Dominance Friction

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by my friends Dan Shipper and Nathan Baschez for their new subscription, Divinations. It covers my thoughts on how companies can compete aggressively by being the most aligned with their customers.

You can read the whole post here. And I’ll have much more to say on this topic soon.

The Customer Domain Expert

Founders with many backgrounds can be successful, but there’s one archetype I most enjoy working with: the customer domain expert.

These founders have already worked in the industry the startup will target. They have informed opinions on the industry’s players and future. Moreover, they would have been the buyer or user of the product, if only it had existed.

Customer domain experts enjoy several advantages:

  1. Knowledge of the dead ends. They’ve seen other startups fail and know the root causes. They avoid wasting time on misguided features, target customers, partnerships, and vendors.
  2. Informed opinions on competitors. Anyone can read a Gartner report, but customer domain experts have tried competitors’ products, met the sales teams, seen successful and failed product roll-outs, and can separate real differentiation from marketing fluff.
  3. Access to customers. They can just ask questions of peers rather than guessing. Initial sales come from former colleagues or clients with trust.

These founders can move confidently through the uncertain seed stage. They can act in the face of ambiguous and conflicting feedback. They know what objections to take seriously. And they hire and work with the right set of people from the industry.

If you’re a customer domain expert, you’ll know it. A few things set you apart in the earliest days.

You conceived of your company by writing a detailed comparison between the product you’ll build and your competitors. Your sales funnel started with a rank-ordered list of the top twenty potential customers; you knew the inclusion criteria by heart.You personally know your first five customers – they’re peers or clients who heard you were getting started and are already eager to try your product.

As an investor, it’s a joy to work with a customer domain expert. They’re unfazed by early stumbling blocks because they know what to build, who to sell it to, and why they’ll buy. They test the hypothesis behind the business fully. And that is all an investor can ask for.

Writing is a horse; I’m back on it again

I wish I could start with some great reason for my disappearance.

I first wrote about practicing in public in 2015, after I came back from a silent meditation retreat. I sat for ten days with only my thoughts, and I realized every limitation to writing was in my head. I love writing and I was determined to make it a part of my daily life, fears be damned.

What happened next?

I haven’t written publicly again for four years. I fell off the horse.

To celebrate, I want to describe the four constraining beliefs that held me back.

1) I have to keep up my writing

Here’s the first imaginary rule. As soon as I start something it has to be a thing. I have to decide on a blogging frequency, commit to it, and stick to it. As soon as I publish anything, I have to think about what I’m going to publish next and when I’m going to fit that writing time in.

2) My thoughts must be new and acceptable

I have to scour the whole internet to make sure no one has already said what I’m about to say. If someone else has said it, they must be quoted. I have to make sure my thought is expressed inoffensively, inclusively, and exhaustively. I must prove my point with statistics, and avoid overgeneralization or bias or missing some corner case. Or I will be called out, brutally, and never allowed on the internet again.

3) I have to participate

I have to share my writing on every channel for it to be found. Twitter, Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, a Substack newsletter. All of these channels will generate responses, and I have to monitor and respond to all of them actively. Every response requires thought and stealing my attention away from the rest of my work.

4) I have to get everything else done first

If there are emails unanswered, to-dos unfinished, then I have no right to be writing a blog post. Every other commitment must be prioritized over writing. Inbox zero never came. So neither did opening a blog editor.

Here’s the thing. These constraints did not come from reality. They’re just writer’s block in a sneaky disguise.

No one has once told me that I’m a failure if I don’t write at a regular frequency, on insightful topics, with extensive research, and unique, correct, exhaustive opinions, and respond to everyone who reads it, only after I’ve finished all my other work. 

Laying it all out into a single sentence made me laugh. Thanks, inner critic, for a run-on of reasons why not to write. 

Thank you, real person in the ether — for reading this, accepting me, and proving the fears are just fears.

I owe a huge thanks to every friend who’s ever reminded me to get back to writing, and especially Dan Shipper and Teresa Man for the final push to just publish this.

Vipassana background and FAQ

I went on a ten-day silent meditation retreat to kick off 2015, and my last post explained a few ways it changed my outlook when I returned. Though meditation is mostly a personal thing, I’ve loved talking about it publicly. My intent isn’t to promote it. Being proactive has helped me to (re)connect with more experienced meditators I can learn from, and reinforces my motivation to practice by taking inspiration from others.

Thinking about my own experience, and matching it up with what I’ve heard from others, three things have surprised me about meditation:
1) Even the busiest-seeming lives fit a daily practice. Parents of infants, business executives, prime time TV watchers. People with real obligations make time for it.
2) It’s not just for new age-y “spiritual” types. Regular people just like you and me meditate. Try asking everyone you talk to for a week, I bet you’ll find lots of people you’d have never expected meditate – just as I have.
3) Little changes matter most. It’s not about finding the meaning of life. Mindfulness creeps into your day-to-day in subtle ways, like eating a little slower, fidgeting a little less, focusing a little better, taking criticism a little less personally.

So if you think you might want to try it out, I hope my answers to a few questions might help.

What’s vipassana meditation and how does it relate to other styles?
Vipassana as I learned it is a meditation style derived from one branch of Buddhism called Theravada, and in particular a lineage of Theravada that evolved in Burma (Myanmar). The technique focuses on awareness of your natural breathing and sensations all over your body, and doesn’t involve chanting Om and such. You can read all about Vipassana on or on Wikipedia.

In the US, vipassana is taught in several ways. There’s the “Goenka school” form with 10-day retreats, which is what I tried. There are also several other schools of the same general technique, including a popular version called Insight Meditation (e.g. IMS in MA and Spirit Rock near SF which are very well-known). I haven’t tried any those or any other schools in earnest yet, so I can’t speak well to the differences, but there’s plenty of info online.

Who taught you vipassana?
The technique was taught to me “remotely” during the retreat, by videos and audio of a man named SN Goenka. He’s deceased, so I use the term remotely in a loose way, since he was was filmed in 1991.

If you’re interested, the material for the course is open source. The videos of Goenka’s nightly discourses (talking about the philosophy of vipassana and some practical advice) are here under “Vipassana Discourse.” He takes his time talking so you might find them frustrating – faster text summaries are here. Goenka has also answered a lot of questions about applying vipassana in life, which are listed in an extensive FAQ here. He also chants in a dead language called Pali often during the course which is translated here

What are some issues with vipassana and the Goenka school? 
Just like anything else groups of people do, vipassana is flawed. As an eternal skeptic, I think it’s important to examine the issues in depth and with an open mind. The best critical piece I’ve read is here. You’ll find a ton more if you google vipassana + criticism. Please read them if you’re considering trying this.

In short, Goenka’s vipassana is problematic in several ways. It claims to be “true” Buddhism when there is no such thing. It has a lot of unnecessary rituals and orthodoxy, and some aspects that help ensure it spreads itself, just like any other religion, cult, or viral idea. Also, practicing the technique to could exacerbate depersonalization / ego dissociation, a sense of detachment from the self. In some cultures dissociation is natural and even desirable, and in others it’s viewed as a mental disorder. I suspect there are a lot of shades in between. Finally, any action to clear the mind and calm down all random associations can potentially stifle creativity. Balance is required.

Where did you go on this retreat?
I went to one of many of the Goenka-led vipassana retreat centers around the world for a ten-day course. The full list of them in the US is here. Mine was called Dhamma Siri (Dhamma = truth in Buddhism, i.e. the state of things as they are; Siri = prosperity). It was in Texas, specifically a small town near Dallas called Kaufman. The property was juxtaposed by farms with cattle and coyotes and all.

Why Dallas when I live in NYC? I’d love to say it was because I wanted to get in touch with pastoral times or something. But really, a friend had gone to Dhamma Siri. And I mistakenly thought Texas was warm in the winter so it’d be a break from NY. I was terribly wrong on that one. Thankfully, cold is just a sensation 🙂

How much does it cost?
The vipassana retreats are completely free (the program, housing and food for 10 days – but travel is on you), and all the people who work there are volunteers. You’re not even allowed to donate until after you attend, and they don’t pressure you much or even give you a “suggested donation.”

The free nature of the program helps in a bunch of subtle ways:
1) you feel less entitled to special accommodations when you’re not paying for it
2) dealing with things that aren’t exactly the way you want is part of the point
3) depending on others’ kindness is deeply humbling and helps dissolve your ego

What are the rules?
The ten-day Goenka retreat is an extremely strict environment, monastic even. His stated reason for this is to provide a strong foundation for quieting your mind — minimizing external stimuli and any ‘immoral’ actions like stealing, lying, killing, or sex (?) that can cloud your mind.

I felt the “strong foundation” was generally helpful to achieving meditation, and the reasons for it were mostly true to my personal experience. But a critical view of the stricture might say this facilitates a cult-like atmosphere and makes your mind more malleable for brainwashing.  I’ll leave that to you to decide. The full code of discipline is here if you’re interested.

What’s the day-to-day like during the retreat?
Every day you wake up at 4am and sleep around 9pm. There are three hour-long meditation sittings in a meditation hall, and four sittings of an hour or more that you can choose to do in your room (i.e. fall into a nap often…) or in the hall (if you actually want to practice, which you’ll get more serious about toward the end). There’s a nightly discourse for an hour. The full schedule is at the bottom here.

Logistically, you’re separated into male and female dorms and have no contact with the opposite sex the whole ten days. You can’t read or write, can’t talk, can’t use your phone or computer or the Internet or anything really. It’s meditation all day erryday. Surprisingly, I didn’t miss these much after day 1.

Food-wise, you eat breakfast every day at 6:30 and lunch at 11. There isn’t a real dinner, but a quick tea and fruit break at 5pm. In the beginning everyone is stir crazy about this and takes as much food as they can for breakfast and lunch. Toward the end you realize hunger is a state of mind and has to do mostly with eating speed. What would’ve felt like a tiny portion on day 1 would feel impossible to eat in an hour by day 9. And it’s nothing fancy, but pretty good food when you savor it.

What’s the hardest thing about the retreat?
This is honestly different for everyone. A lot of people say it’s sitting for 10 hrs a day with no back support. While I have a lot of back pain, my legs were never a problem and I pushed through the back pain. I also had no problem with the silence and isolation — I personally found a vibrant internal monologue in between (and sometimes during…) meditations and really enjoyed the time with my mind.

For me, the hardest part of the whole thing was actually not being able to write. I found myself constantly wanting to jot down thoughts and had some of my most creative moments during meals. It was painful not to be able to capture them.

The reason you’re not allowed to write is, ostensibly, so you don’t waste your time thinking about what you want to write and focus on meditating. It also helps you to stop always engaging with every thought that comes up. I understood that intent, and found it useful in some ways, but still wished that I could write a little bit. If I go again, I’d probably cheat on this rule, honestly.

How did you hear about it?
My inspiration to try a retreat came primarily from trusting in the experience of two close friends (thanks Sameer and Eugenia!) who’d gone on vipassana before me. After I heard about it twice from them, I started mentioning vipassana frequently in conversation, and met many others who’d gone as well.

Had you meditated before?
Not at all. The day before my retreat, I could barely sit still for ten minutes or so without opening my eyes and checking the time. I was freaking out a little that I wouldn’t make it.

What made you jump into an intense silent retreat? Why not ease in?
My reason was very personal. I felt like I hadn’t ever done anything that was truly difficult for me and seen it through to completion. I would always give up and rationalize it. Ten days was a challenge to myself, to stay determined.

After the fact, I think jumping in really helped me. It was a boot camp environment, where I did nothing but learn this technique for ten days, 100 hours of meditation. Normally putting 100 hours into anything just wouldn’t happen for me. I’d try something for maybe 5-10 hours in a year and then “life got in the way.”

Think about the last time you bought equipment for a new hobby you were sure you’d prioritize, and it’s now gathering dust somewhere. You can counter that effect by isolating yourself to focus on just. one. thing.

How can I get started in meditation?
You could certainly go my route and jump into the deep end. I’d recommend it, but I’m biased. Meditation centers of all different styles are everywhere, just google your city. As a starting point, there are Shambhala centers (teaching the Tibetan meditation style) in tons of cities listed here that offer intro classes. Another great lightweight way is to try out an app called Headspace – which starts off with just a ten minute practice each day.

Would you go again?
In a heartbeat. In spite of all the flaws and challenges, I thought the retreat was immensely valuable and I want to make it a yearly thing. I’m not sure if I’ll go on another Goenka retreat first, I might try a different style retreat next year. Or maybe I’ll go in another country.

On a related note, I also realized from the retreat how much I genuinely enjoy time alone. I’m an introvert, so this makes sense logically, but I was always a bit apprehensive about traveling alone or taking a weekend off the grid to myself in the countryside somewhere. Now I plan to do just that on a regular basis.

Of course, I’m only a week into my practice post-retreat, so I’m still in the honeymoon phase. The real test of this will be if I’m still practicing and still want to go again after more time has passed. Talk to me in a year.

Everything changes, but I hope meditation will become a constant in my life.

This post is part 2 of a series about my learnings from vipassana. Part 1 on my top three learnings is here.

Practicing in public: what I learned from ten days of silent meditation

At 4am on January 1st, I woke up in the new year to the sound of a gong. As I showered in the first bathroom I’ve shared with twenty guys since freshman year of college, I was immediately confused by the absence of want. I was without so many things that — only a day prior — were critical ingredients in my daily life. How could it be possible that I didn’t miss them? I didn’t have my phone or internet access; and thus couldn’t read my email, check my friends on facebook, or exchange happy new year texts. I couldn’t Google or Wikipedia my questions, or jot down my thoughts (massive handicaps if you know me well). I didn’t have my apartment in NYC, or books to read, or music, or a camera. I couldn’t exercise my body, or eat meat. I didn’t have money, or at least my money was temporarily meaningless. I had no family, friends, or coworkers. And most of all, no voice. I’d maintain complete silence for almost ten days.

I’ve been back for a week now. And while those life gaps didn’t bother me at all during the retreat, you might also be surprised by my lacks upon returning home. I didn’t feel the need to shave my head and renounce my worldly possessions or join a monastery. I haven’t become a Buddhist. I wasn’t liberated from my humanly urges. I’m not changing jobs or moving out of the city or becoming celibate. I have no desire to convert you or to convince you to meditate.

And in some small way, I’m both lacking me, and have more me than ever.

In short, this isn’t “that” story, the one you might have expected reading the title. I’m writing this post to answer a few curiosities that both you and I likely share in common. Why on earth would I remove myself from reality for ten days of the hardest mental work of my life, instead of taking a real vacation? What did I discover while I was there? And how has it changed me now that I’m back?

Lesson 1: You won’t (really) learn anything from reading this post

First off, I’m probably just like you. I hadn’t ever meditated before this retreat. In fact, I could barely sit for 10 minutes of silence right before I left. I’ve never formally studied Buddhism, and I knew very little about Buddhist teachings or even this specific technique prior to getting on a plane. I’m still an extremely imperfect meditator. Sometimes I sleep in rather than practicing. My mind still wanders. I scratch my head when it itches from time to time. So don’t look to me to explain how to become enlightened or anything like that. Instead I’m just going to describe how I experienced meditation and how it’s helped me thus far.

The specific style of meditation I learned is called vipassana, which means “insight into the true nature of reality.” It was derived from the Theravada strand of Buddhism that originated in Burma, if you’re curious. It’s historically interesting in a bunch of ways and flawed in a bunch of ways. That’s about all the context that matters. So I’ll put the rest in a separate post.

Why doesn’t anything else matter? The first important (yet obvious) lesson I learned was about knowledge itself. The only real knowledge is experience. While there are three sources of knowledge: other people telling you something, reasoning through something logically, and directly experiencing something, they aren’t created equal. Even here in this post, I’m recounting my direct experience, but for you it’s just “other people telling you.” So, sad news: no matter how many times you subject yourself to reading my long-ass essay, you won’t truly “get” what I learned from vipassana. Even if you understand everything I say.

It was hard for me to write that last paragraph. The greatest delusion I’ve held in my life is that I could borrow others’ knowledge. I wanted to believe that reading others’ writing and reasoning through it constituted wisdom. And that’s a convenient interpretation for me, since I’ve practiced reading a lot. But in truth, reading-wisdom is deeply limited. The best way to know something is to do it.

And thus my answer to why I went on a vipassana retreat. It meant actually doing something hard, rather than just reading about it. For the first time ever.

Lesson 2: I hate(d) practicing

I haven’t read Ben Horowitz’ book, but to me, the hard thing about hard things has always been that I can fail at them.

When I was younger, my mom was kind enough to buy lessons for me to try out all kinds of cool hobbies. I had a couple years of baseball and soccer and dance and piano and probably ten other things I’ve since forgotten. Maybe I was good at some of them and made fast progress for a little while. But eventually, inevitably, I would fail. Everything would be going well but then I’d get the wrong note in a chord, or miss the ball, or fall flat on my face. In fact, practicing was defined by these little failure moments. So eventually I’d get fed up, and I’d tell my mom (or rather yell, in a tantrum): I hate practicing.

Why did I hate practicing? Because I hated failing. And why did I hate failing? Because it was shameful. It wasn’t mere embarrassment, like “that move was wrong,” but something deeper. It said something about me. I was wrong. I failed.

And boy did I ever hate failing. To fail was to cut against the image of myself that I’d so carefully curated in my mind and the minds of others: that things always came easily to me. That I was always in control. So after a shameful failure to pick it up in elementary school, for instance, it took me fifteen years to try learning to ride a bike again.

Practicing meditation during the retreat was a painfully obvious example of just how irrational my fear of failure could be. Imagine this: I’m sitting in a dark meditation hall, filled with fifty others who can’t make fun of me to my face or behind my back, since they can’t talk. And moreover, they must keep their eyes closed. And they’re all struggling too. Yet still, every time I had a weak moment during a meditation and had to adjust my back, my instinct was to feel ashamed. So ashamed that I wanted to get up and leave. For what?

The second big lesson is that struggle isn’t shameful. On the contrary, I learned that struggle is the definition of practice — it’s completely impersonal and doesn’t say anything about me. That’s helped me change my language around practice. Before, I might have thought “I suck at that” or “I failed at that.” But now I think, “I haven’t practiced that yet.” And that’s not euphemism. What separates greatness from fear is merely a strong determination to keep practicing (adhitthana). When I see greatness in others, similarly, I now know “they’ve practiced that a lot.”

Coming home, this helped me feel deeply energized and free to retry all the things I’ve been avoiding for all this time. This past week has been the most experimental in recent memory. And when I’m not so worried about holding up an image of “Jesse can do everything” it makes asking for help a lot easier. Whatever it is I can’t do today, I just haven’t practiced it yet.

Lesson 3: This will also change

A ten day meditation retreat was the epitome of something I could fail at. And I almost did, particularly on day four. I had a little breakdown after the full vipassana technique was revealed, and thought about leaving. But I was saved by that night’s discourse. The teacher lectured on the fundamental truth of all things: impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. That’s what convinced me to stay.

You see, the retreat itself was an example of that fundamental truth. The course was defined by its predictability. It lasted exactly ten days, and I knew that I’d be returning home from the same airport, on the same airline, on the eleventh day. And zooming in further, every subcomponent of the retreat was predictable too. Each day started with a gong at 4 and ended with me getting into bed at 9. Each meditation hour began with sitting down and ended with a chant. The whole thing was just like the first time I heard The Aristocrats — I knew exactly how it’d end… and that it’d end. All that changed is how the spaces in between got filled.

That’s precisely what vipassana teaches. Life is the same way as the retreat, the same as The Aristocrats. We know that we’re born and that we’ll die. That’s neither an optimistic nor pessimistic thought, just a real thought. And it’s a very powerful thought. Every moment begins only to end.

The vipassana technique proves this grand point of impermanence through the microcosm of your own meditation. You can literally experience moments and feelings rising and passing away by meditating.

There are two concepts to help you directly experience this impermanence. First, you learn complete awareness of your natural breath and the subtle sensations everywhere in your body that are happening at every moment. Yup, everywhere.

I’ll try to show you. Stop reading this post for a whole minute, close your eyes, breathe, and think about what you can feel in your left knee. The whole time, without moving it. Keep your attention on your knee and nothing else. Seriously. Like really really. I’ll wait.

What happened? Maybe you could feel the touch of your pants or something. Or a stinging pain. Or an itch. Or maybe you couldn’t focus on your knee. Or maybe you felt nothing. Vipassana meditation is like that, but everywhere on your body. Part by part, moving your focus around for an hour at a time. There’s no chanting “Om,” no physical yoga contortions, just you and your breath and your body. Awareness shows you that there’s always something happening right now, and if you pay attention you’ll notice it.

The second concept is maintaining equanimity in spite of whatever sensations you feel — i.e. keeping your mind completely balanced and free of any blind, automatic reactions. Our reaction patterns are so deeply ingrained that it’s hard to notice them, but they’re always present. For example, try to think back to what made you open your eyes when you were focusing on your knee just now. Maybe your head itched and you scratched it. Maybe your back hurt. Maybe you thought about whether you’d gotten a text message. Whatever it was, that thought or feeling or sound was a sensation, and you had an automatic reaction to it… by scratching the itch or looking at the phone or whatever.

By playing this ‘game’ of feeling a sensation, noticing my automatic reaction pattern, and training myself not to react that way, I learned that my reactions aren’t actually automatic. I’m responsible for how I feel, and I always have a choice. Like my back pain while sitting up straight for hours on end, no matter how extreme a sensation, it’s still impermanent. The few meditations where I chose not to react, never adjusted my back, I left feeling totally calm. A crisis might last for a few minutes, but eventually it’d go away.

That was the third big lesson – everything changes. Really, everything. No sensation or thought or feeling is permanent, and no habit of reacting to those sensations is automatic. You always have a choice of feeling the sensation but not reacting instead. You train yourself not to react by constantly repeating: anicca, anicca (“everything is impermanent”, pronounced like “anit-chah”).

Whatever is, is only right now.

Soberingly, this applies to both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. The source of all our unhappiness occurs in the instantaneous little moment after we experience any external sensation. In that moment, our default is to form an automatic reaction, regardless of whether the stimulus was pleasant or unpleasant. We crave the good stuff when we don’t have it, and want the bad stuff to go away when it’s there.

Any difference between our desired state and our current reality makes us unhappy with the present moment as it is. For instance, during a meditation, I might be experiencing pain because my back muscles have been flexed for an hour. But I don’t have to make myself unhappy by wishing they were relaxed. The source of unhappiness isn’t that external thing or that pain. It’s our automatic reaction to it. We can change by taking responsibility for our reactions.

That’s tough to put into practice outside of meditation, but I’ve seen it enter my life in subtle ways in the last week. Waiting in line when I’m in a rush doesn’t make my blood boil. I don’t curse if I miss my train. Forgetting my umbrella and walking in cold rain doesn’t make me shiver or worry that I’ll catch pneumonia. And similarly, eating that chocolate or getting some small win doesn’t make me yearn for the next one. I remind myself, painful as it can be sometimes. Anicca. Anicca.

It’s bad right now. It’s great right now. Every statement should end with right now. Things that happen aren’t happening to me, as if I’m the center of the universe. They’re just happening right now. Bad or good, this too shall pass.

The gong, for awakening
The gong, for awakening

Practicing in public

I’ve learned these lessons directly by meditating. I need to experience things for real rather than hiding behind books. It’s not shameful to struggle. And everything changes, so my reactions are my responsibility. Yet I’m also not perfect at applying them by any means. There’s still a ton of work to be done.

Case in point: it took me a few hours to write this post, but a week to start it. That’s a small symptom of a larger problem — this is my first time writing in five hundred days. It’s not for a lack of ideas, since I spent every day at the retreat imagining all the things I’d want to write about when I returned. In fact, I even cheated at one point and tried to write on day 8, only to find my pen didn’t work (hilarity ensued, ask me about my ballpoint ink extraction experiment and the flashlight). And I’ve started hundreds of posts in the last year but never brought myself to finish them.

There are plenty of excuses I could make for myself not writing this week just like all those other days. Sure, I wanted to experiment with integrating vipassana into my daily life before telling you about its benefits. Sure, I had a lot of email to catch up on. Sure, I’ve been getting up at 5am (or so) most days. Sure, it was cloudy on a few of them.

Really, my delay is my own doing, not some external thing. It was the same old fear of failure creeping up again. The truth is, I’m not a perfect vipassana meditator, or an enlightened and liberated one. Ego still gets the best of me all the time. I try to stay equanimous, but sometimes I attach myself to the outcome of becoming a great meditator. When I’m not always making what feels like progress, I feel ashamed and that leads me to avoid practicing. Same old me.

And the truth is, similarly, I’m not a perfect writer. This post is incomplete in so many ways. I didn’t get to half the points I wanted to make. Yet it’s also way too long. Fuck, most people won’t even read up to this point. They’ll give up and think I suck at writing. And the structure isn’t symmetrical. And shit, I’m still just using a WordPress default theme. How could this be my comeback after all that time away from writing?

But the truth is also that I’ve spent maybe a max of 100 hours cumulatively meditating during and after my retreat. And I’ve only published 40 posts, so maybe I’ve spent a similar amount of time blogging. I just haven’t practiced enough yet.

I’m not perfect and I want you all to hear that from me, even though imperfection is obvious and is true of everyone. That’s what I’ve learned. It’s okay that I don’t have all the answers. It’s okay that I don’t get everything on the first try (…or the twentieth — I still can’t ride a bike). I over-intellectualize. I procrastinate. I struggle.

Right now, at least. None of those things define me, and they aren’t forever. Everything changes. So consider this my 41st try at writing. It’s okay – no, exciting even – that you’re going to have questions unanswered by this post. Or that you might not have read it.

It’s about time I start practicing in public.

(But it’s also okay if I don’t sometimes, just like it’s okay if this post doesn’t end on some epic thought-provoking sentence.)

This post is part 1 of a series about my learnings from vipassana. Part 2 on more background and FAQ is here.