Oblique Strategies, Cenote Freediving + Educational Abundance
PLUS: Rebranding Trauma, Integrated Self-Leadership + Ding Dongs
|Jonny Miller 🐢||Nov 2, 2020||2|
Hello Curious Human 👋
I’m typing these words from a corner of the Yucatán Peninsula—had I been around 66 million years ago, a 7.5-mile wide asteroid might have landed squarely on my head ☄️
In addition to wiping out the stegosaurus (& his 🦖 friends) the impact of this space rock contributed to an enormous network of underground water-filled caves known as ‘cenotes’.
Fast-forward to 2020 and I’ve joined an adventurous crew of freedivers where we have been attempting to take gulps of air and fall to the bottom of them without passing out 😵.
🤿 Cenote Freediving // I think of this art of ‘apnea’ as high-stakes meditation with the benefits of getting a giant watery hug. I’ve been reaching 35m deep—at which point I’m learning to relax into the accumulated tension. This humbling process feels relevant to much of life, where we naturally tense and must learn to soften into.
🥳 Turning 32 // I celebrated another lap around the sun in October. As part of the celebrations my partner Kelly secretly crowdsourced 52x thoughtful questions from friends + family (questions are my love language!) which I’m making my way through as morning journal prompts.
❤️ Farewell Grandpa // My Grandpa passed recently at the impressive age of 97. His Guardian obituary thanked him for his contribution to making transport better—but I’m grateful to him for passing on his genes, Irish humour and for taking such great care of my mum and I!
👨🎓 Integrated Self-Leadership // I’m mapping out an Integrated Self-Leadership (ISL) curriculum that seeks to bring awareness to our inner-archetypes + engineer insight using breathwork (not for the faint of heart!) My intention is for this program to be a distillation of emotional resilience research, meditation training and years of self-exploration. If you’re intrigued to learn more just reply here and say hi.
Three more podcast episodes + life updates to come soon, but for now—take care out there and as always, I love hearing what you’re all up to and creating in the world.
Left // Operation human seal in the cenote called ‘Tonkas’ — Right // the tree above that I nicknamed ‘Jung’ as its roots appeared to reach all the way down into hell. Appropriately the ancient Mayans believed these cenotes to be sacred sites and used them for sacrificial offerings 💀
🧠 Three Nuggets of Brainfood
👨🎓 1 | Towards Educational Abundance
A Curious Humans reader passed on a copy of Zak Stein’s ‘Education in a Time Between Worlds’ which I believe is one of the more important and hope-inducing books of our time. Zak describes the intention of his work to act as a psychoactive agent—a learning catalyst to inspire new ways of thinking.
In this masterpiece of a book, he builds on Ken Wilbur’s ‘Integral Theory’ frameworks and makes the case that that our current meta-crises are essentially encapsulated in the problem of education:
“…the years between 2000 and 2050 represent a critical turning point in the history of humanity and the planet…I argue that fundamental transformations of our social structures (economies and institutions), ecosystems (biosphere and agriculture), and consciousness (culture and identity) are upon us. These require a fundamentally new approach to education that entails the end of what we have known as schooling.”
One of the most interesting chapters I found was the ‘13 Social Miracles’ where he bravely outlines 13 tangible approaches that he believes would guide us safely to the other side of this great transition that we’re moving into.
It was truly refreshing to read what felt like a genuinely feasible approach to navigating the multiple unfolding crises we’re starting to see—and to join Zak in imagining what this ‘global society of educational abundance’ might look like and how we might collectively nudge humanity in that hopeful direction. For a primer to his work listen to this conversation with Zak on the Coaches Rising podcast.
👣 2 // Finding Freedom in Oblique Strategies
Freedom. This emotionally charged word defines what I spent the majority of my 20’s searching for. Financial Freedom. Creative Freedom. Geographical Freedom. But lately I’ve been looking at freedom from the inside out.
I’m realising there are invisible constraints in the ‘anything is possible’ blank canvas approach to life and creative acts—since without limitations, ironcially nothing is possible. Contrary to our intuition, I believe remarkable creative output begins with designing uncomfortably specific 'creative constraints'.
What do I mean by this? Well to illustrate with real humans: Taylor Pearson asks himself these nine questions before starting a new project. Craig Mod does something similar with the criteria for his latest (stunning) photo-book. Randall Munroe’s latest book only used the 1000 most common words in the English language. In all cases these are highly limiting + personalised sets of intentional constraints.
My favourite example—when working with blocked musicians, the legendary Brian Eno used his 'Oblique Strategy' card deck to introduce deliberately frustrating and disruptive creative constraints. One well-known card read: "All musicians swap instruments." I’d love to create a similar card deck that compiled Oblique Strategies for Life—give yourself only a month to write a novel, reply to text messages in Haikus, write a blackout poem, go on a date without speaking… what else might you include here? And how do you approach the inherent tension between freedom and constraint?
🐍 3 // Rebranding Trauma + The Myth of Medusa
I think trauma needs a rebrand. Most of us tense up slightly when they even hear the word (you might even be tempted to skim past this section). But what I’ve been discovering is that we all carry trauma. Every single one of us. Of course it might not be on the scale of a post-Vietnam war-vet, but we’ve all had experiences that we have not ‘completed’ in our nervous systems.
What does this mean? Well, it really clicked for me after watching this video of an impala shaking after being chased by a lion and realising that we humans also have to learn how to discharge these uncompleted cycles—which is, in simplistic terms part of what breathwork enables within a safe setting.
I’m going to be writing a lot more about this in the coming months as I believe this deeply held unconscious trauma (which again, we all carry) is the root cause of not only the majority of chronic mental & physical health conditions (I know this is a strong statement) but also the deep lack of connection that so many of us feel to ourselves and the world.
For now, I’d invite you to listen to this brave podcast from Tim Ferriss on his journey healing his profound journey of healing and a recent deep dive blog post from Erick Godsey (who I’ve interviewed previously for my podcast) who has done a stellar job of summarising much of the existing trauma literature.
I particularly enjoyed his retelling and interpretation of the Myth of Medusa and how we are all capable of summoning the courage to face the reflections of our own inner Medusas to find liberation.
🔗 Et Cetera
🎙️ Ask Jerry
🌎 Earthshot prize
👣 Out of Eden Walk
🤠 The six hats of resilience
🐠 An underwater restaurant
👴 How to be a good ancestor
📚 The Human Library Project
📖 Membership Guide Handbook
🌬️ Vagus nerve exercises via Conni
🏊♂️ Fear looks like a 10-meter tower
🏫 How to build an interdisciplinary school
😬 What would burnout insurance look like?
👑 What stage of the hero’s journey are you at?
🤦♂️ Yes, unfortunately, you too might be a ding-dong
📝 Parting Poem
An Invitation from the Deep 👇
Release the thought.
Exhale that feeling.
Inhale this moment.
Now it’s time.
Kick kick kick.
Downwards, onwards, inwards.
Dancing shadows beckon.
Depth is no measure
Of lung capacity
Or inner resolve.
Depth is the reward,
For intimacy with surrender.
One last kick!
Gravity takes over.
Mind, body, soul.
Mind, body, soul.
Into the Great Unknown.