books contemplation habits

Reflections: Spring 2021

The winter seemed to shed me of some of my need to prove myself. I stopped feeling like my self worth was dependent on my productivity. I slowed down on work. I said no to new projects. I meditated more. I slept a lot.

In this time of slowing down, emotions surfaced—probably because I was no longer in fight-or-flight mode. Spring’s theme became learning how to relate to my emotional experience with greater skill. I picked up Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach and thus learned what Tim Ferriss has been raving about all these years. Working with Nathan Vanderpool, I came to stop judging myself for being so emotionally sensitive and embraced my empathy as a gift I can work with. I’ve come to stop expecting myself to be like others, and realised that I will always need space and time to sit with my emotions.

This emotional process is reflected in my spring playlist.


I completed Tasshin Fogleman’s Build a Meditation Habit course. The course got me into a positively-reinforcing meditation habit loop (I am meditating because I want to!) instead of a negatively-reinforcing habit loop (I am meditating to not be mad at myself!). The course focuses on lovingkindness (Metta) meditation, which I had written off before but discovered is an amazing antidote to many things, particularly social anxiety (spending several moments wholeheartedly wishing for another’s happiness seems to resolve any tension you might have with that person). I got so much out of this course that I’m planning on taking it again.

Exploring Therapeutic Modalities

Having more time, I started trying different therapeutic modalities.

Like seemingly everyone else, I became curious about IFS (Internal Family Systems). I did ten sessions with IFS coach Lucie van Leeuwen. I had a ton of emotions kick up through the process—it really did seem like my psyche’s system was changing. I got to know different aspects of myself (or “parts” as they are called in IFS) in new, much deeper ways. I was glad I booked the sessions because that ensured that I really dove in and investigated this system, and I really enjoyed having Lucie as a guide.

I’ve also done several sessions with Nathan Vanderpool. His “trauma mapping” therapy draws upon many modalities as well as his own songwriting. Nathan seems equal parts shaman, psychologist, and bard, and I felt uniquely comfortable working with him to explore and heal traumatic experiences. I highly recommend giving his modality a try.

Books Read

My annual book list is long overdue, but here’s a few titles I’ve loved recently.

As noted above, I loved Radical Acceptance. It’s a wise manual on how to navigate emotions, and I think anyone would get something out of it.

As part of my effort to become more knowledgeable about history, I read The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses by Dan Carlin, a book which was just as entertaining as his Hardcore History podcast. This is a great volume about how many times the world has “ended” from the point of view of that era’s inhabitants. Being in COVID times, it was especially interesting to learn more about history’s pandemics. The Black Death makes COVID look like a walk in the park.

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman is an interesting look at why many modern self-help techniques often make us more unhappy, and how practices like stoicism and mindfulness are more effective. It’s a particularly modern (and American) concept of happiness that you should always be feeling gleeful and jolly, whereas the stoic version of happiness is more like calm and centered contentment. I was also curious to read his take on why goal-setting is a cause for not just unhappiness but ineffectiveness. I appreciated his inclusion of Eckhart Tolle’s mindfulness instruction: notice for thoughts like a cat watching a mousehole. It was also a great reminder that stoicism is the shit.

Caffeine: How Coffee and Tea Created the Modern World by Michael Pollan – I loved this short audiobook and found myself drinking ever more caffeine through it. Michael Pollan’s writing is such a pleasure.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is a soulful, life-affirming autiobiography. McConaughey’s narration makes the audiobook even more addictively entertaining, and I polished off the book in a weekend.

Habit Update

Intermittent Fasting
I’ve been intermittent fasting for over a year and a half now, and I’m pretty sold on it. Even though my enthusiasm for and adherence to IF has waxed and waned over that time, my results are pretty great: my hunger/satiety mechanism is at a much better place, and I’ve managed to lose and keep 10 pounds off without much effort. If you feel like you’re inexplicably always hungry, or if thoughts about eating and dieting consume more of your mental space than you’d like, I recommend trying IF. For those giving it a go, I second Gin Stephen’s recommendation in Delay, Don’t Deny: try different IF approaches and times of your eating window until you find what works for you.

Cold Showers
I cemented the cold shower habit during a 12-week team series on Konnektwork. In that series I had set it up so that cold showers was one of the easiest way for me to accrue points, and I seem to have permanently internalised that ending a shower on cold is an easy win.

Habits in Progress
I’m working with the Konnektwork crew on another team series. For this twelve-week series, I’m cultivating habits in standing meditation, qi gong, gratitude journaling, and the wildcard: no complaining (or saying one thing I’m grateful for each time I slip up).

Causes Supported

So far this year I’ve donated to Charité’s MDMA trials in Berlin (part of the MAPS European MDMA trials that need funding—let me know if you’re interested in contributing!), 5 Gyres, Monastic Academy, Dharma Gates, and Effektiv Spenden’s environmental organizations.

I wrote about donating 10% of my income in a previous post.

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