Archive for January, 2016

The ability to profoundly impact a person’s life with a single handshake

January 24, 2016

Long ago, when I was in college I asked my Philosophy teacher, “Who is the most remarkable person you have ever met?” He responded, saying that it was a monk from a Christian monastic order. The monk spends eleven months each year in isolation, meditating and praying. One month of each year he goes out into the world, giving talks and meeting people. My Philosophy teacher said that when he shook the monk’s hand it was magical. “The monk shook my hand warmly, unhurriedly, and his gentle eyes focused on me as if to say that I was the most important person in the world. It moved me profoundly.” So profoundly, in fact, that my Philosophy teacher still remembered and treasured that single handshake ten years later.

Last Friday a friend relayed to me an encounter that similarly profoundly affected him. A few weeks ago my friend was at the airport, waiting for his flight when a person walked by. My friend turned to his son and asked, “Isn’t that Bernie Sanders?” His son looked and said “No” but then looked again and said, “Yes, I think it is.” They were both still unsure if it was Sanders; after all, there wasn’t a large throng of reporters and security people surrounding him, as is characteristic of so many politicians. There were only two people accompanying him. My friend walked up to one of the accompanying people and asked, “Is that Bernie Sanders?” The fellow responded “Yes” so my friend walked up to Sanders and shook his hand. My friend said that when he shook Sander’s hand, it had the same impact that my Philosophy teacher described in his encounter with the monk. My friend told me, “There was something unique about how Sanders shook my hand and warmly, unhurriedly, greeted me. I immediately sensed that this is someone special. It was an experience that deeply touched me.”

The beauty and clarity that arises from being totally immersed in something

January 17, 2016

I’ve discovered that something magical occurs when I am deeply immersed in a problem. I enter into a different state of consciousness. My brain opens up and I see things that were once hidden. Beauty is revealed to me. I long to have the experience again – it is addictive.

Recently I’ve heard other people express similar sentiments:

Last week I heard on NPR someone talk about freediving.  The person being interviewed said that once he became immersed in the sport, something clicked inside him and a whole new, beautiful world opened up for him:

So even for me, who’s really comfortable in the water, it took a lot – a long time. Maybe I’m more neurotic than most. But it took a long time for me to get comfy. But then I had this one moment where it clicked for me. And I was down at about 20 meters, about 66 feet. And I didn’t have any urge to breathe. And all around me was this beautiful blue world. And I came up, and I felt so relaxed. And for that whole day, like, I’d close my eyes and I would just see that blue world. It was just something that was in my head. And I woke up the next morning just wanting to do it again. And I eventually got to a hundred feet, or 30 meters, during that course. And – but that’s something that stays with you. And that’s just me, an entry-level – that’s a level 2 free diver. I think that the effects are even greater. I know that they are even greater for these athletes that go to 100 meters. I mean, I can’t even imagine that. But they get to a place – it’s like part athletic, part spiritual. And it’s definitely addictive ’cause it’s so beautiful.

One of my favorite TV shows is Elementary (Sherlock Holmes and Watson). I think the show’s writers are geniuses. In last week’s episode Sherlock listens to a short audio clip over and over (hundreds of time perhaps). At some point in listening, something clicked inside him and he was able to recognize a new meaning from the inflection in the voice of the person in the audio clip (this enabled him to solve the mystery).

Recently I have been writing a software program. For the first few days it was frustrating. But after looking at the problem, over and over, from every conceivable angle, something clicked inside me. The frustration lifted and a calmness settled in. Things became clear in my mind. The problem, my solution, became beautiful. I thought to myself, “I can see how programming can be addictive.”

Now I realize that this sense of clarity and beauty arises whenever one completely immerses oneself into a problem, whatever the problem might be. I’ve also realized that, to experience this altered/heightened state of consciousness requires long periods of uninterrupted focus.


A day of constant movement

January 16, 2016

Think about a stream where the water is constantly flowing. The water is clear and pure. Conversely, a body of water that sits motionless soon becomes stagnant and filthy.

Our bodies are filled with fluids. When we sit — sedentary — for extended periods of time, the fluids in our body become unhealthy, just like a stagnant body of motionless water. Conversely, when we are constantly moving, then the fluids in our body are clear and pure, just like a stream with constantly flowing water.

Tomorrow I am going to do an experiment. I am going to move all day long. I will not sit for even one minute.


In 2016 a billion hours will be wasted watching a screen

January 3, 2016

A friend of mine recently informed me that he doesn’t watch much TV. And when he does, it is only if there is something on TV that he specifically wants to watch. He never turns on the TV, roaming the channels, looking for something to entertain him.

I thought about that and I agree with my friend’s philosophy. I don’t want to waste my life sitting mindlessly in front of a screen, seeking to be entertained.

Seth Godin wrote that in 2016: We’ll waste more than a billion hours staring at screens. (That’s in total, but for some people, it might feel like an individual number). I don’t want to contribute to that billion hours. My 2016 goal: I will only turn on TV when there is something that I specifically want to watch.