Almost Daily

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I need to remind myself–almost daily–that just because someone looks different, thinks different, believes different, talks different, votes different, or behaves in a manner I’m uncomfortable with; that in no way makes them wrong, bad, or less-than. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily–that I have confirmation bias. I seek out information that agrees with my position and proves my way is RIGHT! This bias makes me dogmatic and judgmental. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily–to remain present, aware, focused, and in the Now. I beg my mind to be with me in the moment. If I’m in the dentist chair and my mind is having an imaginary conversation with someone I disagree with, then I’m not present. I’ve left the Now. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily–that no situation is bad, wrong, or impossible to handle. My reaction to the events I find myself in are the best indicator of my own mental health. I cannot control what does or does not happen in life, but I can control my response. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily–that I am not my conditioning. I am not my culture. I am not my religious upbringing. I am the outpouring of the Divine and a brief reflection of eternity. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily–not to be attached to any outcome. By staying open, I allow life to flow freely around me and through me. I am continually in awe and full of gratitude for my experiences in this mysterious flow called life. 

I need to remind myself–almost daily. 

~Travis

I DON’T KNOW

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I don’t know.

Three simple words.

Three simple words with many different implications.  At first glimpse, someone who says “I don’t know” too often appears to be ignorant or unable to commit to a position.  Maybe their “I don’t know” carries a lack of experience with it.  In a culture where it seems every scientific discovery has been found, “I don’t know” almost has a lazy feel to it.

The last time you asked someone a sincere question with a deep desire to know them better and they replied with an “I don’t know,” what was your response?  Did you want to grab hold of them and shake their knowing out of them the way you shake a coconut out of its tree?  Did you find yourself wanting to answer their “I don’t know” the same way you would answer a fill-in-the-blank question on a history exam?  The right answer is out there–you most certainly know it–so why can’t they know it?  You just want them to think; to apply themselves and work out their knowing muscle the way a bodybuilder sculpts their body with weights and resistance.

Isn’t it interesting that with loved ones we always know what’s best for them when they say, “I don’t know?”

I don’t know.

Three simple words.

In The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell says on page 94:

You can’t talk about the ocean

with a frog who lives in a well:

he is bounded by the space he inhabits.

You can’t talk about ice

with an insect who was born in June:

he is bounded by a single season.

You can’t talk about the (Unknown)

with a person who thinks he knows something:

he is bounded by his own beliefs.

The (Unknown) is vast and fathomless.

You can understand only by stepping

beyond the limits of yourself.

(the word Tao changed to Unknown for clarity)

I’m certain you have encountered someone who knows what is best for you during the “I don’t know” period of your life.  Everybody is willing to shove their agenda down your throat when you “don’t know.”  Talking to someone who is bounded by his own beliefs adds more confusion instead of bringing clarity.  Dealing with these people who “know” can be exhausting and counterproductive.  Be cautious of the person in your life who always claims to “know” what is best for you.

When I was younger and more full of myself, I was certain I avoided the “I don’t know” mentality.  Whether it was the big issues of religion, politics, morality, poverty, or race; I thought my views were solid as concrete and steady as steel.  There’s an interesting transformation that happens as one progresses through their twenties and thirties.  No matter how secure you are in your beliefs and knowing, life always has a way of disrupting your certainty.

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I don’t know why heartbreak visits your front door.

I don’t know why your dreams turn to nightmares.

I don’t know why you weren’t protected as a child.

I don’t know why your innocence was robbed from you.

I don’t know the secrets to our existence and our origins.

I don’t know why your relationships have imploded.

I don’t know why your business failed and left your family vulnerable.

I don’t know why evil seems to come in waves while goodness arrives in whispers.

I don’t know what tomorrow may bring–for me, for you, for my loved ones.

I don’t know the vast and fathomless Unknown from where I came.

I don’t know the vast and fathomless Unknown for where I will return.

I don’t know why my failures turned out to be blessings.

I don’t know what causes a father to turn away from his family.

I don’t know why a mother would reject or abandon her children.

I don’t know why I love you this very moment.

I don’t know where hatred and discrimination come from.

I don’t know why some wounds never heal while others vanish within hours.

I don’t know why the past bleeds into the present without our permission.

I don’t know why cheaters win and bullies flourish.

I don’t know the fastest way to healing, the shortest distance to peace, or the simplest route to joy.

IDK

It may sound counter-intuitive, but as I began to question everything I thought I knew; I realized that I knew very little!  It’s a very humbling place to arrive at.  Just as Stephen Mitchell said, “You can understand only by stepping beyond the limits of yourself,” I had to be willing to admit I may not know–and that my loved ones who were so certain may not know either.  I opened myself to infinite possibilities and have arrived at an amazing destination–I don’t know. What at first felt to me as a sign of weakness or ignorance to not know has since turned into the fertile soil where my ideas are allowed to grow.

With pressure from friends and family to participate in groupthink (I encourage you to look up groupthink on wikipedia after finishing this blog), I have graciously and deliberately chosen to step back and say I don’t know.

I don’t know.

Three simple words.

“I don’t know” can be lonely because our culture demands certainty while our ego fights for our rightness.  Certainty is like that belt you wear that’s too tight or the straitjacket that’s impossible to escape; whereas “I don’t know” is open, free, and malleable.

You know what I have come to truly love about “I don’t know?”  People are always eager to share with me what they do know.  People open up to me about the most bizarre and amazing things and it’s not because I’m some guru who has all of life’s answers.

“I don’t know” is also where my source of creativity originates.  “I don’t know” is the humble invitation I give to my Muse.  “I don’t know” is moving the pen across the page and inviting the beautiful Muse to sit and stay awhile. She just needs to know she’s invited and that I care for her as much as she cares for me.  She doesn’t like to be used or taken advantage of any more than I do.  She wants to be in a partnership.  She wants me to woo her and in return she will woo me with the words she whispers to me.  She wants to dance with me and feel my hand on the small of her back.  She longs for me to give her goosebumps then she’ll reciprocate by giving me goosebumps through the words I string together on the page.  “I don’t know” is the space where she desires to meet me for a very sensual and intimate exchange.

So where are you at on the “I don’t know” scale? Do you arrogantly hold on to your certainty as a possession? Do you ignorantly subscribe to groupthink and willingly lose your individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking? Are you open to the possibility that your worldview may be wrong?

I don’t know.

Three simple words.

With all there is to be confused by in this universe, with the Unknown being vast and fathomless, and with my long-winded argument to accept the “I don’t know;” there is one thing I am still certain about.  There is one certainty that transcends all worldviews, all politics, all religions, and all family dynamics.  So what is my one certainty in a life full of “I don’t know?”

One simple word.

Love!

Peace my friends!

~Travis

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To All the Little Girls

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  • There once was a little girl who didn’t understand all the rules.
  • The little girl has no idea why mommy and daddy fight so much.
  • The little girl doesn’t comprehend why her family goes to the church they do.
  • The little girl can’t understand why people touch her when she doesn’t want them to.
  • The little girl wants her daddy to hold her and love her.
  • The little girl hates boys because boys have cooties and are disgusting.
  • The little girl loves her best friend and wants to see her all the time.
  • The little girl loves her animals and wishes she could save them all.
  • The little girl just wants to be all grown up like mommy if she only knew how.
  • The little girl doesn’t understand why grandma fell asleep and had to be buried with all the other grandmas that fell asleep.
  • The little girl hates getting spanked for only doing what she thought was right.
  • The little girl is scared to death when she has to move from house to house.
  • The little girl sees mommy and daddy as superheroes.
  • The little girl can’t understand why her daddy doesn’t come visit her more often.
  • The little girl gets old enough to like the attention from little boys.
  • The little girl wants to be liked by the cool kids so she tries to impress them.
  • The little girl feels changes in her body and doesn’t understand why.
  • The little girl senses older people looking at her differently and it makes her uncomfortable.
  • The little girl wishes her family was like her friend’s family.
  • The little girl feels all kinds of special on her sweet sixteenth birthday.
  • The little girl now has one little boy that she calls hers.
  • The little girl lets her boyfriend explore her maturing body because that’s what all the other little girls do.
  • The little girl feels jealous when her boyfriend flirts with other girls.
  • The little girl thinks life is over when her little boy breaks her heart.
  • The little girl realizes she missed her friends while she was sidetracked by her little boy.
  • The little girl learns there are some sports she’s good at and some activities she’d rather not do.
  • The little girl gets some attention from a new little boy and notices her pain has subsided.
  • The little girl nervously goes all the way with this new little boy and she’s bittersweet because she realizes she’s no longer that same little girl.
  • The little girl proudly wears her cap and gown across the stage for graduation.
  • The little girl still has no idea what her life is for but makes plans anyway because that’s what the adults do.
  • The little girl goes to college and things fall apart with the other little boy.
  • The little girl learns that everything her parents taught her about the world may not be accurate.
  • The little girl is convinced she’ll find herself if she stares into the bottom of enough empty wine glasses.
  • The little girl experiments with many things her religious grandparents would blush at.
  • The little girl realizes she needs to grow up and start taking life more seriously.
  • The little girl discovers a worldview and assumes all her confusion about life is now answered.
  • The little girl meets “The One” and her life is quickly full of wedding plans.
  • The little girl walks down the aisle and has never felt more special in her life.
  • The little girl feels secure and happy for quite some time.
  • The little girl soon realizes life still isn’t perfect and something tells her it’s her husband’s fault.
  • The little girl calculates what’s missing in her life and she’s soon pregnant.
  • The little girl watches Oprah and Ellen and discovers a world exists she wasn’t aware of.
  • The little girl has a new sense of purpose now that she’s responsible for her own little one.
  • The little girl loses herself in laundry, meals, and soccer games so much that weeks turn into years.
  • The little girl has a parent get cancer and death stares her in the eye.
  • The little girl pleads with her higher power to keep her loved ones safe.
  • The little girl is flooded with memories from her childhood that rocks every fabric of her being.
  • The little girl becomes unsatisfied with the way her husband responds to her.
  • The little girl goes to therapy because she feels grown women shouldn’t feel this way.
  • The little girl wishes she could just go back to being that little girl before all the pain and wounds set in.
  • The little girl slowly learns healthy steps to enrich her life.
  • The little girl grieves the loss of many loved ones and lost relationships.
  • The little girl celebrates life with her children’s weddings and arrival of grandkids.
  • The little girl still feels inadequate when the cool grandparents don’t accept her.
  • The little girl feels betrayed by her children when they move her into a nursing home.
  • The little girl accepts her life she’s been given and learns to live peacefully even though surrounded by death.
  • The little girl is finally satisfied that without being handed any rules, she did her best at figuring out life as she went.
  • The little girl says goodbye to her family and goes back into the unknown from whence she came.
  • The little girl enjoyed her experience so much that she decides to try it all again but as a little boy this time.
  • There once was a little boy who didn’t understand all the rules………….

We all have a little girl or a little boy that accompanies each of us on our journey. Treat them well.

Peace my friends!

~Travis

PS, if you enjoyed this story, feel free to give it a share. 🙂

I Hate My Job! . . . . and . . . . Three Ideas for Awakening

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As soon as you rise above mere survival, the question of meaning and purpose becomes of paramount importance in your life.  Many people feel caught up in the routines of daily living that seem to deprive their life of significance.  Some believe life is passing them by or has passed them by already.  Others feel severely restricted by the demands of their job and supporting a family or by their financial or living situation.  Some are consumed by acute stress, others by acute boredom.  Some are lost in frantic doing; other are lost in stagnation.  Many people long for the freedom and expansion that prosperity promises.  Others already enjoy the relative freedom that comes with prosperity and discover  that even that is not enough to endow their lives with meaning.  There is no substitute for finding true purpose.  But the true or primary purpose of your life cannot be found on the outer level.  It does not concern what you do but what you are–that is to say, your state of consciousness.  So the most important thing to realize is this: Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose.  Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary.  Outer purpose concerns Doing and is secondary.

Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth

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As I read this for the first time I instantly thought back over my own life.  The concept of simply Being without doing seemed foreign and uncomfortable.  I had to be doing something in order to feel good about myself.  I had to:

Get the girl

Pass the test

Make the basket

Get the job

Have the children

Build the house

Buy the car

Watch the show

Cheer for the team

Attend the service

Get the degree

Mow the lawn

Secure the loan

Work the overtime

Make the sale

Tell the funny joke

and God knows do everything else under the sun.

All my activities weren’t bad in-and-of themselves–I still do many of the same activities now.  But I turned to these Outer purpose activities as a means to gain Inner purpose.  As you can imagine, it never worked.  I constantly had my thinking backwards.  I thought I could do, do, do and that would lead to Being.  I let my mind run my life and struggled to ever find any balance or satisfaction.

“Your inner purpose is to awaken.  It is as simple as that.” Tolle goes on, “You share that purpose with every other person on the planet–because it is the purpose of humanity.  Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose of the whole, the universe and its emerging intelligence.”  When you first hear that, it doesn’t feel right so you disregard it.  At least I did.

“It certainly cannot be that easy, can it?”

“All I have to do is awaken?”

“If I awaken and that is my inner purpose, how can that change my life or the world in any way?”

“I am awake!”

Your mind is probably going in a thousand different directions as to why this can’t be true and your ego is certain to protect your standard mode of operation you’ve been living with for so long.

Spinoza said Joy is man’s passage from a lesser to a greater perfection and Sorrow is man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.  In his book, To Have or To Be, Erich Fromm explains it like this: “Joy, then, is what we experience in the process of growing nearer to the goal of becoming ourself.”  Or, to put it another way, Joy is the result of seeking your inner purpose of awakening.

I have struggled off and on for years not being satisfied with my job.  On many occasions I nearly made the decision to quit and pursue a vocation more suited to my gifts and talents.  I’m sure if I did quit I would have been just fine finding a different way to make money.  But thankfully I didn’t quit my job.  I say thankfully because if I quit, I may not have learned the lesson that my inner purpose is to awaken.  When I made my job responsible for satisfying my inner purpose, I felt frustrated, lacking, and unfulfilled.  But once I realized my job was my outer purpose and my inner purpose was up to me to fulfill, then I could go about my business of awakening on my own time separate from my job.

The process of awakening is a slow and ever-evolving process.  I spent many years in therapy and began to dissect my thought processes one at a time.  I walked away from my comfort zones in order to intentionally weed out any beliefs that didn’t serve my inner purpose.  Rather than blaming my upbringing, or other people, or circumstances beyond my control, I found greater purpose in focusing on my reactions to things.  I’m a fairly laid back person anyway, but for me, learning to simply be, instead of react, turned out to be my best response.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was an expert at figuring out what was expected of me and giving people what they wanted, but I did not always acknowledge what it was that I wanted.  With every fruitless search for external gratification, I lost touch of my own intrinsic happiness until I finally set my sights on my inner purpose.

Awakening doesn’t mean that I have “arrived” and I’m somehow superior to those not considered awakened.  Awakening, to me, simply means I show up every day–I listen when spoken to, I strive for awareness in each moment, and I’m open to the mysterious flow of our existence here.  Awakening means I bring my true self to every encounter instead of relying on my alienated self or one of many false selves.  By being real, I am free to grow.  Awakening means I let go of my regrets, shame, guilt, and accusations and instead I accept what will be will be.  I attempt to let go of my attachment to any outcome and find joy in any circumstance.

Interestingly enough, as I turned my focus on my inner purpose of awakening, my outer purpose shifted into alignment with my inner purpose.  Instead of hating my job, I actually began to enjoy myself there.  I found purpose and contentment in an environment where bitterness and begrudging once resided. The joy that I experienced in my early-morning writing and meditation snuck into my lunch pail and accompanied me throughout the day.  The constant wrestling with ideas in my mind while I was at work shielded me from the petty gossip and never-ending drama that unfolds there.  Some days I added fuel to the fire just for shits and giggles but I could easily detach myself from taking any of the drama too seriously or too personal.

This whole idea of awakening may seem foreign to you.  If it does we could talk about it if you’d like.  Otherwise, here’s three ideas for your own awakening:

  1. Consider the difference between your inner purpose and your outer purpose.  In what ways have you been unjustly making your outer purpose be responsible for your inner purpose?  It wasn’t until I realized the importance of my inner purpose that I began to give it the attention it deserved.  Let go of the idea of awakening as only a Buddhist reference.  Awakening, Being, Presence, Aliveness, True Self, etc. are all deeply spiritual references and can be applied to any religious preference.
  2. Consider the different ways you stay distracted.  Instead of turning to your phone, TV, or novel reading, open up a pad of paper and write down your thoughts.  Journal about your uneasiness or discomfort of sitting still with yourself.  Is there too much pain your hiding so you don’t want to be alone with yourself?  Putting your ideas and feelings on paper where they can be wrestled with is a wonderful step towards healing and awakening.
  3. Consider a regular practice of meditating.  Meditation was difficult for me at first.  I could only start with five minutes without going crazy.  Eventually I grew to love that quiet time where I completely shut off my mind and focused on nothing by the air that filled my lungs and diaphragm, and then on that same life-giving air as it left my body.  You don’t have to sit a certain way with your hands in a special pose; just get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing while everything else melts away.  As your mind shoots a million different thoughts at you, simply see the thought and let it go the way you would see a butterfly land on your knee and then let it fly away.  Don’t judge yourself for having too many thoughts–especially at first–because the mind is very difficult to silence until you get comfortable with it.

As always, any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to comment, call, or email.

Peace my friends!

~Travis