Don’t feel you have to give [the occupying army] the right directions when they ask you the way: these are not your walking companions.
Jean Texcier as quoted by Caroline Morehead
There are people, known and unknown, who are your walking companions: people who show you the way and cheer you on.
Practice: Identify one of your walking companions and think hard about the benefits you derive from knowing that teacher, that painter, that neighbor. That friend.
What do they help you do? How can you use their “company” more effectively ?
I try to create an alert emptyness in myself.
Paul den Hollander
Empty. Alert. Two mind-body states that can be hard to recapture, although both are natural in early childhood.
Practice: Notice whether an activity you chose repeatedly, whether running long distances or listening to Mozart, brings you to “an alert emptiness.” Sometimes identifying a desired state can heighten our experience of it.
Related practices: Loneliness
“Play is not the default mode of life; seriousness is.
It seems to me that some people’s default mode is in fact indifference. Others default to bemusement or to anticipating the next outrage.
Practice: Identify your go-to state, then jazz it up. If you tend toward suspicion, explore paranoia. If your default state is pleasure, try delight.
Play with being more of who you are already.
Related practices: The Fun Factor
“Know thyself?” If I knew myself, I’d run away.
Self-awareness gets good press while checking out — overeating, watching television, lighting up — rarely does. So far as I can tell, both are human appetites.
Practice: Notice what you say to yourself when planning an activity linked to self- awareness or self-improvement. Ditto what you say to yourself before you check out. These “editorials” may or may not represent your conscious beliefs.
Whose beliefs are they, do you suppose?
Cartoonists draw rough draft after rough draft to find an image they want to use. In daily speech, we correct and revise, trying to get to the heart of the matter.
Does the way you speak express what you mean? Are there thoughts and emotions you tend to leave out?
Practice: If you suspect that something you’ve said falls short, it probably does. Keep talking —rough draft after rough draft.
I wanted to be sincere and outrageous and friendly and rude and experimental and conventional.
Theoretically, certain of your attributes wouldn’t seem to apply to the same person. But here in real life, it possible to feel both shy and bold. Humble and proud. Lazy and ambitious. You get the idea.
Practice: List a pair of apparent contraries that apply to you. Then inhabit it — by which I mean, notice that you are a curious mix of qualities and bring both contraries to the present moment. This one, right now.
Years ago, I heard about a neighborhood club of the backyard variety created and run entirely by the children themselves, who had just three rules:
1. Don’t act big.
2. Don’t act small.
3. Be medium.
Thayer Cheatham Willis
Practice: Notice when you puff up or shrink down. Try to identify what has you acting bigger or smaller than you are: It’s typically a sign of trouble.
Fortunately, the trouble is rarely in the present.
Related practices: Writing Fiction
“…FINE? Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical?”
“That’s about right.”
stamp honoring etiquette expert Emily Post
When you truly feel fine, find an authentic way to say so — Fine is so overused a response that listeners no longer hear it. Say instead: So much has gone right today that I’m getting nervous. Say: You know how some days you wish you’d stayed in bed? I’m having one of those.
Practice: When someone you trust asks how you are, take a moment to check. Then tell them.
Related practices: The Fun Factor
If stuff doesn’t have a home in your home, you need to get rid of it, or it will forever wander around the house. Leo Babauta
I own an opera cape that was an antique when my grandmother wore it 60 years ago. Its home is at the end my sofa — unlike the coat that I toss over the back of a chair (and have to search for later) because I’m in a hurry.
Practice: Add something you consider beautiful to a room that you struggle to keep orderly: a vase of tulips, a blue bowl, your child’s drawing. Over time, notice whether having it there helps you create additional order.
Related practices: Clearing clutter
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Hafiz
Let it cut you, Hafiz urges. Let it ferment and season you.
I too encourage you to linger. Get to know your loneliness. It will tell you what you’re lonely for.
The Wish Project, Helen Hiebert
Practice: The next time you feel lonely, turn off your phone, the television, your email and sink into the feeling. Notice what arises.
The urge to smell fresh air? The face of a friend you miss dearly? The certainty you need to change your life?