In the perennial best-seller The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, an old man who calls himself the “king of Salem” tells a story to the shepherd boy Santiago.
It’s about a shopkeeper who sends his son to discover the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world, who lives high atop a mountain. After a forty-day journey, the boy arrives at a beautiful castle bustling with people engaging in trade, playing music, and enjoying food.
After finally gaining the attention of the wise man, the boy is told by the enlightened one that he doesn’t have time to explain the secret of happiness just yet. The sage suggests that the boy look around the palace for a couple of hours while carrying a teaspoon containing two drops of oil.
The boy is instructed to not to let the oil spill while he explores.
He walks all over the palace for two hours, eyes fixed on the spoon. The boy then returns to the wise man, who asks him what he’s noticed. The fine Persian tapestries? The magnificent garden? The beautiful parchments in the library?
The boy embarrassingly admits he’s seen nothing, as he was so intent on not spilling the oil. The wise man sends the boy away again to witness the marvels of the world around him. This time, the boy soaks it all in, and returns to share everything he’s seen in great detail.
“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asks the wise man. The boy looks down and realizes the oil on the spoon is gone.
At this point, the wise man reveals his secret:
“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you,” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
Santiago the shepherd boy immediately understands this story shared by the king of Salem. A shepherd may love to travel, but he should never forget about his flock.
Does Traditional Retirement Make Sense?
We’ve been told a different kind of story. A story where we spend our entire working lives watching the drops of oil on the spoon. Then, once we pass a magical age marker, we can see all the marvels of the world.
That’s why I’m so drawn to the idea of unretirement. Instead of bifurcating our lives into work and non-work at the economic meridian of age 65, the idea is to integrate work and wonder. That’s something you can start making happen right now and continue with as long as you’re willing and able.
Contrast that approach with the fact that more than half of people end up not enjoying retirement (and that’s those who can afford it in the first place). You’re supposed to be happy to quit working and give up the sense of purpose you’ve cultivated in your life for the remainder of your life, which makes no sense.
Doesn’t beginning to create your own integrated approach now make more sense? The true moral of the story is one of integration between purpose and adventure, obligation and exploration.
Livin’ La Vida Integrada
Integration works on a more basic life level as well.
Health, wealth, and personal growth are not independent categories that you should make trade-offs between. Your life is all one integrated whole, where each component enhances the others to equal something more than the sum of its parts.
Exercise, nutrition, and sleep keep you healthy and also increase your mental clarity and cognitive efficiency for work and investing. Work brings you money and purpose, while also leading to growth as you encounter and overcome challenges. A growth mindset leads you to take on personal projects that alter your identity.
Next thing you know, you’re a better version of you — and have more incentive to take care of yourself so you can keep going. It’s the virtuous cycle of living your best life.
I’m not talking about work-life balance, which has always been a bit of a farce. It’s more about an integrated approach to your entire life that makes the most of every day on all fronts.
Let My People Go Surfing
“In an excerpt from his new book ‘Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning,’ Outside contributing editor Tom Vanderbilt takes up surfing as part of an experiment to learn new skills as an adult and discover the benefits of being a grown-up novice.”
Two-thirds of people who are currently working remotely would like to continue to do so, and 62% of Americans would take a pay cut to work from home. This interesting Fast Company article reveals salary levels and job types for knowledge workers looking to work from anywhere.
Eyes Fixed on the Spoon
A 2020 study from Bank of America concludes that only 23% of Generation Xers are confident about their progress on saving for retirement. If you’re in the other 77% and you’re aiming to retire in the 2030s, you need to step it up starting with 2021.
The Great Gatsby 2.0?
Is a declining United States headed for collapse, or are we in for a decade of prosperity similar to the 1920s? My take: the convergence of several powerful technologies will make a ton of money for people who can spot and leverage the opportunities, while millions of the most vulnerable will lose jobs to robotics and artificial intelligence. The pace of change will wreak further havoc on US society unless some cohesive, unified response is formulated and implemented.
Trudi explains how meditation can help you deal with chronic pain down below. Plus in the Flashback, an iconic tune you didn’t realize was a gospel song until you hear it performed as one.
Meditate Your Pain Away
By Trudi Roth
If it feels like your body is under siege, regardless of whether you’ve had the virus, you’re not imagining things. The Atlantic confirms that you’re probably a “stiff, hunched-over, itchy, sore, headachy husk.”
While empirical evidence of the impact of COVID-related stress on health is still being gathered, healthcare professionals anecdotally report an uptick in complaints. For example, you might be experiencing things like tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or neck and back pain from the daily online grind from your couch or kitchen table, only to grind your teeth all night until they crack.
Clearly, the chronic pain epidemic is expanding. And crafty marketers are cashing in on our suffering with relaxation drinks, promising bliss in a bottle from calm-inducing ingredients like l-theanine, magnesium, and CBD.
As a meditation teacher, I can tell you chugging anything called “Tranquini” will do nothing beyond perhaps giving you gas. Instead, fortify yourself with mind-body practices — essential weapons in your agony-busting arsenal.
Every Body Hurts
While pain is physiological, suffering is a mental affliction. The ancients knew this, which is why meditation has been a critical health tool for thousands of years.
The CDC reports that one in five adults lives with chronic pain, often turning to opioids, which compounds the problem. To combat that spiral, scientists are researching more holistic multi-disciplinary approaches, including meditation and yoga.
In a 2020 study conducted in Oregon where access to care, addiction, and cost are challenges, osteopath Dr. Cynthia Marske provided eight weeks of mindfulness and hatha yoga training to patients suffering from chronic pain and depression. Having seen encouraging results — 89% of subjects reported being able to cope and function better — Marske noted:
… Mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing. Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole. With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain that is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial.
This is in addition to the 3000+ studies that show meditation improves your general well-being, reduces depression, anxiety and stress, increases productivity, improves self control, and even changes the composition of your brain for the better. Soon, not meditating may be seen as pain in itself.
Om the Pain Away
Additional evidence shows meditation restructures your brain, boosting cortical thickness for less pain sensitivity. It also allows you to disengage cognitively and improve sensory processing of discomfort. And research shows that meditation releases bliss chemistry, like dopamine and serotonin, while decreasing stress-driving adrenaline and cortisol.
Thanks to the mainstreaming of meditation, relief is in reach with hundreds of techniques available. Apps like Calm and Headspace are enjoying unprecedented growth, and we’ve got a quick guide here on Further to help you pick the right meditation practice for you.
So don’t hesitate to meditate. It’s the only approach that’s truly all gain, no pain.
U2 + Gospel Choir – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
The Joshua Tree, 1987
In 1987, U2 released The Joshua Tree and hit the pinnacle of musical accomplishment. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For is an amazing song in any context, and yet this version accompanied by a Harlem gospel choir from the Rattle and Hum DVD is simply transcendent. (YouTube)
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