Waiheke, Aotearoa New Zealand

March 8, 2020

Sanding.

It's funny - when I started these journeys, I'd never have thought I'd write you a letter about sanding back ceiling beams. But here in this crazy 2020 and the way it's changed my plans, that's exactly what I'm doing.

And you know what? It was deeply, deeply fascinating.

See, the thing nobody tells you about holding a belt sander above your head for a week is that you end up getting a lot of time with your thoughts.

As I worked across the house, I began to see patterns. Saw the way my mind, left to its own devices, would run over and over with what if's and scenarios. What if I person X stopped by, what would I say? What about if person Y called unexpectedly?

Some of this I could chalk up to moderately healthy thinking ahead.

But other times, I'd catch my brain running through the most bizarre scenarios. What if a police officer barges in right now? What if a random stranger comes to the side door to rob me? How would I defuse a fight between two strangers at the grocery store?

Not one of those things has ever happened - nor do they seem likely - but my brain would get stuck like a record in a groove, endlessly looping on really bizarre, mostly horrible scenarios, all the while etching the pattern deeper into my neurons.

In a small flash, I'd catch it. "Wait, what? What am I doing spending some of my only life thinking about this?"

And somewhere around the third ceiling beam, I decided I wanted better thoughts.

That when I noticed my brain ruminating, I'd redirect it to one of two things: 1) Ink and Feet's pay-the-bills project for this year, or 2) Curiosity. I'd spot something around me, and wonder - how does it work? Who designed it or how did it evolve? How has it changed over time? What was this particular item's journey?

These were thoughts that I enjoyed a lot more, aligned with my values, and that I was served by spending time and thought on.

I gave it a go over the last couple days of the week - and it wasn't easy.

I'd still wind up in those same bizzare patterns. But when I did notice, and got to thinking about getting the book in more places, or the story of how carpet comes to be or why the Tui evolved to have white patches on their dark wings - I was grateful to have tried.

And I looked forward to the years ahead, when thousands of small redirections meant these were the places my thoughts would wander on their own.

I wonder - do you ever have weird thought patterns like these? How do you relate to them?

Have a mindful week,

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was this behind-the-scenes exposé on how jazz music is made. (It involves horses. You'll want sound :) )

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