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I love reading your Substacks, Tommy.

Regarding your last sentences in your second to last paragraph, perhaps it's a both/and. Perhaps, accepting what is starts first AND then acting. I have found when my actions come from resistance, I am fear based. When Acceptance of it all lies as the foundation, I act from love, and there is a sense of flow, of meaning, of purpose.

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Both/and. And then acting from love gives way to flow, meaning and purpose. Beautiful Amba.

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Thank you for your contribution James. I love hearing your perspective. Always.

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Amba! Thank you so much for the kind words. I love the both/and perspective. Like James said, I think you’re exactly right.

And I love the way you put it: acceptance then acting. I think we’re sold such a message that we’re inadequate and need to fix ourselves but there’s so much beauty and power in first just accepting ourselves as we are - which then creates the foundation for positive change.

Acceptance is at the core.

Thank you for reading & sharing your thoughts here. Made my day (:

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I grew up Christian and transitioned towards Buddhism in my late 20s. It's interesting you say spending time meditating pushed you more towards Christianity. In comparison, I feel a lot of messaging in Christianity does not give you a toolset or instructions on how to do what it says you should do. Whereas Buddhist lessons are actionable how-tos, giving you instructions on how to actually see reality and then start to transcend suffering.

But also, I spent years thinking all I should read / focus on were Buddhist teachings, only later to really appreciate we are animals, physical beings in this world, and the best practice is taking the skillset and engaging with all this world has to offer. A balance of both. All the active things you suggest.

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Mikaela, thank you for such a thoughtful reflection here. I really appreciate your time.

On reflection, I think I wrote with this more fear and sharpness than I would have liked which makes me a bit sad. I guess I’ve been studying the teachings of both and I’ve felt at times more called to the message in Christianity but there are also so many parts I love about Buddhist teachings and parts of Christianity (especially once you go beyond the word of the Bible) I really struggle with.

I’ve found Christianity actionable - thinking of the Sermon on the Mount and Tim Keller’s lectures in particular - but many parts do seem very far from our modern context.

I love that you’ve found a way to marry Buddhist teachings that resonate with being in the world.

Thank you again for sharing (: means a lot to get to learn from you

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Id be interested to know if it was a vipassana retreat you attended? Vipassana means ‘insight’ which is essentially aimed at seeing reality without judgements or illusions, using mindfulness and concentration as the tools to achieve this..

Many of us are identified with the incessant voice (our egoic, rational mind) that likes to narrate our every experience, passing judgement and preference to how things should be. However, you only need to observe the pauses in this voice to see that it’s not you. When it stops, you’re still there watching.

You can do this wherever and whenever you want, and it helps you remain present and peaceful. This is a form of meditation, and I think if you manage to implement it, you may eventually find yourself drawn back to the meditation cushion through your own inquisition. It certainly shouldn’t feel like a chore though (not that you need me to tell you that!)

Thanks for this post Tommy. It was beautifully written with some lovely insights.

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Thank you for reading & writing such a thoughtful reflection here. I’m seriously grateful for your support and getting to learn from you most weeks (:

It was part insight part concentration meditation. I’ve been practicing both on and off for the past 4-5 years but this past month in Thailand the most intensely. After my retreat - I’m at a Buddhist reforestation project in northern Thailand and for the last 2 weeks we’ve been doing 2 hours of yoga and meditation every morning.

I’ve struggled with meditation and while having some deep experiences (and generally feeling better about my life while I meditate - especially getting distance from my judgmental mind) I’ve struggled with wanting to quit, questioned if I’m getting the results, wondered if it’s “for me”.

But I’m a bit sad in afterthought about this piece. I think it came with more fear and sharpness than I would want to express. It was coming out of a tough week.

Ultimately it’s a return love we need & that’s what I want my writing to express.

I know I’m not done with meditation yet (or it’s not done with me!) and although I’m scared, I will continue.

Thank you again

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Thanks Tommy. It certainly sounds like you've had plenty of time to learn through your own experience. Sometimes even that's enough to show us how averse we are to discomfort. I suppose asking yourself the question of why you want to pursue meditation can help you figure out if it's worth it or not.

I don't think you should be sad about this piece, though. It reflected your feelings at the time, showing honesty and transparency. That's what I love about your writing, and it gives myself and many others the courage to do the same in ours.

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Thank you my friend - your support and kind words really are appreciated. Hit home (:

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Love this: “Generally, I've fallen away from meditation and moved towards embodied rituals that I find more helpful. Journaling, exercise, and time in nature, among others.”

I’ve spent a lot of time meditating in my life. But it was more out of a sense of compulsion because meditation is just the thing all successful and smart and insightful and wise people do. Or so we’re told. Did it help me? Maybe, hard to say. Does exercise or getting out of my head and into my body help me? 1000% it does.

I’ve settled on more active practices over meditation. Journaling, running, lifting, hiking, walking all day, interacting with people. Something different works for everyone, but I find these practices much more helpful than sitting on a cushion (I already sit at my lap top 8+ hours per day).

If you want to examine your soul, exercise until you want to drop to the ground. You’ll get a crystal clear picture of exactly who you are.

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Thanks Jackie boy. Thought about you as I wrote this. Similar to you I’ve struggled with meditation and I look up to you as a role model for other ways of taming the mind.

Thank you man. It’s always a treat to know you read my work after all this time (:

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Great piece Tommy, thanks for sharing.

Joe Rogan describes this philosophy as exercising to “let the demons out” - the more intense, the better. Though I would love to find deep value in meditation, and I sometimes do with yoga, I definitely find myself pursuing physical activities as a sort of mental + physical exercise.

Working in the trades, this is a balance that I strike on the daily. My work demands a physical ability to shoulder carry heavy material and throw concrete bags while also meticulously calculating and planning the layout of a project to ensure an appealing finish.

Have you found serenity in any work activities that require physical and mental sharpness, such as building?

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Working in the trades, Bingo! I was about to write a similar comment to this. My mind has been incredibly still after my longest working days. When I have 12 yards of mulch to put down, I enter into a flow state of fill wheelbarell - toss mulch - refill repeat for hours at a time. Not to mention I sleep the best those nights. Thats meditation for me. The sitting still has been ineffective for me, but I haven't completely given up on it.

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I love that Peter. There’s something about those repetitive tasks that really allow us to get into a flow state and just inhabit our bodies.

I haven’t given up on meditation either but I’ve felt like quitting a lot and question if I can ever have those life changing experiences people claim.

Thank you for stopping by & sharing. Seriously means a lot (:

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Evan! Thanks for reading & leaving such a thoughtful reflection here. Love it.

I actually thought about Joe Rogan writing this - his approach of discipline and physical exercise and exposure as a way to the brain. Similarly, I’ve found “the demons” are more likely to go away through the body than just through the mind - where they live.

I’ve found a lot of joy in making things - working with my hands in general. Woodworking or painting or even cooking. But as I plan to live rurally I’m continuing to learn to work with my hands & the joys of labour.

Thank you for sharing and your time. Means the world (:

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Wow. You’ve provided a solution for the question I’ve had for about a year: why won’t I sit and meditate? I’ve had a few bouts of realization of a meditative practice. At one point, I had an intuitive message that sitting and meditating wasn’t for me, I was meant to go out and explore the world - to find oneness and connect with the land and beings on this earth. However, until I read this article I don’t think I completely understood how being in the world was like meditation. Like you said, it brings us closer to our bodies. Closer to our animal selves. I love that! The one activity that brings me closer to my body is working with horses. The horses have helped me develop a grounded practice to work on my body, and through that work with them. It’s wild. It’s cool. It’s amazing. I notice changes in my body when I don’t go spend time with my horse regularly. I fall out of it. She’s my teacher and it’s the most amazing connection I have.

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Danielle! Wow thank you for such a beautiful reflection here.

I love that you experimented but had the courage to follow your intuition, not forcing yourself to what you “should” do. One of my favourite rules in life is to get rid of “should’s”. So many things I do out of made up obligation.

Your comment made me think of Mary Oliver who wrote poems every day walking in the woods and communing with nature. I think the truth lies in finding what calls to us, what creates calm, a sacred safe space for us to inhabit and reground in life (and remember how incredibly wonderful it is)!

Thank you for sharing (: means so much

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Beautiful and meditative essay as always! I’d want to push back though on that idea from Sarris that meditating just contributes to more sitting so we should just skip it and do embodied practices/activities. I’m all for embodied practices - any time, any day! But! I think if one’s life contains too much sitting, the answer isn’t to cut meditation, but to reduce the other kinds of sitting (work standing if possible, etc). Totally agree we shouldn’t stop at Meditation, because it can trap us in our head. I believe, however, that the skills we hone meditating will transfer to the more physical practices we do. Sam Harris said that cycling or swimming (or any other physical activity) can indeed be meditative, but we first need to develop the sensibility in meditation to truly know how to pay attention.

Anyway, i I truly enjoyed this piece because I believe the message is truly important!

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Diana! So good to hear from you. Thank you for reading and I really appreciate the thoughtful pushback.

I agree it’s important to find ways to sit less in the day to day.

I remember hearing Sam Harris talk about that at well. And I agree once I started to meditate for a while, I saw the huge huge difference between living on auto pilot and being mindful in my activities. And being aware of how crazy my brain can be. However - that also assumes the only way to become awake and aware and attuned to the wonder of life is through first meditating. I think it can be reached without it. I’ve seen examples of people who have.

Thank you for the kind words. I’ve struggled with feeling disembodied - and have found a lot of peace in more embodied activities I’ve struggled to find in mediation.

But really it’s a search and I’m sure my thoughts will continue to change.

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I've felt eerily the same: "But nowhere did I find more embodiment than my three months of Brazilian jiu-jitsu." Many iterations of meditation, therapy, yoga did not even come close to how the repeated exposure to the demands of a few months of BJJ to make myself be safe/functional in a very scary (but actually safe), immediate situation. And I would say I'm the 'right' type of person for a lot of those introspective practices. My theory is that practicing BJJ helped my body differentiate between fake-unsafe and real-unsafe situations. I do think the combination of both types of practice is where it's at, but also meditation-heads can really overemphasise the one-size-fits-all benefits of it as you say.

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Ahh Marlene that’s so good. Interesting you felt very similar.

I also fall squarely into the introspective practices camp and have tried them all. Perhaps that’s why a more embodied practice felt so cathartic.

I’ve generally grown to be very cautious of one-size-fits-all advice (which we also see a lot in writing). Balance is usually where truth resides.

What practices have you been following recently ?

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Apr 5Liked by Tommy Dixon

Your journey through the meditation retreat was quite the adventure! I resonate with your emphasis on an active lifestyle—I try to run or do calisthenics daily. It's refreshing to hear your perspective on finding clarity through embodied rituals. Keep planting those trees! 🌳

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Ned! Thank you for reading and the beautiful reflection here.

“finding clarity through embodied rituals” is the essay in a bottle haha. Great way to summarize. I’ve been developing more embodied rituals and found a lot of joy in it. Ritual is often lost in our world now (can’t be commercialized and sold to you) but so important and grounding.

Thanks again (: hope you have a lovely week

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Apr 4Liked by Tommy Dixon

"At the gym or on a long run, I still think about nagging problems or essay ideas or my to-do list. Not in BJJ. There was a need to be intensely present or find myself in a triangle choke, arm bar, or ankle lock. I forgot entirely about the external world of wanting and achieving. I forgot entirely about myself. There was a certain primal joy. The physicality, the force, the measured aggression, the sheer exhaustion. I felt like an animal."

Great post, Tommy. BJJ is terrific, I think, because it's kickstarts your fight-or-flight instinct. No time for introspection when you've got a sweaty dude (or gal!) on top of you and you're trying not to pass out!

If you're trying to mix it up, here are some other ways to get into that "primal" flow, feel like an animal, and not revisit mental drafts of your next newsletter:

- Set a repeating 1-min timer. Do 10 burpees and when the timer goes off, do 12, then 14, and so on until you miss the interval and feel like you just got chased down by a grizzly bear.

- Pick a weight that's between 50-70% of your 1RM in any exercise (squats or bench press are a favorite). Do 20 reps of that exercise, but, in between each rep, and without setting the weight down, take 2-3 big slow breaths. Keep a spotter or safety bars close by since this replicates the feeling of wrestling with a anaconda.

- Throw on a backpack with 20-40 pounds of weigh loaded on to it. Hop on a treadmill at 15:00min/miles and every 2 minutes, up the incline by 1%. See how long you can last without rolling down the metaphorical mountain.

- With very heavy dumbbells or kettlebells, do a 40-yd farmer carry and then 20 shrugs over and over -- never putting down the weight -- until either your grip or shoulders can't handle the pressure.

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Lou! Haha thank you for reading & the note here. Love it.

You’re exactly right. As someone who overthinks and often gets lost in my head, consumed by thoughts BJJ was therapeutic in how violently it brought me into my body.

And thanks for the recommendations on exercise! I’ll have to try them out and let you know.

Thanks again (: appreciate you

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Likewise!

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Apr 2Liked by Tommy Dixon

"Worship the sun" had me laughing. Inspired by this, thanks for writing!

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Haha thanks Will! Appreciate you reading (:

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...in attempting to determine which animal to become i distracted myself by looking at funny animal pictures (https://discover.hubpages.com/animals/Top-10-Most-Funny-Looking-Animals-in-the-World)...there are many who look down on multitasking but i have enjoyed adding meditation/prayer to some of my active tasks...hike AND find god...anyhow I settled on becoming a gloster canary...wish me luck and soup...

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Ah this is just what I was looking for. Of course - it depends on what your animal calling is.

Interesting to compare and contrast meditation and prayer. Also “hike and find god” is legendary.

Always love your comments man. Thank you for being you & being so awesome. Seriously brings joy into my life

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Reading the comments and struck by what an interesting, engaged, and wise collection of readers you've brought to your party Tommy. That's something to note. Agreeing here with all of the diverse perspectives touched upon. As a friend I have to admit I'm a little sad you've drawn your conclusions about meditation already. Generally, I'd advise that the conclusion making process start after the age of 50. : ) But no one knows their path better than the one who is on it. I always enjoy the view you share of your own.

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Rick, always so observant. I’m very lucky to have so many people willing to stop by each week and teach me something, make me think and reflect. And people are way too kind to me. So much love in this world.

I appreciate your honesty here. I agree it’s naive to close doors too early. I change my mind so much and I’m sure I’ll change it again.

To be honest I wrote this in a hard week and out of more fear than I would like. It was sharp perhaps for sharpness sake and makes me a bit sad on reflection it was missing more love.

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Mar 31Liked by Tommy Dixon

As always, I really enjoyed your writing here. It’s great that you received more clarity on your direction in life by going on the meditation retreat. I always thought of meditation as something you can do anywhere. The sitting is a practice. You’re sitting practicing being present, so when you go about your day you can also be present. I’ve also heard from psychiatrists that you only need to sit 10 to 20 minutes a day to see benefits from meditation.

I have an interest in religion especially Buddhism and Christianity. There are many ways to practice both. Have you read Thich Nhat Hanh’s books on the comparisons between Jesus and Buddha? I think you would enjoy them. Many of their teachings were similar. Loving all, compassion, openness, being present. Much of the Christian sects have taken Jesus’ teachings and twisted them. I don’t like to call myself a Christian, but a follower of Jesus.

There are more things that I appreciated in your writing here. But this is a long enough comment. 😀. Have a great week.

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Thanks J. It always brings a smile to my face to see your name in the comments (:

I agree on meditation. We can live in a slow, mindful way. The meditation masters all say that in the end, there becomes no difference between your life and your practice. All is meditation.

I haven’t read Thich Nhat Hanh’s books but I did pick up a book from a monk on Buddhism and Christianity and I have read Joseph Campbell on how similar The Buddha’s and Christ’s teachings were. I’m curious in Eastern Orthodox Christianity (the oldest version) for that reason.

I totally agree. In the end it’s about how much can you love people around you. How much joy and wonder and radiance you feel. Aliveness. People get lost in the weeds but religion should be about wonder.

Thank you for your beautiful and thoughtful reflection as always. I appreciate you (;

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Sitting quietly, gently pushing away thoughts as they float into my brain, breathing deeply, and becoming calm.

The concept of meditation is attractive. Yes, I would like to be still and get lost in shadowy nothingness.

I am better when I do guided meditation. I can emerge from those sessions feeling peaceful, rejuvenated, focused, and ready to act.

I can feel the same benefits when I practice a musical piece, repeating a difficult passage until my hands can perform it smoothly. I can calm my fevered mind by coloring an intricate line drawing. I can allow ideas to enter my consciousness by listening to favorite music while walking in my neighborhood.

Going on a retreat, isolating from companions, listening instead of vocalizing, and tapping into thoughts that have been percolating beneath the surface sound like worthy activities. My preference would be to find ways to reach that inner peace at home, surrounded by familiar, beloved comforts.

Reading your essays can also be a meditative exercise, Tommy!

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Ahh I loved this so much JT. Had to reread it a few times just to savour it all.

I love that you’ve found a mix of spiritual practices to bring joy and ground yourself in your body. I really look up to you & hope to do the same.

Really I think the end goal has to be about wonder and okayness and love. And if I orient towards what acts bring me to that end state, my head and heart feel much more clear.

And wow I have so many thoughts on home and familiarity and belonging. I love it. Maybe for another essay (:

Thank you for reading and always brings me drops of joy in your words. Appreciate you deeply

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Tommy, I hope you craft an essay on those thoughts. Your replies to my rambling messages spark so many more ideas. I am grateful I discovered your writing.

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I’m so grateful you did too! I still remember replying to your first email back to me standing in a grocery store in Buenos Aires last Fall haha. Special.

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Wow! What a moment.

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Mar 30Liked by Tommy Dixon

As a person who thinks a lot, I’m also learning the immense value of doing embodied things. I believe that we’re created as embodied beings (another thing I’m relearning as I read Genesis), and I’m finding it’s good to remind myself of that!

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Matt! So good to hear from you. I love that we’re on the same path here & that you tied in Genesis haha. What stuck out to you on being embodied?

Even from a simple biological perspective, our bodies were created for so much, and now we use them for so little. I really believe there’s so much wisdom in our bodies that can be left untapped.

Thanks for reading & the insights. Love it!

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Apr 9Liked by Tommy Dixon

One thing about being embodied: our physical selves are good and need our attention. We’re not just brains on sticks. Another thing: we’re finite and limited, and that’s also good. I’m slowly learning to embrace my limitations.

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Ah I love that. Paradoxically embracing limitations is so freeing.

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