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December 31st, 2018

For anyone who is out of shape and finds it cold in the winter, it’s an interesting discovery to reflect on just how hot it gets when you go for a challenging hike.  Especially for those out of shape, such a trek becomes an ordeal and the problem of temperature flips.  Instead of too cold, now it’s too hot.  The focus is on the discomfort, the emotional distance from neutral that we find ourselves.


Instead of the fact that the body alone is capable of generating a huge amount of heat.  Our emotional state blinds us from this convenient and useful fact.  No fancy gym or equipment is necessary.  If we want to warm up, it’s only a few dozen squats or pushups or jumping jacks away.


Strangely, the more fit a person is, the less emotional distance they travel from neutral.  Certainly their body still warms up, but the situation is not uncomfortable, it’s welcomed.


This distance from neutral is simultaneously something we seek to increase and something we purport not to want.  This quaint little contradiction of human nature is easily elicited by fact that much more free time is squandered on social media getting revved up about this or that issue instead of sitting quietly in order to develop a meditation practice.  How many minutes, hours, days and probably weeks are spent during a given year seeking out this emotional disturbance instead of cultivating a closeness to neutral?  We watch action movies and dramas because they jerk around our emotions.  And all of this movement is away from a sense of neutral.


Our own mind seems geared against us in this way, constantly reminding us of embarrassing or worrisome things that have happened in the past and conjuring up all sorts of terrible forks by which the future might turn.  All of these anxiety-provoking thoughts simply lead us away from the moment, which is often far more neutral.


Whether it be the fitness of the body or mind, it’s a paradox that in order to actually get closer to neutral and remain close to neutral, it requires a constant effort, a constant drama with our own emotions of laziness and lethargy to work out, and a likewise drama with the mind to let go of this thought and stop chasing that one in order to focus on the simple experience of what is happening in the moment.


While at first glance it might seem like a life as far away from neutral would be more exciting – and indeed it probably is when we stop for a moment to ask what exactly is being excited -  the gift that is absent from such excitement and resides in the calmer, more peaceful states of the brain is the ability to make better decisions for ourselves and those around us.

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Podcast Ep. 260: Distance from Neutral

Tinkered Thinking

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