Issue No. 7: Forgetting & Remembering
"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."
- John Muir
After a whirlwind December—too much travel, laid up sick for two weeks, hitting black ice and totaling our car, the holidays, car shopping (would someone please reinvent the car buying experience?)—we serendipitously ended 2017 snowshoeing in Snoqualmie with friends. As I've been telling anyone who will listen: It was spectacularly beautiful. The mountains. The snow. The trees. It was straight out of a fairytale.
Our little snowshoeing experience was serendipitous for two reasons:
After four months of living here in the Pacific Northwest I got it. I finally understood why people (why we) live here: for the mountains, for the sea, for the lakes, for the sheer variety and breathtaking natural beauty and all the activities that come with it.
I remembered that spending time adventuring outdoors makes me feel like me. It's part of who I am, and in the busyness of moving, getting settled in a new place and starting a business, I forgot that.
At first, I was surprised that I had forgotten this yet again. After spending the summer in Hawaii, Matt and I had extensive conversations about how we feel better, more alive, more creative when we spend large amounts of time outside. We resolved to carry that into our life in Seattle, gray and rainy or not.
And then, I remembered (are you seeing a theme here?!?) something that Tara Brach, a wise Buddhist teacher, said: That the spiritual path is a cycle of remembering and forgetting.
At the beginning of a new year, it's all too easy to get caught up in all the energy about a "new" you and feel that this is your one opportunity to make changes in your life. But what about the "old" you? The you that got buried by the busyness of life and work, the incessant flow of Twitter and Instagram and all the shoulds that we encounter every day?
What if we instead used the new digit at the end of our date to simply remember what we want, what we keep coming back to but always inevitably forget? It's much less sexy than a whole new you, but you don't need a whole new you when you recognize that every day is an opportunity to do something—perhaps the smallest possible thing—differently, to find the discipline to remember what you want.
I think part of this—remembering what you want—is holding in your heart and mind that anything worthwhile takes time. Any overnight success or transformation is often anything but. Real change happens slowly, one hour, podcast, meal, project, interaction at a time.
Below are five (of the many) things—in addition to getting outside—that I keep remembering and coming back to more times than I care to admit. What are some of yours?
1. CONNECT, DEEPLY & OFTEN.
For me authentically connecting requires remembering that there is no separate, that nothing is wrong with me, that I belong, that being compassionate with others (a must for meaningful connection) starts with being compassionate with myself (not one of my strengths). For that, I'm diving into Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance, which keeps showing up in my life in various ways, the most recent being this conversation between Marie Forleo and Tim Ferriss.
2. LISTEN TO MUSIC.
Although I grew up in a house where music was always playing—Neil Young, Tom Petty, Jackson Brown, Bonnie Rait, Midnight Oil (I am very much a child of the 80s/90s)—I have to remember that I love listening to music. It almost always instantly feeds my soul and makes me feel a little lighter. We added a Beoplay to our lives this summer and it's helped me listen to more music. I move it around our apartment depending on what I'm doing, and it's easy to pack and go and take on trips. (It doesn't hurt that the sound is quite good.) Currently on repeat: The very soulful Valerie June.
3. LAUGH. PLAY. REPEAT.
If you ask anyone close to me, playful would not be on the list of adjectives they would use to describe moi. I'm serious, focused, determined, bookish, creative, maybe intelligent but not playful. And quite honestly, I find it hard to let go enough to have unrestrained fun, to play without an agenda, to feel that pure joy of doing something for the sake of doing it. I realize, this isn't exactly a recipe for contentment and I would absolutely be able to show up better in all areas of my life if I could simply learn to play. If this sounds like something you need, too, this conversation between Chase Jarvis and Charlie Hoehn could be a good place to start.
4. LEARN HOW TO LEARN.
Being a voracious reader is part of my identity. I've come to realize (more than once), however, that reading and really learning what I've read—either remembering it or organizing the information in a way that is useful—are two different things. And what's the point of knowledge if you're not putting it to good use? (You'd think I would have established a system somewhere between high school, college and graduate school but alas ...). This is precisely why I've recently started using this index card system for organizing and remembering the things that I'm learning and reading about. (BONUS: It's analog.) Better late than never, eh?
5. EMRACE RITUALS.
A weekly date night, a morning meditation practice, setting Fridays aside for reflection, journaling, daily intentions, Sunday yoga—I've long wanted to have more ritual in my life, small sacred acts that keep me present, grounded and focused on how I want to live. I particularly love this academic approach to designing a ritual from Stanford's d. school.