Posts

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 you …

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 t…

My improv shows!

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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

Lived updates

There's this idea that's been floating around my head and my life for a while that I've been trying to find a good name for. The experience I want to capture is: sometimes I deliberately update my belief about something, like "I can trust people more" or "I can feel good about wearing a crop top," and that changes my system 2 attitude about it, but I still need to have some lived experiences supporting/validating that belief for me to truly be able to internalize it. For instance, letting people into my life more and being able to grow from those experiences or actually wearing crop tops and feeling really comfortable in them. So the name I've landed on for that (for now) is lived update, which is a combination of the terms lived experience and belief update. I think it's somewhat evocative, but I don't know if it's the one! Another way to put it is that you change the way you think about something, but it takes something more for your a…

Metaphors for some recent belief updates

These came up for me as I was walking today. These are illustrations of some belief updates I made during the circling retreat last week.

Just because you don't offer someone your coat in the cold doesn't mean you're a bad person. It also doesn't mean you'd never offer someone your coat, but even if that were the case it would be alright. You can still continue striving towards that.
I don't know if this happens to other people, but sometimes I'll be listening to music with my phone in my bag or in my pocket, and something on the screen might get pressed randomly. I was listening to a song that I had queued up, and was over midway through it, when the rewind button was pressed and the song started over from the beginning. Just because I didn't want to re-listen to the entire song doesn't mean that I didn't truly want to listen to the song initially.
It makes a lot of sense that if you're walking and then run to make a crosswalk, to keep walking…

[Video] Thoughts after 7-day circling retreat at MAPLE

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A helpful reframing of consumerism

Today is Black Friday, which means there's even more messaging than usual reminding us of how much we "need" and pressuring us to buy. I've definitely seen a lot of ads on social media that put me into a scarcity mindset and make me feel stressed out!

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I've been grappling a bit with consumerism and my place in the capitalist economy. One internal move that I've been trying to cultivate in response to these ads (this week and before) was to remind myself of how the products being advertised to me were just fixtures aimed at making me feel dependent on my job and thus trapping me in the loop of consumption and exploitation. However, on many levels, this wasn't actually a helpful thought.

People have many reasons for wanting to do something. When it comes to consumption, there are external reasons (e.g., advertising, social pressures) and internal reasons. Often the external reasons will create/feed into the internal rea…

Things I've been confused about recently

How busy should I be? When I first moved to Pittsburgh and started working, I didn't really know what to do with my weekday nights, but I knew that I wanted to make the most of my free time. Now, I have recurring events 3 out of 5 nights during the week (improv class, therapy, and Chinese tutoring), and I usually have some other type of appointment or performance a day out of most weeks. As I've started trying to establish a workout routine and meet up with more people outside of work, I wonder what the right balance between scheduling things, leaving room for spontaneity, alone time, and personal work time (doing chores, personal errands, etc.) is.
Senses of self that are Not Helpful:

A fungible being/a worker
A person completing a list of tasks every day
Input/output machine where the output is how something makes me feel
Positivity generator


Looking to the past as a reminder of what kinds of ways of being are possible, while not being constrained by/stuck in it
What do you do/what…

Thinking about the ways in which I'm constantly dying

It's really strange to acknowledge this, but I've just finished my first month working at Duolingo. Before I started this job, it was hard for me to visualize what working would be like. The fact that it was going to be such a new environment, and even the idea of working full-time (with no definite stop date, for the first time in my life) actually made visualizing the transition impossible for me. When I tried to imagine what working would be like, my mind would literally just come up blank.

This has happened to me at other times too, basically whenever I'm anticipating something very new or foreign, for which I've had little context for. For instance, I could not imagine what the Dipabhāvan retreat would be like—I'd never had an experience that I felt like I could base my expectations of the retreat off of.

The strange thing (which I don't actually think is too uncommon) is that whenever I'm in this kind of position, where I can't visualize some aspect…

Not wanting the best

Four years ago, around the time I started thinking about design, one of my friends visiting Princeton remarked to me how much he liked the campus, because he could feel all the care that was put into its design. At the time, I (in my head) immediately disagreed with him, one of my dominant objections being: if the people who designed campus really cared about student life, they would make more direct routes (diagonals) between buildings.

I look back on that response now and find it really amusing. Not only have I cultivated a lot more appreciation for Princeton's campus since then (funny how our experiences shape our perceptions of a place šŸ˜Š), but my design sensibilities have also evolved. I used to think that good design was all about efficiency—how can I best enable the user to accomplish their goals?—but that's engineering, not design!

It may be kind of weird to read that, because the logical consequence is not wanting or designing for "the best." But I think that …

[Video] Thoughts right after 6-day silent meditation retreat at Dipabhāvan

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Book review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
Given that much of the KonMari method has already entered the public consciousness, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. Although I had expected it to serve as a how-to or even self-help book, I found a lot of value in taking it as a philosophical text. Kondō makes insightful points on materialism and presents a novel (to me) perspective on the purpose of tidying/maintaining tidiness. It can be tempting to view some of the practices she advocates, like asking whether or not things spark joy or thanking your belongings, as silly—hence the memes—but taking them in the overall context of the book reveals a fresh philosophy on how we can relate to our environment.
What is the purpose of tidiness? And of the objects that we surround ourselves with? In 1927, Le Corbusier answered, "A house is a machine for living in." Even before I first hear…