What is the Goal of Management?

Earlier, I talked a couple of times about some possible deconvolutions and separations of a number of traditional management roles.

Today, I want to talk about the goal of management. What are the principles underlying how we support and direct our teams? What are we trying to accomplish?

We want to look at some of the various goals we might have as managers, and then see how those may map onto different roles that might be allocated to different team members.

I like to say that I have two goals as a manager: 1) Support each of the people on my team to develop themselves as best they can, and 2) Achieve results for the larger organization that we are part of.

Sometimes these goals are in conflict, but I put them in this order deliberately, to show[1] that helping your people is often the best way to help your organization, that in general, these goals are in alignment.

But I digress. What are the goals of a team?

1) Support and develop each of the team members
– Help each of the people figure out how they want to develop
– Help each of the people develop themselves
– Help them remove internal[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Help them remove external[2] obstacles in the way of their development
– Give feedback and suggestions for improvement
– Have difficult conversations with more pointed suggestions for improvement
2) Achieve results for the larger organization
– Provide guidance (estimates, progress reports, and risk levels) to the rest of the organization[3]
– Estimate the amount of time/effort[4] required for a task
– Perform tasks (may include investigations to better define tasks)
– Perform prioritization of project work
– Perform prioritization of triage tasks/incoming requests
– Firefighting of emergencies
– Define & subdivide tasks
– Work with other teams on projects/tasks
– Unblock and remove obstacles for other team members

Next time, we’ll see how these tasks are divided, in traditional management, and in typical Scrum/Agile. We’ll also start looking at how you can use this more granular list of management roles to start training up your management bench. Stay tuned!

[1] At least through repeated assertion…

[2]You can interpret the concept of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ obstacles in a number of different ways. In this context, I’m thinking about ‘internal’ as ‘inside your own head’, but ‘internal’ could just as easily mean ‘in your team’, or ‘in your organization’. This duality could easily be split into multiple roles. I separate out ‘inside your head’ because I see ‘Inner Game‘ issues as requiring a different approach than talking to people other than the one with the obstacle.

[3]I had originally written this as ‘up the hierarchy’, but this information is also useful to other parts of any organization, and I’m trying to generalize this to less hierarchical organizations.

[4]Perhaps wall-clock time vs. % of a two-week sprint, for example.

Weather Only A Druid Could Love II

He walked down the street, skipping between the puddles and weaving between the umbrellas. It was one of those days where he wasn’t exactly sure where he wanted to go for lunch, but he was pretty sure it was going to be one of the local takeout places. He felt himself gravitating towards the little hole-in-the-wall ‘BBQ’ place, where he had oddly never seen a barbecue, nor any food that was barbecued. Walking in, he ordered his usual, enjoying the fact that they now left the onions off his salad without asking, and even remembered his dressing choices (balsamic).

Stepping outside, he walked through the geometric tree garden. That probably wasn’t its name, but he didn’t know how to refer to it. There were little (to him) trees inside half-toroidal bollards. Normally, when he walked this way, there would be people sitting on the bollards, sometimes two people conversing, sometimes people taking a brief moment of solitude and recharge from whatever emotional labour their ‘normal’ daily life entailed.

Today, there were a few stalwarts, sitting huddled on the bollards, each of them inside their own bubble. It reminded of what a woman had told him about her experience living in London, that ‘each person was their own country.’

Some of them were smoking cigarettes, most were on their phones, hunched over the screens to keep them dry, hoarding the few minutes they had to themselves all day, resentful of the rain for robbing of some of the little joy they ever felt.

He gave this whole montage a wide berth. It felt rude to intrude, and once again, he was still enjoying his walk too much to want to, even by trying to share a smile or nod.

The rain continued its gentle mist, he continued his walk. When he was growing up, he had always seen himself as a wind-lover, based on how much he loved the summer breezes and winds, especially when they whispered through the trees, but it seems that his love was actually for the outdoors, whatever its weather might bring. He was looking forward to what it might bring next, whatever that may be, as long as he was outside.

Weather Only a Druid Could Love

It was raining. It almost felt like it had always been raining. And yet, here he was, outside. Today, it was almost a gentle mist, the most delicate of rains. The kind where you wanted to turn your face up to the sky.

He did so, looking up at the space between the buildings, always such an interesting shade of blue-gray, in the mist.

He looked back down at the ground in front of him, partially to avoid puddles, partially to deke around an umbrella. The umbrella wielder had a determined expression, as if they were willing the raindrops to move out of the way with the force of their mind.

He knew that this was foolishness, but let the person go past without comment. It was too perfect a day to be outside, to want to spoil with such conflict.

Unfortunately, such conflict was what he oft experienced when he suggested going for a walk in the rain. For some reason, he seemed to enjoy walks in the rain more than most people. The exact reason was unclear. It might have been his naturally sunny disposition, or perhaps that he felt more of a connection to nature than most[1].

But he knew that a large part of it was something far more quotidian. In the tradition of ‘Fortune favours the bold‘, or ‘Haley drinks a potion of bluff'[2], or ‘use thermal underwear to be able to walk barefoot through snow'[3], he knew that the best way to enjoy the rain was to be fully prepared.

The rain coat was essential, but the extra warm sweater and long johns were perhaps not as obvious. Perhaps based on research that baby ducks stay warm until they get wet[5], perhaps based on long years of experience with rain, cold weather, and low blood circulation in the legs.

Either way, he was enjoying the day, dodging around puddles, people watching as was his wont, perhaps lunch would be had at some point. Only time would tell.

[1]Some referred to him as ‘feral’, because of his frequent needs to be outside, he more enjoyed the term ‘kinda like a druid’.

[2]From the webcomic Order of the Stick, from the episode where Haley (who has already maxed out her ‘bluff’ skill) drinks a magic potion which greatly enhances her bluff skill to apparently epic[4] levels.

[3]Terry Pratchett’s ‘Thief of Time’, pp176-177. ‘Sweeper’, a magical time-monk, who is able to withstand walking barefoot/sandalfoot through snow uses thermal underwear to great effect to help him use less magic.

[4]Yes, in this context, ‘epic’ has a very specific meaning, and it does seem to apply.

[5]From a conference paper I saw presented in I think 2003. Basically, the conclusion was that ‘baby ducks can survive in the cold, as long as they don’t get wet’. Apparently, the natural insulation makes all the difference, as long as the air pockets in the down are still there.

Why Life Coaching?

A friend of mine recently posted a few questions about fb about life coaching. I felt that I had more to say than could be conveniently be expressed in a fb comment, so you’re getting it here.

The questions they asked were (mild editing for clarity):

0) ‘I wonder if now’s an opportune time for me to try it’
1) ‘General opinions, and beliefs about its effectiveness in various contexts’
2) ‘What can it do (for you, or more generally), and how does it do that?’
3) ‘How do I find someone really good and really compatible with me and my goals?’

0) ‘I wonder if now’s an opportune time for me to try it’

I’m a firm believer in the idea that the best time to do something is ‘now’. There’s a great story about a famous barbershop coach (Greg Lyne, I think). He was talking with the leadership of a chorus about him giving them some coaching, and they said something like “We’re looking for a five year plan to get better.” His response was “Why wait? Be good now!” Similar to Agile software development practices, you want to test your ideas and theories as soon as possible in as-close-to-real-world-situations, so that you can iterate on them. If you have an idea that might help you improve everything about you and your life, why would you wait to try it out, especially if it might take some time to ramp up?

1) ‘General opinions, and beliefs about its effectiveness in various contexts’

I feel like in our culture (and probably many others), it is considered a sign of weakness to ask for help. And yet, we do this every day. Every time that we exchange money for a good or a service, we are asking for help. You could learn to make your own shoes, or you could perform some task where you have more of a competitive advantage, receive money for that, and then exchange that money for shoes. By specializing[1] like that, we make our modern civilization possible. A Life Coach is a specialist in helping you achieve your potential, whatever that might be.

So, what is Life Coaching? I see it as:

– Helping you achieve clarity on your goals
– Helping you figure out how you are ‘getting in your own way'[2] of achieving those goals
– Helping you work through yourself to make progress and eventually achieve your goals

I’ve personally found it useful for ‘getting unstuck’ in job and career, for helping me unlock my love of writing, and for helping me set boundaries in various parts of my life. But I think the clarity it can bring is the key, and the foundation upon which all other things are built. If you know exactly what you want, and why, you can be so much more focused and effective.

2) ‘What can it do (for you, or more generally), and how does it do that?’

I think I’ve answered much of this under question 1), but I’ll go a little more into the ‘how’.

First, you want to figure out what your goals actually are. From my experience, this often includes some individuation and separation of your ‘social self’ (what others want from you) and your ‘essential self’ (what you actually want on the inside).

Next, you want to figure out how you are preventing yourself from doing these things. You may be plagued by self-doubts brought on by years of exposure to certain types of people, you may be a perfectionist who never starts anything because it will never be good enough, you may be spending all of your time trying to please others, and never taking any time for yourself. This seems to me like a very personal and individual process, involving a number of exercises designed to help you to better understand yourself and your interactions/experiences.

Then, now that you know your goals and how you’re preventing yourself from achieving them, you make plans and start to work towards these goals.

It’s an iterative and very personal process, but it can be tremendously helpful. As I mentioned above, I’ve personally found it useful for ‘getting unstuck’ in job and career, for helping me unlock my love of writing, and for helping me set boundaries in various parts of my life.

3) ‘How do I find someone really good and really compatible with me and my goals?’

Like finding a job or a life partner, good fit with a life coach is very important. I don’t have any easy rules to follow here. Ultimately, you’re at the mercy of your ability to judge people (and more importantly, how you feel around those people).

I would treat it as an interview, the type where you are interviewing them in the same way that they are interviewing you. See if the types of questions they’re asking might help you achieve clarity. See if they are expressing realistic expectations about what a life coach can and cannot do (you yourself need to be engaged, and it can take months). But perhaps most of all, see if you trust the person you’re talking to[3]. Do you feel comfortable talking with them[4]?

With all of the questions above, you can always just simply ask them of a prospective life coach, and see how they answer. You can glean a lot of how and whether they share your values, and how they will approach things. Read their website. Read any testimonials they may have.

If you trust your gut[5], and make sure it feels right, you should be okay.

I’m currently seeing Gorett Reis for life coaching, and she’s fantastic.

[1]And mass production, and whole host of other things. I understand this example is somewhat flip, but appropriate for the circumstances of this post.

[2]My Life Coach, my old singing instructor, and my Inner Game-reading performance coach used this same analogy. I think it’s a good one.

[3]I was lucky enough to have known my Life Coach for a number of years beforehand.

[4]Or, if you are not comfortable talking with people, do you at least feel more comfortable talking with them than other people you’ve just met?

[5]My first post in this blog talked about this concept, and I believe that learning to better trust and understand yourself is probably the best thing you can ever do.

The Basic Income Robot

It all started gradually. A few people discovered a MetaTrader Expert Advisor that worked well enough that it could be left alone to make money indefinitely. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep them in ramen.

So, they told a few of their friends about it. Then those friends told a few friends. Then some spammers got a hold of it, and started advertising it, with tag lines like “The financial robot makes money for you while you sleep” and “Give $1 to your financial robot and it will return with $100”. But oddly enough, people signed up with them, and it kept working. Soon thousands, and then millions of people were ‘roboting’.

Then something happened. People seemed happier. Even though the money the robot was bringing them was only just barely enough to live on, it gave them that extra bit of confidence and freedom. People would still go to work, but there would be a little more spring in their step, the feeling that they were working for themselves now.

Susan, a reporter for ‘The Beeker Online’ had been investigating the origins of these ‘robots’ for months, when she finally got her big break. One of the original programmers was willing to talk to her, but only in an undisclosed location, far away from prying eyes.

“Were you followed?”
“I don’t think so. I stopped and changed cars twice, like you asked, then took the subway using cash only.”
“So, what have you figured out so far?”
“Well, it seems that the ‘financial robot’ watches for a certain type of central bank action, ‘printing money’, if you will, then it skims just a little off the top for each person running the program.”
“Go on.”
“The really strange thing is that as more and more people start to use it, the central bank actions just get larger, as if to compensate, almost like they want this to happen.”
“So, what do you want to know?”
“How does this end? More and more people are taking advantage of this. Is there a tipping point we will reach? What happens when everyone is using this ‘robot’?”
The programmer laughed. “You’re really close. You don’t even need me to figure this out.”
“But what will happen? Why, how did you do this? Why has it not stopped yet?”
“I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”
“But there has to be some number of people where it breaks down, where it has to stop!”
“Does it? Think about what money actually is.”
And with that, the programmer was gone.

Forgiveness and Daily Standups

Recently, I wrote about forgiveness.

I made a comment in there about how it was super-important to make regular forgiveness a cornerstone of your management technique.

Forgiveness is so important because it allows your people to take calculated risks, with the knowledge that they can make mistakes that will be forgiven.

Like how brakes on a car allow you to go faster[0], forgiveness of error allows people to take larger risks, to go faster.

It’s also similar the to risk/reward tradeoffs that people make while investing. If you can’t forgive yourself for the large drawdown, you will never make the large returns.

So, these are nice words, but how do you do this?

First, I want to focus on one of the words I wrote above: ‘regular’. Specifically, ‘regular forgiveness’.

I first learned this from my undergrad thesis supervisor[1]. Every single meeting we had, no matter how much I had accomplished since the last meeting, he would always talk about where we were right now, and what the next step was. It felt like a safe space, where I was not going to be judged, and I’ve tried to bring this to all of my teams since.

Fundamentally, people worry about being embarrassed and being judged, by their manager, by their peers, or people that they don’t even know[2].

Daily standups can help you remind your team that they everything is okay on a daily basis. Think about it. That regular contact is telling your entire team not just that they’re important, but also telling them that you know what they’re doing, and you approve. It gives them that solid floor underneath them that they can jump from every day, knowing that you and your whole team are waiting and willing to catch them tomorrow if they fall.

You can do this today, with your daily standup, or your weekly meeting. “Where are we right now? What is our next step?” It might take a while for people to unwind, but if you give them time, they will see that you mean it. It is powerful once it works.

The fear of being judged by people you don’t know is the most difficult to fix with this method. You can help someone understand that you will not judge them for things they do, and it’s somewhat more difficult (but totally doable) to create and reinforce that culture at your site, but it’s much more difficult to convince someone that they person that they’ve never met, perhaps on the other side of the world, won’t judge them for asking a stupid question or wasting their time.

All you can really do for this is to make a local culture of acceptance and non-judgement, so that people at least have a safe space to jump off from to take their risks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention gender and cultural issues. I’m not enough of an expert on either of these to really comment in depth, but all of the above are often more difficult (sometimes much more difficult) for those who are not part of the dominant power group in a society.

As a general rule, think about how tense you get when asking your boss about something. Now, what if that was your boss’s boss? Now think about for each type of privilege that you don’t have, you add one level of hierarchy and tension.

So, for you, asking your boss is like, well, asking your boss. But for your female co-worker, asking her boss might be as difficult as you asking your boss’s boss.

This is why it is so important to make your organization’s culture as accepting and non-judgemental and as forgiving as possible, because you never know how much more difficult it is for the person sitting next to you to do the things that you might do every day.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

[0]Thanks, Jay!

[1]Thanks, Brad!

[2]I’m not actually sure which of these is a stronger fear.


Recently, I wrote about forgiveness, and how important it was in my achieving a deeper understanding of meditation.

Forgiveness is an interesting topic, going back millenia. Sun Tzu wrote about it in the context of magnanimity: “Treat the captives well, and care for them. This is called “winning a battle and becoming stronger.”

One could also argue that all of Ancient Greek literature is a lesson on why forgiveness is so important.

In some readings, forgiveness was one of the virtues of Hinduism.

Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and many other religious and cultural traditions also have many things to say about the importance of forgiveness[1].

However, one could argue that forgiveness is most important and truly central to Christianity. The oft-cited Parable of the Prodigal Son speaks of the power of love to enable forgiveness (and also apparently of the importance of emotional conversation between parents and children, but I digress).

The reason I mention all of this is to give context for forgiveness. When I was growing up, it was a common concept[2], but I don’t really think I internalized it. It’s from my undergrad thesis adviser that I take my canonical example of forgiving the people working for you, and making a daily or weekly clean slate, so that you can do your best work[3].

I took this example with me, and I think helped a lot as I led teams in a variety of ways. But I had never really thought about forgiving myself.

I mentioned earlier that if you want to truly relax, to meditate, to be in your body, inside yourself, you need to have a safe space inside yourself.

But if you have not forgiven yourself, if you are constantly criticizing yourself on the inside, you do not have that safe space, and are prone to self-medicate in various ways[4]

I cannot tell you how to forgive yourself. The power of much of organized religion is that it promises to give you that forgiveness that you cannot achieve yourself.

But I can tell you something of why it is important, and how I got there. All of this arose when I was involved in a dispute. Emotions were running high, and it was distracting me from everything that I find important. Somewhere around then, G suggested that I forgive them. It’s similar to letting something go, to letting the emotions roll over you. This helped my isolate my emotions (my reaction) from what was happening outside me. I understood that I could not control what happened outside me, but I could control myself.

This helped a lot, but it was still predicated on controlling myself, not fully trusting my emotions. Still avoiding my inner thoughts because they were still not a safe space.

This last breakthrough came through a guided meditation, where I was already in a physical and mental safe space, where I was given the permission to forgive myself. I am not going to give you that permission, because I cannot. Only you can give yourself that permission. But know that you have the power to do so, somewhere inside yourself.

“Give a person forgiveness, and they will forever be asking you for such. Teach a person to forgive themself, and they shall become more serene than you can possibly imagine.”

[1]You could even argue that the Babylonian code of laws was an early attempt at forgiveness, where ‘eye for an eye’ was more forgiving than a centuries-long blood feud. Note that this link to an article on this topic is rather lurid and not for the squeamish: [link]

[2]I even went to church for a while when I was younger, and I always enjoyed the construction of the line ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

[3]I will likely write more about this. I think it’s super-important.

[4]Any distraction will do. Not sleeping, workoholism, Oblivion, and running are among the more socially acceptable ones.

A Guided Meditation

This was inspired by a guided ‘being in your body’ meditation with Gorett, my life coach. You may also be interested in my previous post on this. Anyway, here goes:

First, you want to be wholly in your body.

Close your eyes, and make yourself comfortable.

Walk through each of your senses, and see what each of them are saying.

You may still see some colour, depending on how much light there is where you are. You may see some bright spots and dark spots, depending on what you were last looking at. Watch them. Watch them fade as your eyes acclimatize to being closed. You may see some of the sparkle patterns or moving objects that happen sometimes when you close your eyes. Watch them for a while. See how they move. Acknowledge them. Understand that they happen and that that is okay.

Next, figure out what your ears are telling you. You may hear someone in the next room, a siren in the distance, the beating of your heart. What do you smell? Is it a familiar smell? Is there anything at all? Can you smell yourself? Sometimes you can smell the inside of your own nose, similar to how you can see the inside of your eyelids. Acknowledge these things, glory in them, let them wash over you.

What are you tasting? Is it the thing you just ate? The mint from the toothpaste? Something else? Acknowledge it. Experience it fully, let it wash over you.

Where is your body? Think about each of your limbs and where they are. Are you sitting down? Lying down? Experience it fully and let it wash over you.

What are you touching? Are your hands in your lap? What is the sensation of your hands on your legs? Feel your hands, your lower arms, your upper arms as they come out of your shoulder. Flex your shoulders just a little bit to remind them that they’re alive. Feel the sensations as your muscles move. Now relax your shoulders, your arms. Feel your toes. What are they feeling? Feel your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs. Feel your pelvis, your hips, rotate them just slightly to know they’re there, to put them in a slightly more comfortable spot. Feel your lower belly, think about what you most recently ate, and let it go. Take a deep breath and let it go. Feel your heart beating. Feel your breath in and out. In and out. Move your shoulders again. Feel your neck, feel your ears, the hair on the back of your head, your chin, your mouth, your nose, your cheeks, your eyes, all the way to the follicles on the top of your head.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out.

You are in a safe space now. You may be hearing a voice right now, telling you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear, that you have something lacking. Acknowledge that voice, feel it fully, experience it, and let it go. Breathe in, experience it, breathe out, let it go. Breathe in, feel it, breathe out, let it go.

You are now allowed to forgive yourself. We are forgiving ourselves for many reasons. We could talk about absolution, we could speak of religion, or spirituality, but here we are forgiving ourselves because the voice in our head is getting in the way of us doing the things we want to do. Acknowledge the voice, experience it, forgive it. Breathe in, breathe out. This is a safe space of forgiveness.

Be in your body. Check in on your body, are you still comfortable? Things may have shifted. Move yourself a little bit to make yourself a little bit more comfortable.

Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go.

Now, on your own time, you can take as much time as you want, you can open your eyes and share with me how you are feeling, what you might be thinking. On your own time, take as much time as you want.

Flowing Around Obstacles

When I was working at the University, I would teach safety to each of the undergrad classes.

For me, part of teaching safety was helping the students find a mental space where they could act in a safe way in the lab.

Every time that I made a serious mistake, or I was hurt at work, it was when I felt time pressure, that my emotions were high, that I was rushing.

I talked about a few tactics to help with reducing the tendency to rush, including the importance of proper preparation and planning. Even as the people running the lab, proper preparation and scheduling during the lab turned a 4 hour marathon into a much more manageable 2.5 hour run. Having all of the participants also being prepared would only help this further.

Perhaps knowing that not all students would have prepared for all of the labs they would encounter, I also talked about general tactics for dealing with strong emotions in a setting where they could prove dangerous. Interestingly, looking back, it shares a lot in common with how I now think about meditation[1].

I would tell that what I did when I wanted to deal with strong emotion in a setting where that was not useful was to take all of the emotion in, to experience it fully, and then let it go[2].

I internally sometimes use the analogy of “water off a duck’s back”, but I think a far more apt analogy is how a cat feels when you accidentally do something to it. It feels the emotions immediately, reacts, and then goes back to sleeping or cleaning itself, or whatever else it was doing.

Fully experience the emotion, then let it go.

This brings me to the title of this post, ‘Flowing around obstactles’.

Last time, I wrote about writer’s block and the obstacles of tiredness and the fear of not doing justice to the topics that speak to you the most.

I talked about flow, the idea that you know that the obstacles are there, but you aren’t letting them affect you emotionally. It’s not a rigid or brittle ‘not letting’, more of a ‘letting them flow around you’.

Growing up, I focused on the concept of “don’t let it affect you”, which is effective at pushing things aside and allowing you to focus on the thing in front of you, but it isn’t very helpful at helping you to determine exactly what should be the thing in front of you.

More recently, with my life coach, we worked on relaxing into working through obstacles[3].

This feels similar to letting emotions flow into, around, then out of you.

You acknowledge them, but they seem to have no power over you. You have your essential self that you have found parts of and are piecing together, and the obstacles are of no moment, and you can flow around them, or they flow around you.

It’s not that the obstacles disappear, or are non-existent. It’s not that they don’t matter emotionally. You can see that you have emotions about them, but you can flow through that to the state where you can focus on solving the problem. It’s similar to understanding how your emotions or hackles can be raised in a situation, but it has nothing to do with the person in front of you[4]. You notice this, you flow around and through the emotions, you find the root cause, and you solve the problem.

Good examples escape me right now, but I think you get the idea. Either way, comment below!

Next time, we’ll talk about forgiveness and the essential self. Stay tuned!

[1]And the Flame and the Void, which some people have tried in real life, with interesting results.

[2]Experienced readers will note that this is an interesting counterpoint to how I was raised, which was to ‘not let it affect you’, with subtle but important differences.

[3]Somewhat similar to re-incorporating your shadow, relaxing, and becoming more whole.

[4]It’s probably the patriarchy.

Being in Your Body

Very recently, I came to a personal epiphany about meditation. I had known about it since time immemorial, had friends who extolled its virtues, and had heard about the relevant scientific studies, but had never really understood it myself.

Similar to how salmon skin rolls were my introduction to sushi, I would end up discovering meditation from an unexpected direction. One day at life coaching, my life coach and I were working on ways to help me deal with an upcoming stressful event, when we came upon the idea to do a guided exercise of ‘being in my body’.

Coming out of the exercise, I was extremely relaxed. The way I see it, part of it is the relaxation from sitting in one place, actually listening to your body and how it’s uncomfortable, and dealing with that, but most of it comes from finding all of the things which are affecting you, all the things you are paying attention to without realizing it[1]. You use meditation to find these things, make them conscious, then you can deal with them or let them wash over you. Either way, you can move beyond them. In the limit, you can do a guided meditation, then when you come out of it, you may notice things which were bothering you in a much more conscious way, allowing you to deal with them more easily.

‘Being in your body’ was a much more accessible phrase for me than ‘meditation’, perhaps because it was a new phrase, or a much simpler phrase, without any of the social and cultural attachments of ‘meditation’. ‘Meditation’ always felt very abstract, something that you would do with your mind only, something that you would do in an uncomfortable position in a boring way. Doing it in a trusting environment in a comfortable position I think was key for me. ‘Being in your body’ was also key. A vital part of the process (for me, at least), is being/becoming aware of as many parts of your body that you can, and acknowledging their effects on you[2]. So, for me, at least at the start, it is much more about body consciousness than mind consciousness[3].

The other key for me was forgiveness. IIRC, G made the connection that many people find it difficult to accept failures in themselves, and they can further find it very difficult to forgive themselves for these failures. When you cannot forgive yourself inside your own head, it is no longer a safe space, and you no longer want to spend time there. So, you might spend time distracting yourself, you might self-medicate in any one of a number of ways.

But the first step towards solving this is to understand what is going on, to understand what you are saying to yourself all of the time. Then you need to allow yourself that safe space inside your head by forgiving yourself. I don’t have a magic answer here (although I plan to write on forgiveness later), all I can say is what worked for me. What might help is understanding that the words you say to yourself may not originally be your own, and differentiating between these words and what you actually feel may help you forgive yourself.

Either way, after going through this, when I got home, S told me that seemed almost asleep standing up, I was so relaxed. I know I didn’t feel asleep, just very relaxed and at peace.

– Be in your body
– Forgive yourself
– Relax

Thanks for reading! Just writing about that helped me relive/re-experience some of those feelings, and I’m feeling much more relaxed.

[1]Cf. Getting Things Done’s ‘Open Loops’ writ large.

[2]I understand that this inconsistently reductionist and simplistic. I imagine that most of my writing is this way. After this exercise, I am at peace with this. 😀

[3]This is also reductionist and wrong, but beyond the scope.