Well, I really appreciate all that Tumblr’s been able to provide me so far. I’ve decided to rebrand things and build my website over on Wordpress because I’m more familiar with it. For those of you that have followed so far, find my writing at http://mebuilding.wordpress.com.
Everything is old.
It has always been here. Physics tells us that a closed system, like our universe, will always have the exact same amount of energy. Further, we know it has been expanding for somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 billion years…containing the same amount of stuff. That means, in the first millisecond (about 1/40 of the time it takes you to blink) after creation everything that ever was, is or will be inhabited a tiny—yet rapidly expanding—cosmos.
Everything is arranged.
Matter is simply an organized form of energy, a bunch of atoms that slowed down enough to appear solid…to appear solid. This “everything” is paradoxically made up of “something” and a remarkable amount of “nothing.” Accelerated to the speed of light squared, you’d be millions upon millions of times more powerful than a bolt of lightning.
Everything is connected.
Occasionally, we are reminded of our opus and the scope of our wonderful lives. All is inextricably tied together, molded from an eternal image. What makes you “you” and me “me” is a sliver of the Creator given boundaries. What was timeless is made to play by rules of hours and days it struggles to comprehend. What was boundless is now limited by the reach of clumsy extremities to inches and feet. We fight impatience, feeling somewhere deep down all is within reach yet knowing everything must be put in order.
Everything moves with you.
Toss aside the belief that anything is against you. You are a part of everything! It shifts to accommodate you—what matters is the direction you face. Like an airliner cutting across the sky, the space will be filled behind you. Whether you take off heading east or west, uphill or down, everything will support you. It parts before you and gathers behind you so that you might push forward.
This is the power of everything.
Sometimes, you find something in the middle of nothing.
In the midst of tremendous quiet, you hear a whisper. It’s startling. It’s moving. It’s clear. The plug is in the outlet and the light is blinding. The simplicity is striking and humbling. Strangely, you find comfort with it as you wonder why you didn’t think of it before.
Something finally makes sense.
It’s the gift you’ve been waiting to open, the package you’ve hoped would be delivered. It’s presented to you for the achievement of a purpose. It is energetic and focused, strong and unbreakable. It is an end for a means, a result for your work.
Something is what you live for.
This idea is the seed. Much depends on what you do with it. Will you give it the attention required to grow or ignore it as it withers? Will you choose to help it live grandly or allow it to die silently with its potential?
Something requires you to act.
This is the power of something.
Your brain is always working.
Whether interpreting the millions upon millions of sensations affecting you every second or controlling the movement of your digestive system or contemplating the positions of galaxies, it is impossible to shut off. Death is the only event that will completely close down operations.
You can slow it down.
Sit quietly for a few minutes. Close your eyes. Feel the breath passing in and out your nostrils. Keep at it as long as you can. Even as you do your best to silence everything, your brain still chatters, doesn’t it? It comments on the room temperature, it speaks about the strangeness of your current activity, it meanders into future errands or past happenings.
You’re waiting for nothing.
Doing this exercise, shifting your brain into another gear, is how you get “there.” It’s a silent meadow, where thoughts flutter in like butterflies, only to flit away without any judgment whatsoever. This place and time is really neither. The absence of “good” or “bad” yields the presence of is. Each idea is. Each feeling is. Each moment is.
This is how things change.
Like an old damn giving way, history breaks through. It is seen differently, with more compassion and even reverence. It is a root experience that, when necessary, is tilled from the garden. Anger last minutes instead of hours. Disappointments fade in hours instead of days.
This is the power of nothing.
Yesterday, I gave you four words from John Wooden that I believe have led people to think misery is normal:
“Most jobs aren’t glamorous.”
My mind took an unexpected turn in the process and I ended up missing the point I wanted to make. Today I’m going to give you the six words I meant to:
“…but yours should be to you.”
Mr. Wooden is correct, the variety of occupations out there means most people will be something other than a movie star or professional athlete. However, the idea that our work has to bring fame or fortune is a misguided conception of prestige.
Instead of measuring the “glamor” in our lives by the number of paparazzi behind us, let’s tip the scales in favor of enjoyment and passion.
Which sounds more appealing, being in the public fishbowl all the time or coming home to your family feeling you’ve done something worthwhile? Would you rather be fatigued by the emotional toxicity of your environment or worn out from the amount of your soul you put into your day?
Most of us go into a field because of things like “return on investment,” thinking the money spent in college will be worth it because the pay can be great. We set aside “childish fascinations” to be sure we can handle “adult responsibilities.”
Think about this: Who seems to be having the most fun? Is it the guy that remembers wanting to be an engineer since he was six or the woman that decided to enter the field because there was a better chance she’d get a job? Do you think Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey fell into their careers based on how much they would earn?
The old saying goes: “Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
It’s a lie…but what other than love could make you really work like that?
“Most jobs aren’t glamorous.”
Those four words have bounced through my head several times during the last few weeks. I noticed them as I scanned a collection of notes for The Essential Wooden by one of my favorite leaders, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
Though this phrase was in reference to team building and helping each person understand his or her role, it has been little comfort in this era of my life. As tears of frustration and disconnection well up in my eyes, feeling as though I just have to do something to make money angers me.
I am dissatisfied with the idea that work should be a passionless means to an end, a way to gather money eight hours a day and then snap the day’s stress into my briefcase for the ride home. The idea that misery with monetary benefit is how I should spend a third of my weekdays turns my stomach.
I have tired of feeling guilty for desiring to be different and silently apologizing for going against the flow into cubicle hell. I have a seething disdain for the idea each of us is here to survive life and wistfully hope for something better, to dream of a time in the past where a different decision would have made for a positive experience.
I have chosen to believe differently.
Instead of strapping into a chair and filling out TPS reports in the hopes my 401(k) will last me from 65 until I die, I’m pursuing me. I’m loosening the shackles of old expectations, shedding the weight of old thoughts that pushed me toward delusions of money and grandeur. I must die knowing I lived and, though I may be far from what I’m made to do for this day, endeavor each morning to take another step closer to my purpose, my dream and my service to God.
So, I’ve chosen to do my damnedest to remember this next time my brain reels at the thought of a shift at the office supply store or teaching a class just for the money.
“…we are all given a certain potential unique to each one of us. Our first responsibility is to make the utmost effort to bring forth that potential in service to our team.”
Step into the game. We’re all on the same team.
How did I come to this?
I’ve been asking myself all day. I stood through three hours of “training” at an office supply store, staring between the assistant manager’s eyebrows to make it seem like I was paying deep attention instead of half-listening. My mind was unfocused and I found myself completely unable to tear it away from the question.
I know the reason.
I made poor choices. I chased money and popularity. I spent like I was rich. I thought I had to have titles and prestige.
I was wrong.
It is tough to learn these lessons, to face the ghosts of my past with an unarmed heart. I lived in fear. I waited for the worst to happen…and did all I could—consciously or unconsciously—to see that it did.
Sometimes I look at the clothes and boxes of books in my closet wondering how far I could be by morning.
I go through periods where I’d rather just take off. I’m within millimeters of grabbing what I can and going, radically changing my environment and shedding the vestiges of the man I am here.
I’ve come to the end of what I was and, in a few weeks, will take a larger step to being what I am.
The immutable power of your life is choice.
From second to second, you are selecting one option from another. More often than not, this based on your operating system. Your brain’s Windows 7 (or OS X, for you Mac users) handles a large percentage—some say 96%—of your daily operations.
Built up over years, your “neurological software” filters information to limit your brain’s conscious awareness to a handful of items.
On your computer, the updates you receive from Microsoft or Apple are the culmination of months of work. A problem is identified, then several fixes are attempted by rewriting line after line of code until the best solution is agreed upon. This correction is usually made with a quick download (and occasionally a restart), so the process of change is largely hidden from you. The hours and hours of typing and testing, then retyping and retesting done by a team of well-trained and experienced indivivuals saves you the effort.
Not so when it comes to your life.
If you’ve spent your life taking insults to heart and ignoring praise based on the source—or even your own valuation of your quality or worthiness—you’ve made a decision. Granted, in our youth, our parents and guardians have a large influence on our minds and things were shaped without our conscious control.
You’re an adult now.
Exercise your right to choose what you internalize and pursue, what you accept and discard. You may have to update your software and evaluate all the commands deep in your brain. It’s necessary. Shifting line after line of these calculations will give you different results.
It’s necessary. Do the work. Take the time.
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We’re all going to die.
Day by day, we move through our tasks focused on what must be done more often than the larger context of what we’re doing. We trade a sense of meaning for a myopic view of crunching numbers or approaching deadlines.
Periodically we are given shocks to our mortality. Tragedy befalls someone publicly or, more frequently, the time comes for a person we are connected to. In the latter case, the stains of sadness linger in our lives longer.
My phone lit up with it’s characteristic “brrrring” signalling the arrival of a text message around 7am Monday. I learned through half-opened eyes that a family friend had passed away at the age of 94 after battling multiple ailments over the last few years, particularly prostate cancer.
I last saw him briefly on Christmas Eve, the first time in quite a while. Gone was the characteristic energy in his voice, clouded by the fog of a mind that’s edge had been dulled. We each wrapped an arm around the other, as always, and exchanged affectionate words for a minute before I headed out into the cold air to pull my car up to the door to pick up my mother.
His kindness and encouragement will remain fond memories, particularly the way he said “How you doin’, guy?” as he shook my hand at holiday gatherings…which inevitably led to us sitting together for a few minutes discussing all the happenings since our last meeting.
I wrote my cousin a brief email to express my condolences. This was not our shared grandfather, though I count the man as part of my extended family. My cousin replied:
“He seemed to have a positive influence on everyone he met and I’m glad that you had the opportunity to be around him.”
We should all live that our eulogies may be written so.
Last Thursday morning, I was called to deliver some items to her hospital room so her brief stay for a routine procedure would be more comfortable. My grandmother had a severe stroke in July of 2008 that robbed her of the ability to use her left arm and leg. Over the last 18+ months, her mind has oscillated between clarity and confusion, punctuated by spells of visits from her mother, husband and others who have passed on.
I sat beside the bed and gently rubbed her hand. We discussed the weather, my job search and her concerns about my youngest brother’s first child. As I stood to leave, I kissed her on the head and told her I loved her. She strained to return the affectionate words and unintentionally reminded me how much I have changed:
“I am,” I said reflexively with a grateful smile. It struck me how good it felt to speak that truth and, in doing so, to realize how far I’ve come for it to be more than a hollow statement to allay someone else’s worries. As I made my way home, I went over the keys to this shift.
Make the decision.
Yes, being happy starts with a choice. As a matter of fact, everything does. It’s just a matter of whether you do so by willful intention or unconscious commission. The knock-on effect of your selections leads to your circumstances.
Paying your bills or raising your children isn’t made any easier—or more effective—by worrying. Be mindful of the possibilities within your control instead of blissfully ignorant of—or crushed under—a situation’s gravity. Understand what you can do instead of focusing on what you can’t.
Practice active hopefulness.
The growing popularity of The Secret has misled some that things fall together with a good dose of positive mental attitude. While mindset is important, the key is to realize your active role in your life. Don’t sit in traffic and hope cars miss you.
In the beginning, you’ll do small stuff. Maybe you’ll read books or seek out an education of some kind. Perhaps you’ll focus primarily on keeping your frame of mind right at first. These steps will probably seem inconsequential, but so does that first bit of snow that causes an avalanche.
Take a minute to think. What can you do today to get the ball rolling?