Over the past month I’ve taken several trips – and for whatever reason I do my best thinking when I’m on the road. I want to share some of the ideas I reflected on during my trips –
On Being Humble
A lot of people know way more than I do about a lot of things. I am starting to become more aware of my judgments – how I automatically write certain people off. It might be because of my education, or the industry I’m in, or the fact that I live in San Francisco. But for whatever reason I realize that I approach certain people, friends, and family with pre-judgments.
By doing this I automatically ignore people’s experience, perspective, input, and opinion. I notice that I especially do this when politics are involved. It is really sad that I have this disposition to judge others because each person has so much to share with others, and I’ll never be able to really connect with some people until I drop these judgments.
On Being Your Best
In my head I often say things like – in the future I’ll be more outgoing, friendly, healthy, loving, caring, compassionate etc. Why do I always set plans for the future? I should bring my best to every moment in this life. I should be my best right here, right now in this moment.
I really enjoy running – it is super meditative for me, I feel so connected to everything after a tough run. I also really enjoy challenging myself. My best run times tend to be when I push myself to the breaking point – when I run at a pace that I am convinced that I can’t keep up, where I feel like I’m about to collapse. Time and time again when I push myself to this point – I find that I rarely fail – most of the time I make it and end up breaking all my previous running records.
The lesson is that until I actually end up failing and collapsing I will never know what my true potential is. Until I actually push myself to exhaustion and fail I will never know how fast I can run. Ironically, failure is the key to success, more importantly, failure is the key to realizing my true potential.
The same goes for life – we are so scared of failing that we don’t even try, and I think if we tried we would succeed more often than we would fail. I firmly believe that the road towards failure is littered with success and many valuable life lessons.
On a personal note – it has a been a long long time since I’ve really failed at something important to me. Sure I’ve faced failure, but I can’t remember the time where I failed really hard and publicly. This tells me that I’m most likely not even close to understanding what my true potential is.
On the Void
As I continue with my meditation practice i am becoming really aware of this undercurrent of fear and loneliness in my life – I would almost describe it as a void that lies in the pit of my stomach. One of the reasons I stopped meditating was because these feelings were getting pretty intense every time I meditated. However, what I now realize is that the meditation isn’t causing the void – it is always there, but meditation is allowing me to become more aware of it.
When I feel this void my instinct is to do something to run away from it – listen to music, talk to a friend, read the news, immerse myself in work etc. However, all that does is provide momentary relief and the truth is that it is still affecting me and is constantly on in the background.
Rather than running away from it, I just sit with it and become aware of how it feels like and how it is affecting my body. Without over thinking, I try to understand what is fueling it. I hope with this lens of awareness I will be able to make wiser life decisions understanding how this feeling affects me.
On the External
For a very long time and even today I find myself living for the external. I tell myself that I can be happy once I figure out what I’m truly passionate about, when I earn a lot more money, when I am able to move to a different apartment. I am basing my happiness on these preconditions, these circumstances.
If I continue to live for the external I will continue on this rat race. There is nothing wrong with goals/desires but I realize that it is very important to be grateful and appreciative for life as it is right now. Life happens in this moment, so if my focus is always on the future then what is the point of life?
Time continues to pass – it is up to us to choose how we want to act as this happens. A minute of sadness is just as long as a minute of joy. We can acknowledge that no matter what happens time will pass, so why not spend our lives choosing a positive attitude in each moment.
Even if things seem bad – we can choose to adopt a positive perspective and let go of the sadness realizing it serves no purpose and doesn’t make us feel any better.
One of my favorite songs that describes life through its ups and does is Float On by Modest Mouse.
On Being Grateful/Appreciative
Sometimes when I am in a slump I have to remind myself how lucky I am and show gratitude for everything in my life. Some of the things that I take for granted – Plentiful amount of food, clean water, shelter, clothes, shoes, freedom, clean air, health (ability to walk, see, hear, touch, smell and no major health problems), exercise, an awesome job, loving family, loving friends, loving colleagues, living in San Francisco, education.
I really hit the lottery – there is no other explanation for how lucky I am. Reflecting on this list I realize that I already have most of the important things to live a fulfilled and joyful life.
I’m not writing this section to brag about my life, but to make a point on how easy it is to forget the simple things like the ability to purchase food to eat or drink water from the tap. If you reflect on your list of things to be grateful for I hope you will see that you probably already have everything you need to live an amazing life. Anything else you do is an added bonus.
What are your greatest fears, and what are you greatest aspirations? Now imagine your life if your darkest fears come true and your greatest aspirations never manifest?
This exercise + reflecting on what I am grateful for has helped me free myself from some entrenched fears causing the void I wrote about earlier in this post.
For example, one big fear I have is never understanding my passion and purpose in this life. After thinking through what the rest of my life would be like if this fear were to come true – I feel a sense of calmness and ease. I realize that even if I never completely understand what my purpose is there is so many things that I am so grateful for and there are so many things that I am interested in. If I don’t find that one passion – I am still excited about a million other things (and just maybe true passion is pursuing those millions of things one at a time).
An aspiration I have is to one day be working for myself. However, if this doesn’t happen then life will still be okay. In fact, I’ll have the opportunity to find jobs where I can work alongside and learn from passionate individuals (something I am grateful for having today). I’ll also be able to control how much stability I want in my life and not have to worry about where the next paycheck will come from.
The point is that by becoming comfortable with the “worst” case scenario you can find a sense of calmness which can free you to pursue what you desire without being tied down by your fears.