On life — 4 ways how NOT to make money by actually DOING the hard work

I wish life was a clickbait titled article. But it isn’t. So what now? How about learning to mind the stress and find the space to explore and create?

Header image by siyanaivanova.nl

A small warning before we proceed — This article requires a bit of brainwork with nothing in return. You wouldn’t be a millionaire by the end of it. No 6 figure projects will be waiting for you at the bottom, maybe one extra brain knob will be created in the process, but that’s it. So you can imagine it’s not for everyone. If this is where we have to part from one another, it was a pleasure having you here, good luck with the figure pursuit game. Let me know when you stumble upon some happiness in-between the currency signs. I will wait.

For those willing to stay and spend a few more minutes warming up some brain neurons, let me start with a bit of context.

I’ve been social-media-detoxing myself for the better part of 2020. No insta. No dog filters on Snapchat, no TikTok challenges, no Facenews fakebook. You know what I mean, right? It’s still a thing. Anyway, after quitting my job at the start of December, I did a whole digital detox for a month as well. Almost zero hours spend online. Short story even shorter — totally worth it. I mean think about it, I had a full-time job that equals an average of 8 hours per day behind my laptop. Add 2 more hours per day on your phone and one more because of that book I’m reading on the iPad = 11 hours a day of digital consumption. When I’m not online, I’m streaming something on TV. If that’s out of the picture, I’m thinking about something ‘online’ related. Likes on new pictures, missed notifications, the need to order new sneakers, etc. That’s a lot of time of me not being here and now. What if one is to convert all of this ‘lost’ time and just explore a new, different place, where most of us haven’t been in a while. Get popcorn. No, scratch that, get raw cauliflower with a pinch of salt. Your body will thank me later. Here we go…

I used to pride myself for always trying to see the bigger picture, but I learned that there are more big pictures than the one I was so focused on. Those big pictures were too big for my busy brain to spot, regardless of how obvious and out-there they were. Now that I’ve spotted a few of them, I’m more than happy to share those with you, dear reader, with the hope that they can bring you to where I’m right now. It’s a good place to be, that I can ensure you of. I look around and I see stressed humans, hurrying with impatience, chasing deadlines even though we all know that after one deadline, there is usually a second one following, and then a third one, etcetera. The end destination? A burn-out. Is it worth it? Sacrificing our biggest evolutionary tool — our brains — to just be able to participate in this Western society of ours?

Enough rhetorics, we all know it’s not worth it. It feels a bit like reverse evolution, our brains shrinking under the constant pressure of… time? Money? Rents to be paid, groceries to be done? Stress can be a very personalised experience. At times it feels untameable. But the implications of stress and depression are very well known by now. The sickness is here, and again there isn’t a cure for it yet. The fact that those mental illnesses are growing by the second is also disturbing. We only need to look around us to see it happening. What is less known though, is how to prevent this from happening. We have a bigger curve to flatten to win this battle. But it’s definitely not impossible. First step — back to basics.

Strange times

Yes, a pandemic that closed the whole world is strange. But there is something even stranger going on and we are kind of missing out on it. And it has to do with science, spirituality, and religion. Combined. Together. Remember when science was the opposite of religion? Religion is the belief in some divine power that guides and protects us if we follow some simple rules that boil down to being a kind and loving human being. Spirituality is very close to religion, but in most of our minds, it’s linked to energy, auras, chakras, vibration, and other vague terms and beliefs. I will come back to those in a bit. I can feel your jaw tightening only by spotting those words in this paragraph. Don’t worry. Logic will enter.

Back to science — the state of knowing. Well… it used to be. The more we understand science like quantum physics, the more vague science becomes, the more clear spirituality gets. Wait.. what? Here is a very simplified version of the current state of quantum physics –

People's consciousness is somehow linked to the smallest of things (the Planck length — the distance the light travels) which is linked to the biggest of things (the Universe). Mass is not as important as Einstein & Co. eventually thought. (Energy)waves play a bigger role in the whole.

Something like that, I’m not a physician myself, it’s a conclusion drawn from what is out there about physics. What actually is going on, is that science is hitting a strange point (or a string, one might argue) where astronomers need to read the Bible or Quran to understand the Universe, and physicians need to have a long chat with a monk to understand the world we live in. Yes, the irony is gigantic, I know. Waves… vibrations… energy… those are starting to make more and more sense, so quantum physicians are starting to sound a bit like Hare Krishnas. Thank God (literally?) because now that mass is not that big of a deal, for one, teleportation is finally a real thing.

The internet is a 2D world that we created in the 3D worlds, but it doesn’t end there. A fourth dimension exists and it breaks time. Meaning time is as fluid as a Mojito. If none of this is making sense, welcome to the 21st century. But… how is this all connected with my brain or with less stress, you ask? Jeez, let’s be patient for once, by the end of this read it will all come together.

So here is the whole deal of this article. We don’t have to go on full digital-detox. We possibly can’t in times like this. Everything happens online now. That is not per se the bad part of it. Nothing wrong with online. We just need to gain control again, because online has started to consume us, instead of us consuming it. Content has us and we obey and spend every free minute of life scrolling down, at the mercy of the infinite scroll gimmick. Here is a healthy awareness challenge for you. Swap the position of your usual suspect social media app on your phone screen with something a bit more useful. I’m willing to bet that at first, you will constantly find yourself mindlessly opening your phone and just tapping on that space where the app used to be. Only to see something else than expected opening. Before you know it, you’re scrolling through your internet banking history, in search of that perfect latte macchiato pic. Wrong app, ooups. That awareness — that it’s not even the app you’re so addicted to, it’s the act of “I have a free minute to spare, so let’s do what comes most naturally to me, which is a mindless phone unlock and app tap” is kind of scary. I found it scary so it was the beginning of me saying bye bye to social media and hi hi to a chiller, more relaxed life.

So the 4 ways to not make money but bring some inner peace to life and remove the stress are actually 4 apps. And those 4 apps will most definitely teach you more than any social app has taught you. That, I’m sure of. The will to explore needs to be present. That’s all.

App 1 — Universe in a Nutshell by Kurzgesagt & Wait But Why

If you know me personally, you know that I’m a big Kurzgsagt fan. So you can predict the amount of excitement I experienced when I saw their new app in the stores. Scale is fascinating. The giganticness of our Universe. The tiny new worlds we discover. But what is even more fascinating is this — if you take our human size as a baseline, which humans tend to naturally do, you can ZOOM IN on particle level way more than ZOOM OUT till the end of the observable universe. I didn’t fully understand this till I downloaded their app and played around with the scale of things. Things I had no idea existed. A quick demonstration:

This is us:

Screenshot from Universe in a Nutshell

Zoom out 93 billion light years (one light year being a distance of 9.4 trillion Km) and you end here:

Screenshot from Universe in a Nutshell

This is big yes. You can’t go bigger than this. We think. But have we been so obsessed with the bigness of it all that we forgot about the smallness of the whole? Maybe. Till not that long ago, we collectively agreed that the ‘smallest of particles’ stops somewhere here:

Screenshot from Universe in a Nutshell

The atom. Remember? With more advanced technology (and unfortunately the atomic bomb invention) we ended up here:

Screenshot from Universe in a Nutshell

Look at the scale in the bottom right corner. We discovered a world as big as the Universe scaling down from the atom to the planck lenght. And with discovering this world we discovered something else — there is so much happening that we don’t know nor understand. Especially when we figured that an atom can be at two places at the same time. Welcome to the 21 century — if you ask me, a very excited period to be alive. Science is hitting the max of complication and it all sounds scary and very unstable, but here is one thing that more and more scientists agree on — our (human) consciousnesses is somehow connected to the smaller (and bigger) whole. Which gives our brain way more power and credit for how reality plays out than we eventually thought. What a game our brains play on us. My take-away from this app? Everything in this world is somehow connected, we just need to realise and understand it better. For now, let’s marvel at those unexplored worlds and remember that it’s not just us in this Universe, there is way more, not seeing it does not mean it’s not there.

Which brings me to app number 2 — How did this all happen?

App 2 — Big Bang AR by CERN

Knowing how much science doesn’t know, I learned to take a lot of known facts with a pinch of salt. What I do believe is that something did happen and after an extremely long period, we happened. Which does mean that somehow, we are created out of star stuff. First, there were stars. Now is us. So I like wasting a Sunday watching the Big Bang happening in my room (long live AR!) and thinking about how amazingly connected everything is.

Screenshots from Big Bang by CERN on iPhone

The realisation that we are all just star stuff is a very liberating one. It means that we are not so different from one another. Or from all the animals on Earth. Or the trees. The oceans. Space. It means that we are fundamentally more connected to our Milky Way galaxy than to a Big Mac, plastic or Air Jordans, or this awesome new project you just landed, and the potential stress it might bring you. Let that thought sink in.

So if all of this just exists without stressing over rent payments, deadlines, or the latest smartphone release, then, why are we? Why can’t we exist in the same harmony as the rest of the Universe and not overstress every life decision we make?

All of this has to do with consciousness. Yeah, it’s a circular logic, I get it. But do you get how powerful this vague term actually is? If no, here is a possible reason why:

Higher consciousness without the mambo jambo

Our reptilian brain is all about survival. A day-to-day gimmick with not enough extra space for other thoughts. It’s the place where logic does not exist, like at a Trump rally. Survival of the fittest, the need for power. Fight or flight. The reason we made it this far as human-beings, but also the reason that holds us back from progress and growth.

Our monkey brain is about pleasure. Short-term pleasure that more often than not brings us nothing good in life. Pleasure is often linked to pain. That burger you had last night does not feel that good today, now does it? How about those tequila shots? Unbearable hangover from last night, right? Just start the day with an energy drink and a greasy pizza slice. That will make the monkey brain happy. For just a bit of course. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Pleasure. For a second. See.. monkey brains are not famous for their solid logic and long-term plan making. They are good at bringing you in a fucked-up spiral. Spirals where you destroy yourself with temporary pleasure that almost always ends up in a feeling of pain. Agony and self-hatred.

Pleasure and pain have for long been in an unhealthy relationship, a cause-outcome kind of one. We fight pain with pleasure that brings us more pain that we fight with more pleasure. To an endless etcetera. What eventually comes out of all this is addiction, depression, self-destructiveness and other noble Western pursuits.

All of this can be called low consciousness and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. But you have to think about it. Because if it doesn’t make any sense, thank that to your lower consciousness. The reason why there is not enough space or plasticity in our brain to comprehend that thought. Again… ever saw a Trump supporter overwin logic? Close to impossible.

Here is a Tibetan Buddhist’s take on how to keep the monkey brain engaged.

So why has higher consciousness been so misunderstood, overlooked, and unknown to most humans? There are millions of theories why. The busy-ness (read: business) of life, the unexplainable mysteries of the brain, Illuminati conspiracies, the annoying Eat Prey Love bullshit around chakras we can’t see, Gods we can’t feel, etc. It’s a very complicated world already, our monkey brain says. Entering higher consciousness is not easy, explaining it nevertheless. So most of us stay low and it’s kinda okay there, but definitely not a place filled with potential and possibilities.

But there is a way out. Or a way in, I should say. A way to bridge from low to higher states. Feel better, happier, more rested, more relaxed, more focused, more creative. More like an actual human being and less like a chimpanzee or an alligator inspired by survival. And that bridge is not news. It’s as old as religion. As close to it as well. It’s meditation. Well.. awareness. So before you say to yourself — here we go again, meditation, breaths, blah blah blah. If you think you can’t do it, that it’s very easy for everyone else BUT you, buy your monkey brain a beer, for working over-hours to make you think that. Everyone is bad at meditation, it’s an art form. Imagine art being easy. It wouldn’t be worth it then.

App 3 — Headspace

So… meditation… next to the female orgasm and maybe the Egypt pyramids, one of the most misunderstood, underrated, overhyped things in our Western world. What is it exactly? How is it achieves? It sounds complicated. I don’t get it. There is just not enough space in our heads to comprehend it.

Hence Headspace. Most of us are familiar with it. Chances are, it’s on your phone, even if you don’t use it. You might have used it once, a while ago, and then chance is — you met Andy. Or at least heard his voice. I don’t know the guy personally, but I saw an introduction video of him in the app, here is the longer version of it:

And I thought that’s a pretty chill guy with an interesting story. Got me a bit more into the whole meditation thing. Combined with some freshly attaint knowledge about DTM & the body, the chakras, how everything in Rick & Morty kinda makes sense. And so on. So I started meditating more. No contact with ET or any new superpowers achieved yet. Just a bit of the opposite of stress, an almost-physically-present space in my mind, so now I can explore more and go places. A virus might be closing this world, locking it down, but I’m finally realising how much unused space I can go to in my own mind, once unlocked.

But to get more, you have to learn to ‘less it’. Something like that. Your mind, the thoughts. The constant train of thoughts. All the weird and wrong intersections. How not-difficult it is to create this loop of thinking. Loop of the same bad things circling around, too fast to catch. Depression. A mind, stuck but still racing. So what meditation does, eventually, is creating space. And then awareness. And then peace and rest. Not forever, just for a minute or two. But.. more than enough.

That’s the cool thing about meditating. It’s like resetting the mind. Installing a new update. Whatever analogy works. Once we used nature to explain digital, now we have to use digital to explain the real world. How is this progress?

You can’t argue that in moments of positivity, gratitude, appreciation, etc. you also feel free and warm and kind. In those moments, the world is a bit brighter. Lighter. We’ve all been there. And once there, we want to go back so badly, that everything, from ruining a relationship, to crystal meth will do to go back there. ‘There’ being your brain. On a good wave. On a positive vibration. By now you must get the picture right? It’s the place we’ve all been searching for, and luckily, more and more people are realising that it is from within. What’s holding you back is that ape brain that has it’s back on evolution. Time to open up a bunch of new doors and windows and breath the fresh air.

By the way, I use Headspace also for falling asleep easier, focus beats, and short workouts. And as a visual designer, I also have to comment on how simple but powerful, cheerful, and happy the visual style of Headspace is. It’s branding well done as well. My sincere appreciation.

Screenshots of Headspace

App 4 — Gaia

Okay, this app has everything from Shoulder yoga for tight dudes, to Dr. Steven Greer and his disclosure project about contact with ETs and how the government is staging a fake aliens attack to scare us even more, to well-made documentaries about the healing powers of Ayahuasca that help heal mental illnesses like depression, but also physical ones like cancer or diabetes. And much more.

So very broad, yes. But don’t feel pressured to engage with all these different things. Yoga for tight dudes is also not my thing. It’s okay. To each their own. You don’t have to believe in most of it either. There are neck exercises and healthy recipes as well. It’s like Instagram without the bling bling. But if you’re like me, chances are stuff like the creation of the pyramids, the Universe, intellect and intuition etc. fascinate you more than food pics or filters that make your eyes bigger. In that case, apps like Gaia are a good starting point.

Well, dear reader, that’s it. From here on it’s up to you. Are you willing to pause for a while and rethink stuff or is going with the stream still the most logical option?

Since nothing in this article is scientific enough to be turned into a formula, it means it’s just one person's view on things. But I’m very curious, what do you think? How are you looking at things?

Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.

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