Life & Philosophy Tech

The art of doing nothing

Relaxation is an art, antithesis to our ‘always on’ culture.

But it takes work to do nothing. Those tiny hits of dopamine are addictive.

The route to super-consciousness is paved with roadblocks, the least bit unplugging from the maelstrom of 24/7 news and unnecessary push messages.

We crave novelty

Chasing the rectangular glow for entertainment produces intense cognitive clutter. All the engagement makes us less happy in the end.

Distracted into busyness, we begin to decay into inanition. We miss the events unfolding in our day, permitting evil to spread as a consequence of blindness.

When we’re interacting in excess, we miss out on recharging and thinking. Disconnection is the only way to put the mind back into the mix.

The goal is not just to relax, per se, but to be free from collecting screen souvenirs. What we want to strive for is long-term serotonin.

We fight for the present to turn idleness into concurrent exploration. Time ticks to the clock as the mind does to the brain. Breathe and stop, we can stave off the ludic loop.

Surrounded by accelerated context, moments of silence seem to be the only way to make anything click.

Life & Philosophy

Running to safety

Acceptance precedes change, the self-help books proclaim. One can’t advance unless they agree with their current state.

Similarly, uncertainty boils with anticipation. The only way to calm the nerves is to take action that scratches the itch. Doing instead of wondering is a litmus test for hope.

Both acceptance and initiative can make us feel more alive. The trick is to learn when to accelerate and when to dip.

Trapped inside of fear, unable to inhabit our own experience — the last thing we should do is run away and let pass opportunity by.

Health Life & Philosophy Nature

Prescribing a walk in nature

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Get yourself a prescription to nature. It’ll improve your mental and physical health. That’s according to doctors in Scotland who are recommending that people in the Shetland Islands get outside more often.

The program outlines a recommended outside activity per month. For instance, in January you can create a windsock to grasp the full power of the wind. In March, one can “borrow a dog and take it for a walk.”

Looking for more advice on improving your mental health during these challenging times? Get in on online therapy with BetterHelp, the largest online therapy & counseling platform in the world.

Prescribing a walk in nature
via tw

We belong in the wild, unmoored from the tyranny of our seats. When we disconnect and move outside, we connect with terra firma and reconnect with ourselves. Take your body and thoughts for a walk.  

Life & Philosophy Psychology

The backlash of presence


If you’re like me, you have a love and hate relationship with the mindfulness practice. It only seems to work when you’re actually doing it, at home in your chair far away from the chaos of life. The rest of your time you’re trying to install this moment-by-moment awareness into your real life to no avail. It’s both frustrating and hilarious.

The author of America the Anxious Ruth Whippman sums up the insidiousness of mindfulness in a recent op-ed in the New York Times:

“Mindfulness is supposed to be a defense against the pressures of modern life, but it’s starting to feel suspiciously like it’s actually adding to them. It’s a special circle of self-improvement hell, striving not just for a Pinterest-worthy home, but a Pinterest-worthy mind.”

There are some benefits of meditation–it calls attention to our lack of focus. We’re all so easily distractable in the smartphone age. Instead of acting smug about inner-noticing and our failure of presence, perhaps the quickest path to emotional calm is to stop trying so hard to be here now in the first place.

“This is a kind of neo-liberalism of the emotions, in which happiness is seen not as a response to our circumstances but as a result of our own individual mental effort, a reward for the deserving. The problem is not your sky-high rent or meager paycheck, your cheating spouse or unfair boss or teetering pile of dirty dishes. The problem is you.”

Life & Philosophy Psychology

Thin Slices of Joy

Image via Alvin Baleness

If you can find joy in the ordinary and not just the extraordinary moments, you’ll live a much happier life.

When you’re young, it’s the big moments like our first car or getting our first kiss that shapes our lives. As we age, the small things matter — a sip of warm coffee or lunch with a friend.

Joy all comes down to the art of noticing. Says Google’s former mindfulness guru Chade-Meng Tan:

“Noticing sounds trivial, but it is an important meditative practice in its own right. Noticing is the prerequisite of seeing. What we do not notice, we cannot see.”

The practice of noticing everyday moments leads to Meng Tan calls “thin slices of joy,” quite the opposite of “thin slices of anxiety.” Life happens in the moments in between, the dull moments that people usually take for granted.

Culture Life & Philosophy

Trekking the Shikoku henro, Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route

Shikoku henro
A journey through the Shikoku henro

Financial Times writer Barney Jopson went on the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan, a route founded and dedicated to commemorate the original 750-mile trek of Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. Also known as Kūkai, Daishi returned from studying in China in the late 7th century AD to help import Buddhism in Japan. Jopson biked the route but given the age of many of the participants, most prefer to travel by bus while others walk.

“There are no definitive counts but each year between 80,000 and 140,000 pilgrims — known as o-henro — are estimated to travel at least part of the route. According to one survey, around 60 per cent of them are over the age of 60. The vast majority speed around on air-conditioned bus tours but a hardy band of 2,000-5,000 are estimated to do it on foot, usually completing the circuit in 40-50 days.”

The Japanese are more spiritual than religious. Taking the Shikoku henro route is an act of collective healing– coping with the death of loved ones, past failures, or nagging health problems. Some of the 88 temples serve a specific purpose.

“Certain temples specialise in blessings for getting pregnant, passing an exam or resolving eye problems. Some offer protection for people at unlucky ages: 42 for men and 33 for women. “If you’ve got 100 people, you’ll find 100 reasons for doing the pilgrimage.”

Nature nurtures. God(s) and spirituality help relieve stress. The Shikoku henro sounds fascinating, a mindfulness adventure, social experience, and digital detox wrapped into one.

A journey along Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route

Social Media

Throw Instagram into the Ocean

My friend Carter Moore deleted his Instagram account.

“I never really considered the long-term impact and influence it had on my life…”

I would do the same and delete my account once and for all but I’ve come up with an alternative solution that allows you to keep the account but level out the addiction.

Instagram is designed to be a sticky experience. Even with notifications turned off, it still shows those dopamine-producing hearts every time you log in. It’s hard to resist the temptation of identifying your likers or new followers. People also blame Instagram for the explosion of photo-sharing, arguing that Instagram is ruining photography. Perhaps Instagram is the scapegoat for much larger frustrations with our digital behavior.

Anyway, here’s a way to keep using Instagram without deleting your account while still enjoying the process of photography, the art of noticing, which is really what Instagram should be about.

Delete the Instagram app from your phone after you’re done publishing. Redownload it only when you need it to publish again.

That’s it! And it goes a long way, not only preventing you from checking in to catch flying hearts but also will omit excessive scrolling.

This process may be inconvenient, but it works.

In summary: Download Instagram, log-in via Facebook, scan the first five photos in your feed (optional), upload your new photo, delete Instagram, and get on with your life.

Don’t itch the scratch by keeping Instagram on your phone. Note: this same process can be applied to other apps including Twitter, Facebook, or Amazon, all which I only try to use on a desktop computer where I spend less time.

If you’re still struggling with this proposed workaround, you can always do what Austin Kleon suggests to get more reading done: “throw your phone into the ocean.” Or you can just delete your Instagram profile and call it a day.


Mindfulness in the Age of Complexity

Remember, too, that stress is not a function of events; it’s a function of the view you take of events.You think a particular thing is going to happen and that when it does, it’s going to be awful. But prediction is an illusion. We can’t know what’s going to happen. So give yourself five reasons you won’t lose the job. Then think of five reasons why, if you did, it would be an advantage—new opportunities, more time with family, et cetera. Now you’ve gone from thinking it’s definitely going to happen to thinking maybe it will and even if it does, you’ll be OK.

Control the mind, control the reaction, control the stress. Keep it all in perspective. And then relax in the moment.

It’s going to sound corny, but I believe it fully: Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that. So if you make the moment matter, it all matters. You can be mindful, you can be mindless. You can win, you can lose. The worst case is to be mindless and lose. So when you’re doing anything, be mindful, notice new things, make it meaningful to you, and you’ll prosper.


Breathing In vs. Spacing Out

The trick is knowing when mindfulness is called for and when it’s not. “When you’re staring out the window, you may well be coming up with your next great idea,” he said. “But you’re not paying attention to the teacher. So the challenge is finding the balance between mindfulness and mind wandering. If you’re driving in a difficult situation, if you’re operating machinery, if you’re having a conversation, it’s useful to hold that focus. But that could be taken to an extreme, where one always holds their attention in the present and never lets it wander.”

Epiphanies emerge when you let your mind wander.  But mind wandering also gets in the way of learning and getting stuff done.  You just need to be able to dream and focus when you need to. 


The Internet is the new predator.  The only way to encode data is to focus so we can make short-term attention stick in the long-term.

Many of us (including myself) are thinking like computers.  Pay attention and “control your mind.”  

And take a break now and again. Walk without a connection.