Tag Archives: Universe

The Center of the Universe or a Tiny Speck of Dust?

“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” –Mohandas Gandhi

Hello friend,

How often does the drama in your life make you feel like the whole world hangs in the balance, ready to rise or come crashing down depending on how you come through the situation? Pretty much every day, right?

A few months ago, I had a ton of theatrics storming around my head and weighing on my heart. I was feeling the pressure of a self-imposed deadline on finishing my book, way behind but not wanting to give up writing these letters to you every week in order to get it done. It was a sacrifice I just didn’t want to make. Meanwhile, I was entangled in a web of uncertainty surrounding my job status and my future in any sort of career field. This was tied to the weight of my family’s then-recent financial instability, as my wife had quit her job to start her own business from scratch. We were in a pickle, definitely in the short-term and quite possibly the long-term, too. It did not feel good for this guy who prefers to remain oblivious to such things as personal finance and health insurance. And of course, coloring all of this and everything else was the now-typical political ignorance and outrageousness that is just America in this day and age.

In any case, it felt like this crucial life moment, like my fate and the fate of those around me hung in the balance, our lives to be forever altered by the outcome of these intermingling dramas.

In the midst of that existential three-ring circus in my head, I received an email that seemed innocuous on the surface but actually gave me quite a shake. It was my birthday, and amidst a few other calls and messages from my parents and siblings, there in my inbox was a message from my favorite aunt and uncle. “We hope this little tune helps keep things in perspective.” It was a link to a Youtube video called “Galaxy Song.”  It had the feel of something that might be on “Sesame Street” or “The Electric Company,” a playful song to educate while it entertains. Here are a few choice lines:

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see are moving at a million miles a day in an outer spiral orb at 40,000 miles an hour of the galaxy we call the Milky Way. Our galaxy itself contains 100 billion stars; it’s 100,000 light years side to side….And our galaxy is only one of millions and billions in this amazing and expanding Universe…..So remember when you are feeling very small and insecure how amazingly unlikely is your birth.

These lyrics completely arrested me. I know I had heard the stats before about the astounding size of the Universe, but I guess I had let their ramifications escape my awareness, because this was like learning them anew. It was a real smack in the face.

I guess that in the past, I probably used the facts about the enormity of the Universe as an argument against the half of my brain that doubts the existence of some type of Creator/God. After all, my argument went, in all of this vast “emptiness” in which we cannot find evidence of other “intelligent life” (though I definitely think we flatter ourselves with that label), surely we must have been specially created by a Divine hand, right? (I use the same type of logic when I try to convince myself that the astonishing degree of intricacy of the human body and every other organism and system on Earth is surely a sign of an intelligent Designer.)

But in this case, when I try to wrap my mind around the vastness of it all and just how infinitesimally small our planet is in the grand scheme (not to mention each of us people individually), it makes me think that not only might I not be specially made, but also that, either way, I am completely insignificant. My issues and dramas, my dreams and gifts–they don’t matter at all. They have no bearing on anything. How depressing!

But then I think, “No! I am here on this magnificent planet for a reason, and I have this overwhelming sense of significance that echoes from deep inside me. I matter! I know I do!”

But then there are the facts again, and it seems obvious that I am not even the tiniest blip on the screen of the Universe, not just historically but even on the picture of today. After all, there are billions more stars just like our sun and therefore billions more solar systems. Not “billions” as in a figure of speech or writer’s embellishment, but actual billions. My life–heck, even my planet’s life–is nothing.

And back and forth I go.

Maybe this debate–or at least the admission that there should be a debate–pains me so much because I have always felt it was my destiny to be a world-changer, an agent of progress and hope for the masses of people that I plan to reach with my words and deeds. I would like to say that I have always known that I was significant, that I was born to make a difference, to leave a mark. I have spent my life believing that.

That makes the glaring facts of the Universe’s unfathomable size so daunting and humbling. Going just by the numbers, it is impossible to claim any shred of importance. It’s almost enough to make me give up. Because let’s face it: on paper, I don’t even have a chance in this debate. I have nothing! Logically speaking, if my galaxy is insignificant, then my solar system is even more insignificant, in which case my planet is even more insignificant, and that means my own life–and especially each of my daily dramas about my job and my mortgage and my president–is surely of no consequence.

That is why I think that DENIAL must be an exceptionally strong evolutionary adaptation of ours. Think about it: given that we can know empirically that we are the equivalent of a tiny speck of dust in this vast Universe, how else can you explain how each of us feels so central to the whole show?

Honestly, doesn’t it feel like your life matters? Doesn’t it seem like the outcome of at least some of your major life decisions has an impact on the world, and that that impact is actually important in the grand scheme of things? I know it feels that way to me.

I can’t help but think that this feeling of significance and the element of denial have a lot to do with FAITH and our religious practices. Consider all of the many different religions and expressions of faith that we have come up with throughout history. At their core, they are a way to not only help us make sense of our world, but also to instill in us the idea that each of us matters, that what we do matters. Perhaps we cling so hard to these religions–despite their generally flimsy logic–because by focusing intently on them, we are able to avoid thoughts of the magnitude of the Universe and our statistical insignificance. Maybe FAITH and DENIAL are equal partners in an elaborate hoax we are playing on ourselves.

Or maybe our propensity toward both faith and denial of the facts should be viewed as more evidence that we are so significant that we have been gifted with these traits to ensure that we press on to fulfill our special destiny. Maybe we are evolutionarily wired for significance. Maybe those dreams, ambitions, and feelings of purpose and calling are the Universe’s reminder that there is more to us than any statistics can prove or disprove. Perhaps our mere existence is to be seen as enough of a defiance of logic that we ought to know better than to look at numbers to tell us our worth. Maybe we just need to trust ourselves on that, to listen to that still, small voice inside to remind us Who We Really Are.

Honestly, I don’t know the answer. Maybe I am no more important than any other speck of celestial dust and all of us are just interesting-but-meaningless carbon anomalies being carried along on this third floating rock from the sun. If that is the case, then I wouldn’t stress so much about the job and the house and the conmen in Washington. But the truth is that as much as my brain loves logic, the Truth of who I am rests in my intuition. Somehow, that still, small voice is the one I trust the most. And I don’t care if it is unknowingly saturated with denial. My gut tells me I have a purpose and that I am here to make a difference, a difference that matters in the grand scheme of things. If it is right about that, fantastic. If it is wrong and I am really just that speck of dust, well, then at least I will have lived out my days in the service of making life better for all those other specks around me. I am going to have to live with that. Because I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know a better way.

How about you? Do you actually matter, or is your significance as infinitesimally small as your actual size relative to the Universe? Open up your journal and allow your mind to swim in a different depth, even if just for a while. What is your initial, gut-level reaction to this question? Is there actually something significant about each of us riding here on this little planet that is floating around one star amongst the billions and billions of stars in our galaxy, which is only one of billions more galaxies? Why do you think so many people think we are special despite the evidence to the contrary? Is it arrogant of us who think this way? Do you think we would feel more or less significant if we learned that there was intelligent life on planets spread all across the Universe? How often do you find yourself conscious of how small you are in relation to the Universe, not just how you are only one of 7 billion inhabitants of Earth? Is it mostly out of your consciousness? Do you consider that a form of denial? Is that denial healthy? How much of humanity’s significance–and your personal significance–do you attach to your faith? When you look at your faith and then at the statistics about the size of the galaxy and Universe, does it make you question the basic stories behind religions more than you might normally be willing to do? How much do you trust your intuition on this matter? Does your gut tell you that you matter? How much say do your brain and logic have in the matter? Even if you knew that it is very likely that you are fooling yourself, would you still continue to believe that your life and your choices matter? What would life be like believing that none of this makes any difference at all? Are there people in your life who believe that? What do you think makes them keep going? Can we be both insignificant and the center of the Universe simultaneously? Have your thoughts on this topic changed throughout your life? Have they changed as you have processed this today? Which way are you trending? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you everything or nothing at all?

Shine bright,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you in any way today, please share it. We are all sharing this third rock from the sun, so let’s make it the best ride we can!

What Do You Believe?

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” –Gordon A. Eadie

Hello friend,

Sometimes, I confuse even myself. As someone who generally prefers to be alone and doesn’t watch a lot of television, I end up doing a lot of pondering. As someone who writes in a journal every day and attempts a deep-diving letter to you every week, sometimes I feel like I have explored every topic in the human experience from a dozen different angles.

Sure, I get surprised still, on those occasions when someone gives me a look at the world from a brand new perspective. I love when that happens!

But on most days, on most topics, I tend to think I have looked at things backward and forward, trying so hard to understand each side that I sometimes forget which angle I came in believing to be the correct one. Hence, my confusion.

I am always open to new information and a fresh perspective, and that leaves my opinions vulnerable to change. I have flip-flopped on many things during my adult life, both through simple experience and through deeper examination of my head and heart. I have done it with social issues and with spiritual beliefs. I have done it with people.

Though an open mind and a willingness to change always get a bad rap in political campaigns, on the whole I think of my malleability as a good thing.

But just because a guy is open-minded doesn’t mean he is without a solid foundation. Right? I mean, even though all this journaling has made me more receptive to different viewpoints, I don’t think of myself as wishy-washy. I know where I stand on the basics. I have a rock!

So, what is it? What is my foundation? What do I believe?

I believe we are All One. I believe this in not simply the scientific way that the physicists can show us, but also the spiritual and metaphysical way. This is my most fundamental belief. I believe we are All inextricably intertwined, All a part of the One. I mean this in the way that there are lots and lots of unique waves in the ocean, but they are all still the ocean. In my model, you may have your own soul with your personal calling and I mine, but you are still me and I am still you, and we are still the ocean, too. I know that starts to sound like New Age mumbo jumbo to most people. That’s okay with me. In this belief that we are All One, my foundation has its one leap of faith. I capitalize the “All” and “One” because I believe this unity, this singularity of the Universe, is Divine. I can’t prove the Divine part, of course. I mostly infer it from the intricacy and pure awesomeness of the Universe, which I know could have happened randomly. But even if this faith part proves to be false—and I am open to that and don’t mind a good interrogation of my reason—the fact that we are All connected remains backed by science. So, whether we are “one” or “One”, the effect that has on my day-to-day existence remains unchanged (though it changes my view of the possible afterlife). It still leaves me with a profound responsibility when it comes to my planet, my Universe, and all that occupy it.

I believe that connecting with your passion or Bliss—whether as a career or hobby or way of life—is crucial to fulfillment. I believe this so strongly that a large part of my Bliss is to help people to discover their own and to engage it authentically. This is precisely why you are reading these words right now. I hope that through self-reflection, you will come to understand who you really are and what makes your heart sing. That could be children, teaching, travel, or ornithology. Whatever it is, I believe that engaging it regularly is crucial to you living your best, most satisfied life. I want that for you.

I believe there are very few things in the world more valuable than self-belief. I would be beyond grateful if my children were blessed with vast stores of both kindness and self-belief. That is enough to make a good life out of.

I believe that without empathy, we are lost, both individually and collectively. Perhaps this is simply a subset of the kindness that I just mentioned, but I feel the need to give empathy its own spotlight. I look at the problems of the world today—the Haves vs. Have-Nots, Republicans vs. Democrats, Christians vs. Muslims, Whites vs. Blacks, the general Us vs. Them we are so encouraged to fan the flames of—and I just see an appalling lack of empathy. An inability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. To see her as you. To think, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” This, of course, connects back up to my first, most fundamental belief: that we are All One. To live that belief is to embody empathy.

I believe we are here to make the world a better place and to lift each other up. I am totally clear on the idea that my existence is to be spent striving for happiness, prosperity, and general well-being for myself (I think most people are with me on that, right?). And since I truly believe in that first core concept of Unity, logic tells me that I ought to strive for happiness, prosperity, and general well-being for All. It should come as no surprise to you that things like wars, racism, environmental destruction, the prison-industrial complex, and the extreme income inequality pain me in my deepest places.

I believe, finally, that despite my unsocial nature and completely contrary to the dominant cultural message of self-reliance, we are only able to “Do Life” with the help of others, and it is only in relation to others that our time here has any meaning and value. Thus, we can value personal growth—like writing in a journal—and personal responsibility, but we prove those valuations with our actions toward others and in the love that drives those actions.

There. That’s what I believe.

How about you? What ideas make up your foundation? Open up your journal and scrape off your top layers to get down to your core. What thoughts make up your bedrock? Are you like me and have one primary belief that casts a giant shadow and informs most of the other beliefs? Which belief is your most powerful? What kind of belief is it—spiritual, moral, emotional, scientific, rational, or something else? In what areas of your life do you feel that belief’s reverberations? Do you feel it every day? Even if it works every day in your life, how often do you actually think about that belief? Is it a part of a mantra or prayer that you use to remind yourself of its importance? How long have you believed your most important belief? Were you taught it from birth? Did you come upon it yourself, making the conscious decision that it was for you? What about your other main beliefs: were they chosen for you, or did you decide to adopt them? Can you limit your core beliefs to a small handful, or does your list go on and on? How different are your beliefs from those of your parents and siblings? Will you try to pass your beliefs on to the next generation? Do you ever get preachy to others? How do you feel when other people try to get you to adopt their beliefs? Are you generally open-minded? Are you open even when it comes to your core beliefs, or are those untouchable? Do you have any unhealthy beliefs? Do you wish you could let go of some and trade them for others? Can you? Which are your favorite beliefs, the ones you are proud of? Are you good at acting consistently with your beliefs? Where can you do better? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do you believe?

Believe in yourself,

William

P.S. If this increased your self-awareness or made you evaluate things differently, please share it. Spread clarity!

All-In, or Hedge Your Bets? A Question for Dreamers

DSC_0769“Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make.–Rick Warren

Hello friend,

In the questions I wrote to you at the end of last week’s letter, I somehow scratched the surface of a topic I have been denying for a very long time. That scratch, however small, has broken open this week, revealing a massive abscess that has been festering far too long in the buried depths of my mind, where I had tried to keep it. Denial is a powerful force, and despite my philosophy of life being based on self-knowledge and the complete ownership, acceptance, and celebration of who I am, I have used the cancerous powers of denial to escape accountability for failing at my biggest of dreams. In that failure, I have been false to my Truth, not allowing the best parts of me to shine through to be used to their fullest to serve the world.

I have been frustrated with the Universe. I have grumbled about the unfairness of Life, how it does not allow me enough time to pursue my passions fully in order to help me maximize my potential. If I can blossom—I have often thought to myself—what I have to give can help to “save the world” and make for a more peaceful, authentic, and happy existence for so many. But the Universe—with its mere 24 hours in a day and bills to pay and soccer practices to get to and such—is not supporting me in that. It is not making it easy on me. It is not, as it turns out, a wish-granting factory. That is extremely annoying to me. It makes it feel like a conspiracy against my dreams, with all of my efforts to advance being thwarted by the constrictions of time, money, and obligations.

So it was that I arrived at the last paragraph of last week’s letter to you, which was about whether or not I had moved any closer to my dreams in the last year. The pertinent questions started flowing out of my mind, things I wanted to ask you so that you might dig deep and know yourself more fully. Then, out of my fingers came the question that opened up the long-festering issue that, in a lot of ways, defines my existence: Does it make any sense in this crazy-busy world of ours to have more than one thing that you are really passionate about and want to give your time and energy to? It stopped me in my tracks. It was like I walked face-first into a wall. I couldn’t help but just stare at the question in front of me. Psychologically, my defenses started to go up. “The question is for the reader. Just move on. Finish the letter! But here I sit, one week later, and I haven’t moved on.

I think I have written this story before, but it bears repeating. A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my revival of my passions and really full of energy to finally start living my purpose on this Earth before it is too late, I used to read a blog every day called “The Daily Love” by Mastin Kipp, that was all about those kinds of thoughts. Well, one day, Mastin posted a video of himself as the subject of an interview by his girlfriend. At the end, she asked him if he had one thing he hadn’t said or would really like to say to his audience. He turned directly into the camera and, after a warning to remove the children from the room, said, “F*#%ing ditch Plan B!! Go all-in on Plan A! Plan B is a f*#%ing distraction from your dreams. When you go all-in on Plan A, not only will Plan A happen, it will be better, because what The Divine has in store for you is so much greater than you can possibly imagine and it’s not going to look anything like you want. Please ditch Plan B.

It was like a jolt of electricity went right up my spine. The goosebumps were immediate. He was talking to me. He found my weak spot. I thought of my writing dreams immediately. I was energized and eager to go all-in on the spot. But then the fears, doubts, and excuses started creeping in: “Yeah, but I have kids to feed and bills to pay; I can’t just go ALL-in.I hated that thought, but I gave it credence. So I kept on in my usual ways.

Sure, I pressed harder on my dreams, but I kept them dispersed pretty widely. I started my Life Coaching training, which is directly related to my big dream of writing to change people’s lives. I took a career move that would reduce stress and distractions and allow me more time with my kids and more energy for my other pursuits, including writing. Then, I also started my skin care business, which was intended to free up more time and energy in the long run for the writing. All of these things have been positives in theory—they speak to my heart and are intended to help the cause—but they also have taken up tons of time and energy. As I look at them now, I can see that, at their core, they are my Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D. They are safety nets. Enjoyable and meaningful safety nets, but still, at the end of the day, just safety nets.

I have been dodging this issue of just going all-in on Plan A for all these years behind my justification that I need to keep guaranteed money coming in so the bills can be paid. It’s a legitimate-sounding excuse, and I have clung to it with all my rationality. And hey, maybe I still should. Is it selfish to take a financial risk for my family in order to pursue my personal dream? How does one give himself permission for that? Is it brave to do so, or merely self-indulgent?

I am wondering, though, if it is just plain cowardice that keeps me from narrowing my options to Plan A/writing only. Am I scared that if I go all-in and can’t make it go, that I will have blown all of my options and left my family without income? Or maybe I am scared that failing at my biggest dream will be a devastating blow to my ego, as I will have no excuses if I have focused all my energies on it. Now I have built-in excuses because I don’t “have” time to devote myself fully to the writing. What I am doing is still not making my dream happen, but I guess I am making that more palatable by bleeding slowly out rather than being bombed to bits by going all-in and failing. The more I think about it, the more cowardly this seems. It is weak. I know there is the family excuse—and I could stomach this course much less easily if I was single—but that is not sufficient.

So, what am I going to do? Is my shame from the admission of cowardice going to be enough to get me to change course, to throw caution to the wind, eliminate my other interests and potential income sources, and go single-mindedly at my writing as though there is no other option for me? Honestly, I don’t know if I can do that. I hate how scared I am about staying financially afloat. On the other hand, I hate how far I feel from making my big dream come true. And frankly, I am greedy. I want to be able to pursue all of my passions and interests at the same time. I have said before that I am spoiled. I feel like there should be time for everything that I want. I understand that I probably have more hobbies, curiosities, and passions than most people, and darn it, I want the Universe to accommodate the way it made me. I don’t want to “be realistic” and narrow my allowances to only one pursuit because that is all the clock says there is time for. I want to be me: idealistic, optimistic, and fully believing that I am going to change the world with more than one of my gifts. Perhaps I am delusional. Perhaps the combination of my spoiled nature, my greed, and my delusions will keep me from ever going all-in on my biggest dream and thus keep me from ever really succeeding in the way I imagine that I will. But maybe this letter has been the beginning of something for me. Maybe in finally stepping out of my denial and facing this issue head-on for the first time, I will actually make a move toward “reality” and narrow my focus to writing only. Perhaps it is not a bridge too far for me. I am glad to have at least begun the negotiations.

How about you? Have you gone all-in on your biggest dream, or do you spread yourself thin amongst other things that don’t speak to your soul as loudly and clearly? Open up your journal and think about your version of reality and what that allows you to do. What is your Plan A? When you close your eyes and imagine yourself in your dream job and giving your gifts to the fullest, what do you see? How dedicated are you to this vision now? Are you either living it or making your best efforts to see to it that you will get there as soon as possible? If not, why not? What holds you back? Is it the usual trappings of a secure job and needing to keep a certain lifestyle going, or is it a lack of self-belief? Do you believe that if you put all of your eggs in the basket of your biggest dream, that you would succeed at that dream? How sure are you, either of failing or succeeding? Could your gift make the world a better place? Does your answer to that question influence how passionate you are in pursuing it? How much denial do you live with around this issue of your dream and your life purpose? If it is true that most of us are not doing well in the pursuit of our passions but have instead settled for something “safer,” doesn’t that suggest that we must live pretty deep in denial? After all, how well could we live with ourselves if we consciously ignored our calling? Not well, I am guessing. So, back to my original question: how many passionate pursuits do you think we are allowed in this lifetime? Is it best just to stick to one? What is one thing you can do today that moves you closer to your Plan A? What are some aspects of your Plan B or C or D that you are willing to give up in order to put more resources into your Plan A? What is the worst that could happen by going all-in on Plan A? Could you live with that most negative outcome? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are YOU ready to go all-in on you? 

You are worth your best,

William

P.S. If this post spoke to you and made you think deeper about who you are, please share it with others who might appreciate it. Let’s raise self-awareness together! Thank you.

Who is God?

DSC_0880“God has no religion.” –Mahatma Gandhi

At Christmas dinner several years ago, in the course of conversation, I mentioned that I was no longer a Christian. The room went silent. All of the buzzing of different conversations stopped dead. There was a collective shutdown of communication, as no one seemed to know where to go with that thought. You might think that such a nugget might stir up a provocative discussion about some fascinating existential issues, such as religion, God, or the very nature of humankind’s place in the universe. NOPE! Crickets. No one asked what I believe in, why I had left the religion, or if I had found a new one.

WHY ARE WE LIKE THIS? Why do we have such difficulty communicating about an issue that speaks to not only our very essence as a species but also to the core beliefs that define our perspectives as individuals? Let’s face it: what you believe about God and religion colors your entire worldview. It is indisputably important. Even if you don’t care much for the topic, it is affecting you as the lens through which you see the world. So, why can’t we talk to each other about it? Why can’t we tell each other who God is to us?

I suppose the pat answer is that God and religion are in the same category as politics: there is just too much emotion tied up in them, that it only creates trouble to attempt a conversation on the topic. I can understand that. Because these feelings run so deep, it is only too easy to cross someone’s line, causing either the walls to go up or the fireworks to go off. Even though I appreciate a good, challenging conversation, I understand the hesitation to the idea of bringing God up at your holiday gathering in anything other than a prayer. However, I think one of the negative side effects in always taking a pass on this is that, over decades and generations, these issues are never raised at all. We learn what we learn from our religion or school or culture, but we also come to see by example that there is no room to converse and investigate the topic. We are receptacles only. Don’t think. Don’t question. Don’t explore. Accept blindly and silently.

It seems a shame to me, though, to miss out on some deep-diving conversation. It is such a rich, grand topic, after all. So, I will make a deal with you: I will give you a pass on attempting this conversation with your friends or family members today IF you take it to your journal. Yes, your journal: the safest, most accepting and affirming place to be your beautiful self. My journal is where I have processed my spiritual journey, from religious upheaval to deep, lasting Peace.

I grew up in a sometimes-churchgoing Catholic family. It was all of the traditional Christian representations of a Father God who had one son named Jesus, and the only way to return to God in Heaven was through Jesus. My Mom was more into it than my Dad was, and we went to church often enough to know the drill. I never liked it as a kid. Too much ritual, too much standing, too long, too boring. I respectfully challenged just about everything my Confirmation teacher said regarding the rules of getting to Heaven, because it just didn’t ring true to me.

From that introduction, you might think that I bolted from the church the moment I left home, but the opposite is true. When I went to college, I started going to Mass regularly. It was less formal, and I usually enjoyed the message of the sermon—which kept me going back—but never could quite get attached to all of the ritual and dogma. Even as I moved around the country in my wandering days in Minneapolis, Chicago, DC, New York, and Los Angeles, I always found a Catholic church to attend. I really just wanted to hear the sermon; I wanted to be moved and inspired by a good speech. I stomached the rest for the sake of the speech. And the Church was all I knew.

Until it wasn’t. When I was about 24 and living in California—and going to church weekly—I started finding wonderful books about other people’s experiences of God and spirituality. A seismic shift began inside of me. I was, at long last, connecting with stories of the Divine that rang true to me and my experiences. I was seeing in words for the first time the God I had always known. My soul began to bloom, and I was on fire with this new connection I was making to my God, the one I had always felt but never had the words or the support for. It was a God who permeated everything and didn’t have the jealous, vindictive streak from the stories I had learned growing up. And because God permeated everything completely, it meant that we were all one—connected, just like Quantum Physics tells us—and that we were all (not just Jesus) fully God. I liked this God. I liked him because I knew him. Somehow reading these books caused me to remember what I had somehow forgotten.

As you might have already guessed, my days as a Christian were over in a hurry with this new revelation. I was still fascinated and totally inspired by Jesus of Nazareth, but I was just as clear that he was not the one and only son of God and that I didn’t need to go directly through him to access God. (It was an amicable break-up; we’re still friends.) In the months and years that followed my awakening—nearly 20 years of uninterrupted Happiness, I believe it worth noting–I have been an avid student of God and religions. I have studied Philosophy of Religion both in and out of university. I have read the Bible from cover to cover, the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, and other traditional holy books. I enjoy them very much. I see pieces of each traditional religion that are appealing. I quite like certain aspects of Buddhism, particularly. Still, I have come to prefer books like Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations With God series or Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God. I like to learn about Quantum Physics, because it tells me in scientific terms what the other spirituality books on my favorite shelf tell me: that we are all One, inextricably intertwined with All That Is. I actually feel as though I understand well, though, where atheists and agnostics are coming from, and I sympathize with their positions. The traditional ways that scientists have determined “proof” don’t tally well when it comes to verifying the existence of any God. We are left with philosophical arguments, leaps of faith, or trusting our guts, hoping to find, as I did, something that feels like Truth.

So, what do I call myself if someone asks? If I don’t see the conversation going very deep, I might just say, “I am spiritual but don’t subscribe to a particular religion” or “I believe in God but am not religious.” More specifically, I believe that God is pure Love and that God is All. That is, that there is nothing that is not fully God. A logical extension of this is that I am God, in the same way that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or Krishna (or Jim Jones or David Choresh) is God. (Humorous side note: My four-year-old confirms his understanding of this concept by saying, “God’s in my ear, right, Dad? God’s in my butt, too, right?” Yes, son, God is in your butt.). In any dictionary, there is a term called pantheism. I like the way Alasdair MacIntyre explains it: “Pantheism essentially involves two assertions: that everything that exists constitutes a unity, and that this all-inclusive unity is divine.” To be even more specific about my belief, I actually prefer the term panentheism, which is found in only a few dictionaries. Essentially, it means that God is the universe in its entirety, but God is also more. God transcends the universe. “He” is both the universe and also the intelligence behind it. That works for me. All of this points me to two conclusions that I like to remind myself of regularly: 1)We are All One, and 2) The end is not in doubt. I travel happily through the world with those assurances.

How about you? Who is God to you? Open up your journal and your soul, and merge the two. How do you visualize your God? Is it an old man with a long white beard who lives in a cloud-like Heaven? Is it an invisible spirit? Does it have human-like characteristics, such as anger and judgment? Is your God found in Nature? What do you call your God (I use God, the Universe, the Divine, the All, the One, All That Is, and Life interchangeably)? How do you reach your God? Do you have to go to a house of worship? Is God found only when you bow and make a formal prayer, or do you see God in the most mundane of circumstances? Do you pray regularly? Are your prayers typically requests for things you want, or prayers of gratitude? Do you feel heard? Do you think God answers specific prayers? If so, how do you think God decides? How tolerant are you about other people’s idea of God? Do you find yourself more put-off by someone from a different religion or by an atheist? Do you think there is any way to prove God’s existence? Is the order in the universe enough to explain it, or the complexity of the human body, or perhaps “miracles”? If it is so difficult to prove, why do atheists get such a bad rap, and why is there so much killing and animosity in the name of God? How sure are you of your God? Sure enough to try to convert others to your belief? This is a delicate topic for conversation—I can attest to that—which makes it the perfect topic for a journal entry. Dive deep and find your Truth, uncertainties and all. I would love to know what you find. Leave me a reply and tell me: Who is God to you? 

Namaste,

William

What’s Your Vision?

DSC_1131“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” —Audre Lorde

Hello friend,

This week, I had the best homework assignment EVER! It was for my life coaching class, and as I was completing it, I became more and more captivated by it. By the end, I was so moved that I knew I MUST share it with you. It was, for me, one of those life moments when you feel like you have just been shown into the secret room that holds the keys to Happiness. The awe and appreciation I felt were so powerful that I knew I simply could not keep that room to myself. I had to invite the world in. So, this letter to you is my version of shouting my invitation from the rooftops. The secret room is about to host a party!

So, what kind of homework assignment could cause such a stir in me? The task was to write a vision statement based on a couple of short exercises. It was separated into two areas: personal lifestyle and professional life. The idea was to answer a handful of fill-in-the-blank questions in each area to accurately reflect the way I envision my ideal life. Then, after filling in the blanks, I would combine the handful of questions and write them in paragraph form for the two areas. It was amazingly simple, actually. The “personal lifestyle” area was six short questions that addressed my family commitments, recreation/fun, home environment, retirement home (an odd addition, I think), hobbies/passions, and health. The “professional life” was even shorter, with four questions addressing my areas of concentration, office environment, financial plans, and business philosophy.

As I said, the blanks were small and the questions few, so there was a wonderful simplicity to the task. But, as I have often found all over my world, in simplicity there is purity and clarity. These simple, straightforward questions about how I want my life to look caused that ideal life to stand out so clearly in my mind. Here is what I wrote:

In my personal life, I am committed to choosing happiness. I will do that by maintaining clarity regarding my values, and acting accordingly. I will keep my family front and center, nurturing and enjoying them and always making the time to be with them. I will keep my home environment comfortable and useful, housing my gym and office where I live and keeping the atmosphere warm and homey, a place for family. I will blend my recreation and hobbies/passions—exercise, tennis, yoga, meditation, reading, and writing—to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I will practice Peace and always follow my Bliss. 

In my professional life, I am committed to working in areas that both stir my soul and provide a service to the people of the world. I will focus my efforts on writing, public speaking, and life coaching to tap into my varied strengths and interests while keeping service always at the fore. I will be self-employed and do much of my work from my comfortable home office. I will be financially successful by staying true to my purpose and following my intuition to share my unique voice with the world. I will do all of this with integrity and positivity, modeling self-awareness and positive thinking as vehicles of personal growth and the pursuit of one’s dreams.

That was it! Assignment done. Because I had already answered the questions with short fill-in-the-blanks, the paragraphs basically wrote themselves. It was quick and easy. But the effect on me was strong and lasting. Most of us have a rough idea of what we want—we have a dream job or a dream house somewhere in our mind—but how many of us have ever really put a sharpened edge on those dreams? How many have written them in ink? I found that there was a great power in writing them down. It was like I was finally having the guts to declare to the Universe, “THIS IS WHAT I REALLY WANT!” But it was more than that, too. Because of the “I will…” start to each statement, it was more of a command to the Universe, not a request. “THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE GOING TO BE!” Try saying that sometime and meaning it. It just feels powerful. In writing it down in such a declarative way, I was claiming authority over my life and my future in a way I never had before. That authority is beautifully liberating. 

The combination of power and liberation, while lovely, does not necessarily mean that I picked the right answers to the questions. For that, I looked first to my heart and my intuition. Like so many peeks into the future—I do this whenever I try to come up with New Year’s resolutions or other goals—I tend to think more about how I want to feel first, before I ever even think about what I want to do. When I am clear about how I want to feel, it becomes much more obvious to me what I should be doing to feel that way. When I sat back after doing this exercise to see if my vision statement was true to my values, my gauge was essentially the question, “Does this vision make me feel the way I want to feel?” It did. It made me feel happy, centered, challenged, useful, optimistic, healthy, inspired, grateful, and full of Peace. I like that vision of me!

How about you? What does your ideal life look like? Get out your journal, and dream big! Ask yourself some questions. Start with your personal life. What do you want to be committed to in your family life? What do you see yourself doing for fun? How do you envision your living space—size, location, feel, etc.—both before and after retirement? What would you like your passions and interests to be? What will you do to be healthy? Then, move on to your professional world. And remember, this is your ideal world. What will the focus of your work be? What will your workspace look like? How about your financial plans: how much do you envision making per year? Finally, what is your vision for your business philosophy? The answer to these simple questions—you can add or subtract a few, of course—serve as a template for your vision statement. You can write two separate paragraphs—one personal and one professional—or blend them into one that represents the whole being that you are. Do you feel like your vision is realistic for you? How far off of it are you right now? Is there something you can do today—some new thought or new action–to close the gap? For most of us, we have been trained to rein our dreams in and play small. Because of that, this exercise—naming and claiming what you really, truly want from your life—can make you feel very self-conscious, even greedy. Do your best to keep those feelings at bay; they don’t belong to the dreamer in you. Be unbounded. Be free to think like your best self. Do you believe you can live it? I do. Leave me a reply and let me know: What is your vision for your life? 

Own it,

William

Waiting For My Rocketship

DSC_0141“Too many people are waiting for Jesus to come along and cut your grass. And Jesus isn’t going to come along and cut your grass.” —Bill Cosby

Hello friend,

When I was a starving actor living in Los Angeles in my early 20s, I clung to the hope of that rare story of the star who is discovered while waiting tables or walking down the street. It is such a romantic tale, and it sucked me in completely. I was sure that would happen to me, too. That possibility served as an opiate, making me too passive when it came to pursuing my dream and really banging down people’s doors to make it happen.

It is true that dumb luck sometimes plays a major role in breaking in or “making it” in Hollywood—there are countless beautiful people out there, many of whom are talented—but I think falling for that idea of the random discovery is a bad idea. Not only does it placate you in the moment, but also, if you are like me and learning it in early adulthood, you can end up carrying that model with you for the rest of your life, even well after you re-enter “civilian life”. You can come to believe that if you are talented enough and just hanging around, success is bound to fall into your lap sooner or later. Your rocketship will come to pick you up, zooming you directly to stardom.

But then there is a lot of hanging around with an empty lap and a “Where the heck is that rocketship, anyway?” look on your face.

I think that I have spent a good portion of my life wearing that expression. I was probably not much different than most kids, dreaming about becoming a professional athlete, Nobel Prize winner, movie star, or the like. When I actually decided to become a movie star, I think that I probably believed that moving out to Hollywood and taking acting classes was all that it was going to take from my end. The rest would take care of itself when that producer or casting director walked into the restaurant where I was waiting tables and signed me to a deal on the spot, whisking me away from the drudgery of restaurant servitude and paycheck-to-paycheck living, to a life of creative freedom, affluence, and influence. At the very least, I hoped some wealthy patron of the arts would notice me in a play and agree to fund me while I work on my craft, freeing me from the “joe job” that was not at all my passion. “Every artist needs a patron,” I always said, and I assumed the Universe would see the wisdom in that idea and promptly reveal my deep-pocketed patron. I should have packed a lunch, because I waited a long time for a rescue that never came.

In the many years that have passed since those hopeful days in L.A., I have waited for other rocketships as well. One of my most frequent targets has been the lottery. That’s right, I have always suspected that it is my destiny to win the Powerball or MegaMillions or whatever other giant prize is out there. Not that I ever actually play the lottery! Well, I did play once. I had just finished reading The Secret, so I figured that I finally knew the trick (or rather, the secret). I focused my mind, divined the numbers, and bought the ticket. I was genuinely shocked when I didn’t win. I haven’t played since, but that does not diminish my expectations that I will one day win the lottery. (I didn’t say any of this was logical, did I?)

My latest rocketship is in the form of the powerful person who is going to read one of these blog posts—SOON, please—and realize that mine is a voice that needs to be heard the world over. This person will see to it that I have enough time and money to spend on my passion and will ensure that my work gets published and marketed globally. (I LOVE this rocketship!)

But still, it’s a rocketship. I feel better about this one than the others, though, because I am at least putting myself out there regularly, sharing these posts with you every week. You see, it is not lost on me that I haven’t won the lottery yet with my current method. I can also see now that I shouldn’t have waited until near the end of my time in Hollywood to start auditioning for things and start doing real acting, because that end period became the most rewarding of all (and the most likely of all to generate that producer or casting director meeting I had wished for). And I shouldn’t have hesitated when I was in my mid-20s and passionate about writing a book that I thought would save the world, thinking I was “too young” and “need to learn just a little bit more” before I could start writing such an ambitious project. When I look back at those journal entries from that time, I really was ready. My mind was ready to burst. But I didn’t write it. I waited for a rocketship instead.

So, after all of these years of writing in my journal and coming to see the tremendous impact it had on my mind and spirit, I decided to start “The Journal Project” to create the story of my life—or rather, the story of my mind’s evolution, one day at a time—in order that the people of the world might see the value in journaling and thus make it a habit for themselves and enjoy all of the countless benefits I have received from it. It seemed like I finally had returned to a project of real value and something I was passionate about, something that spoke to the ways I wanted to serve the world. I found my purpose.

When the first phase of the project—reading and taking notes on twenty years’ worth of entries—took me what felt like forever to complete, I realized that it could be many years before I could get this important message out to anyone. I was anxious to connect with you and couldn’t wait that long. But more than that, I knew that I needed to show the Universe that I meant it this time.   I was tired of feeling like a guy who has a lot of good intentions and good ideas but never actually does anything.

Yoga classes, meditation, studying philosophy and political theory, even journaling—all of these things are wonderful and can make you feel really good: clear and smart and energetic. But in the end, if they don’t lead to some really good doing, they become merely intellectual and spiritual masturbation. I don’t want to be that guy.

So, I wanted to announce my intention to the Universe by putting something out there, by doing something for people that could make a difference in the short term while I still kept my eyes on the long-range prizes that would be the outcome of The Journal Project and its offspring. Thus was born Journal of You and these very words you are reading now. Each of these posts is my current version of buying a lottery ticket every week, not just because I am hoping to find that one powerful reader who becomes my rocketship—I definitely am still guilty of that—but because, as my wife always reminds me whenever I joke about winning the lottery, “You have to play to win.”

I am playing every week now–buying the ticket–throwing my hat in the ring in the form of this writing and hoping to help you change your life for the better by seeing more clearly who you are and thus owning your life and your dreams. And if it helps you enough to want to share it with your friends, maybe one of your friends—or your friends’ friends, or your friends’ friends’ friends—is the one who can help me be as big as I dream to be. They will know where to find me this time. I’ll be right here, waiting for my rocketship–surrounded by journals and pens and notebooks–pecking away at my keyboard, sending love notes to the world.

How about you? What are you waiting to have dropped into your lap so that you can live your dreams? Open up your journal and ask yourself who you want to be. What is your Bliss? What is your dream life? How do you FEEL when you imagine yourself living that dream life? What kinds of things would your best self need to DO to create that feeling? How far away does that seem from your current world? Is there something in your life today that you can do to create that feeling, to get you moving in the right direction? Have you quietly known this for a long time and just not had the courage or energy to do it? How well do you listen to your intuition when it comes to understanding your purpose, and what small steps you can take to begin living it? Are you like me and often know what it is but still wait for someone to come along and make it easier and less scary for you to do it? Do you fantasize more about the lottery and the patron than you do about living your purpose? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you waiting for your rocketship?

Be your own captain today,

William