Arbitrary Rules

It is vital to have nothing to do with any art form which has dragons on it
Clive James

I enjoy making arbitrary rules. For years, one of mine was “Nothing yellow.” I have nothing against yellow, but eliminating it as an option helped me commit to Chinese Red and Williamsburg Blue.

Arbitrary rules can help you see through your unexamined expectations. Do you really think you can please someone sulky? Should you pay more in taxes than billionaires do? What about fretting over your meditation practice?

Practice: Since there isn’t a Right Way (yikes!) to do most things, consider entertaining yourself by coming up with an arbitrary rule. Decide to Always or Never do such-and-such.

Advanced practice: Identify one of the arbitrary rules you grew up with and how you feel about it.

Related practices: Walking Companions, Done


Nadia’s Practice

My practice is to listen deeply to what I am feeling and thinking and ex-periencing and then to try and communicate that in my writing as honestly as I can — looking at everything through a lens of grace.
                                                         Nadia Bolz-Weber

None of us can see without bias, but we can identify the lens we are looking through. Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber says her lens is grace. Mine is curiosity.

Practice:What is yours? (Fine if it’s aspirational: “I wish it were kindness but most of the time it’s . . . “)

Advanced practice: After you identify the lens or lenses you use, tell someone.

Related practices: Boredom, Author’s Statement, Bright blue sailboat


Quit

I told the doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.
                 Henny Youngman

kevin dean

Practice: Identify one of the places (internal or external) you go that you wish you didn’t. Then work to identify its precursor: what you feel or do or tell yourself immediately before going there.

It’s easier to avoid going to bad places when we see them coming.

Related practices: Done, Bright Blue Sailboat


Just Beyond

The God of your understanding is just that: the God of your understanding. What you need is the god just beyond your understanding.
Rami Shapiro

Marek Piwnicki

I read this to suggest: Go as far as you can, and then a little further. But only a little. Further than your current concept of god, of your current understanding of mercy, of the future you imagine for yourself, of the world you want to live in.

Somewhere between today’s version and something unimaginably ideal lies the zone of Just Beyond.

Practice: Imagine what advancing toward your heart’s desire might look like. (If it shapeshifts, take a deep breath, and allow the picture to come into focus. This can take minutes; it can take years.)

Advanced practice: Take a you-sized step toward Just Beyond.

Related practices: Author’s Statement, Ask for what you want


Luxury

My idea of luxury used to be a high penthouse and twenty-five tailored suits. Now …my idea of luxury is having three pencil-sharpeners in different parts of the house.
Peter Arno

Luxury is an assessment, not a price-point. It is also a state of mind: anything that feels luxurious to you belongs on your list.

My list includes blue sky, fresh lemons, series entertainment (books or television shows with recurring characters), Yaktrax, and scissors. Lots and lots of scissors.

Practice: Identify something easy to access with a low price point that you consider luxurious.

Advanced practice: Stock up on said item and notice what you feel. Does having more feel more luxurious? Or less? Do you find luxury calming or stimulating? How long do the associated feelings last?

Related practices: Tutu, Ask for what you want


Gratitude

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.
Robert Holden

I know meditators who don’t “do” gratitude, and grateful people who aren’t interested in immediacy. They treat meditation as meditation and the present moment as the present moment. Still, I think Holden is on to something.

Practice: Identify which comes more easily to you. Gratitude or presence?

Advanced practice: Commit to connecting the two. When you feel grateful, investigate whether you’re present. When you feel present, intentionally access a sense of gratitude.

Related practices: Trousers, Need


Misalignment

Being compared to men was always higher praise; my youthful priorities were misaligned along multiple axes.
Tajja Isen

Mine were too. I had been taught that male, white, and dead were synonyms for Excellence. And I bought it. I thought (without thinking) that buying it was the price of admission.

Practice: Identify your synonyms. Is there any reason that Excellence can’t — or has to — look like you?

Related practices: Author’s Statement, Rough Drafts


First Step

If you can’t take the first step, take the second.
James Richardson

This makes no sense at all. It also works pretty well.
Even when depleted, I can sometimes do something. Even two or three somethings. Apparently momentum has a logic of its own.

Practice: Start something, anything, that you don’t know how to start. Or start something adjacent. (The principle being that action leads to action.)

Related practices: Need, Tuesday nights

Optional: https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/134/11/3417/310550


Poses

I don’t mind being called a dumb blond because I know I’m not dumb and I know I’m not blond.
Dolly Parton

Poses have meaning. When you put on a jacket, are you dressing up? Conforming? Wearing drag? Strutting your stuff? Secretly Clark Kent?

Its meaning is in your hands, which means you have options.

Practice: Identify one of your poses. (This may take a while. Once a pose becomes habitual, it feels like who you are.)

Advanced practice: Decide whether it still serves you.

Related practices: Done, Permission


Making Time

You don’t find the time to make things, you make the time to do things.
Debbie Millman

This is putting it mildly: You either make the time or you don’t — and which you do defines who you are. Makers make things. Gardeners spend time in the garden. Activists spend time in the community.

Making time for an activity means it matters to you. The reverse is true as well.

Practice: Your choice. Would you rather update your identity or realign your schedule?

Advanced practice: Explore your reasons to  hold onto an identity that doesn’t reflect the ways you spend your time.

Related practices: Busy, Busy, Busy, Boredom