Daily practice

The other day I discovered the blog of writer, investor and entrepreneur James Altucher. Someone at work forwarded me a tech-related post Altucher had written; and after exploring his blog a bit I realized that 1) he has a foul tongue (and I like it!) and 2) has much more to offer than subjective evaluations of the market and tips for entrepreneurs: He’s insightful and introspective.

In particular, his August 20 post, “How to be a human,” was chock full of topics of interest to me — the end of the world, the fate of humanity, and the fear and anger that leads a person to spew hatred at a stranger on a public forum.  Certainly, as I am not addressing on this blog a virtual audience the size of Altucher Confidential, I don’t come up against as much public defamation as he might. But in the 15 years that I’ve written for public audiences — in newspapers, magazines, and extremely opinionated blogs — I’ve certainly set myself up to be taken down. And it’s a lot less fun than when someone shares your blog post on their Facebook wall; or when a more celebrated blogger mentions you in their weekly newsletter.

Altucher claims not to care; not to be impacted by what others write to or about him. He instead acknowledges their anger as representative of and outlets for dealing with past trauma (ie. “Their fathers or mothers didn’t love them;” Other kids beat on them; “Girls or guys didn’t like them or called them names.”)

Altucher credits his humanity for providing him with the ability to rise above his own past traumas; to stop him, he writes, from lying, cheating, stealing, and even killing. In particular,  Altucher credits what he calls “The Daily Practice” as the force by which he remains sane and suitable for society.

His “daily practice,” Altucher claims, is “the only way I’ve ever been able to rise above animal and be human.”

I like this. I like this a lot.

I absolutely agree with Altucher that the world is full of angry, scared, depressed people that often act like animals, but moreso I like how he offers useful tips in a frank, yet accessible voice. Tips that might, just might, lead an Average Joe to be more contemplative, seek help, or better yet, take action.

(In fact, he reminds me of someone I know and love who strives to do the same.)

In questioning the nature and formality of my own daily practice, I realized there is one thing I have committed to each and every day since I moved Israel — Something that is often difficult, very frequently humiliating, and yet so nourishing for my soul.

Every day, I choose to have one uncomfortable conversation.

Typically, my uncomfortable conversation is in Hebrew, but sometimes not. Sometimes the uncomfortable conversation might be with my English speaking neighbor or boss, on a topic that makes me squirm, like money.  And sometimes it’s on a topic I’m emotionally invested in, and the uncomfortable conversation is with my in-laws and or my kid’s teacher.

The more uncomfortable the conversation, I’ve found, the more I learn about myself. The more uncomfortable the conversation, the more I grow.

Particularly for me, the uncomfortable Hebrew conversations have been humbling…which I think my soul really needs. Like Altucher, my daily practice has taught me how to be more human. In particular, to listen, to feel, and to do both with compassion.

But uncomfortable conversations, I think, could be a useful daily practice for almost anyone.

For my shy husband, for instance, the daily practice of having an uncomfortable conversation might be empowering. Or, for my son, offer the thrill of independence.

The uncomfortable conversation can break down walls and stereotypes. It can open doors…and close them. The uncomfortable conversation is often less scary than you think. Instead, it’s often surprising and enlightening. It’s a daily opportunity to practice self-restraint, love, and compassion.

Based on the progress I’ve made since I started taking on the uncomfortable conversation as a daily practice, I daresay, it might be the key to Middle East peace. It might be the answer for world hunger and all that ails the world.

The key for progress and improvement lies somewhere within the uncomfortable conversation, I am sure of it. More specifically in the courage and compassion required to conduct the uncomfortable conversation (as opposed to the uncomfortable screaming match or the uncomfortable revolution or the uncomfortable war).

The uncomfortable conversation, by the way, doesn’t require two consenting participants. It only requires you: Committed, compassionate, humbled and empowered you.

You, as part of your daily practice, trying to be more human.

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