Less Is More
(Originally published Jan 2021 on vocal.media)
You probably thought I was kidding at the end of my last post when I said this would be the title for this article. I was. I was trying to be funny…ending the article the same way it started: poking fun at clickbait headlines. Then, as I sat listening to my muse for inspiration and the idea of a 2020 reflection came to me, well, you can probably guess where this is going.
By the way… my muse? The Silence. More accurately, the deep intuitive voice of my truest self that can only be experienced in meditation when body and mind are as still as possible and all there is is the breath. The Silence is more than simply being quiet. It’s becoming so unplugged from any kind of awareness of anything, even my own thoughts, that I don’t even realize I was in it til after the fact. It’s nothing and it’s everything all at once. It’s no time and an eternity. It’s a place beyond ego, beyond fear, beyond all worries.
But I digress. So… 2020… A Year we’d just as soon wish it never happened than spend time reflecting on it. But happen it did, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, we learned a lot. We discovered aspects of ourselves we may not have previously known. We found out what we could really tolerate, both for ourselves and in society. Some of us were shocked to realize we might not be able to live with the person we’d been living with all this time. And some of us were truly shocked that the simple question, “Are You Still Watching?” could elicit all sorts of complex and complicated feelings… especially the third time in the same evening.
2020 didn’t ask us if we were ready for, or even wanted to do a deep life examination. Some of us did our darndest to pretend it wasn’t happening and demanded that life carried on status quo. That didn’t last long. And eventually we all had to ask ourselves, “Was my pre-pandemic life really working as well as I thought it was?” It was a question we dreaded, because any semblance of “No” was an invitation to change. And you know how much we all love to change!
It took months to be able to articulate what began as unsettling and undefined inklings, that would eventually become an intentional list of what I needed to release in order to lighten the load of my psychological, physiological, and spiritual life.
In 2021 I will no longer…
...want things to be different than they are. I’m not saying that things shouldn’t change, or that what’s happening is right. I’m saying that when something happens that we don’t like, that makes us uncomfortable, that frightens us, our knee-jerk reaction is to change it, or control it, or even destroy it. That puts a lot of stress and strain on us. It’s even worse when, in some cases, there’s nothing we can do. Some of us lost friends and family to Covid. They’re not coming back, and no amount of anger with the conditions that created their demise will change that. The pain and process of grief has no time frame, and we can get stuck if we fixate on wishing the precipitating event didn’t happen. We cause ourselves more harm when we sit in anger instead of acceptance.
...want me to be different than I am. Again, this isn’t about saying no to self-improvement or personal and spiritual growth. It’s about self-worth. It’s about knowing that, in spite of my flaws, I am innately whole, perfect, and worthy, and there is nothing I need to do to prove it to myself or anyone else. I am worthy simply because I exist. If I feel otherwise, it’s likely because I attribute what’s missing in my life to what’s wrong with me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with me. Or you. Can we all be better more compassionate communicators and friends and lovers? Absolutely, but those are learnable skills, not character flaws. Who I am, and who you are, is no less than anyone else because their life seems so much more perfect. That perfection is more than likely a carefully curated illusion. Thanks a lot Insta. Just as no-one sees the full picture of our life, we don’t see the full picture of theirs. Why aren’t we sharing more of our darkest moments? Maybe because we’ve been told vulnerability is weakness. The opposite is true. Only the strong dare to remove their armor and expose themselves to the world.
...waste my time, attention, and energy on anything or anyone that isn’t truly important. What and who is important? Do they know and support the real and authentic me? Does it drain or energize me? Do they lovingly hold me accountable while being a safe space? Does it bring me joy even if it’s challenging? Are they as vulnerable with me as I am with them? Does it allow me to be creative? Do they accept me as I am? Any no’s just got to go. If there’s anything I learned from my wife dying of cancer almost six years ago at the age of 42 it’s this: life is too fucking short to waste any of it. Too many lives were tragically cut short in 2020. It would dishonor them to waste ours on meaningless distractions and attention vampires.
...wait for the perfect moment. Speaking of life being too short, there’s no such thing as the perfect moment. That’s just fear doing its best to paralyze us and keep us small. Comfort zones: great places to live but nothing ever grows there. Because there are no guarantees in life, there is no perfect moment to make a different choice, to start your own business, to have a baby, to write a book, to quit the job. All we have is now, and as long as it’s a decision that supports our authentic self, now is the right time. sure, it might be scary as all hell, but heaven is the reality that comes when we live from the heart.
It’s not a long list. And it’s not a simple checklist either. 2020 forced us to stop and take stock of our lives and beliefs. We continue to muse about “getting back to normal” but last year has changed us all. And it continues to. 2021 is the year I go all in. It’s the year I strive even more to stop wanting, wasting, and waiting. It’s the year I fully embrace that I already am all that I am seeking to be. I hope you do too.
Happy New Year!
The Only Real Valuable Thing Is Intuition
(Originally posted Jan, 2021 on vocal.media)
You have to love those clickbait headlines. The kinds that leverage our insatiable need to quell the angst of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) with our succumbing to grind culture’s maxim of saving time to do more. Although, to be fair, I really am super curious about the single decision that ended the trajectory of Julia Stiles’ brilliant career. And confession time: after months of wondering, I finally found out how one injury dashed the Olympic dreams of an extremely attractive pole vaulter. We men can be such predictably sexist neanderthals.
These articles prey on something much deeper as well: a sense of unworthiness that many of us can’t quite seem to shake. While the overt message is about harnessing productivity, the subtext is less clear: you should be doing this better and quicker so you can do more because you’re clearly not doing enough and if you did more people would love you more. If this doesn’t apply to you, congratulations and thanks for reading this far. But if there’s anything I know to be true, is that if I’m feeling it, I’m not the only one.
There’s still a lot of shame around unworthiness. Toxic masculinity bears some responsibility for that. The double-standards placed on women and minorities play a part too. So does the flawed American rhetoric that we are the greatest country in the world where anyone can be anything, thus implying that if we’re not there’s clearly something wrong with us. We hear these messages every single day and the weight of them presses us into submission.
The pandemic didn’t help either. The pressure to produce picture-perfect sourdough rolls was immense. Was it just me, or was I being bullied into baking? I eventually caved, but the best I could do was a few batches of misshapen corn cookies from a Trader Joe’s mix. So many people were boasting about learning to play new instruments, and speaking new languages. It wasn't that long before the “These reminders don’t seem to be working” notifications from Duilingo stopped showing up altogether. And I may or may not have touched the keys of that free upright piano I had hauled up to my apartment since September. Go big or go home right?
The ridiculous thing was, I didn’t lose my job because of the pandemic. I actually had more to do when I started working from home. Why did I think I had more time on my hands to become fluent in Portuguese? Side note: my intentions were noble given my brother and his family live in Brazil and I always felt it would be a nice gesture to learn the language of my new in-laws, but after 14 years they’re no longer new and unless I need water, a house, or an apple, I’m shit out of luck. Compared to others, with the possible exception of my prodigious Netflix viewing (where’s the body Carole?), I felt I was a failure at even the basics of surviving the pandemic. Grind culture, comparison, and shame turned the subtle currents of unworthiness into a monsoon from which there seemed to be no safe harbor.
But every hurricane has an eye; the calm center that provides respite from the torrential rain and unforgiving winds. For those of us struggling with unworthiness, it is that still small voice of intuition. The gentle whisper that says, “this is not for me” or “my bliss lies elsewhere” or “now is the time” or “I am more than this.” Intuition goes by many names: the voice of God; the song of the ancestors; the whispers of angels; the stirring in our gut; the metaphors of our dreams. Regardless of the name we give it, we all possess it, but we don’t all give it the attention it deserves.
Not to get too woo-woo here, but intuition is the connectedness we feel to all things across time and space. I’m not just spewing metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. There are more than enough quantum physics theories and proofs to substantiate our paradoxical beyond-time-cause-and-effect-cosmic-yet-molecular existence that our feeble intellect has yet to fully grasp. None other than Albert Einstein validated this when he said, “The only real valuable thing is intuition.” When we are open to the possibilities that come with being in tune with it, we know, not think, what we need to do and when we need to do it.
Intuition might be the only life hack we really need. It guides us to our purpose and our bliss. It lets us know when to act and when to rest. It brings peace through authenticity. It asks nothing of us but a willingness to listen. It is the beginning of the end of self-doubt and unworthiness. If you’re going to use all those other life hacks, use them to carve out more space and time to practice listening to your intuition. It is your truest voice.
Now… time to go write my next article: You Won’t Believe What I’m Not Doing In 2021!