Monthly Archives: August 2013

On Spinning My Wheels & Grinding My Gears or A Tale Of Raising My Standards

Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.
Anthony Robbins

Every single wildly successful transformational/motivational/spiritual speaker/author/minister has a story to tell about that awful time in their lives when they were homeless, sleeping in an alley/bus-stop/car/empty field, washing their clothes in a Denny’s bathroom or their hair with the 7-Eleven soda machine. They were either cracked out, drunk, disorderly, abused and rejected, or sober, but fat, sick and utterly despondent.  I can relate to this as I am working my way back from one of these, and no, I have never washed my hair at 7-Eleven.

They describe this moment as a time when their lives were so broken, there appeared no farther to fall; they, we, I, had bottomed out. The next stop on this journey into the dark abyss was surely death … in fact, in these stories, something always does seem to die in the car, on the doorsteps of the homes they’ve just been evicted from, in that Denny’s bathroom at 4:00 A.M., or on that fifth trip thru the buffet line: our former selves who’ve embraced extremely low standards — or no standards — for our lives. That low-standard self has to die in the fire of transformation so a new self can be born, one with the fierce determination to say, “No more! My life is bullshit! I now insist on entirely new standards for myself!”

Skip ahead a few years and they’re living in the home of their wildest dreams, married to their soul mate, acting as principal spiritual adviser to Oprah and serving as general champion for humanity across the globe. It’s a beautiful story, one I’m sure is often mostly true.

Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.
Gerard Way

Fortunately, none of us have to be homeless to experience authentic transformation. You don’t have to lose your family and sleep in the bus station to get that the life you’ve been living isn’t working and begin creating real change. You might have to experience being destitute in spirit; however, in the sense that you’ve finally and completely lost all hope that your current life strategies will ever work to make you authentically happy.  To put it simply, you know you’re ready for change when you just can’t fucking take it anymore.

Yes my friends, the choice is ours.

If something in your life genuinely isn’t working for you, and hasn’t been for a long time, and you tolerate it, then you clearly haven’t had your AHA moment. You’re trying to make your low-standards comfortable. Every minute you let it persist, you’re deciding you can take more, hurt more, fail more, fall farther, suffer deeper – ultimately, you’re OK with bottoming out.

I quoted Tony Robbins earlier; he says his AHA moment did not come when he slept in a car, which he did, but a few years later when he held an eviction notice in his sober but big, fat, junk-food grubbing hands in a tiny apartment.

You’ll know when you finally hit your ultimate AHA moment because your whole body will come alive and say, “No More!!” … but with much more colorful language and absolutely with a conviction that ensures life will never again look the same for you.

You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity.
Stephen Levine

I believe too many of us have settled for low standards in life therefore we don’t achieve all we can. Many people don’t dream big because they think it’s unrealistic. So they only expect to have an average life and average life they get.  Also we’re spoon early on that being poor is noble, good — Godly even.  Look at The Waltons, Titanic & Little House on the Prairie – the well to do people are presented as unhappy, mean and godless so if you want to be happy be poor and have dreams, but just don’t dream too big.

Settling for second best should never be anyone’s goal. Everyone can and is entitled to get only the best, yet because most people don’t raise their standards, they keep experiencing average in their lives.

Raising standards means refusing to accept something that is not what you want. That should by no means be interpreted as pushing against that which you don’t want, because that will keep you stuck forever. It only means that you no longer agree to tolerate something that you’re not satisfied with and you focus on and demand better conditions. It means burning bridges to distance yourself from the average life and reaching for the better life.

  • Raising standards means distancing yourself from the people you no longer resonate with and being open to more enriching relationships.
  • Raising standards means quitting your job and focusing on that start-up you’ve always dreamed of.
  • Raising standards means moving out of the environment you never liked and having courage to move into much more pleasant surroundings.
  • Raising standards means refusing to live an average life.

Ask yourself where in your life you allow yourself to be limited by your standards:

  • Are you fearful when the next bill arrives?
  • Do you give up when some difficulty presents itself?
  • Are you letting other people decide how you live your life?
  • Are you accepting your situation and doing nothing to change it even if it’s not what you really want?
  • Are you in a relationship with a person who does not support and accept you?
  • Are you settling for less for fear of the unknown? 

I’m changing slowly day-by-day; I take new actions and raising the bar for myself daily. There are some great things happening in my life and it all started from making a new decision, setting a new standard and living that standard every day.

So – tell me, how can you set a new standard today?

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On The Place With No Name or A Tale Of the Lonely Blogger

I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress.

Diana Vreeland

I love Lucy.  I can watch Lucy reruns for hours.  One of my favorites is an episode from season 2, Lucy’s Last Birthday.  In this episode it seems that everyone has forgotten Lucy’s birthday, she becomes depressed and wanders around town. She meets the “Friends of the Friendless” in the park, and joins the ranks of the unhappy mob.  I understand Lucy’s emotions for more often than not, I feel friendless and alone. 

I make light of it often telling people I enjoy being alone, but the truth is it bothers me that I spend so much time alone, lonely.  I don’t let this loneliness keep me back.  I see movies, concerts and plays, I enjoy a cocktail or three at happy hour,  I visit museums, I dine on wonderful meals, and more often than not it is alone.  ALONE.  Honestly, I’m tired of doing all these great things alone.

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway made this statement recently while being interviewed, but it isn’t a rare sentiment. I’ve heard this from many people.  It could be a sign of our digital age as we are connected to more people, but in reality are less connected to everyone. It could be a sign of the selfishness and self-centeredness of our culture. It could even be a sign of the “aimlessness” of our society. I am not sure what all the contributing factors are, but I do know that this is a reality in the lives of many people..

Recent US data studied by John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, found that almost a quarter of people today are plagued by frequent loneliness, regardless of gender, race, or education levels. A 2010 AARP survey found that of the people age 45 and up who participated in their study, 35% reported chronic loneliness compared with 20% ten years ago.

This trend reflects the fact that increasing numbers of people are living alone, added to the decrease in people joining groups and organizations that in the past fostered a sense of community. Robert Putnam, Ph.D. from Harvard (Bowling Alone, 2001), puts the blame on the long-term decline in Americans’ civic engagement. Boomers and those younger have been less likely to join churches or other groups that supported feelings of belonging to something meaningful. The fact that a person has hundreds if not thousands of “friends” on Facebook can actually make loneliness worse, because we seem to need to be in the presence of each others’ bodies.

I never thought at this point in my life I find myself to be part of this trend.  Part of another downward spiral.

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody”

Mother Theresa

Admitting to being lonely is not easy.  Loneliness is an issue that undoubtedly has a stigma attached to it. When you admit to being lonely people wonder what’s wrong with you.  Why can’t you make friends?  Well, I have friends; I have amazing friends.  But they seem to forget about me.  Others are scattered around the world, or married or homebodies.  So, there is nothing wrong with me thank you very much, well other than being lonely.  Yes, admitting to being lonely is not easy.

Admitting to loneliness is admitting to feeling vulnerable, which is a sign of weakness, and ‘real’ men are not weak and most certainly don’t whine and go on about it, even if they are lonely.

As I get older I find it harder to meet people. I just don’t know how to go about it anymore. My social skills are good; I work to engage people & I AM interested in what people have to say & who they are. I want to meet people, make new friends, and date, but at times I really feel inept.

At one point the loneliness just overwhelmed me. I was walking down the avenue one night. As I was passing by a busy restaurant, I looked in the window and saw so many people at quiet, intimate tables sharing smiles and conversations.

Suddenly I just couldn’t take it any longer. My mind became flooded with all of these thoughts like “Why is it never me in there with someone else?” “Why am I always alone? Is there something wrong with me?”  It all just seemed so futile. What was the point of living if I didn’t have anyone to share my life with?

It’s not my proudest moment, and when it happened I felt ashamed of my feelings. That was likely one of my lowest moments in my life, at least when it comes to loneliness.

What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to bear.

Dag Hammarskjold

Readers of this blog will know I’m an emotional eater.  Because we’re basically social animals, we require meaningful connections, and these are often sorely lacking in emotional eaters. As I remain socially isolated which is not a natural state of being, I turn to food when I feel lonely. When going thru intense periods of being lonely I’m inclined to use food to self-medicate. It is these times that I feel the powerlessness I have with food the most.  Perhaps loneliness is the body’s way of informing us to seek company.

Writing this blog — admitting to the loneliness I feel was not easy.  I hope by expressing my feelings of loneliness, I can contribute to others being willing to discuss their thoughts on loneliness and other issues and not feel trapped by stigmas, perceptions and stereotypes.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On In Chaos, There is Fertility or A Tale of Today Being the Day I Turn Things Around

“In chaos, there is fertility.”

Anais Nin

“How did I get to this point?”  This question pulses through my brain daily.

Some days I’m done. I have nothing left to give. How did I get here?

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

With eternal gratitude to Ernest Hemingway, three simple words so summarize how I ended up in a situation I didn’t want or expect.

“How did you go bankrupt?”

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises)

It happened so gradually, almost imperceptibly. And then suddenly, unequivocally, shockingly, I had suffered my fall, my breakdown.

Looking back, I can see that I had willingly immersed myself in anxiety, perfectionism, comparisons, sleep-deprivation, a lack of mindfulness, poor health, and pride.  Gradually, these things took their toll — until suddenly I found myself in a dark and frightening place.

This gradual, then sudden decline is not reserved for dramatic breakdowns. It’s not reserved for high-achievers, or emotionally sensitive people. Trust me, this place I find myself in is open to us all.

We each face sudden declines. Moments where we realize what we’ve been neglecting, treating poorly, or taking for granted. It could be:

Weight/Health – the moment we step on the scales, try to walk three flights of stairs, or look at a recent photo.

Addictions – the moment we realize we cannot cut ties to a substance, an emotion, spending, sex, or a person.

Debt – the moment we are brave enough to look at our credit card statement, answer the debt collector’s phone call, or realize we’re living beyond our means.

Clutter – the moment we realize how materialistic we’ve become, how much money has been spent on stuff, or how entitled we’ve become.

Time – the moment we realize we’ve watched more than sixty days of television in a year, the months are passing with little to show for it, or the reflection in the mirror is ten years older than we remember.

Relationships – the moment we realize we haven’t spoken to our best friend in months, seen our grandmother since Christmas, played Candy Land with our kids, or told our loved ones we do love them.

Either we’ve stopped paying attention to what’s important, or we’ve decided that not knowing the truth of our situation is preferable to seeing the reality.

Fortunately for us, there will come a moment when things snap back into focus. And that moment will build gradually and arrive suddenly, leaving us reeling.  Believe it or not, this is a blessing.

I have discovered just like the decline, the ascent will be gradual, then sudden.

I’m working now to turn things around; it’s much harder than you would suspect. I am happier, healthier, more engaged, and more content than I have been in quite some time, but I have so far to go. As I realize more and more my life had been one big, precarious balancing act, I begin to see what is and is not important.

I’m taking the time to work out what truly matters. I try to remove the expectations, the comparisons and the “I deserve more from life” thoughts.  As I do it becomes simpler to see what my priorities need to be:  my family, love, creativity, health, spirituality, joy and beauty, and most importantly, making the time, space, and energy to experience each of these fully.

Initially, embracing the mindfulness I’d been reading and studying and paying lip service to for years and really engaging with my family, friends, and life was terrifying. What if I’m lacking? What if I don’t like what I see? What if you/them/they don’t like what you/they saw? (Does anyone really get to a place where are they free from caring about what others don’t like that they see in you? Yes, but it’s hard)

I’m discovering there is so much more to experience in life by practicing mindfulness — taking the time to engage in fierce and real conversations (these are best with Tim Jopek), to notice the exact shade of lavender in a sunset, to discern the subtleties in different varieties of basil, to be completely in the moment. There is depth and joy right there.

I long neglected my own health — both physical and mental. But as I start my ascent I begin to see huge benefits to time spent on myself.

Meditation, chanting, time spent alone, studying, eating clean foods, sleeping more, exercising regularly, rising early—these changes all are assisting my ascent.

When you are unwell or in poor health, you can’t fully engage with those people and things that matter. Too much of your energy will go towards simply getting through the day. So ask yourself, “What is one thing I can change today that will help improve my health?”  For me the answer is moving.  Moving more will improve my health and well-being.

Learning to be content with my circumstance is helping me live a far more meaningful life since my fall. Finding contentment has brought peace and gratitude and happiness, where for years there had been none.

I no longer feel like I deserve more from life without working for it. I know I can work towards goals and dreams—and I do, every day—but I no longer feel entitled to them. It’s incredibly liberating.

If you can find contentment in life where you are right now, the pressure, the anxiety, and the stress of needing to be more simply disappears, leaving you free to actually pursue your goals and dreams from a place of peace and acceptance and tranquility.

If you find yourself needing to turn things around make today the day you turn things around. Or will you wait for the sudden realization that you have arrived at a place you didn’t want or expect to be?  If there is one thing I can impart to you thru this blog it is don’t wait until it is too late to make those changes.

The beauty of it is, you don’t have to wait—you can choose to turn it around today.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!