Hidden Turtle Caves, Sharpening the Axe & Instructions for Life
Plus Insights from Modern Day Monk Training & Holotropic Hilarity 🤣
|Jonny Miller 🐢||Jan 24, 2019|
Oh Hello There 👋
🇦🇺 Return to Oz ➫ these words are being typed from the Meditation Teacher Training HQ, an appropriately zen beach house north of Coffs Harbour (exactly ten years since I first passed through in a rusty 1985 VW camper van!). Basil the lovable labradoodle is napping under my chair, feeling somewhat sorry for himself after he accidentally rolled around in a jellyfish tentacle.
🧘♂️ Modern Day Monk Training ➬ the last few days have been an intensive deep dive into the history, philosophies and practices of meditation – our intention being to experiment with adapting and reframe some of these powerful practices for 21st century life.
📝 Annual Review Design ➩ I kicked off 2019 taking a course on 'designing your own annual review'. I geeked out on curating these frameworks and questions and appreciated being part of a supportive community (here are the questions I used).
🤣 Holotropic Hilarity ➫ A friend guided me through a rather surreal and tricky-to-put-into-words holotropic breathwork session (the word holotropic means 'oriented toward wholeness' from the Greek 'holos' = whole and 'trepein' = moving toward something). The 90 minute session oscillated between intense hand cramps ('t-rex' hands) falling into fits of helpless laughter and eventually an ecstatic sense of calm (here's my attempt to describe the experience).
💌 Notes of Appreciation ➬ Rather than using the two days set aside for my tax returns, I spent them writing a stack of handwritten notes of appreciation to a few folks who really impacted my life last year (funny how expressing gratitude to others makes you feel great too!)
Sending renewed vibes of calm and curiosity to wherever in the world you are and as always appreciation for taking the time to read these thoughts-in-progress, I don't take it for granted!
Stay curious out there 👊
p.s. somehow this virtual league of curious humans has gained a life of it's own and seems to be growing! If you are one of those kind people responsible for sharing I thank you kindly. And if you know of a friend who is intrigued by this edition then you can forward this newsie easily here 🙏
Lessons from Turtle Cave 🐢
Most tales of adventure work their way up to entering the 'innermost cave'... but that is where this Modern Day Monk training was set to begin.
I couldn't quite tell you the reasons why I signed up for the meditation teacher training, other than I have a lot of trust in our teacher Michael and something about it just felt right. Lewis, my fellow monk-in-training, said much the same thing.
So following in Michael's lead, the three of us set off on the 10km hike to an indigenous sacred site, dodging giant spiders and eventually found our way to the hidden coastal cave, where he had had some powerful experiences in his formative years.
Once inside we sat there together, lit a small fire from dry sticks we had collected along the way and scribbled down some intentions for the coming journey ahead. I felt so grateful to be embarking on this journey with two wonderful humans.
Just as we were about to head off, Lewis noticed that one of the rocks at the entrance looked exactly like a beached turtle. It's possible that the fire smoke had reduced the oxygen supply to our brains, but if so the turtle was a shared hallucination and we all felt certain that he was to be our guide for coming months.
It turns out that turtles, besides popping up all over ancient mythological stories, are exceptionally talented travellers (loggerheads can travel up to 10,000km per year!) But their superpowers lie in sensing their direction (using the earth's magnetic field!) and seeking out the great ocean currents which carry them to their destination, often the exact beach where they were born.
In my own life, I tend to feel driven to do everything myself and often exhaust myself in the process, as if I'm paddling against the current. So maybe the lesson to be learned from these shell-toting ocean explorers, is to instead tune in and look out for the invisible slipstreams that will effortlessly carry us onwards.
Sharpening the Axe 🤔
I'm appreciating how sharing the stuff we learn is a great incentive to force some modicum of clarity in my own thinking. So to that end here are some thoughts on where we in the west tend to go wrong when approaching meditation.
Meditation feels like it is being added to an ever-expanding list of stuff that we're told we 'should' do (all backed by all the countless studies), but our initial experiences often range from sleepy brain fog to chasing rogue thoughts like a pack of over-caffeinated racoons. We attempt to apply the same over-efforting mindset and as a result, feel frustrated or that we're obviously just one of those people who 'aren't very good' at meditating. If that sounds like you, here's what I think might help 👇
1 // Sharpening the Axe ➬ there's an old saying: to cut down a tree in five minutes, spend three minutes sharpening the axe. For meditation, sharpening the axe simply means preparing your inner state (and the external space), so that meditation can come naturally.
2 // Breathwork ➫ instead of attempting a distracted 15 minute Headspace, consider spending 10 of those on breathing (e.g. 'fire breath' to activate your nervous system if you're feeling groggy in the morning) or taking extended exhalations (free divers call this 'triangular breathing') to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (slowing your heart rate etc.) and very effectively calming the monkey mind.
3 // Environment Design ➩ this sounds obvious but taking the time to consciously create a space that isn't blindly bright, has fresh airflow, with a comfy seat (I have a triple-cushioned throne!) and maybe even listening to binaural beats will make a world of difference.
I'm going to be designing some meditation recipes for myself in an IF [this] THEN [that] style to ideally match the meditations to my state of mind, where I am and how much time I have. I'll be looking for future guinea pigs to experiment with... if this sounds at all interesting hit reply and say 'I'm in' 🙋♂️(bonus points if you feel like sharing your meditation practice in a six word story).
Et Cetera 😲
☀️ We're a sunshine deprived generation
👨🎓 The curiosity-driven learning technique
⌨️Are keyboard shortcuts worth the time?
✏️ DIY synchronicity worksheet for creatives
📷 How camera lenses can affect your face shape
💡 Lewis Carroll invented a way to write in the dark
⚔️ The lost notion of sworn siblinghood (Hi Casper 👋)
🐝 Bees lower their metabolism using a cloud of carbon dioxide
😲 Cool theory of personal growth: Insight ➩ Breakthrough ➩ Discipline
Instructions for Life 📝
One of the world's most beloved poets Mary Oliver passed away on January 17, at the age of 83. She was best known for her 'Wild Geese' and 'A Summer Day' but I've always loved her simple eight word instructions for life. I feel like she might be proud if a few of us took them to heart.
Tell me about it.'