Expansion of Awareness & Wellbeing vol. 1: Zoning Out

I am really good at zoning out. Now it’s something I shouldn’t necessarily be proud of, but it has served me pretty well over the course of my life thus far. Growing up in a small house with a big family (first 6 and then 7 of us after my youngest brother came along), I had to learn how to concentrate when other things were going on. I was really good at losing myself in whatever I was doing be it reading, playing piano, or doing homework. This skill, if you want to call it that, also serves me quite well in my work today. We have a very open office; no assigned desks, people talking all the time. So being able to get in the zone and not get distracted is a boon.

Despite its benefits, the “talent” of zoning out is not something I want to carry through my day-to-day life. I often find myself wrapped up thinking about something or looking at my email/phone while someone is talking to me. I’ll give cursory responses and then realize a second or two later that I have only half an idea of what the person said to me. This bad habit leads me to miss out on things that were said, but not only that, it also makes me look distracted and like I don’t care about the person on the other end.

One main way in which I’ve found myself zoning out as of late is with podcasts. I love podcasts! I have a number that I subscribe to and more that I just listen to periodically. I listen to them all the time; walking to and from work, at work when I’m doing project management, in the car driving to and from errands, on walks with my dog, at the gym. It’s so common for me to start a sentence with “So I was listening to this podcast the other day….” that it’s become a sort of joke among my friends and coworkers. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with podcasts (in fact, I’ll probably post a list of my favorites at some point), I’ve realized that it has started keeping me from being fully in the moment and causing me to miss opportunities for enjoying other things like the scenery or listening to music.

I used to listen to music in the car and at work, now I mostly just listen to podcasts. I want the ability to enjoy nature and the companionship with my dog, but I’m often wrapped up in my podcast world. Podcasts have really helped me with long commutes/travel in the past and continues to get me through working out but I don’t like how they seem to be ruling my life. I don’t give myself time for reflection and it’s sometimes hard to snap out of them when the walk ends, or I need to talk to a coworker.

I most certainly don’t want to give up podcasts, but I know I can choose to be more thoughtful and aware of when I listen to them. By addressing the podcast bad habit, I can inch my way towards being more present in certain aspects of my life. I will probably still listen to podcasts at the gym and in the car but I will stop listening to them when I walk Winnie and when I’m at work. I will also choose music or silence instead on some of my walks to work. I’m going to try that this week. I’ll let you know how it goes!

What I’ve accomplished this week:
* Went to the gym – twice
* Went to yoga – once
* Walked my dog – 4 days
* Practiced piano – 4 times
* Practiced voice – 2 times (I had choir practice twice and a performance but hey, it counts!)
* Talked to my mom & dad, and younger brothers
* Did strength exercises – 2 times
* Cooked dinner once and baked twice
* Reading
** At page 210 in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
** At page 105 in  A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

Things I’m enjoying this week:
* Thought I should plug some podcasts 🙂 – I’ve gotten into Crimetown from Gimlet media as well as Side Hustle School with Chris Guillebeau

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Expansion of Knowledge & Experience vol. 1: Philosophy

This is a potentially dangerous part of my experiment. I think more than most of the other areas, except for maybe the expansion of relationships, this one has the most potential to stir up trouble. Expanding our thinking and our experience has a very high impact on our outlook on the world and how we approach life. While this is something I want, it’s also a little scary. I’m sure most of us can point to certain moments where new knowledge or experiences have changed the way we think about things or even changed the course of our lives. I want to be open to this, but I also fear it. Change is never an easy thing and many times certain types of knowledge change how we look at the world enough that we are forced to change; it’s no longer an option.

I think back to when I was a kid and my mom told me that Santa wasn’t real. It’s a moment many of us experience. I had heard rumblings of this and if I had let myself think about it, I would have known it already. But when she told me outright, there was no fooling myself anymore. I can still pretend he exists and enter into the spirit of it (my family still writes letters to Santa on Christmas Eve for the fun and tradition of it) but I could no longer wonder and imagine Santa landing on my rooftop like I could before I had that new knowledge. It was a death to my old way of thinking. Change means death to what once was, but I don’t want to be afraid of death in any form and thus expanding my knowledge and experience must be a part of my year of expansion. Which leads to my first resolution in this area: Read more Philosophy.

I actually started my journey with philosophy last year (or was it the year before). I had been challenged by my husband to start thinking deeper about my world (that’s a story for another day) and I had already become a podcast junkie. So naturally, the first place I looked was for a philosophy podcast that could start me with an introduction. I found Philosophize This and was soon hooked. I blew through the whole archive in a month or two. It has already done a lot to pique my interest and challenge my worldview, but a once per month podcast isn’t satiating my thirst for questions and answers.

I’d like to get to the point of reading actual philosophers’ texts but my first foray into it with Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra was like diving into the deep end without knowing how to swim, or dive for that matter. I got halfway through and was more confused than challenged. I know I’ll go back to it eventually but it made me realize that I need to take some baby steps first.

I took to the internet for some recommendations. Since I liked and trusted Stephen West from his Philosophize This podcast, I took his word and bought a used copy (It’s the way to go for these kinds of books. The previous owner already has notes in there for me!) of Luc Ferry’s A Brief History of Thought. I started it yesterday so I’m only 45 pages in but it’s already engaging and I think it will be a great way to get a further overview of philosophy and philosophers while also giving me ideas of what I’d like to dive into further.

What I’ve accomplished this week:
* Went to the gym – twice
* Did yoga at home – once
* Walked my dog – 5 days
* Practiced piano – 3 times
* Practiced voice – 3 times (I had choir practice twice and a performance but hey, it counts!)
* Wrote in my Journal – once
* Called my younger brother & my sister
* Did strength exercises – twice
* At salad for lunch 3 out of 5 days
* Reading
* At page 93 in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
* At page 45 in  A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry

Things I’m enjoying this week:
* Watching Younger with Sutton Foster on TV Land – Shout-out to my sister-in-law for the recommendation
* Re-listening to the Little Women Broadway soundtrack (clearly I’m on a Sutton kick)

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