Elephant Adventure 43: Your Tongue

I quickly concluded in this exercise that our tongues are everywhere all the time. It helps us eat, speak, clean our teeth. It tastes, it detects and decides when we should swallow.

I few things struck me as I read the discussion:

  • The tongue works best when we leave it to do its job.
  • We couldn’t write sophisticated enough software to do what the tongue does.
  • It does so much, yet we don’t notice or appreciate it.

Those points to could be applied to so many things in this world.

Elephant Adventure 44: Impatience

Elephant Adventure 42: Procrastination

Soo… it took me 2 months to do this “weekly” exercise. Procrastinate much?

In this time, I’ve noticed categories of things I procrastinate on:

  • Open ended tasks, in which there is no right answer. Making slides, writing reviews, having difficult conversations.
  • Selling things. I have an inherent fear of misrepresenting something in the transaction, and don’t enjoy taking people’s money. (That sounds SO weird. What on earth is wrong with me?)
  • Inconsequential things that could be better, but don’t bother me enough. Like dusting. If there’s a bit of dust on something, I can’t see why it matters whether I remove it or not, and I won’t do it until it reaches a point where I’m annoyed.

I was partly joking about procrastinating on this Adventure. I’ve actually been processing it on and off these last two months, and would not have collected the points above in a single week.

The idea that sticks with me the most in the book’s discussion is that if you procrastinate on something, it hangs over your head, and only gets worse with time. Just do it and get it off your back.

Having said that, I understand that an objective understanding of something doesn’t always translate into action. People are complicated.

Elephant Adventure 43: Your Tongue

Elephant Adventure 41: Be on Time

This is an interesting Adventure for me: I’ve been early-to-punctual for most of my life.

The last few years, that’s turned into a 5 minute plus-minus window.

I’m not sure whether this is because most people I know operate this way, or that my crowded meeting schedule during the week has forced me to operate this way. Perhaps the accuracy of real time Google Maps traffic has factored into it as well.

Technology has also allowed for a new adaptation: Setting a ballpark time with a friend and notifying each other when we’re about ready to leave. This works really well on the weekends.

Okay, the exercise:

Consider what “being on time” means to you and to others.

Being on time means arriving 0-5 minutes before the set time. There’s one exception to this: Parties at someone’s home. On time is not an expectation (unless it’s a dinner party), and I’ll adjust my arrival time based on the group, group size, duration, and type of party.

To others: Depends on the other.

What prevents you from being on time?

Back to back meetings, because I can’t magically teleport.

What arises in your mind when you or other people are late?

When I’m late: I get really agitated, because I don’t want to be the person who is late. I consider it inconsiderate, disrespectful, and irresponsible.

When others are late: I used to get really annoyed, and sometimes I still do, but over the years I’ve come to understand that everyone views and understands time in a different way. I can’t expect everyone to see the world the way I do. I try to account for this ahead of time when I’m scheduling things with folks I know tend to run late.

I did have an instance last week when I was a couple minutes late for a presentation at work where I was the moderator. I could have arrived on time, but as presentation time approached I found myself in a conversation with a coworker about how things were going for them and for our teams. I knew I would be little late for the commitment I had made, but I decided it was more important devote those minutes to my coworker, because giving them my attention, strengthening our connection, and learning about our collective well being was more important.

When I do have the luxury of arriving before a work meeting, it gives me a chance to gather my thoughts, get into the right mindset, and begin the interaction properly composed.

One of my coworkers makes it a habit to leave meetings 10 minutes before the top of the hour. In the back of my mind I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of implementing the same thing.

The discussion section of the book stated that this was a lesson not about punctuality, but time, and how time is irrelevant relative to the present moment.

This bring me to what I do when I’m the one who has arrived and have to wait: I keep my phone in my pocket and I “sit”. I observe. It’s calming and enjoyable, and turns those “wasted” minutes into a mindful gift.

Elephant Adventure 42: Procrastination

Elephant Adventure 40: Signs of Aging

Oh goodness. Aging is everywhere. It’s inevitable. Unstoppable. I see it in everything around me, everyone in my life, and in myself.

But how do we know it’s happening? Because of change. We have to consciously make a comparison to notice what’s changed. Growth, decay, wrinkles, reflexes, reading glasses, injuries that take longer to heal. They are what they are, not signs of anything, unless compared to a prior state.

I’m actually not sure what the point of this exercise was. I had thought this book was trying to guide us toward being present in the moment, but if we’re truly in the moment, we’re not making comparisons.

Then there’s this line in the book:

At about age forty, people realize that their life is at least half over.

At first I found this kind of depressing, but when I really think about it, I think it just means I need to be conscious of every moment, because time is a limited resource.

Speaking of which…

Elephant Adventure 41: Be on Time

Elephant Adventure 39: Appreciation

This exercise was much like Elephant Adventure 8 and 30×7. I’ve done this before, and I do this regularly even when I’m not on an Adventure.

What’s interesting is the topics I wrote down. Work has been incredibly busy these past few months, and this was evident in my list of things I appreciate: free food, working from office couches, working from random places like the tire shop, training classes, N95 filters (they handed them out at work when the smoke was really bad last week), health insurance, the ability to juggle life tasks that require being in front of a computer, remembering to be like water when things got extra crazy.

Because of all this busyness, I didn’t get around to writing up this Adventure until Thanksgiving, at which point posts like this one started (re)circulating.

I love this video. It’s a great reminder not only to appreciate the little positives in life, but to appreciate everything, every minute of every day.

Like this very moment. How cool is it that I have a computer, power, a web host, the ability to broadcast my thoughts to the world, the power of language, the skill of typing, streaming music, speakers to play it on, glasses to see what I’m doing, a warm house, people who invented and made all this stuff?

And that’s just a fraction of a single moment.

This world is pretty amazing.

Elephant Adventure 40: Signs of Aging

Elephant Adventure 38: Listen Like a Sponge

Listen like a sponge. Don’t speak, just listen.

I haven’t written about an Adventure in over two months. I stalled on this one. It was hard. I’d remember to do it, but then forget when in conversation. Because how often do you find yourself in a conversation that doesn’t expect a response? Certainly not at work. I feel this works best when you’re in a one-on-one conversation with a friend, but not a group of friends, because in a group setting not talking often relegates you to outside observer.

But even in a one-on-one setting, most conversations expect contribution from both parties.

I did find myself in a few qualifying conversations over the course of this exercise. Conversations in which there is no right answer, no expectation of a response. Conversations in which I could just listen.

And when I did, I heard more than words. I heard emotion, pain, hope, fear, sincerity, compassion.

When I think about this, I realize that sometimes when we want someone to talk to, what we really need is someone to listen.

Perhaps with this realization I’ll find it easier to remember to just listen.

Elephant Adventure 39: Appreciation

Elephant Adventure 37: The Wind

[insert fart joke here]

The exercise: Become aware of the movement of air.

The wind. It’s everywhere, almost always. I know this, because when everything is still I notice something is different.

Wind is what makes plants come alive before our eyes. Wind is what the countless fans in our device and appliance filled lives produce. Wind is snoring. It’s voice. It’s sound. It’s the fog before my eyes, the person walking by, the fly buzzing across the room.

Wind is power. It spins turbines and shapes landscapes.

Wind is change. Ubiquitous, constant change.

Elephant Adventure 38: Listen Like a Sponge

Elephant Adventure 36: Are You Overlooking Something?

The exercise: Stop and become aware of what you’re ignoring.

Look up, listen, feel. We purposely block out so much as a matter of routine, and miss so much of what’s going on around us.

We can’t notice everything all the time, but it’s amazing how much is happening all the time when you open yourself up to take it in.

Here’s a baby Elephant to take with you: Surfaces. In nature, the color and/or texture each surface is the result of erosion and or evolution. In human-made environments, most surfaces are the result of deliberate choice, design, and debate.

Everything we see and touch came to be that way for a reason.

Elephant Adventure 37: The Wind

Elephant Adventure 35: Notice Dislike

I’ve spent the last 3+ weeks noticing dislike. Goodness, this was a long adventure.

Not that I dislike a lot of things. I only wrote down one Thing I disliked: clutter and disorder. (Maybe that counts as two.)

It’s People I dislike. Rather, their actions. I wrote a tome on people. The abridged version is below:

  • People who waste my time because (I think) they’re not trying.
  • People who waste my time by making me repeat myself.
  • People who waste my time by being late.
  • People being grumpy.
  • People being thoughtless, inconsiderate, unkind.

Really, I think it all boils down to the last bullet point. If we’re considerate of others, we won’t waste their time. We’d think about how we’re acting and how it affects those around us.

Maybe I can be more succinct: People being self-centered.

Or maybe I just don’t like people.

Elephant Adventure 36: Are You Overlooking Something?

Elephant Adventure 34: The Great Earth Beneath You

The exercise: Being aware of the great earth beneath us.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get whatever it was I was supposed to get out of this.

What I got out of this: The earth is large and steady and it’s there beneath us no matter what we do to it, or what structures we build on top of it. It’s beautiful and amazing when untouched.

I was on this Adventure for over 3 weeks. In that time, I traveled to Boston and back, then Vegas and back. It was interesting to think about the great earth beneath me as I was in the air. I felt oddly disconnected.

What I also got out of this: Regardless of what city I landed in, what continent you are on, we’re all in this together. Except most of us aren’t thinking that most of the time.

That wasn’t the point of this exercise either, according to the book. But if most of us thought this way most of the time, we’d all be in a much better place.

Elephant Adventure 35: Notice Dislike