Being an optimist is hazardous duty these days.
John Pavlovitz

Practice: This one is simple — hard to do, but simple. Notice what feeds your optimism. A media fast? Stories of heroism? Political action?

Watching clouds and reading detective novels top the list of things that feed my optimism. What feeds yours?

Very Good Life

There is only one very good life, and it’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.
Diana Vreeland

74_coverHorst P. Horst, 1979

“The life you know you want” is an ambitious statement. How do you know which life, among all possible lives, is one you want?

What if you want more than one?

Practice: Identify one property of your — and it’s essential that it be your — good life. Start small and be specific. Is it an activity? An accomplishment? The view from a window?

How about a sound or an aroma?

Faith Abounds

In the absence of organized religion, faith abounds, in the form of song and art and food and strong arms.
Elizabeth Alexander

Structures house faith, but faith can outgrow structures and once-reliable structures can fail the people who loved them.

Where to turn then? Alexander lists song, art, food, and strong arms.

Practice: Come up with your own where-to-turn list and put it someplace you will find it the next time you get that itchy, ungrounded feeling that says you need an injection of faith. (For me, live music works better than a Vitamin B12 shot.)

Advanced practice: No matter what your mood at the moment, do one of the items on your faith list. Now. While you’re thinking about it.

Related practices: Need, Please, Alert Emptiness

Your Body

… what does it mean that so many voices out there insist that your body, my body, everyone’s body is something to despise because it’s too fat, too ugly, too sexual, too old, or too brown?
Kerry Egan

You probably find your body wanting in some way: Too many influences insist that our bodies are defective for most of us to remain intact. Or embodied. But there are ways to move forward.

Practice: Focus on something you admire about another’s physicality — a toddler’s fearlessness, an Olympian’s extension, the graceful way someone powers a wheelchair — and find a personal equivalent. Something about your body that, with effort, you can appreciate.

(If trying to appreciate your body makes you squirm, go right ahead. Squirming is as physical a response as any other action.)

Related Practices: Please, The Only Spring

Behaving Badly

We should never speak badly of people that we have allowed to behave badly.
Quentin Crisp

We cannot control other people’s behavior, but we can take charge of our own.

Practice: Identify something, anything, that you consider bad behavior. The size of the offense doesn’t matter, nor does whether anyone agrees with you.

Next identify what you do that permits the behavior you dislike. Remaining at the counter while a clerk chats on the phone comes to mind, but you no doubt have a list of your own.
Moving at whatever rate is right for you, change your behavior. Leave already, or ask for the manager, or shop elsewhere. Or. . .

Changing your own behavior is more demanding than bad-mouthing another’s. And far more effective.

Related Practices: Intensify to Identify, No Easy Jobs


Self-care means what it says on the tin.
Anna Bianchi

The intention to care for oneself comes with a couple of problems. What’s nourishing keeps changing. Yesterday’s solutions don’t work, except when they do. Plus you have to be present for self-care to do its magic.

A woman once called me, exasperated, from her front porch. She had banished herself, she said, and didn’t plan to return to her house until she found her way back: inside her skin, in the present moment.

Practice: Notice what you think of her decision.

How closely does that assessment parallel how well (or poorly) you take care of yourself?

Related practices: Done, Authentic, Walking Companions


The biggest reward of all, for pledging $10,000 or more, was no reward and no mention of your name.
Kickstarter campaign for the Marina Abramovic Institute

Doing something good without anyone else knowing about it is high risk. The risk comes from the way you end up feeling. I have done good deeds anonymously and gotten higher than a kite — and I have done them and ended up feeling nonplussed, bewildered, or foolish.

But the practice itself can be addictive. At the very least, looking for opportunities to do something constructive suggests that you have heroic potential. Which you do, of course. We all do. Anonymity then becomes a question of personal style: where and how you experience “the biggest reward of all.”

Practice: Experiment. Get someone a coffee, a car or a college education without them knowing. If anonymous giving suits you, enjoy!

Related practices: Work, Permission


There are days when you need ferocious action, and there are days when you need a new detective story and a chocolate.
Kerry Greenwood

And, I would add, there are days to be grateful for the tiniest hint which is which. Need states are partly fact and partly fiction, which makes them hard to figure out.

Practice: Identify a small step that feels like it could clarify what you need. Write one blistering letter (you don’t have to mail it). Take one bite of chocolate (it needn’t contain sugar). Take action, but keep each step small. Repeat until you have done something that, in retrospect, turned out to be nourishing.

Related Practices: Self-Attack, Authentic, “As it turned out”


Time plays like an accordion in the ways it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways.
Julia Glass

woman with accordion
Ed Conn

Practice: Identify a rate of speed you particularly enjoy. Then track which experiences allow you to spend more time moving at that rate.

You probably know some of them already; others may surprise you. (One gear up from a saunter is my current preference.)

Related Practices: The Compass and the Clock


I never wanted to read another war novel again, and I never did.
Bob Dylan, describing All Quiet on the Western Front

Optional soundtrack for this practice: “End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys

Practice: Identify something small or large that you feel done with. Naming it may be enough or you can escalate to telling someone.

If that goes well, enact done: Stop answering the phone when you-know-who calls. Stop doing damage control for your heedless spouse— be done with whatever it is you want to be done with. It’s allowed.