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Life moves pretty fast...

The Joy of the Slow Breath

Have you ever noticed that when you intentionally slow your breathing down to something like 5 or 6 seconds on the inhale, to 5 or 6 seconds exhaling that the world seems to stop? It’s fascinating.

For whatever reason, after doing this a few times my entire outlook on life seems fresh and clean. I have no idea why it works or what is really going on, but it’s a feeling that has become addictive. What’s incredible is when you apply this to real-life, real-time situations you can use it to find joy in the most stressful moments.

This seems so obvious, yet in the heat of the moment you can easily forget to take a breath. Like Ferris says…

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Thoreau quote

No One is Coming to Save Me, or You.

Being lost is for losers. Isn’t it?

I certainly thought so.

Being lost is for people who are on the couch eating cheetos. For people in the unemployment line. For anyone who is addicted to drugs. For the mediocre, mindless masses.

I never thought of myself as a loser, but I certainly am lost.

Almost a year ago I wrote “Stop Bullshitting Yourself If You Want To Wake Up (From The True Matrix)” and revealed that despite “having it all,” I was terribly lost and unhappy. Despite having a high paying job and a wonderful family, something important was missing.

My life had gone off the rails and I had no idea what to do about it.

I wrote about all the “tricks” I tried like changing jobs, eating better and getting exercise. None of it worked. All the distractions and futile attempts just added up to more misery, sadness and loneliness.

In that original post, I wrote “I think waking up requires one main ingredient that I don’t see anyone talking about… personal accountability.” In the past few months, I have come to realize how nuanced and complicated the notion of personal accountability is, and how difficult it is to describe without confusing it with issues such as commitments, projects, personal relationships and ego.

Personal accountability is one of things things that is so easy to say, it just rolls off the tongue. It’s like promising yourself you’ll only watch 1 more episode of Breaking Bad, or that this weekend you won’t drink. Then you wake up at 3am on Sunday, with an 16 empty cans of beer and hazy memories of Walter White. It happens, I know.

When I take a moment and bother to think about my own personal accountability, I think that maybe it is selfish to put myself first – and then I spin around and think that only by putting myself first can I find the right path. Whatever that horribly written sentence means. What I’m trying to say is that whether it has to do with my career and providing for my family, or sex, relationships, travel or even food, it’s all connected. Life had become rapidly becoming a game of “this or that”, a series of choices that feel increasing selfish, or the opposite – of being a martyr. I want to live a life of abundance, of saying “and” and not “or.”

Since I wrote that post, I’ve slowly started to realize that I was not going to find answers to anything from outside myself. At the same time, it was becoming clear to me that I had no idea how to fix myself. Most of the time my mind would race and I’d defer to sitting in front of the TV or reading a book. Just one more handful of chips. You know what I mean.

I started to wonder about being lost. I asked myself “Once you are lost, can you get more lost?”

It seems unlikely but for me, it seemed to be true. The harder I tried to find myself, the more lost I seemed to get. It’s a bit like being lost in the woods, thinking you’ve found the trail, then realizing you are still totally lost. Wrong trail syndrome I guess. Is that a thing? If not, I get dibs on the t-shirt and trademark.

Shortly after I wrote that post, I started to meditate on a regular basis. I started with several guided podcasts I had downloaded and committed to giving it a try. It was awkward at first. And weird. I felt so stupid sitting there by myself in the dark. After a few weeks (or was it months?) I started to notice a small voice inside my head. It was whispering to me. And when I finally decided to try to listen, I didn’t much want to hear what it was saying.

“No one is coming to save you” the whispers said.

I didn’t understand at first. Why would I be thinking I needed saving? But in talking with my coach, and after deep (and extended) introspection, I started to realized that I was desperately hoping that someone, or something would come along and save me. Despite a strong outer appearance, my inner voice had turned out to be some sort of damsel in distress. Seriously? Unreal, right?

My father got sick when I was about 10, and it’s only becoming clear now, some three decades years later how deeply that impacted me. I now realize that at some subconscious level, I have been waiting for him to come get me, hold me, tell me everything will be OK. Even writing that last sentence gives me some sort of deep seated, soul-touching feeling. And it feels real, and true. And wow, that’s messed up.

My resistance to this realization was extremely strong at first. It’s still there, I can hear it resisting even as I type this sentence. I told myself that this was total bullshit. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true. That I am not a meek person. That I’m someone who is aggressive and focused and makes things happen. The harder I fought, the more insistent the whispers became.

But… sometimes the truth is just the truth. And that tiny voice was right. I needed to really listen this time.

The truth is out there. Actually, it’s right here dummy, in front of your face.

I can remember the exact moment I accepted it as truth. I was on a walk with my dog thinking about life and I got really angry and got very honest with myself. I lashed out (not at the dog, he’s fine) but at some grass. And I threw a rock as hard as I could into the woods. I screamed out loud. And then as I calmed down, the voice in my head became clear. And insistent. And strong. And at that moment, I finally saw the truth. No one was coming to save me. Until that very moment I had spent my entire life waiting to be saved. That was hard to accept. I am still fighting it deep down.

The answer to my question about being accountable to myself starts with realizing that the only one who can save me, is me. And getting clear on what it’s going to take as been consuming me. It’s terrifying.

I pushed myself to start to try to understand what decisions I’ve made in my life because of this need to be saved. I realized that many of those decisions have been subconsciously driven by the idea that one day, Superman (or woman) will come along and save me. It makes me feel like a child thinking about it now, like a scared little boy. The idea that I needed someone, or something to come and take away my pain was emasculating and hard to accept.

It’s a bitter, nasty pill. And even worse, I started to fully realize that this idea of being saved was running my life. It had major implications in my decision making. Even as I sit here writing this post I think that there is a part of me that still believes some outside force will take away my pain and give me what it is I seek. But it isn’t true. It was never true. It’s a fake reality, a matrix. The matrix! A virtual reality that can’t exist in the real world. It’s the reality that people who are asleep think is true. People who are awake, are not fooled by this dream, they know that being conscious, making clear decisions and being present is the only way to truly live. They know that no one is coming to save them.

I know this because for the past few months I’ve been slowly but surely waking to this truth bit by bit. I blew up my career in series of increasingly rash but right decisions. I left a high paying consulting gig and joined a small agency for half my salary. It was a disaster. From there, I joined an even smaller startup which 3 months later ran out of money. I recently landed at an amazing, stable company working from home. So far so good. But that’s not the point.

The point is, I’ve taken steps to wake up and to be accountable to myself and to the life I want. I wake up at 5:30 every morning and meditate, write, and exercise – all before 8 am. I think. I give myself space. These adjustments have given me perspective, and time to breathe. I took the long route to get to here. But now, the challenge is to relax and to live.To create more than I consume. To drink in each moment and each day.

I realize I’m still mid-journey and am not exactly ready to impart wisdom, or lessons at this point – I’m just trying to breathe, and live each day to it’s fullest. I’m facing my fears head on, and trying to be honest with myself. I’m not perfect, not even close. I fuck up. I slip back into old patterns. I get lost in thoughts. I get scared I’m doing the wrong thing.

But now, the voices are kind and encouraging. I am able to forgive myself almost immediately and move on. Being able to accept my faults and embrace my humanity is allowing me to start to become my true self. I sort of like that guy. I’m rooting for him to save himself. I think he’s on his way to a great life.