Expansive Stress

Stress is gaseous. No matter its intensity, it expands homogenously, filling up the whole mind. It does not matter whether the problems are huge or tiny. The stress is everywhere. Every thought, every action, every feeling is soaked in stress. This notion is my favorite insight from the famous book Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. It sticks with me even months after finishing the book. The sufferement described in the book is in no way comparable to stress. Still, the metaphor holds for all scales. It also ties in wonderfully with the understanding of thoughts that I learned over the past years from meditation. As any other thought, stress is insubstantial, even if at times it feels heavy as a rock. Just like a gaseous substance, it dilutes and vanishes as soon as we let fresh air flood the mind. Meditation is the equivalent to a CO2 measurement device that beeps when it is time to open the windows and look at the situation from a fresh perspective.

Ready for some pressurised stress?

The Postcard Experiment

It did sound a bit weird. I hesitated for a second, but then published the ad. After all, it was just an experiment. I was curious to see what would happen. Beyond family and close friends, kindness and affection are rarely for free. Everything is in exchange of something. Money, information, time, attention. Something. We pretend to be strong and numb to withstand that, even if in reality we are all incredibly vulnerable. In so-called mettā meditation, the focus lies on genuinely offering good will, kindness, and care to others in exchange of nothing. And that is where the ad came into play. I found an old postcard booklet and wondered how it would be to send them to random people to show them empathy and affection, without demanding anything in return. The ad was viewed 297 times, out of which five people contacted me. I will never know what an effect the postcard had on them, if any, but I hope that it made their day a little bit better, even if just for a moment.

The postcards are from a trip to Washington, D.C., back in 2014

One at a time

Driving on the Amalfi coast is challenging but incredibly rewarding. As the road curls along the steep cliffs, beautiful views await behind every turn. While I enjoyed every bit of it, my friend on the passenger seat felt rather stressed. The road is narrow, the traffic is significant, and the Italian driving style is an acquired taste. I have to admit that, after the ride, I also wondered how I made it. But the answer is simple. One turn at a time. The same holds for almost every challenge, even if our anxious minds tend to catastrophise the outcome by visualizing the gory details of all of the things that may go wrong, instead of focusing on what actually matters: the present moment. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One breath at a time.

And bit by bit, one reaches the destination

Pandemic Dust

I had not bought that soap in a long time. I noted the scent as I washed my hands. And all of a sudden, it was the summer of 2018. I had just moved into my studio apartment in Munich. I felt boundless at that time. Everything was possible. I had countless projects and ideas that I wanted to work on. I had learned the value of needing little to be happy. I felt I could do anything because I finally understood that I already had everything. It was the time when I realized that even the most mundane thing is interesting and that I could learn from it. Sometimes I wonder what happened to all of that. And then I realize that it is all still there, just under a heavy coat of pandemic dust. Ironically, it is just one hand washing ritual away.

No wonder I did not buy it for so long; this time machine comes in plastic

Dead End

I spend most of my time alone, in particular since the pandemic started. It took me a while to understand why exactly this is so dangerous. When alone, thoughts do not find any resistance. There is no one around to hold one accountable and to provide a different perspective. Any statement stands with no objection and turns into truth. The mind becomes narrower and all dimensions that do not fit one's understanding, vanish. However, no individual has a full picture of the world. Each of us has only one piece of an infinite puzzle. Attempting to live by a single piece of that puzzle may sound tempting, but is a dead end. The only way out is (healthy) confrontation and dispute. And that cannot come from within oneself.

If one does not see the forest for the trees, time to climb a tower and get some views

True Colors

We often cannot control what happens. And while events by themselves can be devastating, their effect strongly depends on how they happen. For example, if one makes a mistake and tries to cover it up, it is likely to be much worse than if one admits it right away. The mistake itself is the same but the way in which it impacts how others around us feel is massively different, which may result in long-lasting ripple effects. This is the essence of the Life is Strange games. The games tell a story which apparently is almost the same in spite of the dozens of decisions that the player can make. But while the what barely changes, the how is poles apart. And this is key, because what we feel shapes how we perceive the world.

The protagonist is Alex, who arrives as a "transplant" to a small town in Colorado

The idyllic little town of course holds a few mysteries to be clarified

The three main characters get involved in a "David and Goliath" kind of plot

And indeed, the little town does hide a few not so nice secrets

Music plays a central role in the game as a key tool to express feelings

If a real guitar is not available, a broom will do

Headphones are omnipresent, often as a means to escape reality

The strength of the game lies in expressing what the characters feel

Slight expressions reveal the impact of the player's choices, in this case a joyful surprise

Fear is the most prevalent feeling in the game, just as in real life

Blind Mind

I have walked down that street a zillion times. The grocery shop is there. The doctor is there. The parcel pick-up point is there. Yet, I had never looked at the street because most of the times my mind was not there. It was too busy thinking about what I needed to buy, what I was going to tell the doctor, or what ephemeral joy I was about to unpack from that parcel. The vast majority of the time, my mind is somewhere else, worrying and stressed about even the most insignificant thing. The brief moments when the mind stops doing that, feel incredibly liberating. All of a sudden, the world becomes incredibly beautiful and interesting. And the mind-blowing thing is that this amazing world is there 24/7. We are just blind to it.

After a streak of 364 days in a row, I believe meditation does help the mind

What I feel

I am not what I feel. I believe in having the choice of diving into an emotion and getting carried away by it versus keeping it at a distance. The latter does not mean supressing emotions but rather balancing actions, in particular given the heavy distortion that often comes along with strong emotions. However, this approach is a double-edged sword, as it may also be perceived as being untrustworthy, a fake person, or even a lier. The actual motivation for keeping emotions at a distance probably lies somewhere in the middle, as usual. On the one hand, the noble intention of not harming others, and on the other hand, fear and anxiety at its best. I claim the former but I cannot deny the latter.

Music is a loophole for emotions, and thus plays a key role in the game True Colors

Circuit Box

It took me two and a half years. All that time, my Raspberry Pi Zero setup was rather deplorable. The poor device hung from its USB power cord, taped to a shelf in my apartment. While the web is full of cases for this model, few of them are tailored to the Pimoroni Inky pHAT display I had on mine. I finally designed a laser-cut box that fits this particular setup to the millimeter, allowing for a more robust installation. The box includes a generic PCB holder bracket and can be fully assembled without using any glue. Instead, four M3 screws hold it together, which means that one can reopen it at will. Four additional M2 screws tie the circuit board to the bracket. I share below the design for a 3 mm material, such as MDF or acrylic. Enjoy :-)

Download SVG design file

The plain box, showing the Inky pHAT

The box installed with a white passepartout covering the screen borders


Insights infect my mind with clarity. Suddenly, a difficult situation or circumstance makes sense. Even if all of the pieces of the puzzle were already known for decades, it is not until that moment that my mind can arrange them to a meaningful picture. The book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is full of such insights. I marked dozens of them as I read it, but one of them fitted my recent blog posts in particular. Towards the end of the book, Siddhartha concludes that wisdom cannot be put into words because as soon as one tries to do so, it sounds foolish. I feel similar when I try to write about any sort of thought. Hence, I will not attempt to reflect what I learned from that book, but can only recommend it.

The book tells the life of Siddhartha and his journey of self-discovery