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😈 Letter 110: The Temptation of Thought

5 min

Pondering freedom from the prison we build within our thoughts, Lake Street Drive, George Saunders

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. This past week I learned about how alluring my thoughts are while trying to be present for five days in the middle of nowhere. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other learn-it-alls:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all

Greetings from Diamond Head, O'ahu, Hawai'i 🌺

I survived my five days in the wilderness!

Zoo wee mama.

It has been wild coming back into civilization after five days out in the wilderness.

I shared a lot of my reservations before leaving in my last letter. I had so much resistance to why I was doing such a scary thing. I got there and on the first night, I was tempted to reboot my phone, search for service and look for a flight home.

I was swimming in discomfort. My legs were prickling with pain during my first sitting of meditation the night before we left. I kept asking myself WHY. Why am I here? What was I thinking? How stupid am I? I’m sure as heck never going to trust myself to impulsively sign up for a thing like this again. I’m not ready.

When would I ever actually be ‘ready’? What does it even mean to be ready?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the thoughts in our heads. Our minds try to allure and make stories about everything we do.

I’m still trying to put words to much of my experience. It’s ironic: stories help make sense of what happened but simultaneously limit the openness of what actually happened. We are so reliant on words to remember.

As far as I’ve gotten is the poem below titled “Temptation of Thought”.

Usually, I feel sort of like a “content machine” who can crank out reflections. I laugh at myself as I type that. I am changing my approach here and trying to be more gentle with myself.

So much of how I view the world was challenged last week during the five days. I’m still trying to make sense of it all.

It’s not easy to explain something that I don’t even understand myself.

I have been experimenting with crowdsourcing questions to answer from my trip from Twitter friends below:

If you have some, I’d love it if you responded to the tweet OR to this email with your questions. They are priceless in figuring out what the heck happened.

Now, let’s dive into letter 110 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

❓ Question to think about

What is it like to be tempted to think thoughts?

🖊 Writing

The Temptation of Thought

Oh how I loathe you.

Oh how I love you.

A whimsical idea

Up in my mind,

Like a fantastical video game world,

They sweep me out of the present moment

And into the cloud of history

Or the future full of mystery.

Sometimes that is more appealing

Than the present moment

And perennial uncertainty.

My gratitude for words overflows.

They clear up confusion

About experiences in this world.

Each word is a thought.

Though, simultaneously,

there the limitations to language are vast.

It infuriates me.

How can I make sense of life?

What does it mean to understand,

If I do not have language to explain?

All I really have in each moment

Is this breath

Inhaling then exhaling

Right now.


That usually does not feel like enough.

There is temptress of the swirling thoughts in my mind,

Whether they are positive or negative,

They are there.

There’s no ignoring that fact.

I choose today not to be a prisoner

As tempting as these thoughts are.

My thoughts are in my body.

My feelings are in my mind.

Are thoughts and feelings

That separate after all?

I act as if they are polar opposites

As different verbs.

As one or the other.

Truth be told,

I am lying to myself.

I wish to live more present from now on.

It's not easy.

For twenty-six years,

The world has been my thoughts.

Today I awaken as the thinker of thoughts.

They do not define me.

I tend to the garden to guide my thoughts

Nurture the ones that ground my experience

Rather than a ruthless tug-of-war game.

We work together.

Body and mind.

We are one.


🎧 Listening

I found it too mystical that when I returned to my phone before taking off from Big Island to O’ahu that this was the song I had paused to begin my time away.

The world has a funny way of showing us what our fears are.

🌟 Quote to inspire

“Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” –George Saunders

📷 Photo of the Week

How my trip in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park started:

How it ended:

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this! If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. Visit my online home if you forgot who I am. If you want to know what I'm up to right now, check my now page.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


P.S. If you missed last week’s letter where I share 5 ways to keep promises with yourself, you can check it out here.

P.P.S. If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:

👣 Footnotes

On the problem I am grappling with while defining work:

On my motivations to continue educating:

On important quality for building community:

On one of my favorite questions:

On where I finally decided to walk last night despite tourists stealing the show here:


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