Posts Tagged ‘zen’

2nd last post – reinvent yourself

11/15/2012

All things must end. And who’s to say what phoenix arises from the ashes of such endings.

Well, in this case, I’m to say. Because with the death of a theme, a brand I’ve loved and nurtured for the past seven years, it’s time for a rebirth in another form.

the process of conscious change

changeEverybody needs to periodically reinvent themselves. He who doesn’t change is either the wisest of the wise or the dullest of the dull. (I like to think I’m somewhere in between)

We are ephemeral constructs in a world constantly in flux. We are always changing, whether or not we realize it. We hear a snippet of knowledge that gives us a new perspective on politics. We learn a new fact that makes us decide to start eating organic. We stop working out and we watch how our body loses strength and functionality. We begin working out and experience a slow but noticeable increase in energy. Week to week, day to day, minute to minute, we are evolving for better or for worse.

The key here is not to fight the change, but to go along in its flow and fall into a state of conscious change. We develop an awareness of our own evolution, even if that awareness surfaces after the fact.

It’s not control we’re seeking, but the ability to effortlessly adapt without losing fluidity. When we become consciously aware of this process, we gain the power to seek out our change, or rather to become change.

reinvent yourself

The opposite of stagnancy is not progress, but evolution. They are not synonymous.

Only you, the individual, know when it is time for you to consciously reinvent yourself, to make a life-altering change. Perhaps it’s a result of some outward stimuli, some trend you’ve identified in the world around you, or some traumatic life event. Perhaps it’s in recognition of your own internal need for change. Extensive periods of stagnation have an inducing tendency in that regard.

Regardless, you will know when it is time. If you’re unsure, work on becoming more conscious, more self-aware. Intensive introspection and important conversations with close family members, friends or significant others are conducive to a higher state of self-awareness – although I’ve always found the former to be exponentially more effective. I also tend to be a more solitary person, so do what works for you.

Decide. Consciously. We must learn to flow with the ever-changing world around us while developing the ability to consciously alter that flow as necessary.

Tomorrow you will see firsthand how I have initiated my own reinvention.

How have you reinvented yourself in the past? How are you reinventing yourself now?

creating our universe

09/09/2012

We learn from an early age how to create the world around us. We learn labels, we learn definitions, we learn classifications, sub-classifications and distinctions. A toddler learns that a tree is called a tree, a cloud is called a cloud, and Mama and Dada are called Mom and Dad. An adolescent learns the difference between rich and poor, strong and weak, nice and mean. An adult learns what class warfare is, what God is, and what antidisestablishmentarianism could possibly mean.

But at what point does this really continue to benefit us?

the death of the senses

There is an economic principle called the law of diminishing returns. It means, in terms that I can understand, that the more we continue to invest in something, the less we get out of it (see Wikipedia for a MUCH more accurate definition). A marathoner plodding along an 18-week training regimen sees more marked improvement in the early stages of training than in the later stages. Early on, his average race pace may drop from nine-minute miles to eight-minute miles in the space of just a few determined weeks, while in the last few weeks of high-intensity training he will see much less of an improvement than that. Granted, it’s still marked improvement, but the point stands: the return isn’t as great.

So how does this apply to labels? To definitions? To distinctions? How do we measure returns on something like learning? The truth is, most people don’t even try. Learning is a wonderful thing – I believe lifelong learning should be a cornerstone of everyone’s daily experience. But after a point in the learning process – for most of us, in our teenage years – it becomes easy to lose sight of true value. So if we really tried measuring the returns on learning, we’d realize that there are things that are more important. Thus, we accrue knowledge for the sake of accruing knowledge. We learn what a tree is but then forget to experience the tree. Think about it: when was the last time you touched, and felt, a tree? Felt its bark, listened as its branches swayed in the wind, smelled its leaves? Go outside and touch a tree. Right now. I’ll wait . . .

Back already? Good. Carrying on. . . as one of my favorite books, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, says, “The birth of the mind is the death of the senses.”

p’u, the uncarved block

Moments in life can trigger the resurgence of this child-like appreciation for the world around us:

  • Having a child
  • A near-death experience
  • A religious experience
  • Emerging from an emotional depression

But it should be natural (shouldn’t it?), as human beings gifted with life on this wonderful earth, to consciously appreciate the universe around us during what we deem mundane experience. During the ordinary moments. To appreciate the universe, not necessarily in the form in which we initially created it, but rather through direct experience. To sense directly, without thought, opinion or interpretation. To simply be.

Much like Winnie the Pooh. Open to, but unburdened by, experience.

winnie the pooh, the tao of pooh

one-year anniversary – why i quit my job

07/15/2012

On June 28, 2011, I walked into my boss’s office, filled with anxiety, the majority of my hairs standing on end. I said, “I think it would be in my best interests, and yours, if I put in my two weeks.”

One year later I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Hoboken, NJ, staring across the Hudson at the glow that is Manhattan.

I do not regret my decision for an instant.

But, if I could do it again, there are definitely things I would do differently.

reading between the lines

For those of you unfamiliar with that situation, here is my [poorly written] post from a year ago explaining it.

The past year, however, is slightly more complex than sitting in coffee shops in and around New York City. More than anything, this has been a year of self-discovery. It has been the kind of year I wish upon all my friends, and my enemies, though it’s not as glorious as I’ve likely made it sound.

This post is here to set the record straight.

By impulsively quitting my job, I was able to take a step back from my life and examine it as an objective observer. I allowed myself to ask the important questions, free of the cloud of responsibility and pressure.

  • What makes me happy?
  • What can I not live my life without?
  • What do I envision as my typical happy week?
  • How can I live my happy week 52 times a year?
  • Why do I associate hypocrisy with screw-top wine bottles?

Above all, I have finally been able to come to terms with my flaws (most of them). This may sound trite, but it is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I was able to embrace them, thereby becoming consciously aware of their presence, thereby minimizing their negative effects on my life. Here are my top flaws I identified:

  • I over-promise and under-deliver
  • I lack discipline
  • I am inconsistent (case and point, this blog)
  • I am easily distracted, primarily on the interwebz
  • I am selfish

On the flip side of this, I have also been able to identify what I believe to be my strong points:

  • I am authentic – I say what I mean and I mean what I say
  • I am driven to produce the best work possible
  • I am always learning
  • Yeah, short list…

All in all, quitting my job was one of the best things I have ever done with my life. But there are some distinct shades of gray to that deed as well.

For those of you looking to quit your job, for those of you looking to start doing work you love, for those of you unsure as to where you want your path to take you, let the juvenile lessons learned by yours truly help you get started on the right foot.

Because I certainly didn’t.

shattering the illusionsi quit my job

The easiest part of quitting our jobs to pursue our passions is the actual quitting. While nerve-wracking at the time, it is overshadowed by an exhilaration that cannot be replicated. For me, this made it an easy choice. But once I came down off that high, I knew it was time to get to work.

The hardest part, by far, has been the financial strain from not having that nice regular paycheck. I went from a bi-weekly paycheck with a coveted comma to a bi-weekly paycheck that rarely rose above $400.

In light of this, my #1 piece of advice is this:

1. Have some money put away before you quit your job

I altered my lifestyle but, granted, it didn’t keep me from experiencing life. I was still able to go skydiving for the first time, whitewater raft the fifth most dangerous rafting river in the world, and have my first Central American adventure in Nicaragua. But once those adventures were over, the reality of my financial situation set in and I’ve been severely restricted in what I have been able to do since then.

If you have no problem living the lifestyle of the starving artist – constantly – then this does not apply to you. To everyone else, I recommend having a little cushion before you go Bohemian.

My second lesson is this:

2. Know what you want

This sounds simple, but it’s harder than we realize. When I quit my job I knew I wanted to be a novelist. That was good direction, but the more I learned the more I realized the difficulties involved with going the straight novel route. A novel is not written in a month, unless you’re Stephen King. That first novel, especially – Carrie was denied a number of times before he got it published. So I needed other income streams in the meantime, and I needed to improve my writing tenfold before I put anything as substantial as a novel on the market that wouldn’t get torn apart and push a potential audience away.

So I made it my primary goal – and it still is to this day – to always improve my writing. To always experiment with different styles, with different voices, with different structures. That being said, my third lesson is this:

3. Never be stagnant

In December and January I experienced a period of overwhelming stagnation, resulting in my first – and hopefully last – anxiety attack. I was barely writing and had let life get in the way of my creative endeavors. In order to achieve any kind of growth as human beings, we must always be learning, always seeking knowledge. If we feel stagnant in our job, it’s likely because we feel we aren’t learning anything new, that we aren’t growing.

If we want this to change, we have two options: 1.) We can wait for an opportunity to come along and seize it, or 2.) We can create the opportunity ourselves. Robert Greene’s The 50th Law has a very motivating chapter on how to do the latter of these two. He titles it “Turn Shit Into Sugar.”

final reflection

Ultimately, as I said earlier, I would not change what I did one year ago for anything.

  • I experienced more rapid personal growth than I had in the past eight years
  • I am a better writer than I was 365 days ago, although there is still quite a ways to go
  • I have become more aware of those important questions
  • I am happier
  • And, of course, as my best friend so poignantly told me, for the first time in seven years I finally lived up to the title of this blog

Now if that isn’t worth impulsively quitting one’s job and living in poverty for the next year, I don’t know what is.

running and intuition

05/18/2012

Running is like sex. If it doesn’t happen at least once a week, we feel like something is missing. Sunday comes around, we look back on the week and think, “Shit, what did I forget to do…?”

There’s a certain mental calm that takes over in the latter half of a good session (now we’re onto running here, people). Fatigue takes over and it’s all you can do to maintain proper form. And when this happens, when your lungs feel ready to burst and your legs feel like they have ankle weights wrapped around them, something strange happens.

Bliss supersedes the misery.

no mind

How often do we find ourselves governed by the mental chatter abound in our brains? How often do we lose perspective because our emotional status is based upon the last imaginary scene we staged? Our minds have a terrible tendency to distract us from everything the world has to offer. It keeps us from doing our best work. And from fighting our best samurai sword fights.

How many times have you been reading a book and gotten halfway down the page, only to realize you have no idea what you  just read? Or driven a car some place and not remembered anything about the car ride?

This is sad. Running makes me less sad. Here’s why:

I did a four-miler last Monday. Not crazy high mileage, but for getting back onto the running scene I was content with it. But the last half mile I hit a wall (see second paragraph above).

When this happens, a meditative exercise I try to do is to eliminate thought. Because at this point my mind is my arch enemy. It will tell me that it’s not a big deal if I stop. I mean come on, you did 3.5 miles already! That’s pretty good, right? No one’s watching . . . no one will judge . . . you can walk the rest of the way as your cool down and save some time . . . better to start sweating like a beast now than right when you walk into your house . . . you’ll do better tomorrow . . . you already ran some miles this week! What’s the big deal?

Hence, the elimination of thought. And funny things happen when your mind stills and your body is worn out. When you hit what you imagine is rock bottom.

intuition

That last half mile gave me some of my best ideas for my current project. By focusing on not focusing on anything, I’m focusing on one thing. Silence. And silence is a beautiful thing.

Because what you hear in the silence, what crops up in the void, is unfettered and uncorrupted. It’s intuition.

Nobody talks about intuition in the real world. On the job, it’s hard to tell your boss you should do something based on a hunch. They want statistics. They want the ROI. They want to be reassured that they’re not paying you for just having fun. Great Scott! Never that!

The theory of intuition is not new. It’s been embodied in the third eye, in various forms of God, in a (supposed) small deposit of metal at the tip of a man’s nose. The only trouble is so few people spend time developing this intuition. Instead of getting down to the bare bones of what makes us human, we immerse ourselves in pleasant distractions, in browsing our Facebook feeds, in watching the Kardashians, in Modern Warfare 3. We set ourselves within walls of vinyl and atop finished wooden floorboards and think ourselves wise. We cease experiencing lives for ourselves, letting the mental chatter rage on unchecked.

Running, and many other forms of exercise, can help us re-establish that connection with our intuition. Can help us to slow our minds and take a look around.

And in a world gone so awry, the last thing we want to do is lose perspective.

the minimalists were here

05/03/2012
Minimalist meetup in Cleveland

Josh and Ryan talking to 30 Clevelanders about minimalism – sorry about the glare!

Last night Cleveland was visited by two intriguing men. They spoke to a room of 30 open-minded people at Deagan’s in Lakewood, telling their stories and answering questions about how to live a minimalist lifestyle. They told us how they quit their six-figure jobs and got rid of all their stuff, effectively becoming the nationally renown minimalists they are today. Bear in mind the over-simplification for the sake of brevity.

But really, that’s not what they’re about. It’s not about living with less stuff. That’s the path. It’s about living a more fulfilling, meaningful life, about being happier and being able to assess the true value of things. It’s about sifting through all the shit to find the gold that lies beneath.

They call themselves The Minimalists, and they just might be onto something.

what is minimalism?

Minimalism does require some explaining for the uninitiated, considering the term has only been around for roughly 100 years. In the overall scheme of language, this is a very young word. The term has been used to describe a bevy of concepts, from art to design to architecture, and to (most recently) minimalist running. So what is it that The Minimalists do differently?

Simply: they’re redefining the word. If Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for their definition of minimalism yet, they will soon.

Minimalism, so much as Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, our Minimalists, define it, is living a more meaningful life with less stuff. It’s trimming the fat. It’s separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s learning to find the true value of things.

my dabble with minimalism

I like to think I have always been a minimalist at heart, so when I stumbled upon Josh and Ryan’s page via a Zen Habits guest blog post, I was hooked. Since I was 16 I pictured for myself a Bohemian lifestyle filled with one-room flats devoid of furniture, living on a beach in Southern California, and spurts of time where I lived out of my car. My life has included none of these things, but my journey is filled with its own shades of gray that, I think, still allow me to guiltlessly dub myself minimalist. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite my two initial sources of inspiration for this lifestyle: Buddhism and Tyler Durden.

My view on life has ever been shaped by eastern philosophy when I first discovered Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. It was one of those things that as soon as you hear it, you simply know it’s right. The first two noble truths are: “Life means suffering; The origin of suffering is attachment.” Now the Buddhists mean more than just attachment to material possessions, but for me it was a start. It almost immediately instilled into me an abhorrence of too many physical possessions.

Fight Club bore similar themes to eastern philosophy with a distinct Western slant – that slant being a bunch of dudes beating the crap out of each other in a basement. What Jersey shore bodybuilder wouldn’t appreciate that? But everything that Fight Club is for me is epitomized by Tyler Durden’s one-liner.

what minimalism really does

Me and the Minimalists

left to right – me, Josh, Ryan

Meeting Josh and Ryan at the Cleveland meetup, it’s easy to see why they’ve been so successful. They’re genuine. And they’re just nice guys. This may sound like an understatement, but it’s one of the best compliments one can really receive.

Josh and Ryan have spent the past 16 months of their lives helping people. They don’t just endure the drudgery of work every day, concerned with making more money, getting that promotion or just getting the job done. Every post resonates with sincerity and strikes home to much of their 100,000 monthly viewership. I am incredibly grateful for getting the chance to listen to them talk and to have gotten some face time with each of them. They are on a 33 City Meetup Tour, so if you find yourself in one of the remaining cities they have left on their journey, go. Listen. Learn.

Minimalism isn’t the answer – it’s a solution. As Josh and Ryan continually say, it provides a means of achieving happiness and meaningful living, those two things of which so many of us find ourselves bereft.

If you haven’t heard of them or read any of their material, here are some articles that might help get you started:

On behalf of Cleveland, thank you Josh and Ryan for your knowledge and wisdom so generously bestowed.

motivational mondays: creating good habits without goals

01/30/2012

To quote an old apothegm:
“We are what we repeatedly do.”
– Aristotle

Simply put: We are our actions.
Another way: We are our habits.

If we smoke regularly, we are a smoker. If we exercise regularly, we are in shape. If we eat the right foods, we are healthy.

(Keep in mind, I’m tailoring this down to its simplest form. I understand much more complexity exists within the boundaries I’m laying out, but, in the theme of this post, something is much easier to grasp when pared down to utter simplicity.)

The question now, is how do we create good habits instead of bad ones?

how I’ve created good habits

Since I left my 9-5 job, I’ve created a plethora of good, healthy habits – most times without even meaning to. A mindset that I’ve always found hard to adopt, but have seen repeatedly work in my own life, is that of living without goals. Leo Babauta sums it up incredibly well with his blog post: the best goal is no goal. Even Seth Godin, marketing extraordinaire, has an interesting perspective on a similar vein of thought.

This mindset goes against everything I’ve been raised to believe. In middle school we learned the importance of setting goals to improve ourselves. My father preached to me the importance of having five-year goals and ten-year goals. While I never did this, I still always thought, based on what everyone was telling me, that was the way to get things done.

My own real-life examples say just the opposite.

Now I’m not saying that living with goals is a bad thing or doesn’t work. As the newer, slightly sexual adage goes: “Different strokes for different folks.”

But allow me to lay down a few examples for you. Some of the good, enduring habits I have formed in the past seven months are:

Eating healthier

In June I decided I wanted to try Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body diet for losing weight. I didn’t need to lose weight, I was just curious to see if it worked. I went on the “formal” diet plan and it fell apart within two weeks.

Then, some time in August, I decided to start cutting to the core of his philosophy and just nixed white carbs (breads, rice, flour-based foods, etc.). Since then, I would say I cut down on my white carb intake by 90%, vastly increasing my consumption of vegetables, fruits and legumes, along with a healthy intake of meats.

I didn’t set any goals. I didn’t follow any plans. I just did what I wanted to do, knowing it was healthy for me. And I enjoy it. I feel better.

Writing daily

I abhor the daily word count goal. It stresses me out and I’ve had mini-anxiety attacks when I don’t meet it. In November I created a nice habit by mixing a goal with the concept of living without goals. I declared that I would write 3,000 words a day, or roughly 100,000 words in the month. For those of you that aren’t familiar with word counts – that’s a freaking book.

I wrote 55,000 words that month. About a week into it I realized I wasn’t going to hit my goal. I accepted that fact and, remarkably, ceased worrying about it. Instead of focusing on the goal, I kept in mind that I wanted to produce a higher volume than Stephen King and just rolled with the daily writing. Whatever I got down on paper, I got down on paper. Whatever I didn’t, I didn’t. And I was content.

Now I don’t focus so much on word count, as much as my smokin’ hot girlfriend says I should :), but rather on writing the things I want to write. I’ve made more progress these past two weeks on my novel than I’ve made in the past two months when I kept trying to make goals.

Stretching daily

In mid-December I made a list of workout goals I wanted to achieve. It set an incredibly high standard and I should have known I wouldn’t have even come close to meeting it. I wrote it all out, printed it up, and never looked at it again. As I said in the writing daily piece above, having daily goals like this stresses me out, because if I don’t do it I feel like I’m falling behind and have to re-evaluate and readjust – steps that take more admin time than I’m willing to put forth.

Since then, I’ve thrown that list of workout goals in the garbage and have focused on a few things at a time, the primary exercise being stretching. Since mid-December, I have stretched out almost daily and noticed a substantial increase in my flexibility. My sideways split has increased by seven inches, and I’m incredibly close to touching my chest to my thigh with little to no warm-up. And all this without goals. I stretch simply for the enjoyment of the physical accomplishment.

Learning new things – all the time

Neuroscience, Taoism, medieval society, the Beatniks, new words, barefoot running – these are all things I have a strong desire to learn about. Instead of laying out goals filled with books I wanted to read by certain times, I just learned what I wanted to learn when I wanted to learn it. And I haven’t stopped. I’m all sorts of smart now!! (if only…)

Final example:

Over the summer I lifted weights nearly every day for three months straight. Without fail. I was excited when I saw results, which I noticed on a weekly basis. Whether it was getting more cut in my glamor muscles, as my brother would say, or increasing weight – which I knew to be muscle weight – I saw results regularly. My lifting threshold would increase, my max increased by 40 lbs, and, in direct proportion, increased my esteem regarding my physical appearance and sense of well-being.

All this I did without goals. As soon as I returned from Nicaragua this past October, I laid out a weight-lifting regimen.

I stopped going to the gym after that.

living in the moment

Bottom line(s):

  • Find something you love doing and just do it.
  • Find something that makes you feel good and just do it.
  • Find something that can improve the quality of your life and just do it.

But START SMALL! Nothing is as conducive to putting the brakes on a good habit as the “all or nothing” mentality. Start small, then, as you get more comfortable, work your way up the ladder.

Without goals, you may be surprised by just how high you can climb.

experience it

01/05/2012

Think about your last disappointment. Was it a movie you saw? A book you read? A date you went on? Or maybe it was just this past New Year’s Eve? Now that you’ve brought it to mind, ask yourself: “Why was I disappointed with the experience?” Chances are we’ll say something like: “The movie wasn’t as good as the previews made it out to be,” or, “The girl was attractive but had no personality,” or, “I didn’t find someone to kiss when midnight struck.” All valid reasons for disappointment. All understandable. And all our own fault.

accepting the blame for disappointment

Disappointment has one strong inherent implication, and that is that we expected something out of the experience based on our subjective view of past experiences and stories. We expected it to be good or bad, exciting or nerve-wracking, awkward or blissful. Now imagine a life of no disappointment.

Having no expectations is a powerful place to be. It allows us to enter every situation with a blank slate, with Locke’s tabula rasa. Why is this powerful? Because we go into everything with an open mind, not allowing stress to invade our mind or tensing our shoulders. We’re always pleasantly surprised, being closer to understanding that there is no good, there is no bad, there just is what is.

Accepting blame for something like this also teaches us another invaluable lesson. And that is humility. According to nearly every religious and philosophical doctrine, pride, or the sense of self, is the basis for all wrong, or all sin. That’s because it makes us act out of selfishness and greed, in direct disregard to others in order to advance ourselves. Imagine humbling ourselves by accepting the blame of what we deemed a negative situation. Imagine the power, the self-control, that brings.

don’t judge

We create our own reality. If a situation was bad, it’s because we made it bad. A car accident isn’t a bad thing. It’s an opportunity. For what? That’s up to us to figure out.

So when the next “negative” situation arises, we should take a step back and examine:

  • Why is this a bad thing?
  • What was my immediate reaction?
  • Why did I react that way?
  • Am I alive?

Then look closely at our answers (although the last one shouldn’t require too much deep thought). If we still have trouble grasping the concept, it can be helpful to turn to this famous Zen story for help:

Once there was an old farmer whose horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well thins had turned out.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The neighbors viewed the events transpiring at the farmer’s home with judgment. Things were either good or bad, and their emotions were akin to a roller coaster in response. That’s exhausting and stress-inducing, which means it’s harmful to our health (literally) and takes years off our life. The farmer, however, kept an open mind, devoid of judgment, devoid of expectations. He was relaxed and in the flow, never allowing a circumstance to determine his emotional or mental state.

This philosophy is a mental attitude we adopt through consistent application, which will include its fair share of failure as well as success.

If you haven’t already, give it a shot – you may be pleasantly surprised.

downwind of a traffic light

10/27/2011

A lumbering man. Middle-aged. He plods down the street at an easy but determined pace. Unassuming, with a slight belly that bespoke too much beer and not enough cardio.

It’s not 8 o’clock yet, but it’s that time of year when the sun sets sooner than what you’d like, and you know that in a little while you’ll be driving home from work in the dark. He’s bundled up against the chill in a vain attempt to fight off the cold, when he suddenly stops. He looks up. And he doesn’t move.

A minute passes.

His head moves to face a new direction, and I can only assume his eyes follow. Stars. Clouds. An eternal blackness, sans the glow of the traffic light serving generously as his backdrop.

His mind is not here. I don’t want to know where it is. This moment is his, and my disturbance would be akin to taking a paddle to the back of a meditating monk’s head – he might have achieved a form of nirvana, or a semblance of inner peace that many of us can only hope to attain, save for my interference.

I sit in my parked car, fully intending to drive somewhere but, not wanting to disturb his reverie, I sit and I watch, hearing but not listening to the sibilance coming from the radio. The engine hums.

I feel somewhat like an intruder, but the phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind and so I stay.

Another minute passes.

The traffic light changes. Aside from adjusting his feet farther apart to maintain a degree of comfort, he stays motionless. White tennis shoes. Worn bluejeans. A fall jacket and a Cleveland Browns snow cap. His breath mists.

He comes back to the moment, looks around briefly as if he had forgotten where he was, and continues on down the street. Then he stops again. His eyes go skyward again. He stands motionless. Again.

I’m not sure why it occurs to me at that moment, but I know that for some reason the still frame of a middle-aged, pot-bellied man standing on a suburban sidewalk gazing at the sky, backlit by a traffic light I hate to get caught at, will forever stick in my mind.

He lumbers on.

the smell

09/15/2011

The smell.

That’s what I always notice first about the rain. Not the feel of it on my skin. Not the sound of it on the tin awning outside the window. Not even the sight of it drifting in sheets through the orange glow of the solitary streetlight. It’s the smell that sends that wholesome reverberation, starting at the nose, throughout the body.

There’s a purity to the rain, to water. Perhaps it’s the analogous “washing away” of filth, of past sins. We feel clean after water has touched our skin. We feel either energized or refreshed (or both). Whether it’s a hot shower, playing with bubbles in our bath as children, or midnight skinny dipping with friends in the lake. No matter the source, the disposition, or the quantity, there’s a purity and a constancy to its effects on the allegorical soul.

I enjoy the simple pleasure of standing in the rain on purpose. It’s not that I feel purified or some such nonsense. It’s just nice to feel the steady rhythm of nature’s beating drum on my skin, in my hair, on my lips, reminding me that no matter what happened that day or night, the world continues to function, much as it did before I drew my first wailing breath, and much as it will after the memory of my existence is forgotten. The rain allows me to reflect on the inconsequential events of my life, and just be content to have experienced anything at all. Thus am I able to make peace with my own inevitable death.

But no matter what, even after the last drop evaporates from my skin, even after the last pattering sounds its final dirge on the tin awning, and even after the last faint glistening reflected in that streetlight glow disappears, no matter what, the smell lingers.

underscheduling my life

09/03/2010

If you’re a regular reader and wonder why I haven’t posted for a few weeks, it was purposeful. And if you weren’t wondering…well poop.

I needed to detach myself from certain aspects of my normative behavior, take a wide-angle view on things by underscheduling my life. I had felt paralyzed for a little while, like I wasn’t making progress with regard to my passions. So, I put a hold on my martial arts pursuits, I stopped fretting over my lack of progress on the guitar, I took a break from running and I stopped worrying about what my next blog post was going to be. I put a lot of thought into creating good content on this blog and I felt myself repeatedly coming up empty. I had 35 drafts of posts with nothing flushed out. When I tried to come back to something and expound upon it, the original intent of the post eluded me. I knew I needed a break.

An influence on this “hold” I placed on things was a slight running injury – I had symptoms of plantar fasciitis, so I web-MD’d myself and laid off for a while. This frustrated me immensely, because when I finally feel a flare of passion for running I come up with a running injury instead of a barefoot half-marathon. Instead of beating myself up over it I made my decision to step back from the world for a bit.

So, instead of producing anything worthy of praise (learning new songs, logging more miles, writing semi-decent blog posts), I played videogames, read a couple books, took more naps and hung out with a new group of friends probably too often – in other words, I became really good at doing nothing. I let simplicity take hold and ran with it, and I’m already feeling the emotional and psychological kickbacks a mere three weeks later. I feel refreshed.

If you’re feeling like I was a few weeks ago, give this theory of underscheduling a shot. Even if you have kids or other responsibilities that take up a vast amount of your time, find a little time in your day to just do nothing. The rewards are subtle but immense.