Building a body of work. That is what I have been dying to do.
Or perhaps, I have felt like I am dying a slow death for the last two decades as I kept my artistic self locked away. All wrapped up in my fear, anxiety, & self-limitations.
[This is me refusing to face my FEAR, ANXIETY, & AUTHENTIC SELF — all bound up by my very own doing as a result… |Photo by Noelle | Undergarments by RLTD]
But I’ve finally tapped back in. Found new life. Answered a calling. To be of service. To take the experience & wisdom that resides in this human vessel and offer it up. To harness it and share it. Actually doing that. Putting it all down into writing, videos, audio recordings, and various other art forms and storing it on the interweb for anyone to access. This is what has been missing from my life for so long.
And now. Finally. I have found renewal & true life sustenance through creating & sharing.
Something I did so effortlessly as a child. But then I forgot…
I went on to live over 20 years of my life with his nagging feeling that I am not building and creating something of value during my time in the world. It created such a massive void in me. I’ve tried filling it with material success (money, status, etc.), drugs, sex, food, exercise-addiction & pretty much anything else that I can greedily over-consume & over-focus upon to drown out and hide from the inescapable emptiness.
I’ve recently overcome a lot of my past addictions. And by the grace of the Gods I’ve found a new way to fill myself up.
Since I have started writing, blogging, vlogging and sharing my creative work here and on other social media platforms I am beginning to feel as though I am filling that void that has left me feeling so empty & desperate for so long.
Do I understand or know where I am going? No, I don’t.
But I can sense the right direction pulling me the right way. And I am becoming ever more comfortable with the fear of the unknown. Learning to embrace and cherish the mystery of my unique journey.
Through this artist reawakening process I am coming to learn that the uncertainty of it all is what excitement is made of. At least a large portion of it is.
The sense of adventure comes from the unknown — the anticipation of discovery & learning during the unpredictable endeavors. I regularly experience the joy of this uncertainty now in my startup adventures here in Silicon Valley and am finding the same joy in my artistic creations now.
At times I am in rapture from the excitement of it all. At other times I am wracked by ANXIETY and lose myself to FEAR. Often, completely shutting down when the anxiety hits. Again, this happens with both my professional work & my personal artistic work.
I have been fighting my anxiety for most my life. Pretty much ever since I forgot my artist-self. The one I locked away when a teenager decided that being an artist wasn’t going to cut it in this life.
As I locked the artist part of myself away, I also cut off my access to the ever-evolving intuitive learner that loved the unknown, the mysterious, the puzzles, the trials, and the tribulations. The one who loved the uncertainty of it all. Because within that uncertainty lived infinite POSSIBILITY.
For the last two decades I’ve been shackled. Self-oppressed. Anxiety literally killing my life-force.
But now I am being reborn. An artist rebirth is underway. And the insight & self-knowledge that is being cultivated during this process is truly LIBERATING.
Finding my art, making my art, and sharing my art is making me a better entrepreneur, partner, family-man, and more! And of course the shear joy of living as an artist in all areas of life is something I can barely understand & appreciate yet, but it feels AWESOME! And I know it’s only going to get better the more I embrace it. It is like…
TRUE AFFLUENCE: abundance & flow working together in synergy & synchronicity.
One of the biggest lessons that has come from this reawakening process is my understanding and beliefs around the infamous state of ANXIETY. This dark thing that seems to rob the joy of life from many of us. 🌑
Here is what I’ve learned about this dark state we call ANXIETY:
** Anxiety is just another facet of the same diamond that “excitement” also lives within. **
I am just an excited Spirit. A Spirit and Soul that is so electrified to be here on earth that if I am not directing my abundant energy into noble endeavors I am wracked with anxiety letting me know that my energy is not focused and directed in the right spectrum.
No wonder that after spending two decades suppressing my artist-self my anxiety had built to a point where I was left feeling so anxious that death seemed like a far better option. It was literally boiling up inside of me. Trying to show & tell me something. And it was either going to get me to listen or kill me trying.
And this leads me to the next powerful paradigm shift I’ve recently come to understand & embrace:
** Anxiety is a guidance system of “right action” and “right intent”. It is also a barometer for one’s current level of self-acceptance, self-worth, and ultimately… the state of one’s SELF-LOVE. **
The more “in tune” I am with myself and acting in accordance with Divine Will the less anxiety I have. The more I unconditionally love myself despite the ever-changing weather of life the more anxiety fades and something new & empowering comes in.
When I am fully inline with Divine Will I have no anxiety. Only pure joyful excitement. Anxiety is literally transmuted into usable positive energy to thrive in the adventure of life. I go from being completely shut down, being killed by my own life to…
Energy bursting forth like a waterfall that cannot be contained. Mesmerizing. Majestic. Powerful.
That is me when I am in alignment with my higher calling. When I am taking the “right” intuitive steps towards my own apotheosis. Even when it doesn’t make rational sense. When I can flow with my higher self who doesn’t operate from the limitations of rational-thinking then I “know” and “feel” the right steps unfolding before without having to even see them.
Scary I know. But so damn exciting too! 😁
This is the gift of anxiety & fear. If we can face & embrace them they will allow us to heal, to grow, and to TRANSFORM into a higher state of JOYFUL LIVING.
As I begin to embrace my fears and follow them with trust I literally feel the anxiety transform into excitement.
It is so subtle though. If I am not paying attention, if I am not in awareness, I miss the switch. The line between the two is so delicate. So fine. Like balancing on the edge of a sharpened sword.
Yet, when I pass into the excitement as I surrender to the calling of my fear-sirens that same sword cuts the oppressive bonds of my anxiety and I fly free. I soar. I grow. I transform. And I electrify everything and everyone around me.
Like the master pendulum in a room. So strong is my underlying force that I pull everyone in my field of energy into accordance. An array of pendulums that were all swinging in discord are now swinging together in grace.
I have seen this so many times when I am in my power. Bringing forth magic and laughter to a group of people. Amplifying their joy to a level where we can all feel it. And it is wondrous! ☄
When you can feel the energy of a group of people singing in harmony. This vibration. This movement of unison is something to behold! Rocking back & forth in synchronicity. An ocean of energy ebbing and flowing in unity.
It is dynamic co-creative fire setting us all ablaze! 🔥🔥🔥
What is awesome is that we can all do this. All of us have this power of being the master pendulum that pulls everyone around them into a higher state of being. And we have all done this many times in our lives. Even if it just with a few other people, or even one other person. We have witnessed consciously or subconsciously how our energy has pulled another’s into accordance.
The scary part is that this works both ways. Those with incredibly strong energy dark or light can pull a group in either direction. This is why each of us must maintain dominion over ourselves.
Ever interacted with a parent, partner, boss or great friend who is in a terrible mood or energetic space and then shortly thereafter find yourself in the same state? How do you think that feels for all the people you come into contact with after you have moved into that darker state of being?
How is that felt by your loved ones? Anger, anxiety, depression, and the like… those are palpable energies that can easily be felt by those we are closest to.
And because of this we must maintain dominion over our own energetic emotional state. This does not mean suppressing or denying your feelings or states of energy. I am a firm believer that we must emote to release and be cleansed by our own emotions. No matter the emotion, they always happen for a positive reason if we can recognize, acknowledge, & surrender to their healing powers. [more on embracing darker emotions and allowing them to free us here.]
When we sense our energy is dark we must be careful in how we are transmitting to others.
Out of love and respect for others we must open ourselves to receiving their lighter energy and surrender our own darker energy and flow with them. Thus we transform ourself by surrendering to another.
Paradoxical in a sense. But this is the power of communion. We are all here together to be of service to one another.
We must constantly work on our own self-derived energetic ethics. So as a world-community we are empowering one another through an infinite interplaying of leading & surrendering. Healing & harmonizing through one another.
We must hold ourselves in DYNAMIC DOMINION: allowing ourselves to be served by others when in need and serving others when they are in need.
In this way we all dance together into greater living divinity.
And in this way we can hold ourself in personal integrity, dynamic dominion, & have fun in life even when it gets turned upside down.🙃
This is a creative exercise in writing about another person’s story from darkness to light and how it interacts with my own journey in discovering my light in the world. Isaac put this short video together (below — turn on HD & SOUND) from video he shot for some creative projects we worked on together. He is an incredibly talented photographer, videographer, & all around artist of life. Yet, just a few years ago he thought pictures were stupid, was stuck in a job he hated, and was living a life only half-alive. This creative piece tells our shared journey to a life worth living. See more on Isaac Gautschi here.
Success can be cultivated through a view of longevity. As we look at the big picture we are better able to see the little movements that draw us forth into greater integrity & authenticity and ultimately consolidate our true power — self-mastery. When we are expressing and acting in alignment with what has heart & meaning to us we are powerful beyond measure. When we are in this state everything seems to flow. Life seems magical. Coincidences and chance interactions all work together in harmony to draw us forth into greater expression of what really brings us joy.
Sometimes we must go through some chaos and turbulence to find what has heart & meaning. Isaac’s story of his motorcycle accident and how that led him to his photography and filming is an awesome example of this. Sometimes the most horrendous things wake us up to our heart & meaning. This is why darkness is so beautiful.
It is usually in the darkest times that we discover our light. The stuff that not only lights our spirit on fire but enacts the same energy onto others as they share in our gift. As we share our gifts our dreams are made manifest and we provide avenues for others to experience their own heart & meaning in their own ways.
Go slowly. Isaac’s discovery of his passion for film didn’t happen over night. Though the story was told to me in minutes. His actual experience and transformation happened over a period of time. Years in fact. Yet, we often see or hear of someone’s transformation and resulting success and lose touch with the time, energy, and growing-pains it took for it all to coalesce into its present state.
In the beginning Isaac resisted photography. He even thought pictures were stupid when he was younger. But through a motorcycle accident that left both hands in casts with one working finger his calling came gently knocking. He lost his job and opportunity to go to school because of the accident. His parents literally had to hand-feed him like a child as he was unable to do it himself.His great joy of playing guitar had been lost in the same accident. Making music was infinitely more important than a job he hated and school he was unsure of. Things got dark. He was miserable. Depression hit. He had no idea where he was going. Plunged into the depths of despair he sat creatively chained in his hand casts.
Then one day his Mom brought him an old camera and suggested he try taking pictures. Wallowing in his misery he resisted. Still stuck with the idea that he thought photography was a waste of hard drive space and time. And then… Destiny!
One special day he picked up the camera, balancing it upon the cast of one hand and using the one working finger of the other hand he began snapping photos. Something stirred inside of him. An awakening maybe. It wasn’t fast at first, but it did grow. And as it grew it began to grow faster. Like a spark that slowly catches something aflame. At first the fire creeps along slowly growing in size. Then it hits its tipping point and the whole thing bursts into flame.
(Isaac on his road to recovery. This self-captured was taken one full year after the initial accident that occurred on April 18th, 2013. His current success was still years away, but the creative-fire is catching flame here in this photo.)
With Isaac it began with people randomly asking how much he charged for his photography. He thought to himself, “Wait, what? People want to pay me for this?” The flame grew. Then Ashton Kutcher shared his photo and people began to take notice. Isaac is still in disbelief at all of the synchronicity. The flame had burst into glory. Goodyear Tire licensed a few of his photos. He had to quit his day job and become a full-time photographer. His light that he found within his darkness would allow for nothing but a full commitment. That is how powerful his creative calling became.
Man ablaze. Fueled by passion and paid for his creative spirit. Now Isaac shares his glory with abandon. He shared it with me. Bringing his passion-fire to light my own creative vision. He is the light shining through my dark film casting a vision upon the wall of the world for all to see. His gift is unlocking my gifts. Giving form & worthy expression to what I see in my heart & spirit. Truly crafting & unleashing my vision of myself as transformation artist & leader.
Together we co-create and co-live what has heart & meaning to us. Forever alchemized by one another through shared experience, passion, & vision.
In moving cars, parked cars, on flying airplanes, outside, inside, in total quiet, in busy noisy environments, in dark rooms, in the sunshine, at the office, at home, in random hotels and all other sorts of conditions. 365 days of meditation in a vast array of settings.
One year of unerring commitment to my awakening and my own evolution.
I did it. April 13th, 2016. This date marks one full year of meditation. Every day. Twice a day. Two sessions of 20 minutes each day. 40 minutes total per day. I didn’t skip a single meditation. In one year I meditated more than 14,600 minutes (some days I added in an additional session at my own discretion). Over 243 hours.. Over 730 sessions of meditation in the course of a year…
Looking back on this year of experience this is what I have been gifted with by my meditation practice:
1. The deepest most intimate level of self-knowledge, self-awareness, & self-acceptance I’ve ever attained in my life thus far. This has led to a sense of peace & belonging in this body, in this life, and in this world that I was unaware was even available to me in this lifetime.
2. A restoration of self-integrity & personal power that I spent 20+ years avidly destroying with self-abuse, toxic environments, drugs, alcohol, etc.
3. The GREATEST MOST LOVING, ACCEPTING, INTIMATE & UNDERSTANDING RELATIONSHIP I’ve EVER had with another person. This is easily tied as the number one reward of my meditation but I would like to think that I would have had that despite the meditation practice because SHE is that incredible. The kicker is that SHE is the reason I actually had the courage and took the action to begin this meditation journey. If she hadn’t been in my life I don’t think I would have ever begun. So in the end it was HER anyway. I call HER my Phoenix. She’s my best friend, my twin flame. She is the ever-burning FLAME that consistently rekindles my creative fire & inspires me to become the greatest man I can become. I still have a life-time to of work to do, but knowing she’s there with me makes it an exciting journey with a best friend and NOT a pain-staking obligation. I much prefer magical adventures with a magical best-friend over obligations. 🙂
4. The BEST CAREER of my life. I’m a leader and founding team-member of a Stanford startup (Oh My Green! aka OMG). We are a wellness & human potential technology company. I always dreamed of being a part of a Stanford startup. I am living that dream now. And I couldn’t ask for a more fitting industry to be in. After spending over half a decade encouraging the use of alcohol, drugs, & many other fun forms of debauchery during my stint in Hollywood Nightlife I have found redemption within OMG and bring wellness & potential to the world as part of my life’s calling.
*SPECIAL NOTE TO EVERYONE FROM MY HOLLYWOOD NIGHTLIFE PAST: I don’t regret my time in nightlife or think there is anything wrong with nightlife. Nightlife is awesome and it was a crazy awesome adventure! In truth:
I will forever be grateful for my experience in Hollywood Nightlife and forever hold a lot of LOVE for all the people that shared that journey with me.
That time of my life was absolutely necessary to shaping me into who I am and it will always be a deeply important part of my life and who I am.
I think of it as the DARKEST time of my life, but it is within the DARKNESS that I have discovered my strength & power to make a difference in the world.
(My original official Hollywood Nightlife business partners and I… the infamous Revolver Group. We were a FORCE that’s for sure — literally changed the whole game of nightlife. Love & success to you Angela, Andrew, & Benjamin! Forever grateful for the experience we shared!)
(Me & my most recent nightlife business partner & forever dear friend Kennedy (I love you, brother!)… Just another day at the office in the world of nightlife…LOL! No but, seriously… this picture pretty much sums it up… I)
(Another Hollywood throwback favorite… All key players in my life from that time. I have a ton of other honorable mentions from my Hollywood days coming too so stay tuned if I missed you… I just had to finish this piece before my creative fire went out and if I missed you here it bears no refection on your importance in my alchemical journey.)
Special shoutout to Liam and Pen&Public. Liam, you were there in Hollywood pretty much since my beginning. You were basically an unofficial business partner at the same time I was with Revolver. You blessed me with great work then. And then you moved on & created a prestigious boundary-pushing ad agency from your experience. You graced me with great work again after I finished up at Stanford and was trying to figure out my next move. This was the perfect transition that I needed. This time you took our work together to a whole OTHER LEVEL! I’ll never forget my first work event with Pen&Public…. Just a a little concert on a barge in the beautiful San Diego Bay with some small-time companies (Toyota & Pandora)… You are a BEAST, Liam! And forever a dear friend! So very grateful to you & your company. Always.
(This was only the setup for the event… You can see the magic of the event here.)
And now… I, along with my OMG superhero colleagues, hold a vision of wellness & potential for the world. Every week we deliver upon that vision.
Our mission is “empowering people to live healthy & blissful lives.” We are the vanguard of moving this world more fully into that vision of wellness & potential while driving the transformation from the industrial-economy into the age of CONNECTION. I take great joy in co-leading this revolution with my OMG Dream Team.
So what is OMG and who is the OMG Dream Team? I’m glad you asked! I’ll tell you more another time but this following video is a creative project & a testament to me living as a transformation artist & leader within my professional career. This was a vision I had that came about through my mediation practice that I chose to manifest into reality with the graces of the incredible company & team I work with at OMG. This video hold’s our VISION, exudes our ESSENCE, & showcases many of the superheroes on our Team.
*SPECIAL SHOUT TO OUR OMG FOUNDER & CEO, MICHAEL HEINRICH (narrator in video) : I met this magnificent man in one of my last & most favorite classes at Stanford after returning from a 7-8 year leave of absence. Also known as dropping out with only 2 quarters to go… Genius! But, actually one of the best decisions of my life… Michael was working on his master’s degree and had just created the first version of the concept for OMG a few weeks prior in another grad-level class at Stanford as a project. He was working on his class project by being one of the projects in my class. This is confusing but bear with me. Stanford can be confusing to outsiders but when you’re in the innovation hub of the world I swear it all makes sense. As part of my class, Global Entrepreneurial Marketing (aka GEM), we got to work on real-life startups/companies and Michael was pitching his startup class project to our class. I was immediately enamored by him. Call it an instant man-crush if you will. After being gone from Stanford undergrad for almost a decade I was in a class of mostly 20-ish year-olds and desperately looking for friends my age (30-ish). During his presentation he talked about his passion for meditation, yoga, & kung-fu. All things I thought were rad. So, I randomly approached him after his presentation and pretty much said, “I think you are cool, I am looking for friends my age, can we be friends?” He looked at me with the slightest hint of a pause and said, “Sure.” I can’t blame him for the pause. I would have paused too if some random person approached me with a crazed look in their eyes and asked to be friends.
I’ll save the rest of the Michael & Justin story for another time, but I wanted to provide a basis of understanding how the evolution of my career and meditation practice came to be. You see, Michael holds a vision of me that I am still learning to embrace and live. Michael is coming up on a decade of meditation and it was this evolutionary man who gifted me with my meditation practice. It was the first major OMG company benefit. He literally showed me the bridge to another life and paid my toll. He paid for my life partner as well. I think he somehow knew I needed her with me to take the leap of faith. If that isn’t belief in another, faith, unconditional love & compassion, and a whole lot of intuition then I don’t know the meaning of those words. **I cried writing this part… that is how deeply his graciousness towards me & my Phoenix has touched me.**
I now know that meditation is one of the most important things in my life and I will forever be grateful to our visionary OMG Commander-in-Chief. We call him Captain Kirk and we are definitely on the Starship. In him I found not only someone I could follow, but someone who empowered me to lead in ways that were deeply authentic to my core being. I am still learning how to both follow & lead, but with my spiritual brother it has been a lot of fun and a very much an exciting journey!
5. I am living my creative vision of being a transformation artist & leader as a writer, blogger/vlogger, & alchemist. This here ever-expanding blog and my ever-growing Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, & Twitter are all LIVING EXPRESSIONS of this vision.
I creatively express with integrity & authenticity AND I have a full-time job at a fast-growing Stanford startup at the same time! I never thought I could live my creative dreams and at the same time live my Stanford startup dream. I always thought I would have to choose one or the other. Turns out that was just a limiting & false belief I inadvertently “chose” to believe.
I thought about this writing & blogging/vlogging vision pretty much every week since 2005-ish. I didn’t even start writing until January 31, 2015. Yes… I thought about writing and blogging/vlogging for almost 10 years and had never filmed a video or creatively written outside of a school/class assignment…. And even that writing was pretty lame, inauthentic, and uncreative writing that was written for the sole purpose of getting good grades. More on that 10 years of waiting to “start when I was ready” here.
My meditation practice began a few months after my writing. And here we are today… I am a writing machine! And I’m becoming a filming beast too! This article explains how I started my writing and this article explains my current practice of 500+ words of writing per day. The next step for me is to copy my writing formula and apply it to my video & audio ventures.
My vision of myself as a transformation artist & leader is in its infancy but the epic journey is well underway! Finally! And my role at OMG supports and empowers this vision. I literally have permission and encouragement by my company CEO to live this vision in every way possible and he is constantly providing opportunities to empower this vision. Wait, I can have a job and live my dreams?!A whole new world of possibility revealed itself this last year…
I am still learning to live in this realm of possibility and I do fall out of it, but thankfully I have my Phoenix & Captain Kirk to lend a hand when I stumble.
(Michael aka “Captain Kirk”, me aka “Dragon“, & Phoenix at StartX – Stanford’s startup accelerator where OMG got it first major boost)
6. I am sober, happy, & very much ALIVE (feeling magical again without drugs!). After becoming sober from marijuana I felt like I lost the “magic transcendental” space I was regularly put in through my use of cannabis. Through meditation I have rediscovered the innocent joy and magic of life without drugs or alcohol.
I’ve somehow recaptured the wonder of childhood where I didn’t need drugs to see & experience the magic of life on a regular basis.
(CAUTION: Man-child at play… No alcohol or drugs powered this Peter-Pan flight! :P)
For the record, at the time of this writing I am over 3 years sober from marijuana and will be two years sober from alcohol in September 2016. I was an everyday pot-smoker for 4-5 years and quasi-alcoholic since 2002. I am still confused by what really qualifies as alcoholism as I rarely drank by myself, but I did drink circumstantially with regularity. I binge drank like crazy during college the first time around and I’m sure one can imagine how often I drank while working in nightlife… Basically every day of work… I am sure different people living different lifestyles could argue either way. In the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’ve always wanted that sense of magic & wonder I had during childhood back. When I lost it growing up I rediscovered it in drugs and alcohol, but I the side-effects took a heavy toll… [more on that here]. Now, thanks to my meditation, I got my natural & innate magic back!⚡️☄🐉
7. I am in the best physical shape of my life. No steroids or crazy illegal supplements. There is another practice that played an even greater part of this and I will be sharing that in another post in the near future [signup here if you want to make sure I email it to you when I finally release it]. My eating strategy and philosophy also plays a huge role (post coming on that too). Nonetheless, the meditation definitely plays a significant part and empowers the other techniques I use to be in awesome shape year-round.
(No steroids, no illegal supplements, all-natural FitnessRake & FlexEating — my fun, flexible, & year-round flex-worthy eating strategy/philosophy. Post on FlexEating in-development…sign up here to receive it when it’s released.)
8. Space. Meditation gave me space. Space in my mind. Space in my emotions. Space in my reactions to things in life. You could also call it awareness or mindfulness. The more I meditate the more space I discover. I am able to pause before reacting to things that would have set off pre-meditating Justin. This has done WONDERS for my relationship and just about every other area of my life. Instead of reacting, I respond from a place spaciousness & awareness. It is so much more powerful & profound than reacting.
9. Clarity. Clarity of intent. Clarity of action. In other words, I am also in the best mental shape of my life. Again, the more I meditate the clearer both my being and action in the world becomes. It is a slow and subtle shift and I am really only noticing it a year later, but now looking at all that I’ve done in the last year even I am amazed at the crystallization of long-held dreams and personal accomplishment.
10. A radical reduction of the frequency and intensity of my ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, & NEGATIVE MENTAL/EMOTIONAL STATES. Looking back I can confidently say that I’ve experienced at least a 50% reduction in both the frequency and intensity of my anxiety and bouts of depression. It may even be as a 70-80% reduction, but I am still observing myself in comparison to a year ago and it isn’t an exact quantification process. Nonetheless, considering that I am not currently doing therapy or taking any prescription/recreational drugs this is HUGE! I am naturally able to stay in positive states more often & regularly. AND… I move through darker states much more easily now thanks to my meditation practice.
11. A deep understanding, appreciation, and acknowledgement of my power to commit to something. This alone has unlocked me in so many ways. Commitment has been a big area of healing, growth, & transformation for me. Since meditation I have come a LONG way from my old uncommitted-self. And now that I’ve completed 1-year without breaking my commitment to meditation…
I KNOW WITH PERFECT FAITH THAT I HAVE THE POWER TO TRULY COMMIT TO ANYTHING IF I CHOOSE TO.
The secret is in the power of decision & choice. When I began this meditation journey I made the decision that I would meditate twice-a-day. Every. Single. Day. For 365 days in a row. I CHOSE because I CHOSE. And I decided that there was no exception to this decision.
When I crystalized that decision in my head & heart and took that stand… EVERYTHING in my life adjusted itself to support that choice.
There were some days where I had to jockey my schedule and get creative, but honestly most days it was pretty easy to accomplish simply because I made a decision that had no exceptions. I also didn’t allow there to be any excuse for reneging on this agreement I made with myself.
I believe anyone can do this with anything important in their life. But first, one must FULLY & COMPLETELY make a decision and fully stand in that choice. I am still very much learning how to do this in other areas of my life. I did that with OMG when I finally committed & came on full-time. And again, this choosing to commit TRANSFORMED my life. I’ve done it in my relationship with my Phoenix and my commitment to ever-continuous healing, growth, & transformation, but I still have plenty of areas where I still need to heal & transform my responsibility & commitment. I’ve also committed to sharing these healing/healed wounds here on this blog once they are at a level where I believe the sharing will be of service.
Special note: I am still questioning and exploring just how many things you can an “ideal commitment” with at the same time. I chose ONE thing and committed to it for a year. If you are thinking about trying an “ideal commitment” be wise and choose to do this with only one thing as you test it out for yourself in some new area of your life. Chances are you already have a “ideal commitment” like this to something in your life (partner, paying taxes, your career advancement, etc.). Take a moment and look at your life. Look and see what you are doing in the areas of your life where you naturally already have an “ideal commitment” and try applying it to another area. I can almost guarantee you have at least one, if not several “ideal commitments” that some deep part of you made with unwavering commitment. Good chance you made some of these without even being aware of how deep your commitment was. I did this with my exercise, although I didn’t realize it at the time. For years I trained relentlessly, almost never taking a day off from the gym. I eventually learned that it is better to have some rest days (more on that later), but for whatever reason when I began my Transcendental Meditation practice I immediately applied the same conviction and it turned into 365+ days in a row.
If you decide to to consciously initiate another “ideal commitment” and you fail — forgive yourself and begin again. I’ve committed to plenty of things and broken the commitment over and over again. My writing & blogging is a living example of a reoccurring broken agreement with myself despite this commitment. One thing is for sure though. As soon as I publicly posted that piece of creative work regarding my commitment I instantly began holding to the agreement more often than not. And since sharing my commitment to this endeavor my commitment just keeps on growing stronger. Yay! Accountability leveraged to the hilt with social media! 😛 Accountability is a powerful tool (another thing I am finally learning).
I don’t know if I got lucky with my “ideal commitment” to meditation or what. But I know I could do it again. 😉
So… Why Transcendental Meditation?
Before I discovered Transcendental Meditation (TM) I would have thought you were bat-shit crazy if you had told me that I could meditate anywhere at any time in any environment, let alone keep it up every day for an entire year. And I probably would have thought of punching you when you told me to do it twice a day. You see I had this preconceived notion that you basically HAD to have a monk-like environment to meditate and sit in some uncomfortable position.
After a year of meditation in all sorts of environments that limiting belief has been completely shattered.
I also always thought that my mind was just too busy and active to ever meditate. Before TM I thought “I think too much to ever truly meditate.” I had even tried several different meditation practices and failed miserably. I still remember having to do a group a meditation during my yoga teacher trainer certification and literally feeling like I was going out of mind. My monkey mind literally feeling like I was going to break, go insane, and just walk out on the group. I stuck through it though… Despite the misery of it… It was a basic breath-based meditation and it was before I learned TM.
As I mentioned earlier, my foundational meditation practice is Transcendental Meditation (TM). This is a specific technique of meditation that is mantra-based. Do I think it is THE WAY ONLY WAY TO MEDITATE? Definitely not. Just like I don’t think bodybuilding and yoga are the only ways to exercise. They just happen to be natural modes of physical expression for my unique body. TM happens to be a mental practice I naturally experience affinity with. Furthermore, bodybuilding, yoga, & transcendental meditation not only work really well for me…
I regularly experience deep joy, love, & happiness from my practice of these disciplines.
I also still rollerblade and as much as I want to bring rollerblading back into vogue the point I am making is that does not mean any of those practices are for you (although you should definitely give rollerblading another shot). The only way to find out is to try it for yourself. I know people who have been doing TM for years and I know people who have done TM and decided it wasn’t for them. And in both cases my belief in their invaluable worth as people is definitely not determined by their meditation practice no matter its current state.
Here is what works for me about Transcendental Meditation (TM):
It is easy & it works for me. Probably the most important points.
It is a specific technique that works exceptionally well with my hyperactive, always-thinking, overly-cerebral mind.
You can literally do it ANYWHERE in ANY ENVIRONMENT/CONDITION.
You don’t need any external thing to do it. Just your beautiful & divine self. And you are always with you. No app, no special clothing, no special place, & no timer needed. (Personally, I do usually use a timer-alarm to avoid falling into a super long meditation and messing up my daily schedule, but I know plenty of TM-ers who use no alarm at all.)
IN SHORT RECAP ON WHY I USE TM:
It the most dynamic & robust meditation technique I’ve discovered. It is easy & it works (scientifically & personally proven).For an entrepreneur or anyone who has a very active life these qualities make it a sustainable practice that can live within & EMPOWER just about any lifestyle.
Please note the emphasis on “I”. This practice may not be for everyone. It is an invaluable practice for me personally.
On a random side note, what is really personally interesting for me is that TM has opened me up to explore & really embrace several types of meditation. Where as before I tried them and could barely get through a few minutes I can now do them easily. I like to think about it in the sense that since I bodybuild and do yoga I am naturally fairly good at most things that require physical effort. TM is like my mental bodybuilding/yoga and over the course of the last year I’ve delved into mindfulness, Yoga Nidra, lucid dreaming, and various guided mediations. All with great ease and enjoyment. There is a list of other types meditation that I am into at the bottom of another article I wrote [see here].
Here is what I DO NOT necessarily appreciate about TM:
The training to learn it can be pretty expensive. Mine was over $700 and that is why it was such a huge deal that Michael gifted it to me & my partner. I have mixed feelings about the cost. On one hand I know from personal experience that when something isn’t cheap to get you tend to care a whole lot more for it, proactively invest your time & energy into it, and actually make strong & regular use of it. “Getting your money’s worth” is a saying that comes to mind. So, I can see how the steep cost of TM actually can play a large role in people sticking with it long enough to experience and notice the benefits and by that time the chances of them keeping the practice indefinitely go way up. In that light, the cost could be considered a benefit. On the other hand, it can be a limiting factor that scare people away or make it inaccessible to some. I believe there are discounts, scholarships, and financial need available to those in need but don’t quote me on that.
There is a weird social stigma around TM floating around on the internet and among groups of people. It reminds me of the Mac versus Windows ridiculousness. Or the cult-like following or avoidance of Apple products in general. For the record it is not a cult. The TM organization does NOT harass me in any way. They do not even randomly call me and try to get me to spend more of my money. Even my beloved alma mater does that! [I actually appreciate it by-the-way because I love giving back to Stanford. Keep calling me! I used to make those calls to raise money for Stanford too.]. Here is the way I think of it: if you think TM is a cult then you should also consider the following successful companies as cults by the same logic: SoulCycle, Nike, Apple, Amazon, Whole Foods, etc. All of these companies are hyper successful in their field of business. So is TM. It just happens to do business in the field of meditation. I think that any organization or person doing work to bring mediation to world is doing something valuable & noble.
Ok, I think that is a concise and honest overview of the pros & cons of TM as specific meditation practice. Now back to the big picture…
Here is how I like to think about my meditation practice:
It is an infinite ever-expanding foundation.
As you invest in the practice the foundation grows with each session. It is the foundation which you can build everything else in your life upon. Want to build a castle in the sky? You will need a foundation for that. Can you build a home without a foundation? Sure, but maybe only one or two stories high. And the longevity & vitality of that house will be severely limited & compromised. Can you build a skyscraper that touches the clouds & sky above without a foundation? Definitely not. Is meditation the ONLY foundation upon which to build your castle? Nope, there are plenty of incredible people doing incredible things that don’t meditate. But I guarantee you they have discovered some foundation which to build upon — faith, family, mindset, & other various human potential practices. Meditation is just one scientifically proven foundation.
The other aspect of regular meditation that is so powerful and may be under-realized is that it acts like an AMPLIFIER to every positive thing you do in your life. And in converse it acts as DAMPENER to the harmful things you still do… often leading to the release of these negative habits.
I personally witnessed this positive amplification and negative dampening in so many areas of my life now that I’m looking back over the last year. I am utterly in awe! But it all happens so subtly with meditation and often it was easy to miss it happening. It is only retrospect that I can see just how much of impact meditation has had in so many ways.
DO PEOPLE YOU KNOW & ADMIRE MEDITATE?
You would be surprised at how many incredibly successful & happy people DO meditate. I know I was when I first began to explore my meditation practice. As I delved into it I realized that a lot of people I admire meditate, but aren’t overly open about it. Not that they hide it, they just don’t speak about it much. It was like the common force-factor, or golden-thread, that many people I admired shared. Here are a some of my favorites: Hugh Jackman (aka Wolverine — my personal favorite), George Lucas, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Simmons, Russel Brand, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tim Ferriss (another personal favorite), Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob (one of my favorite music groups), Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Bridges, Cheryl Crow, Ellen Degeneres, Cameron Diaz, Clint Eastwood, Eva Mendes, Rick Rubin, Miguel (R&B artist), Moby, Katy Perry, Martin Scorsese, Howard Stern, Liv Taylor, Ray Dalio and so many other famous & uber successful people. AND just about every recent spiritual leader (Ghandi, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, etc.). And let us not forget Buddha & Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters of our short human history.
I am also taking a wild guess that probably a lot of the super successful people you admire meditate and you may not even be aware of it.
As in pretty much all areas of life, what is most important is finding what is enjoyable and sustainable for you & your lifestyle. I cannot emphasis the word ENJOYABLE & SUSTAINABLE enough. If it is not personally FUN (as in you like to do it) then you will likely not keep it up over a long period of time. This is incredibly true for a physical fitness routine and the same truth applies to most areas of life I think. Think about it… If you don’t enjoy your marriage or job chances are you will eventually give it up despite the original commitment and agreements you made.
I had to do a lot of exploring to find a meditation practice that I could easily stick to. TM happened to be that for me. Does it help that most of the living famous people I mentioned above also do TM? Yes it does. Am I following? Yes I am. I have learned that if you want to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. Then you add your own unique alchemical twist to it all and authentically lead in your own way. 😉
Before I end this let’s dispel some common myths about me & meditation in general:
Can I levitate and move objects with my mind? Not yet, but I am still working on it. I can do some pretty cool yoga poses and I like to jump around (see picture above). Nonetheless, I’ve yet to meet a meditator who can fly or has the power of telekinesis. However, there is something about the increase of synchronicity that happens with meditation the longer you do it. And that is truly magical! It isn’t really something I can fully explain (yet) but the increase of random incredible things syncing up and happening for the betterment of my life is palpable compared to the years before I meditated.
Do I have mind-control over myself & others? I definitely have a much more harmonious relationship with my mind and the minds of others. I am not able to 100% control my monkey mind or make other people do things they don’t want to do. True power is self-mastery. And meditation has been playing a huge part for me in coming into greater mastery over my own mind. I still have a long way to go, but I’m infinitely further along than I was a year ago.
Have I completely removed breakdowns and all darker states of being & existence? LOL! This is life. I am human. I still have dark days, experience failure, over-react, and cause pain/suffering/hurt to others and myself. Even superheroes experience all of this. But I now have a level of power to move through these experiences with grace that was unavailable to me before meditation. And for that I am deeply thankful and have greater faith in myself and my life during the rainy days.
Have I fully overcome all of my anxiety & depression of the past? Nope. They are still with me. I still find myself experiencing mind-breaking levels of anxiety at times and do still fall into mini-bouts of depression [see here for more on that]. BUT! The frequency and intensity of these states has dramatically reduced over the course of the last year of meditation. I’ve also discovered the space to meet and embrace these states with compassion instead of trying to fight, beat, or kill them. I also discovered that resisting these states only seems to make them stronger and endure longer. I now have the space and courage to heal & integrate my anxiety and depression as they come up in everyday life thanks to my meditation.
Do I literally stop my thinking mind through my meditation practice? Ha! Ya right! I still have a billion thoughts whizzing around in my mind quite regularly. However, I do find myself falling into pure presence more and more. This is feeling of complete being with everything that is suspended from time. I am still coming to understand this, but I think it is what some would call a blissful state of existence. Also, my ability to focus has dramatically increased due to my meditation. This has benefits in so many areas of my life. Think about it. How much more could you do if you could really focus well on the things that are important to you?
The fact that I am living a dream working at a Stanford startup in Silicon Valley, while consistently expanding my vision of myself as transformation artist & leader through my blog & on other social media platforms, am in excellent physical health & condition, have an incredibly happy & harmonious relationship with a divine being & my family, etc. should all speak to the power of focus I derive from a regular meditation practice. I am far from perfect. I know this. I have tons of growth still to do. But now I am firing on way more pistons at the same time in unison. And it seems like the longer I meditate the more horsepower I get to use for whatever I find personally meaningful & important.
Do I sit in lotus pose or cross-legged every time I meditate? I can’t even do lotus pose (yet) and I am a certified yoga teacher. This is mostly due to an old hip injury from a bike/car accident (I was on the bike). But the truth is that lotus pose has ZERO bearing on one’s ability to meditate. And I don’t think I sat cross-legged for even one meditation session in the last year. All that is really important is to have a straight (but relaxed) spine. Most of the time I sit up in a bed, chair, or couch. If I am outside I will usually find something to rest my back against. One of the keys to great sustainable meditation is being comfortable while you meditate. The common vision of the yogi sitting in lotus or cross-legged is because those people do yoga every day and have been for years. Sitting in those positions is comfortable for them. For many of us those two sitting positions are painful or even impossible. The truth is most of the time when I meditate I sit in my bed with my back against the headrest and my legs fully extended out in front of me resting along the mattress. Nice & comfortable for me. Find a meditation and mediation posture that works for you, don’t buy into some purposeless dogma that demands a certain position. Meditation is an inner pose.
Is every meditation amazing & serene? Definitely not. Just like my bodybuilding & yoga sessions some days are pure joy and full of transcendence. Other times I feel off and out of my power. Some meditations literally suck and I just bear through the 20 minutes. Just like some of my exercise sessions suck. Yet each time I complete a workout or a meditation never have I thought, “that was a waste of time.” The magic comes from the regular practice. I’ve discovered that the practice, process or journey is the real fortune of meditation, bodybuilding, yoga, or any endeavor really.
Did I get instant results? Again, I return to my bodybuilding and yoga analogy. One bodybuilding session or even several isn’t going to suddenly make me ripped and shredded. One yoga session or even a few won’t completely realign my body and make me super flexible. The fruit is in the ongoing practice. Until I sat down to write this piece I wasn’t even fully aware of all the incredible benefits of my year of daily meditation. The transformation is slow and subtle… But it’s lasting! REMEMBER: ever-growing foundation upon which you can build upon.
I think that is it for now. I may or may not come back at some point and add some more if it comes to me, but I think this is a pretty comprehensive review of my experience from of a year of daily meditation.
In closing I leave you with this…
Did meditation solve all my problems? No. I still have tons of growth opportunities. But it did slow-motion catapult me into a RADICAL NEW REALM OF POSSIBILITY. It is paradoxical because the transformation happens ever-so-slowing. But it is lasting & compounds over time. Over weeks or even a couple months it seems like nothing happened. Over a year… Two different worlds.
One last thing to note is that I have been experiencing what some would call an awake transcendent state. These just started happening towards the end of my year of meditation. Or I just started becoming aware of them. Either way, I am still coming to understand them. For now I am content to enjoy the mystery of them and sit in ambiguity. All I can really say for now is that these experiences are so worth a year of daily meditation! You can read about the experiences here & here. Fair warning, these are direct from my journal I keep and may be a little confusing.
If you read this far… Thank you! I deeply appreciate your curiosity and hope you enjoyed reading about my journey with meditation so far. If you didn’t, that’s okay too. You see, I really wrote this for me. I wanted to commemorate something that is so deeply intimate and profound to me and the best way for me to honor that was by writing about it and then sharing it without attachment to how long it ended up being or having any attachment to the response it got. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who even read a sentence of this and shared in my honor and acknowledgment of a major milestone in my life.
And if you are curious about meditation… Go explore! I truly believe there is a meditation practice for everyone! You just have to be open to the possibility and take courageous action until you find one that clicks. And I promise you will know when it does. If it hasn’t clicked yet and you have been exploring it just means you’re meant to keep being curious, open, & actively searching. Hell, I am still curious and exploring the infinite inner realms through various modes of transportation. I am NOT in it for the destination. I am in it for the alchemical journey! Feel free to join me! 😀
The evolution of the manbun is here and it is the manbraid! 😛
This is also an ode to continuing to embrace my FEAR of creatively expressing in the world online and sharing that journey of authentic creative expression publicly. This time from my fashion/style/image side of myself.
Also, I am giving myself permission to have FUN doing this and act like the magical man-child that I am and have always been! So feel free to laugh at me — or with me as I laugh at myself! 😀
My goal in sharing is to be of service as a catalyst for YOU to do the thing (or things) that YOU have always wanted to do but were too afraid to do [see here for more on this journey].
I am still scared as hell & full fear, but what I am learning is that often our FEARS are showing us what we most need to do in order to truly feel ALIVE & live the life we’ve always dreamed of.
SPECIAL NOTE: I basically have little to no experience filming, blogging, vlogging, writing, etc. I did this all by myself — no film crew, no experience, no training, etc. I am learning all of this on the spot in real life by DOING and gaining INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENT even when I fail miserably. You can never truly fail if you learn something from the experience.
You may miss your goal, but like Bruce Lee said:
“A goal is not always meant to be hit, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
I’m discovering my path in the world by aiming at goals, missing them, refining & retooling, setting new goals, and learning to love the process & journey and not worry so much about some final destination that may not have any real meaning to me anymore when I arrive. This is living in the moment while maintaining integrity (mind-heart-action alignment).
Mind-heart-action alignment is something that evolves as we grow, learn, and experience life. It is a living/changing/transforming thing just like our life. Be open to and aware of your own heart & meaning evolution.
My vision is to be a TRANSFORMATION ARTIST & LEADER and sharing this authentic journey full of messiness, mistakes, mishaps, stutters, “ums” & “ahs”, repeating myself, imperfections, etc. is my way of living that possibility while aiming at lots of goals and also being of service to mankind in a way that has true heart & meaning to me in a deeply personal & profound way.
Give yourself the gift of just learning by doing and being okay with looking like a fool as your traverse your road to mastery. Have fun with your fears! Laugh at yourself and take those baby steps (or leaps of faith) to a truly authentic life of your own design.
Check out the fashion/style/image section of my blog at here and my fashion/style/image Instagram at here. A lot of new creative work in production for this aspect of my multifaceted-life so stay tuned!
This hairstyle was inspired, designed, & crafted by my Phoenix! Check her blog out here.
Stay in touch with me on my Facebook Page and my here on my blog.
What we need is the intention to allow creativity to create through us. A surrender to the creative force that lies within us all. The eternal ever-burning Sun. Do we hide it away in some dark deep closet? Hidden from all, including ourselves. Or do we open the door and let whatever reflections of brilliance are there shine outward into the world? What mystery and revelation will come bounding out of this inner door of light? It is so exciting it can be scary. I am scared. But once again I embrace the darkness with love. Transmuting it into light consciousness to cast forth into the world with valor. God grant me valiance.
I do not know what will come forth, but I trust the Universal design. I trust that as I tap into my diamond consciousness and the Universal Mind whatever is meant to come will come and it will be right.
I have been wrestling with my old self. My old self who says that I cannot live my artistic creative dream and have the rest of my life (and family) be okay. Or more succinctly, I cannot live my artistic creative dream with integrity and commitment if anything else in my life is out of order. This is the old commandment I have been living all my life. The wounded warrior character that never gets to do what his inner child artist wants to do. But it is time. Time to change my story and change my life. To recognize that my compassionate heart is strong. I can hold everyone in my life in compassion and live my artistic vision with truth at the same time. I have the power of the Sun ever-burning within. There is more than enough energy to create and hold all of my life and those within it in compassion. It is time to let go of this self-defeating illusion. There is nothing wrong with creating my bliss and sharing it with others while other aspects of my life are under the fire of healing, growth, and transformation. This is the infinitely dynamic way of life. An infinity of moving parts. I can trust they are all working together in a divine dance for divine evolution. I reach in and grab my trust and I wield it with a furious heart. Sun-fueled. Let me burn away this ice that freezes me in stagnation. Spring is here. Let me call forth new growth in all its green glory. As I shine this diamond brilliance on these frozen memories I compassionately watch as they melt away. Freeing myself from their frosty grip. A goodbye to winter. Spring-time veneration.
The Sun is here and it’s shining bright. No longer enveloped in the bond of my frozen emotions, memories, patterns, and DNA — I evolve. No longer frozen, I grow forth and go forth into the world and share my brilliance. Light-bringer awakening. Old commandment broken. Self-imposed chains dissolved. Darkness alchemized. Self-integration realized. Time to dance with freedom of Spirit.
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” —Rumi
Create for the perfect receiver. The one who will get everything that you are trying to convey with no explanation. Dig deep. Grab the stuff of truth. Your truth. And bring it forth to bear without shame or alteration.
So often I find myself judging my creative work as it is coming out. “Will others understand and like it?” I ask before I even put it into form. When I am in that space of creativity I’ve already lost. Lost myself. Lost my art. Lost my unique flame of creation.
So I dive back down into the depth. The unknown. The unseen. And I float. I lose myself in my abyss so as to loosen myself from the constraints the external cares place upon me. I hang myself upside down. Let the all the stuff I am carrying fall out of my pockets. Upend my thoughts and feelings. I release the disappointments of the past, present, and future. Renewal. Self-renewal. Return to my vision. The one I was born with. The one that has always been there. The one I have spent so much time running from. The one I am beginning to embrace with ever-increasing conviction. And I stand in it. Upside down. I let the vision consume me. I let it break me. Break me through all the self-imposed barriers I’ve accumulated. Through self-crucification I find renewal. As I sacrifice my ego I return. I return to personal power. I return to self-integrity. The inner citadel that is always there — the inner home.
As I hang out, arms dangling, thoughts un-jangling. Release. Surrender. The tide washes the grime away. The equinox of darkness passes. The light begins to return. Emotional purification. Intellectual clarity. True-flame Spirit. The golden path to creative integrity in the world shows itself once again. I walk my path. A unique legacy. I know my past. I’ve seen. I shed the unwanted weight. Lineage-breaker. I can see. Free to blaze a new trail. Free to share from that innocence and excitement of pure bewilderment. Goodbye cleverness. Hello awe.
I think I am finally understanding that quote by Rumi that I’ve ruminated over since stumbling upon it. I always prided myself on my “cleverness.” I was ego-attached to it. How could I sell something I was so beholden to? Something I considered a part of my identity. Now I see that it was a suit of armor I dressed my true self in so that I would be safe from the the outer world. But in my self-protection I hid my true self away. From others. From myself. Ego-driven, I become lost to myself in my clever-suit. I unknowingly hurt others as I bumbled about ironclad. And I dumbly wondered why others were offended. But my vision and understanding were so limited. I could hardly see out of the protective visor. My range of sight hindered. So of course I crashed into others. Causing unnecessary and underserved pain. Forgive me. For I could not see.
I take off my helmet. Free my consciousness. I shed my suit of cleverness. Liberated. Unconditional love & compassion for myself and others begins to blossom. Wow! I am so light now! Floating in bewilderment…
“Life is a gift and our work is to learn to receive it.”
Imagine for a moment that you have two friends you have gotten gifts for. When you give a gift to the first friend he or she is elated. You see their face illuminated with gratitude and joy as they receive the gift. They shower you with words of gratefulness for the gift. It is easy for you to see how happy you have made them simply by giving them something. This in turns makes you feel wonderful and happy.
When you give a gift to the second friend you are met with hesitation upon their face. Immediately you are surprised because you know you took time and energy out of your life to get and give this gift to this friend. Instead of saying thank you and lighting up they seem to shut down and be filled with a sneaking sense of “Is this it?” Then they ask you if there is another size, color, version, or even a receipt because they are unsure if they will actually have use of it. You are saddened and disappointed by their response. You had hoped the gift would bring them joy and instead they seem unsatisfied and maybe even slightly offended that the gift was not perfectly “right” for them.
Holding these two friend in your mind and heart which would you want to get a gift for again? Obviously, the first one who immediately loved and accepted your gift. It was painful and disappointing to get the second friend a gift. So why put yourself through misery again? From that point on you feel good about getting gifts for the first friend and do so often. And with the second friend you shy from giving gifts and are worried about pleasing them so you withhold your own joy and abundance when you are around them.
This is how the Universe treats the grateful and ungrateful. If you were the Universe which person would you want to reward with abundance? Again the one who immediately cherished and celebrated your gift. With the second you would withhold from trying to please them. Knowing it to be path to disappointment.
This is why being grateful for everything is so paramount. When we practice gratitude for all the infinite abundance in our life the Universe is overjoyed to bring us more. When we question the gifts and treat them with dissatisfaction or a “not good enough” attitude it is like telling the Universe to stop trying to be of service to us and our life. We literally shut down our own abundance when we focus on the lack and forget to acknowledge the abundance.
I am mostly writing this for myself. Though now I am pretty good at being grateful for many things in my life there is an area I am still working on. For much of my life I have had a difficult time appreciating gifts from others. All because of my past perfectionist and overly-particular nature. In the past my sense of self-opinion and self-expectations were always so high it made it hard to appreciate anything. I was so lacking in reaching my own overachieving perfectionist expectations I could only see lack in all areas of my life. Never enough. No matter how well I was doing. If whatever gift I received was not exactly what I wanted I met it with subtle disdain.
Growing up my Mom eventually just had me pick out every gift I ever got. She learned it was much less disappointing to just forego any sort of surprise and just have me tell her exactly what I wanted.
This wasn’t only limited to gifts, it also included the food my Mom provided for me. I was so hard to cook for and feed that my Mom literally had me create a cookbook of food and meals I would eat and appreciate. My poor mother. I was such a picky perfectionist child. I can only wonder at the patience she had to cultivate with me.
I am ashamed to even admit this. I am hoping that by sharing my ungrateful picky past self that not only can I atone for my past behavior, but maybe I can be of service to others seeing this in their own life. Whether within themselves or within someone they love and care for. Compassion and forgiveness often creates the space we need to transform.
Even now I have to practice accepting everything with joy and gratitude. So often I immediately judge it and shut myself down to the abundance in my life. The perfectionist. The judger. Always quick to jump in. My monkey mind is quick to perceive the gift as lacking. Instead of appreciating it purely from the standpoint of the fact that it was “given” and “gifted” to me. Someone used their thought, time, and energy in my honor. If I cannot accept everything that is given to me with true appreciation why would the Universe ever want to give me more? How could I honestly consider myself deserving and worthy of a grand and magical life if I cannot appreciate all of it? The big and the small. The perfect and imperfect. The good and the bad.
Furthermore, if nothing is ever enough I cannot actually appreciate the gift of the present. I am either leaning into the future, striving for more because my mind has determined that what is presently present is lacking. Or regretting some past insufficiency. Once again missing the gift of the present.
I now know that this is a state of mind. Lack/scarcity and abundance are both mindsets. I can choose either at any moment in my life. Gratitude and presence can be cultivated. And I have been consciously building these gifts of life into my life with a fervor like never before. Almost like my life depends on it. Because in a sense it does. I cannot live in the future. And I cannot live in the past. So whatever I didn’t have then has no true bearing to now. And whatever lies in the future stays in the future until it arrives in the now. Ultimately, I can only live in the present.
Lack & scarcity is like stagnation that must be consciously cut out. I let go of lack & scarcity, surrender it to the void, and let it peacefully lay to rest.
Abundance and growth are like life. I renew abundance and growth in each moment through gratitude and appreciation for everything as it is (not what I want it to be).
(Looking closely at the divine beauty of nature effortlessly pulls me into gratitude.)
It is easy to be and feel abundant and magical when everything in life is going well. It is incredibly easy to fall out of abundance and into lack, scarcity, and negativity when things are not going well. I’ve built up several practices/rituals that I use on a regular basis to keep me in an abundant state despite the ever-changing weather of life. Here they are:
Gratitude journaling (verbal and/or written)
Upon waking I begin listing things in my head or out-loud that I am grateful for. It can be anything. I try to be creative & unlimited in my gratitude and have fun. [I.E. I am grateful for my bed. I am grateful for the sleep I got. I am grateful for my partner. I am grateful my hilarious bed-head hair. Ad infinitum.] A simple tool I use is to just count off 10 gratitudes — 1 for each finger. Since I do this upon waking it makes it simple to get to 10 without losing track in my awakening mind.
I truly first learned this as a child. My Dad would ask me almost everyday to tell him three things I was grateful for. This is a fun thing to do with a family-member, partner, friend, or colleague.
Writing down three things I am grateful for. Even though I did this verbally as a kid it wasn’t until I discovered The Five-Minute Journal that I began to write it down. The structure of that book allowed me to build the habit and now I freehand write this into a blank journal daily. I do this first thing in the morning. This combined with the mental/verbal gratitude-ing sets the tone for the day. It can also help pull me out of a funk if I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. **Scientific research shows that doing this even once a week has a strong positive effect. If daily gratitude journaling seems like too much start with a once a week commitment.**
I have also been experimenting with writing out gratitudes digitally on my computer/smartphone in Simplenote or Evernote. I usually bump it up from 3 gratitudes to 10+ when doing it digitally from my computer because typing them is much faster than longhand. I have created a “Gratitude Journal” note and each day I enter the date and then capture my daily gratitude to forever be held in hyperspace. 🙂
A part of me will still feels like writing it out by hand is more personally powerful — something about the hand-mind connection and physically writing it down and capturing it in a physical manifestation. At the same time I realize this may also be my inner monk that is still beholden to making things a true task so that I learn to slow down enough to actually appreciate and be present to what I am doing. For now I am content to experimenting with with both hand-written gratitudes in a physical paper journal and switching it up with a digital/hyperspace version and let intuition guide me to what is best for me each day.
On particularly tough days, if I can get myself to sit down and write out as many things I am grateful for it can literally save my day and shift me into a much better (and happier) energetic way of being. I am not always able to do this. I too have off days, but the more I practice this the less frequent and the shorter the duration of the days of suffering.
Giving gratitude as part of a priority in all areas of life
Telling everyone I come into contact with that I am grateful for them, their time, their energy, their presence in my life.
This is hard to do 24/7, but the more I consciously practice it the more natural it comes.
I like to get creative and be flexible with this too. Sometimes it is as simple as complimenting someone on their smile, shirt, shoes, scarf, etc. Sometimes I like to randomly call someone and just lay some deep gratitude on them. Both can be fun and rewarding. The random phone call seems to really supercharge both their day and mine.
Sending a gratitude text, email, or social media message. I personally love this one. I love the idea that when you send an email or social media message of gratitude it forever lives in hyperspace. It’s like building up gratitude chi on the interweb. Sometimes it is best to do this privately via text or email, but other times it feels wonderful to publicly display your gratitude for everyone to enjoy. This can have a ripple effect too — bringing awareness to another (even a stranger) and gifting them with remembering what they are grateful for in their own life.
Asking “What is one thing you are grateful for today.”
This is a powerful technique I use with my Phoenix. When she and I are reunited after our workday or time away from another we ask this question FIRST; before anything else. This again sets the tone of our mutual experience in our mutual space together. In the past we would leave it up to chance and say whatever came to mind first. Leaving it up to whatever comes to mind first is a great way to let someone’s bad day ruin your good day. By being proactive in this way with this question we have learned that we can consciously create an accepting, peaceful, and loving home life that encourages the best in the both of us regardless of whether our individual day was great, bad, or anything in between.
This can be done with whoever you are cohabiting with (family, roommate, etc.). This could also be a very powerful tool to use at work with colleagues. Variations could include: “What was the best part of your weekend, morning, yesterday, etc.”
Stretch-goal: Try this with a stranger or someone you just met. 🙂
This is a deep subject for me. Something I’ve practiced on and off most of my life thanks to an early start from teaching/training by my father. In the last several years I’ve really built up the daily habit of both written and verbal affirmations. This is beyond the scope of this particular article. I am putting together a more elaborate and comprehensive resource on this and will share it when it has enough material to stand on its own. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay is a book I return to time and time again for affirmations (in case you want a good resource to jump into now).
I believe that meditation washes away past & future disruptive energies while grounding you in the present. Thus, allowing you to better cultivate gratitude as you are experiencing the gift of the present and being present.
I do Transcendental Meditation religiously but I also love Headspace, Yoga Nidra, and other guided meditations. [Special note: I believe there is a type of meditation for everyone. The key is finding one that works for YOU. There are dozens if not hundreds of different types of mediation. What works for me may not work for another. Just keep exploring until you find one that clicks. That’s what I did.]
Massage & Yoga (or any kind of bodywork)
Massage and healing touch grounds me in the pleasure of being in the human body. Bodywork always reminds just how much of a joy it is to be in a human body. I cannot help but feel grateful from the experience of massage (before in anticipation, during the actual massage, and after from the lingering effects).
Yoga is about breath and being in communication with one’s body. This deep connection to the life-force of breath and our life vehicle (body) always pulls me into the present and into gratitude.
Almost any exercise makes me feel grateful during and after. Sometimes I dread it in the beginning, but once my body awakens to the movement I light up with gratitude and am most often left in the feeling long after the exercise has ended.
Whether it’s a short stroll through the neighborhood looking at the plants and trees or a full-blown excursion into mother nature, there is something innately divine about nature that reminds me of the privilege of being alive and gratitude naturally blooms within.
Even intently gazing at a plant, flower, or bouquet indoors draws me into the presence of gratitude.
This book of short essays on gratitude was introduced to me by my Phoenix (Blog & Instagram). We have both found that just picking this book up and reading a few pages puts one into an incredibly powerful state of gratitude. Reading this book is a great way to pull oneself into gratitude when in need. Also, a great daily practice to keep that gratitude muscle flexible and strong.
[Special note: This book is of the metaphysical/spiritual nature. If that is too “magical” for you then check out the books below. They are much more the along the lines of Academic/Psychological/Philosophy/Human-Potential]
Both of these books remind me that EVERYTHING is an opportunity for learning, growth & transformation. Even the stuff that really sucks in life (set-back, loss, disappointment, health-challenges, etc.). Returning to the ideas, principles, & frameworks in these books empower me to be grateful for the trials, tribulations, & growth-opportunities that always come with life & living.
Taking a picture of a gift I have been given and sending it to the gift-giver along with a thank you note. This can be done through email or text message. Or even on Facebook and other social media. I believe acknowledging and demonstrating your gratitude has a compounding effect. It can also be positively infectious to others when you share it publicly.
This is my version of the traditional thank-you card one would mail. I believe that sending an actual physical thank-you card is still incredibly powerful and important too. But this e-version is more realistically going to happen with the ever-increasing speed of most peoples lives I think. It is also an awesome way to document gratitude over a lifetime. How fun would it be to look back over your years of email, Facebook, and other social media and see all the things you and others were grateful for?
This is also the best technique I have come up with for appreciating gifts from others. However, I am still looking for more good ways to heal this area of gratitude in my life. Specifically, what do you do when you get a gift you do not think you will actually use? How do you stay in authentic gratitude? If you have any techniques, tips, tricks, or thoughts please send me an email or leave me a note on my Facebook page.
The art of maintaining gratitude empowers the embodiment of joy, abundance, wonder, wisdom, integrity, compassion, love, & many other states of grace.
I have decided to live the possibility of being incredibly great at gratitude. I am committed to gratitude as a life-skill I will continuously master. I have put this skill down as one of the main things I want to accomplish this year and take with me as part of my core authentic way of being for all years going forward. Feel free to to join me in this endeavor! 🙂
On that note, please share any good gratitude resources you have discovered. I would be incredibly grateful to learn from you! Personally developed techniques, books, online resources, etc. — anything gratitude I am interested. An email or Facebook message/post sharing your resource would be greatly appreciated!
And along a similar line of thought & action, I would love to put together a collection of personal short essays and stories on gratitude that I can compile and share here as source people can use whenever they need some gratitude inspiration. If you have a good story or essay in you that you would like to gift the world with please send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “gratitude” in the subject line.
FINAL THOUGHT: Unconditional gratitude is an investment that never fails. Gratitude that is unattached to outcome, or gratitude that is not tied to the reaction or response of another person, place, thing, or experience will always pay dividends to the one in gratitude.
In gratitude & service,
Justin David Carl
“Gratitude is the way the heart remembers–remembers kindnesses, cherished interactions with others, compassionate actions of strangers, surprise gifts, and everyday blessings. By remembering we honor and acknowledge the many ways in which who and what we are has been shaped by others, both living and dead.” -Robert Emmons, from his book Thanks!
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” –Voltaire
Here is a compilation of resources related to gratitude that I believe are worthy:
Are you powerfully connected to yourself and others in the present moment?
My father wrote me a virtual letter in which he told me that he was thrown down the stairs as a child by a family member (his father) just like I was by my older brother. After reading this I wondered if this shared childhood experience was where the character of our lives was born. I know this was the moment I decided that I would no longer allow myself to be at the mercy of another. I chose to become strong and no longer be vulnerable. So strong that I would block my very own family with my mind’s diamond hardness. Better to be safe and invulnerable even if it means closing myself to deep connection and love. Surface level love where I don’t have to be at risk of being harmed seemed so much safer and better.
Stairs going down represents the subconscious to me. My father was thrown by his father down into the collective unconscious. I was thrown by my older brother down into collective unconscious. As I was swallowed into the abyss I chose to become a warrior. An overachiever. This was the only way I could survive such hurt. I would fight. I would grow strong. I would be the exception in our family. The extra-ordinary.
It was so much safer to be loved for my achievements. As long as I was pursuing my own greatness I was invulnerable to really being hurt. I was protected by my own ambition and self-centeredness. As I continuously strove for the future I was no longer at the mercy of the double-edged sword of being loved/hurt for just being. The present moment of time couldn’t catch me in any vulnerability, for I was rarely there.
With my own sense of significance I wrapped myself tight in armor that defended me against being vulnerable to those I so desperately wanted to experience love from. A defense strategy built by a scared child. Brave and necessary at the time, but let us look at the effects of this child’s defense strategy played out over my life and in my relationships.
It led me to close a deep and important part of myself to others. I would no longer allow myself to become too connected or too present. For in deep connection that is where the danger of being hurt lies. So I always held back. Or lived in the future. I always stayed self-centered. I always protected my heart with the might of my mind. I faked deep connection with others. I was even able to fake this deep connection with others to myself most of the time. So cunning was my mind. Saying and speaking words of love and connection, but my actions told another story. Always focused on myself, my own growth & healing, my career and my personal/professional development. Connection and love with my family and loved ones always in second place (or lower). Rarely allowing myself to really just be with loved ones, be loved by loved ones, and love my loved ones.
My father’s letter shared how he wished he had spent more time just being in the moment of life and love with his loved ones. I see how I have mimicked him in this way in almost all of my relationships. With significant others. With my family. With my friendships. Even professional and casual relationships. Basically with all of my relationships. Never allowing myself to connect too deep or become too present. Despite trying to convince myself otherwise. Always lying to myself saying that I deeply connect with others, when in truth I am always holding back or always grasping for something in the future. Always in fear of being vulnerable. That fear of vulnerability always keeps me aloof and unconnected. It pulls me out of the present. And it always leads me back to self-centered thoughts and actions I “think” will protect me. Believing that by being self-centered I am protected and safe. All an illusion. This belief system has led me to be so ashamedly selfish in most (if not all) of my relationships.
I don’t know where to go from here. I am scared. I am unfamiliar with allowing myself to be deeply vulnerable. I am unsure of how I can fully open the flower of my heart to the light of love. The brightness of love is so scary. Will it burn me again?
Well, in truth, I may be burned again. And I guess I have to accept that with courage and compassion. I now choose love and connection. I now choose presence in my life and in my relationships. I will fail at all of this most assuredly. But I’m going to fail forward into ever greater presence, vulnerability, love, and connection. And each time I fail, I will practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. For I know now that failure is an experience, not a person. And in each failure there is the seed of incredible growth if I choose to water it.
I am committed to life. Life is lived in the present. Not in some future where I am invulnerable or in some past moment that I can never relive.
I now recommit to the divinity of life — knowing one of its greatest gifts is experienced through the connection to others and to oneself. And the gift of connection is experienced through the ever-evolving present moment of now.