Frame is something I’ve regularly thought about since the crisis of my 32-year faith. My frame is the perspective I have of the world. It’s the way I see things. It’s my philosophy and my values. It’s what I lean on when I have nothing else to lean on.
Losing my faith wreaked havoc on my frame.
There have been a handful of times when I have felt so angry about something that it took weeks for me to shake it. One of those times was when I read the zen phrase:
The way a person does one thing is the way they do everything.
I had a visceral reaction. For me, a visceral reaction is a sure sign I am running from the truth. I am ashamed of the way I do things. Like when I avoid conversations with my kids or my wife. Or when the first thought that pops into my head when I meditate is oral sex. If that was the way I did everything then what kind of person am I?
What this phrase gets right is that I am a creature of habit. I’m not in control of my daily actions. I rely on my automated programming. It’s this programming that hits the snooze button, chooses sandwiches for lunch, and pulls out my phone when I poop.
It’s also this programming that allows me to adjust to the needs of the student while discussing how to choose the right college.
This kind of programming makes me more efficient by making assumptions about consistencies. Giving me fewer things to process in the moment. Our brains developed these traits for survival. If I know that rustling bushes have the potential to kill me I’m guaranteed to survive if I run.
At the end of the day, It doesn’t matter if I hate this, it’s the way I function. These are the rules to the game I am playing.
I didn’t like this phrase because I thought all that mattered was my outcome. If my results were good then why does the process matter?
If my process doesn’t matter then I’m not beholden to any one way of doing anything. I can be flexible, adapt, let the spirit move me.
The problem with this is a lack of consistency which produces inconsistent (mediocre) results. No matter how good the one-off result, inconsistency kills momentum and improvement.
If that’s the case then I need to focus my energy on my process, on the “way I do everything.” Letting go of my death grip on my outcomes. Especially because I have very little control of my outcomes but my process I have for more control over.
A recent example of this has been my writing. For years I committed to writing 750 words a day. Most of that writing was freeform. It was good practice to get the ideas out of my head and onto the page. It helped me get over my fear of starting from a blank page. But there was a turning point where I wanted more from my writing.
I wanted to share. In order to do that I had to take my writing to another level. My writing practice changed to get a different result.
In this shift, I realized there is a balance between process and outcome. They are each valuable on their own but together they are more than the sum of their parts.
The back and forth between the two can provide a useful feedback loop for progressive growth.
Where I continually get stuck is chasing a specific result that I don’t have control over. Or overthinking my process and not allowing myself the wiggle-room to play and fail.
My ego latches on, like an angry pitbull, unwilling to let go. When this happens it stops the cycle. I become self-critical, overanalyze and throw everything away. I pull back only to start back up again in a day, a week, or a month, or even a year...
I struggled with this balance because of my misunderstanding of meditation. I originally thought meditation was the outcome of a still mind. Through practicing meditation, I realized my brain is naturally going to wander. Practicing meditation is recognizing when it does and pulling it back to focus on stillness.
This is the purpose behind paying attention to the breath. It gives my brain a place to come back to when it starts thinking about my to-do list, or what I shouldn’t have said at that meeting. My breathing becomes an anchor.
This discovery quieted my inner critic giving me permission to meditate in a way that was helpful for me. Letting go of how I thought it was supposed to be.
As you get into new projects or reevaluate the things you are currently working on see if you can find this pattern. If you get frustrated, see if you can observe the hand-off of process to outcome and back to process. Maybe that will help identify the source of your frustrations and help to alleviate them.
“This too shall pass,” is one of my mom’s catchphrases. It’s a mantra she says when things go poorly. It’s one of her ways to provide perspective on the current situation, to remind herself and others that things don’t last forever. She’s not wrong but my interpretation wasn’t helpful.
My context was on an eternal timeline. I was pushing things so far out that it gave zero meaning to what I was experiencing now. I was abstracting the idea into nonsense. Given enough time nothing really matters. This is the plight of every hero that gets blessed with some form of immortality.
I hope you are doing well and enjoying the changes in the weather. The year is moving by fast, the first quarter is over and we’re trying to solidify our summer plans. This reality has made it very clear why I have so many unfinished projects.
On to where my head has been at recently...
It’s been a long time since I’ve read poetry. I’ve never read a poetry book cover to cover. It almost feels weird reading it like that. Like that time I tried to read a choose your own adventure without making any choices…
I added Charles Bukowski’s The Pleasures of the Damned to my reading list based on a recommendation. When I bought it I wasn’t sure it was his poetry. It’s been good. Better than anticipated. There’s a reason Bukowski has a following. There have been quite a few of his poems that stood out.
I am traveling for work this weekend. When booking the trip I didn’t think twice about getting on an airplane on September 10. My memory for tragedy is short. I am a hard-wired optimist. I am more comfortable on the smallest sliver of silver lining than embracing the complexities of an event like September 11.
Now that I’ve recognized that discomfort perhaps it’s time to lean into it. To do that I must rehash my own experience with the timeline of September 11, 2001.
I turned 37 this year. An inconsequential age on my timeline here. Or so I thought.
While walking along the boardwalk downtown my daughter said to me, “You’re old dad.”
To which I responded, “I’m 37. I’m not old.”
My words went right over her head as she promptly got distracted needing to chase a pigeon off the pier.
Meanwhile, that phrase transported me back 24 years to Las Vegas. Sitting in Nate and Matt Williams’ living room watching this:
I have been working on my non-dualistic thinking. Trying to give myself grace around the things I don’t particularly like about myself after acknowledging they exist. Recognizing that both sides are the same person. It’s all me, not just the good or the bad, but all of it. Creating that unity is hard.
“So, I’m Thinking About…”
This phrase stood out to me this last week. I heard it a lot. More than usual. It stood out because it’s something I’ve said...a lot.
Hearing it this week bothered me...a lot. Because I know what it means.