It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.
We all have a different set of eyes. Each set of eyes are connected to our own unique brain. And each individual brain holds an irrevocable understanding of life based on our unique and sacred history of experience.
The eyes show us what we look at, the brain tells us what we see, but ultimately you are in charge of both.
It comes down to a choice then. When challenged, do you crumple in despair or rise to meet it? When you fail, do you despair in defeat or use the lesson for transformation? When decisions loom, do you waffle or do you lead? When stuck in a hamster wheel of regret, fear, doubt, or FOMO, do you wallow in the mire of negativity or do you choose to get mindful now?
How you see any situation is up to you. No matter how difficult, painful, or upsetting, you can always adjust your focus.
Open your eyes a little wider today, and see the possibilities.
Don't just face your fears, embrace your fears.
Taking a chance, putting yourself out there, doing that one thing that sends shivers down your spine, it’s risky. Personally, I can't stand heights. Just being near a sudden drop in elevation, be it a stairwell or the top of Yosemite Falls, turns my hands into puddles and my legs into noodles. I could be behind 6 feet behind a chain link fence and tethered to a cable, and still the fear of death strikes me.
But there’s a wealth of opportunity for personal growth that comes from tackling our trepidation. Diving into the complicated extremities in life is how we become better people.
The way I see it, you can reach two outcomes after facing a fear:
This applies just as much to something as basic as a fear of heights, as it applies to those big life decisions, like career and commitment.
When we take a risk and fail, it’s easy to become discouraged, to give up. But that is a reaction we have chosen. Our reaction to everything in life is up to us.
We can choose to embrace our fears, get out of our comfort zone, take the risks that expand our possibilities, and react to failures as life lessons.
It’s up to us to embrace our fears.
To take a leap of faith expands our possibilities.
To view our failures as inspiration.
With risk always comes reward. Always.
Change your mindset and collect the bounty.
Good vibes only, the time is now.
Digress from stress, disconnect, and allow.
No accommodating worry or entertaining regret.
No wasting time obsessively upset.
Stop the self-doubt, and no more complaints.
Enough with all the self-righteous debates.
No more consequences, only life lessons.
This is how you learn what the best is.
No listening to people who always say “no.”
Give up the grudges, it's time to let go.
No more no’s.
Period. You know.
Yes to joy, and smiles, and laughter.
Yes to bear hugs and happily ever after.
Yes to presence, mindfulness, and peace.
Yes to love, it's all you actually need.
Say yes even when you're down.
You'll be surprised how quickly it turns you around.
Yes to giving more than you take.
Yes to some selfishness, for your sanity’s sake.
Good vibes only, not because it's forced.
Good vibes only, and then pass the torch.
We rest on crutches far too much in life.
And, why not? The modern world affords us a million conveniences that mankind developed over centuries to make life a little bit easier. But in our efforts to simplify our everyday tasks, haven't we lost something?
Our ancestors had to fight to survive and thrive. Every day was a gift because every day you had to overcome any number of natural obstacles in order to continue your existence. With the properly planning and knowledge, you might starve to death, or get eaten by a bear, or run out of water, or end up murdered in your sleep due to a particularly violent neighboring tribe.
Without those life and death complexities of survival to deal with, we end up resting on our laurels.
Without struggle and resistance, we fail to gain strength.
Without loss, we forget to appreciate our blessings.
Now of course, this is undoubtedly a first-world problem. There are lot of people on this earth that do have to struggle to survive, and that’s not a good thing. We should all do everything we can to bring comfort and kindness to everyone on this planet.
But for the rest of us, by not having to deal with the types of struggle that were once ubiquitous in our corner of society, we've missed out on some vitally important life lessons.
I was camping recently and it suddenly seemed so obvious--out in the semi-developed wilderness of Death Valley everyone takes liberal advantage headlamps, gas stoves, air mattresses, running water, smartphones, and the nearby market for supplies. All things that make life easy, all things that we want, but nothing that we particularly need.
I'm not saying you aren't allowed to hold on to some comforts in life, we fought long and hard to achieve them. I'm just saying there’s a lot to be gained from giving up a few of them, at least once in awhile. It's when you to give up a little, that you start to gain a lot.
Giving up the headlamp and depending on the moon teaches you just how much you can already see.
Packing away the stove and cooking over your fire teaches you the importance of the simplest things.
Storing and rationing water teaches you to use what you need--and only what you need--instead of living life as a free flow of excess.
Putting the phone in airplane mode strips away the digital distractions and let's you enjoy real life again.
The lessons from a campsite are no different in our modern life. Our everyday reliance on crutches is a choice we make with everything we do. Our over-reliance on comforts leads to ungratefulness and juvenile quibbles. Our over-reliance on comforts has led to water scarcity, oil dependence, and global warming. Our over-reliance on comforts and this finite amount of resources is slowly squeezing out our attempted dominion over this earth.
Get off the crutch and stand up.
Take a few steps forward.
Real life is the grit of the hard ground,
Not a delicately cushioned pillow.
See how real life can feel.
The other day I spent some time on my phone.
I took a few minutes updating my reminders and to-do list...it's a busy time of year.
I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram, a like here and a like there...keeping up with friends.
I checked how many steps I had taken that day...exercise is key.
For a second there I felt productive, but then I realized, I hadn't really done anything at all.
Updating a to-do might tell me what I need to get done, but it doesn't mean I'll actually do it.
Liking a post on Facebook might remind friends I exist, but that's not actually keeping in touch.
Keeping track of how many steps I took gives me a calorie count, but rarely does it encourage me to walk more.
During the time I spent on my phone I could have worked on a project, gotten lunch with a friend, or gone on a hike, actually achieving the things I pretended I was achieving with my phone.
There's motivation to be found on our modern devices for sure, but don't let it fool you into reliance. Get off your ass and do real things. Real things are how you really move forward.
'Tis the season for many things. Lots of things. Too many things.
One of the biggest things is the giving and receiving of gifts. This can be wonderful -- reminding us to be thoughtful of others and show our appreciation. But it can also be difficult -- leading to overwrought feelings of expectation and a covetous impulse.
Instead of allowing the holiday stress get the better of us, let's try something new. Let's give ourselves a gift this holiday season.
The gift of mindfulness. The gift of peace.
Among the parties, house guests, and card lists, there's room for presence. Throughout the decorating, cleaning, and cooking, there's space for calm. Even in the crowded parking lots, shopping malls, and freeways, there is room for kindness.
The peace we seek during this, or any stressful time is always up to us.
So this is my mindfulness challenge to you: for the rest of this month take a little time out of each day to be present-- take a little time to find peace.
Start simple... give yourself the gift of a short mindfulness break. Set your phone timer for one minute, close your eyes, and just listen to your breath.
Be patient with your yourself. Sometimes when life is busy and you're feeling overwhelmed, even one minute seems like an eternity. But giving yourself even that one minute of peace will leave you feeling renewed and ready to tackle that shopping list again.
You'll find the benefits of this short practice will radiate out from you like warmth from your winter heater. The peace you show will rub off on others. The peace you find will help you find more peace yourself. The peace that comes from mindfulness is a gift that keeps on giving.
Give yourself this gift at least once every day now until the New Year. Turn this peace break into your intention. Mark it down in your calendar and set a reminder to help keep you in check.
Make being present with yourself your present to yourself.
It's easy to find mindfulness in the natural world, that's no secret--getting outside in the wilderness helps you discover peace, discover the world, and discover yourself. I know this first hand.
But I realize most people don't have access to the wild like I do. I'm lucky enough to live in an area (southern California) and to live a certain lifestyle (not fully employed) that affords me with regular access to some exceedingly zen natural environments. I’m truly grateful for that. But most of us live in cities that are situated great distances from the world's natural wonders. We have jobs and families and lives that keep us endlessly busy. We're surrounded by suburbs where the wild landmarks are all landscaped.
One day I’ll likely have to get a real world desk job again, so one day I’ll need to figure out a way to be mindful while surrounded by the noise of the city. You know, like most everyone else.
It's easy to get mindful when you're in the actual jungle, but how do you get mindful in the urban jungle?
The typical lifestyle magazine answer is: just be mindful, it's always up to you. But I hate that answer, it’s trite. We all know that within the chaos of a city, it's never that simple. In our real, everyday, complex lives, we get by with a little help from our friends.
Now don’t get me wrong, I really do love cities, I live in fairly large one myself after all. But then there’s New York City--the Big Apple and I haven’t always had the most stable relationship. The “wild” there has much more to do with the latest preposterous fashion trend or the hottest new club, than the mountain hikes to waterfalls I’m more accustomed to.
The last time I visited NYC, it gave me a brief, but extremely unmindful panic attack.
It was last summer, and in the months leading up to it I had spent the majority of my time alone in the wilderness and multiple national parks--camping, hiking, traveling, taking pictures, living free--what I like to call being a journeyman.
When I arrived in New York after all that, the buzz and excitement I normally felt for the city was completely absent. Instead I felt petulance--looking out over the skyline I was irritated by the cement and glass, indignant every time I heard a car horn or police siren, irked as I imagined the uniquely wild Hudson Bay that once surrounded lower Manhattan.
I felt a little like Charlton Heston at the end of the Planet of the Apes... “You finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
I had traveled to New York with my husband and and we soon met up with a few old friends, so I wasn’t alone. After a good hour of quietly freaking out to myself, it dawned on me that I was surrounded by a safety net, ready to stop my freefall and set me back up on my own two mindful feet.
I opened up to my man and my friends and told them about my fluster. As soon as I did so, without them even saying a word, I started to see the folly of my thinking. They rightly did their best to convince me of my foolishness, through both support and a little ribbing, just as any good friend should do.
Lack of wild nature or not, I had people who love me who want to help keep me sane. Taking a moment to be appreciative of my support network immediately cleared my head. Mindfulness was always there, I just had to open my heart a little wider to see it.
Since we had spent most of the afternoon in my friend’s lofty condo tower, we decided to go on a walk, and soon found ourselves in a nearby park. It wasn’t a desolate mountain landscape like Griffith Park that I’m used to back in Los Angeles, a John Muir-esq canyon trail of wonderment like I’d visited in our national parks, and it wasn’t even the truly special and somewhat-wild Central Park--it was a small block-long strip of land with some foliage, benches, and a playground.
“Hey look Jason! We’re in the wilderness!” they joked. But behind the laugh was an important truth.
Lack of wild nature or not, there were still trees, and dirt, and people enjoying the simplicity of the outdoors. Taking a moment to be appreciative of even the smallest drop of wilderness brought me joy. Mindfulness was always there, I just had to open my eyes a little wider to see it.
Back when I first arrived in New York, I carried with me a sense of entitlement over my newfound success finding mindfulness in the wild, and it drove me a bit crazy. But after that struggle, the city quickly taught me that I could keep my head on straight anywhere, just by opening my eyes and looking around me, and by falling back a little on my friends for support.
Lack of wilderness or not, grieving at the site of a paved street is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Lack of wilderness or not, mindfulness isn't determined by an external force or environment, it's an internal choice that is always available to us.
Lack of wilderness or not, we can always look to our loved ones to help keep us in check and remind us how to find joy and mindfulness anywhere.
I love to make plans and I'm a bit of perfectionist. Sometimes these are great attributes, like when I need to plan a big trip with a hundred moving parts (and do so expertly, I might add). Sometimes though, my perfectionist streak drives me crazy, like when one or more of those hundred moving parts starts to move in the wrong direction.
Recently, I was lucky enough to go to New Zealand. I went to sojourn with my man who was there for work, which means I was there to keep him company during his off time but I also had free time to do my favorite thing in the world... explore. I was going to learn about kiwi and Maori culture, hike over green hillsides and through rainforests, visit one of the oldest national parks in the world, see volcanoes and glaciers, get new perspectives, write lots of blog posts, and hopefully meet a few hobbits.
Boy did I have a ton of plans for this trip, but boy did life have other plans for me. And bare with me here, but boy am I glad life changed all my plans. Not because I enjoy it when all my efforts fly out the window and those plans suddenly change, and not because (spoiler alert) I enjoy being sick on the other side of the international date line, but because of the lesson in mindfulness the whole crazy experience gave me.
As soon as I arrived in New Zealand I got sick. For those of you who know me, you know I was also just sick for 2 weeks in early September. Sick sick sicky sick. Being sick is always struggle to some degree, but being sick abroad was a struggle on a whole new level.
Side note: I've been debating just how much I want to divulge on this. I don't make it a point to whine, at least publicly. I don't like to worry anyone or act needy, so I largely kept this under wraps. Aside from one semi-vague Instagram post, and texts with close friends, very few people knew I was sick out there.
But I'm trying to use this all as a lesson, one I can learn from and then one I'll tell you about so you can hopefully learn from as well. If I'm going to do that I need to let down my guard and take down the walls of privacy and vanity.
As you can imagine, I spent a lot of this time feeling frustrated - all my well thought out plans dashed, my normally active self tied to a hotel bed, my love of exploring new territories and cultures stymied, hopes of a "perfect trip" lost.
But that frustration, like any difficult time, was also an opportunity.
Difficulty presents us with a personal mindfulness challenge.
It always boils down to a choice: let the disappointment of an international exploration opportunity lost overtake me with anger and regret, OR use it as an excuse to reconnect to mindfulness and then use/enjoy every moment I do have for all its worth.
Through painstaking effort, I chose the later. When I felt well enough to go exploring for a bit, I made sure to soak in every last second of the experience. When my throat was calm enough to allow a proper dinner, I savored every bite, and let myself have a glass of wine or a beer because I was on vacation goshdarnit. When I was awake and aware I made myself ever present and shook the chains of distraction loose.
Because of the illness, I knew I'd have fewer moments of enjoyment on my trip, so I mindfully dove into any moment in had with gusto. Suddenly my time became less about the limitations of being sick, and more about the joy to be found in the random moments.
I can have a memorable time whether or not everything goes exactly the way I expect. I can make good use of my time even if plans fall through. I can have a totally new and unexpected adventure even when things don't line up as I'd hoped.
I can be frustrated and angry that this trip didn't go the way I hoped it would go, or I can accept that it changed and make the most of it... roll with the punches, go with the flow.
My attitude about it, about anything, is entirely up to me.
So make plans, set expectations, and do your best work to make sure everything goes your way - lord knows I'll never stop doing that - but make sure one of your expectations is that it's possible none of your expectations will actually come true. Life will take you where it wants, you can fight and lament and whine and cry but the change in your path will often happen whether you like it or not. It's way better for your sanity to just accept it and go with the flow.
I don't know what next year will bring, let alone next month, next week, tomorrow, or even the next hour. Any second now things could go in a million different directions. This is a central truth.
But truth or not, this can be frightening, making us spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about the uncertainty that's just around the corner. We distract ourselves with scenarios of the future that rarely, if ever, happen the way we imagine. We waste time predicting a conversation, when we can never really know how anyone else will react. We spin our wheels with supposedly strategic (but usually stupid) decisions in a futile attempt to control the future.
Recently, I went on a desolate sunrise hike in Joshua Tree National Park and found myself being extra cautious, something I’m sure my mom will be happy to hear. The primary physical threat in the desert is the rattlesnake, but there are also scorpions, spiders, coyotes, and I have this theory about angry big horn sheep. Another threat is the nature of the trail itself, rocky, steep, and arduous, with dangerous cliffs that demand thoughtfulness with each step.
But more than any of those threats was the fact that I was totally alone - during the 3 hours I spent on this mountain (2 hiking and 1 writing this blog) I saw not a single soul, not on the trail or on the park road below. Coming from my usually crowded stomping grounds of Griffith Park, in the middle of urban Los Angeles, this was unnerving. I have never felt that alone on a trail anywhere in all my hundreds of hiking miles.
I had a choice, I could give away any of the benefits I might reap from the hike to the fear of a rattlesnake ambush or a cliff diving misstep, both scenarios leaving me to die alone on this desert island. Or I could be as prepared as possible, like carrying a snake bite kit and staying aware of my footing, and then choose to accept the uncertainty, stay present, and enjoy the stunning desert sunrise happening all around me.
Make no mistake, the future will do what it wants to. Sure, you have a hand in it - everything you do in the present is part of what makes up your future. But no matter how much you plan and scheme, the future will bring you to shockingly unexpected places.
Even the brawniest boulder can be cracked over time.
Even the most imposing tree can be decimated by a single lightening strike.
Even the best laid path can be washed out by a freak monsoon.
I'm starting to feel like all this uncertainty that I worry about, that you probably worry about too, isn’t something to fear, but something to celebrate. You can and should prepare yourself to your best ability - shoot for the stars, make plans, improve your life, seriously go for it - but in the end you have to just let the future be, because it will actually be what it will be no matter how much fretting you do in the meantime.
Hold on to the uncertainty. Revel in the mystery and astonishment of life. Take calculated risks. Go with the unfamiliar. Move forward with each step confidently, and remember that around every corner there may or may not be a something to fear, but there will most definitely be new view that coud be even more beautiful than the last.
I’m so grateful for uncertainty, life would be totally boring otherwise.
I'll be honest...as much as I make an effort to bring a mindfulness practice into my daily life, there's one central tenet of it that I totally suck at: meditation.
More often than not I have about 20 things on my mind. If I'm having a conversation with you, don't worry I'm totally listening, but I'm also multitasking - deciding on dinner, adding kale to my grocery list, thinking of a new blog post, remembering it's time to feed the dog, wondering what the weather will be like tomorrow - and oh yeah, back to the conversation.
When I try to meditate it's hard for me to shut all that down. Of course, that's the point of meditation, to take some time out of our hectic lives to shut that all down, even if it's just for a few minutes.
I try to meditate, and I always struggle.
In meditation you're not supposed to stress about the fact that all those thoughts have decided to interrupt your quiet time. Instead you observe them and watch them float by like passing clouds. It's kind of a fun exercise to think of them that way. But still, most of the time when I meditate it quickly becomes a full-on overcast, on-shore flow, gathering storm, kind of sky.
My solution to all this is BUDDHIFY. It's one of the few apps I've ever paid for, and it's worth way more than they charge.
The app provides a series of short, guided meditations, that are tailored to fit in where ever you are and with whatever you're doing. It helps turn any moment into a mindfulness moment. Some of my favorites are the "Flight" meditation for air travel and the "Thanks" meditation to help me sleep.
Meditation for me can be a challenging task, stopping everything in my mind to be totally quiet. This app helps me get there by using my thoughts as a guide rather than trying to stop them altogether. I can't recommend it enough.
(and no, they didn't pay me to say this)
There really is a lot of beauty in the world. But there's also a lot of shit.
It seems like they both come at us in waves - we find ourselves in periods of beauty that make us feel sky high, only to be dragged back down to earth, landing in a pile of shit.
These ups and down are natural and inevitable, and I know that without the darkness we'd never, really, truly be able to appreciate the happy glow of the light.
But while we're there, in the beauty or the shit or some place in-between, we often struggle to see the big picture.
When we're in the shit it's so easy to feel overwhelmed and make rash decisions. We’re angry, emotional, and unsettled, so we forget that there is still beauty.
When we're in the beauty we too often take it for granted. We enjoy the moment, but tend to forget that our future will hold even more beautiful moments, or that the shit will inevitably return.
Lately, I've confronted an internal battle between the mindfulness of now and the big picture that can be so unknown. I appreciate the fact that it's best to stay present, to accept my emotions as they are and for whatever they are, instead of allowing them to overtake me. It's always best to live in the moment rather than constantly wonder and worry about the future.
But I also think there is some value in taking a broad look forward, and even backward, from time to time.
Imagine you're fully within the shit. Difficult changes, bad decisions, work stress, struggling with people coming and going in your life. You might actually be somewhere in there right now so you don’t have to even imagine it. I'm there from time to time myself, we all are, more than most of us choose to admit.
Being present in that shit is a terrible place to be. As we try to mindfully accept and process our feelings rather than let them overtake us, that acceptance can make us feel even more shitty. Like it’s the new norm - this is it, learn to live with it.
On the other hand, imagine you're fully within the beauty. You're surrounded by good friends, smiling faces, beautiful vistas, and experiencing life altering inspirational events. You might actually be there right now so you don't even have to imagine it. I've been here a lot lately.
But even while we're there we don't always appreciate it. Acknowledging the fact that the shit is still out there and will inevitably return, doesn't have to take you out your moment of beauty, instead it gives you the gift of gratefulness. Acknowledging that there are more unimaginable moments of beauty yet to come in your life, encourages you to chase that beauty in all your decisions, to find your better life.
The idea of not being present in these types of moments actually gives me solace, and not in some escapist way. I look back at all the shit I've experienced in life and realize that this terrible thing, like all things, will eventually pass. I look back at all the beauty I've experienced and realize that this beautiful thing, like all things, will come around again. I look at the big picture - the entirety of both beauty and shit in my life - past, present, and future - and I feel grateful for having gone on the ride.
I realize this idea contradicts some of what I've said about being "present" on this blog, but I'm not one to stand still. Just as we move forward in life, through both beauty and shit, our mind and our heart and our spirit moves forward as well, learning from it all.
There's something wonderful about thinking of the big picture like this and using it to your advantage. It makes your present moment a bit more...chill.
If it’s a beautiful moment, seeing the big picture helps you avoid that nostalgic melancholy feeling you get when it’s over. If it’s a shitty moment, the big picture makes your problems seem a little smaller, a little more manageable. From either position in life, the big picture helps you learn how to better appreciate both the beauty and the shit for what they are - just another one of the many moments that together make up you.
In this way, looking at the big picture rather than always shrinking everything down to the right now, is just another form of mindfulness. It helps you to accept and observe and process your emotions, instead of wallowing in them until they make you feel worse.
Mindfulness isn't just about being present and leaving it at that, it's also about seeing the big picture and understanding that this present right here, it too shall pass.
I want to blend both the mindfulness and the big picture together. In a way that helps me stay chill during the angry moments and feel appreciation during the amazing moments. In a way that helps me drop the things that hold me back like worry, doubt, and regret. In a way that helps me accept both the beauty and the shit. In a way that, in the end, makes me a better person.
Too Much Information in the world today.
Not just the overly detailed gross TMI stuff, that’s obvious. I’m talking about the oversharing, over-tracking, and over-dependence on information that has quickly becoming ingrained in our everyday lives.
Smartphones are an amazing tool for so many aspects of life, but they can also become a burden. Thousands of apps can constantly collect data about where you go and what you do, or provide you with 24/7 access to pretty much anything you think you need to know - money and maps, stocks and sports, drivers, deals, and dates. But at some point all that info becomes a distraction, another set of chores to take care of every day, leading us to obsess and stress.
Search apps put every answer at our fingertips, but they also discourage the simple act of remembering. Map apps position every street and turn so we never have to know how to get anywhere again. Messaging apps put everyone at our fingertips so never have to actually recall how to make a call. A phone number, an address, a birthday... we don't need to remember any of that. Our digital pocket assistant knows all, so why bother.
Fitness bracelets, Apple Watch, and health tracking apps may help some people get in shape, but they can also provide you with so much information that they become counterproductive - at least it did for me. They track our steps...or they track our lack of steps causing us to stress about the lack of steps. They track our sleep...or track our lack of sleep causing us to stress about sleep...leading to even less sleep.
Updates, alerts, vibrations, summaries, transfers, pings.
Constant access, constant info.
Too much access, waaay too much info.
What about being present?
What about remembering instead of Googling?
What about walking instead of tracking?
What about talking instead of tapping?
What about using our brain in the here and now, instead of using our thumbs as an excuse to be everywhere else?
"A journey isn't about expectation, it's about discovery." ~mindfulness now
A year ago today I launched Mindfulness Now. Boy does it make me happy to type that.
When I started this blog I had no idea where I’d be in life at this point. That’s always the case though. No matter how much we love to speculate, life just changes.
Did I know that in one year I would write 80 individual posts, collect over 35,000 pageviews, and get published in a pretty major online mindfulness website? I only dreamed of it. When I started this I wasn’t even sure if my close friends would pay attention, let alone 14,000 unique visitors (/humblebrag).
Did I know a year ago that this experience would lead me to quit my job so I could write and explore full-time? It wasn’t even on my radar. A funny thing happens when you get out of your comfort zone and follow your passion, instead of just going through the motions of life.
A year ago there were a number of things I hoped to get out of writing this blog. I wasn't exactly sure what I would find, but I'm trying not to fear the unknown so much these days. Now a year later, I’d like to believe all of these hopes came to fruition, or are at least in the process of growing their fruit.
Hope #1: Learn about myself by sharing a piece of myself
I had written in some form of a journal for years prior to this blog. Some of my first posts on this page were actual retreads of journal entries I'd written privately over the last few years.
It’s one thing though to write to yourself -- to take an idea that the world uncovers, filter it through your own mind, and put it on paper. It’s something entirely different to take those words a step further and put them out there on a website for all to see.
My introspective musings did help me to a degree, but it wasn’t until I started posting them here that I really began to really listen to them. Now that I was stating my ideas publicly, I felt pressure to stick to them. The blog kept me honest, grounded, and in touch with those around me.
Most of the feedback I heard was inspiring, and by inspiring others it inspired me to write more. The ideas I posted here suddenly held more weight in my own mind, and I was finally sticking to them.
HOPE #2 - Explore a new idea and see if it becomes a passion
The change in my mind was potent. I didn’t have to be restricted to one place, one thought, one group, or one desk. Writing made me feel free from the chains that society had put on me, and that I myself continued to wear.
This new found passion around writing spurred other related passions as well. Most notably, a passion for nature and outdoor activity. It spurred a renewal in old passions too, for things like music and dogs.
I have found a new and renewed set of joys, instruments that take me beyond my normal sphere. I found the start of a new path forward. I found my voice. Quite frankly, I found myself.
HOPE #3 - Gain confidence
Finding that voice was a big deal.
I tend to prefer things easy in life -- I search for comfort and routine and avoid conflict if I can. I like to think of myself as a peacemaker, but too often my peacefulness would morph into passivity. I would allow my life to pass by without really making an effort.
Writing this blog became the effort that I needed. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and into a public eye where confidence was required.
The process hasn't always been easy. Sometimes I feel like I'm overstepping. Some of my ideas have been questioned. Sometimes a friend would worry that a post was about them, even though I can assure you I would never single anyone out.
But finally, despite it all, I pushed forward with confidence. I pushed forward in life. I stopped listening to the negative. The sympathetic voices who got it, externally and internally, became louder than the voices of dissent.
I’m still working on this one and I figure I always will. But I'm so appreciative to have found an outlet that is taking me in the right direction.
HOPE #4 - Improve as a writer
As much as I always enjoyed writing to myself, even way back when, I hesitated in publishing this blog. I spent months fretting over it. Fear held me back.
I’ve found though that posting your words in a public space is a whole new motivation to write better. My private journal entries were free-flowing, riddled with inconsistencies, and lacking in structure. This blog required me to start looking at my writing with an increasingly keen eye.
There’s something about putting your feet to fire that forces you to learn more about fires and feet. I’ve learned as much about my own style and how to set myself up for a good writing session, as I’ve learned what people are drawn to, what they like to hear, and especially what they need hear.
I am certain the English majors of the bunch will find all sorts of errors in my writing, and that's OK. When I look back at blogs I wrote last summer, I definitely see an improvement, and for now that’s enough for me -- to keep improving.
HOPE #5 - Become more mindful
This is clearly the biggest hope I had from creating this blog -- it's in the title afterall. Mindfulness is the blood flowing through the veins of this space. Mindfulness now weaves it’s way into all my thoughts...and thank god, because I needed it.
I had read about mindfulness and attempted to integrate it into my life for years. But like most great ideas in life, it's easier said than done. I would tell myself to live in the present moment, to let go of the drama, worry, and anxiety, but when I inevitably failed I would scream at myself on the inside. I knew better, yet I still made mistakes. I couldn’t follow my own advice.
But here I am one year later, and light-years down my path. I am far from perfect, lord knows. I still struggle with these issues every day. But I believe I have indeed become more mindful in the last year. I’m more in-tune with myself, better able to handle life’s ups and downs, to reduce my distractions (digital or otherwise), to be more patient with my response, to disconnect more often, be smarter about my decisions, and braver when it comes to the difficult ones.
Starting Mindfulness Now was possibly the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, and I can’t totally take credit for it because the idea came from Leo Babauta on his bellwether mindfulness blog Zen Habits. Also, gratitude goes to those friends and family who I discussed it with beforehand, for their support and especially the title suggestions.
All of that, all of them, all of you, all of the last year, all of my life, have led me to where I am now...someone who is learning, growing, passionate, confident, and just a little bit more mindful in the process.
This is why I call myself a journeyman (and not just for the solo camping journey hashtag). A journeyman is someone who is educated but not yet a master. I know a good deal about the tool of mindfulness, but I’m still learning how to use it every day.
I might argue that we are all journeymen. I might argue that no one is ever a true master, because we’re all always learning. I might argue that this is one of my favorite things about life.
I now have a few years of mindfulness experience under my belt, one year that you’ve been privy to. Thinking about how far I’ve come in the last year with this blog gives me joy. Thinking of how far I’ll go throughout the journey of my life kind of blows my mind.
And I can't wait to tell you all about it.
The path is made by walking.
Anyone with the smallest of fingers on the mindfulness pulse has heard some version of that statement before. It's ubiquitous, and for good reason – mindfulness is about living in the present rather than focusing on the path ahead or behind us.
But like most sayings, ideas, and other poignant things, hearing is only one level of understanding. In order to truly get it, something has to happen in one's life to make it finally click.
I've already written a lot on this topic. I thought I was using it in my daily life. I thought I really got it, until I realized there is actually nothing to get.
When I set off on my 3-week, 8-state, 4,000-mile, solo-camping, journeyman trip, the "path is made by walking" was a launching off point. The past was behind me and the future yet unknown, so I would walk forward on a path – a literal path in the form of trails across 13 national parks and forests and an intellectual path that would hopefully mark my next steps in life.
Some part of me expected the trip to uncover all the answers in my life like some sort of hallucinatory, native american vision quest. I wasn’t alone in that expectation – when I returned, numerous friends wanted to know what I'd discovered about life and if I’d figured out what I wanted to do next with mine.
But sadly, I didn't return with all the answers. I certainly came back with a number of important lessons from the journey - confidence, humility, escaping nostalgia, the folly of multitasking, the true meaning of consequences, a renewed passion for the environment, and the freedom of disconnecting from the digital world - but no one lesson told me exactly what to do with myself now that I was home.
The lessons I learned were more like suggestions – they gave me an idea of how to move along the path but no real indication of which direction to travel.
So when I first got home, I struggled. I searched in vain for that one big vision from my vision quest, but I had no more clarity on how to move forward than I did before the trip, and I was left confused and crestfallen.
Then, after two weeks back home, and feeling as though I was blindly crawling down my path instead of confidently striding forward, I finally got around to finishing the amazingly poignant "Wild" by Cheryl Strad. The closing passage:
"It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I'd done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was... to believe that I didn't need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be."
It was the answer I had been looking for... and the answer was that there is no answer.
You don't go out into the woods, close your eyes, and see the whole path laid out in front of you. You go out into the woods, close your eyes, and you hear the wind whispering through the pine trees, you feel the mist from a 600 foot waterfall brush against your face, you smell a perfume of ferns and soil and wild flowers.
You go out into the woods, close your eyes, and you don’t see a vision...you see the powerful simplicity of right now.
That is why the path is made by walking. Each step you take is this very moment. Each step is all that you can control, all that you know, all that you do. And with each step your path grows. It doesn't necessarily show you what's ahead, but by making each step count in the present you build up the path of your future.
Your current step is reading this blog post. Your next step, what you do with your next moment, is up to you.
My current step is sharing these blog posts with all of you. My next step, what I do with my next moment, is up to me. But no matter what, I’m going to charge forward with confidence and joy to see where it takes me.
It was all unknown to me then, as I sat in my Prius on the day I finished my journey. Everything except the fact that I didn't have to know.
There are no consequences.
Alright, I know that's a bold thing to say, but bear with me for a minute.
A consequence is the negative repercussion of a mistake. Dictionary.com calls it an "end-result." That's basic. I get it.
But life itself is always changing. What seems like a negative consequence to a bad decision right now, could end up being a positive conquest in the future.
Why? Because there is no "end" result, it's all about the path. When you make a mistake and fail, that failure doesn't fall into a void, you learn a lesson and gain experience. While the failure might be difficult, it still teaches you something about yourself. It teaches you how to do better next time.
What you call a consequence, I call school.
Now of course, there are real consequences out there for the truly stupid and cruel decisions, like jumping off a cliff or committing murder (for some obvious examples).
But I'm talking about the everyday decisions we make that turn out to be wrong - the miscalculation or spur of the moment choice that once in a while leads to true ramifications, but mostly just gives us an excuse to fabricate internal strife and regret.
Trial and error is the process by which we learn. If our goal in life is to grow, to become a better friend, a better photographer, a better musician, a better businessman, a better parent, a better partner, or really just a better person, then consequences are how we learn to grow up.
So I'm calling it out...there are no consequences. There are just ups and downs, arguments and adulations, accidents and achievements, examples and advancements.
Consequence as we know is the path to success, as long as you choose to use it that way.
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