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Tiny Revolutions with Sara Campbell on Meditation, Therapy, and Acts of Service

One of my regular newsletters that I love to read is Tiny Revolutions by Sara Campbell. She is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and PR strategist who, as she puts it, “has strong opinions about pretty much everything.” 

Sara is the friend you need to help you not feel ashamed or guilty for not living up to other people’s unrealistic expectations. Whether it’s not having the right job, the perfect spouse, or the ideal life, she aims to help us understand who we are. 

Sara’s newsletter title comes from her ten-year relationship with the idea that every day is a small revolution. 

She writes about topics like meditation, mental health, spirituality, and finding meaningful work. 

In addition to writing Tiny Revolutions, Sara does brand and communications strategy. Her background not only helps her writing reach more people, but, in telling her story, she can help people find hope in their own. 

Sara interviewed me in Tiny Revolutions in 2018. (Tiny Revolutions No.5: Interview with Ryan Williams, writer of The Influencer Economy). Back then we wanted to have a conversation about mental health. 

Three years later I’m now turning the tables, chatting with her in my newsletter. To read about Sara in her own words, below are her quotes from a conversation that we had. You can listen to our conversation, here

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Writing As An Act of Service

One of the main reasons I started writing [the newsletter] is because I didn’t see a lot of other writing that was candid about mental health and stuff like that.

I personally would have loved to read those types of stories because it helps me feel less alone. Part of the reason for writing the newsletter is really an act of service where it’s me doing it for myself. It’s sort of therapeutic to write this stuff out, but I do consider it as an act of service where I don’t mind talking about these things, even though they’re sensitive, because I’ve worked through a lot of them, or I am working through a lot of them. 

I understand having now been through a lot of my own issues and talking to lots of other people who have issues, none of these things are rare. These things are very common, and it’s just that we don’t talk about it. I feel like that’s a service that I can provide. If I can talk about subjects that are very sensitive, if I’m in a position to be able to do that, which I am, it’s like, why not? That’s something I can offer. 

I get emails from people, and they’ll say, thank you for saying it that way, or, that happened to me. It really is a way of connecting.

How a Depressive Episode Helped Inspire Tiny Revolutions

When I started the newsletter, I was in the midst of a depressive episode. One of the reasons I started it is to make sense of the episode. It was right after Anthony Bordain and Kate Spade died. They had killed themselves within a week of each other. 

I thought:  “Why does no one talk about suicide in an honest way? Why is it so hard to read accounts of this stuff that aren’t just sort of sad or whitewashed in some way?”

It grew out of that. Now it has become more broadly about the work of being a human being that is comfortable and self-actualizing on planet Earth. 

How She Meditates Every Morning

I  meditate every morning between thirty minutes and an hour. 

I’m a big proponent of walks. I think walks and movement really help clear the mind. I was always a classic overthinker who would get trapped in ruminating thoughts. For me, a lot of the work has been to find ways to take myself out of that. 

And so that isolation with walks and talking to others, helping other people in whatever ways you can help other people, um, just figuring out small ways that are sort of acknowledging it’s not all about you. 

On Attending Therapy Over the Years

I’ve been in therapy and I think therapy is really great for helping you understand yourself better. It’s another tool to get to know yourself, to find out what works and doesn’t work, while also making sense of the experiences of your life, which is how it’s helped me. It’s helped me recognize patterns, unhealthy patterns that I inherited from family dynamics or whatever, and try and see how they were playing out in my life. 

I haven’t been in therapy for a couple of years. I’m not saying I won’t go back. I’m sure I will. 

I think where the personal development work comes in is a kind of unearthing. It is like digging to find what the blocks are, what the obstacles are, and what the things that are holding us back from doing, instead of living the lives that we want to live and addressing those things head on. 

Things like drinking too much, compulsive shopping, sex addiction, or choose your poison are all things that we add to try and cover up the problem. I think that personal development is all about excavation and clearing away the unessential in getting to the heart of you, yourself and what you’re here to do. 

On Teaching Meditation

I think meditation is interesting because there are so many misconceptions about it. People get really disheartened and discouraged because they go into it thinking it is a recipe for mental calm. They think it’s a recipe for being calm and relaxed. That actually is a long-term side effect. 

Meditation is to reveal the story and the truth, the truth of your life, the stories that you are operating under the assumptions of, the things that you maybe don’t want to think about. 

When you do meditation, at least the Zazen style that I do (there’s obviously lots of different styles of meditation), it’s really just about being present and dealing with witnessing all the things that are going through your brain.

Giving the things a chance to clear out, stir around, whatever, just noticing and not attaching to specifically to any one of those. 

How Meditation Makes Her Feel

Zazen meditation is an open-eyed tradition and you basically sit and stare at a wall. It’s silent. It’s not guided.

When you do that day after day, you’re witnessing your mind, which is the classic monkey mind. When your mind is all over the place. It gets a little easier to do the more that you do it because you learn to tolerate that it’s uncomfortable.

But it’s about learning to sit with discomfort. You don’t really want to have feelings. You don’t want to experience it. And then over time, you just start to see that that’s okay, there are good things, there are bad things. Some days are harder than others. 

Some days are euphoric. You just start to see the full spectrum of the experience. It’s part of what we are experiencing as human beings. Our minds are busy things.

Some days it’s cloudy. Some days it’s super sunny, while some days it’s misty. Some days it’s stormy with ups and downs. Over time you can start to see things softening, but only because you stopped fighting them as much. It’s the “stop feeling like you need to be happy all the time,” feeling like you need to be a certain way. 

In a way it’s like the ultimate surrender. You’re just a person living a life. You’re not deciding to think about all these things, these things are just happening in your mind. So it’s like in a way you’re just kind of surrendering control, thinking  “Tthis is the experience, what can I learn from it?” meditation can really do for you, which is just broadening your field of awareness.

Advice to Someone in Their Twenties 

I think I’m really learning. There are so many different ways that you can use for self-development, right? There are any number of things. And if I were to go back and tell myself at that time, it’s just start doing some form of self-exploration—whether that’s therapy, whether that’s coaching, whether that’s meditation, whether it’s yoga or breathwork or something—try something to get on the path.

Once you’ve found what works for you, then you stick to it. My teacher in Zen always says, “Just find something that you like and stick to it.” Whatever it is that works for you, just do it and, and make it a practice. 

It has to be something that’s relevant to your everyday life or else or you’re not going to stick to it. But it’s like going back to the gentleness thing. Find something that you like, that you appreciate, that feeds you in some way. There are so many different ways you can go about it. Do some experimentation.

Big thanks to my editors: David Burt, Jillian Anthony, and Joel Christiansen.

Read an article on How to Meditate From Scratch

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Sara Campbell writes the Tiny Revolutions newsletter. She also does brand and communications strategy.

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