To Express The Creative Capacity of Our Essence

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.  – Joseph Campbell

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Absolute freedom. A life devoted to creative self-expression.

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A life that is fundamentally free is one that is free of certainty.  Purpose, passion, goals. . .they do not matter. The only guarantee of success is that every outcome is uncertain.  Their is no guarantee. Our purpose is not to be found or “discovered”. Our essence is to be expressed or we may fall into arrested expansion.

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To become completely comfortable with uncertainty is total freedom.

To live a life that is full of curiosity, enthusiasm and wonder.

To be free to live open to every situation at one time that we imagined would be difficult or a conflict.

To express the creative capacity of our essence.

This is how our lives become a work of art.

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To live in direct contact with the perpetual, dynamic uncertainty that is implicit in the power of life itself.  To appreciate the mystery of life.

This is equal to living in the heart of intimate freedom.

When we simply are, we are free.

There is no purpose to be found. Just the creative expression of life itself.

As you stroll along, if you’re awake enough, you will be led by your curiosity and excitement.

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Recommended Reading

Will I Be The Hero of My Own Life

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Links

Why Finding Your Passion is Bullshit @ThoughtCatalog

The Bullshit Question Your Ego Loves

Screw Finding Your Passion @markmansonnet

 

Quotes

The granddaddy of the consciousness movementGeorge Leonard was a co-founder of the Aikido of Tamalpais dojo in Corte Madera, California. He also developed the Leonard Energy Training (LET) practice for centering the mind, body, and spirit.

Art

Arrested Expansion by George Grie

Cairo is my muse by Huda Lutfi

Featured Art by Penelope Slinger

How to Be More Like You

E. E. Cummings wrote, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.

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People just put facades out there. They even admit that one facade is a little more real than the other. You go to work and get lost in your professional facade, but then you say. “I’m going home to be with my family and friends where I can just be myself.” So your work facade drops into the background, and your relaxed social facade comes forward. But what about you, the one who is holding the facade together? Nobody gets near that one. That’s just too scary. That one is too far back there to deal with. 

from The Untethered Soul The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer.

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Oh, the armor we put on every morning becomes heavier to bear, year-after-year.  Tara Brach calls it our “spacesuit strategy“, we slip it on every day as we head out into the world to attract attention, admiration, and appreciation. No wonder why we are so mentally exhausted, always trying to be something we are not for temporary shots of counterfeit recognition.

Emotional Masks

These emotional masks, the masks we hide behind because of fear. For example, if we are insecure, we might hide behind the mask of name-dropping. If we are unsure of our power, we can hide behind mask of being a bully. If we don’t think the world loves us, we can hide behind mask of anger. We mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford; we pretend things are fine at work, when our jobs are on the line; we pretend things are okay in our marriages when there is distance. 

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It starts with just noticing when you are not being you. When you are saying things and doing things just to get attention or acknowledgment. Just think about how nice you are to people when they behave in accordance with your expectations.

Artwork by Dimitra Milan

 

Opportunities to Seize vs. Temptations to Resist

Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

 

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What if I make the wrong one?

Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” 
The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” 
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?

– Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

 

The phenomenon of overchoice occurs when many equivalent choices are available.  Examples of overchoice include college options, career options, and prospective romantic relationships.  Many increased by technology. In today’s world, we have easy access to more of everything at our fingertips.

Overcoming That Overwhelming Feeling

It helps to remember your final destination. Where have you set your sites? Your goals?

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Recalling your dreams helps to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.

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“If you haven’t the strength to impose your own terms upon life, then you must accept the terms it offers you.”

 

Featured image by  Remedios

Surreal Horses

Girl with Binoculars by Bernie Fuchs

Staying Awake, Alive & In The Moment, Even in Times of Uncertainty

Three very memorable lessons from my morning (reading and mediation) ritual today.
Live Like This
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Act, speak, write and create as if it were your very last day. Your last moment here. Create from the heart as if you are expressing yourself for the last time. Like this is it. Make it all matter.
Listen: Tara Brach Accessing Innate Wisdom
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Let Go of The Controls
Stay open to the impermanence of life. To all of the change that is happening around you. To the fact that everything is constantly evolving.
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Discipline yourself to wake up out of the trance-like “thought” and come into your senses, awake and aware of this moment right now. Stay in touch with your aliveness. Open up to the space between your thoughts. Inhabit the pause, the silence between your monkey mind chatter.  Learn to tolerate the groundlessness & uncertainty of life. Let it all happen, even in times of maddening uncertainty.
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Stay Amazed and Astonished
Life is nothing short of a miracle. This is something to remember when you are busy managing the mundane. Never forget the miracle of being alive right now.
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How Honest Do We Really Want to Be with Ourselves?

I am 1,000 % absofuckinglutely certain that I should be recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the biggest idiot on the planet for repeating the same damn mistakes over and over again for most of my adult life. Life on repeat can be brutal.

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Why am I so susceptible to making the same mistakes over and over again?  Whether it’s ruining a diet with three glasses of wine, running credit card debt on a bunch of useless stuff I never needed in the first place, trusting a friend who was way less than honest or sacking up with an ex.  What possesses me/us to continue to do things that get in the way of what we truly want? Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of what life would be if we didn’t do the things we did on repeat? Maybe. Perhaps it’s a matter of finding the holes. The holes we keep falling into. The mind-numbing, soothing and relaxing way our brain feels after a glass or two or three of wine. Or the familiar, comfortable and easy way it feels to slip right back into the arms of the one you once loved.  I need to look at the benefits of my biggest mistakes.

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Read: How to be honest with yourself and get more done, for some decent advice on how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Harmful Habits & Slipping into Default Mode

When we do something right, a pathway is created in our brain. Unfortunately, a pathway is also created when we something wrong. We basically build habits this way, both good and bad. So the reason we keep making the same mistakes is that we slip by default back into existing neural pathways.

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Achieving Ego Free States

Sometimes I feel like I need a complete rewiring of the brain.

Research into psychedelics, shut down for decades, is now yielding exciting results.

It seems that individuals under “treatment” transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states . . . and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance. Read more in The New Yorker: The Trip Treatment

Natural Reactions

If you have ever been accused of “overreacting” and you think something is wrong with you because someone told you so, then this 10-minute watch is critical for your growth. Bottom line: Reactions are NATURAL. Overreacting is a warning sign that you have been hurt badly. You have to HEAL that, not shame it away.

 

When Our Minds Run in Circles

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Reading, learning and practicing how to meditate to calm my mind, I am focusing on what Buddhists call “maitri”

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Maitri – practicing loving kindness and awareness to all your thoughts. Read: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. The purpose of meditation is not to find your bliss, but to befriend and let go of all thoughts – the good, the bad and the ugly. To accept them all with loving-kindness, with maitri.

The Benefits of Being Socially Selective

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I just don’t have the bandwidth, headspace or patience for anyone right now. That is quite alright in my book. Sometimes we need a little solitude to sort things out. I just wish more people were fluid in silence.

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Comment  below if you agree and have a great Monday.

 

Blind to the Beauty of This Moment

Distraction is the main problem for us all – what the Buddha called the monkey mind. We need to tame this little monkey mind. Tenzin Palmo

As entertaining as it can be, please don’t feed the monkey mind.

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When we are unaware that we are unaware.
Then we rush and ramble through the day, doing the “important” and the urgent, going after the goals, just killing it, aren’t we though?
Both numb and dumb to the fierce and wild beauty of the present moment.
Asleep at the wheel.
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Not taking notice of our surroundings, the people we are with and even our own presence. Too busy snapping instead of savoring.
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Oh to be mindless,  as we let the monkeys swing from vine to vine through our head. Pulling us from thought-to-thought with our every emotion.  The seedlings for anxiety and panic.
So disconnected with life smack in front of us – to notice the simple and ordinary joy of the day or the pain and suffering of our brother nearby.
And those seemingly little blessings that are happening every moment for our benefit? Wait for it.
Your mind just can’t be here, there and everywhere, yet this is how we go.
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To be painfully and gratefully aware and awake with appreciation.  This is how we grow.
Inspired by my mother’s doctor who removed her cataracts today. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world.
Overtime, like many people, mom got use to seeing the world in a blurry, shadow-like haze. In faded color instead of technicolor. It happened gradually over time. Let us not get use to going blind to the beauty of this moment.
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To Die To Everything of Yesterday

To Die To Everything of Yesterday
To be free of all authority, of your own and that of another, is to die to everything of yesterday, so that your mind is always fresh, always young, innocent, full of vigour and passion.
It is only in that state that one learns and observes. And for this a great deal of awareness is required, actual awareness of what is going on inside yourself, without correcting it or telling it what it should or should not be, because the moment you correct it you have established another authority, a censor.
From the teachings of  J. Krishnamurti 
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Shedding Some Light on Just How Damn Annoying Life Can Be

Life can be so absolutely annoying when things don’t go as planned. Come on, don’t you agree? It’s all quite amusing how we think just because we set these great goals and go after them with all our might that everything is going to open up for us.
Sure I’d like to believe that life is happening FOR me and not TO me (thank you very much Tony Robbins) and that I am not a victim of circumstance, but the truth is life is very very complex and a lot of stuff just happens that is way out of our control. Things we don’t understand, that nobody understands, and then to add insult to injury,  we take this shit so personally. It’s a mystery really.
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Working with The Monsters in Our Mind & NOT Becoming a Fugitive To Our Fears

On my future read list “The Life of Milarepa Read on to understand why.

I like to read like three books at a time, maybe more. Right now in the morning, I am reading Pema Chodron’s  When Things Fall Apart 
I don’t want anyone to know that my life seems to be continually falling apart, so I covered the front of it with a sticker from Spoonbill Books, one of my favorite stores in Brooklyn.
Chapter 19’s a trip wire.  “Three Methods for Working with Chaos” Pema outlines three methods for relating directly with the most difficult circumstances of our lives as a path of awakening and joy.
Method #1  No more struggle
Method #2  Using poison as medicine
Method #3  Seeing whatever arises as enlightened wisdom
These are methods for working through the most painful moments in our lives. Method #3 according to Pema reminds me of Inviting Mara to Tea, in other words, inviting what scares us to introduce itself and hang around for awhile. Sounds like a fun Sunday right? Yeah sure, but that’s how we grow.
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Quote from the book . . .
As Milarepa sang to the monsters he found in his cave, “it’s wonderful you demons came today. You must come again tomorrow. From time-to-time we should converse.”
We start by working with the monster in our mind.  Then we develop the wisdom and compassion to communicate sanely with the threats and fears of our daily life.
What I found absolutely fascinating was the image used in Tibetan Buddhism for working with chaos, the charnel burial grounds. As Pema explains, in Tibet, the charnel grounds are what we call graveyards.  The American Indians seemed to also have the idea. . .
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Now, the bodies were not under a nice mowed lawn with little white stones carved with angels and pretty words.
In Tibet the ground was frozen so bodies were chopped up after people died and taken to the charnel grounds, where the vultures would eat them.  Some would  be asked to meditate at the charnel grounds to understand the circle of life, complete with death.
Death, probably our biggest fear.
More practical ways to understand more about leaning into fear from Leo at Zen Habits.

On a more pleasant note. . .

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When we Don’t Grow Emotionally

My daughter recently called me emotionally immature. She said it in such a loving way, but it stung none the less. When we moan, groan and whine when we don’t get exactly what we want, when we want it, how we want it. This usually happens when we are not at our strongest, when we are frightened perhaps?  Maybe we are tired, hungry, angry, lonely, scared. Who knows?  But it is then that we can take every disturbance and interruption  so damn personally don’t we?

For Example . . .

Meditation today on the beach was almost ruined by an awfully noisy and very annoying beach tractor circling around me. Trying to find a quiet place to close my eyes and be “in the moment”, this guy just wouldn’t go away.  He kept moving closer and closer to my towel. I tried to meditate in spite of the loud motor drowning out the peaceful sound of the ocean waves.
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Just keeping focusing on the breath. Just accept it, I kept telling myself.  My mind fluctuated between just go and flow with it . . . all the way to . . . WTF, I just can’t get this time back. It was torture. It almost felt like he was doing it on purpose.
I actually started to tell myself that story.  “He’s purposely trying to ruin my beach meditation and Sunday swim.
Now, why the hell would I take this so personally? As if. But don’t we do that often. When things don’t go our way. When people annoy us with their absolute nonsense? When things don’t go as planned. When we are really disappointed.
Only after thinking more clearly did I come to the realization that this man has an actual job to do – it has nothing to do with me.  He gets paid to clean up the beach so people, like myself, can enjoy it. How about asking the question “Why am I getting in his way?” Always thinking about me. It’s all about me. Blah, Blah, Blah.
A poem by Dana Faulds
Let it Go
Click to read Pema’s book

Thoughtless Action

What has made matters worse, is how hard I actually try. It amazes me how I try so hard to make everything in life exactly how I want it to be without ever thinking of the possible effects my decisions might have on future outcomes and on those around me. I spend my days running from pain, chasing pleasurable moments and trying to get some “me” time, planning, scheming and doing all of the special things that I want to do.
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Leaping Before You Look

How I absolutely leap before I look and act so impulsively based on what I want for myself. I want more money, so I take on more really difficult projects without even thinking about the actual time, effort and energy these projects will take. Then I kill it by overpromising and ultimately under delivering.   Just wonderful.  So many great intentions failed miserably because I didn’t take the time to think things through.
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Becoming More Discerning

For example, if I am feeling the slightest  bit lonely and I want more friends, I open myself up to meeting and embracing anyone that comes into my life instead of realizing the value I will bring to the relationship and how much more discerning I need to be about who I choose to spend my time with.  I think we all do it from time to time. I act more out of FOMO instead of becoming more self aware of my actual needs from a true friend. This is probably why friendships can disappoint us.

What’s this About The Importance of Self-Value?

If you have any interest in the possible healing powers of Ayahuasca, I strongly recommend you check out The Last Shaman documentary. You can watch it on Netflix. It got mixed reviews, but it was absolutely eye opening in many ways. I have always wondered about the powers of “grandmother’s medicine” but frankly, I prefer meditation as my medication.
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Oh, side note: Ayahuasca is an hallucinogenic drug concocted by chopping and boiling Amazonian plants known to indigenous people for a very long time. The first western knowledge of ayahuasca was by a British biologist in 1851. The principal ingredient is made from a vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, (‘vine of the soul’ or ‘vine with a soul’); a second key ingredient, is either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or chagropanga (Diplopterys cabrerana). Ayahuasca contains a powerful psychedelic substance DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine). Drinking the brew induces an altered, hallucinatory state that lasts up to eight hours.

And More about Self-Love

And what is it about the devaluing of oneself that serves us? Why do I not think about becoming a bit more compassionate and self loving? Why don’t I focus on this more. Wouldn’t I be more of a delight to be around if I sometimes took care of myself first?
If I took care of my needs and came to the party called life with my best dress on?
The one I thoughtfully chose to wear? Why not spend a bit more time on me? Does that seem to selfish? Perhaps we tolerate so much of others nonsense because we are not self aware enough to know what we truly value in ourselves and others.

Decreasing the Pain in the World

I find the more I open up to listening and learning from others, the more thoughtful I become. It’s like building a better brain by borrowing from others curiosity, understanding and deep research.
I am listening to James Altucher interview AJ Jacobs and the two of them brought up a great point about how we might focus our actions – actually become more thoughtful about whether our actions are increasing or decreasing the suffering in this world. Big or small, every action you take can either add to the pain of others or make life easier.
Listen to James Altucher’s Podcast, an interview with A.J. Jacobs The Intersection Between Discomfort & Curiosity.
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To Know The Truth

Don’t deny your world. Your world does not need saving, it needs more of your loving care.  It’s begging you to pay more attention to the details.

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Pay attention.

Accept this moment for what it is.

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Suffering is just the refusal to accept what is.

Healing is really just letting yourself feel your most suppressed feelings and recognizing that these feelings are fleeting.

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Each day we must go to war and fight the good fight. Vivere est Militare. To live is to fight. Fighting for our dreams with fortitude. Fighting against impulses with discipline. Fighting to be the person I want to be with courage.

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Life is a battlefield.

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Critical Life Lessons from Watching My Parents Die

They’re not dead yet, but they aren’t living either, although they were once a fantastic dynamic duo, living quite a wonderful life, they are now in a highly emotional state trying to navigate a fiercely complex and shifting terrain that is filled with unknowns.

Now at 76 my mom has stage four lung cancer and even though she will start a new FDA-approved targeted therapy in less than a week, she is very scared, angry and confused. It is a part of the acceptance process, I guess and I hope it will pass.

Dad claims he can take care of her and will not accept any help in their home. It’s causing everyone in the family senseless, needless pain and worry, but it’s even more difficult not to help them. It is a twisted form of enabling and the situation changes daily. How do you know when you’re enabling an elderly loved one as opposed to actually helping them out with something they need?

Life Lessons Learned from The Dying Thus Far

  1. Be Open & Responsive to Change

darwin.jpgBoth of my parents are stubbornly holding on to old ways and traditions that no longer serve them and probably never served anyone well. They are trying so hard to hold on to their independence as they shut out the world around them. They refuse any help at all while making life harder for everyone, including themselves. Their behavior has affected not only their lives but all of us who care for them as they insist on struggling terribly through their days. Their lack of flexibility and adaptability is actually driving their decline even faster than if they chose to open their minds to new ways of staying as safe, secure and healthy as possible.

2. The Trouble is, You Think You have Time

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Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. ~Art Buchwald

What you do with the time you have now, while you are actually able to live is most important. More important than savings, work or taking care of daily activities of living. Do not hesitate for one instance to do, try and execute everything you have ever dreamed of – for you have no time. Forgive and let go of the past, tell someone what they mean to you and  celebrate each and every miracle of breath that you take. Gratitude for what you have right here and right now is everything. Do more with your life while you have it to live. Do not take this lightly. This is the most crucial lesson.

3. Know Your Limitations, So You Can Move Forward 

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My parents won’t accept their current weaknesses – fading health and loss of memory, which is causing them even more harm and possibly big trouble for others. How many times does it take getting lost while driving, or losing your cell phone, checkbook, wallet and keys before you realize that your memory isn’t what it was? Only when we honestly examine ourselves and accept our current limitations can we improve or find the tools, people or plan to help us work around the obstacles we face. If we don’t accept that we have a problem, than how can we fix it? 

4. It Takes a Measured Amount of Expectation & Acceptance to Survive

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Yes I see how refusing to accept the aging process can be helpful- expecting more from yourself and those around you can actually keep you going, but your approach is what matters most. Feeling overwhelmed and then reacting never produces a good outcome.

Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture. ~Russell Baker

My mother really surprised me when she said that she didn’t think the oncologist or the cancer center was really doing anything for her condition. In her mind, they are epically failing.  How about 18 extended months of living? Mom is actually expecting a cure from the second deadliest disease in the world. It’s phenomenal. There is a measured amount of acceptance that is necessary in order to strike a deal with reality.

5. Plan Your Aging & Dying Process Before it Happens

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It is our duty to plan our death. I am not taking about a living will, health care proxy or deciding on cremation versus a below the ground burial. I am talking about how you plan to age. How open you will be to the natural process of slowing down? Reverse engineering your life so that when you get to the point that you need help from others, you will accept it. Knowing when it’s time to let go of past behavior and activities, giving up your favorite things like driving. It is critical to understand the type of attitude you will have as you enter a new season of your life.

Just as we plan our career, marriage, children and even vacations, we need to be more thoughtful of how we leave this earth.

6. The Reality of Dying is Largely Negotiable

Just like anything else, we can rethink how we plan to age and die.

If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles,” of dying, you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially-reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.

Social rule systems are used to examine all levels of human interaction. They provide more than potential constraints on action possibilities. Read more about social rules and the patterning of action here.

Who made these social rules about aging and dying and why do we think we need to obey them?

Increased longevity paired with aging baby boomers means that our older population is growing at record speed – a phenomenon in developed countries from the UK to Japan. According to Professor David Clark, a researcher in end-of-life care at the University of Glasgow: “We’re seeing what we regard as a massive global issue. There’s a huge wave of dying, death and bereavement.” At the moment about one million people die each week around the world; within 40 years, that number is expected to double.

I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity. ~Hazel Lee

 

People redesigning the experience of death

Making decisions about serious illness is not an easy task and they are not made alone. Watch Nick Jehlen  of Common Practice explain his design approach to facing the elephant in the room, the talk about death and these new products, services and dying submissions to Designing Death.

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Dismiss What Insults Your Soul

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“Life requires of man spiritual elasticity, so that he may temper his efforts to the chances that are offered.”

Viktor E. Frankl

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“Change is essential for survival. All life forms must adapt to their fluctuating circumstances. All form of life result from the process of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance. The universe is in a constant state of chaos. We each have chaos implanted into our bones. Nature wires all of us for change.”

Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

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“One of the most remarkable of man’s characteristics is his capacity for becoming used to conditions of almost any kind, whether good or bad, both in the self and in the environment, and once he has become used to such conditions they seem to him both right and natural. This capacity is a boon when it enables him to adapt himself to conditions which are desirable, but it may prove a great danger when the conditions are undesirable. When his sensory appreciation is untrustworthy, it is possible for him to become so familiar with seriously harmful conditions of misuse of himself that these malconditions will feel right and comfortable.”

F. Matthias Alexander, The Use of the Self

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“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.”

Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do

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“There’s no such thing as a mistake, really. It’s just an opportunity to do something else.”

Ralph Steadman

 

A snake doesn’t mourn when it is time to shed it’s skin.

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Featured Illustration – Walt Whitman