Zen Habits: New Year, New Now

94150-live-in-the-now-gif-Waynes-Wor-dW2TI am not the type of person who dwells in the past. I don’t hold on to my successes or failures as badges of honour or disgrace. I just try to keep moving forward. The end of the year is always a tempting time to look back and take stock of where you are and what you’ve done. And that’s fine I guess, as long as you don’t dwell on it. Looking at what you have done is not the same as doing something. I like to look forward.

Choosing to live in the past only robs you of today. I know that sounds all “New Age”, but it isn’t. It’s really simple. The ONLY important moment is the present moment. You cannot undo the past, and you certainly cannot mold the future, therefore the only thing that truly matters is…NOW!

The idea here is to enjoy the moment. I could easily do a recount of my year and look back at all I’ve done and seen. It was a huge year and I did a lot. But looking back does nothing. Instead I want to enjoy the fruits of my labors, which is the now. I’m here in beautiful Seattle with my fella. I have a great job and I’m pretty happy. My right now is pretty great, and it would be a shame for me to waste it by looking back, or worrying about the future. A life lived in perpetual planning is not really a life. I’ve known people plan for futures that they were nowhere near to achieving. Why live a fantasy life in your head when you could live your real life instead? Hey, that rhymed!

Where ever you are in this coming year, I challenge you to live in the moment. Enjoy yourself where ever you are. Sure, you might get sick or have to do things that are not enjoyable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fully appreciate the small moments a day holds. Sights, sounds, smells, emotions even triumphs and tragedies, all of these things are worth noticing and living through. When I am having a bad day, I ask myself How can I enjoy this? Just asking the question has a calming effect and grounds me in the now.

You only have one shot at each day so try to make the most of it. Don’t dwell on the past – good or bad. Don’t worry about the future, it is coming no matter what you do. There will always be unknowns, and for me the unknown is the fun part. I guess good ol’ Sophocles said it best, “Tomorrow is tomorrow. Future cares have future cures, And we must mind today.”

Zen Habits: Work/Life Balance

WorkLifeBalance3Yesterday at work I read a passage in a book I was returning to the shelves of the Business section. I tend to glance at the titles in this section or roll my eyes as I flip through the pages. For me, most of what is in Business books is just common sense. They try to market to specific types of people (Type A anyone?) by claiming to have the answer to all of your important questions. It is not unlike the Diet book business. Each new book claims to have the right answer for losing weight, but you’ll only have the answer if you read the book. I’ll save you some money – eat right, eat smaller and exercise. No book necessary. The same goes for business. If you need to read a chapter explaining how to return emails (to your boss, coworker, team…) then you are kind of dumb. But there are plenty of people who think I’m dumb, so I guess we’re even.

The book I glanced at was by a young (twenty-seven years old) entrepreneur who claimed to have the keys to success for todays ever-changing world. Or something like that. She knows what she’s talking about. You can tell from the smart yet chic suit she wears on the cover. She’s also standing outside on a corner like she’s going to hail a cab. I guess thats supposed to let us know she’s a Big City Business Woman and we can trust her. Anyway, I opened to a page about work/life balance. Or rather how the idea of such a thing is a figment of your imagination. Like the Easter bunny. Okay she didn’t make that analogy but she should have. She writes that her generation strives for work life integration. To not work an eight-hour day and then go home and forget about it. She says that work and life are the same. The. Same.

I threw up a little in my mouth. But I kept reading.

She contends that for women, the balance of a home life and a work life doesn’t exist. Something has to give. Women cannot balance a successful career and be a wife and or mother, girlfriend, whatever… without giving up something, or saying “No” to opportunities. Um… No shit! Who says “Yes!” to everything? I guess realizing that at age twenty-seven is alright, but did you need to devote a chapter in your book to it? The trick is saying yes to the right things for you and your priorities. If your priorities are career driven, then say yes to things that will help your career. If your priorities are family, travel or whatever else, then say yes to the things that help that vision. Taking short cuts isn’t the answer.

woman-entrepreneurThe lady entrepreneur continues to write about how she has integrated her work life with her life life by getting  a nanny, ordering groceries on-line and having them delivered, and hiring someone to walk her dog for her. I put the book down. That is not achieving balance. That isn’t even integrating. That’s just delegating. Nice try. But I ain’t buyin’ it.

Success and fulfillment are different for everyone. Many people gauge their success by how well they get paid, their title at work, or their position. Others by how their life looks from the outside. Do you have the right things? If you have the right things people will think you are successful. It seems to me that the author of that book thinks this way. Money, fame and power are what matters. What people think matters. You can claim to have it together, but when you are living your life by proxy, I don’t believe you. Bringing your work home with you is fine if you are single and live alone, but it’s just cruel if you live with other people. Or cats. Nobody wants to be around the person who is constantly checking their iphone, constantly talking about work, or is obviously not present when you try to have a non work related conversation.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Neither failure or success has the power to change your inner state of being.” The most successful people I know do not look at failure as failure and success as success. They do not let outcomes change their state of beingYou can see if goals are being accomplished or not, but that shouldn’t have any effect on your inner state. Telling women to delegate their lives away isn’t the answer. We should make time to walk the dog or pick the kids up from school. We should be capable and willing to buy food for ourselves in a store or market. When we disconnect from our lives to the extent that we buy our food from a touch screen and have it left on our doorstep we’ve gone too far. When the nanny picks up the kids from school, feeds them dinner and you simply kiss them good night, you’ve gone too far. Perhaps we need to look at our priorities a little.

For me, being happy at work and at home meant changing my perception of the world around me. There was no other answer. The truly successful, whether a CEO, a lawyer, a bookseller, or a stay at home mom, are the people who create a life full of joy and accomplishment. These people are not controlled by environment or opinion. Truly successful people are self-reliant, they know where they are going in life.  Even if outward appearances do not agree. They choose where to focus their energy and their thoughts. Tolle also says that pleasure is something you get from the outside and joy comes from within. I think success is finding joy. Who cares what you do for a living if you’ve discovered joy within yourself? I try to remember every day, that looking for happiness is the antithesis of happiness. It helps. And it makes me happy.

Zen Habits: Life In-Between

roads-divergingNo matter what stage of life you are in, there are questions. You might be wondering, “What’s next?” or “What do I do now?” or even, “Is this it?” Maybe you just finished a big home project, or maybe, like me, you are in-between everything. I am so often in transition that it has become almost comfortable. Almost. I’ve been on the road since December 29, 2013 – that’s well over a month. I have a plan in place, but it’s a slow-moving, low-income, loose plan. It’s tough to be in-between a home and a job at the same time. Figuring out how to live in the “In-between” is difficult when you have money. It’s almost impossible when you don’t.

I’m in a unique position. I’m kind of stalled. My plan got derailed (as plans often do) and now I am left twisting in the wind. My fella and I had planned on heading to Seattle in June when we were finished at Buddhist Camp. I hadn’t planned on leaving early, but I did leave early. That means a new plan. I have feelers out in Seattle and folks willing to give us a place to flop, but jumping into the unknown with no money isn’t easy. It’s not impossible, just not easy. I have to look at this as an opportunity for us to be fighters; to look within ourselves and find that strength that we always knew was there. But after months of digging deep, who knows how much is left.

Transitions give us strength and builds real character. We discover who we are and what we want from life. We let go of our preconceptions and see clearly, maybe for the first time.

Each time I have found myself in a time of transition I try to seize the opportunities that life throws at me. I’m trying to enjoy the surprises that each day brings and accept all that life throws my way. Life is just one big experiment and there are no correct answers. There is only what you do, and what you choose not to do. All I can do is be fully present in the life I have chosen and take advantage of each stage, even the in-between ones. I have patience and I won’t let doubt get the better of me. I’m on a journey and I plan on enjoying every moment of it.

Hopefully one day in the not to distant future, my sweetheart and I will be able to look back on this In-Between time fondly and say, “Hell yeah! We nailed it!” I don’t know what’s next, but I do know I’m ready, willing, and able to kick its ass.

Zen Habits: Questions to Ask Yourself at Year’s End

four-seasonsThe end of the year is nigh. That means people the world over will be looking back and taking stock of what they managed to do and not do in the past year. In the past I have used this blog to reflect on what I’ve done, and look forward to the year to come. This year is no different, but a lot easier since I took stock of my life mid year. I knew I wasn’t happy where I was and waiting isn’t really my style. So I asked myself some important questions and took action. The result is that 2014 is going to be an exciting year for me.

Even if you are totally content with your life and happy with where you are (both physically and mentally), it won’t hurt to look at these questions and see where your life is out of balance. I answered most of these questions last year and it showed me quite vividly that I was unhappy. Sure it was my first year in America in almost seven years, but reverse culture shock isn’t to blame for everything. I quickly saw that Austin wasn’t good for me. Most (if not all) of my unhappiness stemmed from living in a place I found stifling to my independence and growth. Once I figured that out, the rest was fun and easy. I developed an escape plan that commences in three weeks. It’s not enough to know what the problems are, you have to be proactive in your own life in order to create change.

  1. Where in my life do I feel stuck?
  2. What am I most proud of in this last year?
  3. Am I passionate about my job, or career?
  4. What have I learned this year?
  5. What have I been an example of?
  6. How have I been open minded?
  7. What new experiences, people or places did I experience?
  8. How did I express myself creatively?
  9. What projects did I start? Did I complete them, or procrastinate?
  10. Did I get in my own way and make excuses?
  11. In what ways can I restructure my time?
  12. How have I been a good and supportive friend/lover?
  13. Have I been unfair to anyone?
  14. Who do I need to forgive in order to move forward?
  15. What (or who) do I need to let go of?
  16. What old habits am I ready to get rid of forever?
  17. What habits would I like to integrate into my life?
  18. Am I healthy in mind, body and spirit?
  19. What do my finances say about my life?
  20. Am I spending my free time in healthy and productive ways?

Zen Habits: Adulthood

url“I am convinced that most people do not grow up…We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” – Maya Angelou

I have been told my entire life to grow-up and be an adult. I did all the things I thought grown-ups did. I got a boring jobs working for boring corporations. I got married. I had dinner parties. I settled down. But I guess I did it wrong because people kept telling me to “grow up”. It was confusing to me because I thought I was grown up. Looking back I see that I was doing just fine. I was just stuck trying to live someone else’s idea of a “grown up” life.

For me, being an adult has been a gradual process. And I have fought it kicking and screaming the entire way. Okay, not really, but I never bought into the picture of what adulthood looked like. I never really wanted to be a home owner or have the same job for twenty years, or have kids. No one ever told me that there are many different pictures of what adulthood looks like. Not all grown-ups are married. Not all grown-ups have kids. Not all adults go to college, or work a 9-5 job, or own a home, or stay in one place their whole lives.

One of the first signs of adulthood I noticed in myself was realizing that no job or person was beneath me. It came early for me. I’ve had to work since I was about twelve years old, and I’ve had some super unglamorous jobs: Domino’s Pizza phone girl, waitress, cocktail waitress, tour guide, teacher and karaoke host in Prague. These are just a few of the not so glamorous jobs I’ve had. I realized fairly young that working a not so sexy job isn’t the worst thing in the world. Being broke and calling mom and dad for money is. I know how to manage my finances, however small they are.

Real adults are able to let go of bitterness and resentment. We don’t hold on to the past, or wear our bitterness like a badge honor. We don’t hold grudges. Adults are able to take life as it comes without tossing blame onto others. We make mistakes and we cop to them. We don’t expect others to always listen to us, and we know when to keep our mouths shut. Sometimes, your advice isn’t wanted. And that’s okay. Adults know how to respond to life rather than react to it. Adults can say ‘NO’ to their boss, or partner, or friends without fear of repercussion or guilt. Adults know that time and energy are not mutually exclusive.

Being a grown up isn’t about what kind of job you have, or who you know. It’s about facing reality head on. I bet you know a few people who live in a hypothetical world. They imagine that people are always judging them, and always thinking the worst of them. That thought turns into an assumption, and that assumption becomes your ‘truth’. It’s nuts to live that way. What a waste of time!

An adult doesn’t care what people think about her, and she certainly doesn’t sit around thinking about the people who think she’s a loser. And trust me, there are people out there that think you are a loser. I promise, there are people who don’t like you. And that’s okay! Heck, just this morning I got a lovely comment on my blog that said “Fuck You” about eight different times and called me an asshole. Did I cry and wonder why this person is so mean? Nope. I even posted the comment. (It’s on the ABOUT ME PAGE comment section. Look for Shaggy6913)  Then I laughed that folks in Austin are still pissy over something I wrote over a year ago, and simultaneously proving my point about how warm and welcoming they are. Grow up.

Personally, I think the best way to cultivate maturity is to invest in relationships with different types of people. Surrounding yourself with people your same age, same political views, likes and dislikes will only stint your growth. We all need peers, and people who will help us down the road, and knowing people both younger and older than you can be your ticket to understanding yourself. When you invest in people younger than yourself, it’ll help them grow and help you mature. I have friends who are nineteen, and I have friends who are fifty. Age doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the kind of person you are.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want the world to treat you like an adult, start acting like one. I’m not saying “Get a real job!” or “Stop going out and partying!” I’m saying, treat others with respect and compassion. Don’t think your opinion is the right one, or the only one. Be open-minded and practice by meeting new and different people. Be in charge of your finances and take care of yourself and the people who care about you. Enjoy life, travel often and If people still tell you to grow up, just smile and say thanks. That’s what I do.

I like my life.

Zen Habits: How to Stick to Your Path When Nobody Gets It

photo: Alicia Brooks

photo: Alicia Brooks

If you had asked me at twenty-seven years old what my life plan is, I would have laughed at you. I didn’t have a plan. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew what society, my friends and family expected of me, and I tried doing it. I got married. I got a job in an office. I made money. I was miserable, but I was doing what I was supposed to do. If you had told me that instead I’d divorce my husband and move to the Czech Republic, and spend the next seven years traveling the world and wind up at a Buddhist Center in Northern California, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But somewhere in the midst of living the life I thought I was supposed to live, I realized I wasn’t happy. Or rather I was forced to realize I wasn’t happy. Looking back I feel like I was too dumb or too scared to see I wasn’t living my life the way I wanted. I was living the life other people wanted to me to live. But, my relationships were failing, my career was less than fulfilling, I was miserable.

I was checking off all of the boxes (Job? Check! Married? Check!) but it didn’t make me happy. I realized what I wanted from life wasn’t what most people wanted. I wanted a life of adventure, freedom, love, and learning. Staying in one place for twenty years, working in an office every day was not what I wanted from life.

Of course, living a life of freedom and adventure, love and learning isn’t enough. I still needed and wanted an amazing partner, enough money for what I need, and to live in a place that fuels my creativity. And why the hell not? Why settle down in a life that doesn’t fit?

But explaining your life goals and dreams to family and friends isn’t always easy. Most people don’t understand. When you live your life in an unusual way – traveling, living abroad, volunteering, not having babies, starting your own business – it makes people uncomfortable. It’s just too risky for stable minded people. They don’t understand it. They fear it, and you. They might even be envious of you. And that’s okay. Just take it in stride.

The trick is to not let all of that fear and doubt rub off on you. The last thing you need is to start doubting yourself. So how do you keep living your life the way YOU want? Here are some tips to help you figure that out.

  1. Give people the tools to educate themselves. We spend a lot of our time explaining ourselves to people. We try to explain why we are moving to Europe, or why we have decided to change careers. We struggle to make people understand our POV, and explain (over and over) what we are after. Well, stop. It won’t work. You can talk ’til you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change anyones mind. The best idea is to give friends and family the tools to educate themselves. I have sent my friends and family as much information about Ratna Ling as I possibly can. That’s all I can do. It’s up to them to read it, and ask me questions. I can’t force them to accept my choices, but I can make it their responsibility to educate themselves about it. I can’t have a meaningful dialogue about my life choices with someone who can’t take the time to educate themselves about it.
  2. Find a community of like-minded people. It’s a lot easier to live your dream when you have a group of people around you who “get it”. Start limiting your time with people who don’t understand what you are doing.
  3. Commit to your lifestyle in thought and action. Start a routine that includes yoga and meditation. Make time for the things which are important to you. Whether it’s writing, painting, exercising, singing… make it a part of your daily practice. Making creativity and inner connection a part of your daily ritual will help you in making it a part of your life.
  4. Allow yourself the freedom to change, even if nobody else will. I’m not the same person I was at sixteen. I’m not even the same person I was at twenty-six. Thank goodness! I should hope that we all grow and change over time. I don’t have the same priorities I did in my twenties, and that’s okay with me. I’m GLAD that getting wasted and dancing the night away isn’t my main goal in life. It was fun while it lasted, but that ain’t me anymore. But, people are comfortable with the YOU they first met. It fits into their idea of who you are, and that fits into their life. When your life shifts and your priorities change, it forces other people to change their idea of you. That makes some people uncomfortable. Don’t let that stop you from growing and changing. If your friends and family are having trouble adjusting to your new lifestyle, job, or home – that’s a THEM problem. Not a YOU problem. You just go on being awesome.
  5. Stay strong. You know deep down inside that you are a badass. You know that you are doing what’s right for you. Seeking the approval of others is an uphill battle that you’ll eventually lose. Do the best you can, every day. Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t. The only persons happiness that you are responsible for is your own.

Zen Habits: The Art of Living

holsteemanifestoI lay awake in bed last night thinking about our impending road trip to California, and what life will be like at Ratna Ling. As cool as it seems, I began to worry. My head filled with “What if”. And once you start down that path, it’s only a matter of time before you say the four little words that will destroy your self-confidence. What am I doing? 

I’ve said it more times than I can remember. I’ve said it on a plane to London, and I’ve said it on a bus to Mexico. What am I doing? Who does this? Is packing up all of my belongings and moving to a new place (sight unseen) a good idea? You bet it is. It’s a leap of faith. I’ve been packing up and moving for the past twelve years. At first it was out of situational necessity – for a job, divorce. I moved because I “had to”. Now? I move out of curiosity, and a sense of adventure. I’m learning how to live.

Learning begins with a clean slate. Only when you start with no preconceived ideas can you open your mind to a new intention. That means getting rid of past baggage. That means getting rid of old opinions and making room for new ones. Being curious with an open mind needs to replace the need to be right and secure. Being mindful and in the present moment needs to replace lamenting the past, and wondering about the future. The art of living is letting go of control.

The only time I find myself stressed out is when I stop living. I stress out when life starts feeling like work, when worry and doubt take hold and take charge. Here is how I remind myself (daily) to practice the art of living.

  • Gratitude. I try to look at my life, even the crappy parts, and be grateful. Life is filled with a lot of awesome and amazing stuff. Why not focus on that and be grateful? Isn’t that better than complaining? You bet it is.
  • You are the sum of your own choices. My personal mantra is: You always have a choice. The choices might not be pleasing, but you still hold the power to choose. You can look at where ever you are – right now – and know that you are there because of your own choices. This enables you to take responsibility for all of your choices, both good and bad. Sure things like getting sick, or breaking your foot might not be your fault (or your choice), but how you respond IS. Only you can decide to play the victim, or be the hero of your own life.
  • Fear is okay. Taking risks is part of life. If you are not risking, you are not living – you are merely subsisting. Sometimes life presents us with joy and fear at the same time. We just need to learn that fear is okay, and work through it. Fear shouldn’t stop you from trying new things, taking risks, and living your life. Embrace the possibility of failure and the world is your oyster. Fear failure and you’ll never do anything.
  • Stay in the moment. This is hard. Last night I wasn’t living in the moment. I succumbed to wondering about the future, and that wonder soon turned to worry. Worry doesn’t get you anywhere. No matter how well I plan, mistakes can and will happen. Most of my life is beyond my control. The only thing I can do is stay in the NOW. Meditation helps with this. Stop. Close your eyes. Open them and focus on what is around you, and don’t let your mind wander. Do this for one minute and you’ll be back in the present.
  • Relationships matter. Nurture the relationships that nurture you. Let go of the ones that drain you. A nurturing friendship allows for miles in-between, mistakes, advice, and forgiveness. It needs these things. A good relationship doesn’t deal in being right or wrong. A good relationship doesn’t involve judgement, or having things your way. A good relationship isn’t petty or gossipy. If you have relationships (friends, family, spouse, partner…) that are draining your energy or just making you unhappy – then end it. Life is too short to put energy into people who are keeping you back.
  • Let go. To learn the art of living, that’s all you need to do. Let go. Let go of judgement. Let go of fear. Let go expectations. Let go of needing to be heard and of needing to be right. Just let go. Let go of fear of judgement and failure. Let go of being afraid of the unknown. Let go of comparing yourself to others, and let go of doubt. Let go of distractions, time suckers and complaints. When you loosen your grip on these things, living your life as an art form becomes easier.

The art of living is a practice, a lifestyle. You do it everyday moment by moment. It’s a constant practice of letting go and focusing on the now. You fall down, you get back up. You don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, you take it as it comes. The art of living is knowing how to get up again, gracefully.

Zen Habits: Transitions

mountain-roadAs I write this, I have no home of my own. I have no keys to a flat or mail box, no address, and no roots. It won’t be this way forever, but for the time being this is my life. Untethered. Right now is a funny time. Most people would call it a “transition period”, or an “in-between” state. I’m trying to look at it as a sabbatical without pay. However I choose to think of it, it is a weird position to be in.

Our society rewards work and demonizes leisure. Whether it’s an out of work slob watching TV all day, or a privileged rich dude who doesn’t have to work, we think less of him. It’s kind of a bummer. Personally, I think highly of people who are smart and creative enough to figure out ways of avoiding work, or working less. Working for the man full time isn’t my idea of living life. And I certainly don’t want to wait until I “retire” to start kicking ass and traveling. So I’m doing the things I want to do an I’m doing them now.

The downside to being untethered is transitioning. I’ll be in a state of transition until mid January when I arrive at Ratna Ling. Once there we can settle in for six months. I’ve lived through many transitions and it gets easier each time. Transitions happen to everyone at some point or another. The key is to accept it and work with it, not against it. You can thrive through periods of uncertainty, no work, and lots and lots of free time. Remember: Beginnings are born out of endings.

  1. Create a routine. Don’t sleep ’til noon and watch game shows all day. This will rot your brain and rob you of ambition. Set your alarm, wake up and have morning coffee. Workout. Read. Go to the store. Cook at home. Set aside time for emails and Facebook so you are not spending all day doing nothing. Take time for yourself and be creative. You might not have this much free time again for a while.
  2. Get done what you can. Now. We won’t be in Seattle until June or July of 2014. That doesn’t mean I should wait until then to start looking for a place to live or for a job. I have already updated my CV and I already got an interview. I have our route to California mapped out (including gas cost) and we are making reservations for campsites. Waiting ti the last minute when you don’t have to is dumb.
  3. Don’t look back. Looking back is a temptation best left alone. It’s easy to look back at where you came from with nostalgia or longing. I try not to watch movies set in Prague because I don’t want to go through the pain of missing it. Instead, I keep my eyes focused on the present and what is to come. I left Prague in search of adventure and new experiences – things that I was not having there. Even the magic of living in Prague becomes common place after seven years. As much as I miss my friends – my family – in Prague, I needed to leave. As Yoda said, “Always in motion is the future.”

Zen Habits: 10 Ways to be a Better Person

betterforblogMy guess is that we all think we are pretty good people. We say “Please” and “Thank you”. We open the door for old ladies or folks with their hands full. These are good things to do, but let’s face it – you could do more.

Being a “good person” is a state of being, not a culmination of the things you do for others. It starts with your attitude towards yourself and trickles down to each person you encounter throughout your day. When you get mad at the waitress who forgot to place your order, you are changing the rest of her day, and yours as well.

  1. Relax. This is temporary. – Whatever situation you are in just remember – it is temporary. Whether you are stuck in traffic or going through a divorce – it is temporary. Remembering to take a deep breath and tell myself “This isn’t forever” is the only way I got through this last year in Austin.
  2. Don’t take your anger out on others. It’s ok to get angry, but you must learn to control it. Don’t let anger be a part of your decision making process. Calm your mind and body before making any decisions, phone calls, emails, or anything else that could make your situation worse. Work out. Talk a walk. Meditate… but don’t yell at people. It isn’t nice.
  3. Do the right thing. You have a choice to do the right thing or not. That means you can decide to be a good person all day long. There are little things you can do throughout your day that are helpful and kind. Return your shopping cart. Make more coffee if you take the last cup. Pick up trash if you see it. Leave a tip.
  4. Be honest. Sometimes it seems easier to tell a little white lie than to tell the truth. I’m guilty of that myself. But in the long run being honest is far easier and more helpful to others. If you ask for my opinion about something, you will not get a watered down version of the truth. You will get my honest opinion. I’ll tell you if you look fat in those pants. I’ll tell you what I think about politics, parenting, travel… anything. Being honest cuts the bullshit and let’s you get on with your day. Just try to be kind and honest at the same time.
  5. Listen. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was just waiting for their tun to talk? It sucks, right? Give whoever is speaking the courtesy of being a good listener. Taking the time to listen to other people might give you a new perspective, or teach you something you didn’t know about yourself. It also shows that you care about other folks and what they have to say.
  6. healthierforblogBe kind to yourself. Make sure your inner dialogue is kind. Stop beating yourself up. Don’t call yourself fat, stupid, ugly or anything else unkind. When you tell yourself that you are fat or ugly – that becomes your truth whether or not it is actually true. Think of positive things about yourself and focus on those. The flaws will still be there but you will be better able to deal with them if you are coming at them from a place of kindness.
  7. Don’t be rude. In this day and age rudeness has become quite acceptable. People feel they have a right to say rude things to others via the internet and in person. Saying that you’ve had a hard day and you are going to “slap a bitch” isn’t just rude – it’s ugly. It might be “funny” but it is also pretty low class. Use other peoples rudeness as a reminder to yourself not to do it. If someone cuts you off on the freeway, take a deep breath and make sure to let the next person in. Being nice will serve you better in the long run.
  8. Ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. Don’t let a conversation, or a work project move forward without you because you were too embarrassed to ask questions. Smart people ask questions and are eager to learn. It also shows you are listening, interested and committed.
  9. Stop with the excuses already! If you have read my blog for any length of time you know how I feel about excuses. They are lame. If there is something you want to do, then just do it. I absolutely despise where I live, so I am moving. When I was overweight I changed my diet and started exercising. Only you have the power to change your situation. Making excuses for your weight, finances, your kids behavior won’t help change any of it. Change starts with you.
  10. Be flexible. Being flexible and open to change is one of the most important things you can do. Being adaptable to new people and environments shows your willingness to learn and engage with others. People who always have to be in control, or have a rigid schedule for themselves (and sometimes their family!) are usually living out of fear. Rigidity is a sign of weakness and fear. Being flexible and adaptable opens you up to more experiences, happiness, and love. Bend with the wind rather than break. You’ll be less stressed and more happy. Is having things done your way worth the stress? Probably not.

Zen Habits: Don’t Respond to Drama

drama_queen1“When you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.” – Eckhart Tolle

July was not the best month for me. I went on holiday which was fun, but also fraught with tension from my family. I also had to end a long-time friendship. Then, just last week my blog exploded because of my post about living in Austin. This was great in terms of exposure, but not so great in terms of drama. How do you defend yourself against 500 strangers?

That’s easy. You don’t.

My Austin piece mad some folks angry. Big shock. People called me “rich bitch”. They called me entitled. They called me a privileged asshole, and told me to get the fuck out of their town. A few readers asked me what it was like to “get to live in Europe”. It all pissed me off. I mean, I might be an asshole, but I am definitely not any of those other things.

I read the comments and all I wanted to do was defend myself. I wanted the truth to be known! But, isn’t that just feeding the ego? What would it change if these 500 strangers had the truth? Would they suddenly find my opinions about Austin palatable if they knew the truth about me? Um, no. I just wanted to make myself feel better. I felt like I was being picked on. But instead of defending myself, I didn’t respond to the drama. And it was really, really hard.

Whether it is family drama, or work drama, or even FaceBook drama, you can choose not to participate. You always have a choice. When you choose not to respond to drama the drama will just die out. When you react it just adds fuel to the fire. Negativity breeds negativity. Drama breeds drama.

But how is it possible not to respond? How do I choose to be silent when all I want to do is scream? What if what they say isn’t true? The first step is to recognize the drama for what it is – DRAMA. It isn’t about you, or being right. Drama is an external force that can easily sweep you away to a dark place. Don’t let it.

  1. Get it out – So, there is drama. You had a fight with your BFF, or husband, or co-worker and now you are all fired up. Instead of calling everyone you know and telling them about what happened, try something else. Anything else! The worst thing you can do is spread the drama to more people. More people makes it worse. Now there are even more people (who have noting to do with the actual incident) involved. And you invited them! This shouldn’t happen. Instead, write a letter to that person that says everything you want to say and then rip it up. Get it out. Rip it up. Leave it in the past. Go to the gym and push yourself harder than usual. Get your anger out. Do whatever you have to in order to regain perspective and control. Don’t let the ego be in charge.
  2. Observe discrepancy – If someone says they don’t mean to be rude and then they call you a jerk – that’s a discrepancy. When a person says one thing and does another – that is discrepancy. Don’t be fooled. All of this is just more drama. Don’t participate. When a persons words and actions are not congruous, that is a sure sign of drama. You don’t need to point it out to the person or tell them they are being two faced. All you have to do is observe. When you notice that a person is a drama creator you can use that information to make better choices for yourself. If they ask you out to lunch, keep it in mind when you decide if you want to go.
  3. Remember it isn’t urgent –  Very few things in life are actually urgent. An urgent situation is a building burning down, or a flood, or leaving the stove on and then going on holiday. We tend to make everyday situations into urgent situations thus giving them more importance and causing more stress than necessary. Many times drama presents itself in the form of pressure that feels urgent. (I need to send this email now! or I have to go to the store right now!) A false sense of urgency can be caught as easily as the common cold. All it takes is another person’s frenzy of charged emotions. Whatever the situation is, I bet it isn’t urgent. If something is not actually life threatening, then rest with it. Don’t make any decisions in the heat of the drama.
  4. Be Mindful – Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment. It means knowing we are not our thoughts, or our body, but rather an impartial third party who serves as a witness of our life. If we look at situations this way – through a lens of mindfulness – we can begin to make better choices. The more we are able to witness our life rather than identify with the experiences, the more we will be able to walk away from drama. When you identify with the experience, you make it personal. When you make something personal, you invite the ego to take over.
  5. Practice – Walking away from drama takes practice. Sitting quiet when you want to scream takes practice. Silence is one of the most difficult and useful things to master. Neutrality takes practice. It feels uncomfortable and foreign. It feels almost wrong not to take a side, or state a position. But, the most powerful thing you can do for yourself, and to get rid of drama in your life is to practice being quiet, uncomfortable and neutral. Sounds fun, right? Well, compare it to feeling angry, slighted, unheard, resentful, or frustrated. When drama is faced with neutrality it fades. By not giving your energy to the drama, you are free to give it to something else. Giving attention to negativity or drama is like watering a dead plant – all it accomplishes is wasting your time and making you frustrated.

July might have tried to kick my ass, but it failed. There was a lot of drama swirling around me but in the end I prevailed. I didn’t let the bastards get me down, and I didn’t participate in the drama. It was tough, but I feel alright. I feel good even! If you want peace in your life, then you should BE peace. If you want joy, be joy.

You get the picture. Here is a song that I use to remind me that I always, always have a choice in how I respond to drama.