Paying Attention To Our Lives

Try to loosen the grip on life. Stop white knuckling your way through the day. By Madeline Johnson

Life does not guarantee us time here. In an instant our lives may be altered in some way. In a moment, our trip may be over. Waste not a minute in worry.  It’s mind-blowing really . . . .

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In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there never will be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth.

It is the point from which all of your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it.  Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.

Frederick Buechner

Perhaps the most unifying theme throughout all of Buechner’s writings (pronounced “BEEKner”) is to “pay attention” because God is constantly at work in our everyday lives. A writer and theologian, his books are on my reading list and include Secrets in The Dark.

The message today – to remember how precious life is, how sacred this day is. I know I will make more time to enjoy, to relax, to release myself into everything I do.

I will loosen the grip, noticing how I hold on to things so tightly. In an effort to control, I white knuckle though my days. Now I soften the grip, so I may remain calm and let life be.

I will remember how supported I am. How much love and encouragement surrounds me and how it lifts my heart and helps me propel forward.

The entire universe opening up to give me – giving me more time to focus on what is important. To do what I cherish.

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I will know without a doubt that God is within me, loving me and guiding me all the way.

I know that my intelligence is something that I can trust. That clarity comes from tapping into my moral compass – doing what is right and best not for just me but for all.

And if I become anxious, concerned, if I don’t know something, I will go to the wisest ones I know, to seek and to learn.

I will remain open so God can show me what I may be overlooking,  because . . .

Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eyes.

H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Read Life’s Little Instruction Book

Featured Artist

@lesslightmorebright on Instagram

From Painful Problems to Passion & Purpose

How to find optimism and opportunity in every difficulty. By Madeline Johnson

We must remember that the end of anything is the beginning of something.  The closing of one door, the opening of another. Endings are not final, they give birth to something else.  A bad breakup – the start of a fresh, new relationship (sometimes with ourselves); the loss of a job, the start of a brand new career path; the death of a loved one, the beginning of grief and transformation.

Every ending gives you an opportunity to grow, to reevaluate your relationships, your own performance and the direction in which you want your life to go.

Think about it. If your life were a Netflix or Amazon original series, what type of review would you give it? How many stars? A thumbs up or a thumbs down? It is time to be the hero and heroine of your own life.

Have you troubles? Welcome to the world.  What opportunities do your troubles bring? What could you do to create a plot twist, what could your character learn? What must you change about yourself to grow?

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How do you find optimism and opportunity in every difficulty?

I own a home on the beach. It’s a lovely, beautiful home and it’s for sale. I have owned it for over 15 years. I raised my family in this home and we have all types of memories there. Beautiful memories, horrendous fights, near-death accidents, messy break ups, crazy breakdowns, demonstrations of great bravado, real-life family drama, the revitalization of relationships and memories of amazing, joyous moments.

Now the house is for sale, but unfortunately because the real estate market is slow and in order to pay the mortgage, I had to rent the house out to keep from losing it.

Unfortunately I rented it to a person who hasn’t paid me rent in two months and now going on the third month. She is officially squatting in my home.  Now, if you have never had this experience, well, all I can say, is I hope you never do.

At first I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw her out on the street, I wanted to do something to cause her so much pain. How dare she? What type of person does this? How could I have been so stupid to not check references? I was disgusted with myself. I called the lawyer, signed the eviction papers. I did everything I could think of and it became an obsession. I was the victim, beating myself up for being an ass for renting to her – until one day, I woke up and realized that all of this anger and rage is only making me sick. My heart and breath so tight. My mind racing. I could not allow the stress to take over my mind and body. I knew I had to do something. So, I thought about the situation in a completely different way.

How could I make this horrible situation- where I  am quite obviously getting taken advantage of –  become a power tool for my growth?

At that moment, I decided, I was lucky to still own a home. There’s the gratitude. It has been a big investment, our life savings. What I could do instead of complain and moan about the injustices done to me?

I could work smarter and harder to pay the mortgage and the rent where I am currently living. I would look at this as a temporary opportunity to double down on my career, focus on building my skills and take all the time that I spent obsessing about how much I wanted to strangle this crazy-lady-squatting tenant and do something good for me. 

Yes of course I put all the proper actions into place to get her out, but what I did was asked the question, how can I let this God-forsaken obstacle make me stronger? What opportunities does this challenge bring me? 

Well, first there is the lesson. Next time, I will be be more diligent about background checks and collect three months rent ahead of time.  Next time, I won’t have a lease. And, right now I will do everything to try to sell my home faster.

Now, there is still the challenge of paying the mortgage, another $3,200 a month to pay on top of my current living expenses. How? Where would I get the money? I rolled up my sleeves and dug into Upwork, LinkedIn and other sources for freelancers and began to work around the clock, seven days a week. I spent my time consuming less and creating more. Sooner rather than later, I found that this obstacle has helped me hone my skills, meet new clients and improve my career skills.

In a way, I almost want to thank the crazy-squatting lady for giving me this opportunity to double down on my life. 

I have employed this “opportunity” technique over and over again in my life. I allow the obstacle be the way.  Ryan Holiday wrote a damn good book about it. You can read it at The Obstacle is The way, The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.

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Featured Artist

Paulina Galka a collage artist based in Wroclaw, Poland.

The Messy Process of Loving Yourself

Learning to love and respect yourself isn’t something that you decide to do one day. It’s a daily practice. By Madeline Johnson

Learning to love and respect yourself isn’t something that you decide to do one day. It’s a daily practice. Self-acceptance requires patience and practice and maybe even managing those great expectations you have for yourself while holding onto your standards.

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Expectations can sometimes get in the way of lessons and joy found in unexpected experiences.

-George Leonard, Poet/Philosopher and the granddaddy of the consciousness movement.

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To be unaware of our irrationality and

derangement of our own thoughts

is what keeps us stuck.

Read More: The Three Levels of Self-Awareness by Mark Manson

An argument for loving and accepting yourself . . .

When we refuse to accept ourselves as we are, then we return to the constant need for numbing and distraction. And we will similarly be unable to accept others the way they are, so we will look for ways to manipulate them, change them, or convince them to be a person they are not. Our relationships will become transactional, conditional, and ultimately toxic and fail.

Go deeper into learning about how to better handle adversity in your life. Read his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

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Featured Art

Leif is an artist and Creative Director. His work explores themes of connectedness, the relevance of nature and the psychedelic experience. By utilizing these subjects he attempts to inspire the viewer into a realignment with themselves and their surroundings.

What are we free for?

You are free to discover the talents that are built with in you. To explore the inner workings of your mind. You are free to take creative risks with your life. By Madeline Johnson

You are free to discover the talents that are built with in you. To explore the inner workings of your mind. You are free to take creative risks with your life. Free to experiment and do more with your day.  Free to build what you can’t find but you know you need. Free to have an original thought and express that thought elegantly.

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Why then do we so often choose to waste this freedom? Why are we so careless with the free time we have? Why do we waste our weekends, our evenings, any free time we have in idol pursuits? Surfing the internet, watching bad Netflix series and trolling through Instagram?

I argue, like Colin Wilson that to be truly happy most human beings need a certain amount of stimulus during their free time or they will grow dull, lethargic and perhaps for some, even depressed. This is not a motivational rant about having a positive attitude or being grateful.  This is about doing more with our minds and our lives. This is about using the free time we have to create something new and original.

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Playing it Safe is The Riskiest Thing You Can Do

Many people will account their lives to be successful if they get through them with only minimal pain.  Few aim to rise above a plodding existence. And this, not-withstanding that they often have within them the ability to do something that which perhaps no other human being has done before.

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Merely to do what others have done is often safe and comfortable; but to do something truly original, and do it well, whether appreciated by others or not – that is what being human is really all about and it is alone that what justifies the self-love that is pride. 

From Richard Taylor’s Restoring Pride.

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Occupy your day with interesting tasks, challenges and problems to solve.

Strive to spend the majority of your free time creating, exploring, learning, doing.

Challenge your capacities and improve your talents.

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Creative risk taking requires perseverance, struggle and the short term sacrifice of pleasures and comfort, to explore and cultivate the gifts within us, and thus to enjoy the fruits of genuine pride.

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The goal: to attain personal excellence of the kind that sets you apart from others.

Read Richard Taylor’s Restoring Pride

Watch Why Passivity Breeds Mediocrity 

Featured Artist

Afarin Sajedi was born in 1979 in Shiraz. She came to Tehran to study at the Azad University of Tehran where she got her degree in Graphic Design. Sajedi’s creativity, technique and powerful presentation are sure to ensure her an elevated position in the world of Iranian art. She has several motifs she enjoys portraying. However, whether she is depicting her Japanese people, her clowns or her theatrical personages she only portrays women. In all her works her women’s faces are highly made up be it in pain or joy to show how she visualizes women when they leave the security of their homes to enter the world outside. “Women have often told me how much they enjoy using make up because it allows them another face,” Sajedi exclaims in despair. She confesses that she has been highly influenced by Heinrich Boll’s Clown and by Gustav Klimt. She uses Klimt’s depth of color to vivify the pain of the modern woman in any role she decides to thrust herself into. Red plays an important role in the works of this painter. “It’s an aggressive color,” Sajedi says, “and I love aggressive colors.” Sajedi has participated in four group and four solo exhibitions. She is presently living and working in Tehran.

 

 

To Be Fierce with A Fighting Spirit

To be inventive in the face of problems. Making more out of less. How hard can that be?  By Madeline Johnson

Early morning words of encouragement for all of you facing the day. Feisty, gutsy and full of fighting spirit. Shouldering  burdens, effortlessly. Never growing weary with struggle.  Adapting what is useful, rejecting what no longer serves and owning what is yours. Listening to the sound of your own intuitive voice.  Sometimes it whispers, often it shouts. You always listen, for clues.

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2To be inventive in the face of problems. Making more out of less. Staying juicy, scrappy and saying yes, sure, why not? I’ll try that. How hard can that be?

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Flying forward fearlessly. Laughing in the face of what looks like lack. Holding on to what most would consider horrifying.  There’s not much left, but it’s still useful, you say. They don’t, but you know, almost everything is an opportunity to grow, a tool to transform.

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Think of it this way. No one cares how you get there. They don’t know what you drove up in. Skip the valet, park it in the back and forge in with fighting spirit. Be unapologetically brave.

You may not feel it today, but you are divine. Some days are like that, your wings are weary and worn. Let them rest a while. Take a moment to breathe in the grace.

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In the words of Dylan Thomas, Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

While you can, you must.

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I promise you – no one will care how you pulled it off. But oh, the stories you will tell. How they’ll entertain. Fascinating stories about seemingly hopeless situations that turned around, because of luck, fate and how you dared.  You and your moxie, you with your high-tailed initiative and relentless resourcefulness.

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You didn’t spend more, take more, no you reinvented and discovered talents you never knew you had. You developed yourself, grappled with life. Down to the ground.

Those scars you bare. They share interesting stories about battles overcome. Scars on your heart, that you wear on your sleeve, because you were strong enough to show the world the strength of your soul.

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Featured Artist

Agostino Arrivabene creates spiritual, surreal, occult paintings with a nod to the symbolists. Alchemists aimed to turn lead into gold: the seeker into the initiate– from suffering human to enlightened being.

Arrivabene seems to want us to have a limitless appreciation for the unknown, the hidden, the unknowable: the mysteries of the universe are unbounded. To have an appreciation of one’s own ignorance is paramount. Arrivabene’s paintings live in the liminal space between psychology and magic. They expand and make tangible the mysteries of the Western Spiritual Tradition. And in doing so, they are a reminder that while Newton was right, so too was Mandelbrot. Our minds are linear, limited, and ruled by reductive cause and effect and a bias towards narrative. But the world is messy, dirty, and with infinite causes, effects and unpredictability. The future and present are opaque. Arrivabene’s work creates a space for the mystery, the unknown, and the hidden.

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Who Knows How Strong You Really Are

Strength comes with facing what you have to contend with as a living adult on this planet.

God only knows what the limit is of you. You will only find out by pushing yourself against the world. By ploughing through life, observing and making adjustments along the way, knowing that you can make a difference, but that you can never play God.

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Strength comes with facing what you have to contend with as a living adult on this planet.

Lucky and blessed, facing the world with a heart that is ready for anything, most days the game of life seems/feels like the object is how to stay grateful.

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In the words of Tara Brach. . .

If our hearts are ready for anything, we can open to our inevitable losses, and to the depths of our sorrow. We can grieve our lost loves, our lost youth, our lost health, our lost capacities. This is part of our humanness, part of the expression of our love for life. As we bring a courageous presence to the truth of loss, we stay available to the immeasurable ways that love springs forth in our life.

 

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Confucius

To be honorable under conditions that cause us suffering, situations that are extremely challenging, is a testament to the human spirit.

Life is really hard and can be brutal at times.  The fact that we can still remain honest, generous and loving under unbelievably difficult circumstances.

Those I admire, under the worst threats imaginable, never sacrificed their character.

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How about starting with getting comfortable with your feelings. Sad, angry, furious, happy, joyful, The only way to get through uncomfortable emotions is to go through them.

 

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway

 

Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience, you feel, you fail, you hurt. You fall. But, you keep going.     

Yasmin Mogahed

 

 

Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all you were intended to be.     

Charles Jones

Read Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

Read The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

 

Featured Artwork

Alexandra Levasseur

Alexandra Levasseur was born in 1982 in Shawinigan, a city located on the Saint-Maurice River in the Mauricie area in Quebec, Canada. Aged 18, she left Canada and moved to Costa Rica to do a one-year student exchange. She eventually decided to stay there to pursue her studies in Fine Arts and Graphic Design at the University of Costa Rica. Additionally, Levasseur went to Spain to specialize her career by completing a postgraduate in Creative Illustration and Visual Communication at EINA – School of Art and Design in Barcelona. From 2007 to 2010, she worked as an illustrator and art director for several advertising agencies in Costa Rica. In 2010, Levasseur moved to Montreal, where she started working as a freelance illustrator and on her personal projects. From 2012 to 2014, the talented creative studied Film Animation at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema of Concordia University.

Resiliency Quotes from Wise Old Sayings

When Your Struggles Become Your Strength

Reflecting and learning from painful experiences is how you turn your struggles into strengths. by Madeline Johnson

Like many of you, some of the most challenging moments in my life have been the best for me because I have learned so much from them and I have grown so much confidence through fighting and finding my way through each problem.

Confidence comes from over coming problems you thought you couldn’t handle.

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For example, I learned that I am a very strong, determined and persevering human being after helping my middle daughter Ariel through a traumatic brain injury. She was in a terrible car accident and on life support and those seven years of helping her and watching the doctors bring her back to life, taught me never to give up, to fight for life, to ask for help and to continue to ask questions and seek solutions even when everything seems impossible.
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Having to close my marketing and PR agency during the process and begin consulting during her recovery had me learning new skills, like how to build WordPress and Shopify websites, video production, editing and reaching out to clients through platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Clarity and Angel List, basically – starting all over again.
You can learn more about my work here.
Evolving and growing, while remaining humble, that’s what we must do as humans.

We either evolve or we die.

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Being my mom’s advocate during her fight with stage four lung cancer taught me that relationships are everything and it is an honor to see someone pass through this existence, to be able to have the time to tell them how much they mean to you and that their life was very, very important to you.
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Getting back together once again after divorcing my husband, the love of my life, taught me that we should always be open to forgiving. Forgiving ourselves and those we love because it frees the heart and actually strengthens you. Whether work or personal or both, relationships in life are everything and relationships won’t grow unless you do. It’s about becoming self-aware and open to change.
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I have learned that painful experiences when reflected upon properly offer so much in the way of lessons and self-improvement.

What have you learned from your most painful moments?

 

Featured Art

Polish artist, Zdzisław Beksiński, who made a name for himself with his dystopian surrealism paintings, filled with post-apocalyptic imagery and creatures that come straight out of nightmares.