estuary, a new artwork by my friend Di
I‘ve written a lot about this subject over the years. It seems to me that, since we can’t know how grim the ongoing collapse of our civilization is going to be, or how it’s going to unfold for us personally, a personal self-management practice probably makes more sense as a means to help us cope with what’s to come, than attempts to prepare or plan ahead for whatever we guess may happen.
In recent years, I’ve also come to doubt we have free will over what we do, which is to say that I really had no alternative but to pursue the self-management practice I’ve pursued, and certainly have no business prescribing one, or any course of action, to anyone else.
My practice has been honed down to some pretty simple steps:
- Monitor and manage my own health and fitness. I collect and track lots of personal health and fitness data, get regular blood tests and monitor the results and trends, and research and get second opinions when anything adverse occurs.
- Make it easier and more fun to do healthy, useful things. My treadmill desk lets me work out while multitasking. I listen to podcasts while I do upper body/core workouts. I try to simplify and add an element of fun to important tasks and routines, so I don’t skip them.
- Eat well. What has worked for me is a varied, whole-plant-based diet, supplemented with a half-dozen vitamins and nutrients that such diets, for those in temperate rainforest climates, often lack.
- Monitor my personal stress and psychological well-being. I am learning to be aware of when I am getting reactive to a situation, and let others help with that awareness. I still get easily stressed, but being aware of it helps temper my reactivity.
- Stay aware that what I want to believe and what is most likely actually true are rarely the same thing. We are reactive creatures, prone to confirmation bias and a preference for simplicity, and we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity. I’m learning, at last, to recognize and hold my idealistic beliefs (what I think should be) apart from an open, curious, constantly self-challenging sense of what might actually be. My new radical non-duality perspective has heightened the cognitive dissonance in my life but actually made this tension easier to manage. I am no longer as invested in my beliefs.
- Be aware of my judgements and expectations. Of myself, others, and the world. I still have them, but I am more inclined to laugh at their absurdity.
- Be aware of what I am ‘choosing’ to pay attention to. The ‘choosing’ is in quotes since we don’t really have a choice, but it seems being aware of what I pay attention to is helping me learn to tune out and ignore what I can’t do anything about, and focus my attention where it’s actually useful, to me and to the world.
That’s it. No momentous change or self-improvement miracle. Still as lost, scared and bewildered as ever. Still anxious about the future and all the things that could go wrong, or be worse than they are. Still struggling with the existential precarity that is life in the 21st century. Still haven’t learned how to take things less seriously, how to live lighter, how to laugh more.
But I’m a little more aware of what’s going on inside this foolish, overly-earnest, deluded self, and not quite as hard on it as I once was. And I’m taking a little better care of the body it presumes to inhabit. That will have to be enough for now.