Tag Archives: clarity

Life On My Terms: Learning to Say NO & Loving It

IMG_1667“Time does not stand still. Make it your aim to create time for your dreams, your loved ones and your Creator. Design your life for what warms your heart and get good at saying no to everything else.” –Mastin Kipp

Hello friend,

I remember the days when I wasn’t so clear about what I wanted to do with my life. Things seemed to be going along pretty well. I enjoyed my relationship with my wife. Kids hadn’t entered the picture yet. I worked way too much, but there was free time on the weekends. If something interesting—or not—was on the television, I would plop down on the sofa and watch. Sometimes for hours, if I was tired or nothing was pressing on my mind. If I was invited to a party or event, I usually went, even though I am, by nature, extremely unsocial. If a suggestion to do something or go somewhere came up, my typical attitude was, “Sure. What else do I have to do?” I was easy; I rolled with it. I was happy. Happy, but not particularly driven. Not particularly clear.

My, how times have changed!

A portrait of my life right now looks a little different. Okay, a LOT different! The wife is still here; that’s a good thing. The kids are definitely here! Also good. I am not working way too much—at least not in the way I used to think of working—which is fabulous. Somehow, though, I have forgotten what plopping down on the sofa feels like. And television? The only thing I know about that anymore is that it shows cartoons. The invitations that come these days are for kids’ birthday parties.

Needless to say, on the outside, my world today looks like an alien planet compared to those bygone casual days! The strange thing is, these changes are just a drop in the bucket compared to what is happening on the inside.

The one constant, fortunately, is that I am still very happy. I am glad that even before all of these changes occurred, I had reached the point with my mind where my happiness is not dependent on circumstances. Things and people come and go, but my happiness remains. That’s a comforting realization.

But, as I said, that is the one constant, the one holdover from those days when I had no plans and my ambition was stuck in neutral. When I step out of my mind right now and think about how it works today compared to then, the differences are shocking. Today, I am being driven hard by my dreams and aspirations every day of the year. There is a reason that the sofa no longer remembers my body and I no longer know the names of any grown-up television shows or movie stars.

You might think it is the kids that did this to me. It isn’t. It is my purpose that did it. My passions. I finally woke up to them, and they have been driving me ever since. There is not a day that goes by that, when my head hits the pillow at night, I don’t wish that I had done more soul-stirring activities or had more time for advancing my mission. Never. Then I wake up the next morning with the itch to be more, to do better, to get closer to the fulfillment of my dreams.

I beg the Universe for more time. Time to write. Time to learn. Time to coach. Time to snuggle with my kids. Time to connect with positive people. Time to connect with The Divine. Time to be of service. These are the causes I want to advance, the ones I am trying to fill every free moment of every day with.

That is why the complementary themes that are driving a deep course through my mind as this new year gets into full swing are Efficiency and Clarity. I am trying to be absolutely crystal-clear every single day about the things that matter most to me so that I can put all of my time and energy into those people and causes. That is what I am about right now. It doesn’t allow for lapses of focus or for days spent in front of the television. It certainly doesn’t understand the possibility of me giving the “Sure. What else do I have to do?” response. I ALWAYS have something to do. Usually more things than I can handle. But always something. It has been a long time since I felt bored, and honestly, I am absolutely certain I will never feel bored another moment in my life. How could I? After all, every moment is an opportunity to better myself and the world around me, another chance to DO SOMETHING to fulfill my dreams and passions. How could I pass on that chance?

That is why my entrance into this year comes with a more serious conviction to spend my time wisely, to not waste any of it. And I mean any! Basically, I want to live entirely on my own terms. I want to cut out all things that don’t speak to me or feel “good for my soul.” I just want to trim off all of the excess—all of the distractions and the energy-drainers and time-consumers—and dial into my essentials. I want to do things that lift my spirit and speak to my soul. I want to spend time with people who I love and who inspire me. I want to feel connected: to myself, my maker, and my loves.

Anyone and anything that threatens to disconnect me from those essentials needs to go. Now! Of course, the more I become laser-focused and excited about this mission and visualize me living the dream, the more I realize how much and how often I am going to have to say, “NO!” to make it happen. I will have to be pretty tyrannical about it. Ruthless. That party I didn’t want to go to? “No, thanks!” Getting drawn into conversation with someone who spreads negativity or just talks about other people? “Pass.” TV? “NO!” I will have to get comfortable declining both invitations and my own inclinations, things I have always done but that simply don’t serve me or speak to my heart. That part will be difficult, no doubt. However, I think that with my priorities much more clear to me now, saying “No” should come easier. After all, if the things I am saying “Yes” to—i.e. only my top passions and pursuits—are enough to fill up my calendar (and they are), then it should be easier to say “No” to the rest. And that is what I will do. Eyes on the prize!

How about you? Is your life matching what you believe your priorities to be? Open up your journal and think about how you spend your time and energy. What activities fill up your typical day? Include both your “work time” and your “free time.” How much of that time do you feel is focused and efficient? How many of your activities and hours are tied to your goals, dreams, or things you deem “good for the soul”? How much of your time is casual, unambitious, not driven toward anything specific? How much of your time is spent doing things you would rather not be doing? How much is spent doing things you regret later? Okay, now reset your mind. Write about all the ways you would spend your time if your passions, your purpose, and nurturing your soul were your only priorities. What makes your heart sing? With that goal foremost in your mind, write out your ideal schedule (Remember, it’s ideal. Get greedy. Think BIG!). How would your week look? How many hours would each of these fulfilling activities get? (Side note: How exciting is it to visualize a life like this?!?) Okay, with this new, ideal life clearly in your mind, write down all of the things you would have to say “NO” to in order to maintain that life. This could include career opportunities that don’t speak to you, invitations to social events that you used to accept but that never enriched you, conversations about other people that you used to engage in but made you feel smaller, mindless hours in front of the television, or people that dragged you down. How long is your list? What percentage of your current life would you get rid of in order to make room for your more fulfilling, ideal life? Is there anything you are ready to start saying “NO” to today? If not today, what are you waiting for? Leave me a reply and let me know, When are you going to start living life on YOUR terms? 

Maximize every moment,

William

P.S. If this letter got you thinking, please share it. Our souls could all use a little stirring!

Reconnecting With Mother Earth

IMG_1128Hello friend,

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” –John Muir

I have been a bit pent-up lately. Stressed. Conflicted. Disconnected. Feeling the pinch of learning a lot of new things all at once while also running out of time to do all of the things that I feel are essential to my progress toward my dreams. I have spent too much time in my head and too much time in judgment of myself for not doing more and better every day. I have allowed my mind to leave the precious present and drift too long and too often into the future, plotting a million different scenarios for the months and years to come. The need to have it all figured out and be moving efficiently in the “right” direction toward my dreams has overtaken me a bit. Frankly, I have been in need of a break. A chance to pull back a bit, get my bearings again, and ground myself in the principles that mean the most to me. I have needed to refocus, to dial back into who I really am and what drives me. I have just needed to be reminded of all of the magnificent blessings in my life and the greater purpose behind it. I have needed clarity.

So today, I finally had a quiet couple of hours in my schedule. As busy as I have felt recently, it kind of shocked me that these hours existed. I could think of a zillion things that seemed like they “needed” to be done or “should” be done to catch up, keep up, or get ahead. Guilt and Conscience were tearing me in all different directions. But when noon rolled around and I finished my last appointment of the morning, that window in my schedule seemed to reach out to my soul and call to my restless mind. I knew what I had to. I needed to get outside. I needed to find water. 

I love to be outside. The feeling of fresh air on my skin and in my lungs is simultaneously so soothing and yet so invigorating. It simply brings life back into me. The more man-made stuff you can remove from the scene, the better I feel in my heart. I love being with the grass and the trees and the wildlife. Living in a metropolitan area, I rarely get to that cherished feeling of connectedness to Mother Earth that I used to find so easily and so often in my wandering days. Cross-country drives were the norm, with stops at national parks and forests always foremost on the itinerary. In those days and on those trips, bliss and contentment came easily to me. I was always keen to find the next spot that made me feel most certainly that I had united with The Divine.

And there was water. Yes, wherever I felt that Divine Unity most intensely, you could be quite certain that the prominent feature of the scene was water. Forests might be there. Mountains might be there. Spectacular sunsets, too. Perhaps beautiful birds or deer. Maybe even butterflies or fireflies. But always, always water.

A few times in my life I have considered where I might have my ashes scattered if I ever wanted a say in the matter. My mind instantly flies to my favorite locations, spots that have found me in a state of the deepest Peace and Gratitude and Connectedness to my Source. The shores of Avalanche Lake in Glacier Park. A rock in the middle of the roaring McDonald Creek in Glacier, whitewater pouring down the mountain on all sides of me. The shores of the Greek Islands on the Mediterranean Sea at sunset. The shores of the Pacific Ocean, any time of day. The end of the dock at Pelican Lake, sunset. The emotions just pour out of my system as these images flash across my mind in my slideshow of Peace.

Nature has that effect on me. It is so stark and simple in its manner, and yet so utterly powerful and majestic in its beauty and grace. It is dynamic but still so wonderfully, reassuringly constant. Unlike us humans, it has no pretense and no ego to maneuver around. It is transparent. And it is, quite simply, awesome.

That is why, when that little window appeared in my schedule, my pent-up, disconnected mind was achingly, automatically drawn away from my computer screen and out the door of my house, just down the road about a mile or so. I brought along my journal. This is what I had to say:

Alright, this is a good place to write from. I suppose I mean that physically and emotionally. I am floating in my kayak on the edge of Alimagnet Lake, tucked back in a quiet bay. Whenever the easy breeze rises up a bit, my evidence is the sound of a handful of leaves bouncing off the other branches as they float their way to the ground. Future generations of grasses and trees will use these decaying leaves as fertilizer in this beautiful, endless circle of Life. I feel that now. It is nice to be here. Even though the sky shows only the spectrum of grays, being here makes it feel as though it is still a lovely day. The water has a way of doing that. It brings a certain Peace to everything around it. If I had a pillow, I could fall asleep here. When I first got out on the water, I had to kind of convince myself that it was okay to not be doing homework or TJP or starting the next blog post, that I could have this time to just reconnect with the water and that Peace and Mother Earth. I had to give myself permission to float. It is tough for me to make quietude, inner Peace, and connection to Nature agenda items. Tangibles and measurables are easier to justify. This is so, so good for me, though. It has the soothing quality of a hot bath, but it resonates much deeper. It is the kind of place I could sit for hours in serenity and gratitude. Even as I sit here and try to simply be in this moment, it is a challenge to not egg myself into, “I need to do this more often!” Of course I should, but I don’t necessarily want that to be my focus now. That can be one of my takeaways at the end. Right now I just want to take in the ripple on the distant water and the easy floating leaves on the glassy water surrounding my kayak. I want to absorb the magic palette in the trees across the lake and the fluttering of the leaves in the trees behind me. I want to be the water. The magical, wise, constant water. So completely embodying Peace and Power simultaneously. Its effect envelopes me as I gaze and breathe, gaze and breathe. My heart floats like the falling leaf, blissful in the knowledge that it will be gently received by the water’s surface. There is fellowship here. Community. Unity. God. Plainly God. So I peek over at my muskrat friend on the floating tree, give him a “Namaste,” and silently thank him for sharing the world with me. I feel as though I am oozing Peace and Gratitude. I am liquid Bliss. It really is All God. Life is truly beautiful.

And with that, I am back! I feel like I know myself again. I have checked in with home base, gotten my lens prescription fixed, and am ready to re-enter the world. In reconnecting with Mother Earth, I have reconnected with me.

How about you? What grounds you? Open up your journal and explore the places—or people or activities—that center you when you have lost your way. Is it one place specifically, or does it work in any place that resembles your favorite (e.g., any waterfront will do)? Do you need to be alone to find that Unity and Peace, or can other people be present (or must they be)? Do you have to be still (e.g., sitting in meditation or floating in my kayak), or is activity required (e.g., swimming laps or playing basketball or taking a drive)? Is it more about engaging in something fully for you, or about disengaging? How do you define “Nature”? How often do you feel like you get there? How would it benefit you to find it more often? Is there one aspect of it—like the water for me—that centers you most? On a scale of one to ten, how grounded, peaceful, and clear-minded are you today? Would some time on the water make that number go up like it did for me? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you get reconnected? 

Be boldly the one and only YOU,

William

A Moment of Beautiful Clarity

DSC_0055“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” –Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Hello friend,

Have you ever had that one little moment when it hits you how absolutely wonderful your life is? It comes like a tidal wave of gratitude in one visual image. Time stops, your heart swells, and in that magic moment you are completely intertwined with the Universe—and you know it.

It happened to me the other day. I was out for a walk around the block with my wife and kids on a placid early evening. Well, to be precise, the adults were walking, and the kids were roaring around on their Big Wheels (perhaps the greatest instrument of fun ever invented!). We turned the corner into the home stretch, and the kids charged ahead, pedaling feverishly in all their youthful glory. My wife was several steps ahead of me, striding briskly in a futile attempt to catch up to them as they made it toward home.

There it was: my life, right in front of my eyes. It was my street, my comfortable neighborhood, and my kind of evening in my favorite season. Here were these three people who I love more than anything, full of health and vitality, going happily before me.

“And for a moment, everything was perfect,” says the narrator (a la “Tangled”).

That wave of gratitude and wonder swept over me. I knew I was living the dream. “This is what it’s all about,” I said aloud. The tingle I felt in my soul as the words came out told me that I had just spoken the Truth, which felt amazing in its own right. So, with the most serene, ear-to-ear grin on my face, I nodded my approval and said softly, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about………….Thanks, God.” 

It was a transcendent moment, yet also small and plainly intimate. For that moment, the curtain was pulled back, and I got an up-close-and-personal look at the sheer, unadulterated Beauty that is my world. Stripped away were the worries and stresses about finances or schedules or someone misbehaving or my next career move. It was simply a moment in its purest form.

I used to think theoretically about being in the moment, especially as it pertained to people having problems and stresses. I pictured them sitting down on a park bench, and I said, “In this moment, unless you have hemorrhoids hurting your rear end, you don’t have a problem in the world. All of that stuff that you are holding onto about yesterday and all of those worries you have been feeling about your future—they are irrelevant in this moment. In this moment, with the sun on your face and fresh air in your lungs, everything is just fine. Do you choose to be present, to see it that way?”

In that moment, when I seemed to feel so intimate with the Mystery, it was as though that was not me but God herself nodding affirmatively and whispering, “Yeah, this is what it’s all about.” I wish I could bottle that moment, that feeling. It was nothing short of magical. Encapsulated Bliss. Even remembering it now leaves me in a state of deep Peace and Gratitude. This is how I can say with such complete conviction: Life is beautiful.

How about you? Have you had that magical moment? Open your journal and write about it. Describe the scene. What kind of a day was it? Who was with you, if anyone? Did you feel, like me, that moment of calm, almost as though time was standing still and the outside noises were muted while the Divine whispered in your ear? Were you able to pause in that moment and recognize it for what it was? For me, the best way to describe the feeling would be an overwhelming sense of Gratitude. Is that the word that best matches your moment? Have you had this special feeling more than once? If so, is there a common thread running through your moments? Mine is family. I can tell you that you are very lucky if you are overwhelmed like this frequently. You must be doing something right. Leave me a reply and let me know what your secret is. I want to know: Has the beauty of your life ever crystallized in a single moment?

Be present to the miracle that is Now,

William

I Can See Clearly Now

DSC_0528“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Conner 

Hello friend,

A funny thing happened on the way to the blog post!  When I sat down to write my usual daily journal entry today, I had not yet decided on my next blog topic.  I figured I would do some brainstorming later in the day.  So, I started to write a pretty basic, humdrum journal entry.  But by the time I finished, I had found a subject that puzzled me enough that I needed to write myself through it until I had a clear idea of how I felt about it.

I have always said that one of the best things journaling has done for me is to give me clarity about how I feel and who I am.  That is exactly what today’s entry did for me; it took a topic that I had kind of a vague notion about and brought it into sharp focus.  So, I think that instead of my usual post to you that gets several re-reads and edits before I send it out, I will share with you directly from my own journal.  I do this not because it is very well-written—indeed, I hope you are able to follow my mind, which I really allow just to go wherever it wants as I write—but because I think this entry is a good example of how clarity can come from the process of journaling.  So, I hope what I am giving you today is a double-whammy: a plug for journaling and also a topic to consider writing about.

I will spare you the more humdrum stuff at the beginning of the entry.  I wrote about my eagerness for Spring and Summer, and about my kids’ first day back at swimming lessons.  Then, as I was thinking about all of the big stuff up ahead with the kids, I started this stream of consciousness:

It is so challenging and fun to be a Dad.  I would have missed out on so much had I chosen to stay single and childless.  I would certainly have gained in other areas and had a great time, but oh, these children provide a totally unique experience that is simply priceless.  I think about Jon and his new relationship with a 51-year-old.  He would be such a great father, but, if this relationship sticks, fatherhood goes out the window as an option.  That saddens me.  This is an awkward thought process, because it seems narrow-minded and judgmental to put a “should” onto someone.  I mean well with it, but I am sure the sentiment wouldn’t be received well.  Where is the line?  Is it that I wouldn’t push the idea on him but would answer honestly if asked.  Hmmm…..  This is starting to sound like a good blog post idea.  Hopefully we are in the era where, no matter what your racial or sexual identity or preference is, you can choose to have a child, whether that is out of your own body, via a surrogate, or through adoption.  So, when someone chooses to not have a child, even if you don’t judge them for it, is it okay to feel bad for them, to believe they are missing out?  Because I am a little sad about Jon probably missing out on this amazing ride called parenthood.  I see how great he is with India and Isaiah and think, “Man, any kid would be LUCKY to have a guy like that for a Dad!”  I guess it comes down to this: I don’t think less of him; I just feel bad for him.  And even though I know that sentiment totally comes from a place of love and good will, I still wonder if it is not being self-righteous to think that.  I suppose it has parallels in terms of religious people who feel bad for anyone who does not believe as they do.  If you feel your religious doctrine is the one true path to happiness and ultimate glory, you would be justified in feeling bad for the people who don’t believe as you do.  I think where the line would get crossed is when you judged them and denigrated them for their beliefs.  Maybe this is more a question about being evangelical about it.  I am not totally sure I am using that word right, but what I mean is that it is probably okay to feel bad for Jon or the nonbelievers, but it would get offensive/inappropriate if I tried to sell them on my belief.  I suppose the question for any type of crusader is: “If I really think my way is the best, don’t I have an obligation to others to sell them on it?  After all, I am only looking out for their best interest.”  I can see how this becomes a slippery slope toward intolerance.  What a fascinating topic!  I suppose to find the middle way here, you need to go on the assumption that everyone has all of the information.  Jon has plenty of examples in front of him, and I have studied all of the religions.  To get in either of our faces with a hard sell would be insulting to both our liberty and our intelligence.  Once you know someone has all of the information, it is to live and let live.  Bless them.  Feel bad if you must, but wish them well and love them.  That is how to be a good human on this earth.  I can see it more clearly now.  I am so grateful for journaling.  It reminds me of the quote that Jen sent me the other day that reminded her of me: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Conner.  Today is a perfect example.  I love the process and am so grateful for it.  It reminds me why I am so glad I started “Journal of You”: so that others can be blessed by the process in the same ways that I have.  I am a lucky man.  Life is truly beautiful.

There you have it!  That is how my crazy mind works as I write.  As I said, I offer that to you as an example of how you can find clarity in your beliefs—indeed, really learn who you are–through the process of journaling.  It works for me, and I trust that if you give it a chance, it will work for you.

So, won’t you give it a shot?  Pick up your pen and spill some ink.  Let your thoughts run.  Does my feeling bad for my friend cross the line from wishing him only the best to being self-righteous or condescending?  Which of your beliefs or lifestyle choices do you think other people are missing out on?  Is it your religion?  Your political views?  Ideal number of children, if any?  How willing are you to engage others in conversation or debate about your stance?  Is it easier to discuss with or attempt to persuade someone who is close to you (e.g. a family member) or a stranger?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how open-minded are you?  If I asked your closest friends the same question about you, do you think they would say the same thing?  Do some digging.  Be honest.  Lay yourself bare.  Then, leave me a reply.  Tell me about your process, and let me know if you learned anything from mine.  I want to know: can you see yourself clearly?

Happy looking,

William