Nesting dolls

“We’re all kind of like Russian nesting dolls. As we get older, we keep putting on all of these costumes. For me, growing up, that’s what I thought I had to do — to mature, to age, to get wisdom — is to put on all these different costumes and see which one fit…. I realize [now] that the more you can actually take those costumes off and get down to that little, small, immobile Russian nesting doll — that is who you are, your true, true self. That is the humanity of all of us. We all are in there.”

-Abby Wambach (via On Being)

This reminded me of something I used to say: “everyone has an inner nut.”

Find Peace In One Difficult Step

  1. Stop.

As one of my favorite quotes goes: “Don’t just do something, stand there!”

If you can simply stop what you are doing and thinking, you can find peace.

It doesn’t seem to be widely acknowledged that stopping is excruciatingly difficult.

Stopping sounds so easy. It requires so little physical effort. But of course, anyone with an addiction knows how difficult stopping can be.

The real surprise is the sheer scope of what we’re addicted to. It’s not just caffeine, sugar, and smartphones. We’re addicted to thinking! We’re addicted to doing!

As is the case with every addiction, we don’t like to stop thinking and doing because it distracts us from our inner terror that we’re not enough, we don’t belong, and we can’t be loved.

But no matter how much we think, how much we do, how many 7-step self-help guides we follow, we can’t find peace while that inner terror lurks. We lounge on a beach while worrying about sunscreen and seagulls and promotions and lovers. We rush from smoothie to salad to yoga to therapy and fall into bed exhausted.

To find peace, you need to confront the inner terror directly. This usually involves feeling a lot of very unpleasant feelings. I recommend getting guidance from therapists, who have many useful tricks up their sleeves.

Is it even possible to stop thinking and doing? This is kind of what meditation is all about. You sit still and you do nothing. When a thought arises, you let it float away like a leaf or a cloud.

Meditation is easy. What’s excruciatingly difficult is stopping what you are doing to actually meditate!

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Learning is non-linear

“Not long ago, in the 1960s, mathematicians and scientists began to notice a property of natural systems that had been overlooked since the dawn of science: that tiny changes of condition, even in stable systems, can have dramatic and often unpredictable effects. … For example, if one adds a reagent, one drop at a time, to a chemical solution, nothing may happen at all until, with the addition of a single drop, the whole mixture changes color.

“I have witnessed the same progression in dozens of students: a surprising leap forward, followed by a period where the student appears to have reached the limits of their abilities; then another tiny advance that precipitates another leap. … Lisa, who couldn’t count by twos in Grade 6, now teaches herself new material from a difficult Grade 9 text.

“The fact that mathematical ability appears spontaneously in a gifted child is cited as evidence that ability is determined by genetics. But if the mind, like other complex systems, is subject to chaotic and non-linear effects, even siblings with the same genetic features, and who are offered the same opportunities, might develop entirely different abilities. Some small event in early childhood or at school might start an avalanche of learning in one child but not another. The fact that an avalanche occurs on one mountain and not another… does not prove that one mountain is more prone to avalanches or that an avalanche could never be started.”

-John Mighton, The Myth of Ability (p.18-20)