The Life You Want Now

To be mindful and present is to seek, with an intention of awareness, whatever arises in a non-judgemental way. Every moment-to-moment experience is a blueprint for what your priorities are and how you want to feel. This very moment holds the key to understanding how to maximize your ability to contain all that life throws at you. The ideas and feelings you pay attention to are your guide to realizing better-feeling-thoughts. The life you lead is an interactive experience that requires intense self-reflection and deep contemplation.

 

 

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It requires a lot more of an arduous effort to be disengaged in personal progress. The energy that is wasted directly affects your productivity and the less productive you feel the less you can ruminate in feelings of empowerment.  To be energetically focused on change is deeply fulfilling. Setting new behavioral changes that contribute to your own evolution really changes you. The only time and place to make changes is right now. If you push for more focus and more gratitude, you will experience it. You cannot expect changes in certain areas when you put all your concentration on the wrong compartments.

 

 

What we all need in order to accomplish positive life changes is momentum. Momentum creates more leverage, and leverage provides the fuel to incorporate more betterment of the self. What if every day you consciously strive to improve one aspect of your life as much as you can in that given day? When we see improvements we want to improve more. Even the most minuscule of progress is encouraging. Think of how much transition time you have in a day. How much time do you spend waiting in line at the grocery store? How much time does it take you to brush your teeth? My point in asking those questions is to shine a light on how much time actually have to focus our mind on the improvement of the self. Memorizing a poem, enacting breathing exercises, calling to check in on a loved one are all ways we can use our time a little bit more proactively.

 

 

It doesn’t matter what you think you will have time for tomorrow or in five minutes, do something right now, even if it is focusing your undivided attention on just being present and in a state of non-distractedness. True transformation doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a series of here-and-now’s  to see change occur on a lasting format.

Appreciating calmness is a useful skill. The more we go through life and face disappointments the more we will find ourselves in states of stress. Eradicating stress is not a possibility, but dealing with stress is. The only way to deal with stress is to face it head-on. Don’t ever think that you can avoid stress or distract yourself from it because it will come back to rear its nasty head in highly debilitating ways. When we push away stress we suppress what needs to be expressed. When we suppress our emotions we develop symptoms of depression and anxiety later on. We are often taught to keep emotions hidden and out-of-sight. We learn from an early age that we shouldn’t express unsavory emotions for fear of hurting others or for appearing unstable. We do ourselves a disservice when we lack assertiveness in stating what we feel because in our silence we miss opportunities to be engaged in the present moment with others.

 

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People seek comfort over discomfort (obviously), yet the non sequitur to this logic is that it leads us to believe that all stress is bad and challenging and/or disruptive conversations do not lead to feelings of safety. The truth is that to find ourselves in a place of comfort we must be willing to do the “dirty” work that leads to a more salient type of safety; a safety that comes from communicating  the hard stuff. If you do not wish to go to a coffee with a friend, then tell that friend you do not want to go. Be honest and direct about where you’re at.

 

 

A familiar saying states “a ship is safe in the harbor but that’s not what ships are built for.” We are not built to avoid rough waters of emotions. As humans, we are capable of containing whatever feelings arise. And of course, in the context of relationships there are many rough waters to navigate. When we are not willing to participate in the friction of relationships, we dismiss our own capacity to repair ruptures. When we lack assertiveness for stating what we want, need and feel, we end up with superficial interactions that do not hold ourselves accountable for each others individual strengths and weaknesses. Showing up for another person with a commitment to being assertive, even when it’s challenging to do so, creates a vitality that exists when two people are willing to process what needs to be addressed. Even when it is time to end a relationship, a friendship and/or an acquaintance (for whatever reason), the more healthy way to terminate is to be assertive about the direction of where you see the relationship going.

 

 

Putting into practice an intention of assertiveness allows for our relationships to become more deeply held. Start practicing being present in challenging moments with others by trusting your voice and informing the other of where you’re at and where you’d like to see the relationship go.  This is what it means to live in a “wholehearted” way. We inform and assert ourselves because we hold each individual as sacred, even if they no longer going to continue being a major part of our life. Developing an ability to assert is the connecting glue that can foster deeper relationships with others and with the self. In avoiding this direct type of contact we miss out on opportunities to be witnessed and to witness others. There’s a healthy calm between two people that can freely state what they are feeling. Attention to stating those wants and desires is what makes us more human.

 

 

There is a constant life-force firing throughout our bodies. We can feel our heart beating and see our limbs reach and stretch and hold. Our blood is circulating constantly and our heart beats without any need to control it. Most of what happens with our body happens without a need to manage or pay attention to its operation. Within the concept of our body as a tool for experiencing the world, we see that the more in-tune we are with our body and the more present we are to what is happening inside and outside of ourselves, the more we are able to benefit from the experience of being human.

 

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Expressions of disdain, excitement and dread all occur within our bodies. Sensations of bliss and boredom all exist in our bodies and are interpreted by our minds. We feel things sometimes deeper than others because of how aware or unaware we are of the mind body connection.

 

When someone knows deep loss it is because they know what it is like to be in a state of joy. When one experiences grief it is because they know the difference between that feeling and the feeling of being fulfilled. The contrast of experiences highlights for us our capacity to be present with these emotions. The bittersweet juxtaposition builds on itself in a way that invites us to come closer to our experience. Our ego is constantly fighting the invitation to approach our emotions with more intimate proximity. The more we avoid and the more we distract ourselves from feelings and sensations, the likelihood of fostering a present-focused mind is null. We can’t let our deeper human experiences to be withheld because we are too afraid to see what is actually in front of us.

 

Pain should be felt not treated as a problem. Anxiety should be experienced not solved. Feelings that come with loss shouldn’t be interrupted by pushing them away. Grief should be examined and understood, and by that process of being aware, the pain becomes its own remedy because the alchemy is its own therapy. Glenn Ringtved wrote some of the most profound words I think I’ve ever read, “cry, heart, but never break.” It teaches that extreme hurt is not to be celebrated if one wishes to live in the fullness of the now. Being present to challenging emotions by inviting them into our inner landscape instead of pushing them out, allows for a deepening of character that can only be brought about by facing difficult feelings head-on.

 

Loss is natural and essential, “let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.”

 

 

There are moments when we stop and look at our lives and we have to ask ourselves why we do what we do. We also ask ourselves why certain things feels so good and other things don’t. And we question ourselves and people around us and after awhile, all we are doing is questioning and there are answers but the answers only lead to more question. Maybe that’s OK that there aren’t so many answers. Perhaps the only thing we need to worry about is what makes us able to stay with the present moment regardless of what uncomfortable things shows up. In life, you have to have meaning and you have to place purpose on all the chaos around you. If you don’t infer meaning you die. If you don’t demand some form of purpose to cushion all of the hard spaces then you get lost.

 

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When we are jealous or spiteful, when we treat others poorly or when we enact self-destructive behaviors, we are essentially operating from a place of lack. Focusing on what we don’t have is, in its inception, just plain insecurity. We wish the world to be a certain way to compensate for our failings. How would your reactions be different if you were in-the-moment-present to your insecurities? Essentially, when we take a step back and create distance between our thoughts and behaviors we are able to see maladaptive patterns emerging. Awareness created by distance is a strategy that allows for deeper and deeper knowledge within the self.

 

We seek to reaffirm our lives by believing in something that gives us meaning. We crave to take ownership of stories that define our purpose. There are signs of it wherever we look, that as human beings we reject ambiguity and uncertainty. When things are confusing or don’t add up, we frantically rush to find the missing puzzle piece. We constantly seek for explanations that often times aren’t there. And this concept of tolerating ambiguity is what leads us to more and more peace within the self. We can never control the things that are out of our control, obviously. And we can only control what is in our direct control. So from here on out, set the intention to focus proactively on that which is under your control, and in doing so, you provide yourself with more time and energy because you’re not wasting time engaging in the things that you’re never going to be able to solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Answer to Life’s Productivity is When You Wake Up:

You can maximized your productivity by focusing all your energy in three hours of your day. The moment right when you wake up is proven to be the most productive at getting stuff done and getting stuff done right! Ron Friedman who is a leading researcher in this field states:

 

“Typically, we have a window of about three hours where we’re really, really focused. We’re able to have some strong contributions in terms of planning, in terms of thinking, in terms of speaking well” (via Harvard Business Review).

 

The brain has shown to to be the most ready and active after it has had an average night of sleep. Creativity is improved, alertness and even efficiency is best following waking up. Reasons for this may be linked to our subconscious minds, which is free to wonder during sleep in a way that helps make connections about things we’ve learned, ideas about how to accomplish what’s on our to-do lists and clarity about prioritizing tasks.

 

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In a way, sleep makes us more mindful because we have had all night to be calm and detached from stress. Interestingly enough, sleep also improves our ability to feel motivated by giving us a jolt of energy that isn’t otherwise ready accessible at other times of the day. So, the first things you focus on when you wake up are going to have the most attention and fuel. Conversely, what some of us do is immediately rush to our phones, look at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc… What we should be doing instead, as these studies suggest, is tackle the hardest part of our day first to maximize productivity and make the rest of the day easier.

 

A good way to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these productive hours is to make it a habit to have the first thing you do when you wake up as a time to write down notes, journal or plan the main objectives you need to accomplish in the that particular day. This will allow for a more focused energy and a sense of clarity throughout all of your daily tasks. I wouldn’t be writing this unless I didn’t believe it in. I’ve been noticing huge benefits from implementing this type of a focused and productive morning schedule and I highly recommend it! Feel free to keep me posted on ways in which you’re able to maximize your morning routine by commenting on this post below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To truly “know thyself” is in some respects unattainable. Once you finally think you’ve discovered who you are, life throws at you a new experience. The deeper you go into the discovery process of what makes you the person you are, other components of yourself start to emerge. Nonetheless, there is a core essence of who you are that never changes. Getting in touch with that core-self can be both challenging and simple, depending on your focus.

 

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The process of the evolving self is entirely dependent on the present moment. Without being present in the here-and-now, one cannot come to know the real version of the self. By being connected and aware in the present moment, we are able to understand that the uncovering process is more about the melting away of the outside armor which means that by stripping away the exterior, you start to see that the core of who we are is already whole and needs no additives.

 

Often we look to our emotions as a guide for self-discovery. We seek to identify with emotions because they can be so palpable and immediate, yet the process of labeling ourselves via emotional states creates a platform of false associations. When we focus too much on thoughts, feelings and sensations, we loose the ability to see with insight the core of who we really are. When we stop claiming “I am sad” and instead mention,”I am experiencing sadness” we start the process of knowing ourselves with a lot more clarity. When we focus on the waves and not the ocean, we loose sight of the vastness of all that is. When we only see the weather and not the stars behind the storm, we miss out on the fullness of the universe. There will always be stars regardless of if our vision is hazy from fog and clouds, it’s simply up to us to remind ourselves of that.

 

The awareness of life and all its fluidity is how we come to experience more ownership over who we are. In moments of deep emotional experience we can learn how to be more attune to that which does not change. These fluid states of pain and consternation reveal to us our tolerance for the “intolerable.” For example, when we are triggered by a certain experience or feeling, it helps to first pause and reflect without acting on that thought immediately. These are useful teaching moments that help us to sift through charged human reactions and instead stay engaged in the process by simply acknowledging that the emotion is present. This not-rushing-to-fix-or -rasp moment is what it means to be present.

 

Learn to engage without an agenda in the chaos of everyday experiences. This skill alone will teach us how to be more human by accepting that uncertainty and ambiguity are simply an aspect of being alive. Train your brain to stay focused on proactive components and interventions rather than overly paying attention to the things that spark a reaction.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of freedom; free to act and do and dream. With each present moment you create your own reality, yet we rarely are present to all that could be possible if we just listened with awareness instead of grasping and pushing away discomfort. We fret and worry about things that happened in the past, and we scramble to try and control (with feelings of angst and concern) about things that have not happened yet. Being present means feeling free from the binds and shackles of the past and future.

 

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We are constantly becoming and we are forever creating who we are by the nature of how present we are in the here-and-now. If we can rehearse again and again what it feels like to not escape into thoughts of the past and future, we become comfortable with being uncomfortable and are able to harness the power of the present moment. Being able to tolerate any challenging emotions allows us to stay present instead of rushing to fix things that are out of our control. We will always have the impetus to seek safety from harm, such is our human condition. It is normal to want to be free from pain, yet the lengths we go to to eradicate said discomfort is what leads to impaired functioning. After all, comfort is fleeting, and acknowledging the impermanence of all emotions even when they are pleasurable is what it means to be present.

 

The process of improving upon the self involves the perspective that you have all you need in the present moment. Draw your attention to welcoming ambiguity while at the same time taping into a state of empowerment by being present to the ever evolving and unfixed nature of your existence. Don’t be distracted by the feeling of being in flux. Don’t be afraid of the limitless possibilities that exist.

 

When we practice non-reactivity and non-attachment, such as Buddhism teaches, we see that the mind’s real nature is like the entirety of the sky and that our ideas and feelings are similar to clouds that hide the full view. Never loose sight of the sky by feeling constricted by the clouds. The sky is ever-present and the clouds are just momentary. Release the clouds of emotion and thought by focusing on the open expansion of the mind.

 

Meditation is the the practice that allows us to focus on the sky even when clouds are in the way. Instead of focusing on the drama that surrounds most experiences, try to relate to the myriad of possibilities that exist in any given oment. Welcome all thoughts and feelings by not rejecting any of the discomfort but embrace the limitless possibilities that the sky holds for you.

When we are present, when we attempt to operate from a place of awareness, when we focus on having an in-the-moment experience, and when we learn how to focus on the here and now, we train our brains to learn how to detach from narratives that keep us in a reactionary state. It is important to note that the habit of being reactionary is a process that can be undone by deconstructing narratives that make you the central character.

 

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When you react from a place of jealousy, anger and resentment you perpetuate a narrative that is all about you. This personalization is a result of being disconnected from the present moment. Instead, each time we pause and focus on the present we allow for less ego driven narratives and find ourselves with expansive moments of proactive choices. Responding in a non-reactionary way leads to feelings of freedom that are not otherwise present when we are beholden to narratives about our personal expectations.

 

Changing the course of an ego driven narrative is essentially what the practice of mindfulness is. When we interrupt a reaction of taking things personal, we become much more effective in being able to train our brain to approach challenging emotions with more resilience. As opposed to just distracting ourselves or suppressing sensations, which leads to more destructive behaviors. You cannot rid yourself of certain thoughts and emotions, but you can train your brain to loosen the grip on those emotions and place your focus on a more advantageous idea.

 

Try interrupting old reactionary patterns by focusing less on the narrative and more on the impermanence of sensations. Practice identifying when self-serving narratives are becoming your first response. As much as you can, look for ways to turn your attention towards the immediacies of present sensations and rehearse what it feels like to be free of narratives that hold us hostage.

 

 

 

The ambiguity of being human is a fundamental factor of existence. How we approach the ambiguity of life determines the decisions we will make. In my previous post I spoke about how attachment to wanting things to be a certain way is the root of all suffering. When things do not feel good, we have the urge to ‘grasp’ for or ‘push away’ from said feeling. This practice of ‘controlling’ is the urge to find safety and cling to it at all costs.

 

We are constantly seeking control and the reason for this is that ambiguity is uncomfortable. On the flip side, when things feel good, a moment of excitement or contentment is realized and we tend to grasp for ways to keep it going. Pema Chödrön states that when we seek for the wishing away of pain and the pushing away of discomfort “we turn to anything to relieve the discomfort-food, alcohol, sex, shopping, being critical or unkind.”

 

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A more advantageous choice, when dealing with difficult emotions, involves paying full attention to the place of discomfort. In doing so, we use our breath and channel it towards where the pain resides. Rather than avoiding the hurt, you become present to it while at the same time releasing the painful narrative by focusing breathing into that pain. Avoidance of the pain will not solution anything. To open yourself up to healing, you have to open yourself up to all the thoughts and feelings that make you human. Opening up to the uncomfortable sensation is proactive and allows your body and mind to work together to provide healing.

 

Whether you are feeling a physical or emotional hurt, the process is the same. All difficult emotions and sensations can be met by opening up yourself to the experience instead of reinforcing the narrative of how and why it occurred. The outcome of this breathing-into-discomfort technique is quite remarkable. When we place our full awareness on the thing that ails us, the hurt becomes about the sensation instead of the history of how it got there.

 

The pain we suffer is completely theoretical. The way we relate to the pain equals how much the pain has power over us. The manner in which we view the discomfort, dictates how long it will fester. The more we create concepts and stories around our pain, the more we loose sight of our ability to soothe our discomfort through our breath. I often tell my clients when learning mindfulness breathing that the breath should feel like a massage from the inside out, releasing tension and allowing a process for your mind to stop spinning it’s wheels of hurt and to focus on one of the most healing agents we immediately have at our disposal… our breath.

Buddhism teaches that the concept of suffering relates to fixed ideas about how things ‘should’ be. It is normal to expect life to be a certain way. As humans we take comfort in safe and predictable outcomes, yet the world and all its chaos is never predictable and rarely provides expected returns. Expecting life to be a certain way leads to painful reactions of loneliness and anger, not to mention all the other feels. Needless to say, it is hard to stop expecting and it is even harder to start learning how to allow.

 

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Having a fixed identity without the presence of fluidity or an ongoing sense of discovery, provides us with a false sense of ourselves. This false sense of security is perpetuated again and again by insisting to see life through a series of expectations. The reasons we seek certain relationships and scenarios are because those experiences support our ‘expected self.’ Operating from a place of our ‘expected self’ causes more pain and necessary heartache. When we let go of expectations of who we think we are and who other people should be, we start to view those around us as non-enemies; important learning tools that teach us existential lessons about who who we really are.

 

Many people seek a connection with deity or a spiritual path because they feel the need to be protected from the unpredictability of life. Yet, seeking a higher power or higher forms of consciousness requires an understanding that the unpredictability of life is what allows us to truly see an empowered and authentic being at the center of our core. The only way to strip away expectations is to trust the unfixed nature of our existence. Pema Chödrön likens this aspect of the spiritual path to taking off “the armor” of our identity and letting the ego and all our attachments melt away.

 

When we enact a pause moment or window of reflection throughout our day with non-judgmental and non-critical lenses, we are able to see how profound and unfixed the world really is. And at the same time, we begin to operate with more awareness of how the unpredictability of life allows us to be in a constant state of evolving and appreciating. The more aware and present we are, the more we are able to enact change. The more we are able to let things go and release ruminating thoughts of worry, we be come more creative and resourceful. Awareness is the lens by which we start to see that all uncertainty is to be embraced, not pushed away. And this ability to tolerate the impermanence of life is the key to being non-reactive and resilient through all moments and encounters.