Phillip Smith
covering

Meditate & destroy, Everyday.

Reflections on turning 40

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My “guy tribe” is awesome.

An impresario, a storyteller, a doctor, a traveller, a hacker, a photographer, a mathematician, a teacher, a union leader, a father, a serial entrepreneur, a programmer, an engineer, a designer, and a writer, among others. This diverse group has taught me more in the last few years than any school, course, workshop, conference, or retreat. They’ve taught me how to let go when my work is done, how to dance like nobody is watching, how to recover from a hangover in style, how to make playing frisbee look cool, and how to enjoy music like a DeeJay.

But the lesson I’ve really taken to heart is: Everyday.

Whatever you find hard to do, whatever needs to be done in the moment, whatever that thing is that gets moved to the end of the list in life: just fscking do it, and do it everyday.

It’s a pretty simple motto for life. It’s easy to apply. The outcomes are impressive and quick. Exercise? Everyday. Write? Everyday. Be kind? Everyday. Be humble? Everyday.

A few weeks ago, I started some directed personal experimentation, in the hopes of creating some space in my life for conscious reflection and contemplation on the last forty years. One of those experiments was meditation, Everyday.

I haven’t meditated regularly since my mid-twenties, and I have my guy tribe to thank for re-connecting me to the practice. Whether it’s Jeff who’s demonstrating just how deep one can take it and offering his home, his heart, and his mind to all comers, or Mark who pulled me reluctantly onto the beach at 7AM to meditate as the sun rose over the ocean in southern Mexico, each of my guys has inspired me with their own commitment to pushing themselves further.

I found it easiest to re-introduce meditation in three ways: a traditional “sit” after waking in the morning, as well as using breathing and contemplation exercises while I’m cooking and, more effectively, while I hand wash the dishes.

The most profound impact has been the “lightness” of my days these last few weeks. Starting the morning with meditation has insulated my mind from a jarring barrage of information, or an avalanche of caffeine, or both simultaneously. For me, this results in much less anxiety as I prepare myself to be productive for the rest of the day.

The evening meditations, cooking and cleaning-up, help me shift away from feeling like I need to be productive all the time, which encourages me to engage other motivations, like inquisitiveness and contemplation. Leaving my laptop at work also helps.

Over the years, I’ve tried to persuade many of the busy, committed, change-makers in my life that slowing down is key to doing great work. I don’t personally believe it’s possible for any individual to create a lasting change in the world around them, unless they can create lasting change in the world within them.

Not making time for oneself is a classic pattern for those who are trying to make the world a better place. However, in my experience – simply by focusing inward on improving the self – the outer is also improved: inner work permeates how one relates to the world and to one’s colleagues and friends, and it presents itself in one’s attitude. I can be as simple as a smile on the street, given to a stranger, that changes their day and yours.

These last few weeks, by making some time (everyday!) for meditation and contemplation, whatever the form – sitting, cooking, or cleaning – has helped to “destroy” (stealing from “dharma punk” Noah Levine) negative patterns, e.g., starting the day with too much intensity, or taking my work-mind home with me. I believe more deeply now than ever that, with time, this practice will improve my work, my friendships, my relationships, and – eventually – the world around me.

Check-in with me in forty years for the outcome.

About

Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.

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