Show Notes: Leo Babauta - Mindfulness In Crisis

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Show Summary:

Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits, talks to us about how to foster mental resilience during tough times.

Show Notes:

  • [0:25] In today’s urgent environment, is mindfulness even relevant?
  • [1:24] Why do we, as humans, hate uncertainty?
  • [3:38] What sort of emotional reactions are people having right now?
  • [5:35] Many of us find it difficult to acknowledge about our emotions. How can we do this, and why is it important?
  • [10:15] What is “meticulous attention”, and how is it helpful?
  • [14:32] What’s the best way to start the day?
  • [18:44] What does it mean to be resilient?
  • [26:28] There’s a limit to what your mindset or attitude alone can do. At what point do you acknowledge true negative situations, and how do you deal with that?
  • [30:13] A useful question to ask: If I had zero fear and anxiety, what would I do?
  • [31:28] Is it better to set a goal for the future, or focus on the day-to-day?
  • [34:25] Take a really cold shower, and watch what your mind does.

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Transcript:

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Jimmy
Leo Babauta is the author of the Zen Habits website, with over a million readers, and the books Beginner’s Guide To Mindfulness and Essential Zen Habits: Mastering the Art of Change.

Today with Leo we’re going to explore ways to find simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of life.

Leo, my first question is, this feels like a really urgent time in a lot of ways, so in that sort of environment is mindfulness even relevant?

Leo
Yeah, I think you know that it’s more relevant now than ever before, because this is just a crazy time to be alive, first of all, but I think also the uncertainty that is present for everyone around the world, and no one’s excluded right now, that uncertainty is just rising to new levels. And that increases our anxiety and stress levels. We get really judgmental of our neighbours and angry and frustrated. And so all of these things that are normally they’re at, at a lower level are now rising because of that increased uncertainty. So mindfulness is, for me, that’s been the tool that’s transformed everything for me, including how to deal with all of these difficult emotions.

Jimmy
And uncertainty is the key word there, so why do we humans hate uncertainty?

Leo
Yeah, it’s so interesting. Because what I found, you know, I’ve been meditating for a while now, studying under the Zen tradition, is that actually everything we always have uncertainty. It’s like the underlying kind of fabric of our reality is like, you don’t know what’s gonna happen? And yet, you know, people tend to really not like it. It’s kind of like the feeling of when, like, let’s say a rug was pulled out from under you and you start to slip and fall like that moment of like starting to like whoa, lose your balance. That’s the feeling that people get when they feel uncertainty. And so immediately they try and grasp for some kind of control. And that’s just the natural human reaction. And if you want to ask me why that is, we’d have to probably go back to caveman times when, like, they might have seen like, possibly like a panther in the bush. Like, I need to do something for survival, right? But so I don’t know exactly how that got hardwired into us. But I know that it is because every single human I’ve ever met does this where we reach for some kind of control, whether it’s like, I need to get all the plans, you know, set and all of the routines down and all of the systems down I need to have all my like pantry stocked and like a lot of toilet paper if you live here in the US.

Jimmy
Everywhere, everywhere, the toilet paper is gone.

Leo
Okay. So that’s a feeling of control is getting like some toilet paper around you. But it’s not just that it’s control of the unknown is also in shutting things out, avoiding thinking about the unknown. All of the things that we normally do, procrastination, distraction, comforting ourselves, all these things are our usual strategies for dealing with uncertainty. And it turns out in this time of uncertainty, the heightened uncertainty that all of our usual strategies are completely falling apart.

Jimmy
Yeah, yeah. Okay. So earlier you talked about uncertainty causing other things. So uncertainty is the underlying condition and then we start feeling things or doing things. Let’s put a name to those things. So what sort of emotional reactions are people likely having right now? And especially ones that they might not even realise? Because often we’re not exactly sure what we’re feeling because we’re not being mindful.

Leo
Yeah, exactly. So again, it’s almost like that rug gets pulled out from under your feet a little bit. So it’s a slight , it’s just a little pinprick in your heart, where it’s , Ah, there’s some kind of uncertainty or pain. And, and so fear arises from that. And so fear or pain is kind of the underlying thing that happens. But that’s just a small moment where that happens. Like, oh, there’s something going on in the world, or oh, someone has done something that I don’t like. And so that that just happens for a moment. And then what happens after that is that we get caught up in some kind of storyline, some kind of narrative about it like they shouldn’t do that and they’re the worst people in the world - all of these things, right? So our minds get caught up in a storyline about something and then that causes feelings in our bodies of uncertainty. And usually the feeling is some kind of stress, stress, fear. And then another set is a little more aggressive. Some of us have more tendencies toward these aggression, which is frustration, anger, irritation, grumpiness, and sometimes outright rage, right? And so, those are some of the ones, and I would say those are the main groups something aggressive and other ones are more fear, anxiety and stress related.

Jimmy
Right, so, and a lot of those things especially I think the fear ones, and fear maybe relating to later down the track depression or something like that. They’re all very scary to admit, I think for a lot of people or to say out loud even about yourself. Yeah. So what is to try and get over that? That fear of fear? Almost? What is the value of being aware of your emotional state, in the first place?

Leo
Yeah. Well, first of all, I want to speak to that what you just you just spoke up about, which is that most of us are not brought up in a culture or a family where we are encouraged to , talk about our emotions, or even acknowledge them, a lot of us are brought up in a in a way where , you just don’t even you don’t you never feel fear or stress or anxiety and to actually come out and talk about it is like it’s a sign of weakness, or you’re too emotional, you know. And so there’s a lot of cultural problems around that depending on the culture that you’re in, but that’s usually the case. And so what that leads to is a whole bunch of problems first of all, if we’re not acknowledging the emotions, we can’t take care of them. And so it’s almost like, there’s some kind of fire going on inside of us. And it’s like, nope, everything is fine. I’m not feeling a certain anything at all, and I’m completely rational. And so that’s the first thing is we can’t tend to the fire that’s inside of us. And that’s constantly it’s like this, a lot of times this slow, burning fire that just, almost like a dumpster fire, where it’s there all the time. And, and it’s not really acknowledged, and so we just kind of try and suppress it. And that leads to all kinds of problems. You know, you’ve seen people who’ve overworked themselves and burned out who’ve, you know, led to all kinds of anxiety, panic attacks, to, you know, suicidal thoughts, depression, all those kinds of things come from not taking care of it. But another thing that happens is when we, even if we don’t get to that full blown raging fire of emotion, a lot of times our actions are actually completely controlled by our emotions because we don’t know that they’re, they’re actually there. And so it’s just like, yes, this is completely logical that I’m arguing with you about something. But actually underneath you know, this kind of wanting to be right and arguing with someone about something, underneath that is some kind of fear and frustration and anxiety. And so that is actually the place where we’re coming from when we start talking to someone, rather than from a place of calmness, compassion might be another way to come from it but, definitely, like not we’re coming from a place of fear rather than a more powerful place to come from. And if anyone out there is , you know, a leader of an organisation or a team, you’ll see that , first of all, everyone else around you is feeling fear and anxiety. And so , if they’re not acknowledging it and you’re not acknowledging it, like your entire team or organisation is being driven by it. But also if you yourself are not able to be mindful about it and take care of it, then you are actually setting that model you’re modelling that for everybody else of coming from a place of fear. And then it spreads outwardly. There’s a huge ripple effect , okay, we need to take care of this crazy crisis right now. Right? And we’re going to do it from this place of stress, anxiety and fear and complete denial. So that’s usually what happens and that’s that’s the case in most organisations. And I would argue that’s a very dysfunctional, unhealthy way of operating and usually bad decisions come from it. Definitely unhealthy cultures come from it and unhappy, unhealthy, unhappy teams come from it. And you find the people who are actually able to be fully present and acknowledge their fears and anxiety are able to deal with it mindfully, those are the ones who actually lead to, I’d say, a calmer response, a happier team, healthier team. And overall just better decision making.

Jimmy
Yeah, yeah. And it compounds doesn’t it because you have the initial fear, and then I think a lot of especially leaders, but anyone in an organisation has to feel the fear of being wrong as well. So you avoid tending to those emotions, because you don’t want to think about how you might be wrong, because you’re afraid of it. And that, of course, leads to the leads to the loop. And you talk switching up a bit, you talk on your site a little bit about meticulous attention. And so what is meticulous attention and how is it helpful?

Leo
Yeah, so this is a different kind of side to mindfulness practice, but so one of it is just dropping in and feeling the emotions that you’re feeling. So that’s what we just talked about. I think that’s really important right now during a crisis but another thing that you’ll notice, and this is where mindfulness can really help you to see what’s going on, in your mind, is you notice that during a time of stress, crisis, anxiety, is that our minds become very scattered. We procrastinate it’s very hard to be productive right now. We go to distractions, a lot of people are, you know, flooding, YouTube and Netflix and all those great services. Some of it is just because we’re staying home and we have more leisure time, which is fine. But a lot of us who still want to, you know, get some, some work done, we have a team to serve, we have a mission to take care of like that right now is really difficult. And so mindfulness allows you first of all, to just acknowledge, like, I’m having a lot of trouble right now, maybe having trouble sleeping, and so that makes things even worse because you’re sleep deprived, maybe you’re feeling a lot of just low level stress or even higher level stress and anxiety. And so that leads to all kinds of procrastination and distraction. And mindfulness will allow us to first of all, just acknowledge that’s happening. And second of all, they , come from a place of greater calm, and then get to a place of focus. And this doesn’t have to be during a crisis and heightened anxiety, it’s just like all the time, we have greater uncertainty. And our focus is all over the place. And so if you notice you have, you know, 27, maybe 50 browser tabs open, or a lot of different apps open, then you’re constantly looking at social media looking at the news, this is scattered attention. And, you know, that’s, that’s just the symptom, but it’s also a sign that underneath your mind is constantly fractured. And so for example, if you want to right or focus on any kind of meaningful task, you’re going to give it just maybe you know, 20% if that, of your attention, and the rest of it is constantly switching to other things, checking your messages, answering your emails, and things like that. And so you’re really never giving full attention to any one thing. And this also the example, I mean that that also goes outside of the computer, but talking to people, we’re constantly checking our phones and constantly switching our attention so that we’re never fully giving our attention to anyone. And what does this mean is the thing that I wrote about in that post is that this means that we are never really giving all of ourselves to anything. So meticulous attention is about really taking care to put your attention on something and then fully giving yourself to that. And that’s , you know, I’m giving my full attention, for example, to my daughter who’s , sometimes tugging on my sleeve saying, hey, Dad, I want your attention. Well, it means turning toward her and giving her my full meticulous attention, and really paying attention to her. And so that she is all of a sudden my whole universe or the same thing to my wife or to my team members, if we’re on a zoom call. Am I checking other things on the browser? Or am I actually fully paying attention to them? There’s these ancient Japanese craftsmen who are giving it their meticulous attention. They’re the models that we have of this almost Zen like full attention on something and really pouring your entire self into the craft. And that’s what meticulous attention is about. And I think it’s almost a dying art these days. And it’s especially hard right now during this time of crisis.

Jimmy
Absolutely. And it’s interesting to think about everything as a craft, right? It’s not just a craftsman making a knife in Japan. It’s actually those everyday relationships and your work and everything and thinking about it as a craft really elevates it to a different level. And so we’re talking about our days. But our days obviously start out somewhere they start out in the morning. And I think we’ve all had that feeling lately. I know I have, we wake up, and it takes a few seconds to remember what’s happening. And then it all comes rushing in. And it feels like the walls are closing in on you a bit. And so what is the best way in terms of meticulous attention, or mindfulness or habits that we can start our day to, to avoid that feeling? Or at least keep it at bay? From the very start?

Leo
Yeah, well, I think the tried and true answer for me and a lot of people is, is starting with just a little bit of meditation, at least, and that only has to be, you know, five minutes. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. But where you’re just dropping in and just noticing how scattered your mind is, and will you’ll notice if you give yourself 5 to 10 minutes of meditation space is that you are constantly being pulled away, like you really want to go and dive into your emails or messages and check on all the things that you’re worried about. And so that little space allows you to see the pattern of your mind that’s going on actually all day long, especially at the beginning of the day, but all day long, it’s, you can actually start to watch what your mind really wants to do and how urgent this feels. And so if you notice that, what you’ll notice is that actually, it’s just coming from this place of uncertainty, anxiety and this worry that you’re not going to be on top of everything, everything’s gonna fall apart, that you won’t be able to do everything, get everything done that you need to get done. And so if you can just give yourself a little bit of space to see that arising, and then you can, you know, use that to get to a little bit of a calmer place and if you can get to that place of calm, all of a sudden your day starts out at a much better place. And the second thing that I would recommend besides, even just a little bit of meditation is after that, ask yourself what are the most important things that I could spend my time on? And I know that’s fairly obvious. But actually most of us don’t do that. We just start rushing into the messages. So just giving yourself a little bit of space after meditation and ask yourself like, what am I, what do I need to get done today? Like, what’s what am I being called on to do? is one way to put it or what is the most important thing that I could spend my time on, we have a very limited time each day. And our attention is limited. And if we decide this is if we think of our attention as currency, I’m going to spend this on the most important thing, the thing that’s going to get me the most ROI, for example, what do we actually think about that? Are we just constantly throwing the currency all over the place? And so I honestly I think most of us spend the currency of our attention and focus on messages, on small tasks, on easy things that are easy to get done quickly, because we get in that mode of doing things quickly, on distractions, on YouTube, on news, on social media, all those kinds of things. And before the day is over, we’ve completely spent the currency of our attention. And we, we haven’t gotten anything important done. Most of us know what that’s like. And we haven’t gotten all the things done on our to do list. So , we still have a tonne of things. And we’re stressed out about that. And we never get to any kind of closure for the day because we are constantly disappointing ourselves and what we got done that day. So I would say just take a little bit of time and say how do I want to spend my day? What’s most important for me to spend my attention on and if you could just pick out one thing or three things, something in that range. Usually you’ll and you put those first and then say okay, I’m also going to devote some time later for, for all of the little things carve out time for all the things you know, need to get done like email and messages. So it’s just kind of like giving a little bit of thought to how you want to actually move into your day and spend that time.

Jimmy
Makes a lot of sense. Let’s talk about resilience. All right, what does resilience really mean, in a psychological sense? And, and how does being mindful play into that?

Leo
Yeah, I love that question. So resilience, on a sort of real basic level is just kind of how we are able to handle stress, right. So even when there’s no crisis, there’s always some kind of stress, some kind of urgent thing, calling us, you know, thousand demands on our attention, all these tasks coming up, and then new things, changing landscapes of every single day and every month that’s constantly stressing us and calling on us to do to be able to handle that right? So when you don’t have resilience you have fragility, that means that you’re going to constantly break down. And you’ve, we’ve all been in an office space where like, you see someone who explodes almost daily, because they’re so frustrated by things not going the way that they’re, they hope things will go. And that’s what we call , not resilient and fragile. And then we’ve seen the person who you can throw any crisis at, and they can handle it with calm, with focus, with efficiency, effectiveness, and that’s the person who’s completely resilient and they’ll usually end up, we’ll give them way more than they need to handle because they’re so good at it. And usually entrepreneurs are like that, if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a nomad, I know a lot of people in your crowd are nomads. They’re people who are actually at the higher level of resiliency. But there’s a lot of factors that go into it. And so it’s not just kind of our ability to handle things thrown at us, but you know how much sleep are we getting? Sleep, lack of sleep leads to lower resiliency. Have we just done a week of really intense workouts? Workouts over time lead to resiliency, but in the moment, they don’t. So they actually stress your system, right? How much you know, how well are we eating? Are we eating a bunch of junk food? Are we in a place with a tonne of noise? Are we constantly moving all day? Are we answering messages all day? And so all of these kinds of things add to the stress load of our system. And over time, if we can handle that stress load, actually, we can increase our capacity to handle stress, but in the moment, actually, it decreases our capacity. And so our capacity is constantly fluctuating throughout the week and the day. And we’re constantly lowering it without doing anything to replenish it. So there’s two ideas, one is just how do you handle that capacity load during the day. And so are we doing things to replenish that so that we, when it dips down when we’ve really stressed it out? Are we moving it higher. So an example is just going for a walk and taking some space, or meditating or talking through some problems with somebody, venting or ranting with someone. Those can really help us to unload some of that stress and so that we can increase our capacity during the day. But long-term I think the thing that that’s been most amazing for me is we can increase the capacity overall, our overall ability to handle things, not just in the moment, is it going up or down during the day, but , are we actually increasing that that ability to handle a loads over time, and there are some things that we can do and one of them is mindfulness and meditation, but another one is training ourselves intentionally at a challenge zone. So putting ourselves into uncertainty, entrepreneurs do this on a regular basis and so do nomads. But if you are constantly putting yourself into a place where you don’t know how to do everything or you don’t know how things are going to turn out, and you might be at risk of failure, you might be at risk of damaging your reputation, those are ways to stress our system in a very intentional way. But we want to do it so that we’re not shutting down and you don’t see yourself breaking you don’t want to be throwing a tantrum and snapping every day. But you also don’t want to be at the level where you’re trying to put yourself in comfort all the time. So that would be I want to stay in comfort. And I just want to eat my you know french fries and burgers and candy all day that’s really comfortable. And I want to watch Netflix. So that’s the level that most people stay in is his comfort most of the time. When they get out of comfort. They go back into comfort as fast as they can. And then some people put themselves at so high a level where they can’t handle it, and so that those people lead to burnout and depression. And so we want to be in the challenge zone where we’re constantly putting ourselves there, stressing ourselves out and then practising mindfully with it. And then resting. So there’s just a workout, you can stress yourself on purpose, like a workout, and then you can go into rest, so that you can recuperate and then put yourself back into the stress.

Jimmy
It’s really interesting to think about it mentally as the equivalent of a workout and you’re intentionally doing it because I think a lot of the time we see things coming into our lives, whether it’s related to work or personal relationships as extra weight on us. And we feel very negative about that weight. We see it as a load that we have to bear. Whereas when we’re at the gym, or when we’re running we’re never thinking, oh, why are these weights so heavy? Or why is it so hard to run? You know that you’re doing it because you’re training yourself. And so it’s interesting to think about that growth and coming out of it stronger.

Leo
So yeah, if I could speak to that, I think that’s a really important observation. I’m glad you spoke to that. That’s, that’s actually a huge shift. And I mentioned entrepreneurs and nomads. They’re choosing to be entrepreneurs or nomads, right? And, people who step into leadership roles are choosing that. So if you have, if you’re in a role where you’re constantly being given stress, and it feels like a burden, then the stress isn’t actually increasing your capacity over time. It might, to some extent, but it’s not really doing it effectively. It’s like, instead of lifting weights, people are just throwing bricks on you. Like, I didn’t choose to do this workout and I’m not getting stronger. You will get stronger, but it’s also pressuring you. And so if you experience it as burden, which most of us do it does increase it over time you are getting stronger, but it’s also stressing you to a level where you’re not really training. So the training that I’m talking about is intentionally training yourself. It’s just like a gym workout where you choose to and you’re saying yes to the training. So that when you do it, you’re like, okay, I got this, right, you’re brace yourself. When you when you’re done. Like, you’re feeling grateful that you actually did it, as opposed to , resentful, which is what a lot of people feel when they get burden put on them. And so this is really important as the mindset as you do this training. It can be training and it can be amazing practice right now, as we’re in crisis, you can take this crisis as amazing training, or you can take it as this is the end of the world and I’m going to die and this sucks, right? So we can choose the mindset. And so if you have been unconsciously choosing the wrong mindset, this is an opportunity actually to shift into that.

Jimmy
But where does that turn into dangerously deluded thinking? I mean, if things really are dangerous, or you’re in a bad situation, and how there’s only a certain, there’s a limit to what your mindset can do, and you obviously don’t want to be divorced from reality, so, at what point do you acknowledge it? Or do you acknowledge the negativity of it? And how do you deal with that?

Leo
Yeah, that’s a really important point and also can be very subtle. So it’s tough is it you’re actually talking a little more advanced, have a topic for this kind of training. But I think it’s really important to talk about. So I would say, if you’re just starting out in this, just start out with meditation. Again, like I said, five minutes of meditation. And that’s the real basic training. And when you do this, when you put yourself into that, that training space, which is actually training your mind, right. So you put yourself into that, you’ll start to become better at starting to recognise when there’s emotions coming up. So there’s , you know, fear coming up, there’s anxiety, there’s frustration. And that’s, you’ll start to be able to see that, you’ll also see where your mind starts spinning around in different narratives that cause the anxiety. So you’ll be able to separate the two one is the emotion that’s happening in your body. And another one is the narrative about the situation or about your narrative about your emotions. So you’ll be able to distinguish those two things. And then the other thing, which I think is what you’re talking about, is you’re able to distinguish when there’s actual reality outside of you that you need to attend to, right. And so there’s always going to be things that we need to deal with dangerous things, non-dangerous things and there’s, first of all, there’s just like the, the regular, appropriate response to things like I need to take precautions so that I don’t get this virus for example, right? So that’s an appropriate response. But what happens is because of the uncertainty in this situation we feel the fear, we feel the uncertainty, the anxiety rises, our mind starts spinning around in a story about it. And then we go to control, which is I need to do everything possible and start hoarding, or I need to start, like trying to control everybody around me, and so becomes an inappropriate response. And that is really hard to distinguish in the moment, but what you need to first do is drop into the body and start to notice that you are freaking out that there is panic and anxiety rising up in you and that these actions are not coming from a place of , calm, appropriate, here are the next steps, but actually full on fear. And if you practice with this in, you know, again in the 5 to 10 minute meditation of the basic training. If you practice with us, in sitting meditation, you can actually get good at doing it any moment during the day. So someone’s coming at you with their complete, frustration and they’re panicking, you start to panic too. And you can drop in even while they’re talking to you, before taking action, and actually get present to the anxiety that’s coming up in you or the frustration at how they’re behaving. And then you can calm yourself down and get to a place of , okay, what’s the appropriate action here, given the actual situation? And that’s, like I said, it’s an advanced practice, you have to first get good at distinguishing , what’s my emotion? What’s my storyline? And then what’s the actual situation out there? And what does that require? If I had, one question to ask is, if I had zero fear and anxiety? What would I do? And that’s often what I’ll ask myself even when there’s no crisis, I’m going towards a goal. And I asked myself, you know, if I have no fear because often with a big goal, I have fear, right? If I have no fear, what would I do in this situation? Like, oh, okay, this is the appropriate response, the thing that my first thought is, , you know, , this is too hard, I can’t do it, you know, or something like that. Or I needed to Google everything about this so that I can bet that’s usually our responses, research, get information. And then if you find yourself googling something, or buying a bunch of books or courses, or audio books or something like that, or reaching out for podcasts, usually that means you’re in the middle of some anxiety and uncertainty. So, you know, have a bunch of different typical responses and then I can let myself just drop in, get calm and ask what would I do if I had no anxiety and fear? And usually that’s a very clear headed, appropriate response.

Jimmy
I think a lot of what we’re talking about underpinning it is, is looking not only to to cope with the situation, but to come out of it stronger. And in a way that’s a goal, but from a tactical perspective, is it better to be setting a goal of how you want to feel at the end of everything coming out the other side of this? Or is it better to focus on the day to day?

Leo
Yeah, it’s a really good question. So if we, if we think of this as training, and I do think I do recommend it, if we think of, let’s say, the crisis that we’re facing right now as a beautiful training opportunity, right? You can set a goal and you say, Well, at the end of this crisis, I would like to be really good at practising with my anxiety and coming from a clear headed decision making point of view, I use that you can set goals like that, and I do recommend it. But at the same time, there needs to be an acknowledgement that this is messier training than most of us are used to. So it’s not like I can just do these steps and get to this goal. And It’s almost like Olympic level athletic training, right? So, you know, you can set goals at the Olympic level. And they do, and you constantly trained to try and get to that. But at a certain level, when you’re at the highest peak of human physical performance, you can’t predict whether you’re actually going to reach that peak or not, you can do your best to prepare and get there. But , not all humans are actually capable of that, right? And so you can set the goal and then you’re going to fall short of the goal. And so the more important thing is knowing expecting that that goal might not be reached and then knowing how to deal with that. So that’s what I would say is set set goals for yourself for these this kind of training, but at the, at the same time, just know, , you know, there there will be a lot of more messiness, and you can actually plan for and predict and so, needing to be resilient when when things fall apart when your training does not go as well as you want and when you start to completely collapse, because of you’re intentionally putting yourself in distress, there will be times when you’re , you know what, I’m just going to nope out of here. I’m going to Netflix, I’m going to watch Tiger King and I’m not going to do a damn thing, right? So that will happen because we will reach your edge and you’ll shut down. And so your original question, which is do we manage it on the day to day basis. I think that’s actually the more refined training so we can set larger, long term goals for ourselves. But actually, if you, on a day to day, just try and put yourself close to or at your edge, and then learn how to manage yourself there. That’s, that’s the real goal. If you can get there and then see what happens. Bring a lot of curiosity, kindness to yourself because you will want to collapse. So when a good example of this, just make, in concrete terms, so if you want to intentionally put yourself into discomfort and uncertainty, take a really cold shower. So people who’ve done Wim Hof training, they understand this. But if you haven’t done a lot of this, or even if you’ve done just a little bit, put yourself into cold water, and watch what your mind does, so you’re intentionally putting yourself into stress. And your mind will want to get out as soon as possible, unless you’ve done some training on this, right? If you’re from Iceland or something like that, maybe you’ve done a lot of training on this. But for a lot of us, especially people like me who are from a tropical island, that’s a survival situation where you’re like, nope, I need to shut down and get out. So watching when you put yourself at that edge, watch what your mind does. And immediately let’s say it wants to collapse. Can you hold yourself open a little bit longer this time? Three seconds, five, seconds, ten seconds? And what you’ll see is if you keep doing it, putting yourself at that edge, not all day long but but a little bit at a time, intentionally with the right mindset. You will and then you shut down and you’re like, Okay, that was good enough for now. And maybe you do a little bit of interval training, what you’ll see that you’re actually able to stay at that edge a little bit longer. And eventually, you can do a minute, maybe do two minutes, maybe to 10 minutes, then what you need to do is find a new edge. So you’re constantly finding the edge holding yourself there very compassionately, and with a positive mindset, but then pulling away from the edge resting and then going back. So maybe you just do it for a minute a day of edge training. But it’s about managing that and that’s really the goal is a moment to moment, day to day kind of management of it. long term goals are great because they give us something they give us an edge actually to push against. And so when you said, like a big hairy, scary goal, that’s a great thing because you’ll see yourself push up against that and get a yield, you’ll feel uncertainty and fear and your patterns will start to show up. So I actually really recommend it, but at the same time, just know that you’re, there’s, there’s a good chance that you’re not actually going to hit those long term goals.

Jimmy
All right, well, it sounds like there are a few cold showers in my future

[laughter]

Leo
So you know what I would say to start out with this is actually just a brilliant training method because we can do it, you know, just with work stuff. But as a physical practice, this really illustrates what happens to our minds. So just get in the shower do hot shower first, your usual , whatever normal temperature is and then towards the end when you’re done, just turn all the way to cold. Brace yourself. And take a deep breath or something like that and then just watch what happens you know, for some people who are just naturally good at it like people or some people just are fine with cold, they can stay in it for a minute. Other people like me want to get out in three seconds. You know? And so this watch your mind at some point, you’ll hit an edge. And of course do it within safety. So , you’re not going to try and kill yourself. And some people do it by diving into ice water, a lake or something like that. And what happens there is , your mind will shut down and you’re actually in physical danger. And so I would say if you’d ever do it in cold water that’s not in a shower, have someone nearby who could help you, maybe two or three people and don’t go into anything deep so you should be able to stand up but in a cold shower. You know, that’s usually fairly safe for most of us who are healthy people. So yeah, go ahead and let yourself do that. And then just watch your mind. Yeah, just watch what happens. And it’s fascinating. But I would say we can do the same thing with any kind of creative work. If you’re a writer, you’ve noticed how your mind will run away, so hold yourself in the place of writing and that meticulous attention that we talked about before, and just see what happens there. Or if it’s creating any kind of music, you know, videos or those kinds of things, and putting that out there in public, that’s great, that’s a great way to do it. Creating a business is another great way if you’ll see yourself going to research instead of actually putting, you know putting stuff out there.

Jimmy
Makes a whole lot of sense. All right, on that note, good luck with everything in your shelter-in-place order and, and thanks for jumping on with us.

Leo
Yeah, thanks Jimmy.

Jimmy
That was Leo Babauta talking about methods for finding mindfulness in a stressful time. You can find Leo at his website zenhabits.net and we’ll also be posting the audio from this conversation at minaalradio.com/leo.

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