The pulse of Team

New message alerts, an email thread that renews itself from hour to hour. Increasing comment counts, timestamps that are less than 3 hours old. Like the subtle but unmistakable indicators we passively–subconsciously even– observe when walking into a room where someone is sleeping, so are the indications that a team is thriving, working together, and moving towards something in harmonious rhythm. it can’t be faked, and it’s all to obvious when it’s not there. You just know.

 

Photo by Sam Rupsa on Unsplash

When the sun rises earlier

There is some kind of optimism in the air. I know it’s because the sun is rising earlier. But it will still be weeks before anyone attributes a good mood to that. Waking up to light coming up in the horizon is a symbiotic state. Perhaps lifeforms always had it this way, and that’s why it’s the best type of morning there is.

There really isn’t anything that gives hope like the sunrise. The ultimate symbol of reliability. The one thing we can count on. When nothing else is completely sure aside from death, a sunrise is the backbone of trust, faith, truth.

Photo by Andrew Small on Unsplash

The cold part of the year

In the cold part of the year people sit in the house most of the day, saving energy to stay warm. Grownups and children huddle near heaters, and seek out places with extra sources of artificial light. The darkness at this time is an overwhelming element. While most people don’t talk about it, everyone is affected by it. The sun can be gone for 2-3 weeks at a time. Which considering its importance, it’s strange this isn’t a bigger deal.  Conversations about going home in the dark, and leaving for work in the dark are common. A break in the clouds during mid-day before the sunsets can feel like a spiritual moment.

While some experience the least harmful side effects in passive methods, like needing to sleep longer. Others struggle with depression. Suicide is not uncommon. Verbal contact becomes a remedy for illness, people seldom speak to each other. All become extra sensitive to stimulation.

It is a time when things are dead or dying, or becoming frail. Some creatures use it wisely, going into complete hibernation, sleeping through the coldest darkest parts as staying awake and using energy to move around is a life-threatening risk if you don’t have shelter and a source of food. With everything so brittle, there is an ever-lingering sense of fear, of being on the edge. Sometimes it’s almost like being about to cry. In other times it’s like a short circuiting electronic device, sparking and failing.

Dealing With Self Doubt, Internet Shame, Mockery, and Loving Kindness

For the last 18 months I’ve been meditating intentionally and unintentionally. I actually started meditating much further back in life finding a quiet place and just trying to shut off my thoughts. That’s what my parents told me Zen monks did. In the summer of 2016 my meditation practice became very deliberate. I installed a meditation app and began going through various exercises to focus, and move my thoughts beyond the noise and distractions that unknowingly were all around my mind.

Until now the YouTube videos I started making in December last year had nothing to do with meditation. Today I realized that when I’m deciding what I should and should not publish on the Internet, the way I’m putting myself out there has a lot to do with the feelings I work through in my meditation practice.

A very common activity in meditation is loving kindness, one starts by focusing on themself, finding kindness and love to feel inward, then focuses on someone else towards whom one can also feel and direct feelings of loving kindness toward, then one thinks of someone with who there is difficulty, negative feelings for. This process discovers and builds the strength of love and sincere kindness, develops it, then projects it. Finally using it to overcome negative feelings surrounding others. The activity sheds light on the tooling needed to overcome moments of frustration, anger, anxiety and even fear.

Sometimes while I am making videos the back of my head is a sea of these dark feelings. I have judgements and doubt towards myself, and concern about being shamed. Putting so much of ones self out into the Internet is just asking for those kinds of reactions, and indeed it’s happened in the past. But I make the videos out of love, out of hope to connect with my family and friends who are so far away. To perhaps give ideas to a couple strangers for new things to try, or that it’s ok to be silly and explore ideas that could be mocked.

In this way I find the ability to move beyond the darkness of what could happen, in general being myself has gotten me to the places I was happiest in life. Obfuscating my true character only caused discourse, confusion, and disappointment.

How to unfollow

So often (unfortunately) in this modern internet world we live in, it seems to happen that we drift into a profile viewing mode. Inspecting another person, who are they? Why were they in my list of followers or worse, why am I following this person? The “loop” as my wife and I like to call it slips its invisible little hood over your head around this point; the zombie eyes and zombie mind take over quickly. Before you know it, you’re just scrolling, not really taking anything in. What is happening? No one really knows. But it’s around this point where the better part of my psyche kicks in, a Yosemite Sam sort of personality in my thoughts pulls a record needle scratching moment in the crowd of voices – throws up the big “WTF” sign and barks “who is in control of this moment?!?”. As all the shocked members of the interrupted sequence look around to see what will happen next the little guy in the corner peeps back “we were just wondering who that is, wooo woooeeewww – we thoughts we might unfollow it!” (this particular voice in my head has a Gollum sort of voice). It is at this moment, you can think clearly again, we were wondering if we know her, and we don’t and there is nothing interesting about her, “UNFOLLOW!”

Old Habits – Ren and Stimpy

I’ve taken to watching old episodes of Ren and Stimpy lately. I guess old habits can die hard.

In the light of the extremes in the news and my own life lately, the superfluousness of the humor in this cartoon normalizes everything again. And South Park wasn’t really cutting it any more.

 

I Wish Berlin Would Quit

Many visitors to Berlin are surprised to learn it can be hard to find a place to go for a drink in the evening without staining their hair and clothes with cigarette smoke. The “Raucher Bar” was they commonly refer to themselves is a regular feature of many night time haunts. At first it was part of the fun of the city, a remaining piece of the old days, or a symbol of the freedom & lawlessness that one can experience with the drinking in public and all hours bars, cafes, & clubs. These days, it’s a nuisance and I have become frustrated on more than one occasion that while wondering a neighborhood with friends looking for a place to sit down and have a cocktail, we had to compromise, or simply choose the least smokey bar available.

As one study on social smokers confirms there is no difference, in terms of risk of heart disease, between having less than one cigarette a day, and smoking a pack a day. And yet many Berliners, and perhaps Germans in general frequently say “I only smoke when I’m out with friends and drinking”. I wonder what these people will think when they explain to their kids that they never were addicted to cigarettes and yet still suffered similar consequences.

 

 

Blue Zone Meetup Group #1

Last night we hosted a dinner for 7 guests, 9 including ourselves. The theme was the blue zones. The idea was to spend time together with other people, sharing a meal using the same recipes as the people around the planet who live significantly longer than others (100 or more years).
 
Our guests were German, Indian, Israeli, American, and Polish (not including Zuzanna and I representing another Pole & American). Each of whom was new to Berlin, except for one of the Germans who had spent most of her life living in Australia. We were all from another place, but together for the common interest of health and happy living. Though we came together as strangers through the meetup group I created to host the event, by the end of the evening we were all making plans to meet again, and Zuzanna may have found a really great polish connection here – it was delightful to hear them speaking in Polish.
 
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The idea of eating healthy organic sustainably grown plant based fruits and vegetables, with some red wine and sourdough bread, over conversations of family, life, backgrounds, food, health, and sustainable lifestyle was truly enriching and left a big warm happy place in my heart. The food was delicious, the conversation and time together with positive and multi-cultural folks was wonderful.
 
People in blue zones live longer because they surround themselves with friends and family each day or several times a week. They keep active into their 90’s and beyond with gardening, walking, and working around their homes (many claimed to continue their sexual activities well into their 90’s and beyond). They don’t have much money, and therefore have to live on the vegetables they can grow in their own gardens & farms. Meat is out of their price range except for a village annual slaughter (however the California 7th day adventists are vegetarian), or can afford from what little currency they can earn or trade with to buy produce at the markets. They keep low stress lifestyles and believe in a greater good (usually via religion), leaving the worry of their fate to a higher power.
 
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To finish off our meal we each shared a photo of somebody special in our lives who wasn’t present but had a huge place in our hearts and minds. Transcending the event and group present, the activity encouraged the idea of spending more face to face time with loved ones.
 
I just wanted to share this, as a moment in time. To look back on, but since I’m sharing this with the public, I do want to recommend others give more time to be with friends and family. To focus on staying physically active, low on stress, eating food you can prepare from scratch (and having a lifestyle that affords the ability to do so).
 
One of the more popular stories of the blue zone people, is of a man from Ikaria, Greece. Who was diagnosed with lung cancer when he was in his mid-60’s living in Floria working as a house painter, he was told he had 6-9 months to live by multiple doctors. Resolving to die in peace (and be buried for <$200 in Greece instead of thousands in the US) he moved home to spend out his remaining days with his parents in Ikaria. After months of walking up and down the hillsides of the Island, sleeping in basic conditions in his parent’s 2 bedroom home on a stepped vineyard,  spending afternoons drinking wine with his friends, and eating the vegetables he could grow on his land; he started to feel better, months turned to years, his breathing improved. At the time of the printing of the NYT article about him in 2012 he was 102. Ikaria is one of the blue zones, along with Okinawa, Sardinia, Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, and Loma Linda, California.
 
25 years later the greek man went back to Florida to see his doctors and try to find out what happened. But he couldn’t get in touch with them because they had all already died.
 
Life is short! Don’t stress, spend more time with friends and family and being active, and eating healthy foods (and less meat).

I’m excited about the future.

I’m excited about the future. When people aren’t afraid of the police. When we don’t have to watch the road and use gasoline to get around town. When fresh local produce is in abundance and the big food industry isn’t in control. Where a nice dinner out with friends costs less then $20. When fast food restaurants and Starbucks aren’t on every corner. A society where arts and culture are promoted and supported by the government and community. Where people from all over the world can interact and keep their cultural identity, speak their own language, and still communicate with one another. Where you can go out all night and there is no last call. Where you can go to a cafe and not see everyone staring at their phones. Public transportation is available in abundance and you can literally cross the country for $40. Trips to Paris and Rome only take a couple hours and can cost less then $100.In the future I imagine education doesn’t require a 6 figure investment or taking on student loans and renting a large spacey 2 bedroom flat in the middle of town costs less than $1200. In my ideal future you can take a bottle of wine to the park and have a picnic without getting a fine. Where parents of new born children can have 1-2 years paid time off to raise their kids without losing their jobs or their income. Where we are not pressured by our employer to work overtime and if we don’t feel well we can call in sick and take 2,3 even 5 days off to get better before returning to our desk. And where we’re not only required to take two weeks vacation, we get five or six weeks paid time off to recover, get out enjoy the world, and be refreshed and ready for work again.

This is a future I would love to have and I can’t wait for it.
Only it’s not the future, its Berlin.

On Mindfulness of Possession Sustainability

  • Use things to last, don’t abuse them. Always start and finish in the best possible way for long lifespan.
  • Use things for their full lifespan. In many cases just because a newer better version of an item exists, is not a valid reason to replace it. If a working version is in possession, continue using it until it can’t be used anymore.
  • Repair or repurpose things which would otherwise be considered to be at the end of their life. This may give a whole new life, and void the need to replace it.
  • Don’t acquire things that wont last. When considering to purchase or come into possession of something, consider how long you will likely need it for. If you wont need it much or potentially at all, and it is just nice to have, consider not getting it, or finding a temporary solution such as borrowing it from someone else. And if the quality appears to be so low that you can’t get a reasonable life of use out of it, look for better quality.
  • Don’t pay for more than the minimum if the quality is the same. Vanity and popularity lead to irrational purchase & acquisition justifications. Just because the brand appears to be more prestigious, or the design is more attractive, the cost may not actually justify a tangible increase of value, rather speculative. In such cases consider how long the more expensive yet not higher quality item will last compared to its economical competition. If the difference is marginal or even worse, purchase for lifespan. The total cost of ownership could be twice as much on an item which has the same return of value of its entire lifespan.