As the Sun Sinks. . . .

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Our property we are blessed to call home is surrounded by water.  The beautiful Portage River flows along the entire east and south sides while a small creek flows into the river on the west end of the property.  A pond we dug while our house was being built sits a couple hundred yards out our front door.

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The sun peaks through the trees in the morning warming our hearts and home with its reminder of a glorious new day.

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In the evening the sun sets over the pond and open field on the other side of the creek.

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Nearly every night is a spectacular reminder of this amazing life we are here to enjoy.

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As the sun sinks below the horizon, I shift my gaze inside our house.

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The beautiful souls I share this space with teach me more about love and life than I could ever learn from a million books.  My heart fills with all the beauty outside our house; but my heart overflows with joy and wonder when I share the present moment with my family.

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I could lose every material possession this world offers, but my family will always be the music that makes my heart sing.

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Some days are cloudy, but if you choose to look hard enough you will find the sun amongst the clouds.

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In closing, I would like to share a passage of The Beloved from Kahlil Gibran. It speaks to my love of words and why I long for you to be comfortable with your humanness:

“When secrets straiten the heart, when eyes are made raw by hot tears, and ribs nearly crack from the swelling of what is hidden in the breast, man can find no comfort but in words and complaint.  Sorrow, my friend, is eased by complaint.  The lover finds solace in words of longing.  The oppressed finds pleasure in seeking mercy . . . So I write to you.  I have become like the poet who sees beauty and who records, compelled by the power of his divine nature, the impressions of that beauty in verse.  I am like the poor and hungry child who, driven by the bite of his hunger, pleads with his mother for succor, unmindful of her poverty and destitution.”

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No matter where you’re at in life, please know you are surrounded by beauty and love!!

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

Every Person We Meet Holds Within Them a Lost Piece of Ourselves

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Every single person we meet seems to hold within them a lost piece of ourselves.

I came across this idea a while ago and some days it really intrigues me and other days it really frustrates me. Let me say it again:

Every single person we meet holds within them a lost piece of ourselves.

Some people give you this lost piece of yourself freely without you even having to ask. These are the friendships that blossom from the start and grow deeper and broader with each encounter. These are the friends bold and brave enough to speak truth into your life. These are the loved ones who know your faults but keep reminding you of your greatness. These are the genuine ones, the real ones, the easy ones.

The reason they are easy is because the key that unlocks that lost piece of yourself you have been missing is LOVE. For your close friends and loved ones, it’s natural and easy. The love flows freely both directions and you help one another unlock lost pieces effortlessly.

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For others, it feels like we have to hire a professional locksmith in order to get to that lost piece of ourselves they hold locked inside. But the mistake we sometimes make is we write someone off too soon. We forget that LOVE is the key to unlocking that lost piece of ourselves.

How many times in your life have you cast someone aside initially only to discover later that you really love and appreciate them? It’s so easy to mentally discard people from our lives.

Maybe they think or believe differently than us.

Maybe they are too liberal or too conservative.

Maybe they cheer for an opposing team.

Maybe they are related to your ex (or maybe they are your ex).

Maybe they cut us off on the highway, stole our parking spot, or forgot to shut their high beams off.

Maybe they are refereeing our child’s game or coaching the other team.

Maybe they subscribe to a different religion or no religion at all.

I want to tell you an important secret: No matter who that other person is, they hold within them a lost piece of yourself. You see, your opinion of them—and your reactions to them—are nothing more than your own projections of yourself.

I have struggled to learn this lesson time after time. I continually forget that my annoyances with the “other” are really undiscovered annoyances with myself. This is a tough pill to swallow when there’s someone I vehemently oppose or despise.

Relationships give us the greatest joy on earth and can cause the deepest sorrow we have ever experienced. There’s no greater example of this than going through a divorce or a serious breakup. Almost every ounce of our energy gets thrust into debasing the other person. We feel so violated and so distraught because the other person held within them the lost piece of ourselves, shared it with us for a while, and then we believe they withheld it again. They then turn into a bastard or a bitch because they knowingly withhold what they once gave freely. It’s their fault! All theirs! We tend to forget we’re also the bastard or bitch that withhold from them as well.

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We also forget that LOVE is the key to unlocking that lost piece of ourselves—not hatred and dissonance.

How would your interactions change with friends, coworkers, family, strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones if you truly grasped this idea?

Every single person we meet holds within them a lost piece of ourselves—LOVE is the key that unlocks it.

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

Monkey Mind

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While in therapy one day, I learned about this phrase called “Monkey Mind.”  Basically, if you can imagine a group of monkeys that get restless, uncontrollable, and out of whack; this is what our brain does to us especially when our emotions get involved.  Monkey Mind is usually mentioned in relation to meditation but it applies in almost any situation.  I’m certain many of you have experienced this yourself.

Have you gotten in a huge fight lately?

Have you been through a recent breakup?

Have you disagreed with someone you love deeply?

Have you attempted to meditate?

Have you lost a loved one or dear friend?

Has someone said something that frustrated you?

Yup, chances are, you’re well aware of Monkey Mind.

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How do you control your mind?

How do you control your heart?

How do you stop yourself from driving yourself crazy?

When you find yourself overwhelmed, obsessing about someone or something, how do you calm yourself down?

When you know your Happy-Healthy-Whole Self would just shrug this thing you can’t let go of, why does it seem impossible to just breath and focus on brighter days?

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I’m laid back.  I rarely let things bother me too much.  Most times I’m more like the ocean beneath the surface rather than the waves above it.

But man oh man, when my Monkey Mind gets going, I can barely contain myself.  It feels impossible to quiet my mind and the thoughts come crashing in one after the other, after the other, after the other, after the other; well, you get the idea.

So, I’m curious……..What do you do to quiet your Monkey Mind?  What techniques do you use to calm yourself down?  I’m genuinely asking for myself, and I’m also asking for some friends and loved ones that I know who sure could use your suggestions right now.

Any and all comments are greatly appreciated!!

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

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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

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.

My Favorite Authors — Part 1

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In his world-renowned book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl says: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a Worthwhile Goal [caps and bold added for effect], a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

I believe what Frankl says is true for several reasons. First, I have witnessed the outcome of this in my own life. Whenever I find myself anxious or depressed due to some tension in my life, it’s most certainly a result of neglecting my Worthwhile Goal. I have experienced the “call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled” and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt the direction my life is going. But once in a while—more often than I care to admit—I find myself forgetting my Worthwhile Goal. If I know this about myself, why let life’s tension and stress get me down?

Recently, my wife asked me if I knew what was my biggest deterrent to living out my Worthwhile Goal. Initially, I didn’t have a great answer for her but after pondering her question for a day or two I came back and told her “Drama.” Drama with her, with my children, with my ex, or with friends and family puts me into a place of forgetting my Worthwhile Goal.

In a poetic and innocent way, she simply stated, “Well, there’s always gonna be drama.”

Touche!

She was right, and Frankl is right as well. Taking away the tension or stress isn’t enough for my life to have meaning. The days when I wake up with a sense of purpose have nothing to do with tension, stress, or “drama” that might have spilled onto my lap. Whether I have to go “punch in” at a job that’s not very fulfilling, work through difficult family issues, or spend my entire day getting lab work done at the hospital; my days are always filled with meaning as long as I take one step closer to fulfilling my Worthwhile Goal.

Viktor E. Frankl might know a thing or two about what he’s saying here. If you don’t know, Frankl was plucked from his life and thrown into Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Finding meaning and purpose amongst such dire circumstances seems unfathomable. Frankl rightly quoted (and lived by) the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Don’t you find that true in your own life?

On the days when there’s no drama, no time clock, or no stressful appointments or obligations we should all be stress-free, right? Yet, are we? There is a sense of relief when stress is absent but there is also a nagging feeling beneath the surface if we’re not pursuing our Worthwhile Goal. Once again, the absence of tension or stress does not equal Meaning.

What about you? Are you struggling and striving for a Worthwhile Goal? If not, do you find yourself anxious or depressed at times? Have you considered that “a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled” by you could be the answer to your questions?

I believe many of us know our Worthwhile Goal but it gets lost along the way. Take a step today to get it back! One step forward is far better than standing still. Make that phone call, write that letter, inquire about opportunities you’ve been pondering.

Man’s search for meaning is unique to every person. I can’t tell you what your Worthwhile Goal should be any more than you can tell me mine. But I do believe we can speak truth into each other’s lives so I’m encouraging you to figure out for yourself what is worth striving and struggling for. You won’t regret it.

Drop me a line if you’re unsure and want to talk about your Worthwhile Goal. One of my goals is helping other people figure out theirs.

Feel free to comment as well.

Peace!

 

~Travis

What I’m Learning . . .

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I’m learning a lot about myself and life these days.

  • I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for what I need.
  • I’m learning that my dreams don’t magically come true without hard work.
  • I’m learning that my impatience or annoyance is more about my inner state of mind than it is about the one doing the annoying.
  • I’m learning that some people struggle being real and genuine and that’s okay.
  • I’m learning that I also struggle at times with being real and genuine and that’s okay too.
  • I’m learning that being vulnerable is risky but it’s also where the fertile soil is for personal growth and loving.
  • I’m learning that in regards to my diet and health, I’m either progressing or regressing: I’m rarely ever simply maintaining.
  • I’m learning that as a writer, writing doesn’t happen on its own.
  • I’m learning that the best of intentions are rarely ever good enough apart from taking action.
  • I’m learning that procrastinating rarely ever leads to greatness.
  • I’m learning the ability to follow through is more difficult than the rush of brainstorming.
  • I’m learning that time spent on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram does not necessarily count as online research.
  • I’m learning that my wife has the patience of Job most days and she truly fits the description of the better half.
  • I’m learning that sometimes the person in the most need of my love is me.
  • I’m learning that staying aware and present can be difficult when there are so many distractions.
  • I’m learning this world can provide me with awe and wonder every day if I slow down enough to look.
  • I’m learning that peace and contentment originate inside myself regardless of my environment.
  • I’m learning that my children teach me way more about life than I could possibly teach them.
  • I’m learning the answers to life’s questions usually come to me easier when I’m not so desperate to know them.
  • I’m learning that I’m never done learning as long as I’m alive and I’m totally cool with that!

I’m curious what you’re learning lately? Will you take a minute to comment and share?

 

Peace,

~Travis

PS. I’m learning that life is more enjoyable when I don’t take myself quite so serious.  😉

 

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