(father and son playing kite near my house in HCMC. Taking a break - the theme of this week)
Long time no see. This week I want to share a thought that has reframed much of my thinking since two weeks ago.
Some of you might have heard of the idea of the technological sabbath or digital detox, where people intentionally disconnect themselves from all forms of connectivity and devices for a period of time like a day or even a week to be present.
That's a great (and challenging) idea to try. If you are reading this newsletter either on your phone or computer, you know how annoying and distracting those notifications and overflooding of requests are to us. It makes sense, if you can, to step away from those toxic influences.
Now, here is the crazy idea:
What if that is the entirely wrong mindset? What if we take a break from something not because it’s terrible *but because it’s so good.*?
Yet that's what Kevin Kelly, founder of the technology site WIRED magazine, said from an interview with Tim Ferriss.
I had such a big HOLY HOWL moment seeing it.
He continues to explain that the much better way to think about this choice to take a break is to step back so you can re-enter it with a renewed perspective andhttps://app.getpocket.com/read/1976987907 more appreciation after having spent time looking at it in a different way.
It's so obvious, yet difficult to apply.
We all know that it's a good thing to take a break sometimes, but what attitude do we bring to this important choice?
I, and perhaps many others too, tend to take a break when I'm so fed up with something already. Or someone (yup 😢)
I can take a break out of resentment and frustration of the dependency ("I need you, but I'm so sick of you I need to take a break").
Or I can take a break out of appreciation ("This has been so great. Let me take a break so that I can appreciate you even more when I'm back")
Imagine what would happen if we
- take a break from work because it's so good, and when we come back, we are more re-ernergized and have new idea? (companies like Netflix with unlimited vacation policy probably understands this well)
- take a break from where we are living because it's so nice, so that we can come back loving the place even more? (this often happens when we travel. Remember that feeling after a long trip, you finally are home?)
- take a break from a relationship because it's so wonderful, so that we can come back with a new perspective of each other? (i know some couples intentionally do this "sabbath" to sustain the appeal and freshness of each other. Both have to be on the same page though)
- we take a break from being who we are usually are because it's so marvelous to be who we are, so that we can come back with more appreciation for our way of being? (As example, I've been so serious and growth-oriented all my life, and I am taking a break from that so that when I'm back, growth has a new meaning on me). By the way, this is the subject in my forthcoming book, Not Being. If you want to hear more, sign up here and I'll share more soon.
At the core of this reframing is a deep practice of living with gratitude, openness and appreciation for all things including the good and the not so good.
This also means non-attachment. You are so important, AND I am okay without you for a while because I know it will be even better if we choose to be back with each other. (whether that is a person or a smartphone).
Taking a break doesn't have to be a bad thing. What choice are you making?
I'm took a break from writing this newsletter last week, because it's so fun to write to you all and I'd like to feel that way or even better the next time I'll write to you. (Like next week 😁)
Sharing is sprouting.
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Some of the longer passages that got me thinking this week
It's not that easy to take a break from ourselves. David Whyte articulates on why:
One of the basic reasons we find it difficult even just to turn the radio off or the television or not look at our gadget — is that giving over to something that’s going to actually seem as if it’s undermining “you” to begin with and lead to your demise. [What] we’re most afraid of in silence is this death of the periphery, the outside concerns, the place where you’ve been building your personality. Where you think you’ve been building who you are starts to atomize and fall apart. The intuition, unfortunately, is correct. You are heading toward your demise, but it’s leading towards this richer, deeper place that doesn’t get corroborated very much in our everyday outer world.
Adam Phillips on love & long terms relationship.
"There is a powerful motive at work in long-term relationships to establish security, a predictability over the unpredictable, a know-ingness over the unknown. Knowing people—or certain kinds of knowledge about people— can be counter-erotic; the unconscious intention of certain forms of familiarity is to kill desire. It is not simply that elusiveness, or jealousy, sustains desire, but that certain ways of knowing people diminish their interest for us; and that this may be their abiding wish. So we have to watch out for the ways people invite us—or allow us— to know them; and also alert ourselves to the possibility that knowing may be too tendentious, too canny, a model for loving."
Such a powerful idea. This could be applied to any other relationships like with our dear friends or even with our work. How do you overcome this inclination to reduce someone into predictable patterns? Take a break, like suggested today!
On the difficulty of being crazy in the right way: "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct." - Niels Bohr
On knowing what we are looking for: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” —Matsuo Basho
A question for all of us: who will miss you when you are gone? How will you live differently now that you begin asking that question?