Author Archives: James
Author Archives: James
A topic you’ll hear me talk about quite often is meditation. This practice is mandatory for all my private coaching clients, and simply put, there is no higher ROI you can get on 10-20 minutes of your time. There is no written word, cup of coffee or magic pill which will give you the cognitive benefits so readily available as with meditation.
You can find a deeper dive on the health benefits of mediation by reading XXXX. In this post, we’re going to assume you’re already on board with wanting to meditate or already have a practice, and you’re looking to grow in that practice.
Meditation only works if you find the time for it, you do it, and you integrate it into your life. Here we’re going to look at 6 different tools and techniques you can you to accelerate your journey into meditation, and the pros and cons of each.
Headspace – Any list of mediation tool would be woefully inadequate without Headspace front and center. SImply put, there is no more straight forward path to learning mediation than downloading Headspace and following the guided prompts. It’s dead simple, you could recommend it to a child or your grandparents.
The narrator Andy Puddicombe is incredibly knowledgeable, being the author of multiple books and a former Buddhist monk himself. That said, the teachings are not tied to any faith or religion, quite the opposite, and what really shines is his ability to break down advanced concepts into simple straightforward instructions which can work for most anyone.
If you want to get to know the voice behind the App first, then give a listen to this podcast. If nothing else on this list jumps out as your tool of choice, I would say Headspace is the safest default. For the first 2 years of my private coaching, this was the only app I recommended to my clients.
Pros: Simple, Structured, Idiot-Proof, Educational
Cons: Can get a bit repetitive, many modules are similar, app interface feels dated
Who it’s best for: Beginners to Meditation or those getting back into it after a long break
10% Happier – An app that’s been picking up a lot of steam lately is 10% Happier, a lot of clients of mine have switched to this app from Headspace, and report being upwards of 10% happier about the move. The price points are the same ($99/yr) but 10% Happier looks much more diverse, with video content, interviews and explanations for a whole myriad of different meditation techniques.
Another great feature of 10% happier is their in-app support. You can get your questions answered by a real meditation teacher, typically within 24 hours. I tested them out and asked a question I had about a specific kind of Meditation I was interested in (Transcendental Meditation) and while they didn’t have content in the app related to what I was looking for, the person helping me went above and beyond by linking me to an episode of their podcast from several months ago when they had a TM teacher on speaking about the practice. Being that Headspace has no in-app support, this felt like a pretty big step up.
The thing to be careful of here is that for a beginner, it’s easy to get lost in this app. It does have a beginner program, but beyond that it gives up a bit of structure and simplicity in exchange for the diversity and flair that come from all the different options, content and teachers in this app.
10% Happier brands itself as “Meditation for Skeptics,” which is a bit of a curious title. Basically it’s reaching out to the “what’s in it for me crowd” and makes constant effort to convince the audience that there are in fact benefits to meditation and to explain what those benefits are. I think it’s great for both the curious or the unconvinced, both of which are important things to be at times. That said, for those just starting out, all the choices and information in this app may feel a bit overwhelming.
Pros: Variety of options and teachers, clean modern interface, lots of options and education, in-app live support
Cons: Loses a bit of the simplicity and structure, practical skeptics approach can miss out on some of the “break from normalcy” inherent benefits of mediation practice. This way of framing mediation keeps the connection to the self very paramount, so it offers less in the way of going beyond the ego and connecting to something deeper or more spiritual, which paradoxically can often offer the exact practical benefits being sought after.
Who it’s best for: Skeptics, Those Bored with Headspace, People curious to learn about all the different approaches to meditation
Calm – Calm is always one of the top Meditation Apps in the App stores, however I personally feel that it’s not as conducive to building either a skill or knowledge base in mediation as other options. Calm strikes me as more symptomatic, “I want to feel calm now, so I open calm and it makes me calm.” This is the equivalent of starting your beachbody diet on the first day of summer.
Meditation is so much more than a technique to use when you’re stressed or can’t sleep. Sure if that’s the case then Calm is great, but so are most of the apps and various other techniques. We want to meditate daily so that we are less likely to become stressed or unable to sleep in the first place, and then when those situations do invariably occur, we can draw on the skills we built in our daily practice to relax ourselves.
I feel the calm lacks both the simplicity and structure of Headspace and the educational variety of 10% Happier. It’s more of an app that treats you to a meditation like it would be a massage rather than one which teaches you how to be a meditator.
That said, apps improve all the time, and Calm has a lot of money behind it. A lot of people download it, likely because a lot of people scrolling through their phones have serious anxiety and cannot be still. This situation benefits most from a new construction of habit and behaviour, which the other apps do a better job coaching you on. Calm is not a bad app perse, I just struggle to find anything compelling reason to recommend it over any other option, it feels pretty generic and uninspired.
Pros: Soothing App feel, great for immediate relief from anxiety or pleasurable mediation sessions. Slightly cheaper than other options.
Cons: Lacks Education and Structure. Caters to more of a “use it when you need it” mentality but competes for the spot of your go-to meditation aid.
Who it’s best for: Those who already have a mediation practice and just want access to a library of content for on the go, those on a budget, those who know if it’s not relaxable and enjoyable from the beginning they won’t do it.
Mindbliss – Mindbliss is a smaller mediation app than the above big 3, but it’s uniqueness earns it a special spot in this list. Mindbliss is not going to be as good as Headspace or 10% Happier for a introduction to meditation, I probably wouldn’t recommend this app to a beginner unless they already had a foundation in spiritual practice, such as Yoga.
That said, this would be my preferred app to use to go deeper, and it gets a pass for many of the things I faulted Calm for because this Mindbliss isn’t trying to be the catch all for every meditation search in the app store, a goal which comes with a certain responsibility in my eyes. Mindbliss caters to a specific audience, similar to 10% Happier, but rather than skeptics, I would say Mindbliss caters to those who are already onboard with meditation and what it can do for them.
For the already meditation faithful, Mindbliss has an incredibly inspired selection of varied meditations which allow the user to experiment with different teachers and techniques. The different options don’t have as much surrounding explanation and education as within 10% Happier, but there is some.
It does lend itself a bit more to the meditation on command like Calm rather than the structure of a daily practice (nothing matches the structure of Headspace) but for those already on their journey this is alright, and the different choices are the most varied, with Binaural Beats, Chakra Meditations, even an Ayahuasca Integration track. There’s a lot more than ocean waves and sleep aids in this one, while the app interface and choices lend itself to a greater feel of doing something deeply relaxing, out of the ordinary, and away from the practical considerations and concerns of the mind.
Pros: Probably the most enjoyable experience in terms of interface, imagery and the feeling of being transported to a different place during meditation. Deeply relaxing, great for evenings, weekends, or a feeling of a real break from the ordinary. Offers a sense of spirituality not found in the big 3 listed above. Also cheaper than most.
Cons: Not a great beginner app, could lend itself to just listening to the tracks and falling asleep much like calm. Spiritual vibe won’t resonate with some people.
Who it’s best for: Those who already have a mediation and/or spiritual practice but want to go deeper, beyond the levels of the mind. For those who are able to release the desire to understand, make sense of and explain everything.
Omvana – This is an interesting one. First off, it’s the only non-subscription app in our list, so rather than a monthly fee, you simply buy the meditations you want to use and then you own them forever. That makes this the ultimate budget option, because you can start out with the free ones for as long as you like, and then add new mediations one at a time and really get your value out of them.
Also worth mentioning is that Omvana was created by the founder of Mindvalley, Vishen Lakhiani, and comes with his 20 minute 6 Phase Meditation free. For a keep it simple approach, you could do a lot worse than just listening to that meditation for 20 minutes 5 times a week for one month, and it wouldn’t cost you a dime. It may not learn as much about why different techniques in the meditation are there as you would with a month of Headspace, but you’d still feel the benefits, and experiential learning is great also.
Another interesting this about Omvana is that it allows you to mix various guided meditations with different background music tracks, such as nature sounds or binaural beats. You can adjust the volume to get the right pitch of voice over music. This is kind of interesting, although it can be a bit more effort finding the right track than would be preferred, and you cannot import your own background music tracks.
Most of the free ones are very short loops, so if you want something cool you’re going to need to buy a background track or 2, and they are surprisingly expensive at $5+ each. The mediations are also a bit pricey, many coming in at over the $7 mark, and with very limited previews. That said, this app allows you to pay only for what you use, avoid a subscription, and this pricing model can encourage you to keep a structure, working with just the next meditation you’ve moved onto.
Pros: No recurring fee. Buy tracks and own them forever. Not a ton of free content but some is very good, like the 6 Phase Meditation. No reason not to add this app to your collection for that meditation alone. Also, good mix of types of content, everything from mindfulness, focus and practical mediation all the way to spirituality, manifestation and healing modalities.
Cons: Not much by the way of inherent structure, a lot of limited free content aiming to upsell the full version. Limited previews, cannot use your own background tracks. Interface and library search feel a bit dated relative to 10% Happier, Calm or Mindbliss.
Who it’s best for: There’s really no reason not to download this app and play with it a bit since there’s no subscription. It’s great for beginners because of the free 6 Phase Meditation, and it’s great for more advanced students who want a meditation on demand for specific topics or before bed because you can simply buy a good “drift into sleep” meditation, perhaps with a soothing background track, and then use that whenever you need it. That said, having just one app you love and use may be best, and this app probably isn’t that unless you’re starting out for free with the 6 Phase Meditation.
Muse – The last entry in this list is a bit of an oddball but really cool. Rather than subscribing to an App or buying any meditations, you purchase a Muse EEG headband which senses your brain activity while you meditate.
Basically, it connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and then within the app you can choose from about 5 options: beach, rainforest, desert, city park or ambient music. You can also choose any number of minutes to do your session for, so it’s very conducive to your schedule. At that point, the session begins and you will hear the background track, and this is where it gets really cool…
You focus on your breath and calm your mind, and as you do the music gets quieter. If you start to think, then the music gets more loud. You literally control the music with your mind. It’s hard to conceptualize until you try it, but it feels as if it teaches you how to flex and relax your neurons in order to reach that calm and relaxed state.
When you manage to reach stillness and the music is at its quietest, you will begin to hear the sounds of birds chirping, indicating that you’ve collected points. If you get too happy thinking about your new feathered friends, then the music will get louder, and then you start thinking about that, and then it’s full volume, and round and round we go.
What’s really cool about Muse is that rather than explaining to your brain with thoughts ‘how to meditate’ it directly circumvents the level of the though and teaches your brain directly, at the level of intuition and deep understanding. This is a biohack for meditation if one ever existed.
Another thing people really like about the Muse is the immediate feedback, At the end of every session, you get a graph showing for how many seconds of your session you were Active, Neutral or Calm. This allows for a feeling of progress, and also reassurance for the all to common concern ‘am I doing this right.’ Uncertainty around if you’re accomplishing anything while meditating is probably the number 1 reason that new meditators quit, and Muse quite directly solves that problem.
I was actually very skeptical at first, because I thought grading my meditation performance would limit the experience and take away from the ability to transcend the mind and get to non-judgemental awareness, but I actually found that the Muse helped me tune into that state faster and become more aware of what that state feels like with just a few weeks of sessions.
Pros: Unlike anything else on the market. Gives real-time feedback on how calm your brain was during meditation, and allows you to compare results day to day. Very simple, very easy to structure, dare I say makes starting out in mediation fun. Buy it once and use the app forever, one time expense.
Cons: One time cost of about $200 (without a protective case) for a tool that only works with a relatively basic app. You cannot use the Muse to measure your activity during any meditation, only when interacting with the Muse App, which has 5 soundscapes and 22 guided meditations currently.
Who it’s best for: This tool hits a lot of boxes. This is great for anyone with a very analytical mind, or anyone who tends to overthink. It’s also great for people who have difficulty feeling if they are meditating correctly, or who are skeptical about meditation in general. Unlike 10% Happier which tries to convince your mind that meditation works with thoughts, ideas and examples, with the Muse you just plug in and feel it immediately. There is nothing to understand, nothing to agree or disagree with, nothing to contemplate. You just do it, and it works.
You can very easily cancel subscriptions for any of these apps, so just get started with one and you can always mix it up later. The only moves that matter are the ones that you make. In order to get the benefits of meditation, you need to make it a habit. It needs to fit into your life, so at the end of the day, whatever tool or apps gets your but on a cushion each morning with your eyes closed and your mind empty and open is going to be best. You just need to decide and get started and you will find your way with it. Once you tap into your intuition via Meditation, deciding get’s a whole lot easier.
To reference a recent WSJ article talking to Elon Musk about the mental models he has used to build multiple billion dollar companies.
“Mr. Musk said his actions and rapid decision-making can be misunderstood as erratic behavior. “It is better to make many decisions per unit time with a slightly higher error rate, than few with a slightly lower error rate,” he said last weekend in a series of emails with The Wall Street Journal, “because obviously one of your future right decisions can be to reverse an earlier wrong one, provided the earlier one was not catastrophic, which they rarely are.”
Pick the app that sounds best for your personality and get started. If you have experience with any of the Apps listed or have another one worth sharing, please let me know in the comments section.
The year was 2010, I was living in Vegas, and my taste in music was about to change forever. I was a die-hard Blink 182 fan who dabbled in more than my fair share of emo-pop-punk than I would care to admit to. Then one evening I was in a club and I heard this amazing song pouring out over the speakers and pounding with a bass rhythm that caused my heart to beat in unison.
I’ve been watching you
You’ve been hurting too
You give all your love
nothing left to show.
I have been there too
Alone in my despair
Watching life go by,
No one whom to share
Boy you got it bad
But I got something good
I will treat you good in every way yeah
You will never feel alone
My touch is such a rush
I will give to you the love you seek and more
Come on I’m waiting for you
I will give to you
The love you seek and more
It was like a soulmate singing to me over the speakers, claiming to understand the struggles and frustrations of feeling alone in the world, and offering the solution our society has sold us on since our first Disney movie up until our last romantic comedy:
“Just find that special person and everything will be all right.”
Well, here she is! She’s singing over the speakers, promising that she has the that I love and seek, and more!
Add to that, I’m in a nightclub surrounded by beautiful women, any of whom, at the time, I would have loved to hear echo those words and I fell hard. Female Vocal Electronic Music became the new love of my life, a tradition that holds true some 8 years later.
I took out my phone and hit Shazam, it came up Tim Berg “Seek Bromance.” The title didn’t make so much sense to me at the time, as clearly this song was about finding that special girl who would deliver on remedying my every deep seeded feeling of loneliness. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to realize that romance comes and goes, but bromance (platonic male friendships) and the love you give yourself, those are a foundation that you can build your life on.
Like any person, there are always some things I pick up quickly and others that take more time. I remember a particularly awkward conversation with a “potential soulmate girl,” she told me her favourite DJ was Avcii, to which I replied that I liked Tim Berg better and took out my phone to show her my favourite track.
I came to learn that miraculously both Tim Berg and Avicii were playing at the club that night, because as she informed me before walking away in search of cooler company, they were, in fact, the same person.
She did not have the love I sought.
The thing to realize was that no woman really had the love I was seeking at the time, and no woman does. Like most twenty-somethings “all this time I was finding myself, I didn’t know I was lost.” It was me that needed to love me, not any girl. Self-love cannot be the carrot at the end of the rainbow, it can’t come after any accomplishment, it can’t be the reward for hard work. Public love and validation will always be conditional, as will be the love in most of your relationships, be them familial, romantic or otherwise. There is only one person who you can count on to love you without condition, and that is you.
You just need to make that decision.
While the exact circumstances surrounding Tim’s death are unclear, it’s well documented that he had a strong history with alcohol to the point where he was hospitalized for 11 days in 2012 with acute pancreatitis as a result of binge drinking. 2 years later he had surgery to remove his appendix and gallbladder, and then in 2016 he retired from live performing completely due to these health reasons.
Generally speaking, when a person cannot abstain from an activity which is killing them, we would say they are addicted. The old school way of thinking about addiction is to explain that the opposite of addiction is to be sober, clean, in abstinence. Just stop doing the thing and everything will be fine, but then why so often is it not fine, why is it not fine in the beginning, not fine during and not fine after. Why do we relapse into our old patterns or find new vices?
Because the opposite of Addiction isn’t sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection. The triggers change from person to person, as do the activities people partake in as a result of their triggers, but the underlying cause is the same. When we don’t find that love we seek, when we feel disconnected or separate from other people, it’s very hard to resist temptation. When no one understands us, when we feel alone, and when we lose sight of our own value, this is when we are most at risk.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Avicii personally, so I can’t say for sure if his death was the result of damage already done to his health from past excessive overindulgence, or if there were recent relapses which further compromised his condition. I can imagine that stopping to tour and stopping to feel the bromance from his fellow DJs and the adoration of his millions of fans didn’t make abstaining from alcohol any easier.
So how is it that these people so many of us loved and admired so much didn’t feel it for themselves. How can Robbin Williams commit suicide? How can Avicii feel the need to drink alcohol when it’s killing him? How come they can’t just feel good enough as they are? Again, I never had the opportunity to get inside either of their heads, but I would imagine that just like many of the people who endlessly contribute to others, they just didn’t feel the love they gave all of us for themselves, in their own heart.
When you love yourself, you simply don’t kill yourself. Not fast, not slow, not with a gun, nor with alcohol or cigarettes or junk food. You just don’t. The more you love yourself, the more you want to be alive, the more comfortable you feel in more situations, and the less you need anything or anyone that comes at the expense of yourself. An excellent book to start with on this topic is Kamal Ravikant’s “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.”
Our culture has conditioned us to believe that love lies somewhere else. We have to “find love,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can never find love, you can only create love. You are your own soul mate, and the sooner you realize that the more love you will experience.
What I came to realize is that as nice as the words sound coming from the lips of a beautiful woman, and as amazing as it must feel to hear thousands of people chanting your name as you mix a track over the airwaves, the best place to feel these words would be while looking into the mirror.
Baby here we are standing face to face
Just the two of us locked in your embrace
Now I got it bad but you got something good
Won’t you treat me good in every way, yeah
Are you ready
I can feel your passion and your love
Oh oh ohhh it overflows
I’ll get to you the love you seek and more
So what are you waiting for
I’ll get to you the love you seek and more
I got love you seek
I got love you seek
I got love you seek
I got lovee
I like to think Tim did come to this realization at some point, it’s possible when he cleaned up his habits it was just too late for his health already. I like to think he wasn’t always “waiting for love to come around” and that “all the time he was finding himself” he didn’t stay lost.
I’m sure there were some genetic predispositions and unfortunate biological luck involved in his early death. I just hope he knows that he was always good enough, and was always loved, and he more than any other DJ has been the soundtrack to summer for the better part of a decade.
We love you Tim, thank you for everything. See you on the other side.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, depression or social isolation, please know there is always help. A lot of times people think they’ve tried everything, but rarely is this true. I’ve seen first hand many a life transformed from things as simple and straightforward as a meditation practice to things as far off the beaten path, in the realm of ‘trying everything,’ as Ayahuasca.
There is always hope, never give up.
Feel free to link to of my programs on Addiction or Self-Acceptance, and look out for a complete guide to self-love in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading, feel free to share how Avicii impacted your life in the comments section. I’d say in 28 years he made enough waves for many a lifetime <3
When I was a boy of about 8 or 9 years old, I remember that I could spend an afternoon in complete joy using little more than sunshine, a bright blue plastic sword, and my imagination. I’m not sure that I always appreciated the majesty of my imagination, but whenever I got into it, I managed to have a good time. There were times, however, that didn’t feel like rainbows, kittens, and sunshine.
I grew up in a household without TV, and I can still remember the palpable disdain I would feel when I would express my undying boredom to my mom, only to be met with the horrific idea that I should “go outside” or worse “read a book.” Sorry, Mom, I know kids in your day had to walk 3 hours to school and everything, but this is 1995, and books are for old people.
See imagination was my toy at home. My family had migrated to America when I was 4 so that my dad could pursue his career as an astrophysicist. We moved to the suburbs of upstate New York, and I befriended a boy who lived around the block, his name was Julien.
Julien was more fortunate than me, Julien’s family had many alternatives to using my stupid imagination. His house was littered with TVs, one in every room, almost one for every person, as there were 7 of them in total and the house was quite large. They also had this magic box called a Super Nintendo, and when I sat in front of that gray and purple piece of wonderment, the little controller in my tiny hands, all the troubles an 8-year-old boy could have just vanished. Suddenly leveling up, searching for my princess and jumping over Koopas became my primary directives, most of which holds constant as I write this as a child of almost 31.
As alluring as the magic box was, Julien and I still managed to find time to enjoy our imagination. From Lego wars that lasted all summer, with tiny pieces strewn across the lawn and occasionally falling prey to the lawnmower, weedwhacker or leafblower, to the giant hole we dug in the woods for absolutely no reason beyond the joy of a good afternoon’s shoveling, imagination was alive and well, and we accessed it when we felt like it.
It was a much different experience for me than when I was at home, where imagination felt thrust upon me for lack of a better option. I was always dreaming and playing in spite of myself, mentally mapping out my quest for lack of a 32-bit cartridge with a functional save feature.
Eventually, my parents caved and provided my sister and I with the television who would quickly become my hiding place from my own potential. Why go outside and explore my own consciousness when Judge Judy is on? How exciting can the front lawn be when Oprah is giving away BRAND NEW CARS?
My blue sword could never match the intrigue of Maury Povich’s TV special “5 men one woman, who may baby daddy?”
Sorry buddy, but entertainment has shown up, and entertainment is more stimulation with less effort, or at least that’s sales pitch when you’re 8 years old and don’t understand why it feels so bad to be by yourself.
Fast forward 20 years and it’s hard to take a shit without social media. Anyone who has pulled the phone out knowing full well the battery is dead and clicked the button while silently praying it would come to life knows that the illusion of connection and the promise of an input are a comfort we’ve become disturbingly reliant on.
Modern business is trying to promote “unplugging” and people are taking “device breaks” and “technology holidays.” That’s great, but this isn’t a technology problem.
All technology has done is make the symptomatic response to a lack of self-love, a face perpetually glued to an electronic screen with an aura of desperation, all the more recognizable and unsettling.
Input addiction is a self-love issue, it’s about being unable to sit quietly with yourself and tap into your imagination.
Knowledge of self and purpose are the life blood of the soul, and the questions “Who am I” and “Why am I here” are older than the apps on our iPhones. So what to do?
It’s wonderful to see movements toward unplugging, public figures like Arianna Huffington starting companies like Thrive Global, aimed at getting people put their devices down to start and end the day, and most importantly when they sit down to speak, eat or just interact with their loved ones.
In my consulting practice, I’ve written articles about managing inputs and devised programs for breaking patterns with technology and forming new, healthier and more beneficial relationships with the fantastic opportunities technology provides us. All of this is great, but how did we get this way? Are we just bad at technology? Monkey brain too predictable and exploitable?
Well yes, but. Yes, we do have somewhat unevolved monkey brains at times, and yes we can unwittingly acquiesce to technology in disadvantageous ways, but the root cause of our tech obsession is our compulsion for avoiding the truth of the present moment.
Anything but a deep breath, just me, myself and I.
Humans need love and connection to survive, and to be alone is to devalue, disembody or otherwise mitigate the experience of our life!
If a person eats lunch in a forest and no likes a photo of the meal on Instagram, is he still hungry?
It’s become this absurd reflexive property where we are dependent on others to validate and confirm our existence. Am I even alive? Does anyone notice? Hi!! I’m over here being awesome, someone please notice!!
So what is the solution? Well, it’s simple and obvious.
Love yourself. Validate yourself. Confirm your own existence. Recognize the good in yourself. Acknowledge the presence of the divine and infinite universe inside of your very soul.
Enjoy the aesthetics of your own fucking lunch, not to mention the taste, texture, and experience.
Ok I know, sounds easy on paper, but how actually? It’s one thing to say “I love myself.” It’s another to believe it, and a distant concept to even imagine to FEEL it. We’ve all FELT love, but how many among us have genuinely felt the sensation, the warm embrace, the transcendent moment where you could die with a smile, while just experiencing life as you are and without the reflection of yourself in the mirror, the newsfeed, or the eyes of a lover?
Well you could certainly do worse than to start with Kamal Ravikant‘s blunt and purposeful book “Love Yourself like your Life Depends on It,” you could even do worse than to listen carefully to the words of a particular Justin Bieber song of similar namesake, but all the desire, intention, and willingness to love yourself in the world is for naught without any true concept of self. Who are you when you’re not pretending for the world? Who are you before you learned your cast assignment on the day of your naming?
That is for you to discover, but you’re going to need to first turn off that television, but down that phone, and go up into the attic and dig out that big dusty padlocked box where you stored away your imagination for safe keeping long ago.
While you’re at it, feel free to dig out any blue swords and Lego figures you find. In all this time spent worrying about what kind of house our ego needs for safe keeping of a lawnmower, weedwhacker and leafblower, we’ve lost sight of the majesty that lawn was build for.
We’re so busy keeping up appearances that we have missed out on the little Lego men meeting their demise, caught between forgotten twigs and blades of grass as the seasons of our life drudge on.
Buy yourself a coloring book, find yourself a park and a pack of crayons. Leave your phone at home, sit your ass down, stop trying to be cool and just let life flow through you.
Your first project might remind you why art is best left for creative alcoholics, but hang your colorful shit on the proverbial fridge in your mind like a good loving parent anyway. This is you, and you would like to be loved.
“You’re like twice my age” she giggled without breaking eye contact, a playfully standoffish smile creeping across her face.
I wanted so badly to disagree with her. First of all, she most certainly was not 15, secondly, she was the embodiment of a gift to the senses, carefully wrapped in the trappings of a 22-year-old beauty.
The universe had well designed this one, a smile that instantly brought the mind to the present moment and a halter top which instantly took the mind anywhere but.
Regarding her comment, I felt that the reason for my mental objection was not grounded in my knowledge of basic mathematics, but rather somewhere much deeper in my soul.
As we danced together over the course of an evening, it felt as if there were magnets behind her eyes; I felt pulled toward her like tractor beam, my full attention being abducted into the depth of her being. My curiosity was firmly rooted in the present moment, at least when I managed to keep my eyes above her neckline.
I wanted to know her, to see where this magic smile came from, but not in the textbook sense of understanding a person, rather I wanted to know her through experience, I wanted to learn how that smile comes to be simply by watching it happen over and over again with unrelenting marvel, like a child looking into a sunset for the first time.
Her harmless comment about our separation snapped me back to a decidedly less magical interpretation of reality.
I asked myself if my disappointment was connected to my ego, is the concept of James going to lose some footing over this charmer, who now is failing to offer herself as a reflecting pool to bolster my own narcissism? No, upon further review it wasn’t quite that.
There may have been a time when that would have been the case, but at some point in these 30 years I’d learned to love myself, the person behind the image, and I no longer reduced the eternity of another to a simple mirror. My disappointment wasn’t self-interested.
I wasn’t sad due to the minor ping of a semi-rejective statement, but more feeling the sting of a perception so strongly tied to what the world tells us people are, and therefore instructive to the misdiagnosis of how we come to understand ourselves.
I tend to feel drawn to young people because they haven’t learned themselves so far away from who they are like the rest of society. The journey of self-expression is much shorter and more enjoyable when not saddled with a multi-year commitment to self-repression.
This girl epitomized the pure truth that “life is beautiful” but it was like she didn’t even know it. She was so free in action, genuine in presence, and only confined by perspective. Perhaps it’s my optimism that she was also experiencing the same attraction that I was, as her words betrayed a captivation with the labels of the world and our collectively agreed upon adherence to them.
At one point in the evening’s banter, she poked that I should “find the woman of my life.” I can only assume that this kind-hearted recommendation was born out of some recognition of the good in me, coupled with some compassionate sentiment that I not die alone.
What a misunderstanding of this life it is to hide under the rocky comfort of a relationship in the belief it helps us escape the experience of our last moments. Companionship is beautiful, but not if wrought out of a desire to avoid coming to terms with our place in the universe and just what we are or aren’t.
The final realization of our existence isn’t to be feared at all! It’s to be recognized and celebrated so long as this form allows. When a person knows their inherent beauty, love, and value as an integral burst of energy it the vortex that is life, then companionship becomes all the more beautiful. To be together is to feel the pull, to observe the smile, and to smirk lovingly at your wondering eyes and thoughts.
The idea of how many times the earth has rotated the sun since our umbilical chord was cut determining our personality, goals, and values is incredibly simplistic. There is certainly a correlation between age and wisdom, but it is hardly a causation. The sentiment of Benjamin Franklin that “most men die at 25 but aren’t buried until they are 75” illustrates this well, as the frightful conditioning of the soul is a better barometer for loss of life-force than birthday candles blown out.
As I learned on my first trip to the personal trainer, there is a metric known as metabolic age. This term is a way of measuring the wear and tear on our body based on relevant data such as body composition, range of motion, bone density, and other health-related factors. Attaching significance to the wrong metrics leads us to inferior action.
This phenomenon is evidenced by just how hard it has been to shift cultural perception of a woman’s weight being particularly relevant to her health or attractiveness. There are still girls fighting the number on the scale, even though gravitational force is not a particularly seductive attribute. Science says muscle weighs more than fat; history, statistics, and anthropology show us that a certain curvature to the female form is evolutionarily preferred, but the myth of the scale being important lives on.
Much of this is because we tend to think both as we have always thought, and as the people around us appear to think. Culture imprints on our mind what it means to be 20 or 30 or 40, what your life should look like, what your activities and priorities should be, what you are allowed to find fun. We are rabid with judgement for the lifestyles and choices of others without being aware that the only person we are eroding and conforming with our judgment is ourselves. There is no such thing as “growing up.”
As John Mayer so eloquently put it, “I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.”
Wisdom comes when it comes, often provoked in spurts of necessity by the varying events of our lives. This only changes when we set an intention to always be learning and growing, but again, the place from where we make that promise requires us to connect to our own curiosity and creativity, something it’s easy to learn not to do when faced with the square-peg-round-hole dilemma that is the modern school system.
Consider for a moment the assertions by many people on the forefront of technology that those of us still alive in the next 30 years will likely live 100 more years on top of that.
Ray Kurzweil, the head futurist at Google, is widely known for his savagely accurate predictions for humanity’s technological future, and he feels strongly that living to 180 is not only realistic but probable.
Renowned bio-hacker and entrepreneur Dave Asprey echoes these sentiments, both men citing access to the best nutrients from across the globe coupled with new medical technologies such as nano-particles and an ever-evolving understanding of the human body and it’s ailments as the foundations for such a belief.
The ever-accelerating pace of technological advancement, commonly referred to as the “singularity” is carrying us toward a future where age as a cause of death will be obsolete. We have already identified a jellyfish that lives forever, and it’s not too big of a stretch to imagine we can extract some information from this to hack our own way to further longevity. We know that cells only need 3 things to live: oxygen, nutrients, and the ability to recycle their own waste. There is nothing inherent to our existence that is impermanent, in fact quite the opposite.
So if the hardware will be available to sustain us indefinitely, who lives and who dies will come down software. Who among us has the foresight to plan to be alive? Who loves themselves enough to minimize their stress load, actively maintain themselves, and more than anything, choose to run good software in the form of the thoughts they allow themselves to believe in. This is why mental health and mindset are so important, and I’ve devoted my life to furthering the conversation on these issues. Your future comes down to two simple things, mindset and variance. Everything is under your control, except getting hit by a bus, leave that one up to God.
Following the timeless prayer as a guide, it is imperative for us to have the serenity to accept that which we cannot change, the courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Accept the number of candles on your cake, unleash the person hiding under the communal pressure of expectation, and never try to experience a smile with your mind. 100 more years is a long time to act out the role you were assigned, but it’s only an instant to be yourself. Break from the mold and inspire the energy around you.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. It’s as true in life as it is for lovers. Like a cosmic dance, our moments are both fleeting and forever, it’s just a matter of waking up to the experience.
Everybody sleeps, but not everybody remembers their dreams.
One of the most important ongoing decisions of your life is what reality you will choose to live in. People often mistake reality for a singular static state of affairs, but things really aren’t that simple. Reality is a fluid thing, it is science and intuition, seen and unseen, observed and perceived, lived and felt.
No two people will ever see the world exactly the same, and no one is “right.” Consider if one out of the 7 billion people walking this earth sees it as it really is, and the rest of us, the 6,999,999,999 of us, are mistaken.
This is pretty inconceivable, especially since no two people alive at different times will see the earth the same way either, so then one person throughout all of human history would have got it, if only for a moment? No, thankfully we are all passionately and beautifully wrong, all the time.
So if we are all constantly and perpetually wrong, then what are we to do?
Well, first things first is to let go completely of any need to be right.
If we are all wrong, or at least not “right” on a constant basis, if we accept that we are always only knowing to the best of our present understanding, then to acknowledge when we are wrong is a magical moment. It is the only moment in life in which we grow.
When our perception is challenged and we are able to rationally consider the opposing viewpoint, and then potentially evolve our own as a result, this is strength. This is growing, this is evolving, this is the kind of thinking that is needed for humanity to move forward.
Sadly this is not something that is championed in our society. To change your mind is viewed as a sign of weakness. In politics a person is labeled as a “flip-flopper.” In truth, a person who has never changed their mind in their life is going to be the worst kind of idiot: forceful, desperate, and simultaneously completely weak inside and terrified of someone finding out… even themselves.
Being able to change your mind is a sign of great character. A person who can change their mind isn’t afraid that without the identification with the previously held belief that they won’t know who they are anymore. It is a sign of a strong identity and it makes an excellent foundation for a strong reality.
What is unfortunetly more common is deriving a sense of self from the random set of viewpoints one has come to hold as a result of their up-bringing, their reactions to that up-bringing, and the influences they allow, often unwittingly, into their life.
Neuroscience studies have shown that the brain of a person having their political beliefs challenged shows activity in the precise areas responsible for both personal identity and for emotional threat response.
Our brains care more about preserving their sense of who they are and the resulting emotional homeostasis than they do about deciphering facts and information into well forms perspectives on reality. For the sake of humanity, this is a fucking problem.
The desire to be right and the desire to be educated are fundamental opposites. If we fail to know ourselves on a core level, then we attach to the external world, to our belief systems, to what others tell us to think, and all of this becomes our reflected view of who we are. It’s a false identity, but as a culture we are so lacking in awareness that we don’t know the difference.
This is why Eastern thinkers post things like: “If every child in the world learned to meditate we would eliminate war in one generation.”
No person who truly knew themselves and had their own relationship with the universe in which they reside would need to follow a religious or governmental organization to know who they are or who they are supposed to be.
No person who saw the presence of the God energy within themselves would ever think it correct to take up a weapon and kill another in the name of that energy. It would be so painfully apparent that we are not only just team human on this planet but team Earth, team Universe. Half-hearted notions of nationalism and patriotism would fall away, and never again would we accept separation under the guise of unity.
Now I’m not saying we can solve all the ills of the world without military, but we should at least be aware that it’s a necessary evil due to the universal lack of awareness. People don’t know who they are or what they are, so they are clinging to beliefs that they were indoctrinated into, opinions that are at best random, and a sense of self rooted in a fear of genuine curiosity.
As we learn to know our true self and to divorce the self we came to know as our worldly identity, we are often met with great opposition. There is a bombardment of shit on all sides. The television programming you how to think, the world telling you what is important, and people who swear they know who you are holding back your evolution.
The truth is, you aren’t anything you think you are. You aren’t the name that the world calls you, you aren’t your past, you aren’t the way you think. You’d be closer to who you are if you could wake up with amnesia and have no idea anything that ever happened to you, anything that ever took you away from your own essence.
On the journey to reconnect with yourself, you must be vigilant to the distractions of the masses who are only aware of the world outside of themselves with no regard for the one within. The realities of others are threatened when you don’t subscribe to the same bullshit. This is why you must learn to defend your reality.
I wrote an article last month for an organization I do performance consulting and mindset coaching for. It’s about minding your information diet and being ruthless to things that don’t matter. As you let go of any need to be fused with your existing reality, as you surrender with big open arms into venturing toward the big unknown in search of what is worth knowing, it becomes so overwhelmingly obvious that one must eradicate all the garbage that can infect one’s perception.
Notice the difference here, there is no sense of self being derived from our path. Our sense of self comes from within, and our pursuit of information is lead only by what is worth knowing. We aren’t turning off reality television and TV news because they challenge our uniformed viewpoints which we must cling to in order to reinforce our identity. No, we are tuning out the distractions as we search for a better path for ourselves and humanity.
There is no horse in this race for the individual. There is no identity to reinforce. This is humility, this is an act of service for mankind. This is leaving your ego as close to the door as one can manage at the beginning of every day, and diving into a world of knowledge in which we are forever the child.
There is an excellent book by Ryan Holiday called Ego is the Enemy, and in that book Holiday chronicles how throughout history the inability to distinguish true confidence from Ego has been responsible for some of mankind’s greatest downfalls. It is the Ego who tells us that we wise without study, that we are different than, separate from and better than. It gives off the delusion of superiority which stands directly in the way of growth, education, and a better understanding.
To summarize our way forward, we must first learn to stop fusing with our every thought, and realize they are just the thoughts we are hearing right now, no more and no less.
Secondly, we must master our ego and stop deriving our sense of self from the thoughts we just stopped fusing with. Learn to love cognitive dissonance, learn to see the uncomfortable feeling of being faced with a viewpoint counter to your own as the pleasurable sensation of growth.
Finally, we must master our influences. This doesn’t mean to wipe out those counter to our own, far from it. The greatest minds throughout history have always surrounded themselves with a cabinet or trust of individuals who had opposing viewpoints, they understood the random and unequivocal nature of the present thoughts flowing through their minds. With the ego aside, we are free to trim our influences on the basis of substance and not subjective viewpoint.
This equilibrium of managing the journey outward alongside the journey inward allows one to become the architect of their own existence. Equally as important, it gives others the inspiration, encouragement and freedom to do the same.
When we as humans learn to reject the views which don’t serve us, when we say no to the organizations and conditioning of the outside world, only then will we grasp the privilege of authoring our own experience; only then can we choose to live beautifully.
If there was one thing to be learned from a lifetime of meditation, this would be it. You are not your thoughts, you are who sees them.
Last week we talked about the importance of recognizing when our mind has gotten carried away with thinking. We looked at a simple technique called Noting which we can use to acknowledge when we’ve been distracted and to bring ourselves back to the present.
Today we are going to talk about what happens when be don’t do that, now we are going to talk about fusion. Fusion occurs when a thought enters our mind and we immediately take it as a fact. Unconscious fusion to our every thought is the opposite of awareness. It is exactly the type of thinking we seek to understand and evolve from by way of meditation.
Often the fusion of certain thoughts began long before we ever dreamed of having a conversation about how to think. Thoughts of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, capable enough, talented enough… All of these limiting beliefs generally come from a state of fusion.
Thoughts that conform to our existing reality are generally accepted without hesitation. It is the nature of humans to accept that which strengthens our reality and refute that which challenges it. This is because reassuring our world view makes us feel safe, smart and in control. Questioning our world view can lead to stress, anxiety and uncertainty, but it also leads to growth.
What would you think of a person who will do anything that is asked of them without any consideration? Someone who says yes before hearing the question? In the nicest of terms they would be gullible, but essentially they would be a slave. This is exactly the same for a mind in fusion. This is slavery, this is living in reactivity, this is the opposite of living from your own intention.
Without awareness, your mind is a slave to whatever thoughts may come. This is because it listens without discretion. It’s as if you were listening to the radio, but you were unable to turn the channel. You hear a good song, you enjoy the music, but when you hear a bad song, you listen to that too, all the way through.
Perhaps you realize the station you’re tuned into rarely plays anything you like. In fact, let’s say all the music it plays makes your feel annoyed, unhappy, or unable to focus. In fusion it doesn’t matter, in fusion you spend countless hours, maybe even your whole life, listening anyway.
It sounds ridiculous, but without awareness and intention, this is exactly how many of us hear our every thought for our entire lives. Perhaps we accept them because we feel a responsibility for them, after all they’re OUR thoughts, right? We own them and we have an ego, so it feels good to believe in our thoughts, but as a result we tend to do so even as those same thoughts make us miserable.
The truth is, no one can own a thought. A thought is it’s own entity. You can take a thought and write it down, patent it, sue anyone who tries to say it was their idea; that doesn’t make it yours. The universe doesn’t cater to the human ego. A thought will still be a thought, floating along freely for anyone to attach to, discard, resonate with or try to take ownership of, at their own risk.
When we let go of this hard association with the thoughts that pass through our mind, when we stop thinking of them as ours and of their accuracy as a reflection of our intelligence, only then are we actually free to think. Free to think about the thoughts we choose to think about, and equally free to let go and choose not to think about the thoughts that no longer serve us. How can we ask “is this thought useful” when we automatically assume that it is, just because we thought it and we don’t want to feel stupid for doing so.
This is like judging the quality of a stereo system based off your opinion of the music on the station that’s playing. The best radio in the world won’t make Mozart out of autotunes. What you get depends on what frequency you tune to, and in a state of fusion the dial is locked to one station.
Don’t let your mind stay locked on one station, especially if it sucks. Lousy music isn’t a reflection on the radio, it’s a reflection on the person turning the dial. You might notice DJs always say “keep it locked” right before they go to commercial.
Keep it locked?
No fucking thank you.
Make your own playlist, or at the very least don’t blindly follow orders. Find your music, turn up the volume and roll down the windows, because from here on out you are riding shotgun with your brain on the road trip that is your life.
Having a 20 minute regular mediation practice is a habit that will impact your life in a positive way for the other 1420 minutes of the day. Mediation reshapes the mind, rebuilds the brain’s grey matter, and fundamentally changes our relationship to thoughts. We cannot help but live differently once we have adopted this practice.
That first big eureka moment with relation to thoughts is “I am not my thoughts, I am the person who sees them.” Many a post could and likely will be done on this concept, but what I want to talk today about is a technique that can help get us to this first big break through.
I often have students ask me “James, I’m meditating each morning but how do I remember to be that calm person later when I’m going about my day?” Many report really enjoying their mediation sessions, but they want to feel this good all the time. As they strengthen the habit and deepen the practice, benefits can’t help but spill over into daily life; for accelerating that process I recommend a technique known as “noting.”
Noting is meditation technique we can use in our daily lives to strengthen our awareness, specifically the awareness that we are not the thoughts we think, we are the person who experiences these thoughts.
The basic technique is as follows: at any point throughout the day when you realize your mind is working hard thinking about something that is not necessary at that moment, essentially you’re going to turn your thinking mind off and just be doing whatever it is you’re doing without the background story. This technique is simple but impactful.
When you realize that your mind is working on overdrive and you are obsessing over something that cannot be changed in that present moment, this technique helps you turn your thinking mind off and pull you back into the present moment.
The first key to Noting is acknowledgement. We say to ourselves “Ok, I’m thinking a lot about x” x being whatever is on your mind. We don’t have to draw any conclusions about why these thoughts are there, we just acknowledge it, and then choose instead to focus on the task at hand. You might just notice what the thoughts were, like “thoughts about planning”or “feeling of doubt” “feeling of worry” “feeling of low self worth” and then just let it go and go back to your task.
The second key to Noting is that decision to let go of the thought we acknowledged. We admit and accept that it was there, but we do not attach to it, identify with it or choose to focus on it. Rather we direct our attention back to the present moment and the current task at hand. This may seem hard at first, but like any new skill, with mindful repetition we can build it into a habit and it won’t feel so difficult.
This technique shines in daily tasks like eating, walking, folding clothes, and washing the dishes. If you have learned to perform a task without needing to think about it, then you may have also learned to fill that mental space with restless thinking.
The habit to overthink during these lulls in our days stems from a desire to be more efficient. It makes sense why at a glance it would seem useful, but many issues of our lives are easier solved when we turn our computing mind off. Problems generally aren’t solved with the same thinking that created them, so giving your brain a break and a reset is often far more valuable that rerunning the same analysis from angle after angle.
Instead, all we are going to do is notice when we are distracted, no need to judge, just to acknowledge. Then we simply return to the present moment without these thoughts. If we find ourselves distracted again, we just acknowledge and come back again. As many times as it happens we can always keep returning to the present moment.
By letting go of this need to think and returning to a place of restful clarity, we are being kinder to ourselves. To give ourselves a break is to demonstrate a bit of self-love and a bit of grace. When we let go of our obsession with solving a problem, we end the suffering in that moment. Often when we do this, at a later point in our day we will either realize that our problem was not so big as it seemed, and perhaps was no problem at all, or a solution will arise in our mind. These peaceful forms of resolution can only work their way to the surface of our consciousness when we give both our mind and our self room to breath.
Stress, struggle and suffering around issues we tend to compulsively think about is self created. Not only are we the author of the problems we hope to solve, but our whole method of solving them tends to be unnecessary and unhelpful. We overthink our daily trials and tribulations, building them up into insurmountable problems. Then in an effort to combat this, we obsess further about the problem because we with a big problem needs a perfect solution. This attempt at a remedy to our original overthinking only compounds the problem. If we have done this our whole life thus far, then it may seem like the only way there is to think. This brings us to our second eureka moment of mediation.
If we are not our thoughts, we are the person who sees them, then the way we think is not the only way we could think.
It’s as if you could wake up one day and suddenly see the world through a different set of eyes. To do this we must choose different thoughts to focus on and resonate with; we must practice asking ourselves “is this useful” about every thought that arises until we learn our way forward. If we continually raise our awareness and put in this work then over time we will change the default programming in our brain to the point where we won’t even recognize the old ways in which we use to think. It may not happen overnight, but with dedicated practice we can rewire our brain to work more harmoniously in our lives.
I personally started using this technique in the shower or while I was toweling off as I realized apparently I’ve always thought I could solve my life’s troubles in 15 wet minutes. Instead of feeling refreshed I’d often just succeeded in stressing myself out to start my day. It’s not so fun to be in constant adrenaline mode. We want to be able to accomplish our goals from a place of peaceful relaxed focus and engagement.
Another excellent time to practice noting is when you are eating or drinking something. Acknowledge what you may be thinking about, let it go, turn off any TV or music and just look more deeply at your food. Watch how it responds to your fork, observe the method with with you cut and move the food around your plate and up toward your mouth. Taste your food! Notice how you chew, how the food separates, how you swallow and how you choose your next bite.
You might realize you’re doing a whole lot of things automatically but they are actually pretty impressive if you take the time to notice. When you turn off the chatter and the distractions, it can feel like we are turning up our other senses. This allows us to get more enjoyment benefit from our food.
We tend to decide about the value of food, products and activities based on their price, quantity and quality, but it’s the quality of our experience with these things that truly matters. You can have the nicest meal in the world, but if you chow it down while watching television it’s going to be a different experience than if you tune yourself in, and tune your thinking mind out.
There are many ways to go through life, and we don’t always have the time for dialed in awareness to every activity. We do however, have that time a lot more often than we think. Play around with noting and you might rediscover a lot of life’s simple joys, and also find some reprieve from the stressful story we tell ourselves a whole lot more often than is useful.
“Wait for the girl who looks at you with those same eyes.”
I said it without even thinking. I was just responding with humor as best I could to the waiter saying how sweet my dog was. It was a sentiment straight from the heart, unprepared and unrehearsed.
So what is it about Rocco’s eyes? What is it about the way a dog looks at us that we know this is love? How is it not dependence? Without me he doesn’t eat. How is it not approval seeking? Praise seeking? Attention seeking? Validation seeking?
It’s something I didn’t fully understand from interacting with dogs until I owned one. Rocco just wants my time. Dogs are eternally present. They don’t contemplate the past, the future or their existence. They live straight from the heart, trusting their instincts.
Sure, you can train a dog, but that just changes the pattern of neurological activity dictating their instinctual behavior. The instinctual response changes and we say they have learned. With dedicated effort a human can also neurologically rewire their instinctual responses, but the difference is a human can know and consider this. The dog is just doing whatever behavior is wired, without thought about it. It just happens.
I’m grateful that Rocco doesn’t beg for food from the table, but even if he did, he wouldn’t be using his cute eyes to manipulate me into feeding him. A dog learns to do the behavior that is re-enforced. When a dog begs for food, he doesn’t make a conscious decision about it. It’s just honest. He is who he is and he learned what he learned.
So when a dog gives love, this is the same. A dogs love is by nature without condition. A dog lacks the human capacity for thought which would allow for a condition to be knowingly attached to his behavior. One of the biggest roadblocks to a real connection in human relationships are the conditions we place upon our love. If you do this, if you don’t do this, if you look this way, if you treat me this way, if you believe this, if you say that, ect ect. Unconditional love is so far above any other kind of love, that it is hard to say that any form of love given with condition is love at all.
Even if we inform some of the dogs influences at the onset, by rewarding him with attention when he comes to us, or with cuddles, food or playtime when he takes certain actions, he’s still not capable of knowingly doing these things to get the desired response. A dog is just being himself. So while we might knowingly or unknowingly train a dog for certain behaviors, that dog is teaching us every day of our lives what real love looks like. He’s showing how to be present, to live from our instincts, and to follow our heart. He shows us what it’s like to turn off our brain and just be.
One of my closest friends told me before I got Rocco that in Brazil they say “Humans need dogs, because dogs teach humans how to love.” At the time this didn’t make sense to me, but now it makes all the sense in the world. I also understand the phrase “Dogs are the gateway drug to children.” It feels good to give and receive unconditional love, and humans aren’t above conditioned pleasure seeking responses either 😉
Motives matter. Behind every action a person takes there is a motivation, a mental reasoning, a why. As a society we know this is important, because when we delegate punishments for crimes such as murder, we look at a premeditated killing orchestrated in cold blood as far more heinous than a crime of passion. Manslaughter is an even lesser charge, but in all cases one person killed another, but the why is important to us.
While we are often quick to analyze and judge what we perceive the motives of others to be, it can be easy to go through life without giving a second thought to our own motives. As long as we are doing what we think we should be doing, we’re in the clear right? Wrong. The story we tell ourselves about the actions we take can have a profound impact not only on our success in our course of action, but our overall state of wellness removed from that action.
The example I discuss in today’s video blog is about the motivation that gets us off our ass and into the gym, but these principles can be applied to anything from the way we look at our work or business to the way we search for and select romantic partners. We are always acting to meet a need, and often the need is to distance ourselves from a source of pain.
Generally humans move away from pain and toward pleasure, makes sense right? But our instinct to avoid pain often displays itself much more strongly than our drive toward pleasure. This is most obvious in situations where we try so hard to eliminate short term pain that we take actions which diminish our capacity for long term pleasure. We can’t hand our pain so we seek instant gratification.
In both cases we take action to avoid immediate pain without considering how far from what we truly desire that this path might be taking us.
I decided to break down the motive hierarchy behind exercise in today’s video, but similar work could be done for relationships, business, or any activity. This may not apply to everyone and if you have always been at stage four, well you fucking rock! But for those of us caught up on stages 1-3, knowing the progression can help us to break through.
1) Self loathing and/or Rock Bottom “I work out because I hate my body.” “I work out to escape depression.” “I work out to distract myself from my unacceptable career, partner or other aspect of my life situation.” “I work out because my health situation could kill me.”
2) Fear of Self loathing and/or Rock Bottom “I work out because I am scared to be that person again who was… fat/depressed/too weak to change/unconfident or literally dying.”
3) Desire for self love “I work out because I want to be… fit/sexy/happy/confident/mobile/active.”
4) Self love “I work out because I am fit/sexy/happy/confident mobile/active. I am motherfucking grateful and I respect myself!!”
Notice that none of this touches on “I work out because I enjoy it.” Everyone has physical activities they enjoy and ones they don’t enjoy. But for many people this is not the primary motivation behind an active lifestyle. Yes, some people do love a sport, and they simply engage it in for the pure joy of it. It’s very likely that the joy comes from the needs the activity meets for the person. Many activities do just have their own inherent joy, and what those activities are will vary person to person.
The issue here is if we are not aware of our motivations, it can negatively impact our prolonged success and overall happiness. This can happen when our physical transformation and our mental acclimation are not in sync. We may have changed our body, gotten out of the danger zone, but we’re still not happy with ourselves. If we were happy with ourselves, we’d lose our motivation.
If we only know how to push ourselves out of hatred and fear then our new way of living won’t be both enjoyable AND sustainable. We need to learn how to lovingly motivate ourselves. Hating yourself or living in fear is no way to go through life, and falling on and off the same horse is a really aggravating cycle.
If we want to live the life we dream, it has to be sustainable and enjoyable. Likely it’s already enjoyable or it wouldn’t be our dream, but how to we make it last? Well it can’t last out of to motivation that comes from deep dissatisfaction. How could we be both happy and deeply dissatisfied? We can’t. But if we are satisfied, how do we keep going?
It’s simple really, we understand that life is a never-ending learning and growing process. We free our self from the notion that we are going to arrive at our goal, instead we make our goal the sustainable pursuit of moving more and more into alignment with our best self. We pursue greatness, and know that we are already great for doing so.
There’s a quote that says “Always be happy, never be satisfied.” I say fuck that. I say “Be happy, be satisfied, but keep fucking going!!” If you always need to revert to dissatisfaction to get motivated to do what makes for a happy life, then surprise surprise, that’s exactly what you will do.
Break the cycle. If you’re in desperation mode, if you have serious physical or mental risks associated with staying in your present situation, it’s totally fine to use that dire motivation to improve. There is nothing wrong with stage one, most of us have been there, and more than once.
It’s that more than once that sucks. By recognizing this pattern and understanding it, by seeing how it may have prevailed in our own life, we can eliminate the need to repeat the steps that take place in an unhappy period of our lives and we can work and aspire toward living in a beautiful state every day of our lives.
Peace, love and understanding. Give it to others, but most importantly give it to yourself.