I started the month finally giving in to the urge to subscribe to Sam Harris’s meditation app, Waking Up
. I’ve had an on and off meditation practice for years now, so it wasn’t immediately clear to me why it might be worth it to subscribe to these guided meditations, but I’m enormously glad that I did so. The app is great, with 50 days of guided meditation in addition to meditation talks and lessons on different aspects of cultivating a robust mindfulness practice. The guided meditations on meditating with your eyes open, focusing on the visual field behind closed eyes, and trying to locate the thinker of thoughts the moment they manifested were particularly new and enlightening.
The culmination of all of this guided practice was a focused awareness of consciousness being the arena where all of my life occurs through both thoughts and sense impressions (including that awareness of the basic fact that I’m conscious).
At the same time, I also finally gave Brene Brown a chance–while a number of people (most notably my wife) have recommended her writing to me, I could never get into it. I enjoyed her TEDx talk
, of course, but I’ve abandoned Daring Greatly
five or six times at this point.
Brene, herself, says that she writes out of necessity but she speaks because she loves it, so maybe it’s not so surprising that her audio books and recorded talks resonated so much more with me. Hearing her read her own work was tremendously powerful: I cruised through Rising Strong
, and then listened to the recorded workshops The Power of Vulnerability
and Men, Women, and Worthiness.
It’s a provocative body of work that I highly recommend, particularly in the audio format.
One of Brene’s wonderful insights around trying to explain our own internal states to other people is starting off with the phrase “The story I’m telling myself is…” as in “The story I’m telling myself when you check your phone during our conversation is that what I’m saying isn’t interesting.” Just using that phrase in conversation with someone else has the weird effect of objectifying your own thinking, both to the other person and to yourself. It’s a little surprising how effective it can be.
The culmination of mainlining Brene Brown for a solid month was a hyperawareness to the stories I tell myself around worthiness and around the real challenge of showing up authentically, something that was actually heightened by the practice of mindfully viewing my own thoughts as simply another appearance in the arena of consciousness.
And sure, mindfulness is one of the “signposts” of the wholehearted that Brown talks about, but pairing the two was much more impactful than I expected. And the combination of the two was likely what primed me for The Art of Possibility
The Art of Possibility
is a wonderful book written by husband and wife team Rosamund and Benjamin Zander who put forward a number of “practices” to cultivate a more hopeful and joyous mindset. They posit that everything in life is an invention, so we might as well invent stories about our worlds that “support the life you envision for yourself.”
This third book, in particular, sounds a little cliched now that I see the description in writing. Maybe all of this does.
But it wasn’t–or, at least, not in an off-putting way. I had a physical copy of this but I also listened to the audiobook in the car. It was a great way to interface with nonfiction, actually: You listen it first in the car and then reread it again as you think about it.
Adding the cues from The Art of Possibility
only served to highlight and reemphasize the recursive nature of consciousness and the importance of avoiding identifying with your negative thoughts. And reading it at the same time as I listened to Brene Brown and reinvigorated a mindfulness practice was particularly powerful.
Or at least that’s the story I’m telling myself.
Your milage may vary.