Grief and Shadow

I’ve been reading a lot of David Richo lately. He is a meditator and a Jungian psychotherapist and his books have a wonderful optimistic clarity about being human and the loss, growth, and joy that comes with it. He’s like a wise, kind uncle I never had. Right now I’m reading Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power & Creativity of Your Dark Side. In this book he talks about the negative side of our shadow-selves, the self-destructive side of our personality that you hear a lot about. But he also talks about the creative side of shadow. While I usually don’t post reviews of a book before I’m done, this one is helping me a lot – in particular he has some really nice positive affirmations on grief that I aspire to embody, and so I want to quote them here:

I am human. Things like this happen to humans.
This can happen to me and has.
I also have it in me to live through it and get over it.
Grief and acceptance are precisely how.

  • I let myself fully feel this hurt without any defense against it.
  • I vow not to retaliate.
  • I declare directly to the person the impact of his or her behavior on me without blaming or shaming. I ask for amends if appropriate.
  • I accept the fact of occasional inconsiderateness or meanness as a given of human life.
  • I am determined not to be mean myself.
  • I embrace my aloneness and open myself to support.
  • I accept the changes that keep happening around and in me.
  • I grieve and let go what is passing away.
  • I embrace what is coming to pass and feel excited by it.
  • I live through pain and am transformed by it.
  • I keep finding creative responses to the unpredictable surprises of life.
  • I grieve about unfairness and act fairly in all my dealings.
  • I acknowledge some burdens are too hard for me and open myself to support from beyond myself.
  • I open myself to the graces that keep inviting me to let go of ego.
  • (from pages 56, 59, and 61)


    Really nice thread about napping on Hacker News. I encourage napping on my teams too – results, not effort. If a nap (or a run or a sit in the sun, etc.) will make you more productive, then do it. Come back recharged and creative.

    An excerpt:

    I worked for a very small startup in London that embraced napping as part of their culture, some 8 years ago. It worked wonders (provided that you napped for 15-30 minutes at a time and didn’t pass out for an hour or two). We even had a dark storage room with a sofa that was the designated nap area.

    Fast forward to the current day. That company no longer exists (it was acquired), but the co-founders went on to create another company that is doing very well. I made the decision to go freelance at the end of last year and as fate would have it I am currently working for the new company. Napping is still encouraged. They’re one of the most productive, driven teams that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for.
    Napping is good.

    We Are Going To Mars

    We are going to Mars because whatever is wrong with us will not get right with us so we journey forth, carrying the same baggage
    But every now and then leaving one little bitty thing behind.
    One day looking for prejudice to slip,
    One day looking for hatred to tumble by the wayside,
    Maybe one day the Jewish community will be at rest, the Christian community will be content, the Muslim community will be at peace
    And all the rest of us will get great meals at holy days and learn new songs and sing in harmony.
    We are going to Mars because it gives us a reason to change.

    Nikki Giovanni, poet and University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Tech.
    (via OnBeing; read the full poem here: We’re Going To Mars)

    Grief and Humanism

    I’ve been feeling a lot of grief lately, and I have been trying to be present with it instead of pushing it away or distracting myself, like I did in earlier times in my life. Two authors that have helped me lately, kept me company, are John Tarrant and Alain de Botton. Tarrant is a meditator and a psychotherapist and talks about loss and life with a blunt kindness that reminds me of wise meditators like Pema Chödrön. In The Light Inside the Dark Tarrant writes about what he calls the Second Descent into darkness:

    Once the second descent is understood, we no longer try so hard to avoid the course of human suffering, the routines of daily life, the blindness of the moment when we truly do not know what we must do.

    I have been trying to go slowly, trying not hold on so tightly, trying, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, to let go of planning or controlling. I am trying to trust the path will appear out the dark. Tarrant writes, “Fragments of light are scattered around like clues.”

    One of those clues came to me yesterday – my friend David Socha invited me over for some conversation and we sat on his deck in the beautiful light under the trees in his front yard. He mentioned a podcast called OnBeing by Krista Tippett, and later I listened to some of her interviews. She is a remarkable person. Tippett interviewed Alain de Botton recently, and I really enjoyed listening to them. He’s a philosopher and author and founder of the The School of Life. I have been reading de Botton lately, and blogged about him in a previous post. de Botton has a very kind and uplifting way of looking at life and human relationships. There are so many good things about this interview – what I really liked was the way Tippett brought out de Botton’s warmth and bluntness and compassion for how hard human relationships really are, his view that we are flawed beings and that we will make mistakes, suffer, grow, heal. He says,

    love is something we have to learn, and we can make progress with, and that it’s not just an enthusiasm; it’s a skill.

    And it requires forbearance, generosity, imagination, and a million things besides. And we must fiercely resist the idea that true love must mean conflict-free love, that the course of true love is smooth. It’s not. The course of true love is rocky and bumpy at the best of times. That’s the best we can manage as the creatures we are, that flawed humanity, the better chance we’ll have of doing the true hard work of love.

    Somehow that connected with the grief, the light inside the dark.

    On Being – The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships

    The School of Life

    I’ve been really enjoying the School of Life YouTube channel – it’s filled with short, bite-sized (3-6 minute) inspiring videos on the things you never learned in school or as a child about how to be emotionally healthy, like How To Be A Friend To Yourself:

    The videos are soothing and optimistic and full of positive psychological wisdom and humanistic philosophy. Often they offer insight into a topic and then open questions, inviting further self-inquiry and learning, rather than sewing it all up into a neat package. They present a view of emotional health that at the same time is calming and makes me want to grow, a rare combination. I find it hard to stop watching – it’s a rare to have a learning experience that just feels purely good. Highly recommended.

    I want to link to so many videos, especially the ones on relationships, but you can check them out yourself. A couple more that I really liked were How To Be A Man and The Importance Of Affectionate Teasing.

    (via BoingBoing)

    Master Mind Protocol

    Tuning into abundance is important. Abundance means growing is easier – you can tap into the strengths available in the Universe, in your Higher Self, and in the people around you rather than having to do it alone.

    In our society, there aren’t many places where you can specifically work on strengthening your ability to tune into abundance. So I want to talk about one way to do that. I’ve found it useful.

    These last few years, I’ve been in a Master Mind group.

    Master Mind groups were popularized by Napoleon Hill starting in the 1930s. There are many ways to do this practice, and I’m going to share the way I learned it from the Wellness Institute.

    A Master Mind group is a small group of people (2-5, but ideally 3 or 4) who agree to meet on a regular basis to help each other grow or achieve goals. My Master Mind meets once every 2 weeks, but once a month is also common. You can pick a frequency that works for you. The key thing is to meet regularly. Having a particular place to meet helps too (a cafe, restaurant; or rotating between members houses also works).

    Here is what we do when we meet up:

    1. Each person shares what’s going on in their lives. We try to touch on some main important areas:
      • work and livelihood
      • health
      • intimate relationships and friendships
      • spirituality
      • vision for our lives
    2. Sharing should be concise, but say enough to get across the successes and challenges you are facing.
    3. There is no cross-talk – the other group members just listen, without giving advice or commenting.
    4. Then we read Master Mind Principles 1-6, taking turns.
    5. Then each person in the group says a few (1-3) things that they are working on or want over the next period of time before the next meeting. (For instance, “I have a big presentation at work and I want to prepare for it well.” Or: “I have some conflict with my partner, and want to show up in a strong and kind way.”) The other members then each give an affirmation to the asking member directly related to what they asked for. (For instance: “[Name of person], I see you making the time and preparing well for the presentation, and I see it being very successful.” Or: “[Name of person], I see you showing up in a strong, kind way for your partner as you work through your differences, and I see you both finding a good way to solve the problem.”) Sometimes we also ask for specific help from the other group members at this time. Then the next person takes their turn.
    6. Once each person has made their requests, and received affirmations, then we take turns reading Master Mind Principles 7-10.
    7. That’s it! We’re done until next time. We often hang out and talk for a bit afterward.

    We find the regular meeting time and place really helps create a sacred space.

    So what does this practice actually do? It gives you a regular place to meet with people to talk about your growth. There’s no money involved, and the Master Mind partners usually don’t want anything from you other than your fellowship and help with their own growth. Since you meet regularly, your Master Mind partners will come to know you and what you’re working on, and that provides some kind of accountability. Accountability in this context is simply being responsible for what you say you want.

    It sounds simple. So how does it help me connect with abundance? For me, it’s magical to hear other people who really know me tell me I’m going to achieve my goals or receive the strengths that I want. That just doesn’t happen very often in any other area of my life.

    Those affirmations are really healing. It’s healing because I am putting myself in the state of mind of asking for help for my growth and healing, and then getting that help from friends who believe in me.

    When my friends use their positive outlook and knowledge of what I need to intuit affirmations, and say them to me out loud, I find this super-charges my intention. Doing it regularly has brought me amazing positive change and healing.



    Thanks to the Wellness Institute and their Personal Transformation Intensive (PTI) trainings – highly recommended personal growth work! Master Mind groups are an integral part of PTI. Thanks also to Jennifer Kogut for help with the Master Mind principles document.

    SpaceX lands another Falcon 9 orbital booster!

    SpaceX landed another Falcon 9 spacecraft, this time from the NASA CRS-10 mission to the space station:

    Official video of landing:

    Amazing that orbital booster landings have become routine, when just two years ago they were widely considered impossible!

    Go SpaceX!

    Losing it All

    Awesome post from ShakyCode:

    I was on top of the world, fell down on my ass, but in the end I fought hard to survive and with a little help from some amazing people I rejoined humanity and gained a lot of knowledge along the way.
    In the end, money does not equal happiness. These days happiness is a good cup of coffee, a favorite song on my iPhone, or a simple tweet from someone that matters. I don’t care about materialistic things anymore instead I focus on knowledge and experience and consider myself the wealthiest man in the world because of it.
    If you’ve ever been in a similar situation or are facing this, please reach out to me. There are a lot of wonderful people in this world who will help, but sometimes you have to let go of your pride and just ask for a helping hand.

    It’s worth reading the rest of ShakyCode’s story too. (Via HackerNews.)

    The mature use of emotion

    Rationality is not about eliminating emotion – instead, it’s using emotion in a mature way, in a way that doesn’t harm people or cause confusion, and ideally adds a lot of wisdom and depth to a conversation. That’s really useful in relationships, and I especially find it useful in business.

    Too often people try to eliminate or conceal their emotions in the workplace. But emotions convey lots of useful information that can be critical for a team to know about. I’d even say they’re essential if you want to have a great team – I’ve many times had people tell me they’re afraid the team was going to make a bad decision. And then we looked at the decision more carefully and changed direction, with great success!

    And if many people on a team are mad, or sad, or afraid, or glad – that’s probably something everyone, especially the leaders, should want to know.

    So how do you let people know what you’re feeling without causing problems? One way is to use the Check In Protocol – you simply say what you’re feeling in terms of four basic emotions, mad, sad, glad or afraid.

    Why just these four? From a practical perspective, they have been found to work well – more or less description doesn’t get things communicated in an optimal way. And there is a lot of research that shows that there are 7 universal human emotions:

    • joy/happiness
    • sadness
    • fear
    • anger
    • surprise
    • disgust
    • contempt

    (For more info see the research of Paul Ekman and his books Unmasking the Face and Emotions Revealed.)

    Ethnographic studies have shown that these emotions have the same facial expressions in all human cultures. While it’s possible to get into subtle nuances of emotions that don’t appear on this list, these particular emotions (and combinations of them) are hard-wired into our brains and faces. You literally can not keep your face from making these expressions if you are feeling the corresponding emotion, unless you are a sociopath. But it is very useful to use words, since most people can not consciously connect expressions to emotions. Words are an overt channel. In Western culture, people are so conditioned to keep quiet about their emotions that communicating about a smaller list keeps things simple and clear, and makes it more likely that people will not be misunderstood.

    So why aren’t surprise, disgust, and contempt on the list? I think disgust and contempt aren’t on there because if you are feeling these, you should deal with them outside of Check In to avoid doing damage. And surprise? I think genuine surprise is momentary, so can be left off.

    This in no way says you can’t combine mad, sad, glad and afraid to get the nuances that you want: “I am feeling glad and afraid” to get “excited” for instance, or “sad and mad” to get “hurt.” And I will often say “I am feeling hurt – sad and mad.” That’s ok as long as you don’t diminish feelings (“a little mad”). With some work I’ve found I can get across most emotional states.

    Learning How To Learn

    I’ve been teaching a class at Puget Sound Community School called Learning How To Learn. The idea of the class is to learn how to study more effectively, so you can do great at high school — even while taking hard classes — and still have a life.

    It seems to work for my son Martin, who has reduced his stress considerably during the class.

    The class is based on The Core Protocols and Cal Newport‘s excellent books, “How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)” and “How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less.

    One of the things that helped Martin was a how-to guide that I wrote on how to write a great paper without stress. Martin started out being extremely stressed about writing, and would often spend many hours at a time, trying to write essays without much success. Now, following this guide, he gets them done without any stress, by planning ahead, asking for help early, spreading the work out over several days, and working in short, focused chunks.

    I’m posting it here in case it’s helpful to others: How to Write a Great Paper Without Stress