The Question Shaping Your Life

question shaping your life

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post titled On Your Best Day. As I was pondering and researching the idea of changing my daily routine, I came across something that seems to follow me. It’s basically a mix of quotes that have been sprinkled under my nose over the last decade. The general idea of the quotes are; that your life is based on the question you are currently asking. I’ve heard it said in many ways, and not all of the ways are related to each other, but in my mind it has coalesced into a uniform idea. I’ll take two authors and quote them, just to give you an example. Then I’ll make my summation of how it fits into my head and thinking.

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”Thomas Pynchon

“If you want a better quality of life, ask a better question.”Tony Robbins

I prefer Robbins’ quote over Pynchon’s, simply because it points inward instead of outward. Both authors suggest that your reality and life is shaped by the questions you are asking.

This is an example, it’s a drastic one, but an example. There was a man in a Nazi concentration camp. He watched his family being murdered, most of them gassed, one of them shot. Being the only one from his family left, he was certain that if he stayed in the camp, he would follow suit and die. But unlike most of the people around him, he asked a different question. The question he asked was, “How do I get out of here today?” He continued to ask the question in his mind until the right answer was presented to him. All day he entertained the question, phrasing it in various ways. Half a day passed until he finally got the answer he was looking for. He looked up and saw a huge pile of naked corpses. They were all thrown on the back of a truck inside of the compound. Instead of asking the question “How could Nazis be so heartless?” or “How could God create such evil?”, he asked a different question. He asked, “How could I use this?” “How could I use this to escape?” He immediately got the answer. Without hesitation he ripped off his clothes, dove into the pile of corpses, and pretended that he was dead. He stayed absolutely still for hours as more bodies were being tossed onto the truck. Eventually the truck departed the camp, it was making its way to an open grave site. After the truck dumped the bodies, he remained in the pile until the night became completely dark. When he was certain that no one would see him escape, he ran naked to freedom.

On that day, the only difference between him and other people in his same situation was that he asked a more empowering question. His question presented opportunities and changed the course of his life. The questions we ask ourselves on a daily basis do the same for us.

In a nutshell; if you want to change your reality, change your focus. If you want to change your focus, change the question you are asking.

So what kind of questions should we be asking? According to Tony Robbins, he believes we should consider the following; Does our question create new possibilities? Does our question empower or disempower us? Is our question focusing on the solution instead of the problem? Does the question inspire us and move us to action? Does our question make us responsible and give us the power to make a change? Does the question teach us anything useful? Does our question empower those around us?

As I say in most of my blog posts, awareness is always the first step in transformation and lasting change. Starting today, just notice yourself. Notice what questions pop into your mind. Catch yourself asking “why me” questions (which are the most disempowering and worst type of questions one can ask). Catch questions based on Pynchon’s quote, where the media & government have cow herded you into asking useless questions. Notice if your questions are based on scarcity thinking or obsessing over money. Notice if your questions are body fixated, or preoccupied with the ideal home or car. Notice if your questions place a lot of blame, or are centered around what other people should or shouldn’t do. Don’t immediately change any of this, just notice it. Then slowly begin to shift these questions back to yourself, asking yourself to be empowered and to take responsibility. It’s a matter of noticing what you are focusing on and changing your focus.

Life is always a process, whether it’s redesigning your day or asking better questions. It’s all the same. It’s learning as you go along and making necessary changes as you get in touch with your personal power. This power is your intuitive self. The self that is unchanging and connected to the source that is Life itself. When people have ah-ha moments, or they do something unimaginable, or they witness something that leaves them in awe, or when super-strength seems to come from nowhere — they have tapped into something that is always there. It’s just a matter of awareness. In moments when there is a timeless stillness within us, something magical happens. We experience the phenomenon that is life. We are that phenomenon. But sometimes we forget. And it’s OK to be reminded. That’s why life is an ever-unfolding ever-expanding process. How powerful and amazing is that?! I’ll leave you with that question.

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Filed under AWARENESS, choices, life path

Meeting Like Minds

I love books. You know why? Because I don’t always meet people that think like me, but with the millions of books out there, I find many. I read books for confirmation, inspiration and information. This week I read a book for confirmation. I always feel so lucky when I find an author who can articulate my thoughts better than I can. It makes me feel not-so-crazy. Or at least, that they are as crazy as me. In any case, it makes me feel better.

The book I read this week was, Ramtha: The White Book. I enjoyed every minute of it. I will list a few quotes. There were many that resonated with me, but I only posted the ones that suit this blog entry well.

One thing I wanted to point out and was happy to discover, was the author’s frequent use of the phrase Self Love. Whenever I mention ‘self love’ in conversations, people often assume I mean it in a narcissistic way. Many people don’t quite ‘get it’ like I’m saying it. I mean it in its highest sense. Your life, your world, exists through you only. No one else. When you eat, when you love, when you work, when you sleep, when you think, it’s all about you! Others are your mirrors. If you can see that everyone is you, and that you are responsible for your life, and your contribution to the world — everything opens up. The world (your world) becomes limitless. The more in touch you are with you, the more in touch you will be with others. The more love you have for yourself, the more love you will have for those around you. Does that make sense?

I talk about this all the time because it is the way that I found happiness. After years of depression, I began to realize that it grew out of self hate. The more I hated myself, the more I hated life. I saw life as a burden and a struggle. My life was based on doing what I had to, and waiting to see what happens to me next (instead of creating what happens next). I felt like I didn’t have a choice. Now my life is based on enjoying every minute and everyone. This slowly started to develop out of self love. The more I loved myself, the more love I saw in the world. My life is now my choice, it feels limitless, and I feel blessed to be here. I also feel very lucky to be able to share it with others. That powerful lifesaving transformation happened out of self love. When I say ‘self love’, that’s the kind of love of self I am referring to.

Below are a few goodies (selected quotes) from the book. I hope they resonate with you too!

“Only you can be your greatest lover.”

“You cannot truly see or be aware of the beauty of all life or express the depths of love and compassion for others until you have first seen your own sublime beauty and expressed love and compassion for yourself.”

“You are the life that you perceive to be outside of you.”

“You alone are your greatest teacher, for only you know what is the best of all things for you.”

“No one can teach you of your God Self; they can teach you only of theirs.”

“There is no greater love in life than the love of self. There is no greater love, for it is from that embrace of self that freedom exists. And it is from that freedom that joy is born.”

“You possess within you the power to know and to be all things.”

“You are wholly responsible for your own beauty, your own being, your own sorrowful or wonderful life.”

“You are the only one who loves you steadfastly enough to go through the things you have gone through.”

Today’s blog post was written & published almost 5 years ago in 2010. I thought it would be a nice post to revisit, so I re-published it. I also want to say that the very cool illustration is by Jessica of Vol.25

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Filed under depression, like minds, self love

On Your Best Day

your best day

I’ll be turning 40 in less than 6 weeks. I’m excited to enter a new year (2015!) and a new decade (my 40s!). For some reason, I’m excited to turn 40. Eager to see how my life unfolds from that point forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t, and the gift that growing older gives. As I think about entering a new phase of my life, I know how I want my life to feel. Goals and excessive planning have little interest for me. In my opinion, people set goals for desired feelings in the future, that are completely possible in the present. I don’t believe in setting goals, I believe in setting up an environment to foster feelings.

This month, I decided to get a head start on the new year and create a daily practice that I will work to maintain throughout the year. The purpose of this practice is to create the ideal day, that fosters ideal feelings, that evolves into an amazing year, and adds up to a extraordinary life.

I have a few things on my list that are always keys to feeling my best. I haven’t designed my perfect day yet, so I’ll just share with you a few of the things that I am planning on incorporating into my daily mix & plan.

These are in no special order, I’m listing them randomly.

  • Waking up early, when the morning is silent & fresh.
  • Drinking plenty of water, 1 – 2 liters during the day.
  • Exercising & deep breathing first thing in the morning.
  • Having liquid meals, especially green smoothies & juices.
  • Meditative & reflective moments, time taken for stillness in action.
  • Being creative & self-expressed in all that I do.
  • Eating a nourishing whole-food homemade vegan meal.
  • Taking care of what is most important, living my priorities.
  • Sharing my work and myself with others openly.
  • Maintaining a neat, minimal & organized home environment.
  • Getting fresh air in my lungs & warm sunrays on my face.
  • Being honest with myself & others, living my truth.

When that list is a part of my day, I have a great day! I feel great, I have great energy, and I go to bed reflecting on a day well spent — eager to do it all again the next day.

In the next few days, I am going to design a daily practice, a step-by-step routine, that I will follow for 2015. It doesn’t matter to me that each day goes as written. What does matter to me is that I am living my values and setting standards for myself. I want a great life, and it all starts with a great day — over & over, becoming better & better, getting sweeter with time.

What are you like on your best days? What are you doing? What does it feel like? What usually starts it or sparks it? Is there a way that you can make it a daily habit or practice? What would a dedicated year of those activities & feelings give you? How would it change you? Would it be the best year of your life?

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Filed under best life, good habits, perfect day, setting goals

Happy Thanks-living!

sweet potatoes happy thanks-living

Last week I was emailing with a friend. Before I ended my email, I added this sentence: “Have a super-duper Thanksliving next week. It’s nice to know that neither of us will be eating anyone. ;) It will be a celebration of life & thanks! So much to be grateful for.”

As most of my regular readers know, I don’t eat Turkey on Thanksgiving. I shared my point of view and reasons why in this 2012 blog post titled “Who Me?” If you click on the title, you can view and read the blog post. Please do! You’ll be happy you did.

I’m wishing everyone (in the USA, since it’s an American holiday) a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. But before I go, I would also like to share a video that was sent to me this week. I found it so inspiring. The video if of Jason Brown. He was an NFL player, that had a glamorous life and a 37.5 million dollar contact to play football. All that is behind him now. With awareness and insight, he made the decision to move to North Carolina to start a farm. He decided that living closer to nature & family was what was most important to him. This year, his farm grew 117,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, and he donated almost half of that amount to feed people in need. He is more connected to his environment, community and his family than ever. But more importantly, his more connected to himself on a deeper level, and lives with greater awareness. (His video is embedded below.)

I was talking to my dad on the telephone this morning. I was telling him that with greater awareness comes a deeper listing. It happens naturally as a result of stillness. When people are more aware, there is a stillness within them that allows them to listen intuitively. And it’s those internal messages and cues that guide them. Jason Brown was guided in this way. He knew that money & status wasn’t going to buy him what is most important. He was clear that love & connection is what he valued most. You can read more of his story here.

Whatever it is that we decide to do, in career, family, relationships, diet — it’s always best to choose powerfully. In order to choose powerfully, there needs to be some deep questioning and listening. If we can create a sense of stillness, and quiet the mind chatter or story that runs like a broken record in our minds, we can hear what is most important. For each person the details might be different, but the core of it is the same. Love, honesty, connection, and contribution is paramount. Without that, our lives wouldn’t amount to much.

Everyone defines their core values in their own way, even though we generally share the same values. Which is great, it makes us all unique. But it’s important that we repeatedly ask ourselves if we are living in alignment with our core values. Continuously checking in with ourselves and seeing if our current choices are in alignment with what matters most to us, and if it follows the guidance of our heart. And if we aren’t living in alignment with our highest values, why? What is stopping us? And what actions would it take to make sure that we are? What would our lives feel and look like if we made sure that our lives were based on powerful choices made with awareness, compassion and great love?

 

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Filed under community, holiday, thanksgiving

Pockets of Light

Today I am re-posting a blog post I wrote and published on November 13, 2011. The topic & movie clip I share in the post resonate with me in the same way it did three years ago. Many things have changed for me personally since writing the blog post. I no longer live in New York, that is one example, and is for sure the biggest change. But overall, I still feel the same. I still share the same feelings and I’m still moving in the same direction.

This week a friend of mine put me in contact with the film My Dinner With Andre, directed by Louis Malle, made in 1981. After finding out a bit about the film I rushed to read the script, and after reading the script I finally watched the film.

Below I’ve embedded a short video clip of the film for you, as well as the script for the scene. I recommend reading the text in addition to watching the video. Just so you catch all that Andre is saying since the scene happens quickly. Underneath the script excerpt, I share a few of my thoughts (very briefly).

My Dinner with Andre

ANDRE: Okay! Yes! We’re bored! We’re all bored now! But has it ever occurred to you, Wally, that the process that creates this boredom that we see in the world now may very well be a self-perpetuating, unconscious form of brain-washing, created by a world totalitarian government based on money? And that all of this is much more dangerous than one thinks. And it’s not just a question of individual survival, Wally, but that somebody who’s bored is asleep, and somebody who’s asleep will not say “no”. See, I keep meeting these people, I mean, uh, just a few days ago I met this man whom I greatly admire, he’s a Swedish physicist, Gustav Björnstrand. And he told me that he no longer watches television, he doesn’t read newspapers and he doesn’t read magazines. He’s completely cut them out of his life, because he really does feel that we’re living in some kind of Orwellian nightmare now, and that everything that you hear now contributes to turning you into a robot!

And when I was at Findhorn, I met this extraordinary English tree expert, who had devoted his life to saving trees. He just got back from Washington, lobbying to save the redwoods? He’s eighty-four years old and he always travels with a back-pack ’cause he never knows where he’s gonna be tomorrow! And when I met him at Findhorn he said to me: “Where are you from?” And I said: “New York.” He said: “Ah, New York! Yes, that’s a very interesting place. Do you know a lot of New Yorkers who keep talking about the fact that they want to leave but never do?” And I said: “Oh, yes!” And he said: “Why do you think they don’t leave?” I gave him different banal theories. He said: “Oh, I don’t think it’s that way at all.” He said: “I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing they’ve built, they’ve built their own prison. And so they exist in a state of schizophrenia, where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have, having been lobotomized, the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made, or to even see it as a prison. And then he went into his pocket and he took out a seed for a tree, and he said: “This is a pine tree.” He put it in my hand and he said: “Escape, before it’s too late.”

You see, actually, for two or three years now Chiquita and I have had this very unpleasant feeling that we really should get out. No, we really should feel like Jews in Germany in the late thirties. Get out of here! Of course, the problem is where to go, ’cause it seems quite obvious that the whole world is going in the same direction. You see, I think it’s quite possible that the nineteen-sixties represented the last burst of the human being before he was extinguished. And that this is the beginning of the rest of the future now, and that from now on there’ll simply be all these robots walking around, feeling nothing, thinking nothing. And there’ll be nobody left almost to remind them that there once was a species called a human being, with feelings and thoughts. And that history and memory are right now being erased, and soon nobody will really remember that life existed on the planet!

Now, of course, Björnstrand feels that there’s really almost no hope. And that we’re probably going back to a very savage, lawless, terrifying period. Findhorn people see it a little differently. They’re feeling that there’ll be these “pockets of light” springing up in different parts of the world, and that these will be in a way invisible planets on this planet, and that as we, or the world, grow colder, we can take invisible space journeys to these different planets, refuel for what it is we need to do on the planet itself, and come back. And it’s their feeling that there have to be centers, now, where people can come and reconstruct a new future for the world. And when I was talking to Gustav Björnstrand, he was saying that actually, these centers are growing up everywhere now! And that what they’re trying to do, which is what Findhorn was trying to do, and in a way what I was trying to do…I mean, these things can’t be given names, but in a way, these are all attempts at creating a new kind of school, or a new kind of monastery. And Björnstrand talks about the concept of reserves, islands of safety, where history can be remembered, and the human being can continue to function in order to maintain the species through a dark age.

In other words we’re talking about an underground, which did exist in a different way during the Dark Ages among the mystical orders of the Church. And the purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language, a language of the heart, languages in the Polish forest where language wasn’t needed. Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception, where you have that sense of being united to all things. And suddenly, you understand everything.

My Thoughts

To answer Andre’s question: the problem is where to go, ’cause it seems quite obvious that the whole world is going in the same direction”  I think the place everyone should go, is within. Don’t move out of your city to save yourself, and don’t go anywhere to awaken, and definitely don’t look for a place that will bring you happiness — it’s useless. The only place you can do that is within yourself, right here, right now.

And these “pockets of lightthat he talks about — we can be them for each other. We can create public works, or a home, or a community space, that acts like a center or gathering place for sharing or schooling (or rather, unlearning) — centers where people come together to recreate their lives powerfully. Individually we can also be beacons of light, encouraging one another to shine, and to be human beings that think for ourselves (instead of following religion, tradition, or corporate marketing like consumer robots). We can begin to speak that universal language that Andre talked about, the language of the heart!

For me I have no doubt in my mind I will live this. No doubt at all. And this blog, and the work I do, and how I live my life now, is just the beginning. I feel more connected to everything than ever before. I also feel more optimistic about the future than ever before.

[Free online links for reading & viewing My Dinner With Andre, written by Andre GregoryWallace Shawn. If you would like to read the script click HERE. If you would like to view the full length movie click HERE.]

[The tree photo is of me! Taken by my dear friend Jack.]

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Filed under ART / FILM, future, videos

Autumn : Loved to Death

autumn colors

black mountain nc

The mountains are blotted with saturated & deep autumn colors. There is the faint smell of chimney smoke in the air. Locals are beginning to reveal clothing that has been tucked & stored for months. I’m excited about the change in weather, the change of seasons. It means death, rebirth.

Often people compare winter to death, when all is barren & bleak. For me, death is autumn. I don’t mean that in a dark way. It’s just to say that things are drying out, getting colder, losing their former life.

wet fall leavesIn winter, life is brewing & bubbling underground. New beginnings are preparing for spring. Everything is in an embryo stage, rapidly forming, but not ready to announce itself to the world. For some reason, I’m more interested in the beauty of what is dying. I prefer autumn. It reminds me of seeing the hands of Louise Bourgeois (artist & sculptor, died in 2010). Her hand’s were thick & manly, had knots like gnarly branches, and wrinkles that resembled woodgrain lines. I loved looking at her hands. I admired them. I wanted to be like them.

Being used up can be a beautiful thing. It’s like a well loved seat, that’s butter soft, yielding, and showing signs of being loved …to death. It might not be the seat everyone wants to display proudly, but it’s the seat everyone wants to sit in.

autumn leavesDeath and rebirth go hand & hand. Death is never the opposite of life, but life itself. Rebirth is a reminder of that.

November has been an amazing month so far. I’ve had the great privilege of picking & eating edible mushrooms. As well as collecting wood to burn in the fire place. Both good examples of what it means to end a life, only to continue it in a new form.

The mushrooms I picked were Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea complex). Without a doubt, one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. (That’s almost 40 years of meals to choose from! They were that good.) I made a somewhat elaborate meal out of them at first. I realized that I wasted their unique flavor by pairing them with so many things. So the next day, I picked more and tried again. I made a dish of just Honey Mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil, with a little sea salt & black pepper added. The taste was divine.

dried leavesThe wood I’ve been bringing home was chopped by someone else. It was here when I moved here. It’s an enormous pile, that will soon topple over. Each day I have to bring in enough pieces to create about 8 hours of fire. It’s approximately a 1/4 of a small log per hour. The wood is interesting to handle. Each piece has it’s own color, shape, fungi and bugs that travel on it.

Life is good right now. I have no complaints. Each day is a new day to explore. I’m excited for what the future might bring. But not more excited for what each present moment holds. It’s glorious. There is so much life in us, around us, beyond us. It never ends.

Each death, is only the beginning. Autumn will go, just as fast as it came, until it is reborn to die again. Dry autumn leaves will fall, to nourish the ground, that feeds the tree, that creates fresh green leaves, that will turn golden and drop. Where did the original autumn leaves go? They were always here.

fall leaves

Honey Mushrooms….

Armillaria mellea complex honey mushroom

honey mushrooms

Leaving one life…

honey mushroom Armillaria mellea complex

honey mushrooms recipe

To take on a new one…

honey mushrooms edible wild foods

honey mushrooms recipe

Big wood pile…

wood pile

wood chopped

Just like mushrooms, just like autumn, just like us — the wood pile is going through a transformation. Its ashes will be placed out back, to wash into the soil when it rains, to feed new plant growth & trees. What a beautiful process.

fireplace

fire

[All photos are of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Mostly from my front yard.]

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Filed under LOSS / DEATH, mushrooms, seasons, Wild Foods

Hour of Power : Time to Move

hour_of_power_tony_robbins

I’m more than aware that moving brings energy. I recently moved from New York City to the Appalachian mountains. The whole process took so much mental and physical energy. It’s very easy to stay rooted in one’s comfort zone, but there comes a time when one just has to move. And it feels scary, unpredictable, risky. Like one is moving away from their life source. It’s always worth it though. All the new people, energy, experiences, challenges — all great for personal growth. But there is another kind of moving that brings energy as well. One that I’ve dearly missed since leaving New York. The Big Apple is full of energy: bright lights, speeding taxis, crowed airports and roaring subways. People rushing mindlessly & frantically to get somewhere; be it in their life goals & pursuits, or to simply reach a particular destination on time. The city is also filled to the brim with places where people can practice movement, like gyms, dance centers, yoga studios, driving ranges, swimming pools, basketball courts and running tracks. And let’s not forget, the walkers. One can walk for hours in New York City. You can zig zag for days. And most people do.

After moving to the mountains, I missed being able to move like I did in a big city. I don’t have the options here to dance, or to be with like minds that want to walk everywhere, or bring their body to a full sweat. But something came to mind this week, something I hadn’t thought about in years. Something I read in a book, back in 2002. It’s Tony RobbinsHour of Power. It’s basically a ritual you set up for yourself, that ideally takes place first thing in the morning.

This week I decided to start each day with an hour ritual that completely aligns me and sets-up the rest of my day. It might be a little different from what Tony Robbins recommends, but it’s in the same vein.

I start my day with a 15 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), short bursts of exercises, that gets me sweating & breathing fully. After that, I go into a more meditative, but still active 15 minute stretching session. Followed by 15 minutes of seated meditation, along with 15 minutes of spiritual reading (from any spiritual book, you can find my favorites here). Right now this whole routine takes me only one hour, and what I’d like to do is add-on to the HIIT session, so that by winter, the whole routine will be 90 minutes (because by then, HIIT will be 45 minutes long).

So far I am absolutely loving this routine! It has brought me to much energy and clarity. It was exactly what I needed.

If you’d like to know more about Tony Robbins’ Hour of Power, he explains it all in this video:

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Filed under exercise, good habits, INSPIRATION