Day 18, 30 Days- Four Years of Looking

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For four years, I’ve volunteered as a sort of online sherpa for folks asking the single most important question we can ever ask ourselves.  This question is very much related to my current 30 day project of finding passion and purpose, but it’s a precursor and it’s time I gave you that backstory.

What I do is to work hand in hand with people as they take a look at who and what they are.  And I never provide answers, just pointers in the form of questions they go off and work with until they find their own answers.  The answers have to come from themselves.  It can’t be any other way.  When found, they report a very fundamental life change.

In 2011, I accidentally stumbled on this type of inquiry while looking for an escape from the anxiety, worry, and pain that was with me daily as I navigated through the medical maze that was my husband’s care.  As you may have read in other posts, we’d been through several significant health challenges over the course of our time together.  Diabetes had led him to three years of blindness, three strokes, at least two incidences of needing to be brought back from near death through CPR, and at the time I began to search for a way to cope with all of this, we faced kidney disease and their inevitable failure.  I was mentally exhausted from years of trying to remain positive through what seemed like a new blow that punched us in the gut every few years.  And I could not even imagine how he felt.

What I realized is that I was very quickly running out of resilience and if I didn’t figure out how to cope with what was to come next… dialysis… the long wait for a donor kidney which might not come… I wasn’t sure what mental state I’d have left.  I was beyond worry for him, and terrified for myself.

I can’t tell you what I googled to get there, but I came upon Byron Katie‘s videos on YouTube.  People in spiritual circles will recognize the name, but at the time I had absolutely no idea about spirituality, enlightenment, or just plain waking up.  And truthfully, I still don’t.  I just know that I’d found a very practical way to take any problem and look at it from a perspective I’d never conceived of.  Suddenly, my world expanded in ways I’m still processing and marveling over.  Yes, it was that significant.

From those videos, I followed the comments and began to understand that there was an entirely different view of the world I’d never been exposed to and neither had any of my friends or family.  How did this happen?  How was it that no one I knew had any idea that we’re not trapped in our circumstance, only in our view of it?

I kept exploring.

What I learned four years ago is now becoming increasingly commonplace.  It used to fall under the realm of spirituality, but that’s a category too limiting because it’s also recognized by neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, and even common sense.   I found that the knowledge belongs to no one, which to me was perfect because that meant that it was free.  There was no possible club to join and nothing to sign up for.  If anything, it gave me complete independence from old and worn rules, paradigms, and ways of thinking and for the first time, I could rely on myself to understand how to navigate the world

Sounds too good to be true, right?  It’s not.  And it’s simple.  It’s also catching on.

By now you probably want me to stop telling you about it and just get to the point.  So I will.  What I learned was how to separate reality from thought about reality.  If that sounds simple, it’s because it is.  Understanding that sentence on an intellectual level is easy, but the actual experience of it is what people like mystic Eckhart Tolle, media mogul Oprah, the Dalai Llama, and neuroscientist Sam Harris carries on about.    Some of these folks make it seem special and difficult, but it’s not.  It’s the most uncommon common sense there is.

Ok, so what’s this have to do with “just looking”?  Everything.  What I practice is looking instead of thinking, especially when I find myself in a difficult situation filled with worry and anxiety.  Because we’ve been trained to process everything through the narration that goes on in our heads, and that narrator is an overlay on what’s actually happening.  What’s actually happening is a lot less frightening and awful than what this narrator understands.

The narrator is absolutely incessant.  It’s imaginary.  And as a prognosticator, it’s almost always wrong.

To separate the events of life from my thoughts about them brings a measure of freedom that’s like yanking a chain metal veil from over my head.  The world that’s exposed after that is more clear, balanced, and rational.   I can cope with setbacks and hardships with a lot more grace.  If that seems like too much of miracle, it’s not.  It’s also work in progress.

There have been several aspects to this way of seeing things:

Looking for rather than thinking about the self.  This lead to the understanding that not only am I not the center of the world, but life flows a whole lot easier when that’s an understanding that is lived.   To examine and find out your own truth about the nature of the self brings a whole lot more ease and even joy.

Looking for rather than thinking about others.  This lead to more compassion and tolerance.  Once I understood how self centered thinking had shaped my view of others, I could relax and not blow up at the guy who cut me off in traffic or the coworker who cc’d the boss on an email meant to call me out.

Looking at rather than thinking about how the world works.  This lead to a better understanding of human dynamics.  Politics, wars, crime… name it and I now have a new and additional perspective on it.

The tool is the same in all three cases, and when liberally applied, changes the view of everything.

Day 19-21 will come on Monday:  Real world examples of what it means to look rather than think about the world, and how all of this ties into ACTUALLY finding passion.  And purpose.  And bliss.

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Day 17, 30 Days – Just Look

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A kind of confession.

I just can’t seem to write this with SEO and blog traffic in mind.  Not yet.  First, the goal is to write what’s true, then find those with whom it will resonate, shake up, and begin to plant seeds of change.

If you’re reading this now, hi.  You’re in that group, for what that’s worth.

In my last post,  I promised to tell you about some things I stumbled upon which have enabled me to make it through some pretty hairy times, and that keep my equanimity (for the most part).  It’s a work in progress and a tool I promised to share.  It’s also where all of this writing for ImaginedSelf is going.

For simplicity’s sake and to get right to the point, the tool is called “looking”.  And to give you an introduction that’s simple and unencumbered, what that means is looking at the events of reality without the overlay of incessant thinking.  How does it work?  The best example is to explain what’s happened over the last 15 days.

There have been quite a few friends who’ve greeted the news of my job loss with genuine sympathy and concern.  That’s an entirely appropriate response given the circumstance, and is one that comes from their thinking about my thinking about the situation.  It’s a sympathetic response I’m grateful for.  The expectation is that my mind needs soothing, and there may actually come a time when that becomes a real need.  But not yet.  Hang tight.

Right now, I’m housed.  I’m clothed, and I’m not hungry.  What’s more, I have woken up in awe to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic each day, job hunted from several coffee shops, and have gotten more exercise that I ever did while seated in the office.  So far, so good.

It would be easy for me to panic about not yet having gotten my resume to a state I feel is complete, or about putting my life “out there” on a blog.  In some cases, my open communication may even hinder my efforts, but truthfully, if I can’t be who I truly am in the place I spend the majority of my day, then the position is not a match and I don’t belong there at all.  Anyone who employs me deserves my honesty and full commitment as well as 100% of my effort.

To get back to the lack of concern or panic… somehow it’s not happening because over the past few years, I’ve begun to learn how to separate what’s actually happening, from the panic-inducing state of paying attention to what I believe is happening.  I haven’t always understood the difference and have only recently experienced it on a visceral level.  It’s a real and significant difference that’s brought an amazing and elusive thing called “peace of mind”.

What it boils down to is, if I just look at the events of my life , they appear very differently than if I just think about them.  How different?  Absolutely worlds apart.

Looking is about my seeing reality through the lens of actual experience.  Thinking is when I overlay a “what if”.  My understanding the difference is the secret to how I recognize ways to remain “in the now” rather than allowing the mind to spin forward into scenarios it imagines may happen.  Those scenarios rarely do appear but most of the time, they are the fears that steer our lives.  That’s because we’ve been taught to live this way even though it’s not our only option.  It’s simply the unquestioned default.

What I’ve found and want to share, is that it’s possible to dilute or entirely eliminate the fears by continuously looking at the truth of what’s being experienced in any given moment, rather than become blinded by a belief about what’s happening.   To do this well is sometimes a continuous practice until it becomes second nature, and the 30 days of change is a tactic I’m using to keep myself on track.  It’s almost counterintuitive, though, because we’re constantly told to hold fast to our beliefs.  And if we’re talking about ideals, I’d agree.  Hold them close.

But we’re not talking about ideals.

We’re talking about the facts at hand, especially if we’re surrounded by challenges.   It’s about whether we’re are alive and breathing.  Whether we’re hungry.  Whether we’re sheltered and reasonably comfortable.  If we have these things, we have enough to move forward into the next moment with ease.  Each moment of this looking at the facts of our reality can deliver us into the next, one by one.  Collectively, they are the ACTUAL moments that make up our lives rather than those that comprise the imagined state of our lives.   We have been conditioned to live in the latter and forget to pay attention to the former.

I’ve learned that to understand this difference is the key to living with ease.

Day 17:  More on why everything is ok, all the time.  And detailed how-to on “just looking”.

Day 16, 30 Days – Here’s What’s Next

It’s time to shift Life’s Focus.

In the grand scheme of things, while the loss of a job can be devastating, it’s usually manageable compared to the impacts of other life events such as a catastrophic illness or even loss.   Its those transitions which can either shut us down, or open us to change.  What I hoped to accomplish with this #30days project is to further open myself to experiencing the positive nature of change.  I’ve been testing discoveries made in the past few years to see whether they hold.

It was during that time that I began taking a really in depth look at life’s biggest questions, especially as I tried to understand how to better navigate so many times of uncertainty.  While in the middle of my own explorations, I’d been working together with others to do the same, very often while they were also in the midst of huge challenges and even devastating loss.

My biggest takeaway from working with others as well as on my own view, is that there’s absolutely no real formula on to how “fix” life.  There’s only the possibility of a more open and more complete experience of living it through our own lens rather than someone else’s filter or idea of what life IS.  The experience also lead to a discovery that life already has its own ease and “flow”, and that I could just stop trying to swim so hard against it by trying to live up to false ideals that don’t match my actual experience.

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The plan here is to freely share that lens.  Before shifting the trajectory of this blog, I wanted to review the past 15 days as they relate to that lens I’ve mentioned.

 1.  We’ve talked about the joy of finding our passion.  It’s a notion that’s incredibly simple and yet elusive. That’s because we don’t recognize ourselves in our own interests and instead keep trying to navigate someone else’s map. I think I’ve pointed out that it’s not our fault that we do this. It’s just a matter of conditioning by well meaning parents and other adults who give us pre-boxed definitions of safe ideas about “success”.  We’ve separated Play time from Work Time and no one has given us permission to blend the two.

2.  We’ve talked about breaking loose from conditioning.  Identifying and breaking unconscious habits is the idea which started this blog.  I wanted a means to loosen patterns I hadn’t realized were ingrained.  This task should become a lifelong pursuit as they’re nearly invisible, but just like all things in the natural world, our lives are made up of them.  A decision to take on a #30daysofchange project is a good start to making us aware of how we move through the world as snails through another’s trail, or ants on a straight line march.

3.  We’ve talked about living boldly.  I hope that along with me, you’ve also discovered ways in which you’ve acted in ways both bold and wild a lot more often than you may have realized.  So, the question is.. how do we regularly tap into that free spirit?  The answer was to find what we do for Love.  And then to follow the impulses that come from love more often than someone else’s map of how life “should be”.
And what about that new lens on the world?

In ways large and small we’re all working through changes, and it seems that we can cycle through self-improvement or coping tactics which work only short term or marginally.  But there’s a way of looking at the world that can help in any situation in order to diffuse a negative impact and bring more ease and peace of mind.  The plan for ImaginedSelf.com is to openly share it.

For the second half of these 30 days, I’d like to talk about what I’ve learned as I continue to navigate my own time of change.  I’d also like to share the resources which have helped me so far, and some I’ve created.  Of course, your mileage may vary, but I’m happy to pass it on to you.

When looking for my passion and purpose, I suspected I knew where to find it.  It was only a few years ago that it began to come together, and now that life’s seen fit to make more of my time available, I do believe that it really needs to be paid forward.

Day 15, 30 Days

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The Three Lies We Tell Ourselves

Halfway through this mini project, it’s time to take a harder look at how easy it is to pull the wool over our own eyes and bury our heads deep in the sand when it comes to the task of finding our bliss.  Let’s look at how we hide from success and happiness because no one lies to us as well as we lie to ourselves.

 

Self Lie #1  I’m not up for the challenge

We tell ourselves that we’re not up for the challenge of rushing toward our dream life or job.  In my last post, I put that to rest when pointing out that we often take daring and wild action in the name of love.  This means that when circumstances are in place, the leap is more than easy.  I’ve seen that I can move mountains or leave no stone unturned when it comes to issues surrounding my husband’s health.  And I’m sure you have plenty of examples of your own.  We can put this to rest.

 

Self Lie #2   I don’t know what I’d really like to be when I grow up.

We do know.  Or, we likely have a very good idea but haven’t thought it a worthwhile pursuit.  Why?  Because we’ve been conditioned to separate “work” from “play”.  Remember when you came home from school and immediately changed into your “play clothes”?  We even had different outfits to separate the two aspects of our day.  It’s no wonder we can fall into believing that we can’t find joy and playfulness in our working world.

If we take a look at our browsing history or book shelves right now, we’d likely have an excellent indicator of the ideas and lifestyles that interest us most.  This would be what we do when we’re in our online play clothes.  Trace an arc right now through your personal history to see how it measures up to your latest browser bookmarks.  A theme should quickly become apparent.  “Which jobs will immerse me in that” is the next question that should come to mind.  Then go put on your sneakers.

 

Self Lie #3  I’m not as [savvy] [talented] as my friends, family, or colleagues

This one is particularly untrue as well as unproductive.  If we try to measure ourselves by holding to a standard of someone else’s idea of a dream career, we will surely appear to fall short.  But the fact is that those who excel in their careers do so because they are doing the work that’s aligned with their passions and interests.  (I’ve never seen anyone report a lifetime of success gained by hating their work)

We often fail to see this very large detail and instead find ourselves struggling to keep up with the performance of others.   This is also a remnant of our educational system in which we were expected to measure up, equally across all subjects.  I’m not a math whiz and to hold myself to the standards of someone who is, is just self deprecating behavior.  On the other hand, I love to write.  There are plenty of people who just don’t, and would never consider trying to measure their success by judging themselves by how much writing they do.
The Truth About Positive Self Talk

It’s always easy to find positive self talk and yes, I’m all for it.  Every once in a while, though, we need to take a look at how we’ve contributed to our current state and own sense of failure.  It’s not a real failure, just a misfire.  If we can re-align ourselves with the original target woven throughout our history, a personal sense of satisfaction should begin to follow.

We, you and me… are as savvy, talented, and up for the challenge… as anyone else.  If we feel any less than energized by our work, we just haven’t been living fully in our truth.

Discover how the educational system has conditioned us out of pursuing our passion.

“Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational “death valley” we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility. “

Days 12 -14, 30 Days

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Only after writing my last post on living with uncertainty did I remember the number of times my husband and I have started life over, from scratch.   This life reboot always followed a significant event which only appeared to be a setback, but the truth is that once the change was made, we found ourselves transformed.  And ready to live a little bit wilder.

The trick was in our definition of Wild.

We’ve been taught that “wild” is a great concept when talking about animals in the natural world.  The words, powerful, strong, and unpredictable come to mind when thinking about a wild thing.  So why does this not seem as true for us?  How can so many of us feel that we don’t already live in a way that’s more powerful or strong?   We have.  And we do.  We haven’t noticed because it happens when we aren’t focused on ourselves.

Take a look.  Chances are very good that you’ve acted from those very ideals without skipping a beat, because while you were doing it, the actions came completely naturally.

We are already powerful and strong

Our parents, if we’ve been lucky enough to have a caring family, largely sheltered us from the unknown.  The trouble with this approach is that many of us became bored within its confines and began to scratch at the sides of the cage even as we shuddered at the idea of taking big risks.   To break loose, we needed to drop of our fixed identities, a move that often meant breaking free of family influence.  We did, and continue to do this whenever we find a “larger cause” that makes it easy for us to leave the familiar behind,  adopt new behaviors, and do the unexpected.  That larger cause most often comes in the form of Love.  Wild and Love are, in many respects, synonymous.  They pull us out of our ideas of ourselves.

In a talk with a friend this weekend, he mentioned that for years, he hadn’t identified his passion and purpose because he’d always associated it with a career.  But, he said, his passion had been in growing and sustaining his relationship with his partner of 19 years.  That is where his energy had gone and because it was True Passion, it was so easy that he’d nearly missed that he’d been living it.  They’d moved thousands of miles away from family to pour all of themselves into growing a strong relationship.  I realized that he was right!  I’d also experienced this through each of Scott’s health hardships.  Yes, it was difficult, but it was also easy.  Simple.  Clear.  We lived through each supposed “setback” with a wild spirit that had us moving headlong into one unplanned adventure after another.  My friends had done the same with blind faith and wild spirits.

Love does this.

Whether we love a career, a partner, our children, or families, the common factor in our feeling purposeful is in seeing our actions as moving toward what we view as a greater Good.

I’ve often thought of words like strong and brave when talking about what looks like unexpected or bold moves.  But within the context of moving in line with our idea of a cause larger than our selves, it becomes an action taken from what feels natural, right, and true.  In this case I seems that there’s no real effort involved.  Maybe you’ve experienced this as a protective mom or dad.  As a partner.  As an animal or pet lover.  As an individual in love with a cause or ideal.

We often live powerfully even when it looks very ordinary.  Even when it means doing the laundry or going to the office job you don’t enjoy.   When it’s done to support genuine love for our ideal, it’s the very definition of passion because we have understood something greater than Us, than we alone, are.

That’s wild.  And powerful.  It’s also self less.

Day 11, 30 Days

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Let’s talk about living with Uncertainty because for most of us, it’s the slimy monster that hides under our bed.

I’ve gotten lots of advice as to what to do to live life without a clear path, and through a google search, it’s easy to find tactics and strategies to help us deal with the swirling feeling of having stepped right off the edge of a cliff. The advice can be helpful but before it helps, it can often cause more anxiety than when first losing our footing. Then again, doing nothing at all isn’t very likely to help it dissolve either. Is there an alternative? I think so.

Life on the brink

This morning I looked for a particular entry in journal I’d kept during the days my husband Scott received his kidney and pancreas transplant.  It detailed my state of mind on the day and night of the surgery itself.  I wanted to revisit another time I’d lived with uncertainty, and knew it was my most compelling example.

We’d gotten the call from the hospital at 2am on a Thursday morning, and after packing and making the nearly four hour trip to Tampa, arrived at 7am for check in. It would be another 14 hours before he was wheeled into a surgery expected to last around 6 hours. That brought us to a start time of 9pm Thursday night.

Sitting in the surgical waiting room, the sudden dawning that I was now completely and utterly alone, in a strange city, and during one of the most uncertain days of my life, broke open. To make matters worse, surgery was scheduled to run until 3am Friday morning which meant that over the course of the night, families of patients whose surgery was completed left both me and the room. By midnight, Scott’s name was the only one on the status monitor and a room meant to hold 30 people was empty of everyone but me and my thoughts.  When the last family had stepped out of the room, I became very calm. Time itself had stopped.

And Here’s How I got Back

What happened to bring this state of calm in the midst of so much uncertainty? Well, the only thing I have been able to work out is that I gave in. You can also call it surrender. I became resigned not to a poor outcome, but to the entire process itself, and leaned directly into it. That leaning in meant that I stopped pushing and pulling at life and circumstance. The realization that I had no ability to think him through it, cry him through it, or otherwise influence the outcome brought peace of mind. I understood that we’d done everything we could possibly do to bring this moment about, and had to let go. It was actually a beautiful six hours.

This is Now

This story  has everything to do with my current situation of unemployment. Lots of friends have shown concern as to my possible state of mind but amidst the perfume of ambiguity is a steady state. As long as I do all I can do to find and meet my new path, why not just let go of the rest?   Once all of my tasks have been carried out, what’s left to hang onto but thought, and thought doesn’t change reality.  The key is not to give up or give in but to lean in and fully acknowledge the great big gap in the storyline.

The lesson I’d pass onto anyone  else starting a bold new venture?  Make solid bets on yourself.   Then give yourself permission to lean into the uncertainty, and just let it ride.  

I’ll be back Monday with days 12-14.

Day 10, 30 Days

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This is one post which will never be entitled, “How to Network Like a Boss”

Are you one of those people who enjoys the idea of networking?  I don’t know a lot who do except for a couple of friends in sales.  For them, mingling and convincing strangers is something that can result in fast rewards and so the incentive is high.  It’s genuinely what they like to do.

For me, networking has always seemed a bit like a “should” rather than “Yep!  I’m in!” because I’d always looked at it from the position of a fixed and unchanging idea of myself, one I needed to properly package in order to engage the “right” people.

Thankfully, the idea of a fixed sense of self has proven to be false.  In reality, there’s room to move and to play, and to meet the person I’m talking to from a fluid place. Understanding that the idea of who I am has an aspect that is completely malleable has allowed me to more naturally and genuinely engage.  To accomplish this “natural art of networking with ease”, I’ve found that the exchanges should be undertaken with nothing less than my putting one hundred percent of my effort into these two approaches.


Ask, What can I do to help the person I’m engaging?

Though I may have a need for their assistance, my first priority should be to add value to the exchange and the simplest way to do that is to repeatedly look for opportunities to help them accomplish their goals.  Not mine.

Those I want to help most are the people who are already in or connected to the roles I’d like to someday have.  To genuinely engage their interest, I need to take the completely selfless route not by asking for them to give first but instead finding opportunities to offer my assistance.  Because during our conversation, my position will naturally become obvious and more than likely, they will want to reciprocate by seeing my need and being moved toward meeting it.  A good number of people I help will do this and even if they don’t, in assisting them, I’ll likely learn something valuable toward meeting my own goal.  Thinking that I “lose” if  I don’t get something back is short-sighted.  If I’m paying attention, there’s no way to lose.

Engaging with nothing less than authenticity.  

Once I offer assistance, I’d better follow through.  When I think about issues I used to have with the process of networking, one of the most bothersome was with those who over promise and fail to live up to them.  This kind of exchange is rampant and accepted as “part of the game”, but it doesn’t mean that I have to play by anyone else’s rules other than my own.  And in order to enjoy the process, I have to be able to believe that I’ve made an honest effort to remain genuine and not be swayed or drawn in to an egocentric game of networking ping pong.  This isn’t as easy as it sounds because we tend to mirror another’s behavior, especially when meeting someone new.  It takes conscious effort to stay real, but it’s something my future self will thank me for.

These ideas aren’t new, but until I clearly saw the wisdom for myself, they remained a nice theory.

Day 9, 30 Days

Life Lessons from an Amateur Trash Collector

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For the past 9 days I’ve snapped and posted a photograph of each day’s sunrise over the Atlantic.   What my photos of the beach never show is the amount of trash that washes up onto the shore.  The glare of the first burst of rays casts a shadow that hides the scene’s ugly bits and pieces.  Tangled within seaweed are bottle caps, plastic ware, lighters, balloons ripped to shreds, clothes hangers, and, water bottles.  The water is often still inside.  It’s apparent that the ocean does not discriminate when giving up its waste, no matter how pristine the beach.

I’ve noticed one man who appears on the same piece of coast, and at the same time each day.  Carrying a plastic bag he makes his way down the shoreline, a few feet at a time, repeatedly stooping over to pick up what others have carelessly discarded. Though groomed and clean shaven, he’s always shirtless, making it obvious that he’s not a uniformed member of the city’s maintenance staff.  There is no paycheck for his efforts.

After the fifth straight day of watching his dogged ritual of clean up after strangers, I wandered over to let him know that I’d noticed and appreciated his work.  He only briefly glanced up at me.  “Yep.”  He chuckled. Then he shrugged shyly, and with more than a little resignation, added. “Somebody’s got to do it.”

Somebody’s got to.

It took me a while to connect the dots, but at some point I realized that he’d offered me a very unexpected lesson on the very two ideas I’d been carrying on about for months.  Because I thought that Passion and Purpose were supposed to point to larger than life ideas, or at least make for a cause worthy of telling your friends, I was blinded to recognizing a perfect example when I saw it.

I should thank this “amateur” collector.  He’s completely reset my idea of what living those two ideas should look like.

Day 8, 30 Days

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It’s apparent that the secret to my ability to begin relaxing during these days of uncertainty is due to my behaving like a resort tourist.  I highly recommend it, so here I give you Five Easy Ways to Live Like You’re on Vacation, all the time.  You could say that it’s been an entirely enlightening experience.

 

Change #1. Carry a camera. Actually use it.

One of the most beneficial things I’ve done during my first week of unemployment was to become a stranger in my own town.  That means that I have carried either my phone or Canon Powershot everywhere I’ve gone, even if it’s meant stashing it in the trunk.  Do you realize how beautiful your everyday surroundings can be when seen through the uncomplicated view of a fixed lens?  There’s an art and entire philosophy to this way of seeing, and it’s called Miksang.  Here’s a link to the Miksang training process.  Even if you never take one of their classes, you can read the site and learn to see the small and routine things in unexpected ways… ways that will give you joy.

Change #2. Find tourists who need their photo taken

I’m a beachside photographer to tourists.  It happens when you live in this type of town and I’m happy to oblige those who would otherwise have an imcomplete Oceanside family photo to place on their fireplace mantle.  It makes me happy to think that the picture could warm them up on cold winter evenings by the fire.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for their having to resort to dangerous selfies.

Change #3. Hang out in public

We usually scurry from point A to B when out and about in our own city or town because we “know where we’re going”.  Sure, we know the route and just want to get to our destination so that we can go about our business, but… stop.  Because it’s just BUSYNESS.  Hang out a little.  Stop to have a cup of coffee in a little shop and talk to a stranger or two.  What they say is true.  They don’t bite.

Change #4.  Help someone who looks lost

It’s always (well, usually) just a little heartwarming to be able to help someone who might otherwise suffer just a little without your assistance.  As you help out, try to see your surroundings from their perspective.  Forget about giving them the directions you know all too well because you’ve memorized the landmarks.  Figure out how to help them navigate from the perspective of having no earthly idea how to find the “Old grocery store that used to be.. blah, blah”.  Because you know how bad GPS can be.

Change #5.  Find a new route to work each day

Yes, this one is time consuming but I’ve found it to be a small change well worth my time.  Try it!  In adopting this “adventurer” method of routine travel, you’ll get to see the changes that are happening in your community and eventually will understand exactly which route to take to avoid traffic or see new sights.  Just giving your eyes and ears a new menu of input should shake some morning cobwebs.  If you don’t have time to do this in the morning, do it in the evening.

The idea is to keep your sensory experience fresh and stimulated with leisurely types of input rather than those which make demands.  Like a cell phone.  Though the benefit may not be seen immediately, the effect is cumulative.

 

Before you know it, you find yourself smiling just a bit more often, for no reason except a mini celebration of your ability to find the novel and unexpected in every day.

Days 5-7 (The Weekend!), 30 Days

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What this blog is REALLY about

If you’re reading this blog it’s likely because you’re interested in what I like to call a Meta view of life’s inner workings. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve got a library of reading material promising that if you can just see your way to changing a few pesky little habits, the world will most certainly be revealed as your oyster. The book purchases and online searches tend to escalate when a vague sense of a very general unease threads through a period of days or weeks. Sometimes the sense of unease is so light that the fix seems easily within reach with just one more tweak in your worldview. Welcome to the spiraling world of self help.

What’s missing from the self help industry

What if the self didn’t need help at all? Does that seem like a freeing idea? If so, read on.

Self improvement tools are not designed to help with the simpler idea of living from flow, and my #30DaysofChange project, while easily mistaken for another personal improvement program, is not meant to be. It’s a way for me to more naturally fall into flow that’s already present. And that feels very different. Why? Well, it’s very subtle, and in all honesty, the result will likely look a lot like a more improved self, but the key difference is in the approach.

The Approach

I’m not going into this with the assumption that I need fixing. (By the way, you don’t need fixing either. You’re perfect just as you are, and by the time this project ends, I will have made a valiant effort to explain why this as true.)

The idea of fixing ourselves to find happiness puts us in a perpetual position of lack, and assumes we need to fit a particular framework. But do we? What if equanimity comes not in internal change, but in filling our lives with people who already live in congruence with our existing ideas on wellbeing? In other words, we need to “Find Our Tribe”, to repeat an overused phrase. I don’t mean our tribe of winners or perfect people, but our own tribe of folks who support our very personal and detailed definition of wellbeing. How do we do this? By continuously putting ourselves in their path whether online, in person, or better yet, both. We’ll naturally support them in their efforts, and they will do the same in return. Doing this reciprocal pat on the back is pretty much guaranteed to help us feel better because the enthusiasm is genuine and heartfelt. We will very naturally root for their ideas and success because they’re already our own. The exchanges will be easy and frequent, and there will be no feeling of standing apart or on the sidelines. Life itself will feel like a continuous movement toward congruence.

How I’m using Change as a gateway to Flow

Rather than trying to make big life changes in these thirty days, what I’m doing is to shift routine so that life opens up naturally and organically. The specifics of this plan have so far gone like this:

1. Instead of spending all day indoors as I have each day for many years, I’m outdoors all day seeking coffee shops, bookstores, and other very public spaces.

2. As I sit and blog or read, I observe other peoples’ habits and patterns. Sometimes I just watch for a while rather than do. The idea is to note all of the wild and wonderful ways people live so that I understand what’s possible, and what feels right. Because within a life too heavy on routine, there’s no way to know what can be, only what is. Life very naturally and effortlessly leans toward possibilities.

Childlike Wonder

Remember what it was like to live in a state of wonder and possibility? As a child, Santa and the tooth fairy were real to us not because we were duped into believing tall tales, but because nothing was impossible. We didn’t have a lot of knowledge to crowd out the direct effects of our sensory perception and so everything we experienced was intense and new. Fresh. There was no routine and dulling of senses until our parents and teachers taught us to be concerned with knowledge and structure rather than exploration. A lot of those lessons were to protect us from harm, but they also had unintended consequences which go completely unnoticed. We can’t remember exactly when it was that our openness to experience dulled and a general sense of unease took its place. This malaise seems diffuse because it is. It permeates every experience because our first approach is from an attitude of gaining knowledge, classifying, and putting into “boxes” of memories we can recall at will. The impact on our lives is that we don’t experience it Now. We unintentionally push the experiences into the future by first figuring them out intellectually so that we can easily slip them into our stale mental rolodex. That outdated catalogue is actually the source of our belief that we need to fix ourselves. We fail to recognize ourselves in new ways because we reflexively compare anything unfamiliar to the contents of our storehouse.

There’s No Need for Self Help

I mean what I said earlier, which is that there’s really nothing wrong with me, or with you. Unless what you’re doing is harming to the body or that of another person, wrong is not an accurate word for the mental malaise. The unease comes about because we’ve crowded ourselves into too many ill-shaped mental boxes that don’t quite fit. Our “Shape” is distorted, crunched, squished, and molded, and we believe that the only way to live is looking out from inside them even as we want to break them open. Unfortunately, we often end up buying books that drive us more deeply into paradigms we don’t really want to live from because they’re someone else’s idea of a Nicer, Better, More Powerful Box. When we talk about being free to be happy, what are we actually looking for? I’m betting that it’s the ability to feel free to change as nimbly and effortlessly as life does.

We can stop buying other people’s ideas of nice boxes.

Tomorrow: Thinking outside the box is still thinking about boxes