What the hell does it take to be authentic?

TazoBoxOpen-800

As I sat in a meeting last week, I looked over at a box of teas that were nestled in between the lukewarm coffee and a small sweating pitcher of ice water. The box was open so I could see the offerings which were cleverly labeled with names like “Calm”, “Refresh”, “Passion”, and “Zen”. Good marketing. The box looked to be made of bamboo and had stamps on the lid which gave it the air of authenticity. It seemed to be a well traveled box!

It started me down a string of thoughts on what it means to be authentic and if is this even around anymore. It wasn’t a rant on “things were better in the old days”, but more of an examination on whether or not we can tell the difference. Or if we even care. There are things that are made today which last hundreds times longer than they used to. Which obviously has good and bad outcomes.

The deeper meaning behind my Tazo Tea dissection, however, was how humans “show up” and our ability to be authentic. The veil of illusion we carry with us, telling us stories of who we are and how we should react to things, is very clever. And the number one directive of the mind is not to love, or to have joy, or to be kind… it is to be safe. The veil (call it what you will) protects us from a barrage of an incessant attack on our attention. Kids, politics, bosses, the asshole who can’t get his Starbucks order right. Anything that grabs our attention is filtered through the paradigm through which we see the world. It’s an ancient tool that used to protect us from saber tooth tigers, but now is put to use making sure we don’t make a fool of ourselves.

The good thing is that we have a choice on how this plays out, but we have to be conscious to participate. Example: consider you are buying a new pair of sunglasses for your next vacation (or whatever occasion you may need them for). There are hundreds of colors, styles, and lenses to choose from. When you put them on, they may be dark, light, pink, amber, blue, grey, red, etc., depending on the lens you chose. They also make you feel a certain way. Do you look cool? Sexy? Rich? Punk? All of these things from a simple pair of sunglasses. And if you are like me, it takes a long damn time to choose just the right ones. I’m picky and I have a big head.

We walk out of the store with our glasses on our face and actually look at the world differently. Cause we look so damn good!

Do we do the same for the “glasses” we choose in every moment of our lives (the lens through which we see the world)? Or do we switch glasses based on the occasion? It’s reasonable to say we need glasses appropriate for the occasion. Vacationing in the Caribbean requires one pair of glasses while a funeral may require another. That’s fair. But is it authentic? I’m not so sure.

I can’t get away from the fact that I often change my outlook based on the environment I’m in. Sometimes I need to be a tough guy. Sometimes soft. Those are behaviors, but not way of seeing the world. I’m not perfect by any means, but I am getting better at noticing when I am not showing up and being the person that is authentic. The person I was when I was born.

All of this from a box of tea.

“Looks like the University of Illinois!”

 

 

Advertisements

The Metronome

vintage-metronome
Anxiety. Fear. Self-confidence. Envy.
Friends moving further up the food chain. I have unconsciously chosen not to climb, but still look at the titles with envy.
Scared to live a Spiritual life. Where that may lead me. What it will look like. What “they” might say.
With a small, dim flashlight, I search the ground for the missing pieces. Flickering. Battery low.
The metronome. Urgency.
Tools of isolation. Tools of liberation.
It is time to open.

Making it emotional: how to enact change

Capture

“Imagine—what if you had access to a simple yes-or-no answer to any question you wished to ask? A demonstrably true answer. Any question . . . think about it.” – Sir David R. Hawkins, MP, PhD, “Power vs. Force”.

To make a change in our lives permanent, the change needs to be accompanied by an emotional anchor. Something that knocks us out of our programmed paradigm, allowing us to imprint the desired habit at a deeper level. As I have written before, I accept these concepts intellectually, but until I am ready to integrate them deeper (emotionally), they are just words. I read. I nod. I go about my business.

I was listening to an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson this morning on the way to work. He was talking about a friend of his who was in the process of losing weight and every time he lost 15 pounds, he would mount a bowling ball to the wall (they weigh about 15 lbs). This image profoundly struck me. It hit me…emotionally. It’s quite easy to see that if a person trying to lose weight saw those heavy, awkward, bowling balls on a wall, each one symbolizing a weight he/she is no longer carrying, the accompanied emotion would be overwhelming. “I was carrying all of those bowling balls with me every day!”.

In Dr. Joe Dispenza’s book “You Are the Placebo”, he says:

“…if you want to change a belief or perception, you have to first change your state of being. And changing your state of being means changing your energy, because in order for you to affect matter, you have to become more energy and less matter, more wave and less particle. That requires you to combine a clear intention and an elevated emotion—those are the two ingredients.”

We all know how to create intentions, which is why the gym is packed the first few weeks of the new year. So what are some of the ways we can create this so called “elevated emotion”? I mean, when I was overweight I was depressed. That was an emotion. Isn’t that enough?

Nope.

Mounting bowling balls is one way to provoke an emotion. And there are a multitude of smartphone apps and websites that count pretty much anything you want, from calories (Training Peaks) to the number of days you’ve spent meditating (Headspace). You can even get incredibly “social” with these tools and get kudos, pings and trophy emojis to let you know how good you are doing (or not doing). But somehow these aren’t enough. Why? I think that is has to do with the fact that YOU aren’t creating this emotion. You have outsourced it to a developer. To make the change, you are going to have to do a little more work to find that singular, personal experience that makes you tick.

And this is not strictly related to losing weight. For me, the clear intention is meditation. I keep telling myself that I need to meditate, but I keep falling down (not literally). How lazy do you have to be to not sit quiet for 10 minutes and just breathe? Ok, that’s negative self speak, so I’ll move in another direction. 🙂 

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”— Robert Frost

What do I need to do to make meditation (or whatever) emotional? And what the hell is “emotion” anyway?! A quick Google search serves up over 195 million results, all subtly different. That’s quite a lot to sift through, so I’ll take the first hit: “An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007). This is something we can work with! Let’s take it apart, applying it to what we will simply call, “the intention”.

So here we go. To affect X outcome (e.g. my weight, mind, relationship, etc.), I want to implement “the intention” (e.g. exercise, meditation, communication, etc.). 

Getting moody:

  • Subjective Experience: How it applies to me (as an individual). If you don’t know, consider what makes you the happiest or saddest. Be a scientist of your lows.
  • Physiological Response: Increased heart rate. Tingling fingers. Butterflies in the stomach.
  • Behavioral/Expressive Response: A smile. A frown. Pep in your step. Do you stop and take a deep breath when this idea hits you?

Using our bowling ball example, perhaps the guy trying to lose weight was a bowler. For someone else, let’s say a carpenter, it could be bricks. It can be anything personal. This invokes the Subjective experience (in you), creating the Physiological response (for the guy, he knew how much those bowling balls weighed), followed by Behavioral (he is definitely lighter in the step now, potentially even lowering his heart rate).

Hook. Line. Sinker.

It’s not only important to have the totem (i.e. the bowling balls) it also needs to be celebrated and admired, giving the ego a stake in the game. Standing in front of them and allowing yourself to “feel” the emotion. Visualizing how you feel as you practice your intention. Imagining how you will feel as you continue your life walking along this pathway.

I purposefully won’t use the word “goal” here, because I personally don’t believe in them. The “goal” is the “practice” and not the “thing”. Alan Watts describes it rather elegantly:

“…we, being a very compulsive and purposive culture, are busy getting everywhere faster and faster until we eliminate the distance between places…what happens as a result of that is the two ends of your journey became the same place. You eliminate the distance, you eliminate the journey. The fun of the journey is travel, not to obliterate travel. So then, in music, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest and there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord because that’s the end!”

“It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.” – Robert M. Pirsig

Resistance will most certainly arise as we work towards implementing our intention. When you notice the resistance, know that you are going in the right direction. Things that are easy don’t usually give us trouble, which is why we don’t have to work at them. Sure this is an obvious statement, but as Alan mentioned above, we want things quick, easy (outsourced). Things that are easy (and free) are not given value. And if they don’t come fast enough (results driven), we give up. I could ask myself: “Shouldn’t meditation be easy? It’s just sitting and breathing. Maybe meditation isn’t right for me”. Boo hoo! However, there is a deeper knowing that meditation is an intention that is on my path to finding the deeper me. Having this knowledge, I embark on a journey, armed with very little.

Going forward, my plan to increase my meditation practice, using the bowling balls as a catalyst, is using these marbles I have had in the drawer for years (literally, years). I’m going to find a clear, glass jar and place one marble in the jar each day I meditate. I’ll keep it on my chest of drawers so I can see it every morning, as the sun shines through our bedroom window onto the jar. Funny thing: I can already FEEL it. I can feel the feeling of dropping a marble in there. The round, hard glass in my hand. Hearing it tink-a-clink around. Seeing the bright, colorful glass fall into place at the bottom. Knowing that each marble represents breath. Life. Journey.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

Today is a good day to die

love-inner-child-burning-man-sculpture-2I was struck by a thought this morning and it’s been twirling around in my brain all afternoon.

All things that live, innately, have an intrinsic relationship with death. Has something died that was never born? Vice versa?

No. They are inseparable. End of story. But this non dichotomous relationship has amazing potential.

Steve Jobs famously said “Death is very likely the single best invention in my life.” He used it as a sort of motivation to give him the drive to do some amazing (and awful) things. I play this game too. Worried about dying and regretting that I had not fully lived.

AND YET!

I look in the mirror and I’m not satisfied. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we all criticize ourselves. Our looks, our abilities, our lifestyle. The things we own. The things we don’t own. And we’re relentless, saying things to ourselves we would NEVER tell another human being: “you’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, too fat, too weak, too lazy, too old”. On and on. How do we live with ourselves?

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe” – Mark Twain

So the deal that I have unknowingly made, and the thought that has been clinking around, is this: I fear death, but I hate (criticize) the thing I live and walk around in. What?! Isn’t that a little crazy? If I truly feared death… feared not doing the things I wanted to do… shouldn’t I be jumping for joy in this meat suit? That I’ve been given this friggin’ awesome opportunity?

Furthermore… it works! I am healthy. I can do things. I can write. I function. And the thing is, everyone reading this is functional too! So why am I so down on myself when the stakes are so high? 75 to 80% of all healthcare dollars are spent in the last 6-8 months of life. What this tells me is that only when we get right to the end, when our bodies are their weakest, do we try to hold on. Argue about our healthcare system all you want, but I believe the point is made: our focus is off.

We die a little every day. Everyone we see will one day die. Haunting, but not morbid. I don’t look at a beautifully cut rose and lament about the fact that it will wilt. No! I am amazed at its beauty. It’s smell. The way it makes me feel. If I could do this with myself everyday, well…

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

I’ve always sucked at meditating. But as I meditated this morning, a pretty cool idea materialized in the chilly, blue morning. I have been told 100 times to “watch my thoughts”, “observe your thoughts”, never really understanding what this meant to “Me”. And this is very subtle. Because even if I intellectually understand a topic, until I integrate it into the deeper me, it has no real meaning. No value.

So as I watched today, becoming a deeper observer, I noticed how attracted I was to my thoughts. The dreams, the things I needed to do, my worries, the books I’ve read, the books I’ll read, sex, coffee. All very exciting things to attach to. This is where I sat back and said, “huh. Look at that. I could spend my whole day there.” Or even worse, an entire lifetime.

The mind is a magician. We stay distracted and asleep. We are protected. “Smug in the wooly cotton brains of infancy“. I liken my Ego to a Sentinel, whose purpose is not only to give me confidence and motivation, but is there to guard against ridicule, shame, and guilt. But the Ego plays small and can’t tell the difference between a tiger chasing me or presenting my thoughts in front of a group of strangers. We are not our thoughts.

“Knowledge is not knowing” – ACWT

“Today is a good day to die” is a quote by Crazy Horse (though it is debated if he said it first). It has a literal meaning as it relates to actual combat and the glory of dying by defending your tribe. Perhaps for some, It can have a deeper meaning as it relates to spirit. Dying for a cause. My cause. Being a spiritual warrior. I understand that can sound a little corny (cause my Ego says so), but I can’t think of a better metaphor for what I need to do. Can I die to the old “me” to become the person I want to be? The person who is in harmony with his body and mind?

Whether we like to believe it or not, we’re under attack. Attack for our attention. Not for our dollars, for our attention. The most valuable commodity we have: time. Money is secondary. Sitting in my quiet bedroom this morning, entertaining myself with my own thoughts and emotions, how could I expect myself to go out in the world with 1 million other distractions and still maintain the true “me”? You know, a fully self actualized person. Stuart Smalley style. It seems, rather, that I am a reflection of something outside of me. In a scene from Mad Men (The Gypsy and the Hobo), as the Drapers are out trick or treating on Halloween, a neighbor opens the door after Sally knocks and says:

“We’ve got a gypsy and a hobo.” Glancing up at Don, he asks, “And who are you supposed to be?”

We have all heard that a problem can not be solved with the same mind that created it. Most of us get that. Intellectually. Then we go to therapists and religion to have them tell us what to think. We outsource it. Or we ignore it and turn to other vices. But it doesn’t go away. As I’ve said before, it’s patient. And it’s eternal.

“The pathway is within. Don’t go without.” – ACWT

This path started for me as a young kid. I remember playing in the woods at our house in South Carolina, alone among the pine trees, watching them sway back-and-forth bouncing against each other, using each others presence to keep them from breaking. Pine trees are tall and heavy. Without the surrounding trees they’re prone to snapping.

Marching around in my camo shirt and pants, considering myself some sort of warrior, I was the master of the woods. Armed and ready, I usually carried a BB gun. This day, I had a small bow and arrow with me, given to me by my Dad. Curious as to what would happen, I shot an arrow as high as I could up into the trees. The arrow got stuck, and since I only had a few, this made me a little sad. But instead of getting upset or walking away, I looked up at the pine trees with a challenge. I looked up and said: “show me. Show me you’re there.” The wind blew, and the pine trees majestically began to dance among themselves, the wind whistling through their green needles that contrasted against a bright blue Southern sky. Gently, a gust of warm wind brought the arrow down right next to me, near my feet, the arrow’s head buried neatly in the dirt.

Coincidence? Sure.

longleaf_canopy_resized

I’ve always been a pretty happy person, but too often as a child, and even as an adult, I have had a love affair with the darkness. It’s easier. More seductive. Just go back and listen to the teachings Yoda gave Luke while he was on Dagobah.

“Luminous beings are we…not this crude matter.” – Yoda

We are locked by the dogma and limited by implanted ideas that don’t serve us. And when I say “us” and “we”, I mean “me”. It just easier to say “us” and “we” sometimes. If I limited this only to an external someone, I would have missed the point.  Selfishly, sometimes the writing is just for me. A way to think through it.

Self love. And I don’t mean masturbation. Even mental masturbation. It doesn’t mean saying to yourself “You’ve had a bad day, so you can drink a fifth of Scotch”. Or have cake or ice cream. It just means to give your body the credit it is due. Give you mind the same kindness you’d give to a child. Take care of it. Honor it.

And every day, may I die and be born again. I hope the same for you.

Take care.

 

Apologizing to the wrong people


The other day my wife and I had an argument. Not even an argument, it was just a conversation that I managed in the wrong way. She said something about my character and my ego immediately recoiled: “how dare you!”

Today I feel different about it all. Not all, just my reaction. I have an ego. A cautious little critter that looks out for my best interest…to a fault.

Today I apologized. Not to her. To me. See, I think we have been apologizing to the wrong people all along. To apologize to her means that I can’t control myself. It decentralizes it. “This is just who I am.” BARF! What a cop out. 

But, if I apologize to me, I am actually making a change. I now recognize there is this thing inside of me that I can address. Outsourcing it to “I’m sorry” only prolongs the problem and guaranteed, it will show up another day. 

Thank you Universe for giving me this opportunity. 

I am doomed to live this circle until I control my ego. Viciously and violently living a circle of suffering until I make a choice. 

A choice to apologize to me. 

The Pathway

pathway

It’s Friday. Thank God!

I am sure a lot of people could sit around and complain that they have not found their art (I do). “Art” meaning that thing that you, above anyone else, is the best at. Or SO good at, that people will pay you for it. Maybe it can be found in some professions. Or aspects of professions. I have only seen brief flits. Maybe I (you) have no calling.

But have you ever felt that pull? That longing? That discontent? Have you ever complained about Mondays? Hmm. If you have…

That’s it. That’s you! The deeper You is trying to get out.

But we don’t listen. Better to keep small. People might talk.

How many times have you heard someone to tell you to “do  your best” and that’s all that can be expected. And you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.

IT’S BULLSHIT!

Why? Because we all go to work. We work without purpose. Don’t believe me? If it were purposeful, no one would say TGIF! If you live for Fridays, your shit is broke (thanks Gary. V.). You want to be somewhere else doing that thing that lights you up.

But we don’t. We play small. Waiting for retirement… or worse: death.

Your company does not care for you. Especially if it’s publicly traded. If it is, your tenure is at the whim of the market. Or poor decisions from top of the food chain. Anything else you may be told is a platitude. And by the way, HR is there for the company, not for the people.

Do my best. Do my best. How can I be driven to do my best in a job that sucks the soul out of me and that ultimately, is only there to make someone else rich. Do I work for the money? Hell yeah! Why else?

But I do my best. I worry. I compete. I’m anxious. I’m stressed. I prepare spreadsheets and documents. I make calls. I have coffee. I produce good work. So WHAT THE HELL?! I still go to be every night unfulfilled. Knowing that there is something else inside of me waiting. And it’s a patient mother fucker. I can’t scream at it to show up. It’s calm. It’s deep.

So what’s the answer? (read my free e-book and give me $199.99 a month and I will tell you).

OK. That was a joke. 🙂

I think… I think the answer is in a word I have been pondering lately. Just as electricity needs to be grounded, we need a PATHWAY. A pathway.

Gratitude is a pathway. Service is a pathway. Meditation is a pathway.

Pathway.

I have always told myself that “I’m on the path”. Cool.

It’s time to name the path.

Namaste.