All these people on earth, all from different places and communities and educations and experiences, all in our own unique grey area.
Social media encourages a lot of knee-jerk reactions to any number of things, which in and of itself is dangerous because ideas and opinions, like everything else, change over time.
But what I think is even worse, is the knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s knee-jerk reaction. And then the knee-jerk argument that ensues. I’m thinking of the recent events in Paris at Notre Dame, many people’s initial reaction towards it, and then any number of critiques as to why that that reaction is lacking, or self-serving, or not woke enough.
The fact is, no one is correct. You’re not correct and neither am I. We are all just reacting to what happens in the world through our own prism, our life’s story, the series of personal events that have taught us how to understand and process the world.
My truth is different than yours. We can discuss our individual truths in a respectful way so that all of our truths begin to expand--shading in the grey--or we can discount other’s truths and shut the conversation down entirely.
This is why I like photography. Pictures are broad, they sit in the grey areas of life that are left up for each of us to view and interpret based on our own eyes--our background and experiences. No one understands any issue or event the same way, because we all understand the world differently. So by posting a picture I don't tell you what to see, you see it for yourself.
Yet conversations on places like Facebook and Twitter push us to ignore all that. There is no acknowledgement that the tribalistic “for us or against us” mindset is a human construct we use to simplify the world, or oversimplify, because the complex reality takes too much time to process. And so we forget that it's not all black or white, we ignore the 7.5 billion shades of grey all around us.
There is definitely right and wrong--I’m talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, eurocentrism, and anything society teaches us to segregate and take advantage. That is ingrained in all of us, no matter how woke. I can see eurocentrism is and has been violent and cruel, I also see the ways in which I benefit from it as a white man, and then I can see the ways in which that same historically heteronormative culture has bludgeoned my community as well, and on ALL fronts I work to educate myself and change my mindset. That process isn’t black and white for me or anyone else, it’s part of the grey, and it only gets clearer when we blend our individual backgrounds of pain and prejudice with dialog and love.
All 7.5 billion people on earth, all from different places and communities and educations and experiences, all in our own unique grey area. When we spend time honestly talking and, most importantly, listening to each other, instead of leaving all communication up to quick-take reactions, that's when all those differences disappear.
I have many opinions on the issues of the day, but I typically spend a lot of time thinking through them (and yours) before I say anything about them. None of them are black and white, they're always grey.
They happen whether we avoid them or not, and they happen to be much more arduous because of that very avoidance.
A wildfire is a lot like a tumultuous life event, metaphorically speaking.
We do everything we can to prevent them, even coming up with catchy bumper sticker affirmations as a reminder. All of that avoidance eventually catches up with us though. Fueled by the false sense of safety and the series of particular conditions or revelations, our overgrown and arid personal landscape becomes increasingly vulnerable to explode into a raging furnace.
But here’s the thing, both wildfires and personal trauma are natural occurrences. They both happen whether we avoid them or not, and they happen to be much more arduous because of that very avoidance.
Fire and difficult situations aren’t all bad. Sure they often cause destruction in their wake, and that can be devastating, but they also clear the way for renewal. In the charred remains of a hillside, or maybe a relationship, space is cleared for growth, ash brings nutrients for renewal, seeds are released spurring rebirth.
California has been ravaged by wildfires recently, sadly. Years of avoidance allowed our mountains to grow wild and over-development pushed communities into mountains that regularly burn. Couple that with drought and increasingly wild weather from climate change, and you end up littering the state with match sticks.
Maybe you’ve gone through a relationship trauma recently, sadly. It could come from numerous causes, but far too often things like avoidance and neglect and over-dependence are the main culprits. Instead of communicating regularly to burn out the bramble, we allow silent issues to fester, until they explode. By then it may be too late, you have to walk through the fire and you will get burned.
Since the fire is going to come either way, both the wildfire and the emotional fire, the trick is to figure out a way to manage instead of prevent it. To get ahead of the spark so it never flames to the point of inferno. To be prepared for both the difficulty and renewal it brings.
We all would love to find calmness in our personal world. The more we learn to accept and work with the fire, the less fire we’ll encounter, the more peace we create, and really that’s the goal of it all, the goal of life itself.
A lot of us could use some therapy, but ALL of us could use a lot more nature.
So many of us live a hustled, breakneck, claustrophobic life in our cities and suburbs. We keep tight schedules, update our newsfeeds, take on loans, sit in traffic, breathe dirty air, update newsfeeds again, text friends, second-guess their response, update newsfeeds once more. We’ve been doing all this for so long that the accompanying stress becomes an expectation. The road rage, the FOMO, the worry, the doubt, the regret, all just another appointment on the presumed schedule of daily life.
It’s a knot of our own creation, that we then go and pay a therapist to detangle it.
Now don’t get me wrong, therapy is a worthy endeavor. I can say with certainty that all of us could benefit from a few conversations with such an unbiased observer — talking with friends (or to yourself) can only get you so far.
But if all we rely on is therapy, or self-help books, or this blog, we’re still ignoring the elephant in the room, which is the society that drives us insane in the first place.
Nature literally, physiologically, makes us feel better. Science says so. The question to answer then is: why?
It brings us back to our roots. It strips off all the modern complications disguised as conveniences. It gives us a moment of conscientious clarity. It allows space for silence in an increasingly deafening world. It is a momentary portal into a dimension of empathy that preexists within ourselves. It creates a kind of temporary dementia, where we forget about future mental traffic for a minute so we can do nothing but revel in the present peace.
Those are my own answers, your’s may be completely different, but either way we know nature gives us more than just a pretty Instagram photo — it gives us life.
“May your search through nature lead you to yourself” isn’t profound because nature suddenly answers all our questions, it’s profound because it reminds us we already know them.
May I suggest that nature will uncover those inner truths whether you like it or not. May I also suggest that that’s a beautiful thing.
Nature is my kind of therapy.
I’m a gay liberal, you might be a straight conservative, and most everyone is actually somewhere in between. Nature can bring us all together.
When I’m out in the woods by myself I have a lot of time to think… about how sore I’m going to be tomorrow, about how I miss my dog, about those pesky gnats, and always eventually about mindfulness and the peace I find in the unavoidable now of nature.
I end up thinking big thoughts too, and lately I can’t help but think about the the ballooning divisions in our society.
The community of nature is so welcoming, whether it be your fellow trail hikers and campers, or the easy-to-anthropomorphize community of wildlife that’s out there with you. But the communities where we all normally live — these cities and towns and sub-developments and this nation as whole — they’re not so happy-go-lucky these days. One quick scroll through Facebook or Twitter and the division is gaping. One little stroll down a street in diversifying neighborhood, and the canyon sinks deeper. Last year’s presidential election dangerously widened the fracture.
These are some of my communities: I’m a human, an American, a Californian, and a Los Angeleno. I like yoga, whisky, dogs, music, camping, and hiking. I am a politically liberal white man, one who grew up lower income but now comes from some fiscal privilege, though I know by being a white man I’ve had privilege the whole way. Oh, and I’m also gay.
The community of liberal, city-dwelling, yoga-bending, music-singing gays is a prevalent one (we’ve had our own sitcom!), so I’m well aware of the stereotype that presume we aren’t interested in the outdoors, camping, or generally anything dirty. We like fashion, brunch, and Lady Gaga, right? I guess I do like brunch, so that’s 1 out of 3 for me. That’s the thing about stereotypes, they may be true for some, but they’re also complete bullshit for others.
No community is ubiquitous. We are not one thing or the other, we are many different things as well as a sum of all those things. The divisions between different communities are almost as numerous as the divisions within a community.
So what is it about this community of the woods that draws me away from the one I call home?
In nature I see a place where a whole array of people from different enclaves, experiences, ethnicities, and educations come together to trek through our common ground. It’s a place where everyone, from hippies to hikers to hunters, finds happiness. It’s a place where nothing belongs to any one of us, because it belongs to all of us. It’s a place of acceptance, where the stereotypes and expectations hold less importance. It’s a place where we are many different things as well as a sum of all those things.
When I travel alone, far outside my normal community safety net, I feel more secure than ever. The community of nature is a bond beyond — a visceral, natural, native bond, that transcends modern political and ideological boundaries.
Not every community has had a chance to experience nature as I have, specifically people of color. I consider that another point of my own privilege and it’s something we need to change. But in those public lands, it doesn’t matter where you come from or how often you’ve been there, it still belongs to you.
That mountain, this forest, those streams we explore, they sand off the rough edges of our differences. They’re inherently a part of us, we’re a part of them, and that makes us all part of the same thing — mankind.
I’m a gay man. That’s one slice of my own personally pieced together community. It’s a community fraught with as many internal struggles as any, but by and large it is one of acceptance and free expression. Those who came before me fought hard to create it, and that fight allows me the freedom to expand outside its boundaries. I am exceptionally proud of my community.
But I am a gay man who also loves the mountains, so I have more than one community to tend to. Maybe we all do. Maybe it’s through the interaction and intersection of those communities that we start to come together as a nation and as a society. Maybe, nature is the great equalizer that helps us get there.
Our society desperately needs to tear down the walls of separation that some continually seek to build. Nature and our public lands are like wrecking balls, ready to demolish that which would divide us up, giving us the space to put common courtesy and kindness back together in its place. Because in the wilderness we are all family.
How do you create mindfulness when there are so many terrible things going on in the world?
I’ve been asking myself this question a lot over the last few months, or really for as long as I can remember.
Its a difficult question to answer, because lately it seems America’s collective calm has gone off the rails. But here’s one attempt. How do we flip the script and turn the somewhat self-indulgent game of mindfulness into a force for good? By becoming mindful activists.
In our society’s competition to survive and thrive, we’ve partitioned ourselves into different cultures, races, religions, orientations, genders, and classes. Most people celebrate that diversity, learn from our differences, and mark it as one of our great strengths. Other people (sadly) use those divisions to judge, profile, hate, fight, and kill.
This has been happening for centuries, but right now it feels like a fever pitch.
The list terrible acts of callousness and ignorance is so long I feel like I don’t even need to get into it. For the sake of making this post timelessly relevant, I won’t, except to point out the obvious: the current leader of the United States seems to have no interest in peace, or kindness, or mindfulness, and most of the time actively incites the opposite. That fact is relevant, presently and historically.
The digital age and social media only amplifies this conflict. In the past our information was limited to the local paper and the nightly news. Today we can turn on any number of screens to find disturbing videos, tweets, articles, tweets, opinions, comment arguments, mooooorrree tweets, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Information can be a powerful catalyst for advancement in a society, but it can also quickly become overwhelming and confusing, especially when that information is tragic, especially when biased sources replace fact with opinion.
.All this mayhem may encourage you to tune out, but that’s the exact opposite of what you should do.
I propose we get more involved, using some core mindfulness principles to become clear-eyed advocates for progress.
People have this impression that the practice of mindfulness is selfish one; self-indulgent, navel-gazing, me-time used to meditate and process our emotions into mellow, melty, American cheese squares. OK a few Buddhist monks just keeled over, but seriously, that’s the impression. Figuring out your emotions and life path is always a worthy endeavor, but if we look a little deeper we’ll find that’s only one way to use this philosophy.
We use mindfulness to seek more internal clarity, so what if we also used it to see through the fog of a tumultuous world? We use mindfulness to find personal purpose, so what if we also found a global and community purpose? We use mindfulness to find peace in the present moment of our personal lives, what if that isn’t all that different from finding peace in the swirling present moment of the world at large.
That is, instead of bemoaning this morning’s terribly tweeted tragedy, we stop dwelling on it for another 24 hour news cycle and instead get up right now in the present to organize and fight back.
When we start applying mindfulness to the big picture, we come to realize that completely disconnecting from reality, whatever your reality, is an act of willful ignorance. But getting directly involved, in the moment, in the present, rechannels those negative emotions toward a positive impact.
Make America Kind Again.I’m no expert, I’m just a journeyman learning and doing my best to use the ancient tool of mindfulness to find some sanity in this modern complex world. What I’ve come to learn in my own journey is that that you don’t overcome negativity by pretending it doesn’t exist, you overcome by observing it, learning from it, challenging it, and then changing it.
It’s a fact, terrible things exist. Violence exists. Hatred and callousness exist. Murder and mayhem and atrocities all exist… we’re seeing it all over our newsfeeds, as we speak. But through mindfulness you begin to see you have a choice:
When you do that, your personal mindfulness practice grows into mindful activism. You find hope in our collective outrage. You see progress by creating it. You translate personal peace into a more peaceful world.
It happens with each of us — one smile, one conversation, one click to educate yourself, one tweet (I guess), one act of kindness, one acknowledgement of privilege, one call to your representative, one hour improving your community, one hour getting to know a different community — one moment at a time.
Then repeat those moments over and over again until they become your personal norm. Repeat them with others until it’s a community norm. Repeat them with community until it’s a societal norm.
Honestly, we’re never going to get rid of all the hatred in the world. There is no kumbaya. That’s a sad reality if you choose to dwell on it. But by getting involved to create more understanding and love, not just inside you but all around you, we can at least push things in a better direction, in the direction of kindness. That is an act that uplifts us all.
The collective power of those who care is stronger than the power of those who incite. The battle is ours to lose.
So have I. Everything and everyone does.
Pretty much every year around this time I visit my family on the Central Coast of California, and pretty much every time the landscape looks completely different. Last year this field was bright green with wildflowers. This year it was still a winters brown with only a hint of green breaking through.
Like the seasons, life often assumes a pattern, creatures of habit as we are (here I am telling you how I always go home in March to prove it). But even within those patterns, there’s inevitably a shift.
Nothing ever stays the same. You can physically go back to any place, but you, your mind, your mindset, the ground squirrel, the grass, the sky, and the earth itself have already moved on. Every individual object and being on this planet moves forward, eventually, whether we like it or not.
This field. I’ve seen it tens of times. Every time it has changed. Every time it’s a brand new field. It’s the mystery and majesty of change that makes life so worth living.
The sun is a metaphor for life. It's glare is how we know.
Figuring out how to capture a natural sun glare was the first thing I learned on my “fancy” camera (and might have been the last lol). It’s not the photograph I’m so intrigued by, though yeah it is usually pretty. It’s the perspective gained.
A sun dapple is an immense power stymied and diluted by distance, filtered through a nearly infinite number of elements on its way to your eye. Even at the very last moment before reaching you with its life sustaining rays, it hits a singular needle on one of a million pine trees on this particular range of mountains, dispersing it’s power one last time into something simply beautiful.
I’m not even sure what that says about life, about you or I, about the cosmos or the forest, about politics or the present, but I know it gives me joy to feel both small and incredibly important as the one eye that gets to see that one glare at that one moment. This moment.
Give your relationships the attention they deserve.
It seems like nearly everything requires care. Our teeth need brushing, our hair a periodic scrubbing, and our body an annual physical. A car needs regular maintenance, clothes laundered, every machine eventually needs repair, and you are really going to have to upgrade that phone at some point. A garden requires regular upkeep or it’ll either become overgrown or simply die off.
Like all these things, like that garden, life and love require care too — always in need of a human touch, someone there to nourish our roots, clear our fallen debris, prune the withered limbs, make room for new life to bloom.
Yet it seems we often overlook the things closest to us, things like our emotional health, things like relationships.
The beginning of any kind of new relationship, friendship and beyond, is fresh, hopeful, and oh-so-exciting. It’s usually pretty easy too — the excitement this newness provides is the fuel that propels you forward into coupledom. It’s a sprout jumping up from the soil, ready to conquer the world. No one knows how fast, how tall, how stately it will become, and that’s what makes it such a beautiful rush.
But as that plant matures, it inevitably begin to change: that first burst of energy spreads thin, growth slows, overburdened branches droop from the weight, periods of drought starve the sapling, periods of flood confound it, and in the face of blustery adversity limbs or entire trunks can snap, leaving nothing in its place but a stump, a memory.
That’s because love isn’t just a feeling, it’s an action, and it’s alive.
If we are to avoid the fate of that stump, if we are to survive and thrive instead, the plants of our proverbial garden need careful attention through deliberate action from the start. It requires constant diligence by every star-crossed lover who ever sowed a seed. Regularly tending to their love, nourishing it, trimming back the old growth, removing any pests that seek to invade, holding the best parts up in esteem with support, searching for the weaknesses that need a little boost.
When we fail to tend to a relationship, it fails, then fades, back to the earth from whence it came.
I tend to lots of things in my life: my house and yard, the earth through tree planting, to my fellow mankind through Sierra Club leadership, my body with regular yoga and hiking (my mind with regular yoga and hiking as well), to my whole being by chasing my journeyman dreams instead of drifting in a comfort zone.
But in the midst of the shuffle I find it far too easy to neglect my relationships. I have forgetfully allowed negative emotions to fester for years without airing those grievances. I’ve passively watched the limbs of friendship wither, taking little action to save or prune them to start anew. At times I’ve made no regular effort to feed and nourish those connections. In the comfort of routine I’ve often gone silent, forgetting to show all the love I hold through the a simple supportive act.
Indifference spurs inaction, which can fell the most passionate of partnerships.
Attention spurs action, building an insurmountable foundation of love and respect.
A 2,500 year old sequoia.In all types of relationships, from budding sprout to weathered evergreen, change is inevitable. The trick is to figure out how to grow with it. By putting focus not just on how you feel, but how we feel together, you grow with it. By making an effort where once there was ease, you grow with it. By giving the gift of your attention instead burying yourself in your phone night after night, you grow with it.
In this cut throat world, not everything in this garden will survive. Sometimes the seed was just not meant to be planted. Sometimes the plant has a unalterable lifespan. That’s normal, and sometimes the best, yet most difficult decision is to let it go.
But in the meantime, we owe it to our partner, to our relationship, to make every effort imaginable to raise our sapling up to be as sturdy as a sequoia. We owe it to each other to care for it, every day, until the day it and we are ready to move on.
We owe it to love to at least try. We owe it, because we care.
Shut up, voices in my head,
That tell me to dread,
The future that's unsaid.
Run away, I need a break,
Withdraw from the bank,
Selfishly deserved escape.
Sit down, take stock of your life,
Your time here is rife,
With joy, friends and spice.
Shut down, the trolls who hate,
Bitter for bitter’s sake,
Only muck do they make.
Move on, surrounded with love,
In your niche all snug,
Fill it with lots of hugs.
Stand up, take charge, thrive.
You live or you die,
On your impulse to strive.
Go home, mind unfurled.
Wisdom in a pearl.
The oyster’s your world.
Shut up, the demons who demand,
You can't do it over and over again.
Sure there always an end,
But first you must begin.
Sometimes when I’m camping out there by a fire, I start to chronicle the logs.
In many ways this is an act of sheer boredom; I’m alone in the wilderness with no phone service (just as I like it), and there’s not much else to do but stare into the fire, sip whisky, and think. I get all my best thinking done right there.
Each log in the fire is different and unique. Some narrow, others full. Some even, others winding. Some are pieces of kindling splintered off a trunk, burning bright and fast because of their damage. Others are fully intact limbs, substantial, resilient, warriors against the fire, holding their own for hours. No matter what, every log is but one piece of a much larger tree, a small part of a big story, whittled down to it’s essential core.
Each new log of firewood adds more energy, building on its predecessors. Each new log is ultimately consumed by its own light and heat, going back into the earth where it all started. Each log was once a small sapling, then a grand tree, then a flame and an ember, then ash and dust, before transforming into the nutrients the next sapling uses to flourish for years, right up until it sees the same fiery fate.
I take another swig of whisky, and the longer I peer into that glowing fire ring of broken trees, the more I see—I start to see all of us.
Humanity has a lot in common with a campfire. Each of us is a log, a branch of a much larger family tree, burning bright for as long as we can. Each of us unique, with our own history and struggles. Some of us bend to the left, others bend to the right. Some are straight, and others like myself go their own way. Some of us are damaged, others a pillar of perpetuity, at least seemingly. Some are separated from their past, others bonded so strong they’ll never let go.
We each burn as bright as we can individually, but there’s strength in numbers when we ignite together as one. We all hope to stay lit for as long as possible, but no matter how bright and how long, we eventually go back to the earth where it all started. Our purpose is to leave a legacy of knowledge, an ember of warmth, a torch on the path to light the way forward for those who come next.
This isn’t a bad thing. This isn’t some grim tale about the brevity and ultimate uselessness of life.
This is the true story of the continuing circle of life on earth. It’s a centrifuge of motion that powers our inspiration. It’s why we radiate with as much strength and light into the world as we can, while we can. It’s how we accept that one day we will burn out, but as long as we pass down our spark, the process of living is truly the most beautiful undertaking ever engineered.
Even the smallest logs provide the embers that keep the fire smoldering. Even the biggest logs, if placed awry, can smother the fire. We each have our part in the this communal campfire, our story to tell, our light to pass on. It’s up to each of us where we place ourselves in the pit, how we choose to burn, what we choose to contribute.
In this way we are all granted the power to both live now and live on, in perpetuity, a circle of life and light in the middle of an otherwise bleak darkness.
I take another sip of whisky. It’s strange and wondrous how much more sense the world makes when I’m alone in the wild, a quiet witness to the history of the world and the future of ourselves, all in a campfire log.
I'm 37 and always feel like I'm just getting started in life.
I’ve felt like I was just getting started for pretty much all of those 37 years, and it has its pluses and minuses. On one hand, it can easily lead to malaise--if you’re always just getting started, it’s easy to feel adrift. But on the other, I like the idea of new beginnings--when every day is an opportunity to start again, every day has hope.
That's because it's not over.
It’s not over for me. I’m still figuring it out, trying new things, pushing myself, often failing, but then picking myself up and learning from it.
It’s not over for you either. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You just have to try new things, push yourself, and pick yourself up, so you can learn and grow into the future.
Each day is the start of a new path of possibility. Whether we take that path and how far we travel down we travel is entirely up to us. It leads us forward, toward creating our legacy, toward ourselves.
Look, I don’t always feel this way — I get bogged down in the day-to-day struggle of getting my act together too. After 37 laps around the sun, sometimes I run into a wall of exhaustion. I wrote this at one of those very moments. But I also know that when we stop to bemoan our lack of progress, we do so at the expense of progressing.
So I wrote this because in that moment I needed a cheerleader to root me toward the finish line, even if that cheerleader was myself. I wrote this because I know once in a while you might need that cheerleader too.
I know it’s not over, it's never over, because there’s always hope. I know that if I wake up every day and trudge forward that I’ll move forward. You know it too. That’s why you’re reading this.
Build a beautiful relationship? It's not over.
Land that dream job? It's not over.
Cultivate happiness? It's not over.
Lose those pesky 5 pounds? It's not over.
Resolve a nagging conflict? It’s not over.
Debt-free by 40? It’s not over.
Abandon social media distraction? It's not over.
Perfect your recipe for lemon squares? It’s not over.
The battle for equality and progress? It’s not over.
It’s not over because it each day is a new beginning.
It’s not over because that beginning is your choice.
It’s not over because that choice is one you get to make every day.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Cross-posted at: medium.com/the-mindful-journeyman
I'm angry. I've been angry since the election. In fact, my anger has only grown since then.
A lot of you are also angry, I know because you've told me. Opinions polls show an historic majority of this country is angry too. I’m not even talking about a difference of political opinion either, that we’ll just set aside. It’s every disparaging tweet, every absurd conflict of interest, every self serving position, every unqualified nominee that sparks a tiny bit more rage in my soul. If you're not angry--if you’ve been watching all this ridiculousness go down and you’re totally cool with it--that kind of makes me angry too.
So I get it, but also I know it’s time to move forward. Anger alone is dangerous. It’s time to turn that anger into action.
Pure unadulterated anger leads to depression and retreat. Anger sops you of your energy and creative passion. It leads to disengagement, to cruelty, to the very bad behavior we abhor in our new leader. It leads to lost friendships and lost opportunities for understanding. It leads to hopelessness.
Anger can inspire a host of other passions, but by itself it’s the first step towards a meaningless life. Anger can solidify your ideals, but as a stand alone it’s the first line of a losing argument. Anger can lead you into a more positive future, but if you let it hold you back it takes you nowhere.
Don’t let anger drain your drive.
Don't let anger cut you off from the world.
Don’t let anger crush your hope.
Use that anger inspire action. Let it push you to make signs and take to the streets. To support the organizations and local campaigns that can make a difference. To always stand up and speak out to the cruel and unjust.
Use that anger to inspire community. Let it lead to the comfort found in like-minded, progressive solidarity. Let it create more connection and understanding toward everyone else in the world, especially those with whom you disagree. In the end, those connections are what will forge the path of progress.
Use that anger to inspire optimism. Let it bring your spirit of activism to life. Even as society seems to regress towards fear and hate, let the beacon of light that leads to a better future start with you.
It's ok to be angry, but in the end the only way to move forward in life is to do something with that anger. We grow a community through kindness. We grow kindness with hope. We grow hope through direct and sustained action.
When you waste all your time in anger you won't have any room left for love, and love always wins in the end.
I know you're frustrated, I'm frustrated too. But guess what? There's hope.
Cross-posted at: medium.com/the-mindful-journeyman
I'm angry. I'm disappointed. Once in a while these days a wave inescapable melancholy washes over me. The events that have transpired across the world over the past year have been unmistakably heavy. I have a hunch that a lot of you feel the same.
2016 was a difficult year. Some would call it a terrible, horrific, never ending nightmare of a dumpster fire, but let’s just stick with “difficult” for the sake of sanity.
Russia, Ukraine, Syria, ISIS, China, Russia again, the hottest year on record, the death of a slew of extremely talented artists, the dangerous proliferation of fake news, all the people with an uncritical eye who believe it, the 2016 presidential election season, the day of the 2016 presidential election itself, the day(s) after the 2016 presidential election, the hatred and racism it all exposed, and perhaps worst of all, the demagogue of destructive division that is president-elect Trump... just to name a few.
This year piled it on like dirty laundry. Like rows of chipped plates at a Goodwill. Like net after net of suffocating fish on boat deck. It broke the Guinness World Record for awful years.
But I’m going to tell you something you may not be expecting to hear: 2016 was amazing.
That’s right, I said it.
While it's true, there is a long list of terrible things that happened in 2016, there’s an even longer list of beautiful things: your friends, your family, all the mind-blowing things you learned and the stunning sights you witnessed, every meaningful conversation, every hug and every smooch, all the moments where you created, you cried, you smiled.
Least of all, 2016 was an amazing year because you were here to live it. No matter how much the acidic fermentation of hatred, disapointment, and chaos soured this year, you survived it, you learned from it, and you’re better off for it.
When things go downhill like they did in 2016—when we see cruelty, violence, ignorance, war, and struggle — it’s easy to just give up. Stick our heads in the sand of distraction and procrastination. Chalk this off as a rotten year, plug our noses, and pray that when we ring in 2017 and put up a new wall calendar it’s somehow going to fix everything.
That is the exact opposite thing we should do.
Wallowing in the darkness of the past doesn't make your future any brighter. The only way to do that is to mindfully stand in the light of the present.
I’m still here ready and able to fight, you are too, and that gives me hope. It pulls me out of the funk of this past year and gets me back to work today, in the present. I know deep down that no matter how many terrible things happen, in this or any year, there are still good and decent people in the world. Our very existence proves it.
You are lucky to be alive right now—we are all lucky to be alive right now—because as long as we’re alive, hope lives as well. That is the spark of inspiration that we use to ignite a better world.
Instead of putting out the flame because things didn’t go our way, how about we use all this as fuel to burn even brighter, every day, from here on out?
Instead of worrying about the lack of kindness in the world, how about we turn the tide by showing more kindness ourselves?
Instead of fretting over the myriad ways our president-elect can screw up societal progress, the complex global economy, our increasingly tense international relations, and the environment, how about we volunteer and donate to the organizations that will pick up the fight in his absence?
Instead of pouting while we wait for 2017 to somehow usher in better news, how about we create some good news right now while 2016 still exists?
We are lucky to be alive because it means we still have a chance. Right now is your chance. Stand up, step forward, and take it.
You control your legacy. You control your story. You control it every day with every decision. You control it by living in the moment.
Cross-posted at: medium.com/the-mindful-journeyman/leave-your-legacy
I see you all out there with your drive. You get up every morning and do big things. Or maybe you do small things, but they’re still the things that add up to a big life. You’re following your passions, making a living, making families, fostering relationships, fostering yourself, smiling, sometimes suffering, but always weathering the storm.
Or at least that’s how it all looks through the Facebook filter, and I know it usually doesn’t tell the full story.
Underneath there is struggle. There are moments when you’re in so deep it feels easier to just swim down. I see that struggle when we get together in real life. Maybe we sit down and talk about it, maybe it’s over a random text exchange, or maybe it’s a moment of total silence, but I still see it.
You probably see it too, because I’m not immune. I wonder about your drive, and your sorrow, because I also wonder about mine.
Questioning life is a good thing.
Where do you get your motivation?
How do you deal with struggle?
What story are you telling with your life?
Some days I do big things too. I’m fostering friendships and relationships and myself, I feel confident that I’m making a difference, I spend all day writing, and I’m filled with passion and pride and lots of plans. Other days, not so much — it’s easier to procrastinate, to get stuck in a Facebook black hole, comment crater, to dwell on uncertainty and sadness, or distract myself with entertainment and drink, all instead of making tough choices or putting in the hard work.
At the end of the day, or really at the end of it all, what we’re talking about here is your legacy. It is the sum of all the decisions we make day-in and day-out that altogether create our impact. And that impact exists in spite of and in cahoots with all the ups and downs and sidewayses that come your way.
How do you find balance in the chaos?
What inspires you despite it all?
How do you ensure you’re story is meaningful?
There’s so many ways to fail at life. It’s like the front lines of a war, riddled with booby-traps and sniper fire. Procrastination is how we lull ourselves to complacency in order to avoid tough decisions. Regret over the past is another way we, quite literally, keep ourselves moving backwards. A grudge is a vice we hold on to, that turns the table by holding on to us back. Worry is the worst of them all, fooling us into thinking we’re perfecting a future legacy, when we’re actually distracting ourselves from a productive present.
I fall into all these emotional traps, but I also know deep down they’re useless. They are blinders that distort and distract from the beautiful panorama of life. It’s so much better to live in that beauty , to live in the present, to make peace with disagreement, to foster forgiveness, to let the past go. It feels good, and it frees you to go back to building your legacy.
When was the last time you were on the front lines and avoided all the traps?
How on earth did you do that (seriously)?
What decisions can you make to do it all again, every day?
I don’t need to be famous, I just want to leave an impact. To change some minds. To feed a few souls. To live on in the hearts of those I encounter, especially of those I love. It’s not too much to ask. I’m not trying to do the unimaginable. I don’t think so, at least.
When my time is up, will I have done enough?
Who will tell my story?
What will that story even be?
Look at where we are and where we started. Each from our own place of inspiration and anchor, pride and predicament, joy and jealousy. Each individual moment a piece of our life’s puzzle and an opportunity for inspiration. We foster a desire to use all that we’ve experienced and learned, and to pay that forward, right now, in the moment. That’s how we leave an impact beyond ourselves. We leave our legacy when we stop the endless wondering about what our story will be, and start writing the story instead.
Every morning, think about it. What’s your impact?
Every day, look around. What do you want them to remember about you?
Every relationship, pay attention. Who will tell your story?
Every moment, a choice. What kind of legacy are you leaving?
With each decision, a new page. With each day, a new chapter. Go out and tell your story.