The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt | Book Report

I first heard of this book in the spring of 2014 when a writing mentor of mine, who serves as a book reviewer for the New York Times, lauded it as one of Donna Tartt’s greatest works. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, took 11 years to write. 

As I read, my attention was effortlessly pulled into the downward-spiraling life of its narrator, Theo Decker. Tartt was able to give his voice as much authenticity as if she had been reading his journal pages, presenting his narrative in a harrowing quality reminiscent of Karl Ove's autobiographical series.

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Dubliners by James Joyce | Book Report

It seems that every Irish person I've met possesses the gift of gab. Perhaps it's their endearingly playful accent, with the ending of every phrase punctuated by an inviting rise in tone, or the way in which even their most simple recollections are orated like epic tales. In poetry, song, and novel, they are a nation of storytellers and mystics. And being that I've always been intrigued by Irish culture, in which I have some ancestry, I have been meaning to read more from its own writers, both past and present.

To begin, I dusted off James Joyce's Dubliners and dove right in.

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In My Own Way by Alan Watts | Book Report

Watts' way of storytelling and philosophizing is hilarious and smart. He discusses noetic ideas in a lighthearted way that invites everyone, from all walks of life, to feel welcomed into a conversation. His playful inquisitiveness allowed me to sift through some major existential questions from a posture like that of a curious child rather than a serious intellect.

In reading this autobiography, it's clear that Watts' life was driven by relentless introspection paired with an indulgent quest after the essence of existence – he was an Anglican priest, a professor, a prolific writer and lecturer on Zen Buddhism, and a self-proclaimed shaman – yet as he recalled the many characters who played major roles in his own formation – many of whom were famous artists, writers, and philosophers, like Aldous Huxley, Krishnamurti, and Carl Jung – I was reminded that the journey into love and an expansive understanding of existence is always informed by our relationship with others.

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A series of questions, Pt. IV: How do we be?

Dear Reader,

When I traveled to the monastery in 2014, I shouldered a burden with me. Even now, with feelings of shame, I must admit that I’ve continued to carry it. Yes, it’s still here, arriving as an accusing whisper beneath my thoughts, demanding that I show how well I stewarded the experience of three months in a spiritual sanctuary – How are you going to better serve the world now? You had time for you, now what are you going to do for everyone else? etc. I assume that the voice is mine, but admitting as much would mean full capitulation into its trap. It can’t be. Somehow, somewhere along the lines of my conditioning, I’ve come to believe that the worth of my life is contingent on what I do. And while I pray that’s not true, it feels like it down to the marrow in my bones.

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Speed counseling | Integration Pt. IX

The room buzzed with nervous excitement. Over 100 of us circled up in two rows of chairs that faced each other to engage in a series of counseling sessions in a format we’d never used before. One row would play the role of clients as the row opposite would serve as their counselors for five different six-minute sessions. After the six minutes was up with one counselor, a new one would shift over to resume the session wherever it had left off, and the six-minute clock would start again.

It was just like speed dating...except that all attempts to impress the person opposite us were thrown out the window.

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Rehumanizing the "other"

Morning: SoMa, San Francisco

I barely noticed him in my periphery standing at an ATM machine. It was nearing 7am and in my sleepiness I assumed he was getting finances in order before showing up to work a bit earlier than his tech-employed coworkers. I hastened my steps to appease my addiction to caffeine, which I fix daily at a Philz Coffee near Giants stadium.

The streets were surprisingly quiet this morning. On most days there are construction crews already jackhammering slabs of street into rubble and tractors beeping in perpetual reverse. But this morning was different, and I was enjoying the city in an uncharacteristically quiet state when the man from the ATM shouted from just a few feet behind me.

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Bringing ideas into reality | Making Rambles

A little over one month ago

I was venting frustrations to my partner about how so many of my writings, specifically my poems, were in journals gathering dust.

"The whole point," I said, "of writing for hours each day was to create a bountiful batch of writing options to choose from for when it came to time to compile them into a book." 

"Will they ever live in a book?" I worried aloud. 

At that point, as often happens when longing approaches a ledge, I was visited by an idea so energizing that it made me stand up out of my seat:

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Be Kind to Yourself | Week Three at Stanford's CCARE

Imagine going into your workplace and calling one of your coworkers over for a chat.

You begin to tell them, in a flustered and frantic way, that they have a lot to do today, more than they’ll be able to accomplish even if they were at their most focused and efficient best. You tell them that they probably shouldn’t have managed their time so poorly the day before. And that they should feel ashamed of how they manage their time in general. You tell them that they aren’t carrying their weight, or doing things as well as they could be done. You tell them that, though they may be doing all they can, it’s never enough.

Without waiting for a reply, you end this conversation by giving them a look of disappointment and shooing them off to go redeem themselves by working harder and not messing up.

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Loving Kindness Meditation | Week Two at Stanford’s CCARE

I turned left onto a main road and merged into the flow of traffic. Quickly, I realized that I would need to be making a right turn in the not-so-distant future. I signaled to change lanes and, instead of slowing to let me merge, or speeding forward to make space, the man beside me honked his horn and flipped me off. I reflexively called him an asshole.

This all happened during the commute to my second week of Compassion Cultivation Training at Stanford, which was focused on loving kindness meditation. It turns out that I, and other drivers, would greatly benefit from engaging in this meditative practice more often.

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