Another lost friend to absorb

Occupy the Present

I had two friends pass away recently, in such a short period of time. I’ve never lost anyone in my life who I’ve had much interactions or connection to. Even the family members I’ve lost have been disconnected from me. So it’s a strange feeling these past few weeks. A feeling of emptiness, the same that I saw in a friend’s family who lost one of their own, but this time the space missing is in me.

Time is a commodity, but our most precious one, because after we expire, we know of nothing that comes after, except for what our faith and hopes tell us. The end of our time is the end of the world. When I think about the rest of the time I have lost with my friends, I get a true sense of the emptiness.

Our expiration date is a permanent time stamp of the end. My friends’ deaths make me think about my time more carefully. I not only want to do more, to produce something positive for my world, but at the same time, to forget about changing or impacting anything, and instead just living day to day, being present in everything that I do. The pleasure of walking, feeling the ground sending my force back up through my torso, the simple sensation of water against my face, the feel of a steering wheel in my hands.

I stop to look at the sunrises now, more than ever. I enjoy holding someone in a hug, instead of waiting to pull away, I give a smile just because, and I go someplace without a rush. When I get agitated, I stop and am grateful that I can feel this way and let that feeling linger without becoming embroiled in it.

Because that’s the point of death. So that we can appreciate life. The paradox…to fully enjoy life, we must accept the fact that it is going to end. And all our petty anxieties are just that. It’s time to enjoy life…not postpone it for a later that never comes.

The time is now to be responsible for what we’re choosing. Nothing is permanent, so the important thing is to choose SOMETHING. You can change your mind later. But do not wait on circumstance or the bridge to death to make that decision for us.

There is not much to life, its purpose is not complicated, however much we complicate it with our drives and desires. Life is all about being happy, and accepting the sad parts, too. And at the end of the day, it’s about feeling valuable, and doing something of value. And my friends were valuable to me.

You will be missed, guys.
I hope that you lived a life without regret. I will remember your lives by living mine fully present, and trying to contribute to make others’ lives better.

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She told me, “Love is a feeling. It’s not about anything else.”

co-dependent hug

Our relationship had been broken almost from the start. A tentative dance between two people with two left feet. The final break was years later, and it was the first time after a break-up that I didn’t rush to fill that void that was left. I felt neither happy or sad. I felt..nothing. Maybe that was what was meant by “being at peace.”

Anyway, her and I. We still talked.

So I sat and listened when she said, “Love is a feeling. It’s not about anything else.”

I shook my head. “Love needs an object. You love something or someone because of some value you get from it or him or her. You need to define love in that context.”

I thought about that some more, and realized that there was something significant in what she said. Love is a feeling. And feelings originate within you. They are created by you. And the saying how you can’t control love has a little truth in it, too. Love is when you value someone more than yourself, which is an irrational state. It’s totally emotional, illogical. But when that love ceases to come from you, and your control over love is given over to the object or person, this is where it can slide into a coup, where you become helpless to the situation or the other person.

There is a fine line between seeking love from another, and finding someone to give your love to.

Relationships can be two people who are seeking validation and value from each other and their trade results in a balanced relationship. However, I don’t know if they love each other..maybe they like the attention the other is giving to them. The latter is not love.

So she was right. Love starts with you. Who you choose and the time and effort you’re willing to spend on them. You control that decision. No one else.

As much as it hurts, you’ve gotta fall to get higher

indoor_bouldering_utah

I was climbing yesterday. I sat at the wall and watched with envy as a guy calmly twisted his way up one of the most difficult routes. His body was almost parallel with the ground at times! It was beautiful. And I was jealous. Afterwards, I started talking to him and learned a lot, not from what he told me, but from what he did afterwards. I learned that my envy was misdirected towards what he did, and should’ve been towards what he didn’t do.

“Did you just do that black and purple route?” I asked.

“Yea,” he nodded. He had tight curly hair that covered his head and came down to form a neat beard around his face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone complete that,” I said. “I don’t even think I’ve seen someone try it, but it’s hard to tell.”

He smiled. “It’s tough. I worked at it though. I did it so many times that now I know exactly how to do it.”

I was jealous. I was inspired, too. But I thought more about how he did it, and how I couldn’t. I didn’t think about how it was good that someone from the crew here at the wall had practiced and mastered that route. My insecurity hummed loudly in the back of my head so I didn’t really listen to what he said.

I tried another route, one that I’d been trying to get. Failure. I reached for that hold, the problem one. Slip. A short fall to the padded ground.

I sat down and let my throbbing shoulders and forearms recuperate. The guy I had been talking to was now going up another difficult route. I watched expectantly, as he reached carefully and methodically, pulling himself up. A small hold that required significant grip strength was the next one, and he reached for it. And missed. He rolled into his fall, and got back up. He said nothing and sat down. He tried again. I knew he would make it this time. But he failed. But he tried again. And failed again. And then again. Fail. And then again. Fail.

I often hear that failure makes you stronger. I hear it, but like many things people tell you that are good and right and you should do, I nod and don’t act on it. Maybe because of ego, maybe laziness. Then I have the opportunity to see someone who is skilled and how he failed. Again and again and again. And I’m reminded of how failure works:

Failure sucks. You fall. And it hurts.

And it doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished before, because at present, you’re failing. But that’s the point. If you’re not failing, you’re sitting, watching the wall, or going over and over the same places you’ve gone before, and you’re not getting better. And you know it. But at least you’re not getting hurt. At least you’re not losing face, right?

We focus on the success. I looked at what the guy did, but what made me appreciate what he did was what he didn’t do afterwards. On the second route, he didn’t make it up to the top. He repeatedly didn’t make it. And I didn’t see him make it that day. But he kept trying.

I tried my route several more times yesterday. I never reached the top. But I will. Because if you’re paying attention, failure teaches you, and then you make it. It teaches you to put in the time. Consistently. Over and over and over. And maybe that time gets you to the top of a climbing route. Or graduating from school. Maybe it’s finishing writing a book. Maybe it’s doing a lifting regime to strengthen your body, or a meditation practice to settle your mind.

Maybe most importantly, failure teaches you that things aren’t alright, and they never will be.

There’s always going to be that new route that you’re not going to be able to do. And you learn to accept that. Or maybe you learn to accept your father’s judgments, because sometimes, people don’t change. Or maybe it’s facing up to your own faults, accepting yourself so that life stops being a competition to win, and instead it’s an opportunity to learn. To help others. To spread the love, instead of hoarding it all for yourself because you just can’t afford to let any out.

And even if you don’t make it, you know something now. You’re no longer a spectator. Because you’ve put in real, intelligent effort, and you have skills that the consumers and the critics who are only watching may have some idea about, but they don’t really know like you do. Because you decided to wade into the mess.

Congratulations. You’re no longer afraid to get dirty, afraid to fail, or too lazy to try.

You are in it now.

And this is where life gets good.

Who are you voting for?

When someone speaks reasonably about unreasonable things, they are either a genius, or a madman. Cast your vote carefully. If a person talks about spending money they don’t have, putting value in something that has no inherent value, taking away your liberties to fight an unseen enemy to protect your liberties, find another person to vote for. Gridlock ends when we elect people, from president to state rep, who will do the right thing, not follow what was done before because that’s the way things were always done.

Remember: There are many who are thinking just as you are.

Let go of what you think you need

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” -Thoreau

Most of my life, I didn’t have a problem with building castles in the air. Instead, I was laying solid, immovable foundation, hard and fast… on a swampy marsh. But I was totally invested in that career path to be a doctor. The familiar path. Without realizing it, I became that path. My identity was becoming that one thing, and all other things were unacceptable. Other options would be failure. Mindless, thoughtless, I was putting down a foundation for the foreman in charge, society at large, the unseen owner, for his approval, for the reputation, for my ego. I might as well been a bank thief, because I was taking something. Rather, I was a Wall street bank executive, because I was violating a trust. But I was violating my own trust. My self’s needs, and freedom. I was so focused on the goal, I lost sight of the why. The most important question of all. Why do you need it?

Let go of what you think you need. And then you won’t be afraid to risk big in order to get what you really need.

What, or who, do you need to let go of? Or what have you already let go and where has it taken you as a result?

Comment and let me know.

TED Talk Tuesday: Graham Hill says “Less stuff, more happiness”



Graham Hill gives one of the best TED talks I’ve seen. We have three times as much living space as 50 years ago. But happiness has flatlined since then. Why? Because more stuff doesn’t make you more happy. The right stuff does.

It’s all about turning our paradigm on its head. I’ve been there. I’m in the store, and that ‘As Seen on TV’ car window scrubber looks really useful. So I grab it. And I do use it. Maybe a handful of times. But then I think about how a simple towel would have worked just as well.

“We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?” By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just.. stuff.”

Less stuff means more freedom, means more time. When I go camping, somehow my worries are reduced, which relates to having everything I own for that trip in a backpack. My day is wide open and free. (Seeing a sunset over the Appalachian mountains helps prioritize things too, of course.)

“We’ve got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn’t worn in years? It’s time for me to let it go. We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow.”

What stuff do you think you could let go of in your life?

What stuff truly makes you happy?

The sound of inevitable death

Agent Smith was right. Death is inevitable.

Neo lived here, but he did later die. I am going to die. You are, too. We’re all going to die. We all will cease to exist one day. It is inevitable. All the bad stuff that happens to us will pass. The good stuff, too. Focusing on any of that while death looms is silly when you think about it. We win the lottery everyday when we wake up in the morning with the ability to perceive our surroundings and make conscious choices about what we want or where we want to go.

I remember feeling like Neo not long ago, when I woke up from my Matrix. I had been following a life that others had constructed. I had values, but they were borrowed. I had causes, but I was only using them to bring meaning to my life. And so awake, I was able to see I was far from the person I wanted to be. I was pretty disgusted when I’d finally lifted the covers I’d thrown over the sordid mess that was my personality. All I did was judge myself and other people. I was such a pessimist I don’t know how anyone wanted to be around me. Listening to your internal dialogue is so powerful, but it can be depressing!

So this was hard. But it’s been even harder to accept myself. Actually, I might never fully accept myself, but that is a goal of perfection: Realizing we are imperfect and not worrying about it.

A great way of pushing thru realized imperfection is pressure

Back to Neo. He was facing some pressures in the real world. He’d just taken the red pill, instead of the blue pill, and woken up from a virtual reality world of a comfortable life. He finds himself in the sewers of a city, being chased by robots. Just as Cypher, one of the other human refugees from the Matrix told him: “I know what you’re thinking. Why oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

Cypher wanted to escape the real world and go back to the Matrix. I think we all feel that way sometimes. We want to hide behind a fierce attitude, the pride in our career, the pleasure in a partner or our children, or a respectable cause to fight for. Instead of facing reality, we find it easier to escape it, placing importance on things or gaining value from other people when that value should originate in ourselves.

I think the pressure to survive helped Neo. This is a pressure we don’t have. Consequently, we can get distracted, or we can become so focused on doing the right thing, we become overwhelmed by the task. I’ve awakened from the distractions, but I’m still overwhelmed sometimes.

Whether we’re distracted or overwhelmed, we need to keep the inevitability of death in our heads. This will bring about the gratitude and the focus on the here and now, and once we’re focused, we’re not worried about needing anything from anyone. We start controlling our lives, instead of letting others do it for us. We are better able to make ourselves happy.

The sound of inevitability: It’s good to hear that sound to put things in perspective.

TED Talk Tuesday: Paul says it’s time to start being fearful



Fear is not bad. Although as the foundation for your actions -the conservative hand that holds you back from trying- it is certainly a bad thing. But fear is helpful. A useful servant, but a terrible master. Good fear results from being aware of our worsening conditions. It comes from being able to judge clearly.

Paul Gilding helps us clarify the situation that the world’s rate of consumption is unsustainable. And it’s time to start being fearful. As he puts it, it’s time to end the denial:

“We tend to look at the world, not as the integrated system that it is, but as a series of individual issues. We see the Occupy protests, we see spiraling debt crises, we see growing inequality, we see money’s influence on politics, we see resource constraint, food and oil prices. But we see, mistakenly, each of these issues as individual problems to be solved. In fact, it’s the system in the painful process of breaking down — our system, of debt-fueled economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet Earth, is eating itself alive.”
He suggests fear, but fear is not enough.

Empowerment is necessary, too. It’s time to start empowering people to know what they’re doing. What we’re doing when we go shopping, when we choose what to eat, where to work, who to bank with, and what media to view. It’s time to enable ourselves.

Spread the confidence to unplug from our current lifestyle -energy use, meat consumption, sprawling residences- and find better ways to do things. I don’t even see this as a sacrifice, because what we seek is not really at the end of a checkout line, or sitting in a nice car and nice clothes, or eating a steak. What we want is a connection with other people.

It’s time to be fearful. And then time to re-evaluate what we’re doing in our search for happiness. We may not only be missing that mark, but taking down our society and planet as well.

“It takes a good crisis to get us going. When we feel fear and we fear loss we are capable of quite extraordinary things.”

It’s time to be extraordinary.

TED Talk Tuesday invaded by FOX News: What if…?


“What if the two-party system were actually a mechanism used to limit so-called public opinion? What if there were more than two sides to every issue, but the two parties wanted to box you in to a corner, one of their corners?

What if there’s no such thing as public opinion, because every thinking person has opinions that are uniquely his own?

What if public opinion were just a manufactured narrative that makes it easier to convince people that if their views are different, there’s something wrong with that – or something wrong with them?

What if the whole purpose of the Democratic and Republican parties was not to expand voters’ choices, but to limit them?

What if those vaunted differences between Democrat and Republican were actually just minor disagreements?

What if both parties just want power and are willing to have young people fight meaningless wars to enhance that power?

What if both parties continue to fight the war on drugs just to give bureaucrats and cops bigger budgets and more jobs?

What if government policies didn’t change when government’s leaders did?

What if no matter who won an election, government stayed the same?

What if government were really a revolving door of political hacks, bent on exploiting the people while they’re in charge?”

Who watches the watcher?
The answer is clear.
It’s you and me!
An enlightened and knowledgeable population.
The government and corporations and banks don’t rule us.
They serve us.
We can change the power imbalance that has drifted to them.

Yes.
We can.

TED Talk Tuesday – Gary says do what you love

A little entertainment for you this Tuesday, but it’s a funny and inspiring video by the most excitable guy I’ve seen in small business:

“Lets start with passion, there’s way too many people in this room right now that are doing stuff they hate. Please stop doing that. There is no reason in 2009 to do crap you hate. None. Promise me you won’t, because you can lose just as much money being happy as hell.”

His name is Gary Vaynerchuk. And he’s real:

“nine to five, I don’t have time. If you want this, if you’re miserable, or if you don’t like it or you want to do something else and you have a passion somewhere else. Work nine to five. Spend a couple hours with your family. Seven to two in the morning is plenty of time to do damage. But that’s it. It’s not going to happen any other way.”

Stay hungry, my friends.