Reflections on a Wedding

I spent this last weekend at the wedding of one of my best friends. I was Best Man, in fact. The weekend concluded my ninth wedding in a 12 month period. That time of life, I suppose.

Over the course of the weekend I couldn’t help but find myself thinking about the importance of communities. I thought about how these communities change over time and how one’s communities are colored by very distinct decisions they make in life. My friend is a surgeon and thus, many attendees of the wedding came from his med school or had a medical background. In contrast, the few of us from high school found ourselves talking about the same things we talked about as teenagers - indie rock bands and general shenanigans.

I was reminded of a pretty simple equation: the decisions that my friend Charles made to become a doctor and to go to med school, shaped the community he had. In turn, the communities he continues to choose to be a part of today influence the way he processes information and experiences.

Thinking back on my own life, the communities that I am a part of are a direct effect of these decisions (not an exhaustive list):

  • the decision to go to Brown University
  • the decision to play tennis throughout high school
  • the decision to pursue a BA in Race and Ethnicity
  • the decision to work at Google and Amazon
  • the decision to leave NY and move to Los Angeles
  • the decision to pursue Olympic Weightlifting competitively

I wrote this list out as a quick exercise. I find it helpful for a performance oriented workhorse like myself. While many of these decisions were made because of the achievements they promised, today I reflect on them with a focus on the communities they provided.

Thinking about the driving forces behind what makes strong communities is important because having strong communities is what makes me feel human. It’s what makes me feel explicitly connected to something that is larger than myself and thus, allows me to be more present. The farther away I feel I am from communities, the smaller my world becomes and the more I feel I need to be at the center of that very small world. The closer I am to my communities, the more space I have to be present. That is not an ‘achievement’. That is something different and it feels nourishing. 

Notes on Letting Go by David R Hawkins

In the calendar year of 2015 I went through the following life experiences:

  • I started a new job. 
  • I changed teams at that new company and have scope of responsibility increase dramatically.
  • I met a nice beautiful lady. 
  • That nice beautiful lady and I moved in to a new home together.
  • I moved cross the country and left my beloved New York City for the canyons and sun of Los Angeles, California. 

Thinking about all of those events, I can say that while it wasn't too much, it was a lot of change to manage. What I experienced was that these changes disrupted my routines, put me outside of my comfort zone, and ultimately invoked me to ask whether existing routines and frameworks previously used to rule my life were obsolete. Where I once found solace in several habits and routines, I no longer found myself able to:

  • meditate regularly first thing in the morning
  • write frequently 
  • create podcast episodes and audio stories with project partners
  • schedule 'no email focus time' at work for the first two hours of the morning on the east coast and schedule meetings with west coast teammates in the afternoon
  • rely on the same friends to round up for dinner on Friday evening
  • use my subway commute in NYC to ease into the work day with music of my choice

I found myself on an airplane most weeks of the month than not, learning to work daily with a team on both coasts, and carving out space for two instead of one in my day.

Eventually I did make some very conscious decisions to ease the change like easing back on the blog and writing time in order to give myself more time to play and become part of a community in my new home, dedicate time to create new experiences with my girlfriend, and switch to receiving my news through podcasts in the morning instead of my phone so that I could reduce strain on my eyes knowing that the day would be long and include much more inflow than my previous job.

However, the change with the most impact has come from David R Hawkin's Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, which my friend recently gave to me. I am not even finished with the book and I feel compelled to document my notes so that I can further cement my takeaways in my memory (very bad rule writing notes on a book you haven't finished. Doing it anyway!) 

Dr. Hawkins' book is not too dissimilar from what I learned in Vipassana meditation retreats, so I found the approach to be very familiar and easy to access. The first third of Letting Go is an exposition on the art of letting go and how to relieve oneself from the strain of negativity. Very similar to inspirational t-shirts and Instagram posts with nice fonts fitting for a Sunday morning with pour over coffee. But more interesting is the work Hawkins spends on diving into very specific emotions. He takes 30 - 50 pages to thoroughly describe apathy, depression, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, acceptance, love, and peace. These emotions construct a spectrum of emotions or mental mechanisms. In other words, these emotions are how we choose to handle experiences through "suppression, expression, and escape."

Some choice passages that don't need explanation:

The reason to let go of selfishness is not because of guilt. Not because it's a 'sin.' Not because it's 'wrong.' All such motivations come from lower consciousness and self-judgment. Rather, the reason to let go of selfishness is simply because it is impractical. It doesn't work. It's too costly. It consumes too much energy. It delays the accomplishment of our goals and the realization of our wants. Because of its very nature, the small self is the creator of guilt and its self perpetuator; that is, out of guilt we strive to accomplish and achieve success. Then, when we achieve success, we feel guilty because we have it. There is no winning of the guilt game. The only solution is to give it up, to let it go.

The general progression of the levels of consciousness, as we go from the lowest to the highest, is to move from havingness to doingness to beingness. At the lower levels of consciousness, it is what we have that counts. It is what we have that we want. It is what we have that we value. It is what we have that gives us our self-image of worth and position in the world.

Actually, the way something comes into our life is because we have chosen it. It was the result of our intention, or we made a decision for it. It has come into our life in spite of desire. The desiring was actually the obstacle to its achievement or acquisition. This is because desire literally means, 'Id o not have.' In other words, if we say that we desire something, we are saying that it isn't ours. When we say that it isn't ours, we put a psychic distance between ourselves and what we want. This distance becomes the obstacle that consumes energy.

In looking at fears, then, it is well to remember that Carl Jung saw this reservoir of the forbidden inside the shadow as a part of the collective unconscious. The term collective unconscious means that everybody has these thoughts and fantasies. There is nothing unique about any of us when it comes to the way we symbolize our emotions. Everybody secretly harbors the fear that they are dumb, ugly, unlovable, and a failure.

Glamorization is living at a fantasy level...because there was no reality in it, the world is constantly selling us dishonest, catering to our desire for that romantic, glamorized aspect. it promises to make us more important than we really are. Glamour at that level of dishonesty is a fake.

If we constantly follow this procedure, we will come to the awareness that everyone in our life is acting as a mirror. They are really reflecting back to us what we have failed to acknowledge within ourselves. They are forcing us to look at what needs to be addressed. What aspect of our smaller self needs to be relinquished? This means that we have to constantly let go of our pride in order to undo anger, so that we can be grateful for the continual opportunities of growth with which we are presented in the course of everyday experience.

While Letting Go has not actually led to any tangible changes in my day (yet), spending time with this book has been enough for me to 'jump the hurdle' from 2015's shakeup and allow me to land well into 2016. Whatever that means.