When recently visiting Rome, my friends and I made a rule that whenever we’d walk past a church, we’d go in.
Though none of us are particularly religious; we stuck by this rule, religiously.
Upon visiting our first church, it was immediately clear that there was something sacred about these monastic spaces. Like that of the somatic-contrast experienced when moving from a sauna into an ice-cold shower; there is a jarring sensory variance when walking from the noisy, tourist-laden streets into a majestic hall of utter silence.
We wouldn’t stay in these churches for very long, yet, when we stepped back out into cacophony of honking motorbikes speeding through impossible-to-cross roads, we were no longer the people who entered that church. We were calmer. Grounded. Perusing, around Italy’s beautiful capital, held now at the waist by a loose string, with the other end tied to each of these buildings of reverence.
This is the fifth time I’ve published one of these annual collection of lessons. (Read my previous lessons here). But this time around I’ve discovered that the publication means less to me now than the transcendent state I enter as I collect and translate the quiet verities in my life - catalysed by anticipation of this yearly practice.
Provided with the opportunity to, once more, search that ever-present urge to mature, I walk around my own, inner-Rome; finding tremendous joy in staying quiet, patient, and making myself available for the eternal, creative unfolding to begin. For it’s after I simply start jotting down the few lessons that sit top of mind, that the cascade of ideas start, and I am rewarded as the sacred emerges out of the ordinary.
This yearly article is the church that intersplices my conscious experience of life. Anchored to me by rope as I enter another age. What started as a fun experiment (perhaps imbued with an immature desire to prove myself), feels now like something I can’t do without. For without this, I feel a lack of purposeful grounding. As though I am everywhere. And as Seneca points out: ‘to be everywhere is to be nowhere’.
1 - Become a social enabler. Find joy in making others centre stage, and in turn, other people’s moments, will also infuse yours.
2 - Whether its a glass of wine, a plate of pasta, a sunset, listening to music, reminiscing, or laughing; there is no denying that what is good, is far better shared.
3 - Track all the things in your week that you consider to be a ‘win’ and share them within a deep and secure friendship. Whether it’s from your work, health, or simply ideas you’ve explored, celebrating these ‘weekly wins’ with someone who wants only the best for you will provide a great, sustainable energy to propel you as you look for even more ways to win. Further still, the collaboration within your friendship will give you a chance to learn about wins unexplored in your own life, that prove to yield so much benefit in your friend’s.
4 - Refer to your closest friends as your ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’. Then, treat them as such.
5 - Even if you are not a foodie, go out and eat with one. There is something profound in seeing someone find true delight in what may have previously been an unexceptional daily activity.
6 - Always assume that what you didn’t like before, may still be up for desirable grabs. (Like cranberry juice, tonic water, and No Time To Die…)
7 - When travelling, keep an emotion diary. Whenever moved, write down the emotion along with the discovery, place, or conversation that triggered it. Whilst photos and videos take you back to a visual version of your past, this diary will serve to reveal and capture the unique feeling you actually experienced.
8 - The curious mind is infinitely rewarded. For just like with a highly detailed painting, in life, the more you look, the more you see.
9 - To arrive at a grounded truth in your tastes, you must often first travel to the extremes. Whilst the idiom ‘less is more’ is frequently thrown around in creative assessments; as artist Jacob Collier beautifully points out, “less is only more when you know what more is”.
10 - For as complicated as the word ‘love’ is, the phrase ‘work on something you love’ is spouted fairly frivolously. For those who find the advice confusing and limiting when in career troughs, turn to a different sentiment: work on something you find beautiful.
11 - Whenever you look too longingly at your past, your future momentarily loses some life. Belie the rigid patterns of the past. If you want your future to be full of magic and wonder, allow room for the idea that what is ahead of you, is unknown.
12 - Write not what you already know, write toward what you want to know.
13 - Don’t give yourself an hour to complete a task, give yourself an hour to simply focus and see how far you can get. Don’t let the pressure of having to finish, stop you from actually doing just that.
14 - In times of preparation, rather than worrying about what you are going to say or do, focus instead on who you are going to be. Decide to show up as the truest and most beautiful version of yourself, commit to that, and then relax into the present… trust that the rest will take care of itself.
15 - It seems to me that the purpose of a creative life, is to utilise the most practical form of spirituality: by unblocking that which clogs up the channels of self-expression, and finding yourself in as many moments of flow as humanly possible.
16 - Be wary of the autopilot that your mind places you in whenever you accept an offering of comfort into your life.
17 - Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. If you’ve arrived somewhere far from your core because you’ve relished in new found capabilities, sit back and think of where you want to be. Baltasar Gracián noted “a graceful retreat is as important as a brave assault”. At every stage: remain intentional.
18 - Once you’re clear about what you want, reject the rewards given to the vague ask. Learn to operate less in the grey, and attempt directness. You may get what at first appears to be less, but you open yourself up to get more in exactly what you want.
19 - “Life is a test and you pass if you can be true to yourself.” - Neil Strauss
20 - Whilst you cannot live longer; you can certainly make it seem as though you have lived longer. When exposing yourself to novelty, your brain lays down more dense memories. And by furnishing your mind’s projector room with a variety of rich, emotional film - you will have more to draw from when recalling what has just happened, or how long it has been since an event. For it’s in exactly this process of recollection, that you will perceive time to have either been filled, or to have passed you by. Note that the saying ‘the older you get, the faster time goes’ really ought to be rephrased to ‘the less novel things you try, the shorter life will seem’.
21 - Whenever I turn off my printer, it displays the message: ‘Ending… this will take a moment’. In life, whenever you decide to switch off, whether it’s from work, a workout, or social interaction, do so as the printer does: gradually.
22 - If you ever feel that you were weak in your response to a situation, sit with it for a while and really understand what specifically resulted in making you feel so. Then locate strength in the ideal reaction to that same situation in your mind’s eye. Because if you can see it, you might just be able to be it.
23 - If you can, tell your hero, that they’re your hero.
24 - Where imperfect humans might fail to live up to being the ideal role model, look instead to sculptures and paintings of abstract forms. Discover the kind of energy (rather than identity) you wish to embody.
25 - The highest form of grace is to simultaneously hold the belief that you have everything, whilst completely lacking the fear of it all being taken away. The true appreciation found in presence is gifted only to those who also embrace impermanence.
26 - Behave as though the world is your living room; and greet everyone in it.
A huge thank you to all of those whom I encountered and dissected each lesson with. I will forever appreciate your connective presence.
And to Rome, ti amo.