Picture the way a snow globe looks when you shake it. The snowflakes floating all around are your thoughts, making it difficult to see and think clearly. That’s how we live, Abby Falik explained as we discussed her annual ritual of attending silent retreats.
“After a few days of silence, it’s like the dust clears. Suddenly, I feel like I’m living above the water line…I can see clearly. I engage with my lived experience directly rather than through a veil of my perception of it…Colors are more vivid. My experiences are brighter. Very simple things stand out, like the flavor of the first bite of food or somebody smiling at me. Your senses are heightened in a way that reminds you of what it is to be fully human.”
We can all relate to Abby’s metaphor of our mind feeling like a snow globe, which is why I was so grateful to have her on the podcast to share the practices she relies on to navigate her life with clarity and conviction. From one-minute meditations to digital sabbaths and an admirable self-inquiry habit, she shares a collection of approaches we may all experiment with to tighten our grip on what matters to us, so we can intentionally dedicate our time and attention to it.
I admire Abby’s pursuit to live her most authentic life, and appreciate the way her perspective and work at Global Citizen Year help illuminate the path for us all to do the same. Here are a few excerpts I've been reflecting on from our conversation. You can hear Abby’s personal journey learning these lessons in our podcast.
On trading our addiction to achievement for lasting meaning:
“It’s easier to distract ourselves with the addiction to achievement than to ask the important questions like…
Who am I? Who do I want to become? What am I afraid of that I need to confront?
There is a thinness to the scramble. Aiming for gold stars and external recognition may give you a little boost of pride but only in the momentary sense. It doesn’t last long.
We know the difference between that and the things we do because we can’t not do them. They feel thick with meaning and purpose; Core to who we are and what we need to express in the world.
When we do things from a place of being grounded — Standing in the place that only we stand, doing the thing that only we can do, as opposed to trying to win at somebody else’s game — that is not only so much more gratifying for us, it is what the world needs.
The world doesn’t need us all scrambling towards uniform goals. The world needs more humans expressing what is unique to them.”
On tuning in, rather than out:
Abby has been unplugging every Saturday with her family for the last decade and also commits to small habits, like not using her phone in the morning or on elevators. She explains their impact…
"Unplugging allows me to plug in to the things that are real and nourishing.
When we live in this constant, forward-driven pace it becomes very hard to reflect on questions like…
What do I want in my life? What do I value most? As opposed to, where is this momentum carrying me?
The easiest thing we can do is pick up our phone.
The most important thing we can do is check in with how we are feeling, and ask:
What is feeling uncomfortable about being quiet with my own thoughts right now?”
On the power of consistency:
“Consider doing one minute of yoga and meditation every morning before anything else.
The trick is lowering the bar. You can’t rationalize yourself out of giving yourself two minutes before starting your day.
Once I sit down on my meditation cushion the hardest part has already happened, which is remembering that this time helps me be in the driver’s seat of my own experience.
For me, meditation is about meeting myself in the morning and saying:
'Here I am.
I am a human being, not just a human doing.’
“The most intimate relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves.”
On manifesting your future through feelings not outcomes:
“People write life plans like they write business plans.
When you think about your future, instead of asking what do I want to do or have?
Ask: How do I want to feel?"
On leadership and expanding your capacity for courage:
“Leadership is a practice…Of learning our questions, finding our teachers, taking the risk to leave our comfort zone — That’s where evolution happens, not in receiving a particular title or reward, but in seeing leadership as an evolution.
Courage is comfort living in the questions and recognizing that often our desire for the answer blocks us from what we are meant to learn next.”