I tried intentionally meditating for the first time in my life about a year ago. The experience I had was mostly positive and I kept up with it for a bit, though slowly but surely, I practiced it less and less. Meditation is hard work, and I don’t mind that, but this work didn’t always feel like it was paying a fair wage. I know it has power though, and I’ve still been curious, so I set out to dig a little deeper.
I spent some time in September exploring some more, and took Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Masterclass on mindfulness and meditation. The guy’s a character, and I enjoyed it. A lot of the course was high level and easy to understand, like the idea of mindfulness being the awareness that arises from being present. A lot of the course felt very nebulous to me though. Ideas that are hard to grasp by simply listening or even doing. One of the more potent things that stuck with me, was the work he’d done teaching mindfulness to prison inmates. Particularly how the men reacted, which led him to describe the experience as if “he were giving food to starving people.” Such a powerful idea. It quickly had me looking inward, wondering what parts of me are dying of starvation and atrophying, even while my body outwardly stands tall and strong.
I took this course months ago but have managed to maintain practicing mindfulness regularly. The trick in making this work sustainable for me this time around, was realizing that sitting or laying meditation, which is what I’ve typically practiced, is just not for me. Instead I’ve found walking meditation, in part thanks to my friend George. I find it much more natural to be aware and present when in motion. Always have. Don’t know why it took so long for me to put together that I’ve had more success entering a state of mindfulness running my third mile than I ever had laying on my back with my eyes closed. Now a few times a week I listen to guided meditation while I walk a few miles through my neighborhood, in the middle of my workday. I often feel refreshed and clear headed after. It’s not a silver bullet that works every time, but this time around, it at least feels like work that pays a fair wage.
I’ve always loved biking around the city. I wrote a little about that before here. While it was true when I wrote that, that I’d ridden a bike more days than I hadn’t in 10 years, I definitely can’t say the same thing since covid and remote work started. My daily commute was where I got the majority of my biking in, but I haven’t had a commute in nearly 3 years. So I set out to bike 100 miles for August. Not a hard distance to bike in a month, but the whole idea was to just get out there and have some fun again. So that’s what I did.
Somedays I biked to lunch, somedays biked for errands, and somedays I had no agenda or direction at all. Just rode to ride. Heading down any which street offered the path of least resistance. Meaning wherever there was a green light or a wide street. Even snuck in an 18 mile round trip to and from the beach one day. A sure way to make a cold drink even colder.
It’s a hell of a feeling riding no hands with arms stretched wide and the wind pushing through your fingers. And that’s really the highlight of the month I think, the pure fun of it. The month was also a reminder to not let biking slip away any further than I’ve already let it. A fun bonus was passing a slower moving cyclist who seemed shocked that anyone could even be going faster than he was, but more specifically, when he broke the awkward silence inherit when passing and asked, “Man, what is it.. ? Is it you, is it the bike.. or..?” We both started cracking up, and I told him I’d just been at it a long time. Stranger, you made my day.
Tried to learn a new word everyday of July. The aim wasn’t to arm myself with some set of obscure words to impress strangers, but really to save myself from some embarrassment. Growing up, I don’t think I had the best education. Not that it wasn’t available right in front of me, but because I really didn’t put the effort in, and because I often just fell through the cracks. Not asking the questions when I needed the answers. For the most part, my scores usually placed me in classrooms at a low level. One middle-school year in particular, we took an unexpected test that “wouldn’t count toward our grade.” Given that, I was more interested in making an intricate design on my scantron than actually taking the test. I’m pretty sure it was intended to determine our reading level though, since at the start of next quarter I was placed in a small classroom of kids who were hardly literate. We were tossed candy every time we were able to read a sentence aloud to the class, so I went on with it. It was more of an exercise in learning how to catch, than how to read.
Some of those consequences of my education have come up in my day to day. Particularly with vocabulary, and especially in my twenties. I thought “thirdary” was a word, and even used it often at work. You know, like, primary, secondary, “thirdary” (deep exhale to blink away the sting of embarrassment). I thought several meant exactly seven. I regularly misuse affect and effect to this day. Or how about that time I sent that company-wide email, explaining we needed to first “asses” the situation. God.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t able to laugh at it all today, and the truth is, time and experience fill in the gaps of our education pretty quickly anyhow. That said, I like learning, and there is still a real possibility I’m regularly making a mistake as offensive as “thirdary,” but just not yet aware of it (yikes). So I downloaded “Word of the Day,” paid for a lifetime membership because I’m a sucker, and a new habit was born.
I go out of my way to hide and silence most notifications on my devices, but it’s actually been pretty fun getting a daily ping for a new word. Plenty I’d heard before but didn’t know their meaning, and some I’d never seen in my life. The only words I already knew for the month were vignette, imperiled, sleuth, garble, Manhattanhenge, and Earthship. While not every new word sticks with me, enough do. The clearest win from the month was recognizing a word in the book I’m currently reading, that I only learned just days earlier. Couldn’t help but smile a little at it. We’re halfway though August now and I’m still keeping up with it, so I think this one’s here to stay. It’s kinda fun and takes such little effort, so why not. Plus, while I did say I wasn’t doing any of this to impress strangers, I have no issue trying everything I can to impress my wife. So far, she is not amused.
One second of video, every day, for 30 days. That was my monthly challenge for June. Inspired by my friend Duncan, who’s been capturing one second of video everyday, for over 8 years now. 8 years! Can’t say doing it for only a month was much of a challenge for me, or that I learned much, but I did have fun doing it, and that was the whole idea.
I did have some more exciting days that were harder to pick one second over another, but for the most part I didn’t have too much going on outside my normal routine. Turned out to be a pretty accurate representation of what I’m doing and seeing, day to day. Not wildly exciting right now, but the years do have a way of compounding the importance of things like this.
If I had to say something I learned from it, guess it’d be that you really don’t need to lug a big camera around to capture some good looking video, like I normally would when we travel. Of course I’ll still do exactly that, but it’s nice to know, ya know? Anyways, “Those are rats.”
I set out to run 120 miles in a month, and succeeded, but man was it brutal. Mentally and physically. Felt good breaking records and pushing my limits, but I think I consider the month to be a loss, not a win. I’ll explain.
I was miserably sick early in the month and missed a few days because of it. Those missed days added up to needing to run between 4 and 4.5 miles, every single day, for the rest of the month to hit my goal. Having to do something every single day without missing a beat in order to succeed, is either a sure way to fail, or a sure way to hate something. There were days I really, really, didn’t want to run. Days I probably shouldn’t have run. But I ran. Mainly out of fear that’d I end up having to run 5, 6, or 7 miles a day to make up for it.
So while I’m glad I stayed true to my word, and pushed myself mentally and physically, I also took something I really enjoyed doing and made sure I hated it. I know I can run faster and go even further in a month, but I also know now that I just don’t want to. I can definitely imagine some more running challenges in the future, but ones that aren’t so rigid. And please, if I go back on my word here and ever try to do something like this ever again, for the love of God, someone, anyone, please stop me.
In March I wanted to take some sort of creative writing course. Always been interested in writing, but why I really took this one on, was the hope that it’d help me continue to develop the story for my game project. In the end, it did that and then some.
I considered some courses available for free on Youtube, and even some paid ones there, but decided to dive into MasterClass instead. I’d known and been curious about MasterClass for while, but this was my first go of it. It’s basically a series of lectures by individuals at the top of their field. From film directing, to cooking, to astrophysics, and everything in between. Whatever you’re curious about, it’s probably there. I absolutely love it. It’s been a new source of inspiration that’s become a regular part of my week. Even if nothing else came from this goal, that fact alone would’ve been more than enough to make it worth while.
I took some time last month to reflect and journal some of the things I’m grateful for, and why I’m grateful for them. Some of what I wrote seemed small, like how beautiful the weather was on my run, or how peaceful a walk through my neighborhood can be. Others felt bigger.
“I’m grateful to have hobbies and passions that keep me afloat through the harder moments.”
“I’m grateful my parents are still here, and still healthy. I can’t imagine my world without them. My mom is older than both her parents were when they died. I wonder if she thinks about that as much as I do.”
“I’m grateful my phone lights up because I have friends who think of me. I remember when messages like these were far and few between.”
And the list goes on. I wrote at least five things every few days. Ended up with more things I’m grateful for than there are days in February. Goes to show that even when you’re having a day, there really is so much to be grateful for, just right in front of you. The trick is taking that deliberate moment to realize it.
Trying to strike a balance between the body, mind, and arguably the soul, or at least what I suspect is the creative part of my being. Don’t think I’ll be doing big write-ups this time around. Not totally sure though. Partially because I’ve been at it long enough now that I’m starting to revisit some of my favorite challenges again. And partially because the writing often takes longer than I’d like it to. We’ll see. Wish me luck.