Basketful

The basket will never be empty (a la Richard Carlson in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff). There will always be something next on the to-do list; emails to be sent, flashcards to review, laundry to fold, dishes to wash. When I sit down to meditate in the mornings the thought of these things piling into my basket brings some anxiety. You’re wasting time, goes the little voice in my head, You’re falling behind, This isn’t productive. Sitting with that anxiety (as well as self doubt and failed/awkward social interactions) is often the hardest part of meditation for me, and sometimes I give in. Sometimes I speed through it and I tell myself a couple minutes is good enough so I can start getting stuff done. But I notice that when can I meditate consistently and with good “form” (whatever that means) I am usually able to go about the rest of my day with more focus and control.

There’s never going to be a shortage of boxes to check off the list so it’s important to enjoy the silence, even for just a moment every day.

Fruiting Bodies

When I used to think about fungi, the first image that would usually come up in my mind was that of a mushroom. Mushrooms are like the poster child of fungi. They come in all sorts of shapes and colors, ranging from bright and flamboyant to drab and unassuming. They can be tasty (to some), stinky, magical, or deadly. The diverse properties and bizarre beauty of mushrooms makes it easy to forget that they are just reproductive blooms whose purpose is to propagate more fungi, and that most of the heavy-lifting of these organisms is performed silently and out of sight.

Just because there’s no flashy “fruit” on display for everyone to see, doesn’t mean there’s nothing going. Most of the time things are cooking beneath the surface, but if you’re patient, and under the right conditions, a mushroom will emerge. Or if you’re like a truffle, the mushroom will stay hidden but will be evidenced by a reeeeally strong aroma.

Fiber

There are few things worse than an bad/uncomplete bowel movement in the morning. Likewise there are few better ways to start the morning than with a nice, full, fecal deposit. Imagine if there was a way to experience poo-phoria every day. Oh wait there is– it’s called fiber. Traditionally, I feel like most people, myself included, think of fiber as like a brush, made of this insoluble plant material that scrubs out our intestines like a chimney sweep. But as I recently learned there’s more to the story; it also draws water into our bowel making our poop softer and increasing the bulk, and it’s also great for supporting a healthy gut microbiome. With all these benefits, why is it so hard to incorporate fiber into our diets? I think a lot of it has do to with culture, as well as some evolution/biology/natural history.

When we make plans to go out to eat with friends, how often do people suggest all-you-can-eat salad? Maybe -3 out of 10 times. What about AYCE Korean barbeque? In the past month, among different groups of my friends it was suggested for maybe 60-70% of the outings. The other 30-40% of suggestions included ramen, McDonalds, and other miscellaneous options that may or may not have had a significant number of fiber-rich offerings on their menu, but even if they did it was definitely not the basis of suggestion. Of course craving protein and umami is part of our DNA, and businesses and restaurants work to cater to that, and that feeds into social gatherings, community building, and ultimately culture.

Makes you wonder if we ever could create a culture in which eating primarily vegetables was sexy or if our taste buds are just too averse to minimally processed ruffage for that every to happen on a wide scale. Though I think poo-phoria is a possible mechanism by which we could make it a thing, and our bodies would thank us for it.

First Day of School

Today was my first day of school in a lecture hall in probably about four years. It was strange being back, but also nice to be around other people in an academic setting again, especially after a year of Zoom medical school. I also feel like I was able to be more productive today than when I was stuck in my room. I was forced to have a change in scenery every now instead of having the option to stay inside (not that I don’t still technically have that option). Whereas I would often feel tired by 11am or around lunchtime, I felt energized being out an about. It could be that I’m still just riding the wave of novelty of in-person class and social interaction though, so we’ll see how long this lasts.

Saudade

Supposedly saudade is a (Portuguese) word to that describes a feeling of simultaneous sadness and happiness. It is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places, or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, and well-being, which now trigger the senses and make one experience the pain of separation from those joyous sensations. However it acknowledges that to long for the past would detract from the excitement you feel towards the future.

I feel like in our culture we have tendency to categorize emotions into being either good or bad. Happiness, excitement, love are good emotions, while sadness, boredom, anger are bad. Those categorizations aren’t universal though, and saudade is a perfect example of how that can be. I can feel sadness for the loss of a person or the memory of a time and place, but still be accepting of where I am in the present and have excitement for the future. I can miss a person while still being happy for them without regret. We need more words like saudade in the English language.

Form

There’s a guy in my apartment building who comes out to the pool everyday to swim, sometimes pretty early in the morning. I know this because often times I am woken up at 7 or 8 (or sometimes 6) am by the sounds of splashing and gasping coming from my south facing window. Being nosy, I peak out my blinds and there he is doing his laps. Now I’m no swimming expert, but I can at least tell this gentleman does not have the best form. It looks like a mixture between a breaststroke and a doggy paddle. Despite that he is out there (almost) every morning for 10-20 mins going back and forth, and to me having that kind of discipline is admirable.

For some things form is everything. You have to always make sure you are doing an “exercise” correctly so you don’t learn bad habits for it or, in the case of some physical exercises, so you don’t injure yourself. For other things, the practice and discipline itself is the most valuable part of it. In an ideal world, one could and should prioritize both, but in the mean time focusing on one or the other is a good place to start.

New Friends

Whenever I make new Facebook friends I’m always curious, and a little worried what they think about my feed; it’s literally all links to this site cause that is basically all use use FB (and Twitter) for. I’ve connected with a lot of my classmates, some of whom I haven’t really talked to much in-person, and my worry is that they will make some sort of judgment on me, no so much for the content of what I write but for the simple fact that I post it publicly, as if I have something important to say or that I want people to read what I write, which is definitely not the case.

Of course it is nice when people do read and when they let me know, but the reason I write is for myself, and the reason I “publicize” it is an exercise in not giving a fuck. People can think what they want, and whatever opinions they have reflect back more on themselves then on me. Ironically, while this post is more of an affirmation to myself, deep down its also kind of a effort to ensure that people who do happen to wander in here understand where I’m coming from.

Everyone enters new friendships, relationships, acquaintances, from their own world view and they project that view onto the people they meet. I’ve found that for me the people worth keeping up with are the ones who don’t have a rigid conception of how the world or other people “ought to be” and who don’t take their perspective so seriously.

Biting a Cookie

When you bite a cookie you can’t really choose what parts of the cookie you taste, you just bite it. Sure you can pick out the nuts or the chocolate chips before you bite, but the essence is still there; it’s baked in. Some components are impossible to pick out, so you either gotta learn to live with it or just avoid that type of cookie entirely.

I’m usually not a picky eater, but I don’t really like peanut butter cookies.