amount of tasks where we never find time to ourselves. Rarely do we actually and honestly focus on our task at hand. When we do find ourselves idle, we often daydream about an impossible future, dwell on the past, or make fruitless judgments about the world and people in it.

Even more seldom is when we take time out to practice our gratitude in life, a key to happiness. Each moment spent taking care of our surroundings can be a joyful wonder if one takes the time to be grateful about the task.

How lucky we are to even just have the things that we need to clean, how lucky we are to be able to find the time to ourselves. Pay attention to yourself, your body and mind and how they’re acting. There’s nothing more important than searching for things to be grateful for in the present.

Old-fashioned Pragmatism

There are times — sometimes the majority of it — where no amount of mediation or philosophical thinking can cause you to do what needs to be done. Sometimes, you just need grit your teeth and do it.

This applies to everything, even the things we think we enjoy doing. Writing, for instance, is a lofty and common dream. But the task of writing the first draft is so daunting that it’s elusive to most would-be writers.

We don’t want to write, but we should. If not for the act itself, then for the result. To quote Josh Spilker:

Do I have to do dishes every day? Technically, no. But things are easier when I do, no matter how much I don’t want to.

https://powered.by.rabbut.com/stories/16bd77af-ac5c-4b53-a93f-00bfbf71c5fc?c=0

Usage of Wiggle Room

Untitled | Source

This article is a response and expansion to Buster Benson’s writing:

https://medium.com/p/2546b44b9804


Studies show that longer commute times cause a number of negative physical and mental effects in some people. This makes sense — what feeling is worse than the excruciating wait of early morning traffic?

While some of us simply have no control over the amount of time, we do have control over how exactly we use it.

This time is also only a small fraction where we feel as though we’re waiting for something. Whether it’s waiting in line, or doing household chores, or on a boring lunch break — we have the urge of waiting for this time to be over. To be able to get to a more interesting part of the day.

I think this is an absolute, terrible mistake. If you add all of these moments throughout a lifetime you end up with hours of unused life.

Our most-used remedy for this is the attention equivalent of fast food — mindlessly and endlessly scrolling through social media or checking superficial e-mails.

While others might suggest listening to podcasts or audiobooks, I think it can be dangerous to still so quickly move to another stimulant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a large podcast junkie myself, but it requires no effort to listen to what you enjoy, unless you’re choosing to listen to a boring book on macroeconomics, for some reason.

What I’d suggest instead is to simply embrace boredom.

https://medium.com/p/2546b44b9804

It’s absurd — almost ridiculous to say that we, as a collective society, have come to a point where our mental ability to do nothing has atrophied to a point where we need to purposefully strengthen it.

You can call it meditation, sure. Often, though, the practice of meditation in western society becomes fetishized within New Age fallacy. Where even apps are created, defeating the point entirely. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t research meditation, specifically from Eastern religions and philosophies, rather that you should beware when someone is trying to sell the concept as a product.

You aren’t obliged to eliminate negative thoughts or distractions. At the same time, you don’t need to worry about finances or dinner plans.

For most people, our best ideas come when we’re unable to distract ourselves with the overload of information in front of us, like in the shower or bath.

This is due to what’s generally held as the focused versus diffused mindset. Our mind is only able to truly synthesize ideas when we’re not actively doing a task at hand. However, for most people currently, that’s only when sleeping. And even then, people are depriving themselves of that basic need.


A lot of people prioritize spending quality time with either the people they love or doing something they’re passionate about, but I don’t think enough people realize it’s just as important to strive for quality time with themselves.

It’s the quiet moments like these where we can take a step back from the information overload and dramatic politics in our endlessly churning lives to get a glimpse of what we actually think and subsequently who we actually are.

https://medium.com/p/2546b44b9804

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