Effecting the cause

This was a significant realization that I had during the silent meditation retreat here at MAPLE last month. I think the idea itself is very deep, and my understanding of it is still deepening.  The approach of “faking it till you make it” seems to be ingrained in me, probably resulting from a combination of societal messaging with my own lived experiences of times this strategy has worked. The classic example that comes to mind of faking it till you make it is with confidence. If you’re not confident, this strategy advises you to just act like you are—by doing things that confident people do, you’ll naturally start thinking of yourself as more confident, which will translate into actual increased confidence. I think this does work, but the reason it works is because many of the actions that you would take (like adopting a more positive mindset) are things that do have existing positive loops with confidence. In other words, both of these statements are true: if you’re confident, you

Don't optimize for flexibility forever

This is a pattern that I've observed in myself and many of my peers: to make decisions that, in some ways, decide the least. That allows you to stay open to the most options, that allows you to stay maximally flexible. For instance, I decided to major in computer science instead of chemical engineering because, even though I didn't love either, I thought computer science would leave more kinds of job options available to me.  Optimizing for flexibility forever feels like, even though you're moving, it's in many random directions. So you ultimately still end up pretty close to where you started. And to put it bluntly, if you try to stay open to everything, you'll be a prisoner to your external circumstances forever.  If you find yourself in this situation, my advice would be to take a small step, any step, the smallest step you can—but intentionally. Take the step for some reason that matters to you, and that reason doesn't have to be perfectly right or coming fr

Environment and frameworks and affordances

The most basic form of this idea is the question of how to make it easy for yourself to do something. This is an important question, because when we are trying to grow, a way that we can accomplish that is by changing  our actions and reactions. Almost all of the time, I will have some sort of mental or emotional block around making those changes, and even if I didn't, because of the inertia of my normal ways of being, making these changes necessarily takes effort. An idea that has been useful for me in this domain for several years has been the one of affordances, from design. An affordance is a "quality or property of an object that...makes clear how it can or should be used." [1]  One of the canonical examples of affordances is a door knob—the shape of a well-designed door knob affords turning. By clarifying the ways to use an object through intuitive design, an affordance makes it easy to interact with the object in the intended way. Similarly, we can create affordanc

Reflecting on my 2020 New Year's resolutions and a couple other changes

I was reflecting on my 2020 resolutions, as well as some of the other lifestyle changes I made in my life during this year, and thought it would be nice to share my progress and my reflections on my blog 😊 For reference, here were my three New Year's resolutions for 2020: No substance use (including caffeine 😮) I've deleted the Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone, and would like to transition into checking social media platforms around once per week instead of multiple times a day.  Month-long challenges. (For instance, in January I went the month without wearing makeup or applying heat to my hair.) The other two big changes that I made this year that weren't tied into my resolutions were becoming a vegetarian and limiting my online shopping, both of which I will also be reflecting on at the end! No substance use I would say that this was the biggest change that I made this year. I decided to make this resolution over the circling retreat I attended over the new ye

Pittsburgh recs (some things in Pittsburgh that I feel fond of)

I imagine this list would probably be different if we hadn't been quarantining for the past 9 months, but regardless, here are some of my favorite things in Pittsburgh (having lived here for the past 16 months). Food Everyday Noodles - love their Taiwanese style sesame cold noodles and egg yolk buns! Salem's Market and Grill - their fries are  a must !!! Also highly recommend the baklava with pistachios :) Mercurio's Pizza - I used to be OBSESSED with this place, but the last time I went the pizza wasn't as good as I had remembered, so take this with a grain of salt. Would always get their margherita! Pizzeria Davide - also a very good pizza place. I had a couple slices fresh when I visited Pittsburgh last summer, but since then have also had it via delivery a few times.  Pamela's Diner - you have to try their hotcakes! Very delicious and unique, a bit greasy though so be cautious not to go overboard. Coffee shops Zeke's Coffee in East Liberty - this was super c

[Video] I'm quitting my job at Duolingo to go to a monastery


Don't sour grapes forever

The title of this blog post is a reference to this fable I read in Chinese school growing up. I may get some of the details wrong, but the story is about a fox who discovers some grapes. Unfortunately, the fox is too short to reach the vine and so can't eat them. The fox walks away from the situation with the conclusion that it didn't want the grapes anyways, they were probably sour. Now, I think of that mental move as sour grapes-ing something. It's a coping tactic that I've used for many years, and was something that I honestly associated with maturity and responsibility and being an adult. Adults aren't supposed to get upset when they don't get their way, but as a young adult, it was difficult for me to sit with the negative feelings that accompanied that, so sour grapes-ing whatever I was trying for ended up being my approximation of that.  To give an example, I recently ordered a suitcase and compressible packing cubes online. The packing cubes came in thre


I have a tendency to be "all or nothing," and this pattern manifests in many areas of my life. For instance, I stopped all substance use this year as part of my New Year's resolutions.  A large part of the reason why I create these kinds of guidelines for myself is to better my life by simplifying my decision-making and thus reducing uncertainty. While I believe this has really served me in some areas of my life—not allowing myself to drink caffeine when I've felt tired this year has helped improve my relationship with sleep—I think it no longer serves me when it comes to some of the expectations I have of myself.  Generalizations are one way that being "all or nothing" can manifest in your beliefs. There are all sorts of generalizations you can make: X is a good thing, Y is a bad person, Z can't bring you happiness. A generalization is something that happens or is true less than 100% of the time, but that we round up to 100% as a cognitive simplificatio

How do I know what to say?

A pattern that I've had for a really long time has been to ruminate over and second guess the things that I've said to others. Like, "I should have said this instead!" or "Now they're going to think that I'm X because I said that wrong." This pattern is still present in my life, but far less than it used to be, and when it does happen, my response towards myself is far less harsh than it used to be as well. Acting in a way that I am able to live with both in the moment and afterwards is something that is important for me—doing this allows me to live with fewer regrets.  As I've started working(/grown older?), I feel that many of my perspectives have become more pragmatic (as opposed to theoretical or idealistic). The perspective that I want to write about in this blog post is the framework that I use to decide what to say. Honesty and kindness are two qualities that are really important to me, and that I identify with. It may be easy to imagine a

Chesterton's Fence

A blog post that I've wanted to write for awhile is one where I talk about ideas that I reference on a regular basis, since that kind of post would be really interesting for me to read! Ideas can be really powerful tools for thought and growth, especially when they're used as analogies. However, I haven't written a post like that because I find that usually only one or two ideas are readily on my mind at any given time.  Right now, an idea that I've been thinking about a lot is Chesterton's Fence . The premise is that if you come across a fence in the middle of nowhere, it's good practice to try to understand why that fence was built (even if it seems useless to you) before trying to take it down. This idea has been popping up for me in self-growth contexts, especially whenever I hear myself or someone else say phrases like "Why can't I just X," "Oh, I guess I could just X," or "I should be able to X." In these situations, if yo

Conceptualizing self-care and self-love

I've been noticing more negative feelings in myself recently, like sadness, impatience, and irritation. Something that I've taken from one of Sharon Salzberg's guided metta meditations that I've been trying to incorporate into my life is the strategy of, when you notice that it's difficult for you to extend loving kindness to others, to first try to extend it to yourself. This is a big part of the reason why I've been revisiting the idea of self-love and self-care. Self-care is something that I'd never really tried to define for myself. In the past, I've associated it with things like doing sheet masks, drinking tea, and taking time off of school and work, without really thinking about what those things were trying to accomplish and whether they were even effective ways to care for myself. My friend Nicole introduced me to the Internal Family Systems model a couple weeks ago, which is a style of therapy that "combines systems thinking with the view

[Video] My improv shows!

I've been performing bi-weekly with the house team Mercy Ghosting at Steel City Improv Theater for the past few months. Our shows have been paused due to the coronavirus, but I thought I would post the recordings of all the ones we've done so far (with my fake titles added)! The shows are around 20 minutes long, and I've linked to the timestamp of the beginning of our sets, but feel free to watch the rest of the videos for more improv :) Poetry contest at the prison   My father's the dairy delivery agent?!   Death in upstate New York   Jenkins the high barber and the clam creature   First show! Montages