The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper-
From an early age, I was led to believe that I needed to become a “better” and “improved” version of myself, even if at first I didn’t exactly understand why. When I was young lad, I found myself inured with the basic belief that the main underlying issue to all my problems was – Me. I’m what’s wrong in the world. These thoughts have stayed with me my entire life, even now, writing to you with an open heart and mind. I have traveled the world far and wide; taken to heart many self-help books, sought out the best doctors and healers, consulted spiritual folks whose motives were unclear at the time. Everything and anything else you can imagine, all in an effort to make myself just good enough.
Many of you reading tenderly this early Spring morning, may be thinking that mindfulness, spirituality and self-help are one in the same – the latest trend to follow or a conversation starter at your local yoga studio. I don’t believe they are. Using myself as a relatively small sample size, I believe they are fundamentally different. Our society is currently in the process of turning mindfulness into an endless stream of self-help profits – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction seminars and many other method(s) for correcting our life long ailments. What these programs do, is to misrepresent the awakening that discovering our own spirit offers.
Mindfulness is not about “fixing” anything even remotely spiritual or becoming spiritually better off than anyone else. There is no price tag attached to mindfulness. For myself, mindfulness is freedom. Freedom from the belief of my unworthiness in our mad world … Mindfulness is about acceptance. Mindfulness, when I find myself at the edge of tears after a bad day, is about meeting (again) who we really are, and allowing ourselves to experience this amazing world, in this raw, unsettling moment.
My deepest apologies for being absent Dear Readers. May all your hearts be filled with warmth and happiness this weekend – Take care!
Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you-
Throughout our live(s) we have been led to believe that giving outweighs receiving. During the Christmas/Holiday/Festivus season, the humble “art” of giving serves as a counterbalance to society(s) increasing narcissism and isolation. Witnessing what others need to be happy requires compassion and kindness, your head to be up, eyes forward, heart open … As I walk along Regent Street, I asked myself – aloud– waiting to cross Lensfield road, a rather simple question walking to class yesterday afternoon:
Can we openly allow ourselves to be nourished by a strangers kindness? If so, how deeply do we let it in?
Weaving through the arriviste crowd onto Hills Road, I turn a corner. Life goes on.
I love going on lazy walks (especially when its 60°F in December), and as strange and awkward as it may seem (those of you who know my true shy nature) I really enjoy sharing a smile, or a “good afternoon” to those passing along in the opposite direction. In Cambridge, when I pass along a favor of stepping aside for another cyclist, the hammering of their affectionately adorned brass cycling bell, ringing in my ears … When I smile and say “hello” to a group of walkers sauntering closer to me? I’m not sure if they feel awkward, shy, or are they simply not used to people sharing kindness?
Lost in the folds of these fleeting greetings, my awkwardness and whatever, the beauty of the gift slips out of their hands. This slight on their part, eats away at me, and my mind often travels to a dark area. Where each and every question I ask myself, diminishes my ability to share compassion and kindness. I feel guilty, I continue moving on with my head down. Life goes on.
A salve for my loneliness, my increasing isolation walking to yoga class along Union Road? Is taking a moment to pause, to seek out more opportunities to share compassion and kindness when the odium comes flying in my general direction.
Trying to tie my shoes, clumsy, not able to work out
the logic of it, fumbling, as my father stands there,
his anger growing over a son who can’t even do
this simplest thing for the first time, can’t even manage
the knot to keep his shoes on—You think someone’s
going to tie your shoes for you the rest of your life?—
No, I answer, forty-five years later, tying my shoe,
hands trembling with this memory. My father
and all those years of childhood not being able to work out
how he loved me, a knot so tight it has taken all my life
I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel-
For the past two years in late August, I bike for nearly ten hours, one hundred plus miles, into the picturesque countryside around Omaha, Nebraska.. Out here, I don’t have a laptop, a navigation gadget, or anyone to talk to. It’s just me and my bike, and a few Western Meadowlarks greeting me kindly.
The first twenty miles are the hardest. I’m on an adrenaline high at first, I wake early and start riding East, where the brilliant glow of a sunrise brings a smile to my tired face. The air is clear on these desolate gravel roads, there is no sound of traffic, yet suddenly – I start to feel lonesome. I feel an urge to text a picture of what I am witnessing to someone, and when I realize I can’t, my phone is resting at home in the garage, a feeling of anxiety pours over me. I can’t turn back now as I turn south into a gentle breeze, so I begin to listen to my thoughts; I go over the events of the week, honoring my thoughts makes me feel less stirred up. Something surprising happens mid-ride, I feel a sense of peace. There is no particular switch that is flipped, I recall thinking at the time: I’m alone, and I’m happy.
Rarely do I get lonely riding anymore. I have loved ones and friends in my life whom I deeply cherish and value, yet, I don’t feel the need to be with them constantly. While it’s wonderful to go on a weekly group ride, I also happily wave so long to them when they turn around to head home, and I continue on … My time, this tender moment, is completely my own again.
I don’t partake in these grueling rides to prove anything. I’m out there, because I have fully surrendered to the power of solitude. It has taught me so much about myself. Most importantly, there’s no one to share opinions with, about who I am or what I’m doing. I don’t have a FaceTube status to update, nor do I have a future conversation with someone sloshing between my ears. What hits home the hardest is when I hit the 100+ mile marker, when I’m alone this much on a bike – man and machine, I can’t turn my back and avoid the problems in my life or allow a stray emotion to weigh me down. I can’t distract myself by blogging or surfing the net. What shines through, is the warm glow of my heart.
Time passes differently after 120 miles. I once watched a young doe leap over an eight foot fence from standing; slowing down as she turned to look at me, the sun passed directly overhead during this time, and I didn’t even notice I was heading West. I patiently listen to the wind as I unzip my jersey to cool off as I head home.
The most exhausting part of the ride, is heading home. I have forgotten about the traffic late at night, the stimulation, the nauseating advertisements seemingly everywhere. Sprinklers running, dogs barking, are a jolt to my body … Although friends, the cold shower awaiting me is simply divine.
Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak… surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that-
There are many misconceptions about the role “results” play in achieving our goals (whatever they may be.)
We should define a couple of words before we move on – outcome and process. An outcome is centered on results, beating others and posting it on social media. A process involves focusing on what we need to do perform our very best, such as how we prepare and nurture our souls, training, or even practicing mindfulness. Notice how an outcome is focused on “things” outside of you. While in contrast, a process is focused entirely on you?
Most of us think that (myself included at times), in order to get the results we want, we need to focus on those results. Wanna get better at yoga? Gotta be more flexible! Loose a few pounds before summer begins … When does the outcome of a competition occur? At the end of course. If we become obsessed on the outcome, we are not focused on the process – What we need to do to perform our best from the start to the finish. What makes you nervous before yoga class or a big ride, the process or the outcome? It’s the outcome, and more specifically, a bad outcome such as not performing well or tumbling over trying to reach your “peak” pose. When we focus on the outcome, we are far less likely to get the outcome we want.
When we pause to focus on the process, we increase the chances of achieving the results we so richly deserve.
Sometimes, I can’t shift my heart from the outcome to process, the best thing I can do when this happens, is to get out of my mind completely. In other words, I go for an early morning walk, bike ride, or like yesterday morning – yoga practice in a quiet park. These moments gently take me from thinking about the outcome to, feeling the process.
It has always seemed that a fear of judgment is the mark of guilt and the burden of insecurity-
I ask of you on this lovely May morning – Are you really curious how the next five, ten, fifteen years of your life will look like?
Possibility and wonder flourish in the wide open spaces of uncertainty. If we were absolutely certain about how everything would turn out in our lives, we would have no room to consider what might happen if we choose a different direction, a different path altogether. Imagine how “life” might be like stuck in an endless one-way street, on a set deserted railroad tracks with rails so straight and narrow, we would never be able to see beyond our next step.
When we pause to think about it, like our beautiful lives, a seed is both fragile and dense with endless possibility. Provided with the proper conditions, a tiny seed can grow to be a beautiful tree or a plant that bears yummy fruit, flowers or those things called vegetables! In our hyper connected world it pays to remember that a seed grows at its own pace. For that seed to be its absolute best, it will need plenty of love, compassion, kindness and care.
Friends, we are no different, anticipation of what could be possible, is what makes life exciting. In order to breathe possibility into reality, we need fertile ground, a stable environment and a warm, kind and compassionate heart.
May a dose of uncertainty grace your lives this morning … What will become of this seed, your life? Only you possess the magic, that is your frigging awesome life, in the palm of your loving hands.
*It’s good to be back with you, my Dear Readers, after finishing the Citizens Academy of Omaha’s Future last night. There are many stories and new topics to share with you, until then – Take care and be well! And before I forget – Its National Bike Challenge Month!*
“Be a lotus in the pond,” she said, “opening
slowly, no single energy tugging
against another but peacefully,
I couldn’t even touch my toes.
“Feel your quadriceps stretching?” she asked.
Well, something was certainly stretching.
Standing impressively upright, she
raised one leg and placed it against
the other, then lifted her arms and
shook her hands like leaves. “Be a tree,” she said.
I lay on the floor, exhausted.
But to be a lotus in the pond
opening slowly, and very slowly rising–
that I could do.