a new center of being; the solution to poorly integrated openness and neuroticism

exploding laterally in all directions

pulled apart

by ideas, problems, fantasies, plans, abstractions

ripping me open

I cannot see the day

the world of abstractions seems MORE real to me than the world of events

ask me what happened last week and I’ll include a lot of things that only happened in my mind – the development of new perspectives, solutions, worries etc.

I don’t want this

It’s not clever

Abstractions can blind you

words conceal as much as they reveal

I want to see clearly

I want to enter the world, where I’m supposed to live

‘Awwwh, but you mean I have to look at the cars in the street, instead of think about something interesting?’

No. You don’t have to be mindfully present and aware of your physical surroundings all the time.

I just want the ‘default me’ to exist in the present, rather than in my head

I don’t just want to meditate a bit etc  balh balaaah blah – no, not enough

I want MORE than that

I want to be able to see what I look at. Looking is not seeing.

that is my goal.

To see what I look at, most of the time.

I want to solve problems with my hands instead of my head.

I want to get back INTO my life.

‘What’s going on today, I want to be involved’ – I will say when I wake

Enough drifting.

Enough unanchored dreams.

Enough ideas – don’t be so greedy and impatient young man!





this is a change in reference. The reclaiming of the ‘present self’ over the future one. The reclaiming of the day over the years.

Ideals should be embodied.

This is about embodiment.

I’ve been disembodied.

I’m moving house. I’ve been a gypsy in the realm of dreams – not as fun as it sounds – and I’m coming home to the place where things unfold, not where they did unfold, nor where they could unfold, nor how they might’ve unfolded – but where the action happens.

Why did I ever go in there?

Looking for answers?

Looking for solutions to problems?

Escaping boring class rooms?

Escaping stressed teachers?

Trying to survive in an environment where I was utterly under-stimulated and utterly under developed- all at once?

HUNTING for something.

Let’s be less metaphorical. I was trying to find conceptual solutions to real problems, to gratify my need for stimulation and to understand the world and things that interest me on a deeper level.

Those reasons are not all that bad.

The problem is when a preference for novelty and new ideas (openness to experience) teams up with a sensitivity to threat (neuroticism) and gets you constantly coming up with solutions and ideas to solve your problems and realise your numerous fantasies.

This is not a healthy integration of those traits.

A healthy integration means that ‘the day’ and ‘the present’ in particular are seen as the things that everything else revolves around. The day is the center of gravity, and the present self is the center of efficacy and power.


Ok, this isn’t a complete solution to everything. In a s

State and Experience

Through mindfulness meditation and my reading this month, it seems there is enormous benefit to ‘showing care’ for whatever is happening. Acknowledging fantasy, acknowledging problems etc, but largely being oriented around the present.

It’s difficult to communicate these ideas,  it’s better to see them than to talk about them. Talking about them in a way pollutes them and makes them less pure and potent.

But, essentially, the essence of the mindset I want to develop is:

‘to show care for the activity at hand, so that the potential of the present can be realised’.

Right now my meditative practice is in a time-bound box. I do it sometimes in the morning, and it largely stays there. Now I want it to flood out. I want the insights to be embodied while I go about my daily life.

This also links in with something I identified at the end of summer this year when doing a big review of all my Saturday reflections.

The key areas to to focus on were:

  • creating pure, consistent focused time on priorities in the morning – especially deliberate practice and creating things
  • completing sat preps and daily tasks consistently.
  • being able to keep activities pure – approaching leisure with the correct attitude and approaching work with the correct attitude. The character of Zorbra the Greek come to think of it is probably where this idea first took hold. It’s about doing things properly – giving all things their due.
  •  developing the ‘game mindset’ more (creating more flow experiences in day to day life, and seeing the world around me as if for the first time, like a traveler).

Of these areas, the one I’m talking about here is the third and fourth. Although, all of these areas are so fundamental that each feeds the other.

If I master these different areas, I’ll be living my best life. This is the opposite of superficial self-improvement. These are deep, character, life and impact changing improvements.

A coaching session at work gave me an idea for how to go about making some of these changes in a highly practical, implementable way.

I need guides that clearly and evocatively describe what optimal performance looks like in a given task. These guides will show how to wring out the potential of major day to day life situations. These guides may not be written in words. I may find that a piece of art work embodies the message.

Areas with high potential: 

  • ‘the art of execution’
  • ‘how to listen to another person’ 
  • ‘the art of leisure’
  • ‘how to eat’ 
  • ‘how to wash yourself’ 
  • ‘how to get dressed’ 
  • ‘how to talk’ 
  • ‘how to set priorities for the day’ 
  • ‘how to set priorities for the week’ 
  • ‘how to learn from materials’
  • ‘how to cook’ 
  • ‘how to make a purchase’ 
  • ‘how to create order in your environment’
  • ‘how to respond to those that would exert their will over yours’
  • etc etc

From a personality perspective, this is a way of leveraging ‘openness to experience’ to make up for deficits in conscientiousness.

I don’t appreciate order, thoroughness etc etc. I do appreciate beauty, ideals and values. I also have a desire not to waste things, not to do things badly. This part of my mindset is more typical among the highly conscientious.

This approach to living is more in line with the type of person I am.

This approach is also in line with the concept of ‘flow’. The idea that by having goals in any given situation and sufficient feedback in your movement towards the goal, you can experience a state characterized by efficiency, presence and enjoyment.

This approach is also in line more broadly with the concept of discipline. Discipline often means ‘there’s a right way to do something and a wrong way’. I tend to adopt the attitude that there are many ways and all are acceptable routes to take through an experience. I do not believe this is true. You want to leave yourself open to seeing opportunity – you don’t want to be rigid – but then even creating the state that creates that openness requires discipline, as that is not something ‘all the routes through an experience’ are characterized by.

Finally, this is about integrating the different things that matter to you properly, so you give different tasks the care they deserve – that it would be great for you and those around you to have.

How then to deal with areas which are currently rampant? With ways of thinking and being that are dominant and addictive?

Self-centered problem solving, fantasy, You Tube videos etc etc – these things are not intrinsically bad, but as the coach said – I would benefit from developing a ‘present state’ for those things too.

This is kind of Napoleonic – creating boxes and categories for different ways of being – so you have more power to switch some on and switch others off.

In a sentence:

this is about doing things properly.

This is the opposite of the ‘sloppiness’ that is my greatest character weakness

I’m sloppy about everything – even leisure! That’s the painful bit. You don’t even get to say that you’re at laid back and free at least – because that requires a certain level of discipline, too.

Reflections & Valuable Insight

Went on walk to reflect on and address the issues mentioned in previous blog post (expectations for performance not being met in multiple important areas of life).

While attempting to communicate these issues as if to another person, I noticed that all of these seperate ‘goals’ or ‘problems’ had in common that they involved setting standards for myself that are way beyond what most people expect of themselves. For instance, the level of time management I expect of myself is exceptionally rare. very few people habitually plan their time to the degree that I demand of myself. Likewise, my food and health targets are also ambitious relative to the average person. I’m also financially way ahead in terms of my saving, investing and understanding.

So, I couldn’t help but ask ‘how do you think you’ll feel when you get these things’.

I noted that I would feel accomplished, that my life would have more enjoyable activities in it and less difficult ones but that ultimately it wouldn’t ‘fill the void’ and help me accept myself and feel adequate.

This kind of ‘cliched’ therapy-style conversation was boringly conventional, but I must admit I do fall into the classic trap of setting at times unfair standards for myself and then beating myself up for not meeting them, in the hope that by meeting those standards I will feel good about my life.

I also noted that I feel good about myself, but not about my life. It’s not the ego directly which feels inadequate, but the ego-extensions – the areas of life – where my self-criticism take place.

So, once I noticed the way I was speaking to and treating myself, it was clear that the deeper problem was in this unhelpful relationship I had with myself, and that planning my meals and time etc would probably not really solve the underlying issue which they saught to resolve.

‘So ‘type A’ I thought – I can see why Tim Ferris appeals to me…’

Anyway, then I reflected on this issue, prayed and asked God for help. I didn’t get help immediately, but later in the walk I began to speak to myself in a caring way, and I listened carefully when I told myself the things I want.

I noticed that I had conflicted feelings about actually achieving the goals I’d set out. For instance, I thought that wanting to lose weight was vain.

Then I noticed that this was a distorted belief. Wanting to look good is not vain, but rather if it becomes ‘what you’re about’ – then that’s a moral problem. All things in moderation, it’s totally fine to want to look good.

I thought ‘there must be a better way to move towards my goals than to do so in a neurotic manner – trying to flee from inadequacy’. This kind of motivation may be effective sometimes, but it’s not constant enough, and is prone to breaking down.

It’s better to move towards goals like the calm and collected MMA fighter I was watching earlier. They go into the ring relaxed – they must be calm in order to be collected to train consistently, not be overwhelmed and respond to hurdles – punches, illness etc.

Ultimately, I noted that a richly deep and very helpful concept is this:

‘taking care of what matters’.

That’s the essence of what I mean by responsibility.

To me, this means:

  • Showing up
  • Being present
  • Acting as if the thing was important. For instance, if you’re meditating, sit up straight. If you’re writing, sit behind your desk, don’t write in bed. If you’re at work, dress appropriately. The things that seem trivial are actually centrally important, because they signal to yourself and others your attitude, and that then enables you to attend to the task at and properly.
  • Understand that reality is more real than fantasy. Sometimes it feels like my ideas are more real than actual events. Fantasy – properly aligned, is not in the clouds with reality being the ground level. Rather, fantasy is beneath the soil, reality is the ground and fantasy breaks through into reality from the soil when it’s nurtured like shoots that grow. See, the first mindset is one that lives in fantasy, and tries to make reality meet the fantasy, the second mindset is based on reality, and understands that fantasy must be nurtured and woven into it. You can’t bridge the gap between fantasy and reality without great care, intentionality and realism. For fantasy to be properly integrated, you need to be like a gardener. Maladaptive fantasy is like the boy that walks in front of a car – head in the clouds, environment invisible – and loses both his legs because he was fantasizing about becoming a runner.

but writing about this seems a bit pointless, it’s complicating things.

It’s just good that I got a good, long glimpse of this idea of what life would be like if I showed more care.


This is relevant to my mindfulness month, because ultimately this is the ultimate ‘end goal’ of mindfulness – that you’ll be present enough to be able to take care of what matters.

I have a powerful and invigorating vision of what life would be like for myself and others if I took care of what mattered in the moment.