Sensing Awe in the AWEdinary

sun riseIf you are paying attention you can find truth and inspiration anywhere and everywhere, in the most ordinary things and experiences in life.
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower – Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. 
~ William Blake

Study – The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

What passes for spectacular and awesome in today’s culture is mostly synthetic and artificial – most experiences fading like fireworks in a night sky.
Feeling Awesome
Awe is not a function of the brain. Awe is a feeling that comes from that mysterious place deep within the heart and soul. Awe isn’t a product of thought. Rather, awe arises from the gap between our thoughts. There, we connect with that which is beyond description and understanding – something that can only be felt – something that can be shared, but not explained. Read more awesome thoughts here
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” – Marcus Aurelius
Read his philosophy here

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

 plumeria
Profound truths are in the anthropological field notes of life.  The sweet honey fragrance of pink plumeria aromatizing along my pre-dawn morning walk.  The salty, slightly cooler fresh air blowing through my hair from the Gulf of Mexico. The nervous scurrying about of the hard shell blue crab across the inter coastal dock.
Life’s Field Notes
When searching for awe in the ordinary, I study life like an anthropologist. Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. My journals may include –
  1. Date, time, and place of observation
  2. Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site
  3. Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, taste
  4. Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes
  5. Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language
  6. Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation
  7. Page numbers to help keep observations in order
 crab
The Blue Crab as Spirit Animal
Time to come out of your shell and be yourself. Stop hiding. He is reminding you that not all paths lead directly to your personal goals. Sometimes a sideways approach is necessary. Shift your focus to what is all around you because your inner senses are trying to guide you through an easier way. Alternatively crab can be reminding you that community is vital for growth, however equally important is a time of introspective seclusion. Know when to withdraw and discern what is right for you.
Crab can also be letting you know that it is important to fuel your curiosity on all levels. Exploration of the world around you leads to discovering new horizons and a vibrant life.

Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

russian-twist-exercise-illustration

Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

Lara_Croft_film

Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

Goblet_Squat

Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

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Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

The Creative Process -When Inspiration Hits 

  The only obstacle in your way is you. Go ahead, get out of your own way. Get going. That’s the beginning of the muddled,scrappy and chaotic creative process. 

You can’t wait for the brilliant idea to come to you, you need to move toward it – you just need to start. If you don’t have a clue what you are creating – it doesn’t really matter.

   Act first and inspiration will follow. Write that sentence, paint that stroke, move your body, put pen to paper, pencil to pad, hand to mouse. Begin. 

You will only be inspired after you set forth. The brilliant stroke of genius appears after practice. Frustration will happen, push through.  This is the creative process. 

Free spirit

  I stay in youth-mode. Liberated, open, independent, playful, light-hearted and free-spirited. I let my imagination run wild. The world is my playground.

With a child-like curiosity and deep love for learning, I believe progress starts with restlessness and discontent. I am okay with feeling uncomfortable.  

I am engaged in newness and experimentation. In youth-mode I am limitless.

Happiness is a Skill, The Dangers of Impoverished Thinking and Coconut Muscle Mylk

bikeCall it what you will, bliss, contentment, excitement, enthusiasm, well-being, enchantment — happiness is a skill, a skill that needs to be trained and practiced daily.  My mind and body training includes a daily ritual (beginning around 5:30 am) of gratitude prayer, stoic philosophy studies, meditation practice, workout training (running, hiking, biking, swimming and high intensity interval training) and learning something new every single day.

Self- experiment for the day – to pay very careful, non-judgmental attention to the contents of my consciousness in the present moment. To watch my mind – to bring my soul into harmony with itself, and not let my purpose be out of tune. Seneca wisdom Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) Why all this mind watching? Because it’s a over-crowded zoo in there.

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Through the Lens of Thought
What lens are you using? The way we see and think about things is the most powerful force that shapes our lives. Any impoverished thoughts that are brought into our perception are like poison for the brain. This would be thinking that is deprived of richness or strength; thoughts that are limited or depleted.  Yeah, these thoughts have to go.   Inspired by the wisdom of  Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

Lolas

Biking Plantation Run & Coconut Muscle Mylk from COMO Parrot Cay

Rode the sweet four-mile palm-covered path to the fresh coconut plantation on Parrot Cay. Yes they grow their own and serve it up for breakfast daily.

Coconut Muscle Milk

This delicious drink speeds muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and replenishing electrolytes and nutrients with 1 banana, 1/2 cup young coconut water, 3 slices of coconut meat, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 cup of almond milk, handful of flax seeds, 3 dates and a few cocoa beans. Blend and replenish.

On Exploration, Sailing and Wandering

 
  We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore. -Andre Gide

Just as a goldfish remains small in its bowl, but grows when placed in bigger bodies of water, so will we. Here’s to embracing change. To forgetting about feeling secure in the pond you are in. 

In the words of Joy Bell, “Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason you don’t have something better.”

A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander. Roman Payne, The Wanderess 

  

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

Mastering Your Mind with Charlie Bradford. Part 1

enlightenment

I started this blog to connect with brilliant thinkers and doers like yourself with the intention of making new friends from all around the world. It’s been less than a month and I am excited to say, that it’s working. I am inspired by what I am reading and learning from so many of you.

I recently discovered, thinker, writer and modern day philosopher,  Charlie Bradford, author of Ensouling Potential. If you haven’t read Charlie’s work, I highly recommend you do. He is an authentic and insightful explorer of life and the bigger questions about our existence. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @CharlieBrad4ord

Charlie was kind enough to allow me to ask him a series of questions. Here, he reflects on my first one.

MJ: Charlie, how long have you been thinking about tapping into a higher awareness and mastering the mind? How did you become such a deep thinker?

CB: Well, It all started for me when I was in my late teens. I had been reading a lot of great material on simplicity, minimalism, Zen, meditation, the power of the mind, which opened me up to a new world that I was eager to dive into. I grew up with video games, movies, and homework. Before I knew it, I was reading about the infinite potentials of the mind. I’m on-board, where do I sign!? I loved this new sphere of knowledge that I had dived into. Even prior to my teen years, I was very much inclined to read Buddhist philosophy, but lacked the mental facility to fully appreciate what I was reading. But none the less, it planted a seed in my young mind that would eventually lead me to the importance of simplicity, self-control, and mind-mastery.

Seeking Some Enlightenment

So I made it my personal mission to investigate all kinds of knowledge, wisdom, philosophies, books – old and new, exoteric, and esoteric, anything that would enlighten me to the true potentials that lie within each and every one us, and more importantly; how to actualize that potential. I began exploring the importance of Mind, Body, and Spirit, as well as the fundamental principles of Nature. I renounced almost all of my possessions, gave away my television, my video games, changed my diet, my attitude, and started doing my own homework. I had cleared the pathway so that I could receive Truth in my quest for it.

Training the Mind to Relax in the Face of Uncertainty

I’ve always loved exploring deep questions. It’s not about answering them. It’s more-so about getting the mind comfortable with uncertainty. The mind is constantly trying to make sense of everything. So by enquiring in profound matters such as, Why are we here? What is Life? What is Death? What is the Ultimate Plan? Where are we all going? We begin to train the mind to relax in the face of uncertainty. This is similar to the use of Zen Koans, phrases used to stray the mind from its ordinary processing. I’m amazed at the level of insight you can receive simply by concentrating upon a single question! I’ve become compelled to entertain all kinds of questions, especially during meditation, or out in nature where I can let my mind unfold. There were many key points along my path that led me to this conclusion: We are far more than we could ever know within the scope of one life time.

For the next three Mondays I will post more questions for Charlie, but if you have any, please free to ask them here.

be here now

wave

There is only one place to be. Here and now.

Why do our brains stubbornly insist on projecting us into the future when there is so much stuff to think about right here today? Why not be here now and there then?

The fact is that human beings come into the world with a passion for control, they go out of the world the same way, and research suggests that if they lose their ability to control things at any point between their entrance and their exit, they become unhappy, helpless, hopeless and depressed.  Read more Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Which reminds me of a beautiful poem about radically accepting this moment.

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightening bolt or containing a a tornado.

Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.

Resist and the tide will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.

Allow by Danna Faulds
Go In and In: Poems From the Heart of Yoga

Photography  – Clark Little www.clarklittle.com

a total mind and body transformation

Beans-and-Legumes

Around this time last summer I decided to make some major changes in my life.

I knew the changes had to begin from what I was doing daily and I had to get real honest with myself.  Sitting at my desk, working ten hours or more a day in front of a screen just took a toll on my entire being.

These changes included a new way of eating, exercising, working, living and thinking. Yes a complete mind/body transformation. Ever since, I have been determined and devoted to creating what I call “daily result rituals” and habits to help continue to move me in a healthier and happier direction.

It’s an ongoing quest and I hope to share some of the people, strategies, books, podcasts and other influences that have helped me along the way. My main goal is to be the best version of myself that I can be and to be an inspiration to others.

For starters, I just knew that feeling great about my body would help boost my confidence, so I started with a new way of eating.  I have had tremendous success (read:25 lbs lighter) by following the slow carb diet from Tim Ferriss (check him out on Twitter @tferriss). The slow carb diet involves managing your insulin levels by avoiding grains, fruit and sugar and replacing them with vegetables and legumes.

Now at the same time, I knew that I would benefit from a mental diet, so I followed The 7 Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox. This was more difficult than shedding pounds because more often than not, I lived “behind enemy lines” inside my head and the worry, fear and anxiety was just tremendous. I had to start the mental diet three times before I got through 7 days without obsessive worry.

I also started my own fitness training program, with some serious workouts seven days a week. I did say I’m determined right? More like relentless.

Prepare to blow your mind
The Seven Day Mental Diet: How to Change Your Life in a Week

Read & shed those pounds –
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman