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.
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.
Less us, more we.
Less why, more be.
Less posting, more protesting.
Less complaining, more changing.
Less conquest, more progress.
Less complicitness, more kindness.
Less pontificating, more creating.
Less waiting, more cultivating.
Less worry, more wonderment.
Less hurry, more movement.
Less cursing, more caring.
Less doubting, more doing.
Less regret, more reflect.
Less elect, more effect.
Less reaction, more action.
Less apathy, more activism.
Less us, more we.
Less blinders, more see.
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.
Hey you. Yeah you over there. The one moping around with your head to the ground. The one so easy to irritate. The one putting your frustration on blast.
You, the one who’s day didn’t go well.
Had to sit in too much traffic.
Endured a boring meeting.
Tickets sold out for the only show.
Forced to mop up midnight dog vom.
Got in a fight with a friend.
Have friends but sometimes feel abandoned.
Your instagram didn’t get enough likes.
Ex posted too many happy instagrams.
Ran out of money before your paycheck.
Bought something expensive but didn’t feel fulfilled.
Had a little too much fun last night.
Didn’t have enough fun.
Didn’t get the job you wanted.
Didn’t get the guy you chased.
Ended a relationship.
Trapped in a relationship that won’t end.
Finished another day of life sleepwalking.
Hoped to sleepwalk but forced to participate.
Again. And repeat.
That sucks, I get it, but you’re letting that shit hold you back.
You need to snap out of it.
Snap. Out of. It.
When we sulk and wallow and bemoan all the terrible things in life, we perpetuate all those terrible things. When we distract ourselves away from progress, we do so at the expense of progressing. When we let it all get the better of us, a problem become paralyzation.
Yeah, life sucks sometimes. Jobs, dogs, strangers, and even friends will inevitably drag you down, one way or another. In the history of all humanity, never is a life lived unequivocally — no life is flawless, faultless, or entirely fair.
But no matter how much debris is swirling around your storm drain, you own the tools to clean it up. No matter how bad you feel today, you always have tomorrow. No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, you can always learn from them. No matter how many mistakes are made by politicians, there’s always another election. No matter how many times people dumped on you today, you are always in charge of your own destiny, and attitude, and smile.
Snap. Out of. It.
Next time you’re wallowing in the muck of a disappointing life, pause, take a deep breath, give yourself a hearty Cher slap, and snap out of it. Put your focus back on the beautiful world around you — start creating beauty.
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.
People talk about “going into nature” like they’re doing something different and special that will give them all the answers. And by people, I mean me.
I write about this topic a lot. I’m kind of obsessed with it. I walk into nature and up a mountain, and when I get to the top I whip out my phone to write all the different and special ideas that came to me because of that walk through nature.
But truthfully, most of the time I don’t find any answers on that trail. Sure, I get some exercise and escape Facebook for a while, both beneficial things, but it’s not like the heavens opened, a beam of light shined down, and I discovered the meaning of life.
That’s because we’re thinking about nature all wrong. You, me, and most people.
Nature — all those forests and mountains and waterfalls and streams and critters— it isn’t some remote object that gives you all the feels because it’s pretty to look at. The reason it gives you all those feels is because nature is home.
Nature is us. We are nature.
And before you dismiss me as some flower power hippie, let me tell you why I believe that. Actually, why I know that.
A walk in the woods is like connecting a tap to our heritage. From it, knowledge flows. These are the trees that shaded our ancestors from the heat and fueled our fire in the cold. This is the water that sustained them. Those are the plants and animals that fed them. It is a community of interconnected living things of which we have been a part of for millennia.
Out in nature, you briefly create a direct connection to that lineage, and it activates a knowledge that’s embedded deep in our DNA.
This is why we love nature so much, and why hiking into it gives us so much in return.
I know this because it is our history. I know this because it is my history. I know this because sometimes I connect my own tap and I feel it, I hear it, I can't avoid it.
In our modern understanding of life and order, the way we now process things, it feels like we escape to nature to give us all the answers, but that's not it at all. When we go into nature we go home, and the comfort of home quietly lets us know that that answers are not out there somewhere, they're inside you and they've been there all along.
It's a shame we’ve gone to such efforts to remove ourselves from the natural world. We paved over it, carefully landscaped it, and then boxed in what was leftover into an artifact we call a “park.” We distract ourselves with fake social media friendships, fake virtual worlds, and fake news. We’re the one intelligent being that has the power to do all this, and I know it makes us feel safer in the world, but by conquering nature we denied a central, vital, natural part of our soul.
We left nature, but lost ourselves in the process.
We ask questions, but we already know the answers.
But when we go back into the woods, and spend time with it, deliberately, we’re given a gift. One that opens our minds wide enough to see the truth that lies within, as long as we let it.
Cross-posted at: medium.com/the-mindful-journeyman
There's so much noise out there these days--breaking news, politics, tweets, live streams, comment sections--and while it's important to stay aware of the frightening changes happening in our world, sometimes it can all become too much. The noise is like a sky full of clouds, so thick and menacing they block out the sun. The more time you spend in their cold shadow, the less you remember the warmth, what it feels like, that it even exists.
Find a balance. Wade into the the clouds and stay engaged, but not so much that you enter a tropical depression. Remind yourself to go outside and bask in the sun more often than less, communing with friends, nature, and love.
In these times of conflict and uncertainty, we owe it to ourselves, and to our cause, to keep both our awareness and our sanity intact for the battles ahead.
"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.
There's a dangerous passivity encouraged by the “power of positive thinking.”
Cross-posted at: medium.com/the-mindful-journeyman/the-power-of-doing
We’ve all heard of the “power of positive thinking”. It’s this idea that your destiny is controlled by your state of mind. Think a few happy thoughts and boom!, you’re happy.
There are multiple variations on this theme. Create a vision board to imagine an amazing future and boom!, the future becomes amazing. Meditate everyday and boom!, you have mindfulness in spades. Raise your arms in the air like you won a race one minute before an interview and boom!, you win and you’re hired (seriously, that’s a thing).
I’m here to say, no. No to all of that.
Thoughts are just that, thoughts. By definition they are only in your mind. They can be powerful forces to guide your life into happiness and success, but not by themselves. The only way for your thoughts to effect the actual world you live in is for you to do one very critical thing: act on them.
There’s a dangerous passivity encouraged by this theory of the power of positive thinking. It gives us the impression that we can sit back, imagine our ideal life, and if we wish for it hard enough it we’ll watch it magically unfold.
But that ideal life isn’t created by imagination, it’s created by doing. It’s built up over a series of difficult decisions and decisive actions. It’s a slowly visualized rainbow that is made up of the darkness failure, the light of success, and a thousand of gradients of unexpected color in between.
Our thoughts and ideas are definitely important. Meditation, daily affirmations, setting an intention, thinking through the tough decisions in life, and thinking through our response to those around us, they are the foundation of our betterment. But ultimately, a simple idea is useless if we never put it into practice. Our life is realized when we build a structure on that foundation. And our happiness is determined by what we build.
Or in short: what truly matters most isn’t what you think, it’s what you do with that thought.
So use the power of your mind all you want. Ponder the meaning of life, brainstorm it, vision board it, talk to friends you trust, hire a life coach, whatever. But don’t stop there. Make a plan. Make multiple plans. Take action. See it through. Life will not be handed to you on a silver platter just because you dream up a silver platter. Your life is created by you.
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.