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.

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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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Toxic People Suck!!

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We all have people in our lives that like to give us their opinion whether we ask for it or not.  Sometimes we have the courage to say “thanks but no thanks.”  Other times we grit our teeth and let them steamroll us with their tirade.

Whether these people are well-meaning or whether they are evil, sadistic, destructive, and hostile; you have the right to set a healthy boundary with them.  There is no law (that I’m aware of at least) that says you must continue to get shit on over and over and never put an end to it.  You may assume because they’re family or a life-long best friend you feel obligated to “take it,” but that thinking must be given careful reconsideration.

In The Art of Being, Erich Fromm says, “There is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  (Bold added for effect) No meeting between two people, no conversation between them, except perhaps the most casual one, leaves either one of them unchanged–even though the change may be so minimal as to be unrecognizable except by its cumulative effect when such meetings are frequent.”

So I dare ask the question; have you ever gauged how healthy the interactions are that you have with people?

How many times have you been with a person and felt more alive, or in a better mood, or discovered new energy you didn’t realize you had?  You could have the worst headache in the world or cramps from hell (this applies a little more to my female readers in case you’re confused guys) and then an exchange with another human you admire will lift the headache like the sun lifts the early morning fog.  While talking to them you completely forget about your cramps and instantly life is good.

On the other hand, who hasn’t experienced the opposite effect?  You look at your ringing phone and your stomach turns when you see who’s calling.  Or that coworker who literally drains all your energy sits by you at lunch.  An exchange with someone that depletes your energy, causes you being depressed, makes you feel hopeless, or is an emotional vampire–they suck the life right out of you–these are the people you must establish a healthy boundary for.

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But if setting a safe distance or healthy boundary is not an option at the moment; Fromm gives some great advice: “Inasmuch as one cannot avoid bad company, one should not be deceived: One should see the insecurity behind the mask of friendliness, the destructiveness behind the mask of eternal complaints about unhappiness, the narcissism behind the charm.  One should also not act as if he or she were taken in by the other’s deceptive appearance–in order to avoid being forced into a certain dishonesty oneself.  One need not speak to them about what one sees, but one should not attempt to convince them that one is blind.”  So basically, in a nutshell, Fromm is saying to pay attention!  Don’t be sucked into their game and don’t fall for their fake niceness.

I can relate to being “forced into a certain dishonesty” like Fromm suggests.  I have been with people who have taken me in with their deceptive niceness and/or appearance only to realize after the fact that I was sucked into dishonesty–at the very least dishonesty with myself.

If you don’t feel the freedom to be your true self with someone, set a boundary.

If they cross the line over and over with their unwanted opinion, set a boundary.

If someone is an emotional vampire and is sucking the life from you, set a boundary.

If in your interactions with someone you notice you always give and they always take, set a boundary.

If you find you don’t like yourself very much after spending time with a certain person, set a boundary.

If someone always guilts you into seeing them, set a boundary.

Fromm goes on to give you the permission you may need to help yourself create healthy boundaries.  Remember, there is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  With that thought in mind, he says; “If other people do not understand our behavior–so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us.  If this is being ‘asocial’ or ‘irrational’ in their eyes, so be it.  Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves.  We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them.  How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e., approved.  Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself–to his reason and conscience–and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”

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There’s a healthy process we all go through while growing from a little boy or little girl into a healthy adult.  That process may be slowed–or halted altogether–if we lack the ability to set boundaries.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings–anyone who stakes a claim on your well-being–may be too attached to your life and your activities.  There’s a fine line in families between love and support and then the opposite which is manipulation and control.

Assuming you’re an adult and can make your own choices, what is stopping you from setting healthy boundaries from the controlling, manipulating, or opinionated figure in your life?  There’s a way you can tell who these people are without even being in their presence; you find yourself having conversations with them in your head when they aren’t even there.  You may be trying to justify an action or explain yourself to them before they even ask you about it.  That’s when you know you may have an issue.

Let’s be clear about something: A healthy boundary doesn’t mean you stop loving the person or you never talk to them again.  You can still love someone even if from a safe distance.  Like Fromm implied, Pay Attention!  If you feel like you can’t be yourself with a certain person, set a boundary.  It should go without saying, but the those that love you unconditionally will love you inside and out, top to bottom, whether they agree with everything about you or not.

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The bottom line is this: Spend as much time as possible with the people that give you energy and life.  Limit your time with people that suck the life out of you or try to manipulate and control you.

Toxic people suck! Avoid them at all cost!

I have more to say, but enough for now.

Peace my friends!

~Travis

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

My Trusting Place . . . . and Joanne

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“We give most to others when we are fully ourselves. ‘Don’t ask what the world needs,’ philosopher Howard Thurman once said, ‘Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.'”

Theo Pauline Nestor in Writing is My Drink

I spoke for over two hours on the phone yesterday with my dearest friend from Boston–Joanne Susi.  I first got to know Joanne in a life coaching class I was taking several years ago.  Thankfully for me, Joanne was the instructor that facilitated our learning every week.  I’ve often said, watching Joanne lead our life coaching training was similar to watching Michael Jordan sink a last second shot for an NBA title, or like watching Wayne Gretzky slice through the entire opposing team to make a miraculous wrist shot through the goalie’s legs. Basically, watching Joanne use her gifts and talents gave one the feeling they were witnessing greatness.  I told her all this in one of our classes and in front of all her students, the ever-so-talkative confident Italian lady was stopped dead in her tracks.  She was speechless.  There was an eerie silence amongst the class so I took that as my cue to continue.  I asked her–no I basically begged her–to please continue to share her gifts and talents with the world because if she’s off doing some menial task then she’s not doing what she does best.  This planet needs the Joanne Susi’s of the world to spread their gifts and talents as far and wide as possible.  I told her if there’s a task she doesn’t particularly like to do that’s draining, pay someone else to do it for her.  I also told her we needed her to do as much of what she does best as often as possible.

After a couple sniffles and a short pause, Joanne said, “Thank you, Travis” and we’ve been fast friends ever since.

Being great friends with a phenomenal life coach has many advantages.  The first and most obvious advantage is the wisdom and clarity she brings to our conversations.  She flawlessly switches hats from friend to coach and back to friend without ever blinking an eye.  The next thing I admire about our friendship is her unwavering love and support for me.  There is nothing in the world I could say to her that would cause her to love me any less.  When you receive that kind of love–without any conditions or strings attached–you really feel like you can make it through anything.

Another thing I love about our friendship is we have a continual ebb and flow of helping one another.  She helps me and I help her.  We are both here to serve the other any way possible.  For instance, Joanne had a vision of writing a book but she felt lost trying to gain any traction on it.  I asked her to please send me what she wrote so far to which she agreed to do.  She emailed me about eight to ten different documents that each had a good deal of writing on them.  My first thought was to compile all these documents into one so we would be working on what appeared to be a whole book.  I then started the process of proofreading and editing the entire book for her.  There were days when I called her and told her she needed to expand on what she wrote.  I pleaded with her to dig deeper and share more of who she was with the reader in certain places.  She agreed and I’m happy to say her book is now on the market!

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After her book–BRAINSTORM: From STROKE To My TRUSTING Place–was published, Joanne told me she was done writing.  I said, “Really? I believe you have a lot of books still in you just waiting to be written.”  She replied with a thank you but graciously said she had no desire to write any more.  I didn’t push but I simply left the possibility open with a gentle, “Okay, we’ll see.”

I say all this about Joanne because she said something to me yesterday that is very important.  We talked about my blog, about me writing a book, and about my own trusting place.  She mentioned how writing truly is my trusting place where I recharge my batteries and where I have communion with God.  Whenever there is anything going on in my life, I can turn to writing–my trusting place–in order to find comfort and solace.  No matter what I may be facing, as long as I have my fountain pen and journal in tow, I’m certain to find relief.

Something else I have learned along the way is what happens when I neglect my trusting place for too long.  If I let a week or God-forbid two weeks go by without wrestling with some idea through my pen or the keyboard, then I turn into a complete ass.  I get grumpy, impatient, bitter, and fatalistic.  I lose sight of who I am and why I’m here.  I forget about my intention for writing in the first place.  My intention (in every aspect of my writing) is to help people be more comfortable with their humanness.  If I’m having a difficult day or being a touch on the insensitive side, my wife has a wonderful way of asking me if I’ve written anything lately.  I then begrudgingly tell her no and then sheepishly sneak off to my trusting place the first chance I get.

I say all this because I never really understood the concept of my trusting place until Joanne and I talked about it.  And there’s no doubt in the world that writing is my trusting place.  Writing is where I meet with Divine.  Writing is where I come face to face with life and what it means to be human.  Writing is where I make sense of our existence and why we are here.  Writing gives me energy, it creates a spark and changes my outlook on life in ways I can barely begin to describe.

I created MysteriousFlow.com back in 2012 as a place to share some of my trusting place with others.  I only post a small percent of my writing here.  If I posted all my thoughts that gets wrestled with in my journals and on the computer you might consider me a lunatic or schizoid (not that you don’t already).

I’m wondering, what or where is your trusting place?  Have you considered the idea that you have a trusting place where you go to recharge and breathe new life into yourself?  Where do you go to speak to Divine, to find your Muse, or to discover your Authentic Self?

My dearest friend, Joanne, had a stroke before she was able to find her trusting place.  Now she lives in her trusting place every day.  Her biggest desire is to help people find their trusting place without having to experience a stroke like she did.

Give it some thought and consider where or what your trusting place may be.  Is it painting? Drawing? Running? Cutting wood? Riding your motorcycle or other piece of equipment? Working out? Time spent in a busy coffee shop? A long walk around the block? A sunset in a pristine location? Traveling someplace new? A night with friends and wine? A moving church service? Yoga? Mowing the lawn? Sailing? Writing? Riding a horse? Golfing? Meditation? Fishing or hunting? Music?

Your trusting place could be one or several things that rejuvenates your soul and invigorates your spirit.  Even when life gets stressful and your job is taking you through the ringer, your trusting place is always right there to lift you up anytime you need it. My trusting place is a concept that has taken me years to fully grasp but now that I understand it, I hope you can see its importance as well.

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Family issues, relationship drama, disrespectful teenagers, stressful jobs, or annoying bullies all melt away when you’re in your trusting place.  Opposite the old slogan, “Calgon, take me away,” your trusting place is not an escape from your life, but rather a call to life.  Your trusting place is where you make sense of it all and find meaning and create purpose.  If you’re looking for an escape there’s always computer solitaire, television, booze, or tabloids.

So what’s your trusting place?  Do you have one?  If not, pay attention over the next few weeks and I’m certain it will reveal itself.  Oh, and if you don’t have someone amazing like Joanne in your life, I would highly recommend that too!!

Peace my friends!

~Travis

The Little Boy, Authentic Self, and a touch of TMI

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Do you ever wish you could soak in all of the world’s wisdom in one day? In one week? One year? In a lifetime?

As I sit in my office and I look at my bookshelf behind me, I’m moved by the wisdom that resides in my house.  Men and women who took the time to put their ideas out into the world.  Human beings who decided to make a difference.  They sat at their desk or their kitchen table and they purposefully wrote down their ideas to share with all of humanity.

Some authors state that what they wrote about wasn’t really what they had in mind; but instead the ideas simply flowed through them as though they were basically the vessel for the idea to be born through.  They talk as though all they did was take dictation for the idea to share itself through them.  It makes me wonder what ideas want to be born through me or through you?

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When I think back on my life, I rarely find much to regret.  I have lived a joy-filled forty-plus years on this planet and have many fond memories.  Sometimes I turn the clock of my memory way back to my childhood and watch an insecure young boy trying his darnedest to figure life out.  I wish I could report to that little boy to not give up on himself or on seeking wisdom and eventually he would figure life out.

That little boy was resilient!  He was handed a rule book for how he was supposed to conduct himself but unfortunately that rule book was blank.  So that little boy decided he would pay attention and try as hard as he could to fill the rule book himself.  Certain things he did were met with a harsh scolding so he wrote down his behavior in order not to do that foolish act again.  Other times his behavior resulted in spankings so he tried real hard to not forget those rules.  The little boy eventually filled the rule book up pretty full and learned when to talk and when not to talk, when to be funny and when to be serious, and the final most important lesson he learned was to make sure he was everything everyone else wanted him to be.

With that lesson firmly in place, he lost all contact with his authentic self.  For a long time, that young boy did nothing but try to survive by being whoever he needed to be just to get by.  He had genuine glimpses of his true authentic self and even attempted to share that part of himself with his family and teachers.  But more times than not, being authentic was strongly discouraged; and usually with a belt.

That little boy didn’t give up though.  He kept playing the parts he was expected to play.  He said what he was supposed to say, did what he was supposed to do.  But in the back of his mind he still held out hope that one day he would throw away the rule book he so carefully filled.

Eventually when the little boy became a teenager, he realized that some things were worth breaking the rules for–mainly girls.  The seductive and sensual taste and smell of the opposite sex caused the young boy to rethink his position on keeping ALL the rules.  Surely he could relax on some of the rules for his own enjoyment as long as he skillfully continued to APPEAR he was on the straight and narrow.

When that young, robotic, rule-keeping boy discovered the female body, something in his heart woke up (Okay, thanks Captain Obvious, yes I know something else woke up too).  But instead of feeling guilty like before when he broke the rules, now he felt more alive than ever.  His experiences catapulted him to a whole new level of personal satisfaction that could never be attained by just sticking to the rules.

Life has a funny way of calling out to your heart and inviting you to stop faking it.  Even tho you think you’re living authentically, your heart never lies.  Opportunities along the way call out to you–sometimes scream at you–and mysteriously pull on your heartstrings.

I recently read The Five Levels of Attachment by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. and he discussed this authenticity.  “There is a moment when the Authentic Self becomes no longer an abstract term, but an experience.  I believe we all experience such a moment.  It could be during meditation, while painting or dancing, working or working out, lecturing or talking, making love, eating, or playing.  It’s the moment when judgment stops and pure harmony takes over.”

You could say when that young man first experienced the long and slow touch from his high school sweetheart he also discovered his Authentic Self.  The sensual act unleashed something in him that was more than just sensual or sexual.  For the first time in forever, he felt alive!  He felt like he could conquer the world–or at least die trying.  Sure, he was experiencing new and exciting things, but more importantly, his Authentic Self was coming to life.

Fast forward five years and he was still playing the roles and living by rules that he did not write for himself.  In his early twenties, he made the assumption that he was supposed to get married. . .

. . . So he did.

After he was married for a while, they thought they were supposed to have children. . .

. . . So they did.

A couple years after that he grew sick of playing by everyone’s rules and wanted to do his own thing. . .

. . . So he did.

His actions were less than exemplary for a loving husband and father so his wife warned him she would leave. . .

. . . So she did.

He heard once a man regains his freedom he could party like a rock star and sleep around all he wanted. . .

. . . So he did.

Then he heard from a dear friend that told him he was a great guy and if he wanted a great girl he would need to start being a man a great girl would want. . .

. . . So he did.

At that point he realized he needed to start reading books and changing his life. . .

. . . So he did.

He learned all about the ego, his Authentic Self, breathing techniques, people who were revolutionary characters, how people shape their beliefs based off their accumulated knowledge, how people are human beings not human doings, how real joy and happiness can be found in life only in the present moment, and how our society and environment shape our opinions and outlooks which cause our unintentional shift away from our authentic selves.

He also learned that his relationships with women were unhealthy–He was either trying to manipulate them to sleep with him or he was . . . well, he was basically trying to manipulate them to sleep with him.  Furthermore, when it came to women, he had a tendency to pick the ones who never liked him for exactly who he was.  He always seemed to pick the reflection of who he was on the inside.  If he wasn’t happy with himself, he picked girls that weren’t happy with him either.  He attempted to heal his wounds relying on women who were incapable to offer him healing.

I’m not bagging on all the females that crossed his path or trying to blame them for his shortcomings.  He dated many phenomenal women who were wonderful people, but his mistake was taking his ultimate question to them for an answer.  He didn’t ask them directly and most of the time he rarely comprehended he was even asking them anything at all by his actions; but, nonetheless, he took his question to them anyway.

Am I Good Enough?!?!?

It wasn’t until he answered the question for himself (with a resounding YES, by the way) that he was able to steer clear from the nagging external approval he so desperately sought.

I think it’s safe to say that little boy who desperately longed to know all the rules and lived his life for everyone else’s approval has finally grown up.  Through the help of years of counseling and a decade of deprogramming, I feel more authentic now than ever.  I still have a ton to learn and a lifetime of authors yet to read, but my Authentic Self is finally in the driver’s seat for the rest of this journey.  I’ve taken that young boy by the hand, thrown away the rule book, and gave him just one rule to remember–first for himself and then for others–LOVE!!

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Peace,

~Travis

Why is choosing to LOVE so difficult???

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Maybe it’s my recent head injury, maybe it’s my growing impatience for ignorance, or maybe it’s just time I said something.  Who knows, but I’m curious about something:  Why is choosing to LOVE so difficult???

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I watched the movie Selma recently and it struck a chord with me.  I cannot fathom being a part of that movement and what it must have felt like.

I believe I have rooted out any prejudice that may have lingered from my ignorant immaturity.  Yes it’s true that racism is not born into someone but rather taught.  Children who are young enough not to see in color love unconditionally until the day they are taught to love sparingly.

Besides racism, we all have an Us vs Them mentality.  We compartmentalize and label ourselves and everyone around us.  We are emphatically tribal.  We love those who are in our group, who think like we do and then we hate those who are different than us.  Sure, hate may be a strong word, how about this: We withhold love from those who are different, those who are outside of our tribe.

Why???

Golden Rule

The Golden Rule can be found in every single religious book.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.  But somehow we forget that along the way.  Many people that read Matthew 7:12 and consider themselves Christian still feel justified in treating people poorly.  There is no asterisk below that verse.  There is no Black, White, Gay, Straight, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim, American, Japanese.  The Golden Rule is plain and simple: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

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Whatever excuse you have for not choosing to love is a poor one.  It may cause you some discomfort at first.  You may be going against your parents.  You may have to question long-held beliefs you have grasped far too long.

The answer is inside yourself.  LOVE!

Start with those in your family.  LOVE!

Move to those outside your family.  LOVE!

Look at those in your community.  LOVE!

How about those across the country?  LOVE!

Different political views?  LOVE!

Different ethnicity? LOVE!

Different sexual orientation?  LOVE!

Consider those overseas.  LOVE!

In what ways can you open your heart?  It really truly does come down to choosing.  Do you disagree?

I choose LOVE!

Guilt Sucks!!

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OK, so here’s what is going on with me: I’m wandering around the house feeling guilty for not doing several things at once. I feel as though I need to exercise, I feel as though I need to be writing, I feel as though I need to go buy some clothes for Hawaii, I feel as though I should go get a haircut, I feel as though I need to call my friend from Boston, and I feel as though I need to be cleaning the house. This overwhelming feeling leaves me paralyzed. While I struggle to decide which important thing I should be doing, I end up doing nothing. In order to work through this guilty feeling, I have decided to at least write about it so I’m doing one of the things I said I feel guilty about not doing.

It’s crazy; I sit and watch the clock tick away and I’m guiltier by the minute. I read for a little bit this morning, then made breakfast and sat down for a half-hour show and all of a sudden it’s after 10:00. Next thing I know, I’ll be off to get my son from school at 4:30 and I haven’t completed anything I planned on doing all day. That is not how the day has to go though. I can do things differently. I can write for a while, and then take the puppy for a walk, then clean for a while, then get my son from school. It all can be done with the time I have. As long as I stay out of my head long enough to not get sucked into some vortex of self-pity, I can do what I need to do today with my time.

Interestingly, I find myself yearning constantly about being a successful author who writes life-changing material for people to read. I dream about having long blocks of time to be able to pour my heart out on blank page after blank page. If only I didn’t have my day job I could become rich and famous for putting all these funny and quirky ideas that have been clanking around in my head like marbles in a pump into a readable format for the masses. Instead, I’m a poor helpless victim because I can’t spend the time writing that I wish I could. If only life were fair, I would be able to write every day in my boxers while sipping on coffee in the morning and red wine in the evening. While I’m at it; if life were fair I would be able to eat anything my poor little heart desired without having to deal with the emotional baggage that is making me overindulge in the first place. I should just be able to crinkle my nose like I Dream of Genie and all my issues would be solved. Right?

Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair and life does require something of me. I have to actually show up. I’m not going to randomly get a call from John Grisham’s agent one day and hear: “Yes, hi Travis, this is Agent Jim Doe, I understand you want to be a writer? I can’t wait to read everything you have been writing. You have been writing haven’t you?” That phone call is never going to happen unless I actually have been writing and writing enough to have something to offer the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been writing. But if my goal is to be a world-renowned author will I ever get to that point by only writing a paragraph or two every day? Sure, over the course of thirty years I might actually have enough to piece together a decent book, but if I want to enjoy the rewards of a fruitful writing career I have to go at it a little fiercer than a couple of paragraphs per day.

Given the struggle I have with my guilty feelings I mentioned earlier, I won’t become a successful author if I won’t sit down to write on the days I have extra time to sit down to write. Those are the days I can fill page after page until my ears are going to pop since the ideas are flowing fast. But truth be told, if I am dedicated to becoming an author, I need to write every spare moment I can get. I need to give writing so much focus that I can’t think about anything else when I’m awake except writing. If I’m not writing, when will I be able to write next? When I’m falling asleep, what do I plan on writing about when I wake up? Every spare moment I can steal away for the process of writing needs to be utilized in order to become the next great American author.

I may never become the next great American author for many reasons that will never be fully understood. Some authors don’t have the privilege of seeing their ideas supported during their lifetime while other authors experience waves of success that may seem undeserving in comparison. Nonetheless, whether success comes during my lifetime, after I’m dead, or not at all I must sit down and put my ideas on paper.

One of my favorite authors is Eric Hoffer because he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco by day but wrote nearly a dozen small books throughout his lifetime. He wrote a book that became a bestseller called The True Believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements. His book was written in 1951 and attempted to answer how people could willingly give themselves to mass movements whether they were meant for good or evil. After Hitler and the Holocaust several people in the world started asking themselves questions about how we could treat one another so despicably. Hoffer did his best to describe individuals who gave themselves completely to mass movements. He says, “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

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I picked Eric Hoffer as an example because he worked full-time while he wrote his ideas. His sole income didn’t come from his writing and truth be told he probably didn’t make very much money from the books he did publish. Interestingly, though, this full-time longshoreman, part-time author, died in 1983 but his ideas live on many decades beyond him. When I think about being an author who may or may not sustain a respectable income from my ideas, I succumb to the fact that the income I receive is not my main concern. Sure, being rewarded for slapping the keyboard day after day seems like a fair and novel idea but the reward is in the life that was changed that I may never even know about. Decades, even centuries, could pass and the idea that I was brave enough to put down on paper could make a difference in someone’s life and could change the world for the better one person at a time. I may or I may not change the world, but if I don’t at least try I will never know.

Now that I have settled the writing part of my day and one of my reasons for guilt, I can move on to taking the puppy for a walk. Life is good.