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What if…?

The what8737004032_01a5c1435f_o

These 2 words run my life.  I constantly fill in the dots afterward with doom and gloom.  It is never a positive question.  But I am rarely proven right.  Actually, I am never proven right.  My imagination is always much, much worse than any reality.  But it is my imagination that runs my mind rather than the evidence that sits in front of me.  The “what ifs” range wondering what new emails are in my inbox, to areas around my health, to my future, to my physical appearance and where my life is headed.  Left alone to my own devices, I can let my imagination blind me to any accurate analysis of what is actually happening in my life.  But like I said, these invented outcomes rarely occur.  And if they do, they are never as bad as I trumped up or I have the resources and capacity to deal with them.

I associate New Year’s resolutions with a waste of time.  I thought they were mostly for weak people who wanted to do some grand gesture based on an impulse and muscled through with will power until shortly into their venture, they ran out of strength and collapsed back into their own ways.  However, I was reading something lately that took a different spin on starting a new year.  It wasn’t about creating something new, but rather asking what was worth leaving behind.  And that struck a chord with me.

I have many things that I would like to embark on or create, but they easily get belittled by those 2 words “What if?”.  When I read the idea of leaving something behind, it was these words that instantly came into my mind.  I want to leave them.  Or at least use them appropriately.  Actually, no.  I want to cut them out entirely.  I want to take their ugly lens off my mind and just do.  Think, yes.  Plan, yes.  Accept consequences, yes.  But in that order and not simply jump to improbable consequences.

So that is my plan.  I know it takes effort and training, but if I can catch myself in the trap of worst case scenario thinking, I know my life will improve.  It will improve.

The How

  1. Daily Meditation
  2. Gratefulness
  3. Plan my days
  4. Do what I want and not what others want.
  5. Do what others want and look past myself.

That is my list to start.  Any process is personal and always needs tinkering, but that feels like a good place to start.  Also, a steady dose of the WTF podcast by Marc Maron keeps me grounded and brings me back to what is important.

What about you?  What should you leave behind?

 

How to stop living in the shadows

How to stop living in the shadowsDenying your own existence

I’m not fully owning what I do. I don’t think I’m alone. 

I either down play what I do, “jokingly” use self depreciation or deflect attention away from myself.  What I claim to love and do does dominate my mind and energy, but I feel I need to continually down play it to others and operate in the shadows of their presence.  

Why?  Good question.

I’ve not lived a very traditional life by the standards of where I am from, and frankly I’ve felt bad about it.  Perhaps not bad, but definitely like a misfit, and out of place and sadly, at most times like a failure. 

I feel that what I do and have done is better kept quite because it is not the norm.  I let others take over the conversation about shit that I don’t care about.  But then pretend that it is the most fascinating thing ever.  I prod people with questions so they can’t ask me.  I put them in the spot light and recede into the shadows.  Worse yet, I let them keep me in the shadows. 

Whose norms?

I’ve been thinking a lot about not only what I think my norms are but also how I act in response to what I think my life should look like.

I’ve let so many other definitions of what a quality life should be that I’ve ignored the fundamental question of “What is my norm?” 

And I think it goes further.  My speech, actions and mindset put what others are doing on a higher or more acceptable plane.  I’ve gone to bed down, woken up to go to the bathroom with sense of “wtf” about my life, and when my eyes open in the morning, despite looking forward to what it is that I do, still degrade it. 

Like I said, I don’t own it.  I might as well of fallen in love with a beautiful women but never go out in public with her.  Or get married but refuse to wear the ring. 

Into it

So, the challenge to myself and you the reader, is to own it.  To say fuck it to what others tell us the norm is.  To really put both feet into what we are doing because nothing great ever happened with somebody working 50% at it.  Let’s face it, most great things require more than 100%.  So if we are not willing to really bleed for what it is that we want to do, then why do it?

I’ve been tired of myself.  I’ve been tired of not stepping out of the shadows and into the light.  You can’t take a bath with just one leg in the water and then claim you are clean.  Likewise, in the situations that I claim to be “into” in my life, I generally have a backup plan.  And that energy and effort of coming up with ways out, just pushes me back into the darkness. 

How to step out

The good news is that the light is always there.  And the amount of shadow that we let cover us is entirely our own decision.  And we control it with what we say, how we think and how we interact with people.  

When I realize that I am playing it safe (let’s rephrase that to dishonestly), I start to work with the following questions:

  1. What is an area of my life that I love but I downplay to either myself and/or others?
  2. I ask the hard questions to myself or with the help of a quality listener as to why?
  3. I start to monitor the words, thoughts and emotions I use around it when sharing it with others?
  4. In conversations or interactions with those that I let take over or push me into the shadows, I start to be selfish.  I unapologetically share my passion or choices  I actually view it more of educating them. 
  5. I’m honest with others when I don’t have a clear cut answer or description.  What I do and love doesn’t need to fit into a nice neat package or box.  Nor do I need to bare my soul.  But I don’t have to cover it up either.   

Our shadow is just that.  Ours.  Self deprecation, pretending it is less than it really is or giving others more importance casts a longer, darker shadow.  Like I said, the light is always there and stepping out of the dark is our move.  Nobody else’s

The first essential step we all need to take

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 2.10.45 PMIn the book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa (who is Pema Chodron’s teacher) he wrote “Habitual patterns allow you to look no further than 3 steps ahead of you.”

Brilliant.

Simple.

100% accurate.

The start of the path to our true self is seeing our true environment, both inside and out.  And it starts by analyzing our habitual patterns and then letting them go.  

Once we’ve let them go, the path then gets longer and brighter.  We can see more than our next fix. We see more than 3 steps.

A tall, but very rewarding process.

Overestimating what you have

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

This quote raises a very interesting question about what impedes our path on our way to being our true self.  A good example for me was this morning.  I didn’t want to meditate.  I was feeling OK, not great, but good enough that I felt I could just keep Don't overestimate your situationon working.  I overestimated the quality of my mind.  In short, I settled.

Luckily, I did sit for my 20 minutes, and when I opened my eyes at the end, I felt lighter.  I felt in touch.  I had noticed reoccurring thoughts that I hadn’t noticed when my eyes were open.  I had underestimated the power of the 20 minutes.

That is just a small example, but if you look, I’m sure you can find 100 things in your daily life that you are interested in doing, but have overestimated your level of contentment.  A conversation with your spouse, a run, a personal project, an unsent email, a book half way read, etc.  As well, it might even be in the realm of not doing.  Turning the TV off earlier, drinking less, or getting less angry or impatient.

Whatever it is, ask yourself if with a little bit of effort, “what small act would allow me to navigate the resistance on the road to being my true self?   For me it was just sitting an closing my eyes.  What is yours?