Beginnings

*** DISCLAIMER: Ramblings ahead. I woke up thinking the first line and wanted to let it come out, dragging a magician’s string of handkerchiefs behind it if it so desired. But I did want to publish it because that adds some reality that I couldn’t afford it if the bits and bytes that recorded these thoughts stayed locked away inside a digital den like so much treasure hoarded by a greedy dragon. ***

I sometimes think that my life didn’t really begin in earnest until I reached college. Specifically when I began attending Bradley University. It was then that I actually began to experience a tremendous amount of growth as a person – a trajectory which I would continue to see (grow and change) ever since.

I remember very clearly a moment when that growth was mentioned to me sometime in my second year. I was told by an acquaintance in Alpha Phi Omega that they thought I’d grown a lot in the last year and they were really impressed.

It was almost the first compliment I remember receiving that I had actually believed and taken pride in. (Sarah compliment) I don’t know if it was that moment that catalyzed the change I would continue to see in myself or if it was just a moment that would stick with me until now and hopefully for many years to come. But I do know that changing and growing has become more and more a part of me that I am proud of and focused on.

While I have many things about myself that I choose not to focus on out of fear or prioritization, there are many others (mostly internal perspectives and thought processes) that are constantly being re-evaluated and modified.

But these aren’t things I’m focusing on and then modifying. It’s more like being at the gym and working with a personal trainer where they are focusing not on the weights you’re lifting or the exercises you’re doing but on the form and movement of your body. (training with Khaled)

You start developing better habits around those movements by having awareness of where your body is out of alignment. It’s the awareness of things I want to do better in my life that helps me change.

The only issue I’ve run into that I have the most difficulty dealing/struggling with is that the more someone ELSE wants me to bring awareness to something and the less it was MY idea, the less likely I seem to want to change it.

A great example is biting my nails. I was never a hugely prodigious nail biter. I didn’t usually bite them down to the quick or have a lot of bleeding fingertip moments, but I did bite them quite a bit. I know I recognized the negative impact of biting my nails, but it continued on until sometime in 2011 or 2012 when I was taking guitar lessons. I wanted to learn how to finger-pick and that required having longer nails, so I stopped biting them.

That was it. No one asked me to stop biting them, or told me that I had to. It was just a question of “yeah, you’d probably be able to pick better if your nails were longer.”

Same thing with biting my fingers – I just decided I wanted to stop and while it’s been a much harder thing to quit, I find myself sticking to it more.

Ditto with smoking. I smoked from 1997 to about 2001 with a few months off around 1999 ¬†when I was trying to quit for my girlfriend at the time, (Jen). I recognized the negative aspects of smoking but they didn’t really stick in my head, nor the importance of stopping sooner than later.

I’m tempted to say something about how when you’re young you think you have all the time in the world, but the reality is that we’re always young, so that’s simply not a valid hypothesis. More accurate would be to say that our lives without focus and intention are not lives at all, but a string of experiences washed over us by an ocean of possibilities.

Someone posted on FB recently “vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” That was my life until college. And it’s not that it changed instantly that year and everything was different, but it was then that things began to shift.

And it took about 10 years from then for the shift to accelerate to where I am now. Somewhere in 2012 is where I started really living with intention. Focusing enough of my energy every day on living with intention that I felt a shift from experiencing life to living life.

It really is a subtle shift, but it’s an important one. And that doesn’t mean I’m in control of my life now any more than I was before – you can’t control the world. But you can impact how you experience it.

I say impact because I don’t believe you can control yourself any more than you can control the world. You can influence both but you can’t control either. It’s really just a question of living with intention at the time and truly believing afterward that you did the best you could.

Because doubt truly is the mind-killer. It shifts our focus implicitly into the past tense and does a really good job of keeping it there.

“I wish I’d been …” is evil. It goes against not only the natural order and the laws of space-time (as far I understand them) but also against who you are. Because you are the sum of the experiences you’ve had and the choices you’ve made. So if you were to change ANYTHING in your past, you wouldn’t be EXACTLY who you are today.

And if you don’t want to be exactly who you are today then how can you begin to become the person that you want to be tomorrow? More importantly, how will you ever be able to believe that you’re doing your best?

In a way it comes down to a simple statement which I think you can either accept or reject: “I am the best version of myself that I can be and I intend to continue as such.”

If you accept that statement completely and permanently, then you will never doubt your choices and you will have a firm foundation upon which to build every day of your future.

And that’s the blissful part of life for me. The thing that really keeps me going and moving forward at what can sometimes seem like they would be break-neck speeds. (skateboard)

I don’t doubt or waver or question myself – just do the best I can. That doesn’t mean I always know what to do or what will yield the “optimal result”. But it does mean that regardless of the result it will be optimal.

I had a great conversation with David S and a few others a while ago that was around the duality of the reality of life. Specifically that you have no control over what happens but you have complete accountability for it. I can’t control the things that happen to and around me, nor can I control the results of my actions. But at the same time, I create the world I experience and therefore the things that happen to and around me, and every result of my actions.

In most conversations I have with folks there’s an implicit assumption that either they have NO control over life, the universe, and everything, or they have FULL control over the same. The latter tend to be fewer in number, but the “manifestation” crowd is definitely growing.

I’ve also met a very small number of folks who speak about the third option – BOTH and NEITHER. Jack Butler was I think the first person to introduce me to this concept in a workshop that he did on being a conscious change agent.

I still remember seeing a chart on the board (enneagram?) that had four quadrants which I believe were segmented based on varying degrees of your influence over reality and reality’s influence over you.

One quadrant was the victim – no influence over reality or its influence over you, just stuck experiencing the world as it’s handed out. There was also the author, who on the opposite end of the spectrum influenced everything around them including (albeit passively) the color of the sky and the firmness of reality.

Then there was the shaman. This quadrant assumed a fluid ability to navigate and adjust their reality. Accepting the influence of the world on the self and the self’s influence on the world as equal in measure and importance. This is the quadrant that I was discussing with David et al and referring to above.

There was another quadrant but I don’t believe we ended up talking about it and I’m not sure what it would be. Reality has no influence over you and you have no influence over reality … hmm … I imagine a leaf. A phantasmal leaf forever blowing in an unsteady wind – unable to change, only to observe. It feels like a lonely existence.

Speaking at Ignite Boulder

The Alchemy of Following your Bliss

I was fine until about the 2nd talk before mine. That’s when my heart started speeding up.

Let’s say my heart normally walks along at 90 beats per minute. When that 2nd talk before mine started up my heart rate jumped to what felt like 120 bpm – what you’d normally experience jogging very slowly.

By the time the talk right before mine started I had gotten up to around 140 bpm – about what you feel when you’re sprinting.

When I got up on stage and started talking, I had hit the point where your heart is beating so hard and so fast that you could swear everyone can heAR yoU talkING fuNNY as your heart shoves every other syllable out of your mouth.

But I kept talking. I just kept going because I knew well enough to trust all the rehearsing I’d done and just let it all come out. And it worked – my heart was still beating a million miles an hour, but I was half way through without any major hiccups.

Then I messed up.

continue reading…

Fear

There’s a great quote out there that goes something like “remember that fear is just an emotion. Danger is real and fear can alert you to it, but after that fear just gets in the way.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being afraid. It means your brain is working. The challenge is acknowledging fear, discovering its source and purpose, and letting it go.

One of the things that allows you to move past fear is faith, and this is where many religions do a lot of good – they give you something to put your faith into that you know will do the right thing.

With that said there is another kind of faith that isn’t mutually exclusive of the first and that I would argue is even more powerful: faith in yourself. The belief that you will do your best and things will turn out in the end.

The fear of following your intuition about living a different life can be a hidden fear that acts from the shadows – whispering to you in the dark from behind thick curtains.

It can manifest in a lot of fear loops that keep you stuck where you are. “I’m not ready yet” – the desire to make this perfect or to be fully prepared; “What if I wait it out” – the belief that things will get better if you just wait a little longer; “I’ll start slow and then do it” – the (usually faulty) desire to start living your ideal life while clinging to your old one.

There are many other ways that fear manifests itself but make no mistake that it is fear. continue reading…