🌳 Introducing Samadhi City
Finding inner stillness in the chaos of everyday life
We never really encounter the world; all we experience is our own nervous system. When the mind's activity is stilled, we see life as it is.
-- Eknath Easwaran, in his commentary of the Bhagavad Gita
What is any one of us really experiencing, seeing, hearing, touching, at any given time, if not the input from our sensory organs and our brain's interpretation of them?
How our brains process incoming information is shaped by our individual genetics and years of socio-cultural conditioning. Given the same sensory input, two individuals can attach different meanings and react to the input in wildly different ways.
Whether it's someone cutting us off on the road, missing a flight, or dealing with a difficult coworker, a lot of things can happen in our daily lives that can cause frustration. Despite this, you can probably think of two people in your life who would have opposite reactions to the same circumstances. One would let the incident dictate their mood for the whole day, get worked up about it and maybe vent about it in a group chat. The other might acknowledge the situation and navigate it calmly, emotions unscathed.
Which person do you want to be?
Samadhi City is a series of articles build on the idea that through intention and practice, we can cultivate a sense of inner stillness despite the chaotic environment we find ourselves in: both in a literal sense (a physical city with its noisy crowds and heavy traffic) and a metaphorical sense (the internet with its endless stream of content competing for our attention). Instead of having to wait until our next vacation or a meditation retreat to "reset", we can start incorporating techniques to improve our resilience right now, no matter where we are and without uprooting our routines.
The goal is to explore the philosophies that have helped generations of thinkers, artists, innovators, and leaders stay focused and thrive in their craft through the ages. We look at the timeless teachings from schools of thought such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Stoicism and put them alongside contemporary anecdotes to see how we can achieve a level of inner contentment that can hardly be rocked by the difficulties that life throws our way.
Samadhi is a Sanskrit word used in Buddhism and Hinduism to mean the perfect union of the individualized soul with the infinite spirit. In scripture, this state can be attained through deep, continuous meditation. The articles that follow will dive into practical frameworks which build upon its philosophical building blocks rather than mysticism or promotion of any one school of thought.
Stillness begins with intention
How attuned are we to things that tempt us away from what we intend to be doing? To the person that has this stillness quality, any distraction gets acknowledged but discarded. The person who lets little setbacks ruin their morning, on the other hand, is holding on to the distraction and letting it take over their mind, away from what they wanted to be focused on.
Thanks to communications technologies, there is a constant stream of stimuli tugging at our sleeves for our attention. Without setting clear intentions on how you want to use the wonderful tools that the internet has given us, it can quickly feel like you have no control over this influx of requests.
Setting intentions begins with recognizing that you have a choice. You can choose to let them in and react to them as they come, or you can be intentional with it and maintain awareness of what you choose to let in and when: building a system to quickly disregard things that aren't useful, knock out the quick stuff, and set aside time for creative, deeper thought when you are ready for it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of Napoleon:
He directed [his assistant] to leave all letters unopened for three weeks, and then observed with satisfaction how large a part of the correspondence had thus disposed of itself and no longer required an answer.
Many of us feel compelled to react to an incoming message right away. If we took a step back and think about what they consist of, we’ll realize that most things aren’t emergencies. We don’t need to activate our fight or flight responses with every ping. By setting intentions and being attuned to how our brains are reacting to incoming information, we can navigate the situations at hand in a more rational manner.
The snowball effect of stillness
At first glance, it may seem selfish to put your own focus first and choose what you let in on your own time. I argue the contrary. Developing the resilience against reactionary responses makes you a calmer person to be around and a more enjoyable person to work with. You become more focused to do the productive work that moves the needle for your company or community. Your instinctive fight-or-flight energy is conserved for when the real emergencies roll around.
As you strengthen this inner stillness, the sense of calm can't help but to radiate out to your interactions with your immediate circle in the examples you set through your actions and speech. This in turn radiates out to your community and eventually society at large.
The Roadmap and Upcoming Topics to be Explored
Seeing the world through me-colored and you-colored glasses
Carving your path of least resistance through habits and thought patterns
The Shortcut Trap, when prescriptions don’t work
Reviving the Art of Conversation
No more waiting for the next backpacking trip or silent retreat. Join me in unpacking the stillness of the world’s best thinkers, leaders, and creators and see how we can find some samadhi in our days no matter where we are, no matter how chaotic life gets.
You can find me at nichanank.com and on Twitter 👋🏼
See you next week,
Big thanks to Sasha Levage, Suzan Bond, Kushaan Shah, Sachin Maini, Dan Stern, Caleb Ontiveros for reading drafts of this and their generous input.