Discover more from Tiny Revolutions
Tiny Revolutions №14: One Continuous Mistake
but you just keep going
Hello! It’s been a while. Spring became summer. Summer became fall. You and I have taken approximately 4,838,400 breaths since the last time I published an issue Tiny Revolutions. (That’s seven months of breathing according to this math.) Did you ever imagine you’d done anything four million times, much less in only seven months? Me neither.
What happened? Well, for one thing, I needed a break from thinking of myself as a depressed person. That may or may not be true at any given moment, but I found it a heavy mantle. “Hi, I write a newsletter about dealing with depression.” Try saying that out loud. See? Depressing.
It wasn’t just that though. In my last dispatch I mentioned that I was going on my first ever silent meditation retreat with Angel City Zen Center. It was weird and hard and profound and all the things you might expect sitting in silence with strangers for a few days would be. I’ve since stuck with Zen-style meditation (zazen), and I’ve found I really like it. I go to the center most Saturday mornings for the group meditation and for the talks too.
“A forward step is a mistake, a backwards step is a mistake, one step is a mistake and two steps are a mistake. Therefore, [action] is mistakes at every moment.”
I needed to hear this.
The talk took place after an hour of sitting zazen, and really just a few days of feeling plagued by some stubborn old narratives rolling around in my head about how I have spent my life chasing the wrong things. You know, your typical ‘road not taken’ stuff — fill in the blank with your own issues — combined with just good old-fashioned self-doubt.
The reason I’ve stuck with meditation — and Zen in particular — is because it makes such a huge difference in whether I get caught up in these narratives. Practicing zazen teaches you that thoughts come and go like weather. Sometimes they’re pleasant, sometimes they’re not. You’re not bad for thinking shitty thoughts about yourself or others just as you’re not good for thinking overwhelmingly positive thoughts -- you’re just a human with a brain and thinking is what brains do. (I think this is an insight that is useful whether or not you meditate regularly, though the more you do, the more obvious this truth is.)
However, one thing meditation is not great for, in my opinion (and I’m open to being debated on this front), is writing about your life. Writing requires narratives. You need a good story to hook people.
And that seems to be at odds with what I’m trying to do by sitting zazen, which is not tell myself a story about my past, my present, my future. To just be, and to act in accordance with my essential nature.
So yeah, even though I’m kinda mad at myself for not writing this newsletter in seven months, I figure I can just start again. Life being one continuous mistake and all.
Now for some stuff I found interesting recently and that you might too.
“It turned out that he and I shared a similar concern: we thought that our angst was a source of power that pushed us to higher levels of accomplishment and skill. I argued, hotly, that being hard on yourself was an incredibly effective method for getting results. I wasn't completely prepared to let go of it as a tool for self-improvement.”
I really enjoyed this essay, which is about finding the line between being pushing yourself to perform to your potential and flagellating yourself for not accomplishing more. This is a lifetime worth of work, in my opinion. But it’s work worth doing. And today’s economy being what it is, odds are that the livelihood of anyone who’s reading this depends on it.
This is a crowdsourced list of suggestions for what to do when you need to make a big decision and you can’t figure out how to move forward. Some of these are great and some of these are kinda 🤔, but part of the fun here is just seeing how other people think.
Here’s a nice guide HuffPost put together on therapy — how to tell if you need it, what it entails, how to get it for cheap, etc. I can see this coming in handy with the holidays approaching.
(Please enjoy this incredible stock photo I found)
An interesting read from Wired on why rich people are such dicks.
Researchers have concluded again and again that the single most reliable predictor of happiness is feeling embedded in a community. In the 1920s, around 5 percent of Americans lived alone. Today, more than a quarter do—the highest levels ever, according to the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the use of antidepressants has increased over 400 percent in just the past twenty years and abuse of pain medication is a growing epidemic. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but those trends aren’t unrelated. Maybe it’s time to ask some impertinent questions about formerly unquestionable aspirations, such as comfort, wealth, and power.
My new favorite newsletter is one that focuses on a virtue that is in short supply these days: civility. The Civilian breaks down complicated political issues in a easy-to-digest, non-partisan, non-biased way. Each issue has a simple hand-drawn graphic followed by an essay, and each issue takes about 5-7 minutes to read.
Ahem, this may also be helpful with the holidays approaching. Sign up here.
“What we accomplish in the marathon of life depends on our persistence, our patience, and an ability to see ourselves as we really are.“
Love a good ode to the late bloomer.
A good tweet.
Speaking of not being productive.
I’m headed off on another meditation retreat this weekend up at Mt. Baldy Zen Center, where no less than Leonard Cohen was once a resident monk. Wish me luck. I’ll try to write again soon. In the meantime, send me a note, tell me what’s what.
Thanks for reading.
p.s. I am on the hunt for a new gig! If you know of a cool opportunity for a communications/marketing/content strategist, holler at your girl. Or if you just need a writer, I might be up for that too.