I Like to Feel Small

By Josh Turknett MD

Principal Consultant TLG

My wife Jenny and I try to go for two walks every day – one in the morning and one in the evening. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that it has been easier to get these walks in. It is way easier to adhere to a routine when you are in lockdown.

During this time we have been able to find several wooded trails near our house that we never knew existed. I love walking through the woods. There are many reasons, but one is the fact that nature is completely unconcerned with all of the comings and goings in the human world. Nature could not care less about our 24-hour news cycle.

Walking through the woods makes me feel small. And I love feeling small. It is also why I love stargazing and views from mountaintops. However, feeling small does not mean feeling insignificant. I believe it is just the opposite.

Feeling small means feeling connected to something much larger than myself. It means recognizing the illusion of separation between myself and the universe. It means feeling a part of something far bigger than anything my mind can comprehend.

We’re all just fleeting collections of stardust, after all, inextricably linked together.
To me, the greatest insight of Buddhist philosophy is that the idea of the self – or the idea of a “me” – is the root of all suffering. And, relatedly, that the self is just an illusion anyhow.

The amount of worry and anxiety we experience is directly correlated to the amount of time we spend in our own heads, thinking about ourselves. We now have the neuroscience that supports what the Buddhists have said for eons – the self is as much a moment to moment creation of the brain as the sights, sounds, and smells it presents into our conscious awareness. Our brain works very hard to maintain this illusion.

We feel small when the self melts away and the illusion is broken, if only for a short while.

RELATED READING
If you’re interested in digging deeper into this topic, I highly recommend the book “Why Buddhism Is True,” by Robert Wright. The book was actually recommended to me by Greg, who was the first “Miracle Story” featured on the podcast.

Who knows, you might even see it as a future Migrai-Neverland book club selection! 🙂

Slay the Beast,

Dr. T

Reader Comment:

That’s a great phrase…I like to feel small. It’s why I love the beach. I like to look at the grains of sand and think that long after I am gone, this ocean and these many grains of sand will still be here and my footprint will be gone.  So why get all balled up in our worries? Life is truly fleeting and like Dr. Josh said, we are bundles of star dust. Really, it takes all the pressure away from thinking you are under control.

Bob Turknett Ph.D. Comment:

In every therapy or coaching experience that I have done, getting the person to have the insight so well-stated in your last sentence is always an underlying goal – because it’s a paradox (to gain control, you have to give up control) for all of us humans.  In fact, whenever I have gotten good results in therapy or coaching, it’s because of helping the person reframe their mental model regarding control – and relate to themselves and others in a dramatically new and different way, i.e., in a way that others easily see (and experience) the positive changes.

So, to be a most highly effective leader, spouse, or parent does require giving up that addictive need for control – or, another way to put it:  in order to have a strong sense of mastery and inner peace, that addictive need for control has to be grappled with and resolved.  And, because it is a paradox, it is one of the most (if not the most) difficult psychological issues that we all  encounter in our life (and, in most cases, throughout life).

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