I Understand

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I understand.

 

I want you to know this in a powerful way.

In a deeper way.

In a way that takes you out of the foxhole you are fighting from.

 

I understand.

 

What it feels like to give it your all

To do everything in your power

To be told that it is enough

And to stumble at the finish line

You believed you were meant to reach

And in the lonely hours that follow

asking what the point is

knowing the right answer that sounds good in your head

and feeling punched in the gut regardless

 

I understand

 

Watching a loved one lose their grip on life

And seeing them hold on so tight

You hold on tight too

And then they learned how to let go

But forgot to give you that instruction manual

And like locked fingers after releasing a heavy load

You don’t know how to open up again.

 

I understand

 

Sitting and feeling paralyzed

As if the smallest task was hoisting a 300 pound weight

And the shame of feeling lazy

And unproductive

And knowing you are none of those things

And wanting the words to explain it

Feeling the need to explain it

Waiting until the feeling passes

Hiding in movie theaters

And in plain sight

until you can engage life again

 

I understand

 

When out of nowhere tears form behind your eyes

And no one else knows behind your calm stare

Is a raging river ready to burst over

And you control it

For now

Suffering through emotional incontinence

Knowing you have no control when

And a healthy fear of looking at why

 

I understand

 

The courage it takes to get of bed

And show up when every bone in your body says otherwise

when people say you are an extrovert

it means something

and when you walk slower in a hallway or sidewalk to avoid talking to someone

It means you are a bad person

Every time you say “what is wrong with me”

 

I understand

 

I am also learning

Present tense

Still figuring it out

 

I want you to know this in a powerful way

In a deeper way.

In a way that takes you out of the foxhole you are fighting from.

 

I am also learning

 

That the sun doesn’t really rise and fall

It’s not dramatic like that

The world just keeps on spinning

And if I stay grounded with my eyes open

I get to see and participate in life as it happens

Instead of feeling like it’s happening to me

 

I am also learning

 

To accept that I too will die

And allowing that knowledge to add value to today

Not as moments to be hoarded

But moments to be LIVED

And the more I hold on to the heavy things in life

The harder it will be to receive unanticipated blessings when they arrive

Its like that

With the moments that truly change our lives

They are not planned events

more like the wind whipping up out of nowhere

and instead of bracing yourself against it

you take a deep breathe in and feel alive again

 

I am also learning

 

Change does not arise from hiding

Or the belief no one will understand

And that tools make life easier

No one ever called the invention of the wheel a weakness

And so when I encounter a new way to ease my practice of living

That doesn’t dull and keeps me engaged in life

It’s worth a look

And that discovery will happen

In transparent conversation

With another

 

I am also learning

 

I need to cry more

And stop editing at the false bottom of release

To spend more time talking and sharing bout what lurks beneath

Not as a deepening of sadness

But an uncovering of layers

bringing it into the light

And saying out loud to every darkness that lurks,

In the immortal words from Labyrinth

 

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!”

 

I also understand

I will fall down again

I will forget all I have learned

And maybe

When I sit clutched in fear and fury in my foxhole

You will understand

And tell me what you have learned

And this is how

We love each other

building our community

of human beings

Making each other great

And whole

Choose Your Life Everyday

I just spent two hours writing a post that I am not going to share. Its all right and its all wrong. I spent 4 pages writing passionately about a topic and when I read it, it felt like I had walked into a beautifully staged Manhattan apartment for sale. All the pieces are right, but the feeling just isn’t there.

The reason is because I was not speaking from the place of my own experience, from the place of I.

It’s the reason I have not shared anything on this blog in several weeks. Every time I pick up the proverbial pen, I want to go into fix it, beige vanilla do not look at me mode. I want to tell you the solution. How to get you to the letter Z without sharing that I am literally on the letter D and plodding my way through the alphabet.

I do not have all the answers and what I can share is how I am okay with my life right now and how my current perspective is empowering me to enjoy and choose the life that I have.

I am actively choosing my life. In the last 6 weeks I have examined every part of my life. My friendships, relationships, work, and daily activities are all now active choices. Regardless of how long or the manner in which they were previously present in my life, they all exist now with brand new acceptance and space.

I did this in my yoga practice as a physical embodiment of the power to choose. I realized sometimes my drishti or gaze is so rigid, I forget that I always have the power to choose this moment. So while I was in Eagle pose, I closed my eyes and opened them with the chance to begin again. To choose exactly where I would set my vision unattached from where I had previously set it. Sometimes it worked out that my eyes landed on the same spot. Other times I found a completely new place on the wall. Sometimes I completely fell out of the pose and others I felt a renewed sense of foundation and strength.

Each time though, I had the experience of having the power of choice and complete acceptance with each outcome. The coolest thing I noticed was a renewed appreciation for the actual wall. By being so focused on only one spot, I forgot that no matter how I look at or relate to the wall, its power and connection to my practice is always there, and I always have the power to choose connection.

I do not have any goals right now, as an active choice. My entire focus is on developing practices in life that support my ability to be fully present in each moment that I have chosen to be a part of my life. In my relationship at work, that means developing a practice or organization that allows me to communicate and work with my team in a timely way, with precision and awareness. In my relationships it looks like dedicating time each day to spend meaningful time with the people in my life. I know I cant spend time with everyone, and I can take that time each day for meaningful connection with someone.

I choose to be active in many pursuit so my physical health, endurance and mental clarity is important. To support this I regularly practice yoga, perform cardio exercise, lift weights, eat whole foods most of the time and I have completely stopped drinking

Focusing on the process and practice that supports the connections and activities I choose is incredibly freeing. It allows me to be fully present to each interaction without attachment to how it is going to turn out. My happiness right now is not dependent on winning or achieving, its dependent on giving the full measure of life of presence I have to offer each person and each situation.

The most difficult thing for me to process during this transformation is the realization of the damage of who I have been, my dislike of it, and not to dwell in the past. I have made several work commitments that were not followed up on in a timely manner. I have not called people I consider friends for weeks on end. I have not offered and demonstrated love and listening when it was needed. I have been distracted, absent and missed countless opportunities owing in large part to my own self-generated and induced laziness.

The consequence of my own re-calibration is coming face to face with the reality of how each person and circumstances really is in my life today, and acknowledging that I am the source of how it is.

The road I have traveled in my 36 years on this earth seems to have been filled with many hi’s and many low’s. What I am realizing is the road has been flat this whole time. I am the one who looked back and distorted the past view to justify my current condition as being on the way down or on the way up. Whatever felt better, whether I wanted to wear the victim coat or the hero jacket. It was either up or down.

It really just is.

The road ahead of me right now is full of people I love. It is full of moment to moment choices and decisions, some of which may work out and others which may cause unexpected detours or changes of course.

Today I want to share with you that no matter where you are, no matter what is happening in your life, you have the power to choose it. Partner with it. Send it your forgiveness, your understanding, your presence and your awareness. If it is worth enjoying, enjoy it. If it is not the most pleasant, accept it and move on to what you can manifest in your life that will bring joy today.

You are never defined by what has happened to you or what will happen to you. We all have the power to engage life right now, and when we do we create life and all the possibility it holds, which in my experience….

Is infinite.

 

 

 

 

Dear 2018

2018 airplane

Dear 2018,

I know we’ve only just met, but it feels like I have known you forever. I really want this to work, and I have a habit of sabotaging relationships that show the promise of something magical. In fact, in just this century you will be my 18th, and the longest I have made it is one year. If I am being honest, I ran into you literally one second after leaving my last romance.

It was time for a change and you were there with your open arms and that big warm 8 looking like infinity that had finally found its feet. I want to find my feet too, and I think the promise of you was all the seduction I needed to leave 2017 behind.

Before we take things any further, I am going to tell on myself to you. It is important we don’t have any secrets and after spending some time reflecting this morning, I think it is the only chance we have to make this year, our year, something much different entirely.

Without further ado, it’s time to come clean on my crazy.

I put a lot of expectation on these types of relationships, hell in ALL my relationships. I know we just kissed, but I am already expecting you to help me lose 10 pounds, write a book, start a podcast and once that is all done, rediscover my purpose in life….and that gets us through July.

If any of these goals aren’t reached, I won’t blame you directly, but as the backdrop of my failure, you are guilty by association. My past relationships haven’t exactly measured up to the task. 2007 came close but by the end, all I could think about was 2008. I broke her heart. I expect each time to be THE answer. Period. I should be changed forever as I happily glide into the horizon of the rest of my life.

No pressure.

I change my mind-A LOT. The goals listed above will shift constantly. Within the span of one day I might be running for Governor, planning to run a marathon, or planning to run to the bar. My past relationships have made the mistake of putting old journals or goal sheets in an obvious place for me to find, which is a highly passive aggressive form of motivation. This is terrible because instead of helping me get back on track, they just remind me of how far I have fallen, mocking me. I already believe you will do this to me, and I will hate you for it.

I tend to listen for what I want to hear. Past years notice this and give me all the encouragement in the world as I crush the goals I list, usually created in the final week of my previous relationship as something akin to an escape plan. However, once I have escaped and buried myself into the activity of new beginnings, my past years have noticed the first signs of wavering, and start to tell me that ‘I deserve a break”. And I listen. They tell me ‘you don’t have to do it all’. And I listen. They console saying ‘choose yourself first’. And I listen. The problem is by the time I hear this, I have no idea who the hell I am, and the things I start to choose move me further away from any notion of how I can share myself in this world.

I am also a comparer. I normally don’t write words like ‘comparer’ and if we were talking face to face, this is the word. It is different than one who compares. That is an act. For me, comparison is a way of being. Its only January 1, and I have already compared you to every other year in my life up until now. So far so good, because I have never started off my relationship with a letter like this. And in the back of my mind, I think it might be all downhill from here. No matter how much past years have offered me in gifts, opportunities, and life experiences, I can’t help but looking at what they have given other people. No matter how magical my life is, I always seem to focus on the things I don’t have, rather than what is right in front of me.

And you are not doing yourself any favors by giving me 9 degrees Fahrenheit on our first day together as a couple.

This reaction is a perfect example of the last admission I want to make. When life is going well, I am the one who makes that happen. When life isn’t going how I planned, I empower the notion that life is HAPPENING TO ME. So if in two weeks I happen to see my best friend and have an amazing day, I did that. If I land an amazing opportunity in my career, ALL ME. If, however, I twist my ankle, you did that. If someone I hate gets elected to office, you did that. And I will blame you and hate you for it and in 364 days, I will say something like “goodbye 2018, it’s amazing I am still alive, but I survived you”.

Oh, and I am slightly dramatic.

The hard part about writing this, is I know our relationship will end, and I struggle with the passage of time, endings and death. For us, someone long ago predetermined our shelf life, and through the manmade construction of time boundaries, they defined our maximum amount of time together as 365 days or 31,560,000 seconds, to be exact. What I am realizing today, is that although that is the most amount of time we may have, I don’t know if I we will have it. Death is certain but the time of its arrival is not and no matter how much I do to control what I can, the things which I cannot control might determine our end before we achieve all that is possible together.

Which brings me to the point in this letter where I am going to try on something new. Instead of loading up our relationship with goals, timelines and expectations, I am going to simply state how I will show up each day and each moment of each day when I am with you. In this way, if we meet our premature end tomorrow, I can know that at that precise moment in time, I was in the experience of noticing the magic  and connection in life.

When I wake up each morning, I commit to finding a quiet place to sit. I will wake up at a time that gives me the space to sit in this place for at least ten minutes. As soon as I find my seat and draw my first breathes in and out, I will say the following in my mind.

“I am alive…..I am grateful for this life”.

From that point on, I will either sit in stillness or meditate, committing to sit with myself and bringing as much awareness to breathe as possible. In this way, every day we spend together will begin with its own promise, fulfillment and possibility, without any dependence on what has happened or what needs to happen.

Each week, I commit to removing one attachment from my life. If it is something that can be donated, then it will be. This could be an old shirt, a type of food, a relationship, drugs, alcohol. When I am not sure what to let go of, I will ask myself what is in my life that is cutting off my connection to myself or others or might be labeled by an objective observer as an addiction. When I know what to release, I commit to writing in my journal and answer the following questions about each released attachment.

  1. What attachment am I releasing?
  2. What specifically am I doing that makes this a release?
    1. For example, If I eat ice cream 7 times a week, am stopping it entirely, less frequently?
  3. What pleasure has it brought me in the past?
  4. What pain has it brought me in the past?
  5. Why am I scared of letting it go?
  6. What do I make this attachment mean about me or who I am?
  7. What is possible in my life without this attachment?

 

When I am finished writing and ready to let the attachment go, I will read my journal entry to someone in my life, and commit to my specific action in the presence of this person. I know you are there for me, 2018, but this needs to be someone who can just hold space for me, and won’t just tell me what I want to hear. What you can do for me, is hold space for me so that if I lose myself in the attachment after making a commitment, I will know it’s okay to journal about what happened, and re-commit to the new practice as many times as I need to.

My baggage holds me back from fully expressing myself in all the areas of my life, and if the day comes when I meet 2019, I know there would a new world of possibility without 52 current attachments in my life.

Last, and certainly not least, each week I commit to noticing one new thing in my life that brings me pure joy. It could be a movie that makes me laugh, the presence of trees, the sound of rain hitting the pavement, my dog dropping a toy at my feet…. anything that causes the feeling of peacefulness, lightness and that sense of time stopping around me in a way that I can enjoy the exact moment I am in. It can also be parts and pieces of people or situations I may not like on first glance. For example, I might have a difficult relationship with my someone, but there is one thing about them that bring me joy. The fun part will be finding the hidden treasures buried right before my eyes.

Quick note to self, because I am looking for joy in the moment, it cannot arise from anything that takes me out of the moment. For instance, drinking scotch may be enjoyable, but it dulls my senses and dampens my awareness. It can be enjoyable, but is not the type of joy I am focusing on here.

When I find that thing in my life, I will write about it and answer the following questions.

  1. What did I notice that brought Joy in my life?
  2. Is this the first time it happened, or the first time I noticed it?
  3. When I experience that moment, what am I aware of?
  4. What caused the moment to end?
  5. Can I find it again?
  6. If I can, what can I do to make it a more regular part of my day?

 

Once I am done with my journal I will take one final step. I will directly thank and acknowledge the source of my joy. If it is a tree, I will thank the tree out loud and if I know who planted that tree, I will thank them too. I will thank my dog. When I find it, I will tell the people and situations that aren’t so easy in my life where they bring joy, I will make sure they know.

2018, I do not hold you responsible for my happiness. Your convenient appearance in my life doesn’t change who I am in this very moment. What is impactful, is that space you give each moment to fully experience my life.

The space to notice those attachments that perpetuate an endless cycle of passion and pain, pleasure and withdrawal, love and hate, and to release them.

The space to find the simple joy in the practice of living each day, and making sure the sources of joy know we are one through my acknowledgement of their connection to my own life.

I do not know what will happen tomorrow, or in the next moment.

Right now, I know I am alive.

I am grateful for this life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Step is The Only Step That Matters Right Now

I have heard, ad nausea throughout my life, myriad quotes about the power of taking the first step. They usually involve making a bold move, enacting courage, and putting yourself at risk in the spirit of living your best life. These are very noble and admirable actions and the first step is important. I have learned, however, through countless first steps of my own that the first step, without follow up, is a journey to the heart of exactly where I have always been.

The first two blogs I created are perfect examples of this. Each was begun and put out into the world with courage and hope that a message I would share could have impact. Those first posts were followed up by others with diminishing frequency until finally, due to the decay of atrophy and warm comfort of inertia, they ceased to be living expressions of my own reality.

It was not until recently that I realized what was causing my two previous blogs, and so many other false starts in my life to “die on the vine” was my focus on the attachment to what I wanted, what the goal was, without any presence on the impact of the current meaningful action that was available to me.

Tell me if the following sounds familiar;

You get really excited about starting a new activity, quitting an addiction, starting a workout routine, diet, or hobby. You google the hell out of any topic you can find so that you are sure you are getting it 100% right-reviews are read and friends are consulted. And then, the big spend occurs. You splurge on new exercise clothes, buy the patch, buy the 30-day program (MONEY BACK GUARANTEED!!!!) spend your rent at the grocery store, buy a brand new piece of equipment because you are going to CRUSH IT.

The first day of your activity arrives and you are 1-part hopeful adrenaline, 1-part “doing it for the Social Media Post” and 1 part “this is the time it sticks”. Everything you wanted to happen on that first day happens and yet, you are not 100% fulfilled. A seed of doubt creeps in and now you are noticing every exit door that is available to you.

At the gym you see someone with the body you want and know you will never have so “what’s the point?”

You get into a fight with your significant other and you really need a cigarette right now because this is just too much to handle all at once.

Work gets in the way and interrupts your planned one hour of writing, and how ridiculous was it of you to think you had time to write in the first place.

You have no time to make your special meal for this new diet, and this food is just going to go to waste so why bother.

And on and on you find every reason why the goal you set for yourself cannot possibly be reached. Rather than recommit or even declare an end, you just stop taking the next step, hoping no one else will notice. But you know. And in this non-choice of ceasing to act, a fog of the uncompleted hangs and although you don’t actively punish yourself for the non-completion, you start to craft a story about how life is just what it is and it may just be too late to change or try anything new.

The above is not some hypothetical creation. It is the way I have lived most of my adult life.

I had to quit smoking six or seven times before it finally stuck.

I have 5 workout journals spaced about 6-9 months apart, and prior to the most recent 3-month period of my life, I never made it past day 22.

Forget time for cooking and for a large portion of my life pizza existed as a primary food group.

I had to ask people to stop buying me journals because everyone I owned was a painful reminder that I am a failure at writing and I am not a person who follows through. I would even go to the length of starting in a brand new one as opposed to picking up where I left off in an old journal because I thought the new journal would “inspire me to really do it this time”. Failure, without the awareness to learn from it, can be a very expensive habit.

Much less so recently and for a large portion of my life, I  have experienced the pain, humiliation and disgust with myself over tasks not completed, friendships left on life support, and grandiose promises followed up with non-action.

In these situations, I started with a goal. A better body, to be desirable, to be noticed, to have impact in the world, to make people like me, TO LOOK GOOD. Because I was so fixated on the goal and what it might get me, I eliminated any opportunity to be present to the process and when the initial action did not bring the reward I had promised myself, the next step was pointless.

What I have realized and what I want to share with you right now is that the step you are currently on is the only step that matters right now, and you have the power to shape what that looks like in your life, without adding any meaning.

I’ll give you an example of something I recently did.

In the ABOUT section of this blog, I originally wrote that I committed to posting something every day. When I wrote that, it felt very empowering and totally achievable. The next morning after posting my first entry, I realized I had no desire to post every day and that to do so would feel forced.

Right away I started to go down the rabbit hole. I was worried that changing my about page would be out of integrity and that I was already a failure. Changing the about page would be an admission that I don’t have the will power to follow through. A day went by and I didn’t post to the blog and the About section still had my published promise. I am not exaggerating when I say to you right here and now that I was ready to kill the blog. Every second I didn’t post something led to an exponential growth in the corresponding paralysis I felt writing anything or taking action. I wanted to throw up.

And then I took a deep breathe and stared at the blinking cursor. I read the title of the blog THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING and realized that this is the practice. With that, I went to the ABOUT page, changed the commitment to once a week, and set the intention to finish a post by the end of the day on Tuesday(Today) and to tell you what I had done. Sometimes, in the present moment, you may realize something in your life is not working, and there needs to be an adjustment. Choosing to engage that inner-sourced truth through action and honesty creates the possibility for others to connect to your experience.

I could have set the deadline to once a year, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Any external meaning I placed on what the amount of time meant would just be a story of mine. The access to feeling connected to you, whoever is reading this blog is sourced from two actions.

  1. Admitting to you that I changed the About Section
  2. Writing this post, right now

 

The practice I offer to you this week to keep in the back of your mindfulness as each moment happens, is the following;

Notice when any practice or step you are taking in your life starts to feel very overwhelming.

What you are making it mean, what significance are you adding to it and what is finishing this step or task going to get you.

If you feel up to it, after noticing these feelings, try talking to someone and verbalize exactly what is happening. Tell on yourself. And then, after you have become very present to those feelings, try that same task or step again just for the sake of doing it, without any attachment to the outcome. Be in the practice of taking the next step on as a part of the process, with no goal in mind.

Thank you for reading and know I am with you, taking one breathe and step at a time in THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING.

Waking Up

December 8, 2017

My life transformed while I was folding laundry.

I read the above sentence and can’t help but laugh and also remember the skepticism with which I used to view stories like the one I am about to share. On a single day over three months ago, my life shifted completely and put me on the path I walk today. It is a path of humility, constant learning, missteps and hiccups, laughter and clarity. It is a path I call THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING and it all started on August 25th, 2017.

I was standing in the middle of the living room, mindlessly watching Law & Order SVU and folding clothes fresh out of the dryer. I had a long sleeve shirt stretched out arm to arm in both hands with the collar pinned between my chin and chest.

Out of nowhere my heart started to beat out of my chest and my fingers and toes started to tingle. I was intensely aware of the room, my breathe, the sounds and colors in the room, and all of the sensations in my body, heartbeat included. After what felt like minutes but was really only 5-10 seconds, I heard a voice. Not as a sound from a stereo, but in the same manner you might hear words in your head when reading in silence. The voice I heard was new, yet also familiar to me. The message was clear.

Change your life now, or you are going to die very soon

Since that day I have endeavored to put into words some explanation of everything I felt and what happened.

The impact and immediacy of the transformation felt like a light-switch turning on.

The best rationale I have for what happened came from Baron Baptiste. In addition to being an incredibly powerful and empowering human being, he is someone I consider to be one of the great teachers in my life. When I told him what I experienced, he said simply and without hesitation, “It sounds like you were ready to wake up”.

Since that day I have experienced a peaceful serenity and freedom from anger I had not known in my 36 previous years of life. My eating habits, meditation habits, and physical exercise habits all shifted. The tool I have practiced every day since then, in the moments of greatest difficulty and relative ease, is to keep coming back to the present moment and be mindful of exactly where I am. It is a practice every moment of every day.

Sometimes I go long stretches without being present and then I catch myself, and come back. The practice is to stay in the awareness and to try and shorten the length of time between being lost in thought, and present in the moment. There is so much I want to share and today is the first step in that journey.

THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING – Living a Life of Practice, One Breathe at a Time- is what I intuitively know I want to share with the world. As I type now I see, in addition to my own reflections shared, the insights of others (some who I already know and some who I have yet to meet) on the tools and practices they put into action to lead an empowered and fulfilling life.

I look forward to sharing what comes next and openly admit I have no idea what that will be.

What I do know is I want to share it.