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🤯Unknown Unknowns #116 - Losing Your Edge
“If I start meditation, will I lose my edge?”
I’ve heard forms of this question many times, substituting yoga, mindfulness, introspection, or any variation of asking yourself, “What is the point?”
What the questioner fails to realize is that if you “lose your edge,” it’s because your preferences have changed. You realize that whatever you’re so obsessed with is actually not that important. Why do you think you’re so smart now, and your future self doesn’t know what’s important?
When I was a kid, I was super competitive. I had to win everything I tried. Now, I realize for most things it doesn’t matter. Did I lose my edge? Or did I become less of an asshole?
I heard on a podcast (I forgot which), “What you do now is a gift for your future self.” Why not also trust that your future self knows what he’s doing?
“No man crosses the same river twice. It's not the same river and not the same man.” - Heraclitus
1️⃣ What does meditation actually do and how does it do it? David Cain writes:
What if there was a way you could train your whole mind-body system to gracefully handle the bumpy terrain of everyday life, regardless of what form it took: disappointment, elation, uncertainty, temptation, overexcitement, shame, expectation, tension, and everything in between?
Mindfulness meditation is essentially that. You set aside time to practice observing your experience, keeping a certain mental suppleness and receptivity towards whatever comes along.
The more you practice, the more you see that it’s not the bumps that are the problem, but our stiff, instinctive reaction to them. The bumps will always be there. They are life itself.
In other words, mindfulness is a way of getting very familiar with what it feels like to be a human being, on the most granular level possible: the moment-to-moment unfolding of sensation. Every speck of our experience is made of sensation: all pains, pleasures, thoughts and feelings, including your body’s and mind’s reactions to other sensations. To practice is to make the most thorough possible study of not just the slope’s terrain, but of the skier’s relationship to it in each instant (and how you are actually both the skier and the terrain when it comes down to it, but that’s another post).
2️⃣ Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to make the rational choice. If you have a really busy day, it makes sense to set an early alarm. But if you know you’re going to hit snooze five times, you might as well set a later alarm so you don’t wreck your sleep. As David MacIver says,
The decision you make is always predicated on the fact that it’s you who is going to act on the consequences, and you should plan accordingly based on the ways you know you’re likely to get things wrong. e.g. if you know you’re liable to be forgetful about some things, you can use alerts and timers to remind you, if you know you’re likely to forget things you can write things down.
3️⃣ The Parable of the Monk and the Minister
Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king.
Years later they meet up again.
As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says: “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”
To which the monk replies: “If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king!”
Writing of the Week:
I’ve been writing unpolished, around 100 word mini-essays. Just reflections on ideas from podcasts or things on the news. Here are the latest:
Quote of the Week:
“It isn't by getting out of the world that we become enlightened, but by getting into the world…by getting so tuned in that we can ride the waves of our existence and never get tossed because we become the waves.” - Ken Kesey
You can find more of my writing at chr.iswong.com.
Questions, suggestions, complaints? Email me at [email protected].
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Leaving you in peace,