Breaking Flame

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ZenDoodle-1

I’ve been doing these kinds of doodles for a long time, but I’ve started to have a new appreciation for them and decided to start sharing them as they are “complete”. Some take a few minutes, some a few days. The only consistency is that I use one continuous and non-intersecting line.

This one was done while I’ve been ramping up a few different aspects of my life that are in alignment with my goals for the year. I’ve been much more active physically and allowing myself to stretch mentally – dealing with emotions and personal challenges that in former versions of myself would have been handled with much more disconnection and shock.

This image appears to me as the face of God breaking through the fire of surrender and release, beckoning, welcoming, and waiting patiently.

Pools of Reflection

Memories always seemed like something that I look at but don’t truly dig into. They’re something to be experienced and then let go. But as I dig into myself and my memories I’ve discovered something almost surreal: Memories are portals.

Or perhaps more aptly they are pools which shimmer and shine and reflect who you are while just below the surface you can glimpse something moving along with an invisible yet familiar current. As you reach your hand down to touch that pool you can watch the ripples radiating out from your fingertips, which just barely broke the surface and wait, hesitating, trembling, on the edge of breaking the surface completely … deciding haltingly whether to shift the balance of atmosphere and liquid.

When the plane is broken I stand staring at the reflection of someone younger and watch as the images change and swirl with the ripples in the surface. I feel that I am witnessing something truly magical which can absorb all of my attention and interest – a television that plays only for me and shows me parts of my past which I can become absorbed in. Lost in thought and ruminating upon the person I was as if we  iwere different people.

All around me are pools of shimmering possibility. I’m standing in a cavern which seems to go on endlessly. It is dark but not as dark as it should be for having no lights – the pools create enough illumination to extend the range of my vision in all directions. Some of the pools shine more brightly than others, but all are the same size.

I can walk in any direction and when I come upon a pool I mark its location so I can come back to it someday. But until now I thought that they were only pools. Shimmering and fluid mirrors that showed me the past trapped inside them. Now I know better. Now I know that they are portals.

Dip your fingers a little lower into the pool. It feels for a moment as if your fingers are being surrounded by water and then you realize it was only the sensation of breaking through the surface to the other side. That initial sensation of liquid surrounding your fingers being in truth the surface bending with you until finally you break through and find yourself on the other side – suddenly in a place which feels strange and familiar and impossible: you are in the past.

Memories are more than just a reflection. They act as a portal into the past. A touchstone to the places you’ve been and the times you’ve been. Exploring them fully could take and entire lifetime.

As I write of my memories I find that my challenges with recalling the past are but illusory obstacles which I’ve placed before myself to prevent the world of the past from completely overwhelming me. Imagine every moment in your life faithfully captured and accessible in your mind. The concept to me is terrifying in its allure.

I dig into my memories and find that they are whole worlds which I can explore and experience. The world of memory is one of places and things and as you walk around it and explore its details and crevices you come upon the tethers of other portals which you can touch and bring to life around you … at the risk of being instantly brought to a different time and perhaps a different place.

But in the end the pools have a limitation. Perhaps it is simply one I have created to protect myself or perhaps there is some other limitation that I am unaware of. The pools cannot be visited indefinitely. The world which exists below the soft surface layer of my mind are ones which quickly and easily repulse the visitor. As if submerged lightly beneath the water I find that I cannot help but float up to the surface and, having done so, lose sight of the beautiful things I have been looking at underneath, only to find their shadows or an imagined simulacrum in their place if I dip my head below again.

An ocean of coral beauty lies below the surface, but blink and it shifts in a way which makes it a stranger to you again.

But what if the pools could be further explored? What if you could fully immerse yourself in them? Would it truly then be memories? Or would it become something more? Something like time travel.

Relax. Take a deep breath. And slip into a pool.

My Food Habit

I have to tell you that there’s really nothing more powerful in my life right now than the habit of creating habits. Whether those habits create a new pattern or break down an old one, it’s become something I put quite a bit of thought into and that I practice every day.

But before I knew how to put intention behind creating habits, I spent a lifetime building up habits unintentionally: habits of communication, food, sex, and more. Some of these habits have served me well but most of them have got to go.

On today’s hit list? Food.

I grew up eating as much as possible and not stopping until I felt full. I would usually end up overeating and that slowly became the only way that I would feel satisfied from a meal. It wasn’t uncommon to hear me referred to as a “bottomless pit” or a “garbage disposal” and I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some sense of self-satisfaction at being recognized for something – even if it was overeating.

But let’s take a step back and talk about eating – what’s it all about anyways? Well this is how our stomach and brain work: when you blood sugar starts getting low and your stomach is empty you start feeling hungry. The tumbly starts to rumbly and the only thing that will fix that is either A) putting something in your stomach or B) raising your blood sugar level.

I separate these two out because I think it’s important to note that you can trick your hunger into going away by drinking water so that your stomach fills. It’s only once that water is processed and your blood sugar is still below a certain threshold that you’ll start feeling hungry again. (That tip works a treat for when you’re fasting.)

When you actually put food in your stomach and it gets digested your blood sugar starts going up and you won’t feel hungry until it goes below the “I’m hungry” threshold again.

But here’s the thing: there’s a pretty wide gap between when you’re not hungry and when you’re full.

Did you know that airlines won’t actually fill an airplane’s fuel tank to full every single time? Rather they put enough fuel to get to the destination plus some for safety. The reason is that they don’t want to add the weight of the fuel they don’t need because that will cause the plane to be heavier and therefore to use more fuel.

The same thing happens to me when i eat past when I’m not hungry and all the way until I feel full. I start feeling heavier – like i have more to carry around. Rather than eating enough to get to my destination I’ve eaten so much that the fuel itself is costing me in efficiency and happiness and more.

Fuel is all that food really is. Imagine there’s a fire in your body that’s keeping you going and making everything work. That fire starts to die down so you add fuel in the form of logs and kindling.

But what if you loaded down that campfire with every singe thing you could find? You wouldn’t necessarily create a bigger fire – there’s a ratio beyond which you end up smothering the flame instead. If you’re just starting a fire you don’t add a whole tree to it after you get a few sparks because the fire needs oxygen to start.

The same thing goes if your fire is established but is getting low. You can accidentally put out a fire by adding too much fuel or adding it incorrectly.

By the way, the quality of fuel is an easy analogy here. Have you ever loaded a bunch of crap into a fire? Wrappers, styrofoam, plastic … anything like that? Well if you have you know what I know – it just makes a bunch of toxic smoke and noxious fumes. If your food is low quality you’re doing the same to the fire in your body and getting the same results.

Right now I feel like I eat too much for what i need. I’m gassing up my tank for a flight from New York to Hong Kong when I’m only going to Westchester. That changes starting today.

This is my goal: I will find a balance in feeding my body that feels good for it. I will find the point where I’m giving myself nourishment with the right kind (and quality) of fuel and only giving myself enough for it to be used up before my next meal. I will run lean and build a sustainable and healthy fire in my body.

Here’s how I’m going to build this habit. I’m going to start by putting a hard cap on how much I eat at any given time. I will observe how long that food lasts me and then gradually increase the amount of food until it consistently gets me to just before my next meal.

I will be very mindful about what I’m eating and journal the type of food and the amount. I will not be super specific – I know there are tools for that and I’m not interested. Rather I want to have a rough idea so that I’m paying attention to what I eat and I’m able to determine the types of foods that hold me over and feel the best.

Every time I finish a meal I’m going to check in with my body on how it’s feeling and try to really remember that feeling. That way when I get to the point where I feel like I’ve pretty much figured out the right amount of food I can memorize that feeling and always be looking for it when I’m eating.

Over the last few months I’ve gotten really good at building up habits and I know I can build this one up as well.

I know that I can retrain my body and brain to know what “full” feels like and that is what I will do over the next 110 days. I will re-learn how to eat. I will give my body what it wants and needs instead of smothering my fire with a forest of fuel. Less ash and smoke, more trees for rope swings. Everybody wins.

Putting it Off

“Procrastination is a real problem for me and I intend to do something about it. Starting tomorrow.”

Often the reason I put things off is related to a problem with knowing how to do something or feeling like it’s too big of an undertaking and I’ll somehow have more time later.

But that’s the obvious way procrastination manifests itself. In reality the problem for me is the more subversive procrastination that shows up as a feeling rather than a thought. That feeling can be described for me as fear – fear of not being able to do something as simple as find a place to put something away, or as complex as marketing my coworking space.

Or let’s take something a lot more current: writing my blog post about procrastination. I’m not kidding – since I started this post I’ve deleted one paragraph and started practically from scratch, thought about stopping to change the phone number on the Fuse website, glanced at the blinking notification light on my phone and reached out to check my e-mail. On my phone. With my computer open right in front of me.

Distractions are how we justify avoiding the things we are fearful of doing. They’re how we keep ourselves safe from that feeling – that nervous simmer in our stomach that feels like nervousness and smells of fear. It’s the feeling that is usually preceded by thinking “I really should do this” and followed by “I can take care of it later.”

Looking at myself and how/when that feeling shows up for me I’m reminded of this quote about how “Fear is an emotion. Danger is real.” I recognize that most of the time when I feel fear about doing something it’s because I either don’t think I’ll do it well or I don’t think I know how to do it.

There are certainly times when I don’t do something because I’d rather do something else, but those aren’t the times that I’m most concerned about. Those are times I could probably prevent with a little better scheduling or self-rewarding. But procrastination that comes from fear is something you can rarely reward yourself out of.

A friend of mine just suggested something she does: Structured Procrastination. As she explained it, the idea is that if you have something you’re really not wanting to do because it’s super important you find something else that’s even more super important so you want to do the first thing.

I feel pretty strongly about addressing issues head on, though, so for me it’s really important that I find a way to start doing things BECAUSE they’re important and I’m scared of doing them. So what I’ve been trying to do is really pay attention to how I feel every time I’m deciding whether to do something.

If the decision to not do something is based on some sort of logic, I let that slide. If it’s based on a feeling then I try to stop myself from making the decision until I’ve acknowledged the feeling. It’s kind of like shoplifting – statistics show that it decreases just by asking each customer if you can help them.

I guess that’s how I feel about procrastination: it’s shoplifting my productivity. So if I just pay some more attention to my decisions about how to use my time, maybe it will slink away with an awkward “Um … no thanks …” and walk out with empty pockets.

At least I got through writing the post on procrastination even though I feel like it’s pretty lacking … it’s a start.

Me – 1 / Procrastination 1 bajillion

But I’m trending in the right direction.

Fear Too

Loved the serendipity of finding this post the same day as I published my own on fear.

Fearing less FTW

BE BOLD LIVING

Punch fear in the Face.

Not so long ago I sat down with fear. We’re all familiar with the terror invoked by horror movies, but this was something far more insidious and dangerous: the fear we don’t even think about and the type most likely to wreak havoc on our lives.

Because the truth is that we all have things that can hold us back and fear is like a bad-ass bouncer in your heart and mind. It can block you from the real show if you let it.

I had to realize and accept just how much fear was holding me. I wasn’t having panic attacks (most will say I’m confidant and capable) but that didn’t change the fact that fear held me gently in its teeth, seldom biting down so I often forgot it was there.

That’s the worst: holding my breath in little ways; racing for no reason; giving away pieces of myself instead…

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On Competition

If there’s one great character flaw that I’ve recognized about myself it’s this: I have a hard time remembering that everyone doesn’t think like me. I’m not implying my way of thinking is best – let’s just get that out in the open. I recognize that I’m just as flawed as anyone else.

But I will say this: In my way of thinking, flat out competition is stupid.

One of the first things I do when I talk to someone is find a common thread with them and then excitedly share with them and talk with them about that common thread. And when it comes to business I can’t begin to fathom not doing the same thing.

We can all accomplish so much if we work together. We can create such amazing things if we get over our fears of failure and start thinking about the future we can create together. There is not a single business out there that is a complete and absolute competitor for any other because every business is different. They are run by different people, they exist in different spaces, they have different clients, they have slightly different products – they all have something that differentiates them from someone else.

And that is where the opportunity for collaboration lies. The ability to differentiate yourselves and leverage each other to create a bigger market, to have a united front, to help your customers find the appropriate product at the appropriate price.

Not everyone agrees – I understand that.

I’m willing to listen to contrasting opinions and arguments. And when I do those things I’m doing them in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, because we create so much more when we work together than when we tear each other down.