TAoN No. 129: Iffirmations, productive nostalgia, and other forms of inward noticing. Plus a new icebreaker, and more
Via DALL-E 2
Today, a focus on finding new ways to look … inward.
As a dedicated fan of the Recomendo newsletter — a weekly collection of tips about useful tools, digital resources, fun Web stuff, and general surprises — I was excited by the announcement from contributor Claudia Dawson that she’s just put out a “digital book of mindful recommendations”:
“Reco•mind•o: Mindful Recomendos for Life and Work is … a collection of my personal tips distilled from more than 300 issues of Recomendo. It has less product recommendations and more invisible tools to improve the inner and outer aspects of life.”
I’ve been reading Recomendo for years, and I’m friendly with Claudia as well as her collaborators Mark Frauenfelder and Kevin Kelly. (In fact I once had the honor of appearing on Kevin and Mark’s Cool Tools podcast, which shares much DNA with Recomendo.) Claudia often has really interesting tips that blend mindful thinking with creative attention in a way that resonates with TAoN. Noticing, after all, is also about noticing the self.
So I asked Claudia if she would pick three of her favorites from the book to share with TAoN readers. She did — and I love them! If you’re into these you should definitely check out the collection. Here goes:
ALTERNATIVE TO AFFIRMATIONS
I just learned this concept of pivoting from affirmations to iffirmations. Instead of saying to yourself something like “I am confident and strong” you ask yourself “What if I am confident and strong?” Asking it in the form of a question forces your brain to search for evidence that this might be true. For me, this works because it conjures images and examples of ways I could be confident or strong or have been in the past, which then elicits positive and encouraging emotions. A lot more effective than affirmations.
This is a great example of why I like Claudia’s taste — unexpected and original.
A CASE FOR NOSTALGIA
In this YouTube video titled “Mindfulness isn’t the only powerful mental state,” Dr. Clay Routledge makes a case for Nostalgia as a valuable psychological resource that can mobilize and motivate you to find new meaning in life. My favorite way to experience Nostalgia is to, once a month, set aside a night to be alone with my old diaries, birthday cards, letters, pictures and other mementos while listening to music from that time period. Revisiting happy memories of the past strengthens self-continuity, connection and belongingness in the world.
I’m pleased to read a defense of the often beaten-up idea of nostalgia! But more to the point, I enjoy the specific idea here.
RETURN YOUR EYES TO THEIR NATURAL STATE
Here is a tip from the r/Meditation subreddit. To block out your internal monologue, practice expanding your peripheral vision. The trick is to keep your vision as “open” as possible, and not to focus on anything unless it’s necessary for a specific task. Here is a YouTube video titled: Meditation -Returning Your Eyes to the Natural State, where Meditation teacher Loch Kelly walks you through this exercise. When I practice this an instant calmness washes over me.
Reco•mind•o: Mindful Recomendos for Life and Work is now available as a downloadable PDF with clickable links for $2.99. A full-color paperback version is also available on Amazon. Subscribe to Recomendo here. Thanks, Claudia!
Noticing is about other people, too. The Icebreaker series aims to help with that. There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here.
Today’s icebreaker comes from reader Amy Herr:
We always hear about how smell is the sense most associated with memories. What is a smell that brings back a very strong memory for you?
“This icebreaker is always successful for me,” Amy adds. “It’s so fun to hear the answers!” Thank you so much, Amy!
Please send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to firstname.lastname@example.org
TAoN is a reader-supported publication. For access to past and future subscriber-only posts, discussion threads, and more, support TAoN with a paid subscription.
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IN OTHER NEWS
Honored to again be part of the SVA Design Research Summer Intensive, teaching a workshop on writing about objects.
Great post from Ethan Hein on Brad Mehldau playing The Beatles.
One of the most striking audio pieces I’ve heard in a while: Me, My English, and All the Languages of My Life. By Anna Raimondo, who I definitely want to know more about.
Artist and friend of TAoN Wioleta Kaminska has a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book on her experience in Iceland as an artist in residence last year. Looks great!
“Herb Sundays” (Substack, Instagram), weekly playlists full of surprises from people much cooler than me. “A subtle ‘counter-algorithm’ culture suggestion,” says friend of TAoN Sam Valenti.
Permission, quitting … and choices. From friend of (and special adviser to) TAoN Richard Nash.
Album Whale. “It’s a little website for you to make beautiful lists of albums and share your love of music with the world.” From friend of TAoN Shawn Liu.
On hanging out.
I’m excited to report that my lament in the boilerplate matter below that no one sends me physical mail anymore was noticed. For starters, Katherine May’s publisher sent me a copy of the new book Enchantment, which I am quite confident will not need any promotional help from the likes of me, but I’ll check it out. Much more exciting however was geniuine physical mail from Cathy S. and Holly R. Thank you!!
OKAY THAT’S IT!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: email@example.com. Or use the comments. —> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032. Send me mail!
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I learned of you from Austin Kleon whose regular emails I was getting long before he went substack. He's led me to many stimulating and quirky minds and conversations in addition to his own. This post shows me that you might also be a similar source. Thank you for free Mondays, and for the richness of this post.
Something that I am now calling a noticing ritual is drawing. For most of my life I thought I couldn't draw. But I recently started playing with illustrating my writing. And omg - the difference in the looking that I did before starting to draw stuff and now is MASSIVE.
To draw something you have to BE with it. Noticing. Looking deeply. It's having a massive impact on me even when I'm not drawing!
Also, I have issues with my eyes and I'm a meditator, so will check out that eye/meditation resource. Thank you!