April 20, 2020

Beware the Tides of March: Inner Work Exercises to Make More Conscious Choices

One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes is "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked."

It is of course a reference to investors who get over leveraged or are not diversified enough and have to end up scrambling when the market drops.

Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March", but for us, it it the tides of March that have reshaped our lives.  This passage from Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting captures it well:

"Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam! And that feeling you have right now is the same as if you’d been thrown off your Peloton bike and onto the ground: What in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: What happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is. We’re in it."

Tides are powerful forces: they bring material that was at sea into shore, they reshape coastlines, they drag items out to deeper depths, and when they ebb, they reveal what was just beneath the waves.

Here are some inner work exercises to help you build awareness around these shifting tides and make more conscious choices.

Tides are powerful forces: they bring material that was at sea into shore, they reshape coastlines, they drag items out to deeper depths, and when they ebb, they reveal what was just beneath the waves.

What has the Tide Taken?

For me a simple predilection was no longer manageable and I was going to have to move in one direction or another.

For the second time in my life, I live walking distance from a great grocery store. Though it was inefficient, I knew I hated to plan meals for the week and shop in advance. I was willing to trade off some efficiency to get exactly what I wanted when I was sure I wanted it.

But going to the grocery store is a potential hazard they suggest you try to minimize, if not for yourself, then for others. Now i go to cook something and I don't have half of what I need and it was more annoying than I thought it would be.

I needed to either get over having my meals exactly the way I want them or get over hating to plan and make big shopping trips. I chose the latter and learned to enjoy getting creative, using what is here, and making different meals than I would normally eat.

1) Think about something the changes you are living through has taken from you? What have you lost? What are you no longer able to do?

2) How do you experience the loss?

3) Do the strong feelings shed light on a value or priority or predilection that you were not aware of?

What has the Tide Revealed?

Sometimes nothing gets taken or brought. It was there, you knew it was there, but we were able to avoid it by our busyness and responsibilities. When it is revealed, it can be even more overwhelming.

David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, asked people to write in about how they were doing. Certainly not a random or representative sample, but the responses from his readers were wrenching. Someone wrote in and said there is now nowhere to hide from troubling truths about your life. David Brooks wrote, "you are hogtied to your unhappiness."

1) What was a habit or relationship or aspect of your life that you knew you needed to look at but that you have been avoiding?

2) With no ability to avoid looking at it, what have you learned about the situation or about yourself?

3) Ae you finding a difference in motivation to change the situation?

What has the Tide Brought In?

The changes we are going through have not all involved difficulty. Unusual items have washed up on shore which have been quite enjoyable.

I used to hardly ever have dinner with my son as he was always off at gymnastics practice. I thought I was fine with it, but the more frequent conversations have helped me understand the depth of his thinking on topics I had no idea he was even thinking about. I enjoyed getting to experience his growing range.

1) What are you doing that you have not done before or what are you able to do that you couldn't do before?

2) What are you getting from that?

3) Is there something there you want to carry forward?

‍‍"Let what comes come. Let what goes go. See what remains." ~Ramana Marharshi

Our lives have been changed.   ‍Maybe a "return to normal" should not be the highest priority.

Ramana Marharshi said, "Let what comes come. Let what goes go. See what remains." But for us, we would be making real progress with just a few more conscious choices:

"From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud."

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