An Open Letter: 31 March 2019

This is your weekly open letter from me, Berin Kinsman. It’s not technically a newsletter, but it’s a little bit different from a normal blog post. I publish one of these every Sunday at around 3pm EST.

An Open Letter: 31 March 2019

The theme this week is trying to do more than just work all the time, with occasional bouts of self-care peppered in. I’m trying to do more things that are just for me. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy my work, or that some of the things I’m adding into my regular routines don’t fall under the category of managing my health and well-being. It’s more about being the person that I want to be. That can get lost in the pursuit of growing the business. Self-care starts to fall into the category of basic maintenance that only enables me to continue working. I have a broader vision for my life, and I need to be pursuing that as well.

A Path With Heart

There was a time, just a couple of years ago, when I’d read about a hundred books a year. Which is roughly a book every 3 or 4 day. That’s not ridiculous, when you spend less time on the internet and watching TV and more time reading. I’m over it, though. I’ve stopped tracking what I read. Last year I quit Goodreads because for me it was driving the wrong behavior. I ended up in this pursuit of quantity, rather than quality.

Currently I’m reading A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield. It’s a book that I want to savor and absorb, because I’m getting a lot out of it. I could have plowed through it by now, more than a week after I first started reading it, but I’d be missing out. My rough plan is to read a chapter a day, taking notes and journaling my own reflections on the messages in the book. If I decide I’m still mulling over the previous chapter, I’ll re-read it and not read a new chapter. When a specific chapter doesn’t resonate with me, I’ll read another. I’m trying to go about this more purposefully.

I’ve also been listening to an episode of Kornfield’s podcast every day. This has been a treat. It doesn’t line up with the book in any way, it’s just a different activity centered on the same guy. What I’m liking is that I don’t know what the topic is going to be. I’m not seeking out a talk on a specific topic for a particular purpose. A random does of wisdom can be interesting, and provide a new perspective on whatever happens to be running through your mind or going on in your life.

Buddhism Through Its Scriptures

Back when I was in business school, I started supplementing my curriculum with free online courses. My goal wasn’t the degree but the practical knowledge I was gaining, because I wanted to run my own business. Whatever subject I was taking that semester, I’d see if there was an equivalent free course at places like MIT Opencourseware or Harvard edX. Some people have asked me why I didn’t just take the free courses. My answer is that there is no real interaction with the instructors, no testing of my abilities, and no piece of paper at the end of the road that does, on occasion, have its purposes.

Anyway, I’m still on the mailing list for those sites. They send out notices of new courses being offered. I usually ignore them, but for some reason I opened one from edX the other day. No idea why, because I wasn’t looking for something else to put on my plate. But at the top of the email was a course called Buddhism Through Its Scriptures. It runs for four weeks, takes 3-4 hours per week, and is self-paced. I signed up. It seems to dovetail with the direction I’m trying to take my life.  I can do the coursework on Sunday. and use it as an excuse to not to just do more work.

There are some literature courses that I want to take as well. I’ll look into those after I’ve completed this one. If this works out, I might add taking a just-for-fun course into my weekend schedule. The caveat is that it has to enhance my life, not add more stress and obligation. I think that this course, at least, fits that paradigm.

Used Books Monthly

I’ve signed up for my first subscription service, Used Books Monthly. Every month they send you random, “gently used” books in your chosen genre. You can also let them know if you have preferences within that. I signed up for “general fiction”, with a note that I prefer literary fiction and classics. We’ll see what I get.

It’s only about €5 a month for the one book plan, so it’s not a huge risk. They also have 2- and 4-book plans at what I think are reasonable prices. Shipping is included, and that extends to international shipping. All that means is that they’re sending an envelope US book rate, and it will probably take a month to get to Finland. I don’t care. I’ll likely forget about it, and get an unexpected surprise in the mail.

This scratches a few itches for me. When I’m trying to decide what book to read next, I’m often overwhelmed with choices. My life is also highly scheduled and planned out. Getting a random novel to read — and I’m going to commit to giving whatever they send me a try — takes some of that away. I can still carefully curate other books to read during the month, but getting one wild card could be a lot of fun.

Back on Twitter

This letter’s going on a bit long, so I’ll save the explanation of why for another day. I have well thought out reasons, as well as boundaries and parameters. I’m @berinkinsman on both Twitter and Instagram. Follow me and give me a shout!

On the Blog

This week I finished my four-part rumination on key moments in my journey toward simple living. You can read them here:

I also started a short series on my practices for simple living. The overview and part 1 are up now. Part 2 through 5 are coming this week.

Thanks and Gratitude

Even though I’m writing this mainly for my own purposes, it means a lot to have people make the effort to read it and leave comments. Thank you.

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