Weekly Thought

This space is dedicated to a thought I found interesting during the week.

June 15, 2019: Future Challenges

This week for my teaching credential class I had to do an activity where I discussed what I thought the top three challenges that students will face in the future. I said:

  1. Too many choices
  2. Responsibility
  3. Disillusionment

However, I realized that these are the challenges that my own generation is facing. If I think about the future I want to see, I see technology continuing to disrupt to a level that won't see enough jobs available sustain everyone (unless we continue to create bullshit jobs). I think eventually that there will be a trend towards a shorter work week (maybe 15-20 hours) and a guaranteed unconditional income. This will free up a lot of time for future generations and then one of the biggest problems will become how best do leisure. Right now we define ourselves largely by the work we do and future generations will need to find meaning in other ways. I didn’t like the narrative of the activity because it focused as teachers we aren't just preparing our students for future jobs; I believe we are preparing them for a life well lived. With this reframed objective and my future trends, I listed the three skills that I think will maximize well-being the most:

  1. Awareness
  2. Acceptance
  3. Compassion

Further reading on future trends:Utopia for Realists

June 8, 2019: Enough is a Feast

Maximizing income for the sake of maximizing income serves no purpose. It is important to be aware of our values and what takes priority in our lives, and our own enough point. Think of the old cliché about "money being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This cliché like many others is at first lame and unexciting but it expresses a big and terrible truth: if you worship money, you will never have enough and never feel like you are enough.

Enough is the most beautiful word in the English language to me. There’s a certain point where money brings no more benefits to well-being and actually begins to decrease well-being. Enough is more than enough; enough is a feast.

Too often people spend a lifetime sacrificing health for money and before they know it, they must sacrifice money for health but at the time of death, material resources are not of use to us. The really big question at the end of life will not be about money. It won’t even be a question of life after death, we will ask “Am I loved? And Did I love?” What’s really important are relationships and how we conduct them.

This week’s thought was deeply influenced by these great resources:
This is Water
The Making Sense Podcast - #104 The Lessons of Death
Your Money or Your Life: Chapter 4: How Much is Enough? The Nature of Fulfillment

June 3, 2019: Coliving

So this weekend, we had a “slumber party" at my language school where we watched movies, played games, and all slept in the same room. It felt surprisingly normal to me and the others had the same revelation. It reminded us of high school or dorm-living. The common thread being community. My partner and I have often talked about a related idea, coliving, which according to Wikipedia is:

"...a type of intentional community providing shared housing for people with shared intentions. This may simply be coming together for activities such as meals and discussion in the common living areas, yet may extend to shared workspace and collective endeavours such as living more sustainably”

I envision a communal living set-up where the people in your building aren’t just strangers but part of your community. It goes beyond the small talk shared in passing; it's about the desire to get to know the people that live around you and share meals, cleaning, conversation, and life events. It’s the fading idea of the tribe or village which seems like the obvious better way. I know that coliving also comes with its own unique pains and problems but it seems worth it. I am super intrigued and will explore this possibility as we start our housing search in July-August.

May 25, 2019: GOT

Game of Thrones (GOT) is finished and there has been a lot of criticism over the last season since many fans (myself included) didn’t enjoy it. Over a million people have even signed a petition to remake the season with more competent writers. While I think that goes too far, I understand where the upset has come from. I brought up the topic with a group of students who have never seen the show and they couldn’t understand why people were getting so emotional about it. I attempted to rationalize it with an analogy as teachers tend to do:

Imagine reading Les Miserables, a1000-page novel considered by many to be one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. You’ve read 900 pages and find yourself thoroughly captured by the book, invested in the characters, and enthused to read the ending. However, Victor Hugo decided to let his 16-year-old nephew write the last hundred pages. As a result, your quality of reading is drastically reduced and you are left feeling disillusioned.

I understand that George RR Martin wasn’t able to finish the books in time. I understand that HBO was rushed because many actors were aging out of their roles and there were thousands of employees waiting to film. I understand that the entire team behind the show did their best, and I also understand that many fans were satisfied with the result. But I can’t help feeling some grief for the missed opportunity that GOT blew.

May 19, 2019: Not knowing is all knowing?

Here is yet another insight sparked through meditation. I was doing a meditation where I kept my eyes open and tried to keep a wide gaze so that instead of focusing on one object, I would see the space in front of me as what it is: colors and shadows. I inevitably got distracted during the session and found myself reading the words on the map that was on the wall in front of me. I thought about how it would be to truly see the world in solely color and shadow without the ability to even identify words or objects. I felt like the highest level of knowing would be unknowing because in the unknowing there would be no possibility for attachment, distortion, or distraction. While I have consciousness, I want to aspire to this glimpse this level of knowing as much as possible.

May 11, 2019: Abundance

I read an article this week about a woman who was trying to be more patient and present with her young daughter because she had gotten so accustomed to telling her to hurry up almost as a reflex. It was a powerful article and I was thinking: I could write a post like this about the importance of mindfulness. Don’t I have so many examples just like this in my own life too?

Then I thought: Shoot… She's writing about this and so many other people are writing about it too. Suddenly I became discouraged. Why should I write about mindfulness when there are already so many good articles written on the subject already?

However, I realized in the next moment: But Isn't that wonderful? This message that is so important is already reaching so many people and each article about it is unique in its own right.

Why not spread my own iteration of this message? Maybe others will get inspired by my particular take on the topic. Maybe an article I read and found inspiring could also be inspiring for someone else if only written from a different perspective. Writing also helps me by providing a sense of well-being for sharing a message that I find truly worthwhile. Why feel discouraged when someone is doing something that I feel I could do well too? Isn't it wonderful that the space to inspire others has no limit?

May 5, 2019: Connected

This week, I had an experience meditating where I felt indistinguishable from my surroundings. It was a sudden realization that didn’t last long but made a strong impression. I understood better what I’ve heard Alan Watts say:

"What you call the external world is as much you as your own body. Your skin doesn’t separate you from the world. It’s a bridge through which the external world flows into you and you flow into it."

At another point in the week, I did a loving-kindness meditation and I was picturing a loved one radiantly happy and feeling how that feels and I knew in an instant that their happiness was not separate from my own.

I want to believe that everything is connected in this way. Even if it can’t be proved and how much greater is a life spent believing everything has a shared single basic force compared to a life spent believing everything has is divided?

April 27, 2019: Black or White?

An idea this week that really gave me pause was one by Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew and philosopher. Here is a part of a conversation with Joe Rogan that I transcribed:

"There are all sorts of finely tuned arguments about how plausible it would be for atoms just roaming around the universe to randomly end with human creation. The alternative explanations are no less plausible. The multiple universes theory: plausible but we have no way to prove it because we have no way to get to those other universes. How is can it be testable? Or the new theory that we are living in an AI simulation, (I'm) not sure how that is more testable than God. Not sure how it’s more testable than aliens put us here. Why are those ideas more plausible or testable than that there is a force behind that which we see which has a mind?"

This stood out to me because I realized I hold some theories such as multiple universes close to fact and at the same time, I don't personally find much credence in the God theory. Ben's statement brought me back to this: The truth is that all the theories about creation are untestable; they are things we can’t know. His statement brought me back to a central conclusion I have drawn over time; Since I can’t know, I will not attach dogmatically to any one theory. There is value in the discussion behind the universe because it’s a good way to build understanding between people that subscribe to different schools of thought. I know that is a worthwhile and important endeavor and I feel that each person has the right to explore their own beliefs individually. However, I don't enjoy the conversation that forces each side to choose their stance as an extension of their identity. Why not play with these theories like kids in a sandbox where there is no one right or wrong way to play and my sand is your sand. Why identify as being one or the other when there is plausibility in so many positions? Is it really only black or white?

April 22, 2019: Back in the booth!

I am officially back from my two week trip to San Diego. It was a wonderful time and I’m so satisfied with all the time I got to spend with each of my loved ones. I can’t wait to see them all again for our wedding. The jetlag coming home is always worse. Thus, my energy is currently coming and going at the most inopportune times; I've been crashing around 1 pm and accelerating around 11 pm (I’m writing this at 12 am). Hopefully, by next week, I’ll be back in the swing of things. Until then, don’t hate, meditate!

March 31, 2019: Off to San Diego

So I’ll make the journey home tomorrow and I feel excited and nervous. Ever notice how those two feelings are identical in the body and only differ by the thoughts attached to them? I left San Diego, at 27, after living there all my life. Now, I’m 30, and each time I come home, my imagination runs with the possibilities about the status of relationships there and ideas about reverse culture shock. Sometimes it feels like I exist in two different dimensions; one in the US where I’m still 27 and one in Europe where I’m 30 and I’m currently existing. At 27, I was running from fire and at 30, I’m a firefighter. But, this is just my mind being a mind and what I’ve written here is a story being told. I see it and accept it but then let it pass like any other appearance in consciousness; like the sound of a bird singing or the shadow of a tree or the smell of new grass in the Spring.

March 24, 2019: My Notebook of Requirement

I've been keeping a journal for maybe five years now, and in that time, I've written in it almost every single day. I started because my mind was untamed, chaotic, and just plain confusing. I needed to get out some of my unuseful energy and find some sort of clarity in a more healthy way than I had been coping. It just hit me this week that it isn't a journal I'm writing; it's therapy. Okay, maybe 10% journal - 15 tops. I could compare it to the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter which Dobby explains best:

"It is a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker's needs"

When I open my Notebook of Requirement, it becomes exactly what I need at that moment: a shoulder to cry on, a void to scream into, a therapist to talk with. It's not just a daily record of events; it's anything and everything, and I'm quite grateful to have found it as an outlet.

unsplash-logoCJ Dayrit

March 16, 2019: Moods

What is a bad mood? Is it a physical feeling in my body? A story that I tell myself? Is there some benefit I get from maintaining it?

I was asking myself these questions one day this week. I think what happens is there is some unhappiness or frustration or guilt or {insert negative emotion}. Then fear gets attached to that negative emotion. Instead of dealing with that suffering head on, it is repressed and Voilá! the negative mood is created. The repression means often I am stuck unaware of why I have a bad mood. So then I try to attribute a cause and that can be patchy guesswork. I may think "Oh, it's work that is burning me out or that one little negative interaction on the commute created this global shitty feeling. Most of the time, it is impossible to figure out what the actual causes of negative patterns are, and even if we did know, the knowing doesn’t necessarily change them. Thus, a negative mood can be handled with my prescription for everything:

Acceptance + Awareness = All Better.

One of the Calm meditations wraps it up perfectly: In the same way the weather changes day by day so do thoughts, sensations, and emotions. The rain comes but we know it won’t stay forever. We don’t need to push anything away; the rain eventually changes on its own just like our emotions come and go. Give space to all that arises without resisting the experience. Allow everything to flow through you. Allow each breath to flow through you... breath, after breath, after breath.

March 10, 2019: Limited Encounters

This week during a guided meditation by Sam Harris, I felt a strong reaction. He said, "We have a finite number of encounters with each person in our lives and we really have no idea how many more we have left with each person." It is an obvious truth but not one that I mindfully consider often. Each encounter really is precious.

Sam mentioned this as a reason to resolve to be a clearer, more compassionate, less reactive. To resolve to take a little more care with each one of the meetings you have with people. To not take anyone or anything for granted. We really want the people in our lives to be happy. We really want them to understand their value in our own lives. They are the people we are living our lives with and this is the only life we can be sure we will ever have together. So, I resolve now not to waste this opportunity.

You can check out the Sam Harris meditation app here.

March 3, 2019: Sagrada Familia

The first time I traveled to Europe it was a solo trip for one week. On a walking tour in Budapest, I met a guy that was also traveling solo. He had been traveling for six months alone on the continent. At that time in my life, I had never met anyone who traveled for more than a month. Intrigued, I hung out with the guy for the rest of the day. In talking about how he was traveling, he said he didn’t like going to the touristy churches. However, he told me there was a church in Barcelona that was beautiful beyond what he could have believed. I hadn’t heard about any church in Barcelona back then. When I traveled more and meet new people, I learned all about Sagrada Familia. I knew I had to go. My time came last weekend when my fiance surprised me with a trip to Barcelona for my 30th birthday. Sagrada Familia is one of those things you must see in person to understand the hype. It is unlike any other style and feels like an alien creation. The inside impressed me more than the outside. Gaudí built it to feel like you are in a forest rather than inside a church. It’s greatest power is that it makes you stop thinking. It takes you back. Back to where you need to be which is exactly where you are which is here.

February 24, 2019: Our Story

This week, I wrote this for the ‘Our Story’ section of our wedding website: Mike and Sasha met in February 2016 by chance in Colombia. They both went to the country to teach English. They were placed in the same city and lived in the same hostel for a month. Immediately, they were drawn to each other. In April 2016, Mike asked Sasha to be his girlfriend. That year, they explored all of Colombia together including the Amazon rainforest. When their contracts teaching English ended, they knew they wanted to stay together. Next, they traveled through Cuba for a month before landing in Europe. They have lived in Prague for two years now and plan to move to Vienna after the wedding. Their lives have been a nonstop adventure since they met and they are excited to continue their journey together.

February 17, 2019: English Name

I love teaching English online. I teach English to Chinese kids of all ages. All the kids take English names because English speakers don’t immediately know how to pronounce names like 'Qing Xiu Zhen’. This week, I was asked to give an English name to one of my student’s little sisters. I didn’t know how to process that request at first. I thought for a second and said the first name that came to mind, “Emily.” What a feeling to name a Chinese girl over the Internet. Technology and globalization come together sometimes to create the most curious interactions.

February 10, 2019: Emil Zápotek

One of the great benefits of being an English teacher is that I often get to have interesting conversations. This past week, one of my students, an ultramarathon runner, told me about the best Czech runner / possibly the greatest runner who ever lived. It surprised me that I had never heard of him before. He won three gold medals at the 1952 Olympics in the 5,000-meter distance, 10,000-meter distance and marathon. He was the only Olympic athlete to ever win gold in these three events in the same Olympic games. The marathon gold medal he won came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the first marathon of his life. Later, he ended up working in a uranium mine because he supported the 1968 uprising. He was a great hero who changed his whole life for principles. It’s a shame he isn’t more widely celebrated.

February 2nd, 2019: The Boxes of my Life

These Boxes of my Life are my tool that I use to keep a picture of the commitments in my life. These 10 areas are the things that are most important to me. I put my all into these areas. They will shift over time so I will update the page as change happens.

Click here to see the Boxes of my Life

January 27th, 2019: Affirmations

I met up with a friend this past week to talk about affirmations. She knew I had been practicing mindful affirmations daily since November 2013 and was curious about how I do them. An affirmation is simply a statement said either out-loud or thought. When I started to become more careful and compassionate about how I spoke to myself, my life became more manageable with less stress and anxiety. Read more about my affirmation process here.

Basically, if you tell yourself you are ________ enough times, you will believe you are ________.

January 21st, 2019: Selfing

This past week, I got deeper into some powerful ideas. Here are some small pieces of thinking:

"There is no self."

How many times have you come across this sentence? What do you think of that statement? Do you think it's true? Could it be possible that what we call self is just a series of beliefs, stories, and patterns of thought that we have attached to?

'Self' is a verb. It's not a noun. You are selfing your experience. you are not a self standing in the middle of experience. Self is a kind of action. It's the act of identifying. It's the act of grasping and it's an action that can be interrupted. It's an action that can be relinquished and this an empirical fact that you can discover for yourself. Meditation is the technique whereby you can do that or at least one of them. -Sam Harris

So if you accept this to be true, the next question is well what do I do with this information? If there is no real me then what is there? Well, it turns out that what is left is this moment and each one after it. In each moment there is consciousness and its contents. That's it. The self is an illusion we create. My life becomes lighter when I don't need to hold on to my ego; when I can let go and be here, now. The past and the future are in the mind. I am now.

January 13th, 2019: Save the Date

Last week, we made progress in planning our wedding. We booked the venue and paid the deposit. We even sent out some ‘save the dates.’ We wanted to get the news out as soon as possible because our guests come from dozens of countries and need to start thinking about booking their travel. However, the venue manager threw the first wrench in our wedding journey was when they called us apologizing because they didn’t realize they had already booked our date.

Murphy’s Law says “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”. I never really understood this idea and possibly still don’t. After some reading about it, I’ve learned the ‘can’ in the statement is the most important part to pay attention to. It means that for each scenario or event, there is a set of underlying possibilities that can happen. In our case, we didn’t even consider that there was a possibility for the place to double book its venue. However, that was a possibility invariably linked to the event. Since it’s part of the possibilities linked to the event, it can and will happen sometimes that it gets double booked. This time it happened to us. We will find out Monday if we will get to keep the spot or the other couple will. Damn you Murphy’s Law!

This quora of Murphy’s Law had the best explanation.

January 6th, 2019: Fireworks

Wow. I didn't know it was possible to buy strong fireworks at the grocery store for 2€ in Europe. Prague was exploding on New Year's Eve this past week and the BOOMS and BANGS came from regular Joes and Janes. Even our group shot some off some bottle rockets. They are called bottle rockets because they are shot out of bottles. I didn't know; that is how sheltered I have been from fireworks in SoCal. At any rate, it felt good to feel childlike again with a new, albeit hazardous toy. Happy 2019 everyone! I hope yours is full of curiosity.

December 28th, 2018: Slovakia

I really enjoyed spending Christmas in Slovakia this year with Sasha and family. This week I had a chance to admire the beauty of Slovakia. Its tall trees that stand everlasting on steep hills, its brooks that flow year-round regardless of the chaos of the seasons, and its long expanses of white snowy fields that remind us how infinite nature can seem.

December 22nd, 2018: Snowboarding

I went snowboarding for the first time in two years and boy was it invigorating. We went to a slope next to Sasha's hometown where we were lucky enough to have no lines and fresh snow. I had a terrible case of snowmania. Snowmania is a noun coined by Sasha to describe the feeling that I have when I see untouched snow. I have a deep urge to ruffle up that perfectly laid powder. This urge speaks to our shared human nature. At some basic level, we yearn to break things. The more perfect, the more destructive we feel. Dostoevsky predicted utopianism to be futile because we will always harbor some eternal ingratitude for the things we have. He says that even (or especially) in the midst of utopia someone is destined to utter these words: “Well, gentlemen, why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust with one good kick, for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to the devil and living once more according to our own stupid will!" Merry Christmas! In the new year may you break and fix and accept it all.

December 16th, 2018: Plasma

There is nothing like the curiosity of a child. This week, I had the privilege of teaching English to an aspiring scientist. At ten-years-old, this boy was consumed by his interest in the most powerful energies in the universe. He asked if I knew what plasma was. I had to admit that I didn’t know so much about it. Luckily he was there to help share the knowledge. He informed me that plasma is not a gas, liquid, or solid - it is the fourth state of matter. I asked where plasma can be found and he told me the sun is made of plasma, fire is plasma, and it’s even in fluorescent or neon lights. He informed me that most of the universe is made up of plasma. I was impressed by these facts as well as the palpable wonder that floats around in the minds of the kids I teach.

Read more on plasma from Nasa: Plasma, Plasma, Everywhere

December 8th, 2018: Simulation Theory

I got into a discussion with one of my students this week about simulation theory. If you're not familiar with it - it's the theory that the current reality is not the true reality. That there is some base reality layered underneath what you are perceiving. It's a fun thought experiment. I got into this territory with my student because we were discussing what would happen if computers and robots made work unnecessary for humans. We thought the most challenging question to answer would be: How would humans find meaning and purpose in that world? Then I remembered I had listened to Yuval Harari propose that, in the future, humans might find more meaning in a virtual world. I shared this idea with my student and he added that one way to make that virtual reality more interesting would be to make it so that won't know when you're in the virtual reality. Really interesting stuff. To dive deeper, you could check out Elon Musk talk about simulation theory here: