Eating Knowledge, Mindframing & The Art of Productive Disagreement

PLUS: The Privilege of Being Alive, How to Transcend Regret, ‘Clinical Breathwork’ & My Most Treasured Possession

Mahalo Curious Human 👋

I recently learned that the writer Michael Montaigne imagined the act of travel as allowing us to ‘rub and polish our brains’ against those of others.

Whilst it may seem presumptuous, my hope is that these multifarious musings also take you on a mini-adventure, schmearing curiosity-evoking elbow grease to those whirring cogs of your mind (as always, any brain-polishing replies, thoughts and ponderings are most welcome here).

🏄‍♂️ What is your most treasured possession? // Two years ago I spent two weeks shaping a 7’6 single fin wooden longboard in Ericeira Portugal, and last week I rubbed the first coat of wax on the deck, screwed in the fin, attached a leash and paddled out towards the horizon… not only did she not sink but rode like a dream, flying along the face of the high tide sets, hopefully the first of many stoke-inducing waves to come!

🏔️ How to Human-ing // after many months of ecstatic flailing, clarity is finally emerging around the shape of this How to Human project. I intend to shift the central enquiry of the podcast towards ‘How might we learn to human better’ and have enthusiastically begun designing Emotional Resiliency workshops (and tentatively planning a ‘vision quest’ for startup founders).

📆 40 Days till 2020 // Our human lives tend to expand or shrink in direct proportion to both our courage and our capacity to pay deep attention in any moment. So with just over a month left of this decade, I’m feeling a renewed urgency to simplify and sink into that state of reflective hibernation—letting go of all that has passed and creating space for something new to emerge—as David Whyte would say ‘we are all compost for worlds that we cannot yet imagine’.

I’ll leave you with my new favourite journal and conversation question, as you step back from the maelstrom of your life and reflect forward into 2020:

"What feels most alive for you in this moment?"

That’s all for now folks—as always—Stay Curious Out There.


p.s. Please forward this link (or tweet) to a friend who might appreciate these musings. You can also support my enthusiastic flailing and future creations by casting a vote of confidence in my direction and becoming a Curious Humans subscriber.

Above // Taking the wooden ‘Sophie’ longboard out for a test run

🎙️ Three Nourishing & Smile-Inducing Podcast Conversations

The Curious Humans podcast is approaching 10,000 downloads and the itunes reviews that you guys have been leaving are so appreciated, I just wanted to say how much it means and fuels me to keep forging ahead!

😱 1 // Eating Knowledge & The Art of Productive Disagreement with Buster Benson

In all honesty, I’ve spent most of my life chronically avoiding conflict and had inherited a belief that conflict was never ‘productive… but after this conversation with Buster I’m starting to really shift my perspective in this area and flip my fear of conflict.

We get into the meaty questions about his new book that's hitting the shelves this week called 'Why Are We Yelling', a whimsical and disarmingly powerful case and strategy guide for ‘productive disagreement’.

Buster covers the three truths or misconceptions about arguments, why he likes to eat knowledge, he coaches me through the process of engaging in a disagreement around climate change and we talk about what he calls the voice of possibility.

Then towards the end we explore some fun ground around: Why he's writing a 'Codex Vitae', His 100th birthday plans, what death-bed points are and why he took a photo at exactly 8.36pm every day for almost a decade! This was truly one of my favourite conversations to date!

Busters new book contains some timely and powerful ideas, and if you don’t take my word for it, this is what Seth Godin thought:

“This is a life-changing book. Read it three times and then give a copy to anyone you care about. It will make things better.”

Listen Here

😲 2 // Curiosity, Grief, Wonder & The Privilege of Being Alive with Mike Slavin

This was a real honour, Mike is trained as a magician and also the CEO at 'High Existence' — a community and network of practical philosophy and for expanding human consciousness — and he's one of the most articulate and poetic people I've had the pleasure of meeting.

Mike and I riff on definitions of wonder, ambition, grief, the role of inviting in the unexpected, the difference between purpose and destiny, and so much more.

"Certainty is a bit of a misnomer, it's more of a clinging tendency to pre established worldviews often inherited from parents or the education system... when I lose certainty, I'm invited into this chance to be curious, to wonder and to explore." —Mike Slavin

Get in touch with Mike on Twitter where he cultivates wisdom & wonder @highexistence

Listen here

🧠 3 // Cultivating Curiosity, Self-Authorship & Mindframing with Anne-Laure Le Cunff

Anne-Laure is an ex-Googler, a talented writer and part-time neuroscience student. We bounce around between topics that resonated with me personally including: time anxiety, why we don't tend to take curiosity seriously as adults, a powerful technique for personal growth she's developed called 'Mindframing' and her recent decision to leave Google in order to go back to study neuroscience at Kings in London.

"Take the time to think what your own mental gym will look like. Training a few minutes a day can help you be more creative, more productive, and more resilient." – Anne-Laure Le Cunff

I would thoroughly recommend signing-up for Anne-Laure’s Maker Mind newsletter, it’s consistently one that I look forward to receiving each week!

Listen Here

Three Powerful Ideas To Ponder 🧠

🤦‍♂️ 1 // How Can We Transcend Regret?

One of my favourite people to follow on Twitter, Malcolm Ocean wrote this in-depth and vulnerable post on what he learnt about how to truly let go of regret.

The essay is centred around this koan:

“If you had a chance for a do-over, would you choose for everything to go exactly the same? If not, you have not yet surrendered.”

Would you choose this? Genuinely? I thought back to Nietzsche’s idea of ‘Amor Fati’, his formula for greatness in a human being: “That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.

This is powerful stuff. And for me it surfaces the idea that all suffering we experience—the things that don’t go the way we intended—is almost created by divine design so that we can learn the lessons that we needed to learn in this unfolding curriculum of life. What do you think??

🌬️ 2 // Exploring the World of ‘Clinical Breathwork’

The more that I have been learning and exploring this emerging (and also ancient) world of ‘breathwork’ the more fascinated I become. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I’ve been working on an IF [THIS] THEN [BREATHE] format for simple exercises that can be carried out anywhere to help cultivate focus or calm.

However, recently I’ve been diving into the world of ‘clinical breathwork’ and after several 1-1 sessions I’m becoming convinced of its potential for deep healing and lasting self-transformation (on a par with any psychedelic or plant medicine).

As this Guardian article mentions, many of us learnt to breathe in very unhealthy ways. It turns out that our subconscious breathing patterns impact our nervous system, which in turn impacts our endocrine system, changing our blood chemistry… which leads to changes in our organ function, focus, clarity and thought processes.

Not only that but the way we breathe impacts our digestion, nutrient uptake, heart-rate variability and (PHEW takes deep breath) perhaps most crucially… is a gateway into the subconscious mind and creates an opportunity for unprocessed emotions to surface and be released.

In short, it’s a freggin powerful tool that the vast majority of humans take for granted.

NB. I’m taking part in a 5-day facilitator training in Feb 2020 here in Bali (let me know if you’d like more info on this as I’d love to train with fellow curious humans!)

🍄 3 // How Do Psychedelics Actually Work?

This Aeon essay explores questions of ego-dissolution experiences and the psychedelic revolution that we find ourselves amidst.

Psychedelics have a remarkable capacity to violate our ideas about ourselves…

Stan Grof, one of the early LSD pioneers once suggested that the potential significance of psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology was comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy. The research in this area is exploding and it’s exciting that our generation gets to come along for the ride. It seems to me that there are few more important questions than understanding the nature of consciousness and this sense of ‘self’ that we all seem to be so concerned with.

‘The self itself does not exist as a persistent entity, but is a fundamental cognitive strategy… it is difficult to escape the conclusion that we have evolved into an ape that takes things personally.’

Et Cetera

💌 A poem a day

🖋️ How to write better

📝 Daily Writing prompts

😈 How to overcome your demons

🌳 Relationship lessons from trees

📝 13 Life Lessons from Brainpicker

👨‍⚕️ TED playlist for emotional first aid

🐟 Artifishal: fighting to save the salmon

🤓 Unlocking the emotional brain (deep dive)

🏫 The future of online education (twitter thread)

🤾 The war against dangerously dull playgrounds

☄️ Earth’s magnetic fields being hit by a solar storm

🍄 Trip report from a mushroom ceremony in Amsterdam

💰 The difference between wealth and prosperity (podcast)

🎙️ My conversation with happy startups on decision making

👨‍🎓 Tentative curriculum for psycho-technologies of self-transformation

Parting Poem 📝


You are not the author
Of this life.
But a willing scribe,
Taking grateful dictation.
You must learn to pay attention 
as each word emerges.
Like a stepping stone,
Into the great mystery.
Look up and 
Gaze in rapture,
As the story
Unfolds before you.

The Maker's Dilemma, TEDx Ubud & An Antidote to ‘Total Work’

PLUS: Do You Even Meditate, Bro? The Fed-Ex Letter Hack and a Conversation with a Remarkable Afghan Refugee

Ahoy Curious Friends 👋

🤔 The Maker’s Dilemma // A couple of weeks back, I received an unexpected call from a friend back in London. The unexpected catch-up call ended with an even more unexpected job offer. This is the story of how I navigated that decision making process between heading back to London for a dreamy full time role or keep hacking through the unknown wilderness of side-projects here in Bali?

🌴 TEDxUbud: Why Talk about Grief to 500 People? // Over the last two years since Sophie passed, I’ve experienced powerful, embodied moments of joy and aliveness, felt deeper connections forged with friends and family and received truly immense gifts from leaning into the grieving process. Here are some short reflections on my TEDx talk.

👨‍🎓 If [This] Then [Breathe] // Over thirty of you curious humans have signed up to be guinea pigs for the online course that I’m building, thank you! That's enough of a signal for me to begin making it! (psst… reply to this email with ‘I’m Curious’ to learn more and potentially join the first cohort)

📝 Journal Prompt // There are exactly eighty days left of 2019, and with that in mind, I’ll leave you with the question that my wise housemate Danielle asked me as I was navigating the job decision mentioned above and invite you to take a moment to close down your eyes and feel into whatever arises:

“Imagine feeling into a space of abundance, you have all of the time, resources and credibility that you need, forget all scarcity: where do you see yourself and what would you be working on?”

Stay Curious Out There,


p.s. Please forward this link (or tweet) to a friend who might appreciate these musings. You can also support my enthusiastic flailing and future creations by casting a vote of confidence in my direction and becoming a Curious Humans subscriber.

Left: preparing to talk at TEDxUbud to an audience of 500 + twice as many mosquitoes // Right: Plotting dreams for 2020 in Yoshino, Japan during a StudioD FOCUS retreat (Photo Credit: Craig Mod)

🙋‍♂️ Eight Ideas Worth Sharing…

🌎 1 // My Conversation with an Afghan Refugee

One of the TEDx Ubud speakers was a remarkable 20 year old called Abdullah Sarwari. Four and a half years ago his family came to Indonesia to seek refuge, where he then realised that they weren’t allowed to work or study here (there are 14,000 refugees in Indonesia alone).

After the talk he told me the story of how there were professional ‘smugglers’, officials open to bribes and how at every point in their journey they were both relying on the kindness of strangers but also liable to being exploited, not having any rights recognised in Indonesia. Along with his sister he also started a school that provided free education to over 300 refugee children.

It was a shot of perspective about both how fortunate most of us are to have the passports we do in the west and how much important work there is to be done to create universal basic human rights, regardless of where people are born.

☕ 2 // How to Get Coffee Meetings with 50 Fortune 500 CEOs

One of the most interesting humans I met in Japan was an enigmatic Harvard Business Professor who wrote a book about White Collar Crime, interviewing 50 corporate execs (from the Enron fraudsters to McKinsey inside traders and the likes of Bernie Madoff).

I cheekily asked if I could be his ‘research assistant’ so that I might get an email address as well, enabling me to also get in touch with famous people. He laughed and said that that wasn’t his approach…

Instead for each exec, he printed out a short letter requesting a call at their earliest convenience, which he sent by the most expensive urgent $200 Fed-Ex delivery so that when it landed on their assistant’s desk the following morning at 7am, they would immediately hand it on to the busy CEO thinking it to be of extreme importance.


🧘‍♂️ 3 // Do You Even Meditate, Bro?

On of my favourite online writers Oshan Jarow, wrote this thoughtful and poetic post titled: ‘Why I Meditate’, exploring his relationship with cultivating stillness.

Whilst coaching friends and family in meditation, the question of ‘why do it’ and motivation inevitably comes up over and over again, albeit in different forms.

Of course, there are the numerous scientific studies revealing health benefits—high achievers pointing to meditation as giving them a mental edge, talented creatives surfacing deep insights through sitting practice and many more who have healed and processed trauma from getting to know their own minds.

But I love the non-instrumental perspective that Oshan takes; framing attention as art:

"I meditate because attention is my art form. I’d even wager that much of what we call art — paintings, novels, poetry — are secondary, byproducts of rarefied attention. Attention, then is the primary art form."

🏢 4 // Antidotes to ‘Total Work’: The Way of Wonderment (WW) & the Way of Loss (WL)

I have been diving into the thoughtful essays of the practical philosopher Andrew Taggart and recently asked him how he thinks about conveying the essentiality of stillness and silence to those who are deep in the ‘Total Work’ mindset.

Our twitter exchange led to this post of his ‘Coming To The Other Side Of Total Work’ which I thoroughly recommend reading. Here’s a teaser:

“Yet it is life that, through some event, is the best teacher, life that may split one open, life that can provide the aptest pointer… It is necessary for him to experience an opening, a rupture. If he does, he shall soon discover that the opening is only the beginning. Through the portal lies the Mystery.”

🖥️ 5 // Email Apnea & Why ‘Take a Deep Breath’ is Bad Advice

As you’re reading (or perhaps skimming) this newsletter, ask yourself: how is your breath? Is it shallow and in your chest?

If you are like the vast majority of smartphone tapping humans then the answer is yes, and you might even be holding your breath—a phenomenon known as ‘email apnea’ defined as:

Holding one’s breath unconsciously while reading an email.

So many of us do it and it keeps our bodies in a state of low-level stress or anxiety as opposed to slower diaphragmatic (belly) breathing which is a cue to calm and relax. I have been devouring everything breath-related in recent weeks—from peer-reviewed journal papers to several thousand year old yogic literature—and I have learnt so so much that has real practical value (hence why I feel compelled to create an online course).

For the TEDx talk I gave last weekend, had I followed the traditional advice of ‘taking deep breaths’ to calm down, this actually would have activated my sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and would have led to my feeling even more nervous before the talk.

(related: CO2 isn't a waste gas. It's responsible for red blood cells releasing 02 into our cells... when we soften our breathing more 02 gets to the cells)

Instead, I practiced 10 minutes of alternate nostril breathing (I call this ‘Dim Hof’), in through the left for a count of 5, then out through the right for a count of 10 and a short pause after the exhale.

I could literally feel my heart rate slowing down in my chest and a wave of calm washed over me, conveniently moments before I was called to step out into the big red dot on-stage.

❣️ 6 // Our Cuckoo Clock Hearts

There is a quirky animated film that I watched many years ago called Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. I watched it several times, but I don’t think I fully understood the message until recently.

Jack the protagonist was born on the coldest day ever. Due to the extreme cold he is born with a frozen heart which will not beat. But the attendant midwife saves his life by replacing his heart with a fragile yet functioning cuckoo clock.

But she tells him three rules to prevent his untimely death: he must never play with the hands of the clock, lose his temper or fall in love.

The final scene (sorry, spoiler) has Jack throw away his key, choosing to feel love even though he risks death doing so.

I think I realised that we're all Jack—when we love what death can touch, it will explode our heart, but that’s the point.

Maybe, that’s why we’re here.

🍂 7 // If Trees Acted Like Humans

You would see them reaching down with their branches and raking up all the leaves to hold onto them for security. Wouldn’t you feel bad if you saw the trees doing this, holding all their leaves to themselves as if they were in an existential crisis?

This is our tendency as humans, to pick up the pieces of our fallen identities, beliefs and theories—holding on for dear life. What if instead we let it all go, trusting that Spring will arrive in due course.

📝 8 // Advice For Starting Out on Creative Projects

Whilst trying to find a suitable starting point for the How to Human project, I reached out to a wise mentor, who generously replied with this wisdom that I wanted to share—as a reminder to both myself and any of you who may find yourselves at the beginning of a new creative endeavour:

“What I can say to you is that I started with one idea and everything else emerged. And perhaps you can work with your fear by realizing you don't have to start with a complete complex vision. You need to know where and how you want to begin, or what comes next out of what you're doing now, and make THAT happen. It's worked for me/us to let the project be emergent as a matter of principle."

🧠 Et Cetera

🦇 Bats argue (a lot)

😂 A million nameless joys

😺 Real life Schrödinger's cat

🐘 Elephant-assisted backflip

🐝 Wasps are mind-controllers

🐙 Watch an octopus dreaming

🌳 How and why to do nothing

📝 Good advice from storytellers

🏄‍♂️ The surfer’s secret to happiness

👨‍🎓 Rise of The Intellectual Deep Web

🎻 A midsummer morning adventure (video)

🎵 Canon in D performed on rubber chicken

🍄 How psychedelics create the Overview Effect

📚 Curiosity depends on what you already know

🕷️ Spiders fly hundreds of miles using electricity!

🧠 Our brains use attention filters, not a spotlight

📛 Why 'taking a deep breath' is bad advice (podcast)

💬 Gaining perspective through untranslatable words

🤝 50 ways to be stupendously generous (more ideas here)

🎨 Would you make your art if you were the last person on earth?

📝 Parting Poem

The Shadow

What is the question,

you are scared to ask?


Tell me of the shape

That your shadow casts.


You must turn around,

Seek your seeker.


Find the courage

To meet it's gaze,

And speak its true name.

The Joyful Absurdity of Existence


Kon'nichiwa (こんにちは) from Kyoto 👋

🇯🇵 Less than 12 hours ago I landed in the home of geisha, tea ceremonies, kimono and 2,000 temples. Already, I love the juxtaposition of it’s calm stillness with the endearing earnestness of the people. I’m giddy with intrigue to explore this Shinto universe, the zen gardens, onsen and seemingly entirely new ways of orienting in the world (I also have no clue what I ate for dinner last night but it was delicious).

🤯 But in the meantime, I could not be more enthused to share this mindmeld of a podcast conversation with you. I've been listening to Cory's podcast the Astral Hustle for years now. As well has being one of the deepest thinkers I’ve come across— I tend to think of him as the Alan Watts of the 21st century.

🔥 This conversation with Cory really lit me up. We bounced between the role of humour in spiritual exploration and what he calls the 'upside of impermanence':

"To have that level of understanding about consciousness or being you must inherently have the same, you must have a grow sense of humor about it because like that level of macro comprehension is not possible without seeing the absurdity of it all and in the natural elicited response from that is laughter."

📝 We also dive into some of the more practical aspects of meditation—how it changes the way we experience the world and allows us to get out of our own way and begin to author our own future:

"The fragments of the self that are shattered you know the different pieces of you that exist within they’re the broken pieces of the mirror that been through the meditation or through creating the space they have the space to start to reconnect into one singular piece of mirror of yourself so that you can look into it and quote-unquote reflect and then begin to understand what you are and then begin to author your future."

📚 We didn't have time to cover it in this episode but Cory has a background in music and produces Binaural Beats, which I've been using daily for the last few months to both meditate and focus at work. You can find these, as well as the lowdown on his superb new book 'Now is the Way' – which is available as of today over at 

🎧 You can find our full conversation by searching for Curious Humans in any good podcast player or clicking the play button above. The full transcript is also available on Medium here.

❤️ If you enjoy this conversation or if these updates bring any joy to your days please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend who might also enjoy it, or you can become a supporter of all things Curious Human by clicking below.

🙏Thank you. I appreciate you.

Tiago Forte on Intuition, Breathwork & What it Feels like to Have a Second Brain


What is this Jonny, two emails in three days?!?

Don’t worry… consider this is less of a multi-course feast and more of a bite-size, snackable morsel in the form of the latest curiosity-inducing podcast episode—which is one of my favourite conversations to date with productivity polymath Tiago Forte.

🤯 We had a wide-ranging conversation on everything from the connection between external brains & intuition... to Tiago's experiences using meditation & breathwork to process anger and a vision for one day building a new type of school in Brazil.

🍄 You wouldn’t imagine that productivity systems and psychedelics usually pair well in a conversation, but it turns out that they do!

❓ Tiago's parting question for you was: "What would you do if your freedom and pleasure were essential to the freedom and pleasure of the world?"

🎧 You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, and now directly from this email in the player above thanks to the Substack wizards. Enjoy!

Listen on itunes

📝 You can also find a full transcript of the conversion here

🤔 Tiago is one of the most interesting people I follow on Twitter and I would encourage you to do the same if you spend time in the Twitterverse.

🙏 I’m so grateful to those of you who have already left a rating + review over on iTunes. As I’m mustering up more courage to invite future curious humans onto the show, these ratings + reviews really make a big difference for enticing more interesting people to join.

Leave a Review

The Opposite of Distraction isn't Focus

PLUS: Life Philosophies, The Emergence of a Sensemaking Tribe and Why Our Brains are Wired to Deny Mortality

👋 Mahalo Curious Adventurer

It always brings me joy sitting down to write these newsletters. I think I figured out (one of many) reasons why—the process of assembling my thoughts creates a common thread amidst the enthusiastic flailing of what can feel like disjointed days—this coherence-making is like a life raft for a perpetually curious mind, or perhaps like a conductor to bring rogue soloing musicians into the same key.

👨‍🎓Deep Work Bootcamp // I’m officially building a course! It’s going to be an online bootcamp teaching breathwork + meditation energy management techniques alongside deep work rituals for remote workers. The curriculum is still mostly in my head but if you’d be interested in becoming indistractible please reply with the words: ‘I’m Curious’. Or if you know anyone who might appreciate being a guinea pig for this please forward on this email.

🎙️Casting Pods of Joy // Excitement for podcasting is at an all-time high. I’ve recently posted two great episodes: with NASA astronomer Kevin Hainline and 12-year old eco-fashion founder Hanalei Swan, with many more compelling conversations in the pipeline.

TEDx Countdown // It’s officially too late to back out of my TEDx Ubud talk in October, although my friend Arthur is kindly helping me commit it to memory using mnemonics and good old fashioned index cards.

🙋‍♂️ How to Human // I’ve begun drafting a book proposal (an intimidating process) but in all honesty, my sense is that it feels like this project wants to become a podcast (at least initially). So I’ve started exploring funding model possibilities and reaching out to potential podcast networks—if you have any ideas or suggestions along these lines please do let me know.

📝Recent Interview // I was interviewed here by Tomas Lau and enjoyed the process because… well it's always flattering to be asked, but mostly because it's a chance to reflect on important questions like 'What’s one question that helped you understand the world better?' Or 'How do you manage time?'

🇯🇵Japan Explorations // I’m counting down the days until my first trip to Japan, exploring Nara, Osaka and Kyoto with fellow Curious Human and good friend Paul Millerd. So if you consider yourself a Japanophile, please do share any recommendations for us in any of these places.

I’m typing these words in-between freedives, so if the content below in this particularly newsletter deviates off-key more than usual… let’s just blame the oxygen deprivation.

As always, stay curious out there!


p.s. Curious Humans *almost* has 1,000 subscribers. Not that I’m motivated by such arbitrary numbers... but I can't deny my OCD tendencies and one-thousand-readers would bring disproportionate satisfaction. So please forward this link (or tweet) to a friend who might appreciate these musings.

Two New Podcast Episodes 🎙️

#009 // Life Lessons from 12 year Old Conscious Fashion Entrepreneur Hanalei Swan 🧒

Hanalei is a conscious designer, international speaker and world traveller... and she's just turned 12. Most kids are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Hanalei was asked:

“What do you want to be now?”

This question changed her perspective on what she could do at such a young age, and instead of thinking she had to wait to become a fashion designer until she was 20 or 30, she decided to do it now and started designing at the age of 7 years old. If you ask me, our future is in good hands... it's the 'grown-ups' that have the catching up to do!

Listen to Hanalei

#010 // Astronomy as a Lens to Understand Yourself with Kevin Hainline 🔭

This was one of those spontaneous conversations that made me feel grateful for having started a podcast… it was with NASA astronomer Kevin Hainline, recorded sitting next to a stream up in the Spanish pyrenees.

We went completely off the deep end and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that he changed the way I look up at the night sky and sent me into a rabbit hole of researching how different cultures around the world tell stories about the constellations they see. Here’s a sense of what to expect:

"The stars are a set of templates that we put our own hopes and fears and non understandings and stories on and it’s really fun to find the ones that cultures that never talked with each other because they were separated by vast distances had the same thing."

Listen to Kevin

Seven Ideas Worth Contemplating 💡

1 // The Opposite of Distraction Isn’t Focus 🤦‍♂️

The opposite of distraction is intention. And sometimes your intention might be to say go for a walk and deliberately allow your mind to wander. And that’s okay!

Many of you will have come across the term ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport’s philosophy of removing distractions and carving out uninterrupted hours of focused output.

But the reality is that our mind sends more internal notifications (also called thoughts) than Email, Twitter and Slack combined (approximately 50,000 of them daily).

So the real challenge for prolonged states of creative ‘deep work’ is training our awareness to not be pulled from our intentions.

Susan Sontag believed she had 'attention surplus disorder’. The more I dig into this subject the more I feel that it is almost foundational to everything else and in my experience the reward of meditation practice has been exactly that ‘attention surplus’ which leads to a greater depth across all areas of life.

I believe that the quality of our life experience increases in proportion to our capacity for delight, and our capacity for delight increases in proportion to our quality of attention. Therefore, consciously working on the quality of our attention, like a muscle to be trained, is one definitive way to enhance our experience on this planet.

2 // Our Brains are Wired to Deny Our Mortality 💀

From the ancient Stoic ‘memento mori’ skulls and Ernest Becker’s writing on the ‘Denial of Death’ to more recently Tim Urban’s ‘Tail-end’ post and a multitude of Death Clock chrome extensions reminding us of how many days we '(likely) have left on the planet. In my opinion, one of the most powerful sentences in the entire Buddhist canon is:

“Death is certain. Its time is not. What to do?”

Yet it seems as if – in order to gain perspective on what truly matters – our brains need constant reminders of our own mortality.

So I was fascinated to find this paper on how the brain is wired to shield us from existential threat,which essentially demonstrates for the first time a ‘plausible neural-based mechanism of death-denial’.

3 // You Have Three Brains 🧠

At least according to the Australian aboriginal tribe who assert the belief that we have three brains: one in the stomach area, one in the heart area and of course the one we have in the head.

An octopus has decentralised vertebrate brains, and our hearts and stomachs are formed in the womb before the head… so this isn’t such an out there idea.

But the two lower brains tend to get far less airtime. The challenge for the Aborigines is to create balance and greater awareness between these three centres.

It turns out that our state of wellbeing (and brains) is largely influenced by the largest nerve in our body: the vagus nerve, and there is an increasing amount of science showing the remarkable connections between how emotions change the physical shape of our heart and the physiological benefits of heart / brain coherence.

So perhaps the challenge for us always-on, phone-addicted apes is to build external brains and meditation practices that clear away mental clutter and enables deeper wisdom or insight to emerge.

4 // A Better Way to Treat Wrong-doers ❤️

I came across a moving perspective on life practiced by an African tribe whose birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.

That’s already interesting, but then when this happens, the woman goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come.

When the child is born into the tribe, the entire village community learn the song of that child. It is sung through rites of passage or as a way of honouring that child in times of celebration. But this is what I found most powerful:

If at any time in that child’s adult life they commit a crime or act from a place of anger, then that individual is called into the centre of the village where the entire community forms a circle around them. They then sing their song to them.

Wow. Clearly there are implications here for the way that we in the west treat those who have committed crimes, but I’m more interested in how we punish ourselves when we slip up.

When one of our aspects of self acts out of line – maybe we respond in anger shouting at someone, or maybe we fall short of our own high expectations – what if instead of beating ourselves up (the equivalent of the punishment model) we could instead sing our own song, and remind each other of who we truly are, and that these cycles of forgetting and remembering are part of the human curriculum.

5 // Have You Defined a Philosophy of Life? 🤔

You might not think of yourself as a philosopher. But you still have a philosophy of life. This is what essayist Andrew Taggart makes the case for:

“The crux at the heart of this approach is that the unexamined life entails not knowing oneself in a very real sense.

The point is that if we don’t explicitly examine our driving beliefs and have introspective practices then there’s a good chance we’re still living life in default mode. My most recent podcast guest Tiago Forte, shared how he stumbled into his own practical philosophy that can be summarised as one of servant hedonism.

Perhaps most impressively, Curious Humans reader Buster Benson, has created his own ‘Book of Life’, which is essentially an operating manual for his personal belief system (I’m also excited for his upcoming book on productive disagreements).

Finally, Stoicism is also seeing a revival in recent years I believe precisely because it offers a practical philosophy to orient ourselves in an increasingly uncertain and chaotic world.

NB: For those of you looking to cultivate a bit more more self-reflection, my friends at Holstee have just launched this thoughtful Reflection App that I’ve been beta-testing and enjoying immensely 💯📱

6 // #GameB: A Sensemaking Tribe Emerges 🌎

Rumi once wrote:

'Sit, be still, and listen, because you're drunk and we're at the edge of the roof',

This feels like where many of us are at personally and collectively (if you're brave enough to follow the news).

Beneath the surface noise, there has been a movement growing – seeded in a handful of podcasts and now coming together as a tribe on Twitter and elsewhere under the umbrella of ‘sensemaking’. It’s an exciting corner of the internet that I’ve been following, mostly via the Rebel Wisdom and Future Thinkers podcasts, but now seems to be picking up real momentum.

At first glance the conversation around what’s known as #gameb can feel dense, inaccessible and frustratingly slippery but it’s worth investing some time into because to me at least, it feels like a very thoughtful group of people are asking what it might look like to navigate the convergence of meta-crises facing our planet today and how we could possibly transition into what Charles Eisenstein calls a ‘story of interbeing’.

For the best primer on this sensemaking world, I’d recommend listening to either this conversation with Jamie Wheal on the Future Thinkers podcast, or this Rebel Wisdom intro video to their new series on ‘Collective Intelligence’.

And for those of you interested in going deeper, there is a shared Google Doc here listing some of the sensemaking concepts / resources and if you want to go down a deep #gameb rabbit hole click here.

7 // Give Up Your Seven Most Treasured Things 😨

Re-acquainting myself with some of Joseph Campbell’s writing I came across what he described as one of the most interesting experiences of his life. He tells the story of how two professor friends facilitated a ritual that begin with asking:

‘What are the seven things for which you feel your life is worth living?

Then you were to gather seven little objects, small enough to hold in your hand that represented each thing.

That evening, the small group which included Joseph, made their way down a wooded road to the mouth of a dark cave. At this entrance was a man wearing the mask of a dog (representing Cerberus at the gates of hell).

Cerberus put out his hand and said, ‘Give me that which you least cherish’.

Which Joseph did and then proceeded through an enormous cave, along the way being asked to surrender the remaining six treasured objects one by one, and wrote about how the order by which he chose them was revelatory.

I intend to write more about this, but there’s something that feels immensely potent in this ritualistic ‘de-attaching’ of yourself to these things (both physical and psychological) that reminds you that your sense of joy and connection isn’t contingent on anything external, and paradoxically frees you to love and appreciate them even more deeply.

Et Cetera

😲 10X Time

🎈 Balloon obsessions

📆Calendar scaffolding

😴 The Dim Hof method

😃From FOMO to JOMO

👨‍🏭Sought after jobs in 2025

👵 How to be a good ancestor

🥗 The future of food is indoors

📚City bookstores per 100,000 people

🚆 Commute Noise pollution visualised

📝 Mark Manson’s Take on Vulnerability

👨‍🏫 The High Existence Podcast Playlist & PhD

🎧 Heartfelt meditative story with Krista Tippet

🧠 Why we genuinely only use 10% of our brains

🌎 Remote Work is here to stay + scripts to make the leap

👑 Glorious return of the internet’s most loved philosopher king

Parting Poem 📝

Stars combust,
Planets arise
Oceans form
A whale sings
Hazel saplings
Braving winter,
Cannot fathom 
The sweetness of Spring.
New life unfolds
Midwifed by spirit
Into this lineage of 
impossible happenings.

Wow, you made it to the end… if you’re feeling a little more curious than before, consider supporting my projects to join the growing league of curious human subscribers and get access to bonus content below.

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