Tag Archives: Nature

Friendly Warning: Do Not Sleep Through Summer (Again)!

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” –Jean de La Bruyére, Les Caractéres

Hello friend,

I remember last year at Labor Day. I was returning from the lake with my kids. I am always very contemplative when I am driving home from a trip. The kids sit in back and watch a movie, and I am left alone to take stock of my life and re-orient my mind to the real world. On that particular drive, I was feeling the sadness that every Labor Day brings, fully aware that Summer was officially over and that there would be no more weekends at the lake until the next Summer, which felt a million years away.

It wasn’t just my characteristic Labor Day sadness that sticks out from that drive, though. It was the regret. It was the disappointment.

I had not done enough with the Summer. I had not capitalized on all of the opportunities of my season. There were so many more Summery things that I wanted to do, that I had told myself I would do before the season had started.

More beach writings. More trail runs. More bike rides. More campfires. More s’mores. More photos. More nature walks. More kayaking.   More tennis. More driveway basketball. More stargazing. More playgrounds. More hammock time. More roadtrips. More boat rides.

That is the stuff of Summer for me. And in that car on the way home last Labor Day, I knew that I hadn’t done enough of it. I had gotten too busy and too lazy. I had let my little windows of alone time slip by. It was too easy to choose to write on the sofa versus loading my backpack and biking down to the beach to write. The gym was easier than gearing up for a kayak ride or trail run. Weekends away and staying up late by the fire seemed like too much hassle. The hammock and the nature walks didn’t feel productive enough.

I am the first to admit that I am generally (and unhealthily) obsessed with being productive and always having something to show for my time (e.g. so many words written, pages read, or tasks knocked off the To-Do List). But, really, is your ideal Summer supposed to be described as “productive”? To me, that sounds like a good word for the other seasons. You know, the ones that have cold in them.

Maybe all along I should have been aiming for different adjectives to describe how my favorite season would be. How about fun? Adventurous? Soul-stirring? Enriching? Invigorating? Inspiring? Liberating? Enchanting? Yes, these all sound wonderful. But just plain old fun is perfect. “How was your Summer?” you ask. “It was nonstop fun!” That is exactly how I wish my response had been last Labor Day.

So, of course, on that contemplative drive home—and on almost every day after until June rolled around—I vowed that I would redeem myself this Summer. I would engage all of these beautiful, inviting days and live them fully. I would absolutely suck the marrow out of Summer this time!

I even had a list going in my head, the things that I would definitely do to make me feel satisfied when the next Labor Day rolls around. These are just some of the items on my Satisfying Summer Checklist for this year:

  • Take my kayak out at least three times
  • Become a regular outdoor journal writer
  • Find several new spots to try out my portable hammock
  • Take my kids to our local beach regularly
  • Get my ancient mountain bike fixed and ride the area trails
  • Roadtrip to the family lake cabin at least three times
  • Roadtrip to visit my sister and her family
  • Play tennis several times with other adults
  • Teach my kids tennis at least once per week
  • Do several trail runs
  • Use the neighborhood fire pit and roast marshmallows with my kids
  • A few daytrips to regional parks for hiking with my wife and kids
  • Make a habit of taking my daughter to the local lakes on early weekend mornings for father-daughter bonding time
  • Play a lot of driveway basketball with my son
  • Take lots of photos of the whole wild ride

That was a start, anyway. My mind seems to add new To-Do items every day, and the Wish List grows. But that stuff marked the basics for my Satisfying Summer Checklist.

Well, I just looked at the calendar and realized we are almost halfway to Labor Day. Gosh, that sneaks up, doesn’t it?!? So, how am I doing with my list?

Well………

Okay, there are some positives. I am about to take the second roadtrip to the family lake cabin for what has become my and my children’s favorite week of the year (score!), so only one more to go on that one. I did get the mountain bike fixed, but I have only been out in the dirt with it once so far. I have been writing most of my journal entries outdoors, though usually it is just on my deck (but at least it is usually in a hammock!). I have done pretty well getting the kids to the tennis court, not as well getting my own practice in. I have taken my kayak out (once). I have done a couple of trail runs. The driveway basketball is happening. I have not made the roadtrip to my sister’s place, but my intentions are still there. The portable hammock has been used (but not enough). We have not done the fire and s’mores (well, we microwaved them once!). We have only done the local beach once. We have failed completely on the regional parks and hiking. The discovered gem in the lot has been the father-daughter bonding time early Sunday mornings at the local lakes—absolutely priceless. And there have been some good photos of the ride.

If I had to give myself a grade so far, I would say maybe a C-. I have definitely done some small portion of many of my items, which is good. But there is much more than half left to do in this final half of Summer in order to achieve Satisfying Summer status.

I better get busy being NOT BUSY. I must get more ambitious about my leisure, more serious about my fun. I need to buckle down, because now that the Fourth of July is over, you know what the next holiday is, right?

Labor Day.

It won’t be long before I am taking that long, contemplative drive back home from the lake on that final day of Summer. Though I am guaranteed to feel a bit sad that day at the passing of my favorite season, my hope is that I will have done enough in the second half so that I don’t have to mix regret and disappointment with my sadness.

I needed this check-in to get real with myself about my laziness and excuses. It’s half over, friend. We have now been warned! I am planning to heed it this year. Carpe Summer!!!

How about you? Are you making the most of this precious and fleeting gift called Summer? Open up your journal and go through your own checklist? Are you satisfied with how you have been using your time lately? Start with how you want to feel this Summer and how you want to describe your Summer when it ends. What words would you choose? Is “FUN” one of them? Regardless of your adjectives, what activities are on your Satisfying Summer Checklist? Are they things that are quite unique to the season or things that you carry along all year? In either case, how are you doing for the first half of the season? Have you gotten most items on your list started at least? How many items are finished? How many have you not even touched yet? What kind of grade would you give yourself so far? Now, knowing that you still have plenty of time to make necessary changes and do great things, how confident are you that you will improve your grade by the time Labor Day rolls around? Which items will you prioritize? Are there any items that you will get rid of? Any new ones to add? Does making a To-Do List and scoring your progress take some of the fun out of it and kind of defeat the purpose of making it fun and stress-free, or do you appreciate that it keeps your priorities straight? For me, I need the reminder from time to time. Keeping fresh air and fun in the forefront of my mind is crucial for me. How about you? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do you need to do to finish this Summer right?

Adventure is out there,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it. Make the most of your days!

Is Self-Care Selfish? How Do You Show Yourself Some Love?

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” –Eleanor Brownn

Hello friend,

This week, for the first time in years, I took a yoga class. It stirred something in me, reminding me of something important that I once let slip from my grasp.

The other day I was talking with my neighbor about the types of therapy he is doing for his ailing back. He mentioned physical therapy, electronic stimulation, lifting weights, and acupuncture. Then he said, “But what has helped the most is yoga. It is healing my back, but mostly I feel it healing my SOUL.” He glowed as he talked about how this nightly, 30-minute video routine makes him feel inside. I thought to myself, “This guy has learned a secret he must never forget!” I told him how I have always been a huge proponent of yoga. I realized as I was saying it, though, that my endorsement felt a little hollow.

I first tried a yoga class about 20 years ago and fell instantly in love. It felt so good to me on so many levels. My body felt healthier than ever. My mind was calm and clear. And there was something more, something spiritual. My soul felt good. Yoga made me feel like I was caring for myself, doing something that made my life better and allowed me to show up better for the world around me. I told myself I was in it for life. There was no way I would stop.

I stopped.

I can’t even explain why. I just got out of the habit. That sounds really lame to me now, knowing that I never stopped working out over all these years. I also never stopped telling people how wonderful and important yoga is. I was like the paid endorser who doesn’t really use the product.

I guess I just didn’t make it a priority. Not a high enough one, anyway. I never seemed to make the time to add it to my schedule or trade it for one of the other things I was doing. Oh, I brought it back a few different times over the years for short stints—and I loved it each time—but it never stuck. I suppose that, subconsciously anyway, I considered it an overindulgence, like I just couldn’t give myself that much of a treat. I was not worthy of the extra hour just for personal growth or soul therapy.

It is not as though yoga is alone in this neglect. I have long been aware of the wondrous effect that reading books has on my soul, and yet I almost never allow myself dedicated reading time (I let myself do it when I am falling asleep at night or on an exercise machine). Music is the same way. Meditation, too, I have always sworn by yet rarely followed my own advice, even for just ten minutes per day. I have no excuse.

I have always tried to be so conscious of my time and not wasting it, and yet somehow in my haste to be productive, I seem to have regularly forgotten to feed my soul its fill. I haven’t taken the best care of what matters most.

Oh sure, I have done quite well on some fronts. I have kept up a fitness routine, and that has been at least as good for my peace of mind as it has for my body. And of course, my daily journaling practice has stood strong for 20 years. That is a huge pillar of my self-care. It is clarity and sanity disguised as a blank book. I also make a point of spending a ton of time with my kids. They put wind in my sails.

And that’s about it for consistent self-care for me. In other areas that feel important to me, I either make an occasional attempt or fail completely.

One of the areas that I recognize now more than ever is getting outdoors and spending some time in Nature. This never fails to help me to reconnect to myself and to the Divine. Whether it is a walk through the forest or a quiet contemplation by a lake or stream, this is my nearest approximation of a church. It makes me feel whole again. And I just don’t do it enough. I am better about it in the Summer, even if it is something as simple as laying in my hammock and listening to the birds sing and the leaves rustle. I know I do best, though, when I get out away from the paved roads and buildings, and that is something I just don’t make the time for very often.

Something that I have improved on a bit in this last year is sleeping. Starting from the time my daughter was born almost nine years ago, I have really struggled in this department. I had an excuse for a few years when the kids were little, but I became too accustomed to being raggedy. As soon as they started sleeping better, I started using that extra time for personal growth things that I had put off, like taking classes and starting these letters to you. I was running myself into the ground trying to get it all done, going on the fumes of a mere four or five hours of sleep per night, every night. As I said, just in the last year I have made a more concerted effort to bring that number up closer to seven hours. I don’t always succeed, but I feel better when I do.

Nutrition is another one that I am just getting started with. After a lifetime of pretending I could eat mostly whatever I want and still feel good, I have lately started to pay closer attention to the ways different foods affect my energy and my comfort. I am beginning to cut things out of my diet. There is a long way to go, but it feels like the right direction for my long-term health and happiness.

The one thing that I haven’t tried but that consistently tugs at my thoughts is the inclusion of more art and creation in my life. Writing these letters to you is about as close as I get to that, and Writing Day is the most fulfilling day of my week. But I want more, and I want variety. Specifically, I feel music calling out to me. I mentioned earlier that even dedicated time for listening to music lifts me up, but what my soul is itching for is to learn how to play it. I own a guitar and a beginner book, but I have never given myself permission to take that time. The same goes with the piano. Even when I touch the keys briefly as I am cleaning the house, my spirit does a little dance. I know the signs are telling me to play.

These musical longings speak again to this issue I seem to have about indulgences. Somehow, somewhere along the way I seem to have confused self-care with selfishness. I allow myself time to write in my journal, and that feels like all I deserve. I give myself permission to exercise daily, but only if it is while the rest of my family is still sleeping. I offer all of my energies to my kids—which I love doing for me—because I can claim it as good for them. I can justify adjustments to my nutrition because it is not taking up any more time or directly affecting anyone else. If I let myself go to bed earlier, I have to write less.

That thing about wasting time and being inefficient—combined with these feelings of unworthiness and guilt about selfishness—is exactly why I don’t allow myself the other self-care activities that I know would do so much for me. Meditation. Nature walks. Learning the guitar and piano. Reading books. Listening to music. These are all things that require time that I seem to feel I don’t deserve. As though care for my soul is not reason enough. This realization saddens me. I want to think I am worth more than that to myself.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself granting special permission to go to yoga class this week. You see, I think a big reason yoga left my schedule is that it usually doesn’t feel like as much of a pure workout as lifting weights or running or something like that does, so I had a hard time justifying yoga instead of one of those (my efficiency hang-up at its most glaring). So it was a big deal for me when I substituted a cardiovascular workout for the yoga class (even though I did have to get up even earlier to make it). I consciously prioritized the benefits to my mind and spirit.

Whoa! It seems really strange even to type that thought! I just don’t do that very often, apparently.

And though I felt guilty for missing the cardio workout, oh my, how good that yoga class felt! It was a genuine treat. I was working at it, but it still felt like a pampering for my soul. I can still feel the effects on my mood even days later. What a discovery! This is what self-care feels like! I think I could get used to this. Well, you know, after a few visits to the shrink, maybe!

How about you? What does self-care look like to you? Walk yourself through your weekly slate of activities. Which items on your itinerary are aimed at getting yourself feeling connected, engaged, and at your best? Which ones are, like my journaling, your most ingrained habits, things that are a normal part of your life? How long have you been practicing those things? Could you imagine letting go of those habits? Which of your self-care practices is most important to you? Why? What practices have you tried and liked at some point but never made a part of your routine? Do you envision yourself returning to them? What will it take? Which ones have you had high expectations for but turned out to be just not your thing? Do you have any, like my guitar learning, that you haven’t tried but that your soul seems to be calling out for you to try? Why have you ignored that call to this point? What will get you to begin? Are your self-care activities more often done alone (e.g. meditating or reading) or with others (e.g. coffee with a friend or a yoga class)? Do you allot a certain amount of time each day that you proclaim as “Me Time” and really own it, or are you generally unaware of when you are taking care of yourself? Are you worthy of that dedicated time just for you? Are you only good at justifying it in the flow of your everyday life (e.g. nutrition), or are you good at claiming bigger chunks of time (e.g. a spa day or girls’ weekend), too? Is self-care intertwined with self-worth, i.e. the more we value ourselves, the more we care for ourselves? If so, what does your level of self-care say about how much you value yourself? How can you move that needle more in the right direction? How does it feel to be renewed from within? What best helps you get there? Leave me a reply and let me know: What does self-care look like to you?

You are totally worth it,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please pass it on. We are ALL worth it!

A Hermit or a Family Man: My Life of Extremes

DSC_1068“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” –Douglas Adams

Hello friend,

Have you ever had a moment when you wanted the life that was exactly the OPPOSITE of yours? Maybe you met someone who embodied everything you wish you were. Maybe you had a crisis moment when you realized for the first time that all of the decisions you have ever made were to please someone else, and you ended up feeling trapped by those decisions, living a life that seemed not at all your own. Maybe it was a promotion or job opportunity—maybe even a marriage proposal or pregnancy news—that you knew was supposed to feel like a dream come true but somehow felt like a nightmare instead. Maybe it was just an ordinary day when you looked in the mirror and finally admitted that none of your surroundings—your home, your career, even your people—are what you would choose them to be if you could start from scratch. You considered this body and this life you inhabit and thought, “No, this isn’t me at all. How did I get here?” It is a classic case of mistaken identity. And the identity is yours. But, which one is the mistake: the life you are living or the one you imagine you should be living, the opposite life? Sometimes I wonder….

When I was in my mid-to-late twenties, my parents gave me the most amazing gift. They allowed me to come home and just do the things I was passionate about. Even though I am sure they wondered what the heck had become of their once-promising son, and would he ever get his act together—I am afraid they are still wondering—they didn’t press. They didn’t demand that I pay rent or get a job or be out by the end of the year or any of that stuff. They simply allowed me to go through my process.

As it turned out, that was the period of my greatest and most lasting growth as a human being (see my post “The Year That Changed Everything” to understand more about this period). It was during that time that my spiritual overhaul was completed. I found a level of Bliss that I hadn’t known before, and its legacy has been uninterrupted happiness ever since. I was also reading at the pace of a book per week and filling up several pages in my journals every day, loading and unloading my mind at a breakneck pace. It was the most amazing time. Like a dream come true, really.

Interestingly, I spent most of that period alone. Sure, I lived in the same house as my parents, but I passed the days without much in the way of human interaction. Though I traveled frequently during this period, I very rarely left the house when I was in town. I wasn’t hiding from anyone; I simply preferred to be alone. God and my journal were my companions, and that seemed like plenty. Those who knew me teased me that I had become a hermit. I accepted the label; it did not offend me in the least. If you had offered me a furnished cabin in the mountains of Montana and enough money to sustain myself for life so that I could continue my reading and writing, with the two conditions being that I could never have a girlfriend/wife and never have children, I would have taken you up on it without a second thought. I had no interest in the wife or the kids. I loved kids and thoroughly enjoyed being an uncle, but I just didn’t want my own. Same with the wife. I had other fish to fry. I wanted to write books and change the world. Hermithood suited me just fine. I was downright blissful and couldn’t imagine a better way for me to live.

Then I met a girl.

Isn’t that how everyone’s story changes? That is definitely how mine changed. Even though I was deeply in love, for the first several months I was sure that she was making a huge mistake being with me, because I could not possibly be the one to be a husband and a father to her future kids. I felt guilty for allowing someone to fall in love with me. I didn’t want that burden. I wanted her to release me so as to not break her heart down the road when her biological clock was ticking and she finally had to accept that I was never going to be that guy. Because I wasn’t. Really. I mean it!

Fast forward fifteen years: “Hello. My name is William, and this is my wife and our two children.” I am exactly the guy who I was sure I could never be! Exactly! I live in suburbia and have a job and a mortgage. I spend every possible moment with my kids and keep strict boundaries around my time so as to be absolutely available to them. I am your basic husband and father. Not much more or less.

How the heck did that happen??? More importantly, how can I sit with that, knowing what I just told you about my years of hermithood and self-focused personal development? Am I a fraud now, or was I a fraud then? Is it possible that I was being authentic then and authentic now, that my Truth somehow changed over the years? Am I just in denial now because it would be too difficult to face the truth and my betrayal of who I really am? If this is a charade, can I pull it off for the next fifteen years or so until my kids are out of here, at which time I can resume my life of enrichment that was so rudely interrupted by Love? Am I the hermit, or am I the family man?

The truth is this: it’s complicated. I love this family life. I really do. My wife and kids mean everything to me. Fatherhood has brought a completely new meaning to my existence, and I am so honored and humbled to be called upon to perform the role for my two angels. They bless me in every moment, and I am thoroughly grateful. I can hardly imagine a world without them in it.

And yet, if you made me imagine it, I would picture that quiet cabin in Montana, with me—and only me—inside, hammering away at my latest book. Solitude. Hermithood. It is weird to think that I could go from this extreme of doting Daddy to complete solitude in one fell swoop. But honestly, I could. I have a few times done the thought experiment where I wonder what I would be doing if my wife and kids somehow magically disappeared from existence. Nothing gruesome or anything that would involve mourning their loss—it is just a thought experiment—but just what if they were not here? One of the big questions of the experiment is, obviously, “What would I be doing differently than I am now?” That question is probably left for a different post. It is the other big question of the experiment that is probably more relevant to today’s topic, and that is: “Since these guys are everything to me and so enriching, would I get married and/or have children AGAIN if they disappeared now?” 

The revealing answer is: Absolutely NOT. I wouldn’t. I feel like I have so many other things I want to do to follow my passions. Even though my heart is so full every day with my family, I could not be convinced to do it again. As truly happy and fulfilled as I feel in fatherhood, one pair is enough. One wife is enough. The itch has been scratched. I will pass on the second chance.

Does this make my current setup a fraud? Does admitting that I wouldn’t do it again somehow devalue my present life? I don’t think so. I think it is just an admission that I failed at doing every one of my passions at the same time. I went from one blissful and fulfilling existence directly into another very different but no less blissful and fulfilling existence. I think I can be blamed for not keeping my writing plans on track and for getting too far from Nature, but some of the rest is simply the way the Universe has its own plans for us despite our best intentions. I felt completely authentic before I met my wife and kids, and I definitely was not looking for them. I was open, though, open to what the Universe might put in front of me. In them, I have been treated to a life that is so indescribably beautiful, and I am deeply grateful for that. And yet, I don’t feel like it is a betrayal of them or our beautiful life to admit that I wouldn’t look for replacements if they were no longer with me. My hermithood was amazing, too, but in a totally different way.

So, as it turns out, Life is not so cut-and-dried. We are extraordinarily complex creatures, not cartoons that can be portrayed with a few brushstrokes that never change. Each of our paths is unique and meant to be traversed by our own guiding lights. In my case, it appears that I can be both fiercely solitary and incredibly family-centric in the same lifetime. I will be the best father and husband I can be, and I will try not to be at war with my solitary side. I will give myself these moments late at night in my basement, writing letters to you. They will have to suffice for now, because both my soul and my family call me to be here in the people world for them. I can only be me, in whatever form that takes. My Truth shall set me free.

How about you? What is your true state of being, and how does that mesh with your current lifestyle? Open up your journal and try to distill yourself to your purest form. What do you see? In your vision of The Real You, what kind of work do you do? Does your vision have a spouse? Children? What stirs the heart of your true self? How does that vision spend its time? Is it solitary or social? Now look at how you live your current, “real” life. In what ways is it different from your vision of your true essence? Are the differences merely window dressing—subtle things that don’t stray far from your vision—or is there a real, stark disparity between who you believe you are and the life you have constructed in this world? How far apart are you and your vision? Far enough apart to be alarmed at the disparity? Do you feel like a phony because of it? Do you think this exercise will cause you to make some real changes in your life in order to more closely align with your vision, to “right the ship,” so to speak? What would you start with? Are we really as complex as I am suggesting—able to be truly happy and fulfilled while living very different lives from what we thought was our essence—or am I in total denial? Can we really compartmentalize large aspects of our being for long periods without negative results? What part of your true nature are you keeping at arm’s length? Leave me a reply and let me know: How closely does your lifestyle reflect your true nature?

Be unapologetically you,

William

How to Change and Still Be Yourself

DSC_0405“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anaïs Nin

Hello friend,

I have been at war with myself lately. I seem to be constantly wrestling with these questions: “Should I or shouldn’t I???” “Do I dare?” “Is this overkill?” “Am I just being annoying?” “Are my friends and acquaintances losing more respect for me by the day?” You may be wondering what vitally important topic I could be feeling this much angst and drama about. What could be so troubling to my usually-easygoing mind? Is it Love? Money? Freedom? World Peace? No, it’s bigger. It’s much bigger. It’s FACEBOOK!

I have shared with you before that I have been embarking on some pretty major career changes in the past year. My “regular job” has entirely changed fields. In addition, I have embarked on two new career ventures on my own. You see, one of the things I have come to know about myself—it has become crystal clear in the last couple of years—is that I should not have a boss. I do much better working for myself: setting my own standards and not having to answer to anyone or be let down by anyone. I crave independence.

Of course, as much as I want to do my own thing, I also have no real entrepreneurial spirit. PROBLEM! I am not inclined toward sales at all, as I have no interest in making people uncomfortable or telling them how great I am. It just doesn’t feel like my nature. I am inclined to help people, to make their lives better, to give them more choices and more freedom. I am inclined toward partnering with people to reach their highest potential. That really lights me up. That is who I am.

This calling to help people live their best lives provoked me to start Journal of You and these weekly letters to you. It also led directly to my two new businesses. The first one seems an obvious choice for my skills and calling: Life Coaching. The second one takes a little more explaining. I have become an independent consultant for a premium skin care company. The wrinkle here—pardon the pun—is that it involves direct sales. I have to actually put myself out there and tell people about the products and business opportunity if I am going to achieve that financial freedom that I long for. Argh!

It is just SO difficult for me to do that! I do not like salespeople. Not at all, I mean. When I spoke to my brother last month about this job and told him it involved talking to my friends and family about these products, he said, “Whenever a friend of mine approaches me with anything like that, it just makes my skin crawl.” Me, too. I am super cheap. I hate spending money. Thus, it makes me doubly uncomfortable when someone I care about asks me to spend money, because then obligation and guilt enter the equation. It is difficult to say no, but if I don’t, I may resent the entire experience and the friend later. So, I mostly just avoid people selling anything of any kind. And now, that includes me.

It probably sounds like the easy and obvious answer is to just quit this business and focus on the Life Coaching and the writing. And sure, I might be less stressed if I did that. But there is a problem: I actually believe in it. I do. The products work like nothing I have ever seen before, and the way they improve people’s confidence is so uplifting and right up my alley. If it were only for those things, I would definitely still quit the business without a thought. However, there is something much bigger going on with this company. There is a chance to directly help people make astounding shifts in their future by joining as a consultant (a.k.a. salesperson). I have seen a few family members and friends, within a couple years’ time, change their lives to the point of having total time and financial freedom. I have seen others make smaller changes, like going part-time and getting to stay home with their kids, paying for college funds, going on dream vacations, or retiring their spouse. The examples go on, but the key is that this business, like Life Coaching, taps into my calling to help people live their best lives. I truly believe that it is a gift and a way out and up for so many people.

So, I am stuck. I have world’s biggest aversion to selling, and yet I really want to give the people in my circle this amazing opportunity. And frankly, I want to give myself the opportunity. I want to succeed in the way that I have seen others succeed, because I am desperate for that time and financial freedom for me and my family. The way I will get that freedom is by sharing this business with others. It is the beauty of it. It is also the curse of it in my case. Sharing it with others—educating them–is a huge deal, because people need the tools to make an informed decision that could be the key to their family’s future. It is big stuff.

So, on one hand, I have something that feels like it is completely not in my nature. On the other hand, it is exactly who I am. I am torn. This is my own civil war. And this is where Facebook comes in. I have vowed to myself to only ever post things that are authentic to me, that feel like a representation of who I am. The way my skin care business runs is by connecting to my network, most commonly through Facebook. So, I suppose the crux of my war is, “Can I post about my business—i.e. sell—and still be authentic?” This question causes me much stress. I guess that, for me, it represents a much bigger question: How do you “Be Yourself” while trying to grow and change your life? I think of the quote, “If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” I know I have to go well beyond my comfort zone in order to achieve the goals and lifestyle I am shooting for. My challenge is stay true to my principles and my purpose while taking my activities past my normal limits.

Up until now, I have been very hesitant about posting about my business. Maybe once per week was all I dared to do for fear of feeling like a phony or having my Facebook friends think I was only on there to sell to them. What I am coming to see now, however, is that I have just been playing small. I haven’t been true to myself, because I actually want people to know about this company. I think it would be a great service to them to get involved in it. It could change their lives. Holding back for fear of their opinions of me was just me being weak and inauthentic. So, I am now beginning the process of convincing myself it is okay to share about the company, as long as that is not all I share. I want to put my other passions out there, too: my kids, Journal of You, and maybe even some Life Coaching ideas as my practice develops. As always, I want my posts to share who I am and also offer something that uplifts the people seeing them, whether that is the smiles of my children or an amazing story of transformation on one of my skin care posts. Happiness and positive change are central to who I am, and I am beginning to realize that it is okay for me to share that in whatever form it takes on a given day. In the end, authenticity must captain the ship.

Amidst all of this doubt and insecurity about posting and sharing transformation stories on Facebook, I received a message last week that put the wind back into my sails. It was from an old high school buddy whom I had not heard from in over twenty years. The essence of the message was this: “I noticed your posts and shared them with my wife. It is time for at least one of us to escape the rat race somehow. Do you have time to talk with her?” It blew me away, truly. One of these posts–that I had so tortured myself over–had gotten through to someone! A few days later, she became one of my business partners and was so excited about her future possibilities. I was absolutely thrilled to have had a small part in what will be a huge event in the story of her life. My purpose was being fulfilled! I could feel that. I was finding my bearings just outside my comfort zone. A new normal was being established. I was alive and well—and completely myself—at my growing edge.

How about you? Where is the end of your comfort zone? Open up your journal and think about the purpose of your life and the fears that keep you from living it. What makes up the real you? What do you believe is your life purpose? What is the best version of yourself? What fears or insecurities keep you from living that purpose and that best life? What gives those fears so much power? How much do you fear looking bad (or fake or dishonest or whatever) in the eyes of others? Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it? Name some examples of times when you have stepped out of your fears and into your purpose. How did it feel? Exhilarating? Liberating? How far out of your comfort zone did you have to go to get there? Was it worth the trip? I think it is true that the people who make it their norm to chase their limits and expand their comfort zone are the most vibrant and successful people. Do you agree? If so, why do you think most of us don’t dare go out on that limb very often? Do you? How true to yourself are you? On a scale of one to ten, how authentic are you? Do you think if you faced your fears and stepped out of your comfort zone more often, that your authenticity number would go up? What is one thing you can do today to take on your fears in the service of living your purpose? I dare you to do it! Leave me a reply and let me know: How can you make a big change and still be yourself?  

Be the one and only YOU,

William

Taking a Moment to Say “Thanks!” Instead of “Please???”

IMG_2404“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” –Neal A. Maxwell

Hello friend,

“DEAR GOD, I WANNA TAKE A MINUTE, NOT TO ASK FOR ANYTHING FROM YOU, BUT SIMPLY TO SAY THANK YOU FOR ALL I HAVE. –SHARE IF YOU ARE THANKFUL”

This was the first meme that popped up on my Facebook Home page this morning when I was laying in bed. For whatever reason, I instantly felt guilty. I suppose I am no different than most folks who have grown up with the concept—whether through our parents and grandparents, or, more likely, just too much television and movies—of God as wish-granter. We pray for our team to win, for our friends to travel safely, for our child to make the team, and for ourselves to get that new job. We ask our Higher Power for that stuff. We usually ask nicely, too, starting most requests with “Please God….” Even if we didn’t grow up in a very religious family, the God-as-wish-granter theme permeates our culture. If we really, really want something, we ask God. We call it prayer. 

I don’t pray a lot. Well, not in the traditional, down-on-my-knees-at-bedtime kind of praying. It is probably because my concept of God is a little different than the usual one (see my post “Who Is God?” from December 2015). I believe deeply in God as All There Is, including you and me. I believe that all of the Universe is Divine. This doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to pray; it just changes the context of the conversation a bit. You might even say it makes a prayer out of everything I think, say, or do. When I have my occasional direct words aimed at God as seemingly something outside of me—what most folks would recognize as my nearest thing to traditional prayer—it definitely is all about gratitude. I don’t make direct requests. I give direct thanks, usually for a simple but beautiful moment where the Divine just seems to permeate every bit of the moment. More often than not, it is when I am either observing Nature’s beauty or watching my kids be the miraculous little creatures that they are. Sometimes it simply overwhelms my heart, and I just whisper, “Thanks, God.” Those are my conversations with God.

Even though traditional prayer is a rarity for me, because of my worldview that holds everything as fully God, it may be reasonable to conclude from that that all of my thoughts, words, and deeds are a form of communication with God. When I hear of a religious extremist’s story of withholding medical treatment from their suffering child, preferring instead to “leave it in God’s hands,” I usually find myself shouting at the screen, “But YOU are God, and so is the DOCTOR and the MEDICINE! Please pray, of course, but DO SOMETHING! To not try to save your child is actually taking it out of God’s hands, not the other way around! Your hands are God’s hands!!!” I know that is not how everyone sees things, but my view shapes my perceptions.

With that said, and if my thoughts and actions are my form of communication with God, then I am totally guilty of making my prayers into Wish Lists rather than Thank You Notes. Almost always I am in STRIVING mode. I am thinking about or doing something that is about me striving for something else. Something more. Something better. I am trying to get out of this situation and into one that speaks more truly to who I am and what my dreams are. I can be pretty single-minded about it, too. The translation of this—given my concept of God—is essentially that I am not grateful for where I am and I want to get out of here. In regular prayer terms: “Please God, rescue me and bring me the type of success I desire!”

That is the source of the quick jolt of guilt I received when I read that Facebook post this morning. It hits me on a parallel to the way it hits other people, even though we pray differently. I am just as guilty as making my prayer a request rather than a “Thank You.” Seeing that more clearly now is a great reminder for me to become more about the NOW. It means that I can, even in the midst of my striving for better and more, become more fully present and aware of all the wonderful gifts in my life as I now know it. I think of the health of my family, which has been really, amazingly good throughout my life (knocking on my desk right now!). I think of my convenient work schedule and the corresponding opportunity to spend so much time with my kids. I think of my ability to share my words with you and others all over the world. I think of all the freedoms I have because I live in America, and all the comforts I enjoy—clean water, safety, a warm home of my own, to name a few—as a middle-class member of this society. These are all things well worthy of my deep and abiding gratitude, and not just once in a while. To fail to become more aware of these fabulous gifts—and thus more consistently grateful—would be a show of immense disrespect to my beautiful life and the magnificence of the God I believe in.

It doesn’t have to mean that I must stop striving to improve my life and the world around me, however. Even in my haste to improve myself and my station, I can still acknowledge and honor the wonder of the gifts I am presently living with. The concepts of Striving and Gratitude do not have to be mutually exclusive. They don’t have to compete with each other. So, I can take time to step out of my actions—the bulk of which are Striving things—to say “THANK YOU,” which is a Being thing. I can be both grateful and ambitious. I can say prayers of thanks and do acts of ambition. Oh yeah, and I should probably take a few moments to just sit and BE. To stop thinking and striving. To just ENJOY. That sounds like it would be okay, too. I am pretty sure God is in that silence, too. I will meet Her there.

How about you? How do you pray? Open up your journal and think about your relationship with your Higher Power. What is the tone of most of your communication? Are you usually there to ask or to thank? What do you ask for? Big, general things, like world peace or an end to hunger? Or smaller, specific things, like your blind date to go well or the weather to be nice? Do you feel guilty asking for things for yourself? If everything you do is actually a prayer about how you want your world to be, what is your lifestyle saying about what you desire the most? Are your actions more grounded in the present, or are you like me and often focused on building your someday? How often do you consciously thank your Higher Power, for either your life in general or a specific stroke of good fortune? Do you believe in a God that picks and chooses which prayers to answer, which wishes to grant? Do you think that showing more gratitude would make God more likely to answer your prayers? On a spectrum from All Requests to All Thanks, where do you land regarding your conversations with God? Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you grateful for today?  

Personify abundance in all you do,

William

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

Is Awe Still In You?

DSC_0601“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  –W.B. Yeats 

Hello friend,

A couple of weeks ago, I brought my kids downtown to see the skyscrapers. As suburbanites, I often point out “Big City” in the distance as we are driving, but never in their lives had I taken them there to see the tall buildings up close. We parked the car just out of downtown so that we could walk through a sculpture garden and park on the way to the buildings. To get there, though, we had to cross a walking bridge high above a busy freeway. We got to the top of the steps to cross, and my 3 ½ year-old son’s mouth dropped wide open. He stared in wide wonder as, right below him, cars and trucks went speeding by in several lanes side-by-side. He was absolutely mesmerized by the entire scene. Awestruck.

The look on his face was priceless, like a brand new world had just opened up and was flooding his senses. He was stunned, but giddy at the same time. It was, for me, one of those moments when time slows down and every image gets etched into my heart and mind. I was so glad to get to share in a really cool moment in his life that instantly became a really cool moment in mine, but for very different reasons.   For him, it was that he was being blown away by this amazing world and all of its magnificent offerings—like cars and motorcycles racing right under your feet—and for me it was pure gratitude: for him and for the idea that I could provide this jaw-dropping moment for him. The thought that really grabbed me in that moment–and hasn’t let go of me since–though, was “Oh, to be so lucky! To be completely in awe of so many things in this world that the rest of us walk right by. What I wouldn’t give to have the WONDER of a child. The susceptibility to AWE.” 

If you spend any time around little kids, you quickly learn how amazing our world is. They are excited about almost everything. Even when we don’t even leave my house and yard, I can’t tell you how many times a day my son hollers for me: “DAD!!! You GOTTA SEE THIS! This is TOTALLY COOL!!!” He could be talking about a leaf, or, just as easily, what he has just created in the toilet. But beyond mere excitement, this sense of awe is nearly as common. Children are so good at staying in the moment that so many things feel brand new to them every time, and that sense of novelty is the key ingredient in awe. You can stare in wide wonder at a world that is new to you and full of magic.

Regarding the Yeats quote I mentioned at the top, I think kids do a better job than us adults at keeping their senses sharp, i.e., being present and open to the magic that fills the world around us. Where and when do we go wrong, though? When do our senses dull? When do we stop being so awestruck by this place? Is it simply the repetitive nature of our lives, the fact that we see and do the same things over and over? Is it in how terribly busy we get as we grow, our minds trying to keep ourselves organized rather than stopping to smell the roses, or even noticing their presence?

I am trying to think of all the times I have been in awe as an adult. Sadly, it is a challenge to come up with examples. I was completely awestruck by my daughter when she was born. Simply her presence in the world, that this little living thing was breathing and crying and melting my heart when only moments before she was living inside my wife’s abdomen. That was truly amazing to me. I was in awe of her every development, in the first couple of years especially. I remember vividly, in the period of 18-24 months, being completely dumbfounded almost daily by the new intellectual feats. Human development is an astonishing thing. In the old days, when I spent all of my time on personal/spiritual enrichment and didn’t have a care in the world, I found many moments of awe in the Universe, most frequently when I was in nature. Put me by the ocean or a glacial lake in the mountains of Montana, and I ooze awe. What a wonderland we have been gifted with in which to live! Other moments of awe, for me, have happened at concerts, when the music and the artist stir my soul into a frenzy. The last one that comes to me is the head-over-heels falling-in-love phase of a relationship, being in awe not just of the other person but of the utter magnificence of existence now that you have found the key to the whole thing.

Babies, Nature, Art, and Love. These are the things that have dropped my jaw in adulthood. Four things? My son’s list is longer than that before breakfast! So how can I be more like him: amazed and excited by nearly every thing he comes upon? I think a big part of it is presence: simply staying in the moment and appreciating what is. I can also do better at taking an attitude of gratitude, being more mindful of the intricacy and interconnectedness of all Life in the Universe. When I consider the most minute details of how this place runs and all the conditions that had to fall exactly into place so that I could sit here and write this to you, I cannot help but be in awe. That awe makes me feel so much more alive. Einstein had it right when he said, “He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

So, how about you? What makes you “pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe”? Get out your journal and start writing. When was the last time you felt that wonder, that awe? How much do you envy children for their wide-eyed approach to the world? What is your biggest trigger, the thing that makes you most likely to feel amazement? What can you do to put yourself in position to feel it more often? Do you think it declines steadily with age, or does it rise and fall with your attitude and life circumstances? Be honest: do you sometimes think you might never feel it again? Leave me a reply and let me know: Is awe still in you?

Let your inner kid go out to play today,

William