Purpose

A podcast host said in a recent episode that I was listening to that “there are over one-hundred fifty-thousand books on Amazon about how to find your way in life.”

Are we truly that lost? I mean, granted, at times I feel as if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. We all do. But, we’re it.

The bird doesn’t question what it means to be a bird. It doesn’t wonder as to the meaning of its flight. It just flies.

Man alone questions the nature of existence, and our place in the world.

That is our blessing. And our curse.

On personal struggles

A volunteer situation shed some light on a personal situation recently, as well as the significance of those “gut decisions”.

In the volunteering situation, there was an issue of some debate over a matter of a money shortage. First off, I knew that something felt wrong, but I couldn’t quite articulate what about it was off. The perception I had was incorrect, but not for the reason it actually was.

It was shortsighted of me to not explore all possibilities, but the one assumption I had fit so perfectly I couldn’t get past it. Only when I stopped, and investigated where the money wasn’t adding up did I realize – look in a separate bucket. Thus, the shortage was resolved. The two issues were unrelated, though occurring at once.

Thus, when trying to facilitate a family matter I did my best to explore other possibilities. Unfortunately this family member that I was trying to help was unwilling to stop and investigate, maintaining her assumptions and ostracizing herself.

We all go through those times when we believe something so fervently that we are unable to explore any other rationale. But, there may be two issues overlapping, and even when have a gut feeling (often a true intuitive instinct), we may be blind to that secondary issue – preventing us from coming to the best possible outcome.

My soul in stillness waits

In meditation, especially early on in your practice, you will find yourself fidgety. Attention drifts, as it does when we focus on other things as well (work, personal life, wherever). The important thing is not to fight with yourself over the distraction, but to accept it, acknowledge it, and then it let it past you.

Like a rock in a river, many different things may bump and nudge you. You do not push back, but let it roll past you on its own journey.

Mindfully accepting distraction, and releasing it, is as much a part of meditating as the sitting in stillness.

Back to Form

It was 2015, and I started doing The Artist’s Way. What I was expecting, I’m not sure. I just knew that something wasn’t working for me.

That New Year’s, on a white board at work, I wrote this:

BACK TO FORM – 2016

That’s it. I believed that it would take me somewhere creative. Somewhere in touch with what I wanted, as well as what I needed.

A relationship ended. Another started. Depression hit. I left my job, travelled to Europe, and moved out of my house.

That was in the first six months.

Whatever siren song back to form was, it shook up every aspect of my life. All the cobwebs that were creeping in.

Sometimes, when you’re not really certain what you’re asking for – you get just that.

Back to form.

What we know

How many of us really know anything? Steven Pressfield, in his book, Do the Work, says, “I was thirty years old before I had an actual thought. Everything up till them was either what Buddhists call “monkey-mind” (chatter) or the reflective regurgitation of whatever my parents or teachers said, or whatever I saw on the news or read in a book, or heard somebody rap about, hanging around the street corner.”

Most of our so-called “thoughts” are simply the processing of someone else’s information. Some input that we took in. It stands to reason that the wider variety of input we take in, the “smarter” we get to be.

Wouldn’t we all aspire to be faithful citizens? Of the nation, of the world, of our family, and of our community.

Whatever your personal definition of faith is, doesn’t that sound like something we’d want to aspire to?

Don’t we want to have faith in our community? To believe that we’re safe? That we’re free? That we belong…

Summer Time, and the Books are Easy

July 2018

Books Bought:

  • Principles – Ray Dalio
  • England and Other Stories – Graham Swift
  • The Silver Dream – Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss

Books Read:

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (unfinished)
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • Homeland – R.A. Salvatore
  • Exile – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Power of Now – Eckart Tolle (unfinished)
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising – Hank Rosso (unfinished)
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen (unfinished)

Well here it is. I hope it was worth a few days’ waiting.

Some things continually crept up as the month played out. Ira Glass’s quote on beginning an artistic endeavor:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Aside from this quote, other recurring elements included: a need to escape to the outdoors – including a trip to an REI Co-op. I had never been. Seeing all three Hotel Transylvania films (and a musical based of Adam Sandler’s 80s extravaganza The Wedding Singer).

Also Dr. Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, and David Allen.

In restructuring my days, I’ve found increased time for reading – actually scheduling in at least an hour of reading daily (with few exceptions). At night I was putting a chapter in (at least) of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden saga. The first three books were loaned to me by a friend of mine. We had had an open discussion on Urban Fantasy following my finishing of Arena last month (or the month before).

Another odd thing about me – when I walk into someone’s house, I am drawn to their books. The more books on a shelf, the more intrigued I am by what’s there. I know that I’m not alone in this interest, but it’s also apparent that many people I spend time with don’t have that compulsion. I could literally spend minutes to hours staring at collections of books.

So, when I entered my friend’s house, I found reason to linger in the room with the book shelves, housing Salvatore, Gaiman, Tolkien, and other notable fantasy and science fiction writers. He wholly recommended the Drizzt series, and I told him I’d give it a try.

Homeland was a slow start. I had committed to reading it, but it was a little bit of a drag at first. (Similar to the drag I experienced reading Tolle’s The Power of Now, but I’ll get to that later.)

The origin story of Drizzt Do’Urden began on his birth night, and showed the conniving and cunning nature of the dark elves – of which Drizzt is a noble born son. But as the story progresses, we learn that Drizzt is more kind; more empathetic. That he doesn’t share the bloodlust or the vanity of his kin. And he begins to hate his surroundings more and more, until (and this leads to Exile), he finds refuge without his city. This too proves trying, and with an undead assassin on his tale, he needs all the help he can get.

All in all, Drizzt is a very well-written character, and I received an email from Barnes & Noble stating the new Drizzt trilogy is to start releasing in September. I’ll be reading more of this adventure in the coming months.

Two remanded books purchased this month – England and Silver Dream. I’m still trying to hone in on the short story format, England being just that, but haven’t been able to ready my mind to read a short story collection. Several have been purchased in the past year, including a collection from The Paris Review. I just came across it while boxing some stuff up to take to storage.

I’m currently preparing to move, with all intention of getting into my new place next month, or by October at the latest. We’ll see how all of that plays out, and whether it affects my reading time.

Silver Dream had Neil Gaiman’s name on the top – it seems that he helped with the story of the original book (this one being a sequel). I suppose I’ll have to read the original. So, it goes in a box to move to the next house.

In my spiritual reconciliation, I often find myself quoting the likes of Julia Cameron, Pedram Shojai, and now even Jen Sincero. So as my girlfriend and I were watching the third Hotel Transylvania, there was a scene where Johnny (pictured above), speaks in a very zen way about the flow of the universe. She looks over to me and says, “Look. It’s you.”

In fact, it was indeed a very me thing to say. I’ve been speaking for two years on the essence of flow in the universe, and how our ability to connect to that Source energy allows us the freedom and ability to achieve our goals and desires.

All this to say, I thought Johnny would make a very good featured image for this post. And thus there he is. My animated self. (I’ve also backpacked in Europe twice over the last 30 months, and am planning a Costa Rica trip later this year.)

Spiritually, July didn’t offer me much I suppose. Really, since starting work at the theatre, it seems that much of my free-thinking time is devoted to nonprofit strategies. I’ve broken out the Rosso, a primer on philanthropy, and one that I had to read parts of during my master’s program at SCAD.

I know that I’ve lost track of books as well, and occasionally I’ll come across one that I’ve either read, or purchased, and forgot to add.

I love poetry, and I’m fascinated my Buddhism as well as Asian mysticism. Cold Mountain was a Shambhala publication, and I just had to buy it. I’ve read very little of it so far – again, nonprofits seem to be inhabiting the bulk of my reading capacity – but it’s there on my desk for me to peruse at my leisure.

With all that said, I think that is likely the best representation of reading for last month. Was there more? Maybe. Was it anything I want to talk about? Meh.

I recommend the Drizzt books, as well as Jen Sincero. Tolle’s Power of Now is something that, though beneficial, it’s better to knock it out in one sitting, at least I think. I’ve now started and stopped at least a dozen times. Everything else will need more focus for August.

What does this mean?

Half the time, I’m not sure of the results.

The other half of the time, I’m sure, but I’m wrong about results better than 50% when I am sure.

So, really, I know very little. I’m just winging it. But aren’t we all?

I don’t know what programs are going to be successful. I don’t know which blog posts are going to be read. I don’t know who tunes in to my radio broadcasts, or if anyone downloads the podcast.

But, all in all, it’s an easy way to put something out there.

Steven Pressfield would say it’s doing the work. Seth Godin would call it “shipping art”. Some may just call it product.

But that’s showing up.

And really, that is what it’s all about. Showing up. Because decisions are made by people who show up.