There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness. People are striving to be in the present and enjoy the moment.
There are certainly effective ways to make it easier to be in the moment. Remove distractions.
When you are spending time with someone, for example, switch your phone to airplane mode. Or turn it off. There. That’s a whole portal of messages, notifications, and pings that you close. And keep it that way until you’ve said good bye to the person or people with whom you had committed to spend time.
Now the only thing that will distract you from what someone in front of you is saying is something the person next to him is saying. And notice the organic ebbs and flows of conversation. They say conversation naturally slows or pauses every seven minutes…
It’s not that I’m well-rested. Nor that I’m well-fed. Nor that I’m sitting in a comfortable home on my earthing mat. Nor that the sun is bright outside, promising a beautiful day for training later. It’s not that I have family near me. Nor that I feel vibrant, strong, mobile, and well.
I’m happy because I am appreciative of all of this. I’m happy because this is what I let myself expect, want, and feel good about. I desire more, ultimately. I have dreams. And I will see them through. But I am at the moment, just now, here, satisfied with who I am, what I am, what I have, what is here.
I am not ecstatic, overjoyed, or excited. I am calm, serene, and still. I won’t be in this state for long. I won’t be happy all day, every day. It will fade, and I’ll enter one or another mood, state of mind, point of focus. And that’s okay. Happiness to me is about moments. It’s about ebbing and flowing, entering and exiting a state of awareness, an appreciation of the environment. And as transitory as it is, I still enjoy it and have it when I will.
Happiness for me is something to pull in and hold when it comes, then let go when it’s gone. What choice do I have? I can’t hang on to something that’s no longer there. Happiness is something I can be sure will come again, even though I let it go this time. Happiness is not nature’s permanent gift to me. It is a temporary reward for a state of mind I build. It is a result of mental, emotional, and physical work I give. And yes, it will fade. The rich aroma will run out. The warmth will dissipate. And I’ll accept that, in order to fully embrace and enjoy it when I have it.
To be sad, to grieve, to feel glum when happiness fades, can give way to greed. Greed is the opposite of happiness. To continuously want more, to not enjoy while something is in my hands, is to be greedy. Greed is an absence of appreciation. It is constantly grabbing for something else, just out of reach, letting the good I have in my hands slip out in my grope for something else. It seems simple and innocent enough to feel this way, but you can see how greed feeds dissatisfaction, unhappiness, sadness, and anger. These feelings can lead to cruelty. Why should someone want to act gentle, considerate, and positive, when they are never satisfied? When they feel discomfort, unquenchable thirst, and grating want? Something as innocent as reaching, when you have something already, can lead to shameful consequences.
Happiness is not settling, though. Being happy does not mean you sit for the rest of your life once you’ve gotten something you appreciate. Settling is a determination not to grow. Happiness, rather, is the momentary appreciation of what I have, and it doesn’t dictate that I will not work for something else. It is a continuous state of taking, basking, and letting go. In this way, I can be happy all my life, although I won’t be happy every moment of life.
This is the difference that confuses many people, myself included. Happiness is not an ultimate state. It’s not a heaven at the end of life, a permanent place to dwell and forever feel “good”. Quite the contrary. Nothing is good in infinite quantities. Golden retrievers, the Prius, coconut water – how undesirable they’ve become through ubiquity! Scarcity makes a thing valuable, cherishable, desired, delicious. Happiness is scarce. It is a rare fruit, something I can come upon, pick, and enjoy at points along the road. How much better a single, ripe pomegranate by chance, hanging from a happenstance tree branch, than a boxful at the store? If you have something all the time or everywhere, it’s just not as good. And that’s why happiness is so sought – because it’s so rarely had.
How to be happy more often then? It has a lot to do with your placement of needs and means of living. What you expect from yourself, others, and the universe will determine the threshold at which you find yourself satisfied. But you can see that this isn’t all. Even if your “current” needs or wants are eventually met, your standards might have changed by then. The other component to being happy, then, is to hold steady the expectations you’ve set for yourself – at least until you’ve achieved them and allowed yourself to reap the benefits of that achievement. Even if for only a moment, you will be in possession of happiness for the appropriate amount of time, and at the appropriate time.
You don’t have to do this consciously, like keeping a record of the things you want and then checking them off one by one. This sort of blatant, systematic approach might kill the whole thing. But if you are the type to need or take extreme satisfaction from doing such methodical things, then it might benefit you. You might actually find clearer, more recognizable moments of happiness. For others, the process can be a bit more touch and go. It can be something you think of every once in a while, setting goals and making note of your desires and only coming to it again when it is in front of you to achieve.
Either way, it’s important to see that happiness isn’t a permanent state of being. At least it’s true for me. And that being happy, when you are, can be a deliberate action, especially if you are not in the practice of allowing yourself to be happy. Study yourself. Are you the type of person who puts off reward, and feelings of satisfaction or achievement, even if you have truly done something well or achieved or gotten in possession of something you desired? Do you delay these feelings of gratification because you would rather wait for a greater moment of accomplishment, the ultimate desire met?
There’s much benefit from this sort of discipline. However, you might want to break down the accomplishment into smaller segments. Because as great as the reward may be for that ultimate accomplishment, you may never find yourself enjoying it or being happy. For, when you do reach it, how do you know that you won’t simply feel that there’s something better? And there’s always better, given the type of person you are. As much as discipline can give you great results, it takes discipline to acknowledge when it’s time to rest and celebrate. To never feel happy or satisfied can damage your well-being. It is good to let yourself enjoy what you have accomplished, although it might not be the ultimate goal.
At five thirty I was blending my coffee. It was dark outside with the first layer of light painted on the sky. As I threw out the trash I saw the lights on in the neighbor’s open windows across the street. The asphalt still had a bit of yesterday’s heat under my bare feet. Not a sound in our neighborhood.
Within an hour we were packed up and heading for the freeway with our friend. It’s to L.A. we go. Four months before, to the day, we had set out from San Francisco for Jakarta. The start of our travels. We had come from L.A. in a desperate rush after getting our apartment packed and cleared. Today’s pace is relaxed.
The first leg of the journey, where the 152 winds inland from it’s junction with the 101, is the most beautiful. The early morning sun, that bright, silver sun, makes the valley grasses shimmer and the San Luis Reservoir glow. The hills rise and fall along the road like waves of a green ocean, black cattle riding them like sea gulls.
Maple brown horses thoughtfully chew grass by their fences. They have the same complacent expression as a human sipping coffee, staring out of a window. I wonder if they feel as warm and content as they look. If so, we have that in common this morning.
As much as these horses look right at home in those fields, I have to remind myself that they’re standing out in cold weather. There are no chairs, no comfy porch, or cushy couch for them to use. There’s just grass and dirt. It’s foggy and there’s probably insects flying all around them. I saw one horse, just one, with a purple blanket covering its back.
I wondered if I could also be comfortable in such a setting. Could I be content with just what was necessary and beautiful around me? With the ones I love close by, could I continuously live my days with only the bare necessities.
Seeing those gentle creatures reminds me of mornings at the park. I would make some coffee and bring it with me to sit on the grass and meditate. Sometimes I would breathe deep and sink into the very depths of my soul. At other times I simply listened to the birds sing, ascending into a hypnosis from the rhythmic chirps. There’s a way that the breeze runs through just so, and makes the leaves rustle, that lulls me into a trance.
I love the way bees float. They clumsily drift toward the flowers, gripping on to the bright yellow center where the nectar awaits. They pull themselves forward and dunk their heads deep into the well of life, oblivious to the pollen that sticks to their legs and the fact that they propel the cycle of life.
Nature is such that the universe thrives on countless agents acting in their own self interest, playing minuscule parts in an immeasurable orchestra that sounds the music of life.
There is so much to appreciate at the most rudimentary of parks. I wouldn’t want to live in a park, or even out in the nicest field. But there is something to learn from sitting outside for a while, doing nothing and observing everything. Perhaps, as people, this is one of our universal self interests. And from plunging into these moments, we might unknowingly pick up pollen that spurs life elsewhere.
Looking forward to a nap and some good times in Los Angeles.
Feeling emotions and expressing emotions are two different things. Some of us get angry but don’t say anything about it. We just feel the anger. Others of us say something about it. Some of us do something about it.
My usual response to emotional situations is to hold back from expressing myself directly. This is a survival tactic I developed from being in a highly emotionally charged family and work environment.
There were so many people around me with emotional turmoil, it seemed harmful for me to blab about my own emotions.
This backfired, to say the least. I grew up with a lot of repressed feelings. I got through work situations with a “professional attitude” but had to let the feelings burn inside of me. In my mid-twenties I was a field of blackened tree stumps, a wasteland of a forest fire.
I learned from my mistakes, but it was too late for me to recover in the same environments in which I had died. The roots were charred, seeds were turned to dust. There was no springing of life where I was. So I left.
I traveled for four months to get out of the ashes of my life. I had cultivated enough positive mentality and nutritional practice to get myself healthy and moving again before I left. Travel freed me from the stagnant waters of anxiety and allowed me time and space to meditate, rediscover myself, and stretch out in a spiritual and physical sense.
I met new people, took part in new cultures, and grew in love. My wife and I, through the constant adventure of finding our way, expanded our hearts and built courage. We lived our dream of seeing, learning, sleeping, and waking in new worlds. And now even home is a new world.
Meditation was key to my awakening to my misery and grasping an optimistic view of myself. It helped me in several areas of life. Strength training, sleep, and fear were a few areas of growth through meditation. Recently, through meditation I reached a breakthrough in how I express emotions.
I noticed a difference in my awareness of emotions and expression after several days of meditation. My sessions were two times per day, 5-15 min each time. Nothing big.
However, when a recent emotional argument broke out between me and someone close, I noticed a difference inside. I expressed myself through my emotions, but I was fully aware of myself. I could hear myself talk, see what I was feeling, and feel what the other person was feeling. This was very unlike other times, where I would have gone blank in the head.
The awareness allowed me to process what was going on, during and after the argument. It also allowed me to start the forgiveness process. Since I was “there” while it was happening, I remembered how I felt, and why, and what triggered it all.
The reason this happened was that during meditation leading up to this day, I had been focusing on how I felt. As I breathed and came into a centered disposition, I let my feelings float up into my awareness. Whatever I felt, I let my mind rest on it. I breathed, identified the emotion, felt it plainly and deeply for what it was, and sometimes even visualized the root. Then I breathed again and let it go.
This built awareness of my emotions. It made me feel okay with what I was feeling. I used to get uncomfortable with the fact that I was emotional. It felt like a weakness. But this awareness practice was facing reality. I accepted myself as an emotional being.
I still felt upset after the argument, I still dealt with the residual emotions, and all of that. But I was in a place where I could build on the experience. Rather than wallowing in confusion, I learned about myself. I thought forward to the next time I would be in that sort of situation. And instead of feeling apprehensive, I felt excited. I wanted to grow!
I’m not saying I’m a saint and we should have a day for me because of this one incident. But I hit a definite pivot point in my emotional life. This is an area of discomfort for me. I’m not used to getting deep into my emotions, and evaluating them, let alone talking about them.
But I’ve been trying within that past few months to dig into this and grow. And I’m learning the importance of expressing versus simply feeling emotions. The key is awareness.
Last week my family and I went to Half Moon Bay to get some seafood and soak in the wonders of the beach. We were exploring a little section of water near our favorite restaurant and found this giant kelp stalk. It was a good twenty or twenty five feet long. The base was as thick as my wrist, and it thinned out to about finger width at the tip. A perfect whip.
We played around with it a little, trying to get some whip action out of it. There’s a finesse to the handling that’s needed to get the perfect whiplash effect. After swinging forward, you have to pull back just at the right time, and the right amount, to have the tip snap forward and hit your target.
Stupid, I know. But fun.
So I practiced a bit with this giant sea whip until I got the hang of it. Pretty deadly. It cracked real hard at the sand when I did it right. Poor seaweed.
Anyway, there’s something to the art of whipping that translates to self mind control. I’ve been dealing with anger over an issue for the past few years. When something triggers it, I get furious and can’t seem to control my words and thoughts. It’s been destructive to me and the people I love.
In trying to control myself, I was keeping things contained. I found that I was only letting the pressure build inside. For years I let my anger build up. It would leak out here and there, in bursts of reactive words. But I kept myself from letting it out and expressing myself full force. This probably sounds familiar to you.
Then, recently, I was meditating for several days in a row. I didn’t really feel much different, but something interesting happened. During a casual conversation, someone said something that triggered my anger. And instead of trying to avoid myself, and hold it in, I faced the anger and expressed myself. Strongly. I felt like I was being harsh, but I also didn’t want to just let things slide.
Afterward, I felt sorry that I had burst out in anger. But something was different this time. Although I didn’t try to filter what I was saying, I was fully aware of it all. I was present. I saw myself and heard myself and the person I was talking to. I knew that I was here, and what I was feeling and saying were real.
This helped me to process what was going on. I had asked this person not to talk about things that offended me before, but more out of reaction. I wasn’t really present to the fact that this was really hurting me. So I didn’t let myself speak fully from my heart. I kept feeling that I should just keep my anger in, instead of being right in expressing it.
I talked with a friend recently. He was explaining that being fully present to ourselves as we act in emotion helps us to process it. And if it’s not right, not how we want to be, we will be much better able next time to control that action.
From this experience, I find the opposite to be true too. If I’m fully present to a correct action as I do it, especially when it’s something scary like expressing anger about something offensive, then I will feel more confident in doing so the next time.
The trick to doing this right is letting myself do. Letting myself talk, or act, without filtering or holding back. At the same time, being present to it. It’s like the whip. You’ve got to let the whole length of it extend, being yourself fully, when it matters. And through mindfulness and reflection you’re in that fine level of control. It will effectively create the snap.
I’m looking at these two things as the ingredients for successful, mindful behavior change. Consistent meditation is key. It’s what helps you to be there in the moment when you most need to be.
He’s been in a world in his head, a world ingeniously designed to the specs of his limited view of the universe. A landscape of fears, should be’s, and can’t’s. And then he gives attention to his breath again. And he realizes that he hasn’t been with himself.
With incoming breath to calibrate to, his mind comes back to him. And he is all of a sudden able, seeing, and unafraid. The skyscrapers stretching into clouds of doubt, the unending streets, and the maze-like city blocks of his thought world are vanquished. They crumble in the quake of mindfulness and evaporate, thin as mist.
And in possession of his consciousness the beast moves forward to create the world. The world that does not disappear with a breath, but takes millions of breaths to make. He works with his mind. His body translates the blueprint of his mind into the world. Mind, body, and creation are one.
The solemn beast briefly remembers a different reality in the past. He gently thinks of the days in which his body worked separately from his mind. The days when his mind did not control the work of his body. The days when his mind wandered in the world of thoughts, staring up at the skyscrapers, turning down countless alleys, treading along endless streets. All the while his body worked for the minds of others, for the creation of a world in which he did not believe.
What is it for a beast to create what he does not see? Is it not a spending of his life, something that comes once, so precious and irreplaceable, irretrievable, for finite benefits? Doesn’t that reduce his life down to meaningless currency? As cold, forgettable, and pitiful as a bag of coins.
With another breath, the beast returned with joy to his creation. He allowed himself to be happy. For who else but his own self could give happiness to him? He took a moment to breathe in the atmosphere of happiness. The path would be long, he knew. The skyscrapers would be tall, taller than he could ever imagine. And the possibilities would be more convoluted than ever. Rest, and enjoyment of his happiness, was good to have.
He marveled at the parallel worlds of his past unpossessed self and his present conscious self. Both would look similar to any other beast who could have the chance to gaze in upon them. But one, he thought, is fundamentally different from the other. One he creates. This one he chooses.
Coconuts, toasted, grated, milked, creamed, oiled, or in other form, are best not bottled in plastic. The younger ones have delicious juice but not much flesh, the older ones are very fleshy but the juice is thrown away.
Quality in Ubud is measured in terms of purity, simplicity of process, and closeness to the natural form. This is true for food and also all other products. Pricing reflects this quality. Scarcity holds less market power because things that are not readily available in their natural form are not sought.
The Balinese respect Bali and they are proud of Bali. Individual Balinese will look you in the eye and tell you so.
The town of Ubud, Bali’s center of crafts and dance, embraces tourists. They will stand up for a foreigner if something happens. That was a decision by royal leadership. I don’t know if Los Angeles feels that way about tourists.
It’s difficult being an Asian American man from the U.S. traveling in a third-world Asian country. Imagine the implications of someone who looks like you but is not held to the same cultural mores, norms, obligations, and economic limitations. Some men just simply weren’t happy with the contrast. I’m very sensitive to this. By meditating on it, I’m learning to get past the dog stares on the street. And to concentrate on the friendly faces. And to be a friendly face. Traveling is like visiting a home of a friend’s parents. Be your best, roll with it, have a good sense of humor. It is not easy for me.
The closer one gets to poverty, the more explicit the exchange of time for money becomes. You can use a food processor to get spices ground down into paste within ten seconds. The Balinese use knives, mortar and pestle to do it. It takes over an hour. A food processor doesn’t cost much. But the Balinese choose to spend their time to make food in a way that is right. Think of how much we spend on kitchen appliances and tools but how little time we spend cooking. It is possible to have too much money, if it doesn’t complement how you spend your time.
Time is not money. They come from different dimensions. Just like currencies of two different nations, you can exchange one for the other. But sometimes the rate changes. Depending on the wisdom with which you spend either, the rate could be in your favor, or against. Figure it out and you hold the keys to a rich life. I’ve got a lot to learn, join me!
This is a guide to true communication via digital messaging.
This guide encompasses any form of sending and receiving messages of true communication via a device, while not in the immediate presence of the audience. Email, texting, and posting to social media are examples. Phone and video calls are excluded, as they house immediate interactions.
Consider true communication versus conversation maintenance gaming when using digital messaging.
People attempting to act upon meaningful purpose through digital messaging must avoid falling into the common Second Millennial trap of continuous conversation maintenance gaming. I, as one who falls (less and less) into the gaming trap, write this guide for those who wish to exit or avoid it.
Digital messaging allows people to create an environment of gaming. Rather than having true communication, a game of responding to each incoming message may be played. The players are under the rule that statements or messages stimulate a dopamine release, and that the sender should receive a fair response.
Value of individual messages is unimportant. It’s more important that you respond right away, no matter what it is, because you’re afraid the other person would be offended by a lack of response. By neglect. You don’t want to seem like an ass.
It becomes an endless cycle – unless you end it.
You can secure use of digital messaging for true communication through disciplined methods.
Here is how.
Restrict words to communication. Ineffectuate your device from its gaming function. Repurpose it for communication – sending and receiving messages that matter, at the right times or not at all.
Do this by placing the device in Airplane, or applicable non-receiving, mode when you are focusing on something important. When you’ve finished, move on to the next important thing you want to do. Or take rest.
If or when you want to check your digital messages, simply switch the device reception back on. Choose what to read.
Then, when you, the aspiring master of your destiny, have read what is worthy of your attention, decide carefully if there is anything you want to respond tonow.
Author a precisely stated response. Consider answering any inquiry and illuminating any obscure statements that might be in the original message. Initiate further thought or action with your correspondent if you think it is necessary.
Engineer your message to exact the outcome which you desire. Consider the timing of the recipient’s response to your message; whether you want a response at all; whether you desire fact vs. opinion. With thoughtful words, all of these can be shaped to your wish.
If your presence was requested, and you decide that you will oblige, give clear and limited options of dates and times and places of your availability. If you are unsure of the value of the meeting, unapologetically ask for more information or kindly refuse.
If no favorable outcome could result from your response, turn the receiver back to off, and return to present waking life as you please.
Perhaps a desirable interaction will come your way another time. Now, you can continue with meaningful purpose to change the universe.
And remember: do this in love for yourself. It will allow you to love your people.
I used to think meditation was for religious people, or Buddhist monks. I first tried it in high school though and noticed some very real benefits to sitting, breathing, and focused mind exercising.
More than just “clearing” the mind, it’s a practice of setting yourself back to zero. Equilibrium.
Meditation helps me to take root in myself and come from a place of solid foundation. I’m aware of myself, who I am, why I think and feel what I do in specific situations, and how I react to cues. Knowing this through quiet breathing and awareness of the things that live in my mind allows me to let it go and just be myself.
During my first powerlifting meet, breathing and awareness helped me to stay calm and focused. More than the amount of weight I was attempting, the newness of everything, the nervousness of being there for the first time, and being in front of the judges and spectators could have been an overwhelming wave of stimuli. I warmed up a bit and went to my car to turn on the emWave2, for some breathing, calming down, and focusing. This substantially leveled me out and positioned me to utilize all my skill and strength that I had built up during training. I successfully achieved my goals for squat and deadlift. Bench press wasn’t a great concern, but I did hit a PR as well.
Some short and long term benefits of meditation that I experience:
Self awareness. Seeing where thoughts come from, identifying fears.
Letting things go that are necessary baggage
Reduces effects of lack of sleep
Focus and concentration improve
Ability to be clear minded in the middle of stressful situations
increases oxygen to the brain and rest of body
Pure joy and bursts of laughter, if you get deep enough long enough
Helps relationships, from increased self-understanding
Mind healing. You become aware of traumas, sources of stress, and become empowered to work through them.
For powerlifting, it’s invaluable. Anything that requires a high level of performance can benefit from focused breathing and mental equilibrium.
At the 2014 California State Championships in Irvine, I pulled my first “official” deadlift of 391 lb. Watch me take a deep breath in and out before grabbing the bar, in front of the judges and everyone.
I didn’t really know if that was gonna come across as weird, but I wanted to give it a try because it’s something I do at the gym before challenging sets. Most often, at the peak of our performance demands, the challenge isn’t in our musculoskeletal capabilities, but in our minds’ ability to allow that power to be released in full.
On my hardest training days, when I had trouble getting myself to put on my shoes and get out the door, it was a battle of my mind. I didn’t want to face the heavy weight on the bar, for fear of failing, fear of getting injured, fear of being weak. I dragged myself many times to the gym when I did not want to go. And when I got there, most of those days I performed better than ever once I tucked my head under the bar and lifted it off the rack. The key was to jump through the fear, grip the bar, and do what I knew I could do.
Tim Ferriss encouraged me through his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, to “feel the fear and do it anyways.” He challenges his readers to identify the worst case scenario, the thing we feel most afraid of, and when we do that, we realize it’s not so bad after all.
To do this, especially in the moments of paralyzation from our greatest fears, it helps to have trained yourself to go the route of courage. I’m more able to face challenges now if I am meditating regularly and identifying my weaknesses, my kryptonites, and simply knowing that they exist. I recognize my weaknesses in real time because I know them. I practice pausing before I react, focus on the problem at hand, and harness my resources and skills to effectively address the problem.
When the problem is a heavy weight in front of me, and fear of getting crushed by it, getting injured, or embarrassed, it’s in the mind that I first address all of this. I take a moment away from the bar, close my eyes, and take a deep breath or two or three. I concentrate on the breath going out, revel in my brain’s love of oxygen, and come back to my core self. I become me again, let go of the thoughts and nagging possibilities, and when I’m clear and strong, I open my eyes and step up to the bar.
Only then can I grip the bar, suck in air, and crush it.
Note: the links to the EmWave2, which is a heart-rate variability device used to aid in meditation, and the book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, are affiliate links with Amazon.com. I get a percentage of their sale if you use the link to make a purchase. I only share things that have made a significant impact on my life in this blog. Hope you check them out and enjoy!