Now: Spring 2023

It’s my second spring in Holland, which is a season of false starts that sputter along, much like how life in general is hardly a linear affair. But the sun rising ever earlier and shining into the evenings are a sure sign that despite the chill and rain, it is indeed spring.

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I prefer to evaluate where there are misalignments between my values and my actions. I’ve continued with not drinking and only wish I’d gone all in on this sooner. Two other areas of the my life that require some realignment are how deeply my life is tied to consumerism and my relationship to technology.

None of these are fully separate issues. The big alcohol companies are prime examples corporations driving consumption despite the steep costs to society. Other things I’m working on reducing are the amount of short-term, disposable goods in my life. Also, factory farms seem like on the worst examples of consumerism: places of immense suffering and negative effects on society (general ecological issues, antibiotic resistance) for the sake of a “cheap” consumer good. This isn’t a push for a vegan utopia, instead I’m trying to diversifying my diet, do more cooking, and eat fewer but higher quality animal products.

I’ve greatly reduced the amount of time I spend online, and I see that contributing to my overall wellbeing. It’s not an all or nothing thing, but returning to seeing technology and devices as tools for specific purposes rather than the balm that I reach to at the first whiff of boredom or discomfort.

This means that the news is no longer entertainment for me. My subscription to the Economist has taught me that I actually don’t like the news that much. Taking the time and discipline to read through an issue just isn’t that fulfilling. I was previously a news junkie out of boredom. It was a nervous twitch to hop on Twitter whenever I felt the first twinge of boredom. I’m happy devoting ten minutes each morning to high quality news and being done with it.

With my free time I’ve been doing a lot of reading. One of the biggest stumbling blocks was thinking I always needed to read capital L literature. Nope. I see little negative impact from 45 minutes buried in some cheesy Star Wars Legends books, whereas 45 minutes “unwinding” on Reddit or Twitter leave me on edge.

Last year I joined a meditation class and group with the Samatha Trust, and as the class is slowly wrapping up, I have to say that this has been one of my biggest accomplishments over the past few months. Counting the time in meditation and reading the various study materials, it adds up to about an hour a day. But it’s been transformative for me. My Buddhist practice was always a bit scattered and isolated: intense during retreats and then teetering off and dissipating. The practice of the Samatha Trust has a few things going for it: a traditional method with centuries of tradition behind it, a nice group of people around it, a slow and steady approach instead of intense and burning out, and it has a completely non-commercial approach opposed to the McMindfulness organizations cropping up across the world. If you’re at all interested in Buddhist meditation, I highly recommend considering taking their course that starts in the fall.