Author Archives: James
Author Archives: James
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 eating magic mushrooms, 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 or those under the influence of LSD, 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.