Beautiful Paradoxes

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Bringing the zen concepts to modern life without the asceticism.  Simplifying everything and still living in a chaotic world.  Mindfulness in a driven life.

When the mind is still so the body can create.

I notice that I have been happier and more appreciative of what I have instead of immediately “needing” to change everything.  I think this is a big step.

The dark with the light.  Thinking about death allows me to experience more joy in life.  Finding beauty in the dark & gritty places allows me to fully feel the gloriousness of sunlit white rooms.  Hard metal music allows me to appreciate the sublimity of lush ambient soundscapes.

I really do think that this is what people are seeking.  Living this crazy life, but feeling good and living well.  Not having to escape, not having to need more, not thinking other people need to change first.

Only owning things that feel good.  Thinking thoughts that feel good.  Using creative solutions instead of buying into societal group-think.

Doing things truly for yourself, because that is who you’ll be with in the end.

Life is too short to not allow ourselves to see the beauty in each moment.  The dark & light.  The imperfect & flawless.  The so-called right & wrong.

Once basic needs are met, it’s never about money.   Once we see beauty in what we have, we no longer feel like we need that extra object.

Simplifying starts with the mind, so we can create more with our life.

Comfort Zone Experiment Wk 4 — Being more “selfish” & Believing in my work

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This is week 4 of taming the over-protective inner monster that kept me hiding and procrastinating instead of jumping into the fray and taking my life to the next level.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll fully understand what it’s like to constantly feel the need to be more for people.  To have family and friends’ approval, to measure up to colleagues, to impress potential business connections, to gain validation from total strangers….  It’s a maddening world.

I realized more than ever during this experiment how and when I’m taking other people’s potential opinions first and foremost over my own opinion and preferences.  I thought I had dispelled much of it during the past year, but there it lingered like the over-protective inner monster that it is, huge and silent in the corner.

After consciously choosing quality thoughts last week and thus being more in the present, I knew this was the time to pay attention to what was really going on behind the scenes as I go about my day.

What I Did & Discovered:

I’ve been doing things solely for myself. 

Even just something basic like choosing to something that actually I really want to wear… and then watching the thoughts start to come in.  “White will get dirty!  You’ll look too dressed up; what’s the point of wearing that if you’re just running errands? You stuck up or something?”  …Just watching the thoughts that I am creating to talk myself out of my own preferences. Wow.

I noticed that I like to find a “rational” reason — as if I need a reason why I feel like wearing a favorite piece of clothing.  I realized that “because I’ll enjoy wearing it today” is just a good reason as any other.  I’ve been practicing noticing my own self-bullying, then standing up for myself.

I’ve been believing in my work.

One of the biggest things that’s been holding me back from going from a menial job to a professional career is a lack of proper focus.

In the very beginning I made it all about who I was for my clients.  I wanted to make sure I was perfect enough to coach others, and of course that just lead to extreme self-doubt and paralysis.

Then I made it all about making my clients very happy — which is something I can guide, but is ultimately up to them to carry out for themselves– and that just made me very needy and anxious…and paralyzed.

I’ve wavered between the two, trying to find a balance…then just a few days ago I was finally able to internalize what my coaching school has always taught:

It’s not all about fixing their problems.  Nor is it all about me achieving a perfect zen-life.

It’s all about the work I’m doing.

All I can do is give my all for every session.  Do my best work for the sake of my work…and my clients…and myself.

That brought me entirely back to the focus of the quality and love of my craft instead of any outcomes.

I’ve been paying attention to the beautiful little details despite moments of chaos.

Taking photos of soy-sauce marks left on a white table [above].  Noticing how the water swishes in the sink.  Stopping to enjoy the moment.  So damn cliched.  But I think I’m finally getting it.

I’m finally seeing how the big goal won’t be forgotten if I stop and be content and amazed by the beauty of the simple everyday moment; and in fact it probably provides me what I need to get closer to achieving that big goal.

Instead of immediately wanting to escape chaotic reality by distracting myself, I surprised myself this week by actually craving a blank white wall to just look at and let my mind relax into enjoying that extreme simplicity.  This is big for me.

I’ve been wearing more skirts and dresses this summer than I have in the past 10 years.

The skin on my legs aren’t great, but not wearing dresses had more to do about my fear that looking feminine would give away my weaknesses. It wasn’t about how I perceived women. It was me thinking that I needed to protect myself and put on a tough front.  I used my tomboyish preferences to hide the vulnerable things within me.

For the first time I’m feeling more fun and confident in a dress than I ever have before.  It’s because how I feel about myself always comes from within.  Funny how simple shifts in mindset can affect the seemingly most random changes.

My take thus far:

It isn’t easy to write about these things.  I’m a naturally private person (…or is it a comfort zone? Hmm..) and these personal notations are not something I am used to expressing.  Honestly, that was one of my biggest comfort zones to overcome for this project.

Part of me definitely feels like I’m over-sharing.  The other part of me feels surprisingly relieved.  As social animals it takes effort to hide information that one perceives as important, although fear and doubt can keep it hidden away.

I know that my uncomfortable vulnerability is someone else’s natural everyday state, but that’s the thing about inner monsters — with their arms too tightly around us they can shield our minds from realizing that our big fear really isn’t that big a deal at all.

Living without Regret Vs. Dying without Regret

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Regret is inevitable in life if you are an emotionally-healthy human being.

It may be semantics, but to live without regret seems to suggest not living with awareness.  We should regret things if we are to learn from our past.  But the idea is not to allow that regret to mean anything final.  We are still alive.  We are still writing our story, creating our work of art.

We should be allowed to regret whatever choices we have previously made, but to allow that regret to stop us from continuing to grow and soldier on is what we will ultimately regret on the deathbed.

The top 5 regrets of the dying: Not living life true to who they really were, working too hard, not having the courage to express their feelings, not spending enough time with friends, and wishing they had let themselves be happier.

These are all things that could have been improved upon at any time in life — as is with all things.

The only thing we will regret at the end is not trying to change when we could.

If you are reading this, you still have time.

So regret what you wish, but let it teach you and evolve you.

And in the end you won’t regret not giving it your all.

The only real mistake is thinking it’s too late to try.

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The Comfort Zone Experiment: Week 3 — Quality over Quantity

2015-05-30 22.14This is week 3 of taming the over-protective inner monster that kept me hiding and procrastinating instead of jumping into the fray and taking my life to the next level.

Half of this week was spent in Las Vegas with my boyfriend’s friends who were celebrating their engagement, which made for interesting comfort zone expansion.

The theme of this week seemed to make itself apparent — focusing on quality over quantity externally and internally.

What I did:

I didn’t make last minute “what if?” purchases for the trip.
I packed minimally.
I drove to and back from Vegas.
I hung out with people I didn’t know very well.
I chose to just be along for and enjoy the experience without excessive thinking.
I’m publishing this post.

What I discovered:

I like to consider myself a practical “what-if” kind of person– I like to be prepared physically and mentally.  I also know that especially while traveling and socializing I can easily take this prepper mentality to a level of over-analyzing.

For this trip I wanted to lighten the load, especially inside my head.   Before leaving, I set aside my expectations.   I set aside the need for things to go a certain way.

I noticed when my mind started to analyze any discomfort, and I told myself that everything really is alright.  Sometimes I found myself doing this in startling ways.

Right before we were about to drive back to Los Angeles a thunderstorm suddenly hit, flooding the roads.  I sat behind the wheel in the parking structure, looking out at the lightning surrounding the Stratosphere.  I was tired and hungover and not looking forward to the long drive, and then getting back into the grind of the real world.

I had a sudden morbid thought: what if this was it?  What if we were going to die on the way home?  What if this was the last few hours of my life?

Instead of death, I was suddenly focused on life.  The warm wind blowing around us.  The dramatic skies.  My boyfriend’s quiet presence in the seat next to me.  How cool the monorail is.  How cool it is to be human.  Experiencing it all.

It wasn’t as sentimental as it was a full shift to the present moment.  Nothing was wrong.  Nothing will be wrong.  Even if something did go wrong it will not be wrong.

Just choosing to be along for and enjoy the ride.
Quieting the excessive thinking that does nothing but make for a dour mood.

My take thus far:

The idea of the minimal mindset isn’t about not-thinking, it’s about choosing what to think and when.  Quality over quantity.

I’ve always worried that if I didn’t analyze enough I could miss something important, but I noticed that I was ironically missing out on the most important thing — the present moment.

There’s a time to be analytical, and a time to be minimal.

Something may seem uncomfortable but it’s usually just the thoughts we are having about the situation.

Questions to ask:
What is truly uncomfortable about this, right now?
How much of this discomfort is being created by excess thinking?
What is real for me right now?
What is there to feel good about right now?

The Comfort Zone Experiment: Week 2 — Turning Pro-ish

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What if getting out of a comfort zone required nothing more than changing thoughts?

This is week 2 of taming the over-protective inner monster that kept me hiding and procrastinating instead of jumping into the fray and taking my life to the next level.  While I feel like I haven’t yet done anything remarkably uncomfortable yet, I am noticing that I have aquired a few new desirable habits.

What I did:

I have become much more focused and aware of my comfortable-but-stagnant mental loops; catching myself in the middle of a spiral of doubt, excuses, procrastination & blame — and turning my thoughts towards more inspired and productive thinking:

In the middle of the week I was feeling annoyed because plans fell through and I was stuck thinking about how the whole day was wasted and it wasn’t my fault.  But then I realized that that thinking would keep leading me down a non-productive spiral to hellish nowhere, and that it would be my fault.  So I changed my thoughts to “I still have the rest of the evening to work on whatever I want”.  I got up and began a creative project, wrote an article, and listened to some podcasts.  And at the end of the night I felt great.

I have finally begun to honor my priorities.  I am working the rest of my life around my professional goals instead of the other way around.

I’m doing things to be awesome for myself, instead of trying to be awesome for someone else.

What I discovered:

As I mentioned in the previous week’s update, I find myself focusing on the things that I normally would come up with excuses for.  So I am doing the uncomfortable things, only they feel much nicer now that I’ve worked on my mind a little lot.

I still need to work on moving forward despite not knowing all the answers yet and get out of analysis paralysis.  This is a big one for me.

I need to remind myself that not seeing visual results yet doesn’t mean that big things aren’t happening beneath the surface.

Most importantly: I feel proud about what I’ve done in 2 weeks.  And I feel motivated to continue.

My Take thus Far:

I’ve found myself forgetting at times.  I’ve found myself making excuses.  But it’s all about getting back to it.  It’s never about being perfect.
My comfort zone was always all about my perception.

There’s a big difference between knowing something (that my thoughts drive my life) and actually putting it wholeheartedly into action and actually experiencing the process.  It’s been difficult.  Catching myself falling into easy, comfortable, and regrettable emotions has been difficult.

I wanted to believe it was about just forcing myself to do stuff.  I wanted to believe I was just being lazy and I could snap myself out of it.  But I know if I kept forcing action without changing my true thoughts and feelings, that I would get too overwhelmed and quit.  I would probably be sitting here after two weeks of physically pushing myself feeling stressed and turned off by the thought of two more weeks left to tackle.

I know that in the past I’ve tried to make big changes by altering my surroundings and my actions as fast as I could.  I thought that I could make myself anew by changing the outside, and my inside would simply adjust.  In retrospect I see that that method would tend to start off strong with determination, but then would ultimately begin to fall apart as I couldn’t keep up with the big changes.  It felt like a big farce.

The way to make it not a big farce is to begin to evolve inside first.

Once the inside starts changing the outer things happen almost on their own.

Maybe this is what Turning Pro is all about.

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The Luxury Experience

IMG_1275When I was little I would try to create the things my parents wouldn’t buy for me.

All I wanted was a GoGo Pup.  It was a white Maltese on a pink electronic leash that could walk and bark.

You have a real dog.”  They said.  It was true.

“Yeah but Chica is an outside dog. And she’s old.”

I wanted what the commercial sold me on — days full of pink-hued sunshine with my pristine fancy puppy that would do whatever I wanted and could go everywhere with me.  I imagined how great I would feel to be an owner to my very own beautiful pet that I could name myself, and I planned all the adventures we would go on.

I remember digging up an old second-hand stuffed dog toy from the depths of the closet and rigging it to a rolling Waffle Blocks board, then tying a leash on it.  I cleaned up it’s matted fur as best I could and tied a pink ribbon around it’s neck.  It wasn’t electronic, but it would ‘walk’ behind me when I pulled.  And it was my very own puppy.  It felt special, luxurious even.

It was probably a few months later (aka: Forever, in kid-years) during my birthday that my grandparents finally gifted me with my very own genuine GoGo Pup.  I was ecstatic, but oddly don’t recall much about it after that.  I have fonder memories of my little make-shift pet and the stories we created together than the object I thought I so badly wanted.

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More often than not, it’s the stories we tell ourselves about the things we want that make them so alluring.

What we actually want is the experience of something, more so than the thing itself.

Back then I was giving myself the feeling of independence, companionship, and ownership.  Perhaps I just wanted something to call my own to take pride in.

It feels so much harder as an adult to find joy with the beat-up old car than the promise of happiness that the car of our dreams holds.

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What is the experience we really want?

What are the thoughts we think we will have once we acquire that special thing?

What’s stopping us from being able to think and believe in those thoughts right now?

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Comfort Zone Experiment: Week 1 — All the Small Things

A week ago I decided to dedicate 30 days to taming the over-protective inner monster that kept me hiding and procrastinating instead of jumping into the fray and taking my life to the next level.  I was to start small and just pay attention to things I normally wouldn’t give a second thought to.  Here’s how it’s going.

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What I did:

I set aside my bad mood for a moment of playfulness and ended up changing my entire day.

I’ve been literally wearing my “professional” shoes out and about instead of my “day job” shoes.

I’ve been going to bed on time instead of the fun and easy (and usually regrettable) “one” glass of wine.

I’ve been interacting with creative rebels and running around town on foot.

I made a bold initiation instead of waiting forever for permission.

I allowed myself to wait instead of acting out of anger and discovered that I was stronger for it.

I consciously made the effort many times a day to try a new perspective.

Bonus: I touched a gross alligator-lizard skin that I discovered outside and found that it wasn’t that scary.  (After much encouragement).

 

What I discovered:

Comfort Zones begin inside our heads.  It’s less about conquering our discomfort and more about understanding why we are hiding and repeating actions with undesirable consequences in the first place.  It all starts with awareness.

My actions often don’t mirror what I claim to be my priorities.  I am working on this.

Often the secret is thinking less.  Less worrying and “but what if”, and more focus on taking it moment by moment.  Quality thoughts over quantity.

Little things make the biggest impacts on ourselves and others.  Momentum creates momentum.

New ways of thinking are a practice. It’s never about being perfect and not backsliding.

I am fully responsible for my attitude and outlook.

When I set my priorities and mindset straight, the previously uncomfortable things are much easier and more enjoyable to do.

Things aren’t always what they seem — we just see what’s running through our heads.

 

My take thus far:

I did start off feeling apprehensive.  It felt like I was about to force myself to do things that I wouldn’t normally do, which I thought was the point.  I figured that I could just push myself out the door.  Push myself to get out there.  Push myself to produce more, act more, risk more.

What I discovered was that when I started making little changes in my mentality — just little tweaks here and there — doing the little things that I wanted to do to get out of my comfort zone came easily.  I actually felt more inclined to want to do it instead of mustering up the energy to force myself to do it.

Making a conscious decision not to surrender to my negative thinking made such a noticeable impact on my outlook that it really brightly colored the rest of my week.  I kept reminding myself, “it’s just my thoughts right now”.  It really made me realize that the biggest comfort zones are ALL in our heads.  Nothing gets done if we are mentally blocked or resistant or in a rut.  Nothing gets changed unless we begin with our minds.

And that’s the thing — when I’m actually relaxing into and even enjoying the outer zones, THAT is the momentum that will keep me going and progressing further and further.

It didn’t always feel good.  It took a lot of awareness and reminding myself that nothing has gone wrong, it’s just different.

So attitude really is everything, or more specifically the thinking  behind it.  It’s one thing to ‘get’ it mentally, and another thing to actually experience.ankh

So it’s beginning to solidify now…  It’s about using our minds creatively — to stop and notice the little details in our thoughts, our little automatic reactions and practice thinking outside the box.  New perspectives, new ideas, new ways of thinking and reacting.  It’s about honing the mind and using it to the best of our ability — to keep it fresh and up-to-date with our priorities.

It’s not all about the big goal.  It’s about the vehicle that I am approaching it all in.   My job is to get my mindset (and thus life approach) up to a place where I can then take to my endeavors with all the gusto I need so I can be that best version of myself.

I saw that my inner ‘comfort monster’ wasn’t so much an angry over-protective beast as it was a fearful and cowering creature.  It should have been obvious.  I’ve been feeding myself so much doubt and shame that I had backed myself into a corner and felt good staying there.   Now it’s about changing that method to awareness, compassion, experimentation, and patience.