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A Mind of Refuge

by Dan Pittman 3 months ago in healing

Compassion, curiosity, and the gift of life

This past year has been a year of deep inner work and self-development. At this point in time one year ago, I was having nightly panic attacks, many of them severe, leaving me gasping for breath in a cold sweat spiraling down a mental black hole.

After stubbornly toiling in my own mental sewage, I began therapy, meditation, and consumed multiple books on stoicism and various philosophies. I was doing the work to rebuild a solid head on my shoulders.

I learned that the lenses through which we see the world are a direct reflection of our own internal universe. Our minds create the world we navigate.

I learned that the more I focus on my mental and physical health, the more I can turn inward for stability instead of seeking out external sources.

I learned that peace in solitude turns the mind into a refuge.

Fast forward to July 2020, I decided to launch a website and Instagram account called The Handmade Mind. The purpose of this was to catalog my evolution of thought - how I have manually peeled back the layers of my brain like an onion, and provide others with some perspective on life.

What was unfolding became clear to me once I read Jordan Peterson’s book The 12 Rules For Life, specifically rule six: “Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World”. I had set my own home in order before moving on and reaching out to the world.

2020 was a year of complete mental gutting, like stripping an old home to its studs to rebuild. Here I am in 2021 firing on all cylinders with a mind designed like a refuge which I love to be in solitude with.

Going into this year, there are three things I am focusing on to ensure it is another year of growth, and another year I can look back on with a smile.

These three things are:

Exude Compassion

Be a Curious Sponge

Focus on the Gift of Life

Exude Compassion

An epidemic has accompanied the pandemic and that is one of a lack of humanity and compassion.

People stopped treating others as people. People began treating others as potential contagions, as well as treating themselves as potential contagions.

People stopped face-to-face interactions and replaced them with social media. Just as we become more bold when behind the wheel of a car, such is the case when we are protected by our screens, block buttons, and physical distance from those we encounter.

What has this done to communication?

“Twitter-speech” has overflowed into real social interactions. Our masked faces emulate a “protective” barrier much like our screens. People engage in more hostility with this false sense of security. Social media dehumanizes us right beneath our thumbs. Align your fingertip responses to your verbal responses, not the other way around.

The surest sign of a lack of humanity is the denial of a fellow human to weigh in on human affairs, and the digital age has perpetuated a belief that those we share space with on this planet hold little value in our lives.

We’ve stopped being curious about our surroundings and what our neighbors have to say. We’ve stopped engaging in fruitful, challenging discourse and replaced it with echo chambers. We’ve stopped investing energy in fostering relationships with longevity and instead cling to devices that dictate our thoughts.

The best way you can show humanity and compassion is to allow others to speak their minds. It’s okay if you disagree or don’t understand one another, it simply creates an opportunity for growth.

Be a Curious Sponge

When we converse with people, two universes are colliding. Our compulsion to have opinions about every little thing prevents us from attaining peace of mind and disrupts the harmonious nature of interacting universes. There is peace in observation without opinion or judgment.

If we approach every encounter with curiosity, wonder, and a desire to learn something new, these universes can feel as though they are rotating with one another, playing off each other’s gravitational pull.

Approaching conversations this way does not mean you abandon your beliefs. Rather, it means you’re open to edit them as if they are a running rough draft. Hearing others out is simply that, and doesn’t have to be anything more.

If you pass judgment before letting observation take place, your reality will never change. It will stagnate like a pond that has lost its water source.

To expand your mind and your perspective of the world around you, do not fight what comes as a surprise, as a failure, as an opposition, as a defeat.

Instead, let it pass through. Acknowledge its existence and sit with it for a moment. If it doesn’t feel suitable for your progression and growth, let it move along. You aren’t required to hold onto everything. It is a conscious choice, one that you have more control of than you realize.

I aim to practice this today and every day - to let my mind be free to roam and function as a sponge. If I decide what I’ve absorbed doesn’t suit my core beliefs, I will simply squeeze out the sponge and move forward.

Focus on the Gift of Life

Have you ever contemplated the rarity of existence as a life form that is capable of contemplating the rarity of existence?

It’s beyond remarkable and is a question I continue to remind myself to mull over when life begins to get a bit too busy, stressful, or out of control.

What I aim to do is alter my perspective by simply replacing the word “have” with “get”.

I get to take my dogs for a walk.

I get to soothe my baby when he wakes up crying.

I get to finish that article.

This is so much more than an alteration of syntax. It’s a complete mentality overhaul.

It’s so easy to forget that we do not have an infinite number of days on this planet. We live our lives as if our cup overflows with time, as if we are not fragile, as if anything at all is guaranteed. We are given the gift of life and yet most identify with figments of their own creation.

How absolutely insane is it that YOU are alive? Right. This. Second. You’re here. Breathing, feeling, existing.

How rare and beautiful.


We all wander through this world with a desire for acceptance. For others to gaze upon us and remind us we are real. That we have a purpose.

Our duty is to live compassionately, mindfully, and curiously amongst each other, like trees in a forest. Watch each other grow. Give just as much to the earth as we ask of it. Leave something behind when we return to the earth to help those who come after us grow even higher.

Dan Pittman
Dan Pittman
Read next: The Deception of Instagram
Dan Pittman

I write to encourage perspective. I write to challenge readers to really peel back the layers of their mind and get their hands dirty. Our brains are fascinating and even moreso when we dive deep into their depths.

See all posts by Dan Pittman

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