DO Talk to Strangers

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents told you not to talk to strangers? After all, the world is a big, scary, and dangerous place, right?

These protective, well intended rules become ingrained habits that limit our happiness and success as an adult.

In the past few months, I’ve made it a point to talk to anyone I come across whether it’s in an elevator, waiting in line, or even on the street.

Two weeks ago, I started chatting with a beautiful woman who recently arrived to Washington DC for the summer. I actually stopped her on the street and began a conversation. This past weekend, I had brunch with her and was happy to show her around the town. It’s tragic how many foreigners come to America hoping to get the “American experience” but end up never befriending any Americans.

Yesterday, I struck up a conversation with a Turkish lady in the Psychology section of a bookstore. It turned out we had read all the same books and had the same worldview. The interaction only lasted a few minutes, but I got some valuable insights into where to travel in Turkey and always enjoy meeting a kindred spirit.

Last year, when I first moved to Washington DC, I often felt lonely and socially isolated. Mostly because I had just come out of college and was used to 24/7 social interaction. But, these days, I usually meet at least one unique and interesting person every time I step outside my home. Now, I never feel like I must see friends now because my social needs are satisfied.

So, go out and talk to a stranger today.

The Year of Challenges

peter park year of challenges and trials

When I was a graduate student, I didn’t like how others would say, “You’re still in school” as if somehow I was on vacation or not working as hard as everyone else. Mind you, I was also working as a teaching assistant and still had my old computer tech job so I was easily pushing a 40+ work week.

Now that I’ve graduated though, there is a subtle difference.

Pushing myself to grow is completely on me now. There’s no longer an external, judging force of professors, grades, and applications hanging over me pushing me to learn or grow.

At my job, I’ve been there for five years so the intial learning curve has been well passed.

All my past activities like improv classes and doing trapeze were ways of exploring new activities and expanding my horizions. But, they weren’t my passion or my focus. Maybe interests I would like to eventually develop further at best.

But, I do have a few projects in mind for this year that would radically alter my future. I’m investing the bulk of my time, energy, and my life savings into these projects. High risk, high reward. The one thing I will not accept is living a mediocre life. Not only because I know that my potential has yet to be reached but because it’s an insult to all of those people in less fortunate circumstances. I did not have a fairy tale childhood, but the very fact that I have all my limbs, have an American passport, and not drowing in debt means I have more opporunities than the vast majority of the world.

The Year of Challenges is June 2010 – June 2011, my journey to radically grow and succeed in the areas I identified as most important to me at the present moment. However, I’m not going to reveal what exactly I’m doing quite yet.

Look, it’s not in my nature to be mysterious, but I can’t talk about it, and I can’t talk about why.

Most of my close friends know what I’m doing although the details are likely unknown.

In short, I’m quite busy despite being finished with graduate school (did I ever get my diploma?). Once I start building momentum and success, I’ll start writing updates….maybe.

Post Meditation Bootcamp Thoughts

Hello world, I returned to civilization on Sunday, May 30th after 10 days of grueling meditation.

I’m still at a lost for words on how to encapsulate the experience or what lasting impact meditation will have on my life. So, here’s a list of lessons I learned.

  • It was a Bootcamp, not a mere class or vacation retreat

When I tell people I’m going to a meditation retreat, they sometimes respond, “oh, I wish I could go; I could use some time to get away and relax.” Let me tell you, the experience is no walk in the park. Sitting 10 hours per day with 1 hour periods of not moving at all is hard work. Sometimes, the sittings were the hardest pain I ever had to work through. But you only get past things by going through them.

  • Casting Unwarranted Stereotypes on Others

I arrived on the second day when silence was already in effect. So, I didn’t get to talk to the other students until the course was over. Although, I did not know anything about them, my mind quickly started judging everyone. The human mind naturally does this to simplify and categorize experience thereby giving an appearance of control. I had to laugh and stop myself a few times realizing that I was absolutely hating on someone without knowing anything about them.

  • “Wisdom is your eyes, but Faith is your legs”

Growing up from a Catholic background, I always had difficulty with the idea of faith. In my younger days, I was an ardent rationalist and cared about knowledge and wisdom over blind faith. Over the years, I’ve continually reconciled myself with Christianity. However, this quote (although I heard it before) struck a chord with me. A wise man may know the entire path, but if he lacks faith then he will not take a single step. A man of faith without wisdom may go running but can easily fall off the path without wisdom. In general, this truth applies to any aspect of life besides just religion. For example, applying to graduate school or starting a business requires a great deal of knowledge, but also trust and faith that you will succeed. Nothing in life is 100%.

  • The second time is never as enjoyable as the first time

Whether it’s food, movies, or meditation bootcamps, the second time is never as pleasurable as the first time. However, I do appreciate the experience more and believe I learned more deeply the second time around. But my delusions of how great the experience is were shattered. The entire experience was a cycle through heaven and hell every day. Thankfully, more heaven and less hell as time went on.

  • So, what now?

I’m trying my best to get a solid 2 hours of meditation every day. But, there’s no magic powers or supernatural experiences happening nor am I seeking them out. Really, meditation is just about becoming more focused and aware of oneself and one’s surroundings. At the same time, it’s training for equanimity to the ups and downs of life. On the most basic level, the practice of meditation is a mental exercise to keep a healthy mind. But vipassana meditation  goes further to radically transform the mind by continually purging out negative aspects and habits like greed, attachment, or hatred. Meditation also helps me hear that genuine small voice within me that knows whether I’m on the right path or not rather than getting lost in a sea of voices from advertising, family expectations, peer pressure, instinctual fears, and so on.