Honest Self Expression

Honestly expressing yourself…it is very difficult to do. I mean it is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool…or I can make all kind of phony things, you see what I mean, blinded by it or I can show you some really fancy movement. But to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself…now that, my friend, is very hard to do. –Bruce Lee

Is it exhausting to express ourselves? It is for me when I try to censor myself.

There are many steps between feeling an emotion and how we express it.

Taking an emotion that changes so constantly and trying to snapshot it with words, colors and/or music is already difficult enough.

Further processing how we feel into a socially acceptable package, and diluting the language to avoid offending others is tiring; and a disrespect to ourselves.

Say what you want and deal with the consequences. The truth will either strengthen meaningful relationships, or weaken superficial ones.

We are not living if we are not polarizing, embarrassing, exciting–anything. Don’t be a living corpse because you stopped expressing honestly.


Be Present Or Be Prisoner

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Adventure is all around us, but the courage to go out on them is not.

New adventures means willing to look like a fool and having people make fun of us, because we’re doing things for the first time and voluntarily introducing stress into our lives. Who would want any of that?

Yet, adventure is the very thing we crave when we become accustomed to the monotonous repetition of our daily lives. On the other hand, those of us who live a life of frequent stimulation and movement fantasize about having a simple, predictable life that can be more easily managed and anticipated; because eventually, we become tired of searching for that next new thing, relationship or place.
The world is only as vast as our mind can envision. If we are prisoners of the past and future, we will seldom be allowed to exist in the present. We will always search to recreate nostalgia, or we will continue to move our anxieties into a future where we imagine a “better tomorrow.”

The real courage is to be here and now, to not compare ourselves to others; that way, we can achieve a level of freedom that others only dream about. To achieve that freedom, we must be willing to be misunderstood by the people we love who are prisoners to the opinions of others.

Their limitations are their own, we can only inspire others by achieving our own freedom.

swerve (from) the negative

One of the earliest and most important things I’ve learned (and often forget) from martial arts is that even if we block the first attack, we’ll still get hit if we don’t move out of the way. This principle is true when dealing with the excessive negativity of others; maybe we’ll be able to counter a few negative comments with some positive ones, but if we don’t make it a point to move on from either the conversation or person, the unrelenting attacks will start to damage us.

The only way someone can make us stand there and take an emotional beating is if we are convinced by guilt to deserve it. No one is truly qualified to be the judge of another person, and are fully responsible for only ourselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Redeem yourself if you fucked up, but don’t just submit. Get moving.


Our Life Is Our Empire

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Photo by Lucas Pezeta from Pexels

Hello friends, and thanks for joining me today. This week, I wanted to do a breakdown on an excerpt from Swami Vivekananda. Alan Watts would often reference The Upanishads and Vivekananda when talking about the non-dualism of the universe and aspects of Eastern philosophy that the texts influenced (i.e. Buddhism, Jainism, etc). I won’t be going into Vivekananda’s biography or significance much here, but I wanted to break down an excerpt from one of his teachings that has helped me to understand myself better. I hope you find the following helpful as well:

“But the last and greatest counsel is that you need not weep at all. You need not go through all these ceremonies, and need not take any notice of how to regain your empire, because you never lost it. Why should you go seek for what you never lost? You are pure already, you are free already. If you think you are free, free you are this moment, and if you think you are bound, bound you will be.”  –Vivekananda

Caterpillars & Butterflies

There are many people today who miss and grieve their younger days being gone. But according to Vivekananda, the best advice is that we shouldn’t be sad over losing ourselves, especially if we’ve never lost it. For some of us, “younger us” felt like a different person who was happier and more full-of-life, compared to the “older us” who feel isolated and damaged by traumatic life experiences. We are miserable over losing this energetic and better part of ourselves, but the thing we fail to see is that we are still one and the same person. We haven’t lost ourselves, because we are still here!

For example, when we look at a butterfly we often don’t imagine the caterpillar from where the butterfly came; it is still the same organism at a different point in its experience. You could say that the butterfly was always in the caterpillar, and/or that the caterpillar is always within the butterfly because we could not have one without the other. Similarly, parts of our life experiences makes up one entire life. There is no need to be saddened over the person we once used to be, for that same person is still within us– there is no need for sadness.

Rituals

Sometimes, we’ll do creative and silly things to regain that person (or nostalgic experience) back, and call them “rituals.” Many of us have a morning or evening “ritual” that we feel will give us some control over the day, not realizing that our perspective is truly the control over everything.  When we look back at ancient cultures, we laugh at their primitive traditions because now we can see the futility of what they were doing. Every Ancient culture had something strange, and we look at them as crazy because they were attempting to influence uncontrollable things like the weather and cosmos with rituals. This is what the Ancient Aztecs did, when they sacrificed living people for a bountiful harvest. This is what the Ancient Polynesians did, when they would cannibalize their enemies to gain their power. But even though we’ve come a long way from using physical barbarism to influence the unknown, it is the same fear of the unknown that drives us to be attached to form and routine today–now in an effort to control our brains. Today, we commit the worst mental barbarism with psychoanalysis, medication and expensive self-care and gurus. Perhaps future generations will look at what we are doing today with the same disbelief as we do of our ancestors today.

The Empire Of You

Many traditional philosophers would reference “empires” in their work because many of them would work as royal advisers to Kings and Queens. Sometimes, the rulers would be philosophers themselves, people like Marcus Aurelius or Emperor Asoka. These scholars were learning how to govern themselves so that, by extension, they could rule their empire just as effectively. While we do not have rulers and empires today, if we look at the word “empire” as our own personal life, we can begin to build, improve and manage different aspects of ourselves to engineer a better life. How we see ourselves is ultimately how we see the world.


 

Rose

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Is life truly so painful, that many of us seek to be sedated with things like food, music, poetry, alcohol and drugs? What about life makes it so painful, that escaping it seems like bliss? I wish I knew. Yet we pursue our poisons in excess until they kill us: our love of food becomes heart disease and diabetes, our love of alcohol becomes failed organs and relationships, our love of drugs dulls our awareness and make terrible things seem okay. And what about poetry and books, where we live the memories of the authors instead of creating our own? We need higher and higher doses for the same escape each time.

Is reality really too much information to take in? So overstimulating, that we need to dull our senses to enjoy the beauty of it in small pieces? Perhaps there is no escape from making the choice of which poison we choose to escape the normal discomfort of reality. It’s much easier to create our own world which makes us ignorant of everything around us.

Just like how when we look at a rose, we ignore everything around it in order to focus on the Christmas of its red petals and green leaves, the thorns and its fragrance. It seems like the flower itself has a universe of its own that becomes more apparent when we ignore our own. Maybe we are looking for our own roses.


Be Audacious

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Uncertainty is a terrible thing to wake up with; uncertain if we want to go to work today, uncertain about the partner we wake up with, uncertain if we are doing the best we can for ourselves. It diminishes our enthusiasm for the day, as if our car tires hit a patch of quicksand. When we are slowed down, instead of choosing what to do, we revert to old habits (and by extension, our old life): brush our teeth, have our coffee–then autopilot–end up at work again. Years go by because we become accustomed to the uncertainty, habits and worrying. I think the answer to uncertainty is audacity. Ask for that raise, apply for a better job, tell people how you truly feel, go after the things and prove your self-doubt wrong. It might feel like familiar things are breaking down at first, but we can’t create something new unless we move on from the old.


The Immense Power Of Imagination

analysis-blackboard-bubble-355952If there is anything faster than the speed of light, it is the speed of imagination. It can take billions of light years to travel anywhere in space, but only milliseconds to imagine being there: we can imagine travelling to the Sun, survive its immense gravity and heat, and get there much faster than on a spaceship (that has yet to be invented during our lifetime). Back on Earth, we can imagine being at the bottom of the ocean much faster than actually travelling there. Our thoughts and imagination are immensely powerful because they are not bound by physical limitations. And although thoughts may not be tangible, they do affect our lives in every way because our perspective of the world is the world we live in, and how we think about ourselves shapes our own unique experience and reality.

An increased mindfulness for the way we talk to ourselves can determine the type of energy we radiate into our personal lives. The nuclear bomb was possible once we understood the relationship between E=mc^2, in which c represents the speed of light and m represents mass. It took some imagination (which provided the framework for the scientific trials later) to understand that the larger the mass of something, the more potential energy it contains. Likewise a small object with great speed, like a bullet, could yield just as much energy. A nuclear bomb gets it energy from displacing the nucleus of a tiny atom. And yet such a small change in internal structure is enough to wreak havoc on entire civilizations. What if we began to think of our thoughts as powerful weapons?

Thoughts may not have actual weight, but they affect everything in our lives. Thoughts have an unquantifiable mass and they move at immeasurable speed. Thoughts lead to action, and action carries weight in our world. How we imagine ourselves and others shapes our own unique life experience. We can create immense positive energy by increasing the frequency of gratitude, kindness and patience in our lives. Or we can “nuke” positive thoughts about ourselves instantly with negativity, self-doubt and entitlement.

Just as the center of the stars have billions of nuclear reactions happening simultaneously, the center of our brains are constantly reacting a myriad of opposing thoughts and generating great amounts of energy. As Carl Sagan once said, “We are all made of star stuff.” It’s no coincidence that we are, in many ways, just like the stars and cosmic energies to which we feel so tiny. Our thoughts may seem like nothing, but our perspective is everything.


 

Conversation In The Checkout Aisle

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The other day, I was waiting to checkout at the grocery store. Next to me, a short elderly lady wearing a golden plastic tiara (like the ones you get from party favor stores) was having trouble reading something on a movie box. She finally turned to me and asked, “Excuse me hun, but could you read this for me?”

“Yeah, no problem!” I sat my groceries down, grabbed the box and read: “Fifty Shades Of Grey.” She noticed the surprised look on my face and laughed.

She revealed that her daughter was into the Fifty Shades series, but she didn’t know much about it herself. Her eyes widened when I told her that I never watched any movies from the series myself:

“Oh gosh, there are more of these things?” Time seems to move quickly when having conversations in line because it was finally my turn to check out. I asked the cashier if she could help her find a box set for Fifty Shades. Turned out, the cashier Tina was a huge fan of the series herself. and even Googled a coupon for my new friend. It made me wonder: what causes someone to go above and beyond to help another person out? She didn’t have to “google” a coupon, nor have the conversation that followed after the initial exchange.

Perhaps it is the courage to ask, to initiate a conversation. In the simple process of asking, the little old lady created a moment for us three random strangers to connect and share a fun moment. Often times, we pass up potential moments of connection when we are hesitant to talk to someone new. But ultimately, most people welcome conversation about things that they happen to be interested in. There are plenty of reasons not talk to someone new. So that’s why I encourage you to find just one reason to talk to someone today. Talk to a few new people, and see where the conversation goes. Through conversation, we learn more about about ourselves, and connection makes the world a better place.


 

Should We Ever Break A Promise?

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One of the things that I learned growing up was that we should always keep our promises. But there have been several times in my adult life where I’ve wanted to stop helping someone once I got to know them and their intentions better. But should we consider ourselves a lesser person if we negate our promise with someone?

Many years ago when I was a college student, one of my colleagues would often ask me for help on their chemistry homework. Eventually, I found that I was just being used to do their homework while they were out partying and posting on social media; I resented the fact that I was giving up my time so that someone else could have more to enjoy life. During the semester, they asked several other students for help on the other assignments, and they passed the entire semester on pure charisma, charm and cunning genius. I thought I could say “no” whenever, but instead I kept “helping” them while continuing to seethe inside–hopelessly expecting this person to realize how crappy they were. The truth was that I was an insecure doormat of a person who hated confrontation. Eventually we all finished the semester and I never saw them again.

I’ve seen this pattern appear in my personal life again and again. Looking closer, I realize that this (generally good) habit was learned from my own family. The problem is that boundaries aren’t often taught with “helping unconditionally” and the latter becomes a disguise behind “not being able to set boundaries well.” I think that as new information is gained, it is important to change our actions. When we help someone, we should do it without expectation. But if that “help” turns into the harm of another person, or resentment for the person we are helping, we should consider that a boundary has essentially been violated.

If someone helps us with the expectation of getting back help in return, we should be beware: that help has strings attached and is often costly to pay back. The act of giving unconditionally, which makes us uniquely human, becomes a transaction. Ideally, we want to develop an abundant mindset that doesn’t depend on the help of others, with the understanding that we are moving away from independence to inter-dependent relationships.

Like dating, every relationship is a risk. So it’s important to get to know people as best as possible before becoming vulnerable and giving out unconditional energy. And just like a relationship, breaking up with someone isn’t a bad thing–but someone who has multiple exes will be portrayed as someone who has commitment issues, regardless of how great a person they really are. The goal is then to become such a self-sufficient (not prideful) person that when we help others, we forget the favor as soon as we offer it.


Thursdays

One more day until the goal. But for now, we must work and make sure we get through the day. But depending on what we have planned for the weekend, the day can go by either quickly or last forever. And if the day is going by slow, there are many stimulants and pointless conversation to help kill time. During my college days, I remember many of the local bars would have weekday happy hours. When I later started working full-time jobs, I thought this was a great idea, because it would make the time go by so much faster by hanging out with equally bored friends. The more I was bored with my day, the faster I wanted it to go, so that I had time to do the fun things.

But the irony is that as we get older, we often wonder where the time flew by; we passed it by ourselves, not realizing that even though there are several ways to “kill time” there is no way to get it back. We never know when life gets unexpectedly busy until it actually happens.

The reason why it’s so important to start that thing you wanted to do today, is because only today is guaranteed. You are the youngest you’ll ever be today. As Elon Musk once said, “your responsibilites will only increase as you get older.” Instead of being bored and waiting for the next best thing to come, let’s create that best moment here and now. Otherwise, the future that we look forward to so much becomes just like that Friday: always fleeting.