0460 – dance along to your internal compass

First a quick meatbag management review– I hit the gym about once a week for 3 weeks, and then took a break for a week (unintentional… was just busy with work and stuff). Then I went for a run today (in week 5) and did some pushups. And when I got home, I felt much more clearheaded than I normally do when I’m running. I think the main reason for that is improved diet– I haven’t even been sleeping super great, but my mind is clearer probably because my blood sugar levels are more stable, I’m eating healthier. So if I can just quickly correct my sleep too, that should give me a lot more mental energy to do all the things I want to do– prioritize my tasks better, work on harder tasks, so on.

So I’ve been just reflecting on all of that. I’m thinking, why does any of this matter? Why do I care about all of these things? Why do I think about them, why do I write about them, what do I want, what’s the point?

And I find myself thinking… the meatbag management stuff is just to be able to help me function effectively, so I can then be more optimal with regards to how I handle my life. I realize that I basically have never felt like “I’m on top of my life”. I’m always playing catch up. I know that to-do lists are always endless, but I still always feel like I’m behind on my obligations, like I’m not carrying my fair share in life. So all of this again is about me learning to provide myself with the structure and stability that I need in order to function effectively.

I found myself thinking about “goals, processes and values” – the three things (supposedly) that you can focus on in order to improve your life. And again, here I think “improve your life” isn’t about improving life itself, whatever that means, but about being better equipped to handle life’s challenges. I’ve never really been super clear about what sort of person I am. I have a bunch of goals but I’m not monomaniacal in pursuing them– it’s okay if I sorta screw up, because ultimately nothing matters anyway. I have a bunch of processes, and I’ve thought about them from time to time, and made some efforts to improve them here and there, but I’m not religiously obsessed about my processes, either. And values– sometimes I encounter individuals that I really admire and I think “I’d like to live a life that they’d admire / be proud of”, and that does feel quite sticky sometimes, but it always wears off (I guess the ‘answer’ there is that’s why we should revisit them every day– just like we shower and eat again and again every day.)

But again, I think it’s important to ask– if I’m going to be pursuing goals, why? If I’m going to be optimizing processes, why? If I’m going to be embodying values, why? I used to think in terms of things like “getting the most out of life”, and I’m sure I mentioned that just a couple of vomits ago, too. But even that can be a bit of a burdensome expectation. “Am I getting enough out of life?” is a question that, if you’re not careful with it, can make you feel incredibly unsatisfied, frustrated, unhappy– even though you’re probably having a better life than most humans who have ever lived.

So I find myself drawn towards thoughts about meditation, moments of being. And I find myself thinking about dance. Not sure why. Dance is just a nice metaphor for flow, maybe. The point is that life is a celebration, it’s a dance, it’s play. And the point of everything is to enjoy the dance, to enjoy playing. The problem is, there are all these difficulties and challenges that get in the way. Bills to pay, work to do. Constraints. And I was thinking about how those things need to be worked out, and worked into the dance. Doing gruntwork can still be meditative, and it should be. But we shouldn’t kick ourselves over not feeling all profound and deep about everything all the time.

I guess I’m floating around thoughts about attachment. Goals are nice to have, but the goals themselves aren’t the point. They’re just guidelines meant to serve the dance. Processes are important, they provide structure and stability. But the processes themselves aren’t the point, they exist to facilitate the dance. Values… I don’t quite feel qualified to talk about values, I think values are a very personal thing. I’m not sure if I can say “values themselves aren’t the point”, that seems to create some wordplay/complications, but I think values are also meant to guide and embody the dance. [1]

So the point is to DANCE. Or to meditate, or to Be, or whatever you want to call it. That requires skillfulness, and nothing in my life so far has particularly prepared me for it. (If you want to be cheesy, you could say that EVERYTHING in life prepares you for it, but again that’s a parlor game. The point is that life is its own challenge, and its own reward.)

So I guess this is just my personal affirmation that I don’t have to get too attached to anything, I don’t have to get too obsessed with anything. I can and should rely more on my internal compass, which I access through meditation, reflection, exercise and so on. The only thing I really need to do is to earn my own self-respect. And that doesn’t actually come easily. I know deep down when I’ve tried my best. I used to ask questions like, “But how do I actually know if I’ve tried my best, or if I’m bullshitting myself?” The answer to that question is to go for a run, hit the gym, do some writing, and just keep going until you feel like you have to stop, and then stop. You may second-guess that stop, but then just do it again the next time, and go a little further, lift a little more, write a little more. My internal compass has been muddied from a lifetime of misuse, but it’s still fundamentally functional– and I can get better at reading it with practice.

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[1] Lately I’ve been enjoying how Facebook has been surfacing old status updates through its “On This Day” function. I enjoy reading updates from my 18, 20 and 22 year old selves. I feel a lot of sympathy and compassion for how ignorant and naive I was. There are times where I needed a good kick in the ass, and other times where I needed gentle encouragement. I’m really enjoying replying to those old comments– it feels like I’m the older friend I wish I had. And here I find myself thinking, what will I think about my current statuses, etc 10 years from now? When I’m 35, what will I be amused about my 25 year old self? What will I be proud of? What should I do, thinking about this? I really love how Facebook and journalling etc allow us to experience time in such a prismatic way.

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