meus intuitus

Archive for April 2012

to have or to live

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I don’t live to have.  I live to do.  Let’s forget the big house, expensive cars, fancy phones.  “Simplicity is the ultimate degree of sophistication,” quoth da Vinci.  Let’s eat, let’s travel, let’s go.

May I embody these ideals more with each passing year.

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Written by meusintuitus

April 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm

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12 rules

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  • Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. It’s part of my philosophy, and it’s also a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
  • Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
  • Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, wiped down the counter, and washed the dishes used for preparation. Then you’re done with that task, and can focus more completely on the next task.
  • Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, an no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.
  • Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
  • Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for many things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual, it’s important enough to be given your entire attention, and to be done slowly and correctly. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.
  • Designate time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for for bathing, a time for work, a time for cleaning, a time for eating. This ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether that be work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.
  • Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. Each day, there is time designated just for sitting. This meditation is really practice for learning to be present. You can devote time for sitting meditation, or do what I do: I use running as a way to practice being in the moment. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.
  • Smile and serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people on the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others. If you’re a parent, it’s likely you already spend at least some time in service to others in your household, and non-parents may already do this too. Similarly, smiling and being kind to others can be a great way to improve the lives of those around you. Also consider volunteering for charity work.
  • Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Aside from the zazen mentioned above, cooking and cleaning are to of the most exalted parts of a Zen monk’s day. They are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).
  • Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a refrigerator and cabinets full of junk food. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food (they eat simple, vegetarian meals consisting usually of rice, miso soup, vegetables, and pickled vegetables). Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.
  • Live simply. The corollary of Rule 11 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, my writing, my running and my reading are essential. To others, yoga and spending time with close friends might be essential. For others it will be nursing and volunteering and going to church and collecting comic books. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.

~ Leo Babauta

Written by meusintuitus

April 28, 2012 at 4:02 am

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cold turkey

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April 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm

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empathy

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She was anxious.  I listened to her heart and lung sounds.  Her lungs sounded normal.  Her heart was racing.  They were not kidding when they said that she was crazy-anxious.  The attending, my mentor, entered the examination room.  The diagnostic plan was laid—the possibility of metastatic cancer whispered, but far from stated.  Her eyes started to cry; the rest of her face did not, but you could tell that it would at any moment.  As we explained the follow-up to the diagnostic imaging, the woman began openly weeping, then sobbing, then bawling.  Her brother came to her side and reminded her, “you’re getting yourself all worked up now.  We don’t even know if it’s bad yet.”  She clutched him and bawled louder.  The nurses called her crazy.  Her wails followed us out of the examination room.

“No resilience at all…  It must be hard going through life like that,” my mentor muttered.

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April 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

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sartorial frustration

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I’m suddenly struggling with rationing my money among threads, the alterations they need, and food.  Fit alterations are the straw that’s breaking me.  The way menswear is cut off-the-rack, you wonder if they meant for it to look like shit; but once you know you can’t go back.  I’ve gone full retard—and by full retard I mean fully obsessive-compulsive.  It’s offensive, I know.  A shirt sleeve falls 0.5” below the wrist bone, a jacket sleeve stops at the base of the wrist bone, waistlines of shirts and coats should have no more than three inches of “billow,” even my CK briefs– Just kidding, I wear boxers.  How did this happen?  How did I get this way?  Oh how simple were those days long past—of saggy jeans, cut-off tees, and backwards caps.  Actually, let’s never go back to those days…  but oh how wonderfully simple they were.

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April 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm

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the aging of a word

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Today’s kids may not apprecaite how the word “rewind” relates to music and film.  Only the etymologically inclined will know that, once upon a time, music and film played on pieces of tape wound up inside little boxes–and to listen or watch again first required a turning back or “rewinding” of tape.

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April 9, 2012 at 9:19 am

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appearances

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There was a family that came in today:  A gangly woman, a mumbling bearded man (the patient), and another man that I call Happyeyes.  Happyeyes was certainly a man grown, but there was a child-like connotation in his gaze—not in the sense of innocence, but rather in joy and appreciation.   They were a rather dirty and unkempt bunch; and in the patient room, they collectively smelled a little sour.  They were good people and I genuinely liked them, but the back of my mind still whispered “hillbillies” to me a few times.  Indeed, even with a wealth of good input and optimism, my meso-consciousness continued judging—such is how truly stereotyped their appearances were.

As for us health care providers, there was myself, a tall Asian male stinking of urbanity with my thick plastic-framed glasses.  The medical resident was a small Indian girl with large eyes born in rural Kentucky.  Our attending physician was a well-dressed Virginian gentleman.

Upon leaving, Happyeyes said something that floored me a little.  In a pungent southern drawl (more precisely, southern labor as opposed to southern money) he said, “the kinds of people they got workin’ in here… This is some true diversity—I tell ya’ I love this place.”

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April 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

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