“Brain Pickings” by Maria Popova

Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind, Emotion & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshiping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

In her 10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova distills core values learned from 10 years of her online blogging project, Brain Pickings. The above quote is Learning #6. Read the rest on her website.

Her entire blog is now in the archives at the Library of Congress as “materials of historical importance.”


Maria Popova left her native Bulgaria in pursuit of a liberal arts education in America that “lured her with the promise of being taught how to live.” For her, that promise was not fulfilled in the classroom, but outside in her “private adventures” of learning in libraries and the internet.

In 2006, Brain Pickings began as a plain-text email to seven friends. In her senior year of college, she took a night class on coding and created a sparse website. Over a decade, seven readers have grown to millions as she shares the wisdom that she finds in a new digital form.

Check out her website and sign up for her newsletter.

On Being

Krista Tippett is another remarkable wisdom-sharer in the digital age. Her interview podcast series, On Being, is a repository of wisdom. She interviewed Maria Popova in May 2015:

[Maria Popova] has called Brain Pickings, her invention and labor of love, a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness.” What Maria Popova really delivers, to hundreds of thousands of people each day, is wisdom of the old-fashioned sort, presented in new-fashioned digital ways. She cross-pollinates — between philosophy and design, physics and poetry, the intellectual and the experiential.

Listen to the Interview