Posts tagged 'psychology'
Almost three years ago, Covid-19 began to manifest itself as a global, historical turning point. Since then, its far-reaching consequences have been analyzed and written about in much detail. Despite an abundance of insightful pandemic stories on an institutional as well individual level, I feel compelled to provide one more personal anecdote. Not because I’m looking for praise for the few hours of weekly voluntary work I that I’m doing since then.
Meditating comes with an interesting side effect: When you’re sitting still and observing your own thoughts, you slowly start to appreciate how weird and quirky your mind actually is. That can be scary at times—for instance, you realize how little control “you” ultimately have over what’s going on in there. But it can also be highly instructive. One interesting thing I’ve come to notice, during as well as outside of formal meditation sessions, is how much the degree to which I feel “fidgety” varies from day to day and even from one situation to the next.
I have referred to my meditation practice a few times now, but I realize that I never actually explained what I even mean by that. So, what is it that I do when I say I meditate? Why do I do it in the first place? And is it really worth the hassle? First, let me clarify what meditation, to me, is certainly not: It’s not “sitting around and thinking hard about a problem”—even though the term is frequently used in that sense in everyday language.
One thing that never fails to astounds me is how far the boundaries of possible human experiences extend. The label “beyond good and evil” is certainly overused these days, but lets try to take the idea seriously for a moment: What do experiences look like that are so totally incomprehensible that you can’t even begin to speak about them, let alone chart them on a mental map. Think of the comfort zone model for example:
More than a year ago, I published this blog post about my daily routine. Since then I’ve received a lot of feedback, ranging from curiosity to mild encouragement to raised eyebrows. In essence though, the comments most people brought up boil down to three things: “This kind of lifestyle seems dull / repetitive / strenuous / masochistic. How do you find any joy in that?” “Isn’t it all just a fluke?
“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” The Doctor Yes, I plucked that quote from a cheesy Doctor Who episode. Nevertheless, I think there’s a lot of truth to unpack here. So indulge me, if you will. I’ve been fascinated with stories for all my life. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around being read to, and later reading myself, books about epic battles, about murder and deceit, about the lives and deaths of heroes and villains both real and fictional.
The act of thinking is probably the most interesting human behavior, but one we usually pay very little attention to. But bear with me, and… think about it for just a second: What’s actually going on in your head when you think about anything? Or, when you try to think about nothing at all? And is that even possible? It’s likely that you’ll find that what we call thinking mostly consists of a strange, one-sided dialog: A semi-structured conversation between you and… Yourself?
Peak Mind by Amishi P. Jha. We’re all distracted, all of the time. More and more studies show that on average, we spend only 50% of our waking hours engaged with the present moment—the other half of the time we’re zoning out, ruminating, mind-wandering or daydreaming. Furthermore, research suggests that our ability to pay attention is on the decline. And why wouldn’t it be, given the increasing pace at which we’re assaulted by social media notifications, breaking news alerts, and instant messages.
Getting people–others or ourselves–to do something that’s not obviously pleasurable is immensely tricky. Never mind if you want to start an exercise routine, eat healthier, or motivate someone to get their Covid-19 shot, the underlying challenge is always the same: In the short-term, it’s easier, less painful, or more convenient to simply avoid doing the “right” thing. So what can we do, in spite of that bias towards immediate gratification, to overcome the mind’s inbred inertia?
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Néel. I’m not sure why, but over the last few weeks I rediscovered a passion for adventure literature. Re-reading Heinrich Harrer’s “Seven Years in Tibet” led me down the rabbit-hole towards lesser known, but no less epic, tales such as Alexandra David-Néel’s “Journey to Lhasa”. Right now, I’m halfway through “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage”, which details the horrors of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and just when their ship finally gets crushed and the crew is forced to flee into the freezing wilderness of Antarctica, the central heating in my house breaks down.
I attended a great concert in Vienna this Friday night. Afterwards, on the way back to the apartment of the friends I was staying with, we passed a cafe where we had drinks a couple of times on previous occasions. Much to my surprise, the cafe was closed. I asked my friends what had happened - surely a location like this with thousands of concert goers passing by every night must be a gold mine?
Range by David Epstein. Roger Federer and Tiger Woods are two very different kinds of athletes. Each has achieved outstanding success in his field, but they took very different paths to get there: While Tiger Woods started playing golf before he could walk, Roger Federer experimented with a wide variety of sports before honing in on Tennis at a rather late age. David Epstein uses the stories of Roger and Tiger to start his book Range, in which he builds the case for shunning the "