Examining Time & Calendars

"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."
- Marcus Aurelius

As I get older & older & older (I now considering myself, as C.S. Lewis referred to himself, an 'Oldster') time seems to pass faster & faster & faster each and every day, each and every year.

I sit and sift through this often. Is it real? Is it simply perception? Is there more to be done these days? Or am I simply more aware of things & activities going on? Am I pulled more ways due to varied interests or am I simply chasing distractions to avoid myself? There are real, deep questions one has to ask when you start to examine your days.

Time passes, mornings gone, days finished, weeks spent, months gone. As I examine my life and habits and routines and activities, how I spend my days, like the Annie Dillard quote, is of course, how I spend my life. As I audit and review the ways I allocate my minutes, hours and days I find myself pleased with the direction of my life, the trajectory of my focus, the extrapolation of the ways I live.

There just doesn't seem to be the time to get it all done. As I unpack that and look at that statement, I'm constantly torn in the tension of reality versus rationalized perception.

I can't imagine these days, as I did for so long, what my life would look like if I tried to fit in a 50-60 hour work week into all of that. As it's done before, I feel it would only drive me to the brink of insanity, emotional bankruptcy, and soul-crushing depression. 

I was recently offered an opportunity to go back to work full-time, and while in a worldly sense, this makes complete sense, in the soul-development, peace-of-mind sense it makes absolutely none. I said no. With grace. And humility. With appreciation and honesty.

I was having a conversation with a friend earlier today and referenced how, for me at least, it seems like my emotional, physical & spiritual well-being is nearly a full-time job in and of itself. Not like I do it 9-5 every day, but that as I blend in work, clients, projects, school, community, service, and relationships into the mixture of my life, I often find that my own space, time, retreat and rest are the opportunity cost of a fuller life. 

And I know this isn't healthy. And it isn't sustainable. I'm outgoing. But I'm a hermit. I'm friendly, but also manically introverted. I'm able to run hard, do a bunch of stuff and fill my calendar with appointments and activities, but also absolutely must hold tight my space for rest & renewal. Without it, I'm a mess. Sometimes quickly, but often slowly and evading my awareness, it occurs. And then I crash, it's not pretty.

In The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen wrote: "God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well [...] your way of being present to your community may require times of absence, prayer, writing or solitude. These too are times for your community [...] This does not mean that you are selfish, abnormal, or unfit for community life. It means that your way of being present to your people necessitates personal nurturing of a special kind. Do not be afraid to ask for these things."

I read this and ponder this conundrum to be in my life that for me to be there, to be effective, to be fully present, to be balanced, to be healthy, to be available for others, I must maintain and keep space in my life for quiet, rest & solitude. 

For the longest time, when I didn't and couldn't look within, I saw this as a hindrance to my ability to be present in this world for others. Today, I understand the deeper ways my mind, body & spiritual connection work in my life internal and my relationships with others. 

Today, I hold tight to the time to keep whole and ask the universe, God & others in my life to allow me space to best love, serve & be with them.

There is so much to do, both out there and inside my mind & heart, I so often wish I could do it all. Today, I'm contented & confident in my ability to ask for and hold tight to the quiet times of rest & solitude.

There is no time problem, there are only choices. There is no busy, there are only priorities. There is no procrastination, there is only sloth. There are no excuses, because the rationalizations don't hold water.

Seasons, the slow & the go

Just like the leaves of an Aspen turning to gold, the arrival of the first buds of spring alongside and the start of morning chirping of songbirds signifies changing season, so to are the subtilties of our indicators.

There are seasons of rest, seasons of bustle. We experience seasons of pain & seasons of joy. Just like nature's seasons come & go amid constant change and transition, so to do our lives.

I'm in another one of them transitions, from a year focused primarily on rest, relaxation & personal introspection to one of focus and clarity and growth.

The season of ideas and dreaming and simply being is slowly fading into to a season of execution and action and inspiration.

I've sat. I've prayed. I've quieted. Now I'm eagerly anticipating a season of go, of do, of execution.

Last year I attended World Domination Summit just after I left my last career gig to strike out on my own (again), It's been one of the best years of my life since my childhood. I've played, I've rested, I've explored, I've read, I've served, I've grown, I've been focused on self-exploration & discovery of what matters to me.

This week, I'll return for my second year with a better understanding of how the event works.  I'm looking forward to the inspiration, to pushing myself through personal boundaries, deep connections & conversations.

If you see me, say hi. I can't wait to meet new friends.

The Simplicity of Relaxation

For a long time I didn't take the time to slow down and appreciate life. I rushed, I strived, I sought, I thought that I was what I did, the achievements I either accomplished or failed to complete. The resulting internal conflict drove me nuts. I broke. I crashed.

Today, I reflect upon life and meaning and purpose and impact amid simple and quiet pursuits - days without clocks and emails and back-to-back meetings. I seek sunrises & sunsets, nights spent under the stars and meals cooked by campfires. My metrics have changed, my focus refined.

It's a quiet, simple life today with a peace that surpasses all understanding. 

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

— Socrates

One Year Later

It's now been one year since I quit my job. I had a good job. Made decent money. Had lots of perks. But I was miserable. I had the things the world said you get and you'll be happy.

Now, I'm still deeply in the process of finding my way. The journey, however, continues to reveal itself to me and to surprise me.

The places I get to go and the things I get to do I'll take over the money I made my illusions of success that I'd achieved at the time.

I've been on this sort of on-again, off-again career path for a while. I've had great jobs and left them after going through another revolution in what is a cycle for me, I left there again. Although this time, I did it with integrity & honesty. Straightforwardness & humility.

Nowadays, I spend my time leisurely, intentionally & quietly. A year ago when I left, I'd come up with a list of things I wanted my days to include. And for the most part, they do today.

- leisurely pace
- space for exercise, healthy eating & rest
- more nights spent sleeping outside
- space for volunteerism & availability for friends & family

I get the question often, 'so how do you pay the bills,' to which I usually respond 'I do a bunch of stuff' the details of which people aren't really interested in. If you are, we can talk about that. With today's technology and workforce evolution, there's never been greater opportunities to do things differently.

What I basically tell people is that I write, work remotely in customer service, work with clients on marketing & communications needs and pretty much just do whatever it comes before me. I look for opportunities and am open to things that come my way. I don't strive today. I don't struggle and force. I try to let go of conceptions of what my career is, has been and will become.

I try to focus more on my service and helpfulness to others, simply do the work in front of me, think creatively and lean on faith. Lots of faith.

On the Deschutes

On the Deschutes

These days...

I've been doing a lot lately. And while I'm not a particular busy guy, but rather someone that tends to prioritize a gentle to the days, my life's been intentionally full recently.  

I've been traveling. I've been writing. I've been pitching. I've been preparing. I've been planning. Some projects are coming together, while some new ones are percolating. It's been a month of hustle, with some nature, some quiet, and many early mornings of peaceful reflection.

This month I've spent nearly three weeks out of town, leading me to be reminded how lovely it is to have a comfortable, quiet home base. Sometimes when I'm home, I wish I was soaking up a forest. Then when I'm gazing at the mountains watching fish rise to chase flies, I miss the comforts of home. 

If anything, this past month reinforced an appreciation for truly being in the moment and staying in the present wherever I am. There is a time for home and a time for travel. There is a time for go and a time to be.

But upon reflection the past few sunny days, I've come to really appreciate and acknowledge the simple sounds of the songs birds that abound. Late spring in the northwest finally allows for doors and windows open near round-the-clock, so I've been keeping the sounds down, music off, podcasts on pause to hear the soundtrack of the coming season I love so much.

And while I get out year-round for adventure, soon ll be camping, running, hiking to the vibrant background of blue skies, puffy piles of cumulus clouds and thick green forests. I'll swap tacky wet flip flops for dusty dry desert toes and soon I'll sleep under the stars and wake to the gentle ballads of birds I don't know.

Summer's are special for me; my favorite season. For a long time, I worked right through them. This year, I'll make the most of every moment whether I'm here or there amd be fully at peace with the song bird's lullabies.

 

There are many ways

So, it's been a minute. And I just thought now would be a good time to talk about why. And work-life balance. And nature. And words. And dreams.

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't written here in over a month. And it's not even for due to my lack of writing, of which I've done more in the past few weeks than in a long time, but we'll get to that. 

I often struggle with what to write, what to create, what opportunity to pursue. As I look at the general direction my life is taking me today, the exact bearing is becoming a little more clear.

As I approach the one-year mark since I left my full-time job in non-profit marketing & communications, I've been reflecting on the transition and where I'm headed.

Here's what I've been doing: writing, hiking, running, meeting, sleeping, resting, sitting, napping, sleeping, reading & reflecting. And healing. Lots of healing.

In my experience, however, the answers don't come nearly as quickly as I'd like them to most of the time. But, I'm hopeful, and especially inspired by Ranier Maria Rilke's Letter's To a Young Poet:

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I want to ask you, as best I can, dear sir, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to have love for the questions themselves, like locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Do not seek out the answers now, which cannot be given to you because you cannot live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then, without noticing it, you will gradually come, on some far-off day, to live your way into the answer.
— Rilke

But see, for me, that's not my natural inclination. I want to know where we're going and I want to know now. I don't focus naturally on the seeking & the questions, I look for the answers and the resolutions.

But, I've been trying. So what have I been doing: I've been spending time in rest, solitude & silence, and reflection. I spent four days in a fire lookout tower recently by myself, getting quiet. I enjoy nature. I hike trails. Run miles. Wake early. Sit often. I get quiet. I read (join me on the FB's). And simply ask questions & seek. I seek & I search. My life is slow & simple (really, I mean just wait till I talk about food someday). It's peaceful & my heart is open.

And to that end, I've been writing often. And in a great variety of modes & mediums. I've been writing letters (like the kind with stamps) and notes, and words of thankfulness & appreciation. Random emails. Journaling & reflection upon what I've been reading. And have added a new discipline - Julia Cameron's Morning Pages method (based off of her best-seller The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity)...lots and lots of words. Words for my soul, from my soul. Words to inspire & encourage others from my heart. Words, words, words...that haven't made it here, but I'm coming to believe that there are many methods for many means.

So, all this to say, for anybody struggling with the direction of your life, take heed & know that there are many paths, not just one way. You do not have to do what everyone else is doing. If you're miserable, make some changes. Today unlike any other time in history, I believe, are all things possible with a little courage & hope. There is no wrong way; only your way. Follow the way of the Spirit that leads to all things good, abundant & fulfilling. I chased for a long time, but now I simply move forward with perseverance & faith.

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Praise & Blame

Do you every ponder why we can often be so subject to the opinions of others? In a world full of emptiness and suffering, it seems external validations often give us our only quantifiable sense of worth.

It may be a paycheck, it may be our boss's compliments, it may be an award, it could be a promotion or it could be applause. Conversely, it can be condemnation or online trolling. It can take shape as gossip and shunning, or love & respect.

The Buddha had quite a different perspective, that I try to remind myself of regularly. In my attempt to navigate a new world beyond a typical 'job' where I live a life of simplicity, space, art and service, the quantifiables as are often just not there. I don't have a boss. I don't get a paycheck on the 1st & 15th. I don't have annual performance reviews. 

What I do have is simply the work. I have the creations. I have the opportunities. I have the impacts. I have the fulfillment. I have the availability. I have the energy for others. I have the ability to help. I have the freedom to adventure, both in nature and within myself. I have the ability to leave town on a moment's notice.I have options unlike ever before. 

Develop the mind of equilibrium. You will always be getting praise and blame, but do not let either affect the poise of the mind: Follow the calmness, the absence of pride
— Buddha

While mostly not monetary, the metrics I use to measure my life today have lead to deep peace, quiet & harmony with the world around me, while not being so subject to the praise and blame of others. 

And I guess I can quantify that as good for something.

No Silence Like Snow Silence

I recently spent a night of solitude & silence amid the snow-covered fir trees surrounding Clear Lake, located in Oregon's Mt Hood National Forest.

Silence speaks to me in a way that provides the clarity, focus, strength & perspective that it takes to function in this noisy, chaotic, fast-paced world.

Not too long ago, while standing on my back patio, I simultaneously heard a car alarm blaring and ambulance sirens. I realized then that I could never live in a city. And I'm definitely not in the 'city.' The overlapping levels of noise poked and stirred at something inside me that made me dive deeply within to reflect on my need for silence.

If one takes the time to think about it, there are not a lot of moments of true, full silence in our world. Retreating to a place of silence provides me the awareness to hear. However, what I truly seek is the ability & spiritual development to bring the feelings of being surrounded by the silence to the noise of my daily life.

I found that. I found it deep in the forest. I found it next to a deeply frozen lake. I found in down a trail with no people. In a place with no modern comforts. 

The night provided the rejuvenation I needed, just for the moment that I carry with me into many more.

Often times, people will ask me, "you're going all by yourself?" when I tell them where I'm going or what I'm doing, to which I answer emphatically yes!! Won't you get lonely? Yes, at times. Won't you be afraid? Sometimes, when the animals lurk around my tent. But even more so, my soul stirs deeply desiring the silence that I trek into the unknown.

As I crawled into my tent, the wind whipped. As I awoke, the sound of snowflakes landing softly on my tent and quiet chirps of some birds welcomed me to another day.

I wondered what they ate in this frozen terrain. I wondered how they slept and kept warm and alive. I wondered where they went and what they explored. And then I realized that these were quite possibly questions that some may wonder of me.

In the silence, I find strength and peace; it stirs my soul and settles my heart to face the world. 

Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity.
— Novala Takemoto

photo:
Clear Lake
Mt. Hood, Oregon
February 25, 2017

 

 

 

My Work Doesn't Always Look Like Work

Here's a confession - it's been (this time around) about 8 months since I left my job as the Marketing & Communications Director of a 42,000 member sports-industry non-profit.

And it's scary. I still don't have a clear vision of what I'm doing. Not knowing where money's gonna come from (I do some part time remote work & private consulting gigs, along with freelance writing, book projects and photography & videography), but it can be hit and miss, and while some of those pieces pay, some of them don't (yet).

Some are "work" some are not. Sometimes my day is full of helping & serving others. Some days are full of hours & hours in front of computer screens plugging away in between meetings. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of work, my skill sets, my value to others, my passions, my dreams and the confluence of them all. I wonder who else ponders these and considers how they play out in their life. 

I'm currently reading two books that cover these topics pretty thoroughly, Rework (buy now link: http://amzn.to/2kuvFb2) by Jason Fried and the team at 37signals and Adventure in Everything (buy now link: http://amzn.to/2kuHGgV) by Matthew Walker, which both cover the new job/freelance economy and the confluence of vocation, passion & dreams. Rework in particular looks at the future of work, while Adventure in Everything looks at passions, interests and dreams.

vo·ca·tion, vōˈkāSH(ə)n/, noun: a person's employment or main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication.

av·o·ca·tion, ˌavəˈkāSH(ə)n, noun : a hobby or minor occupation.

I also look closely at the alignment of my calling, contribution and maximum impact. I spend time examining what am I best at, where can I be most useful, how my innate abilities & skills fit with my maximum contribution to the lives of others and the betterment of all.

Sure, I have bills and I gotta eat, but I try to be simple. I try to be as intentional as I can. I don't have new cars or big debt payments, I don't eat out much, I live simply and try to buy only what I need.

I've placed a priority on freedom & flexibility in my life. I'm emphasizing adventure and time in the outdoors. I'm focused on helping others. I'm striving to become a better man. 

Everything I do - whether camp or fish or SAR or pray or meditate or learn or read or reflect or travel or daydream - becomes a picture and a dream for a story yet unwritten and yet untold.

The books I'm writing haven't seen a word put to paper, but the experiences, the mental pictures and the perspectives are starting to come together to create a slew of stories that now simply need to be woven together.

Resistance & fear often stop me from starting, but awareness, space, quiet and reflection are guiding an overwhelming pain that can only be overcome by simply doing, by creating & writing. When the resistance has it's hold, it can only be overcome by action & practice.

I'm on the path, I'm following the way...but here's another thing about me - I've never applied for a job I haven't been hired for. I've found jobs, I've created careers, I've dreamed opportunities. I've focused on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to work. I've differentiated myself in the value I bring to the point where I've been able to obtain any job I set my sights on. I don't say this to boast, but rather to illustrate the temptation of simply doing an about-face and just getting another job. Work is easy. Jobs come & go. Meaning & purpose is deeper and harder found.

I could probably go out tomorrow and find a job, get a paycheck and be moderately contented with what I do for a while, until that feeling arose within me (again) and it was time to strike out and do my own thing (again). And if one judges success on material, worldly things, getting a job and having new stuff and driving new cars, while stockpiling money in the bank would appear the path to take.

But this time, the ultimate objective and goal in front of me is to focus my effort toward inward reflection focused on my purpose, contribution, impact and passions to figure out how they come together amid my everyday adventures and work.

For many people, there's a distinct difference between vocation & avocation. For me, I don't see why they cannot thrive harmoniously together in an adventure-filled walk along a path of purpose & impact.

So if you think about it, just going out and getting a job would be a simple easy way to avoid the hard work of self-discovery of who I am and who I'm meant to be and what my role in this world is.

But, through experience, I know that ultimately wouldn't be fulfilling because from where my heart sits today purpose, meaning, impact and contribution are the only things that are.