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Category Archives: Self Improvement

cut-yourself-some-slack

90 percent of pain is self induced.

 

It’s important to understand that most of what we experience in life is perspective and interpretation. The world around us often appears as we expect it to because we filter out what we don’t expect and focus in on what we do.

 

If you look for the good in someone you will find it.

If you look for the bad in someone you will find it.

 

Our perceptions of reality are often skewed one way or the other.

 

We very rarely see true reality.

 

Our egos get involved and muddle the interpretation. Often we view the world as if it were a mirror held in front of us. We simply see what we project out.

 

The thoughts we were having surrounding a moment, inform that moment. Our past interactions, with the people involved, further cloud the experience.

 

As we get older, if we don’t practice awareness, more and more layers build up from past interactions. We are no longer experiencing the present moment, but rather receiving the echoes of past experiences as they feed back into the current experience. Instead of experiencing the present, we can fall into a trap of reliving the past through the current moment.

 

The ideal resolution would be to truly experience the moment itself with filters and interpretations removed. This is true momentary awareness and an enlightened view of the world. And I am in favor of it. But I can’t always do it.

 

An alternative, which I try to practice given my base awareness that I can’t always practice presence, is to process the moment through positive filters.

 

As the saying goes, “You are seeing the world through rose colored glasses.” This old saying is often stated as a slam. It is intended to wake the person up that is living in a delusional world where they look at things too optimistically. Oddly, it’s frequently stated by people living in their own delusions, as we all tend to do.

 

I consider it a mindfulness practice. Applying this layer of thought to my input, helps me break lose from more negative patterns of thought. Encouraging myself to operate out of a foundation of abundance, where I  have plenty and can share with all.

 

There is one crucial piece of information to keep in mind when you’re working on this aspect of mindfulness.

 

Cut yourself some slack.

 

Often we are our own worst critics. Allow yourself to be filled with your own grace. This effort is both trivial and monumental. It can take moments and it can take a lifetime. Don’t be hard on yourself when working on yourself.

 

This awareness came to me recently when I realized how compassionate I was being to someone else about a problem. They had made a mistake and couldn’t let go of it. I was helping them through the problem and even encouraging them to release it. “These things happen, there is no need to beat yourself up over it.” I stated kindly to my friend in turmoil.

 

Later on, I realized that I had been much more gracious and compassionate to that friend than I was with myself. When the same thing had happened to me, I had assumed it was my fault. I had become mired down in dealing with my guilt for the situation and not allowed myself to release it and be forgiven. Surely I should allow for my self the grace that I would freely give another.

 

Likewise, these filters that we’ve been talking about are frequently applied when dealing with yourself. You judge yourself and your behavior based on this false expectation you setup. You establish a set of judgmental criteria against which you will surely fall short. Inappropriately divorcing yourself and your judgment of yourself from the actual experience.

 

As I stated at the beginning of this writing, “90 percent of pain is self induced.” We may also focus on the corollary; 90 percent of pleasure is self induced.

 

Take some time today to allow yourself to enjoy life. Stop to smell the roses. Fill your thoughts with grace and abundance. You are more than capable of handling the tasks that lay ahead.

Namaste

Kevin

unleash-your-potential

I have a mantra on the wall, above my work table. It states simply “In a world where you can be anything… Be Yourself.”

 

The wisdom is profound and simple.

The wisdom is often ignored.

 

We live in a world that is constantly telling us how we should act. We are repeatedly being told what our feelings should be on matters. We live a culture where individuality is both glamorized and criticized.

 

In school we are given placement tests and aptitude tests. Year after year, repeating the process over and over again. Measuring us against each other. Measuring us against some invisible bar of “What We Should Be”. These test are designed to see if we measure up and to test our scholastic ability. The process is repeated so many times we don’t realize it’s twisting our perception of achievement.

 

These tests try to determine how we measure up in math. Or to see if we excel in language. And our reward is a high test score and accolades… Or a low test score and a feeling of failure.

 

Recently I heard this put very eloquently. The reward for taking a French class isn’t an “A”. The reward shouldn’t be high test scores. The reward should be the ability to talk to people in French. It should be the ability to connect with people that speak French and make new friends.

 

When looking at aptitude tests, I always came out with high scores in Math and Science. I was told this meant I would be an engineer. I was a fairly agreeable child, so when I was told I would become an engineer, I took them seriously. I become an engineer.

 

I never compared notes with everyone else in in my class. But looking back, I wonder what kind of career list we were working with. Did someone ever come back with a result that stated “You will be a painter.”?

 

I don’t ever recall anyone anyone mentioning that their test results showed that they would be a spiritual mystic, or even a church pastor. My results certainly never stated “You will become a yoga teacher and spiritual guide.” There was no result that stated “some day you will write a story about these tests”.

 

Wouldn’t the impact on the world be profound if we could actually guide people toward professions that could key into aptitude and passion? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people got results like “You will be a fly fishing guide.”, “You will start your own company.”, or “You are best suited to write a blog.”?

 

Instead of being told you are best suited to be a cog in the gearbox of society, we could encourage people to strive for a life of passion and fulfillment.

 

You reap what you sew. I doubt the people that create standardized tests and piece together the options on the career lists are entirely fulfilled. Do you think when they were in grade school their tests responded with “You are best suited to make more of these tests.”?

 

I would love to hear someone results come back as: “You will stand in the middle of an open field embracing the new day and people will flock to you for your wisdom and insight.” Perhaps a little too poetic, perhaps not.

 

There is no proficiency test for greatness. There is no qualification exam for passion. Nobody else can tell you what you can and can not achieve.

But you can.

 

You can talk yourself out of pretty much anything if you’re not careful. The voice in your head may be constructed from messages outside of you in the past. But it’s you now. Own it. Or better yet, disown it. Identify it. Key into where it may be holding you back. Keep what you need and release what you don’t.

 

I would argue that it is your mission in life to tap into your core essence and find out what makes you tick. Find your passions, find your abilities, your true abilities. I don’t mean math and science. I am referring to your core essence. Tap into in, reveal it, utilize it and own it.

 

Don’t let anyone, including yourself, hold you back.

 

Unleash your potential.

 

Think of it as a puzzle. You are trying to get all the pieces to fit together. Maybe you haven’t even found all the puzzle pieces yet.

 

Here are a few books to help in your search for the edge pieces:
StrengthsFinder 2.0 – This test helped identify my character strengths. The book helps unpack what it means, but it can really help to have someone unpack it with you. I know some life coaches that are excellent at this, so please contact me if you’re interested in their contact information.
The 4-Hour Workweek – This book is great at stirring up your passion to break your work pattern and find what makes you tick and builds income

Picture a 200 carrot perfectly cut diamond. Now take that beautiful 200 carrot cut diamond, gorgeous and glittering in the sunshine, and dip it into a thick gooey mud puddle. Bake it in the sun for a few days, then take a look at it. Doesn’t look like a diamond any more, does it? But you know it is. You probably guarded the diamond day and night while it was baking, because you knew there was value in there.

Every person is a 200 carrot perfectly cut diamond covered in mud. Some of us have just spent more time polishing the surface and removing the dirt. Keep polishing and get ready to shine.

You are already great. Your work is to expose how great you are.

In a world where you can be anything… Be yourself.

 

a-day-without-technology-bw-trim

On Friday night I decided to make good on an idea that had been circling around in my mind for a few months. Turn off everything and leave it off till sunset the next day.

I grew up with the practice of Sabbath, so this wasn’t completely foreign to me. But I hadn’t practiced in quite a while.

The evolution of my tech addiction started simply enough. First there were desktop computers of course, I loved them and wanted to take them everywhere with me. But they were stuck to my desk and plugged into the wall.

Then came the laptop. An improvement to be sure, but still quite limited. Short battery life. Limited power. And heavy, oh so very heavy. My first laptop was for work and they called it a broad-axe. It was about the size of a giant axe blade of war, and about twice as heavy. At least it didn’t have a giant handle sticking out of the side.

Next came the cell phone. They’d been around for years by the time I got my first. My first cell phone was practical. It made phone calls. It had a rudimentary web browser that was capable of displaying text and was a complete waste of time to use. It was a phone and mobile message taker.

Phones began to evolved.

Laptops got faster and lighter.

Soon phones were full scale web browsers and you could get all your email on them. You never had to be out of touch… From anyone. Always on.

Now our phones are full blown portable person computers, game systems, social communication platforms and … oh yeah, I guess they still make phone calls.

And we have come to feel they are an extension of us. They are part of our lives and we are accessible through every moment of our lives.

I’m still curious what the impact will be on the current generation. They won’t know a time when they aren’t always available, always connected, always on.

I know the impact on me has been powerful and subtle. I don’t even know the full impact. Technology is a fundamental part of my world.

So how would I react to turning everything off?

What would happen if I just went dark for a day?

As challenging as the idea of turning them all off for a day was, I thought it would be good for me.

So Friday night I turned off my iphone, I turned off my ipad, I powered down my laptop, I hid my TV remotes. I took a deep breath, and I went to bed.

The next morning, I told my wife about my plan. She was very hesitant at first, she liked the idea, but the repercussions of being out of contact with her online mother’s community was daunting. I highlighted that this was something I was doing and that she didn’t need to do it. She had a few concerns about her own participation in the experience. After mentally coming to grips with the idea, she decided to join me in my experiment.

As I showered that morning my brain kept popping up things I needed to check on the internet. Things that immediately needed my attention. Then I remembered I wasn’t doing that today.

At one point I realized that in that last 5 minutes there were no less than 4 times I could easily looking back and see I’d been thinking about “checking on” something. So the idea occurred to me that I should keep a tally of how many times I actually thought about my phone. I realized that I could download an app to help me keep track… Then I laughed quietly at my brain and tried to move on.

I was amazed at how challenging this was. I wasn’t used to observing how many impulses I have to check my phone over the course of just a few minutes. All of this turmoil from a simple act made me feel that I should write notes about my experience while it was occurring.

I then lamented that I couldn’t write notes because I didn’t have my computer turned on and I couldn’t use my phone. I thought about turning on the computer, “just for a minute” to write notes, but knew that would break the spirit of my experiment.

During this inner dialog I remembered something, something ancient from my childhood, it was also called “writing” and it involved a pencil and paper. Hooray, problem solved!

As the afternoon wore on, I found the need to check my phone lessen. I did have an undertone of unease to my mental state. I realized that this was coming from a feeling that “Someone, somewhere, must need me.” If only I turned on my phone I would find out.

I kept looking forward to sundown like a man holding his breath under water waiting to surface.

Early afternoon involved a nice nap sitting in my reading chair. Also I pulled out a physical book and did some reading into it’s pages. Two activities that would probably have been interrupted or not have occurred at all had I been “plugged in”.

When sundown did finally come, I enjoyed checking my email and seeing if I’d missed anything that I needed to know. But I was able to approach the experience in a calm fashion as opposed to feeling like a man gasping for air.

Interesting, the internet did not miss me. It didn’t even care that I was gone for 24 hours. In fact all those people that I thought were trying to contact me didn’t even notice I was gone. The only lingering side effects left over from the experience is this story and the calm that it created within me.

No damage done by my day without tech.

Overall I would highly recommend this experiment to everyone.

I was very disturbed by how many tell tale signs of addiction showed up over the course of the day. A computer seems like such simple tool, but it is tapped into more neural pathways than we care to admit.

Namaste,

Kevin

 

Sand-Castle-On-Beach

This week I was listening to dust in the wind By Kansas. It is amazing how timeless concepts age very well in music. Check out the lyrics if you’ve never heard the song or want to refresh your memory. I’m sure I’ve heard the song a hundred times or more. But this time a new piece of the lyric caught my ear:

Now don't hang on
Nothin' last forever but the earth and sky

As I listened, I was reminded that all the effort we do, everything we put our hands to, will eventually pass away. It may pass 5 minutes after we are gone, or 500 years, but it all passes into shadow. There is nothing that we can do in the physical world that will last beyond a few moments.

With this in mind I was thinking about the underlying value of our tasks, the spiritual growth. Each time a task is performed, the task doesn’t change, but we do. It’s this growth, and the growth of those around us that I believe has lasting value beyond our ‘dust in the wind’.

There are many times that we perform things that we perceive as tedious or menial. And often that impact of our actions is lost to us in the demands of the moment. If we take the time to step out of the emotion of the moment and view the larger picture, that we can see our true value and impact.

So when our activities feel like building sandcastles, remember the ultimate benefit. The physical and tangible results of our efforts are only the tip of the spiritual iceberg.

Namaste,

Kevin

Sand castle destroyed by the surf. Black Sea coast. Space for text.

Sand castle destroyed by the surf. Black Sea coast. Space for text.

building yourself up trim

We live in a world that is constantly telling us we don’t measure up. This can be obvious as the person honking at you because you didn’t see the green light soon enough. Or as subtle as an advertisement showing someone eating an order of French fries surrounded by beautiful people.

We are surrounded by messages of lack, inferiority and want.

Worse yet, the messages are often so subtle, or so persistent, that we become numb and lose awareness of these negative messages. We know we are uneasy. We can’t place why we feel out of place. Sometimes the answer is as simple as identifying the connection to this subliminal nagging.

When you are provided with this constant input, it can be challenging to stay in tune with reality. In reality, You are amazing! You are abundant! And you are loved! But sometimes it’s easy to forget how much you rock.

So when you consider self improvement, you may feel it’s selfish or inappropriate to spend time yourself. Is not self improvement, by definition self importance, a vain task?

But the truth of the matter is you can be more effective and valuable to the world if you realize, and I mean really believe, how effective and valuable you are. Everything you touch can be positively impacted if you simply believe in yourself and have a real connection to your value.

It’s often said that pride comes before a fall. I also believe that pride must arrive before success. If you don’t really believe you’re working on something of value, if you aren’t really proud of what you do, why do you bother doing it?

So why don’t we spend more time on ourselves?

Possibly because of another message the imbalanced world bombards us with, “Don’t be selfish”. “Don’t focus on yourself”. There are starving children in (insert country X here), you should focus your energy on helping them.

While I agree we should help starving children in country X, I also believe we should consider where we are coming from when we help others. The energy we put into something is impacted dramatically and directly by our own personal pride, confidence, beliefs and motivations.

If you try to help someone else from a place of imbalance, you are really offering them imbalance.

If we come from a place of abundance and balance, we offer them that same abundance and balance.

I was reading this week in my copy of Moving into Stillness, by Erich Schiffman, about balance. I’ve always thought of balance as calm, stillness, or inaction. However, after reading Erich’s description I think I’ve had it wrong. He describes balance as a top spinning at very high speed. When we are unbalance we are actually in a lower state of energy (picture a top spinning too slowly, about to fall over and crash). When we are in our higher states of energy, read that as confident, self assured and balanced, we are actually metaphorically spinning faster. The result can be stillness and balance.

With this in mind take the time to focus inward. Find your peace, find your purpose, and change the world in the best way that you can, by being Yourself!

Namaste,

Kevin

To aid in this task here a few tips:
-Find a mantra, saying or slogan that empowers you, and repeat it to yourself.
Chakra Clock is an iphone app that you can create alarms and custom messages in. You can setup an alarm to remind you throughout the day to repeat your mantra. available here

-Take time to meditate and focus inward to allow your body to express needs and take the time to address those needs.
Chakra Chime is a iphone and android app available to help you time meditation and set the meditative mood with soothing chimes. available here

-Allow yourself the freedom to be you. Accept who you are, what you are, how you are, exactly as you are and love yourself. You are the only You there is.

miracles-happen-every-day

I went for a bike ride last weekend. Riding my bike always shifts my brain into a calm state, especially when I get into a steep climb. There isn’t room for my mind to worry about bills or politics, it’s just me, the bike and the hill.

I also love the exhilaration of the downhill run, after the long ride up the hill. If there is any bit of fun in life, that you can feel like you’ve totally earned, it’s riding down a steep hill you just worked your butt off to climb.

When I’m out riding I always keep an eye out for cyclists in need. I have been helped by random cyclist myself, so it’s nice to pay it forward. Making the world a better place through service has always been something I connect with.

On this particular occasion I saw a red 1970’s bicycle laying on it’s side next to the road, with a big saddle bag on the ground next to it. Something looked odd about it, but I couldn’t see anybody around, so I decided to just leave it alone assuming the owner would return soon. As I kept riding, I was wondering in the back of my mind what had happened. I found I didn’t have to wonder long.

About 100 yards up the road was a man in cycling gear walking back and forth looking down at the ground. I asked if he needed help. He replied that his back tire had broken loose and he’d lost a small part he needed to reattach it.

A little background on this hill. It’s called Mount Eden and it is in Saratoga, California. Coming down the back side of this hill, where we were, I have managed to get up to about 40 miles an hour. It’s a very curvy road with a sharp turn right at the bottom of the hill. I usually reach the turn and my top speed at about the same time.

I’d also like to point out the obvious. When you’re on a road bike going 40 miles an hour, and you come up on a sharp turn, it’s not an ideal time for your back tire to come off… Come to think of it, I can’t think of any ideal time for your back tire to come off. But that turn would be the worst.

As I stopped to help out, I got more of his story. He was coming down the back side of Mount Eden. At the bottom of the hill, just before the turn, a car was in front of him, forcing him to hit the brakes hard! During this braking maneuver his back wheel had broken off and gotten tangled up in the rear fork of the bike.

This could have easily been a fatal accident. With a back tire that was no longer rolling he managed to go off the road, avoid a big pile of rocks, and stop on the grassy edge of the road 200 yards later.

As I listened to his story I became more and more impressed that I was seeing the aftermath of a miracle. Instead of needing an ambulance or worse, this man had managed to put down his bike and walk away. He had pulled out his mobile phone and calmly called his friend while he proceeded to search for the part he was now missing from his bike.

I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him till he came to his senses and saw the truth of this moment. As I was still in touch with my sense I knew that was a bad idea. But I did manage to ask if he happened to get a good look at who or what was holding up his back tire as he came careening around the corner.

It really hadn’t occurred to him that anything miraculous had happened. At the time of the accident he was simply focused on avoiding the rocks and trying to land his bike. Then, possibly in a state of mild shock or denial, he was simply searching for the 2 dollar part he didn’t want to lose.

When looking back at this story I come away with these two main thoughts.

  • When you find yourself worrying about the small stuff, remember that means the big stuff, beyond your control, has been handled for you. AKA: If you can spend your time looking for a 2 dollar widget you may want to remind yourself you’re still alive.
  • Miracles happen every day, but sometimes it takes an outsider to see them.

See if you can spot the miracles in your own life today.

If you are having trouble seeing them, ask someone around you to point them out.

Namaste,

Kevin

Female cyclist biking on a country road on a lovely sunny day (m

 

Finding-Your-Path-201207-text

Growing up in a family connected with an organized religion has advantages. You have a community of people that care about you and want the best for you. And you have the benefit of the wisdom and experience of that community to teach you. And for a while that was enough… However, even during my early years I questioned the disconnect between what I was told and what I experienced.

I have always been driven to deepen my spiritual life. However disillusionment with main stream religion sent me down unexpected paths throughout my life. I don’t feel that I have any horror stories about being abused by religion. The organizations I was connected with never directly traumatized or persecuted me. But the stories that I was told were so powerful, and the experiences I had were so not. My attempts to connect on a spiritual level with my religion failed and as a result I began to search for truth outside of that framework.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t hold ill will toward religious people. I believe there are religious beliefs that empower and enliven people to become all they can be and truly enhance the world. But it didn’t do this for me. So my search continued.

This is where yoga and meditation entered my life. I had a misrepresentation of yoga in my head. When the idea was first suggested to me I was under the impression that yoga was for women who wanted mild exercise, I had no concept of the history or the experience that yoga offered. My education began 8 years ago and has continued since. A highlight was in 2006 when I became a certified yoga instructor. I took a 200 hour certification program here in California.

Yoga was a different world to me. I was surrounded by people having their own intimate experiences with the spiritual world. The movement and fluidity of Vinyasa Flow yoga centered me in a way I had never felt before. I was able to find peace in the midst of my mental chaos. This is an experience that I never would have had, if I hadn’t tried yoga.

I’m sharing this in an effort to highlight the importance of experiential spirituality. In life we will find many people that will try to tell us how things work and even what we are experiencing and feeling. These guides can be beneficial, but they can also rob us of what is really happening. I invite you to experiment and find a spiritual path that works for you. Find something that you are experiencing and feeling for yourself, not something where you have to depend on someone Else’s interpretation. This is your path! No one else can walk it for you.

It is important to highlight my use of the word experiment. Be prudent. Be cautious. Use your instincts. I’m not encouraging anyone to try anything harmful or damaging. I am encouraging people to live. This is your chance to grow. You only get one shot at this moment, embrace the opportunity and let the universe guide you.

Namaste,

Kevin

Portraits of people thinking

Before we all get too excited, I should start with the disclaimer, I haven’t figured it all out yet. So I don’t have the answer to life the universe and everything. But I do have some feel for what it isn’t. Possessions don’t seem to fill the gaps. Volunteer work is wonderful, but it doesn’t seem to pay the bills. And everybody seems to be running down a different path to the finish line.

We can’t all be pastors, stock brokers, software developers or restaurateurs. So what is the perfect job? The Perfect role? How do we connect the longing of our souls with the needs of this world?

Our primary job is to understand ourselves. For some understanding comes quick and their path is obvious. They see an automobile and want to learn everything about it and focus their life’s work on cars. Or they see a person building homes in Mexico and decide they must do whatever it takes to perform that task. Or they simply find something they are passionate about and connect with that. But for others, like myself, it takes time. It takes attention and inner focus to try to determine what drives you and how that could be applied to a vocation.

Slowly, through steps that felt like crawling, I came to understand the intersection of all my paths and my passion. I have gained enough understanding of myself to know what energizes me. I have developed enough vision to create a plan for how I can utilize skills and ability toward a path that I am best suited. And I have come to this place that I am now, writing to you.

It feels fantastic to be in this place where I am focusing my energies on realizing a dream of helping others live more fulfilled lives.

One of the most important part of being where I am, is accepting that I’ve only made one more step down the path. Next month or next year I may find I have to correct coarse, I have to re-evaluate what is working and if I’m still in my strength. But the steps must be taken and now must happen for then to occur.

I wanted to write this up, not just to tell a piece of my story, but also to encourage others to find their story. I believe that we are here in this life to discover our own personal story. Every step we take in our daily lives is part of our education. The mindful awareness of the lessons, as we are taught, can help us with our forward momentum.

I encourage everyone to continue down the path to determine why they are here as an individual. Identify your passions, abilities and the threads that tie your life so far together. Identify the patterns or themes. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help and analysis. Armed with this information go forth boldly and exercise your passion.

I have this written on my office wall to remind me to be true to myself
“In a world where you can be anything… Be Yourself.”

Go out to the world and be yourself

Namaste,

Kevin

BE-yourself-201206