Skip to main content
Reconnect, wake up

Waking up isn’t something that happens once

Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’ve been very focused on myself (I’m so selfish!) and have been diligently practicing being present, meditating and making mindful life decisions. Waking up is harder than I thought.

Waking up isn’t a singular event.

In my guided meditation practice (Tara Brach), something that comes up often is the idea that when you brain drifts into thoughts, all you need to do is “come back” and that act is in fact, “waking up.” What’s incredible about that is that it means that the act of waking up isn’t a singular, massive, black and white event.

Waking up isn’t binary.

Waking up is a constant battle. It’s a war that is waged in micro-moments, minute by minute. Day by day.

I journaled recently that “being present is a verb” and that it requires energy and focus. It’s not a natural act. For some it may be easier, but not for me. My natural tendency is to zone out, live in virtual reality, tune the world out and retreat into my own thoughts.

I think I see where I got off track. I had been looking to attain a sort of “god-like” presence, some moment in time when I can proclaim that I am “living in the moment!” And in that fantasy I would leave my present, unhappy existence and enter my dream world. A dream world where I get to sing and dance and skip off into the future a happy, fulfilled human being.

But it’s not like that at all.

Waking up is more like slogging through the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride. It’s a step by step realization that I am either present or not. Awake or asleep. In control or on auto-pilot.

Waking up and being present is a battle, waged every second of every day – in every big and little moment of our lives.

The Road Ahead - Focus on Doing rather than Being

Don’t try to be better. Just do better for a fulfilling, joyful life

I’ve struggled with the idea of becoming something better my entire life. It’s led to so much pain – bad business investments, bad personal choices, misunderstanding the importance of status, job titles and the value of money. Life is sweet when you  focus on “doing better” instead of trying to “be better”

Focus on the doing rather than the being

As I was reading different posts on this subreddit, something struck me odd and it led to this post. Don’t get me wrong, the notion of “deciding to be better” isn’t wrong, it’s actually quite positive. However, I think the sentiment is a tad misguided. In my recent experiences, I’m realizing that deciding to be better would be better framed as deciding to do better. Because being present, and finding joy is in the doing and not the being.

A bit of background as I try to work my way to making my point.

A few weeks ago a friend posted on Facebook that he was buying a Tesla. And then another one posted the same thing. And another posted about their new job, a very high level appointment at a high flying tech start up. Yet another posted incredible photos of a 3 week vacation they took around the world. And in all cases, instead of being happy for them, I felt a deep resentment and shame that it wasn’t me that was getting those things and having that sort of success.

It took me a few weeks to process those feelings. I hated myself for being angry, and envious. I hated myself even more for feeling shamed. Seriously, why was I feeling shame exactly?

Then a few days ago something changed inside me. I was thinking about my own journey, and how far I’ve come in the past few years. I quit a high paying consulting gig, stopped destructive and bad personal behavior and started meditating and journaling almost every day. I did this because I realized that those things were not leading me anywhere I wanted to go.

My inner voice started to whisper in my head, telling me that the anger and shame were misplaced. The voice was telling me that I was lying to myself about those feelings of anger and shame.
And also, what the hell do I care if a friend does well and buys a nice car, or gets a huge promotion. I mean really, good for them, right? Right!

And yet I was still struggling and having these feelings of shame and envy. I realized that my ego was telling me that I deserve more success. That I deserve more money and more status. That if my friends can get it, so should I!

What’s incredible is that I’ve spent the past 2.5 years redesigning my priorities and my life to escape exactly those traps!

I figured a few years ago that success, money and status is exactly the wrong road for me to travel. It’s a road that leads to loneliness and to my massive ego ruining my life. It’s me giving in to the matrix, taking the wrong pill. Walking the wrong road. And other quotes like that.

Goddamn ego man. It really is the obstacle.

The point is that deciding to be better is the wrong sentiment and can potentially lead to the wrong destination. But doing better, now that’s the right track. That’s having focus. Being in flow. Creating, producing and being productive.  It’s subtle (sort of) and powerful.

And it’s all around if you look closely.

  • Actors talk about doing the work is what leads to great performances.
  • Writers talk about doing the work every day, without fail is the only way to produce anything worthwhile.
  • Nick Saban (Head Football Coach, University of Alabama) created an entire process focused on “doing” that leads the Tide to being the best. It’s not being the best that makes you the best, it’s the doing part that matters!

I have found that focusing on my work and my own process is where I can relax and find joy. It’s where I am truly present. I never realized it before because I’ve been chasing “being” – status, titles, money, power. None of which is what I want.

And now, I really need time to figure what it is I want to DO. I can feel my ego fighting me even as I write this – egging me on, telling me to pick things that lead to money, status and power. And that little voice, gaining in strength every day is just whispering quietly, no. Don’t listen. Just go do stuff, experiment and figure out what it is you do. And then one day, you’ll BE happy.

Update: A thoughtful reader sent me a note about the last line of the post where I say “And then one day, you’ll BE happy.” Firstly how awesome that you read the entire post! Secondly, you are right that that line is problematic in that it is focusing on some future result. I didn’t intend it that way, I meant it in juxtaposition to the concept of being vs. doing, but I get your point loud and clear. Here’s to staying present!

Dance and sing and be happy!

Why Your Life Is Not A Journey

I came across this when a friend posted it to Facebook. It grabbed me and SLAMMED me down hard.  This video “Why Your Life Is Not A Journey” includes the editors favorite Alan Watts quotes – my new favorite being the bit about missing the point the whole way along (skip to 3:13). I’ve always felt as if I were doing something wrong or missing some essential truth.

Life is not a journey… and you were supposed to be dancing!

When Watts says “It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or dance” I feel ashamed of my own behavior. I feel ashamed and sorry for myself. For not laughing more. Or Dancing more (or at all). For not  crying, or feeling more things more deeply.

The quote hit me somewhere very deeply. I am sure it’s because it’s true. I’ve taken life entirely too seriously – like an epic slog rather than the joyous, beautiful thing it was meant to be.

Did you watch it? What did you think?

Screaming into the Void

Lying to Myself (or How this Blog is Total Bullshit)

Lying to yourself is nasty business. It’s one of those things that while you are doing it, you don’t know you are doing it. But you are. Then something happens and you recognize the lie. At first, you can’t believe that you have been lying to yourself. All that meditation! All those blog posts! A year of journaling. I just realized in a blaze of glory that I’m lying to myself.

All it took was a moment in time. I brief insight I had while reading a book. And there it was. I am lying to myself about just about everything. Lies. Damn Lies. Sort of like statistics. No, exactly like statistics.

Since I started this blog I’ve been doing things differently in my life. First and foremost, trying to wake the fuck up and stop living my life based on what I think I should be doing, and getting some clue about what it is that I truly want. I’ve read so many books and blog posts and talked to so many people about their own lives and tried to understand what waking up really looks like. I’ve watched movies, looking for clues and walked in nature, literally trying to get lost to try to find myself. I’m such an imposter it’s astounding.

I’ve asked myself questions about who I am. Who I want to be. What I want to be. And not for lack of trying, but I’ve made progress. Wait, is that the right turn of phrase? Anyway, As of right now, coach.me says I have meditated 369 times. I’ve journaled just about every day for 1.5 years. I’ve exercised. I’ve started drawing again. Recently started Tai chi. So yes, I have been doing things. And yet, still lying to myself all the while.

It’s all bullshit. It’s bullshit because at my core, I’ve discovered, errr, rediscovered something I’ve known all along. It’s hard to see the progress when the big insights you have are the ones you already know. It’s like I’m”The Incredible Man with No Memory.”  My superpower is being able to ignore reality and live in the past and future, but never in the present moment. It’s remarkable. And it leads to lies. Lie after lie after lie. I’m lying to myself.

I'm lying to myself

It’s because I feel so alone. 

I can’t help it. I don’t know what to do about it. I sometimes wish I had drugs that would magically make me feel happy. Do those exist? Can I get some?

The crazy fucking bit about this is that I’m not alone. Hardly. I have so many people who love me. You know how I know this? Because one of the meditations I do is being grateful. I even blogged about it here. I know they love me and I am ever so grateful for them all. But it doesn’t matter because it’s bullshit because despite being grateful, I still end up feeling alone. And scared.

This blog post may invalidate every all the other blog posts on this site, or maybe it will prove that they are true. Either way, I call bullshit. I call bullshit on myself. I’m putting calamine lotion on 3rd-degree burns. I’m hiking Everest in shorts and flip flops. I’m a lying liar.

I’ve lied to myself for so long I can’t even remember when it started. I allowed my life to be dragged down the river. No oars. I’m just going wherever it takes me. And while that sounds awfully romantic and “presenty” (not a word), it’s bullshit. Like my lies. I have no control of myself. I’m out of control. I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, or who I’m supposed to be.

So what next?

How about I stop lying to myself.

It’s a great idea, right? Trouble is, I have no idea how to stop doing it. Also, I don’t even recognize when I’m doing it in the first place. So that may make it tricky as hell. But I am going to try. I’ve been trying something new in my morning pages – telling the truth. I know, novel right? But instead of just free associating what happened yesterday or writing about what TV show I watched or what thing I thought, I’ve started to actually be honest with myself.

A few days ago I wrote down the following gem in my journal…  “Fuck I’m so unhappy.” Then I wrote about why I thought that was and it was all lies, but the effort was there at the start. So it’s something to build on I guess.

I feel so fucking goddamn guilty about feeling unhappy. I feel like I’m betraying everyone I love because they all think I’m so well-adjusted and happy. I’m super good at lying to other people too apparently. Either that or they see right through it and are all wondering when I’m going to crack. 50/50 I’m guessing.

I hate feeling guilty about not being happy. It’s a ton of pressure. Sometimes I just want to be able to be sad. Wow, re-reading all that makes it pretty clear that I should re-think the drugs thing. Yikes.

So let’s recap:

  1. This blog is bullshit because I lie to myself. It stands to reason that most or all blog posts on this blog are also bullshit and full of lies.
  2. My attempts to be honest with myself are headlines at best. Getting past the surface level of honest is proving difficult or impossible at this time. Please hang up and try again.
  3. I probably should be on drugs of some sort. Either prescribed or recreational.

I don’t know exactly how to end this post. I wrote it because I had to get it off my chest – and to acknowledge that I’ve been lying to myself. And to you also of course. Once I hit publish I can either go back to lying or decide to stop. I desperately want to make the right choice here. And that’s not a lie.

 

You are here.

Is This How Life Is Supposed To Be?

Are we in control or not? Do you believe in destiny, fate or some something else? It led me to ask “Is this how life is supposed to be?”

I was never really sure and there are certainly multiple ways of looking at things. When I was younger I thought I’d grow up and have six-pack abs. Seriously. I never gave a single thought as to how that might happen, just that it would. I’d grow into them I think I told myself.

And now that I’m all grown up, I don’t have six-pack abs. And that is how is is supposed to be. I could change it of course. Lots of crunches, a strict lo-carb diet and a cool song montage and I’d be like a model. And then, armed with that six-pack I could make the same statement about them that I just made about not having them… that it is how it is supposed to be.

Life is strange and wonderful in that way. It reminds me of a quote from the great Buckaroo Banzai

“Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

Is this how life is supposed to be?

Let’s break that movie quote down as it has several key parts. First off is the “Don’t be mean” part. Which is nice, cause really, don’t be mean. Mean people suck.

Then, there are the classic and important words that are relevant to this post.  “No matter where you go, there you are.” I remember hearing that quote when I was a kid seeing that movie and knowing somewhere deep inside me those were classic and important words. And now I’m finally seeing why. Because that’s life in a nice neat nutshell. Very else need be said about where you are supposed to be in life, it’s where you are.

The choices you make determine how and where you’ll end up in this life. Want to be happy, then be happy. Want to be successful, then be successful. Minus a debilitating or chronic issues like depression or autism, it may turn out to be that fucking simple. Wouldn’t that just be a trip? I mean, we make things so hard on ourselves by overthinking things when in reality, we can just decide and then make a real plan to get to where we want to go.

Using that logic, I somehow decided consciously or unconsciously to fall asleep at the wheel of my life. I wondered where I was and why I was so unhappy. Well, my choices dictated that reality. And now, with different choices comes a different life. Let’s see how being awake while choices are made impacts the quality and richness of life shall we?

So again I ask, “Is This How Life Is Supposed To Be?” After all, no matter where you go, there  you are.