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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Life Hack Update

I've written several more of these life hacks, and have scheduled them to be published on successive days.

One thing I've noticed so far is that I suddenly feel a different relationship to time. Instead of seeing the day as an anxiety-producing challenge: how can I fill it up meaningfully and get something done?  I now am starting to see it as a different sort of challenge.  I know what I want to do, and have to figure out how to make everything fit just right. So it might mean getting up earlier, or consolidating errands, or deciding to make productive use of post-dinner hours. Maybe running early in the morning so it doesn't interrupt other things. Choices, behaviors, habits, seem less compulsive and more freely chosen (more about that later.).

Another revelation: while meditating yesterday it occurred to me that since I was inherently bad at meditating, in other words very distractable and with a mind that can't sit still, that I was a person meant to meditate.  I need it far more than people who are more naturally zen, if such as thing exists. That reframed the process in a way that made it make sense for me.  The worse I am at it, the less I will worry.

(Words in italics here are not exactly right, but are used in a loose sense. I don't do zen and this change was not really sudden, just the articulation of it.)

Life Hack 16: The Gift of Sustained Attention

This is very simple one. It is related to not multi-tasking, but it is is a more simple concept even than that.

Give yourself the gift of sustained attention. For whatever period of time, from 15 minutes to several hours, devote yourself to what ever you are doing and just that.  If you want to play with your phone for 15 minutes, do that, but don't interrupt something else to play with your phone. If you are doing errands, you are errand boy during that time frame. Just be the best errand boy you can be.

The quality of your concentration will improve simply by engaging in this practice. You don't have to worry at first if your attention is not sustained, because that is more the result than the cause. You will be less likely to leave the stove on this way, too.

I call it a gift because it is something that you can give freely to yourself, and without damage to anyone else. It is also a gift in the sense of a talent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I'm reading aloud to myself a long book by Clark Coolidge, one of my favorite poets, A Book Beginning With...   It is over 500 pages, and mostly in prose, so I am just doing it a bit per day.  I've done three out of twenty sections so far and haven't' reached the 100 page mark.

It seemed the only way to read this, since passing one's eyes over it one would quickly give up by trying to read too fast or skimming over the text.  This is a text that cannot be skimmed because the point is to be immersed in its textures at great length. Its length, in other words, is part of the point.  I've heard recordings so I know how he reads. I don't emulate that exactly, but I don't try to veer from his style either.  I still hear his voice in my head and just imitate that voice very inexactly.

The first section, on caves, is the best so far.  The Beckett section is a bit less successful, but I'm looking forward to the section on music.

Coolidge invites you into a private world.  He isn't trying to appeal to what he thinks would already appeal to you, but rather invites you into his space.  If you share something of that already, as I do, you might find it congenial.  For example, he has sections on jazz, on Creeley, on Eigner, and on Beckett, so I share those tastes. This isn't literature meant to be "universal," appealing to everyone.

Anyway, incorporating this into my daily routine has been nice. My normal way of reading would be to have three or four different books on the table at any given time, in fear of limiting myself.  

I Joined the Choir

Not a metaphor or life hack. Yesterday I literally joined a local, secular choir in my town. I will attach the "life hack" tag to this, though, because it is part of my general plan for reprogramming my entire life.  I'm not suggesting everyone has to join a choir, because that is not everyone's interest, but it involves getting out and doing something with other people, a good use of time, music, and civic involvement, so it's got four things going for it.

Also, it seems somehow I am driven to involve myself in things my sister can no longer do. She was a choir director as well as being an organist.

Life Hack 15: Meditation

I won't tell you how to meditate because I am a beginner myself. But I will tell you to meditate, somehow in whatever way you find, whether by yourself or as part of some group. What this does is to teach you to quiet down an overactive mind and to clarify things that are important and things that aren't.

I am sure I am a lousy meditator, since my mind wanders everywhere. It doesn't really matter, because the more one does it, the less meaningful that kind of value judgment becomes. If you observe that fact that your mind is especially busy one day, that too is useful information. You don't even have to try to quiet it, in fact, you just observe the fact that it is busier than usual and it will quiet itself to some extent.

Probably the biggest predictor of whether your life is good is the quality of thoughts in your own mind. If you are tormented by negative thoughts night and day, you are not happy. The point of meditation is not to eliminate negative thoughts, but to be more accepting of them and taking away some of their scariness.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Life hack 14: it's not about you

Life hack for today:  it's not about you.  You live in your own skin, and have never been out of it. So it's natural for you to orient other events to your own self. Most events, though, are not primarily about you.  That's the filter you see them through, but most things do not have you as their intended recipient. You'll know when it's about you, because it might have your name on it.

Even then, don't be too sure.  Even your intimate partner's complaint might not really be about you, but about her father or her own life.  The parking ticket you got has your license plate number on it, and you have to pay it, but it isn't about you, because the parking guy just saw your car and an expired meter, nothing more.

Since it's not about you, you don't have to involve yourself in it.  You can relax about it.

A Little Known Fact

Today is the latest day, so far at least, in human history.  Never before has the date been later than it is today. Just so you realize how momentous today is.  Tomorrow, however, will set a new record for history. It will be even one day later than today, the previous record holder.

Each day in record history has also held this record, albeit in temporary fashion. If you read this post much later than it was written, you will be surprised that this date, so much in the past, was at one time the record holder. How quaint of people twelve days ago to think that they were so late in human history.