In the weeds

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since I was moving off of my old farm onto a rented farm in a different town. It was a transitional time in so many ways and it was hard to keep my ship headed in the right direction because of the dense fog. I was focused, but scattered. I felt strong, but also vulnerable. I knew change was a healthy thing, but I still felt fear. I was living in two places at once with animals to take care of at both places. My thoughts were traveling in circles, and my perspective was out of whack. It’s hard to remember how that felt, or maybe I just don’t want to

Perspective. Being able to see the circumstances we find ourselves in for what they really are. Taking steps backwards to get a bigger picture, or finding a new angle that provides a different viewpoint. When you are in the middle of things, your feelings are king. When I was a chef there was a phrase “in the weeds” that meant, overall, that you were working at full capacity and beyond, as tickets piled up and stovetops were full of sizzling hot pans. Essentially it meant you were in total chaos that was somehow under a tiny bit of control. At those times chefs can feel an adrenaline  rush and clarity of mind, I imagine much like rock climbers or fly fisherman. That focus that you get in intense activities that  is beyond the self. The self becomes the vehicle being driven with total concentration. Sometimes in those moments we lose ourselves and become happy. One with the world. Our problems don’t own us.

In a way, we are all “in the weeds” all the time. We just don’t recognize it as such. As soon as we are born we are in the weeds. Trying to breathe, craving comfort, food, warmth.  It’s pretty damn amazing that we are alive today. When I feel that sense of  wonder, I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude helps remind me that I am going to die at some point, and the grand mystery unfolding all around me is unimaginably beautiful. Somehow we can ignore for hours, days, weeks, years at a time, but in the end, when we look back, I am sure we will hold the times of beauty closest to our hearts. In the end, I want  to be filled with gratitude.

As I watched a violent movie last night I told my girlfriend, in jest, that I had decided not to die. This morning I found one of my newly born piglets cold and dead. Hundreds of thousands of animals will die today, and hundreds will be born. The only thing we truly own is our own bodies and the breathes that we take. One day those breaths will end, and meanwhile I will try to make each one count.

There is no perfect

There is a ton of work to do. We all need real work, work with our hands, work with the sweat of our brows and the strength of our backs, work made with an eye for intricacy and attention to detail. This work nourishes our sense of purpose in the world. We need to find a passion and stick to it.

The flipside of our physical real world work is the work that goes on inside us, in the reasons and impetus behind our physical work. In art, in love, in friendship, in nurturing one thing or another we bring into the world something that wasn’t there before, this love and creativity that makes everything so much better.

Physical things fall apart eventually, everything dies and literally evolves through the bardos of the cosmos. I used to believe in the physical realness of spirituality, but with the glaring absence of any proof that any magical beings exist after my 30 odd years of life,  I do not believe any of that any more. It is all just a bunch of cults trying to take power over your life. I only believe in this universe and what it has to offer. I believe that when we create art or write down words or even decorate a house we are engaging in a dance with life and making the world a better place.

I believe in beauty, the beauty of reality and the beauty of so-called ugliness. The Koine Greek word for beauty was horaios, derived from hora meaning hour. Essentially their concept of beauty was simply “being of one’s hour.” Someone trying to appear older or younger may not be beautiful, and in fact may be a tragic or comedic figure. That concept reminds me of the Japanese wabi sabi idea that I have always been intrigued with. In the same way, Wabi sabi is looking at time as an essential component of beauty. So the smile wrinkles on an old monk’s face are beautiful, as are the cracks in an old wooden post.

Beauty is not separate from time, and time is what creates meaning in our souls. Time reflects beauty onto our minds, and when we look instead toward magical beings or pathological human morality codes instead for meaning we go mad. We except religion because we are afraid of time and mortality. Fear doesn’t create beauty.

I could state simply that I know there is no such thing as a god or the devil. But I don’t really know anything at the end of the day. Perhaps there is, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t.  I don’t know why we seem to need to come up with fantasies when all around us we have beauty dropping on our heads by the ton.

My post is rambling. I could go back, edit, revise, make the prose tighter. But every now and then I realize that the reason I blog is because I enjoy sharing my rambling tangential mind, and there is beauty in the inconsistency and wildness there.

So today do not judge yourself for not being perfect, because there is no such thing.

Let it out

It’s funny how important it is to let go.

I was writing an article about lessons I have learned from my farming life and one of the primary ones is that if you don’t let go of something, it will take you over. This isn’t just about farming, obviously it crosses over into personal life and interpersonal relationships. Hell, it applies to owning cars and running businesses and playing a game or even cooking. I can’t really think of a single thing that doesn’t benefit from an improved ability to let go.

After finishing the article I found myself in a situation where I was having a little bit of a problem letting go.  My mood went to shit, my brain was on a feedback loop, and I wasn’t laughing anymore. Laughing is a good indicator of mental health.

I knew I was a bit on edge and so I just sat with it. I didn’t like where my head was at, but I knew it wold change over time. I waited. I was hoping that some epiphany would pop into my head about my issue and soothe my troubled mind. The next day I did feel like I had a better understanding of the issue. But I could still feel some blockage, I still wasn’t laughing. Finally, when I opened my damn fool mouth and let my thoughts and feelings spill out, I could feel the blockage open up and I could let go.

My point being that sometimes it’s not enough to intellectually understand an issue in order to be able to let go of it, some times all it takes is simply the act of opening up your mouth and sharing your thoughts with another person.

There are other ways to work through an issue and let go that don’t involve analysis, like drawing, cleaning, building, or writing. We forget our bodies and minds need to work together and sometimes we can’t let go until we work it out both mentally and physically. Walking helps me relax my body and reminds me that I am a just a small human being living on this planet. Walking stimulates all of my senses and can help get my brain to stop going in circles, even if I’m only walking in circles.

In a broader sense, we’ve all been grasping and clinging to things since we were babies. As adults, we have to learn to let go. I could sum up Buddhism with one simple phrase, “Let go of all your shit.”

Choose your own adventure

“When everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.” – Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

I hike to live. If there is one thread that holds my life story together, it would most likely be walking. Walking and hiking are essentially the same thing. Hiking can mean walking in boots off the paved trail, but all in all it doesn’t really matter,and what really matters is that one foot is put in front of another foot.

The simple act of movement helps everything become better. It ties us to our ancestors going back into the Paleolithic period when we hunted and gathered in order to stay alive. We only survived because of our movement. In first world countries we are so sedentary that we end up contracting disease and dying because of it. The irony is lost on people who know of no other way of living.

Children go without outdoor play and turn into screen zombies. Adults are not much better. Hiking or walking ties our individual lives to our surroundings, and daily movement through our landscape gives us insight into the patterns of our world.

There is no better knowledge to obtain then that of the patterns of our world and all it’s inhabitants. Our minds try to convince us of our special position as humans on the planet, that we are separate from nature, but every cell in our body thirsts for the connection to the elements that make up our universe.

We;re a people used to total comfort. For 10 seconds attempt to stand outside in a snowstorm. We don’t want to do that . We want to stay in our highly safe human-created bubble worlds. And that will kill us all eventually.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my penchant to walk down the road or hike through the forest. I always take the time to take an amble, and if I don’t do that I feel disconnected, unhealthy, and unfulfilled. It is hard to take a step when we feel sick and disconnected. That first step though is the most important.

I was also thinking about love the other day. What makes some relationships work well for decades and others crash and burn after a couple years? It seems that communication is key, but even more so it seems that the main thing I see in couples that are thriving is a sense of adventure.

In general those couple are both mentally and physically happy and healthy. There is a joy to their partnership that is palpable. Life isn’t some drudgery to get through but an active evolving adventure that stirs them up with passion and enjoyment of life, the joi de vivre that we all should strive for. I have unexpectedly found my partner in this grand life adventure, and every day is alive with possibility.  What’s around the corner? We don’t know but we’re excited to go there.

When comfort shows up we seem to settle for it and then become completely addicted. Hell I see that pattern of behavior in me as I use a dishwasher for the first time. I used to take my hand dishwashing time as a kind of meditation, but now am happy enough to plop the dishes down and go on with other activities in my life. It seems the more time saving devices we have the less time we take to putter. And I think puttering around is key to an enjoyable life.

When we ramble over the landscape we aren’t “doing something productive” but in fact we are doing a multitude of very important things. We are learning about our surrounding world and all the thousands of things that are happening right now, all around us. We are not alone on this planet by any stretch of the imagination, and we are definitely not the most important creature on the planet. A sense of perspective is necessary for a healthy mind to process it’s own life and come up with solutions to problems.

We’re a society that installs rails on every waterfall so nobody gets hurt. Adventures are for the rich or famous, and we are content to watch them on the TV. Oddly we can take adventures almost any time, in any place, and we forego the adventure to do the same old, same old. Repetition is comfort, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But adventure feeds the soul, and in the end that is far more important then the safety of repetition.

I’m not talking about adventures that cost thousand of dollars after flying across the ocean with special gear and so on, I’m talking about taking a walk in a new park, trying out a new sport,  going a on midnight ski, or even something like starting a new hobby. Running a business can be an adventure. Physical fitness can be an adventure, and of course dining out can be fraught with the new and unexpected.

After thinking about my life and all the thousands of walks I have been on, all the thoughts and solutions that have passed through my mind, all the grief and joy I have felt on each of those walks, noting tree leaves changing color or birds taking nest, I see that there is a fundamental choice that we all make every day. Are we going to put one foot in front of the other and see what’s around the bend, or are we going to park our butt in a sofa and be safe? Choosing you own adventure may sound like a cliche, but even so our lives are brief and if we don’t seize the day they may end up empty. Fill up your life with adventure and you’ll fill up your soul with love.

 

 

 

 

Alex Atala on Routine

“My mom loved her dog and thought it was intelligent. However, the dog was only conditioned. Human beings are intelligent, but we are also conditioned! We do way too many things on the automatic mode. Develop the best routines and stick to it.”

“You don’t need to be smart to make money. You need to have plenty of ideas to be smart but you can be stupid and still make a lot of money. The only way to achieve greatness is to do the exact same thing everyday. To achieve perfection you must have the right routine.”

“One of my most famous dishes is Aligot. The recipe is so simple that it could easily be done by a child. But the service is perfect. We turned a simple recipe into an unforgettable experience. One may wonder, “Oh, so the waiter is great!” No he is not. He just has a chef that orders him to practice tirelessly until he masters that skill. Training is the key to success.”

Source

The top 5 apps I used in 2016

A screenshot of Google Fit, a GPS created map of part of my chore routine


In 2016 I used a few apps to keep me on track. Below are the 5 that I used the most and gave me a great return on investment, which was zero dollars. I do live in the Google universe, so it’s not surprising that the majority of my most-used apps are part of that world.

Google Keep

Google Keep turns my phone into my my life organizer. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve read that Keep is kind of the poor man’s version of Evernote, and perhaps one day I will upgrade to that app, but right now Keep has everything I need to stay organized and focused, it’s free, and it has a bunch of nifty features.

There’s a few different types of notes to use: lists, sketches, recordings, and photos. You can add other Keep users as collaborators who can then edit any of these notes. This makes it perfect for to-do lists and grocery lists. You can add color coding to any of these notes, and you can add time or place reminders to any note. So for instance you can add a place reminder to a grocery list that will then remind you what to pick up  when you are near your grocery store.

Lists are definitely my way of keeping focused day to day. Creating a list on this app is easy as pie, and you can check off things on your to-do list as you accomplish them and it will retain a crossed-out item below the active list so you know you accomplished something! I love that – If the items just disappeared there wouldn’t be the same sense of satisfaction.

The drawing note function has plenty of variety in terms of brush and pen points, colors, and thickness. You can draw on photos, and even add lists to drawings or images.

The audio recording tool is awesome to record ideas and thoughts – it creates a text and audio file so you then have a text version of your thought. You can take pics or add pics into your notes for visual inspiration, or you can have Keep use Google’s transcribing tools to grab text from a photo, a great application for grabbing business card info and the like.

Keep syncs up with your email contacts, Google Drive, Calender, and so on, so for me as a Google user it’s a fantastic tool . Can you tell I like it?

Weather Underground

As a farmer I need to know what the weather will be like in a few hours, and I need to know what it will be like for the rest of the week. I like Weather Underground best for my weather prediction needs. They have developed a Wundermap which is an interactive weather map in which you can select different layers of information and where I can track weather patterns in real time for personal micro-weather predicting.  I also love the Forecast Day/Hour/Summary Chart – its the most accurate and detailed weather info I’ve been able to find. This app, like Keep, is a must-have for me.

Google Fit

I like to know how active I’ve been all day. It is also helpful and humorous to check out your the mapping of your daily routine – you can see how efficient or inefficient your working patterns are. Since I’m an avid walker, I also like to note my times/distances/steps/calories burned on my walks each day.

Google Calendar

I barely open this app, but now I use it in conjunction with Keep to keep my appointments and remember birthday and events, as well as marking down deadlines for various tasks and jobs.

Podcast Addict

I spend tons of time by myself working outside. When I’m not in the mood to ponder life’s existential questions, I plug in my earphones and listen to podcasts. This player is free and it works well. I like to listen to farming and business related podcasts sometimes, but most of the time I’m looking for humor – I enjoy Judge John Hodgman a lot because I am a geek, and I also check out Put Your Hands Together which has tons of talented comics doing brief sets. Humor is the best medicine and in my mind keeps all my tasks easy and fun.

Let me know if you have a favorite farming app in the comments!

 

 

 

 

-25F wind chill

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I’m sipping on my morning coffee after letting my dog out for her morning business. It’s -16F below out there, with a windchill of -25F. That’s cold. It only takes 30 minutes to get frostbite in these conditions. I’m staying in as long as I can. In these conditions, it makes sense to let your animals stay cozy as possible, nested in their hay and sharing body heat. Keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort and pile on the hay and straw. Keep the wind off your animals, and give them plenty of feed. Feed can be fuel they use to keep warm. Water them with as much as they can drink twice daily.

Life becomes simple at these temps, but it can become dangerous quickly. Protect your skin, and wear layers. You don’t want to sweat and have your sweat freeze, that can lead to hypothermia. Now is the time to become super productive and take breaks every hour, although in weather like this it’s best to take breaks every 30 minutes, for up to 30 minutes or more. Better yet, focus on inside work. Get your taxes done, work on that novel, organize your kitchen. All these things need to be done, and now is the best time to do them.

Extreme weather can be beautiful, remember to play with it – don’t just huddle by the woodstove in fear all day!

play or pay

You know, there is a lot more to the phrase “Follow your bliss” then simply gravitating toward stuff you like to do.

It is one of those phrases seems simple at first but reveals layers of complexity the more that you examine it.

I’ve been noticing these days that I can barely stand some social media sites and at the same time I can’t seem to stop scrolling through the site. Finally I stop, usually after way too long, my break stretching out as my distracted mind finds one more tangent to follow or one more meme to be irritated at. Whatever the case may be, when I close the app and began living my life again, I feel much better. So why do I keep getting sucked into it, and neglecting my real life? There are a number of studies that show how literally physically addicting that type of activity is, but for me there is another layer.

Being self-employed allow someone a lot of freedom to create the daily life that they want to live. As self employed folks we can do whatever we want to to a large degree, but generally those who are successfully self-employed have figured out what works for them in terms of responsibility and productivity. Slacking off doesn’t help with building a business most of the time. But in any case, being self-employed means being self-driven to a large extent. Being self-driven can mean being your own worst critic as well.

Now I know I’m kind of a perfectionist. I can ignore it sometimes, but it’s always there. So even if I pretend something is good enough for now, it is still eating away at me until I improve it. That’s just the way I’m wired right now (I believe we can all change in many ways throughout a lifetime). So when I don’t want to start a project or a task sometimes its because I don’t want to work through all the repetitive stages that I will have to work through in order to get it right. Almost everything productive I do involves this repetition. Repetition is maintenance and practice, and a lot of life seems to boil down to those two things.

What does this have to do with “following your bliss” you may be asking…

First of all, the phrase doesn’t say “be your bliss” or “find your bliss” it says “follow your bliss”. What is acknowledged in this phrase is that you are always on the path toward finding your bliss and that the path itself may be the ultimate source of enjoyment.

“Follow” is an action. When we are on our social media sites scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, we are not doing anything at all. We pretend we are, but not really – it’s an illusion. Just like when you are tricked by a green screen and CGI graphics, no matter how realistic it looks nothing is actually there and the actors are flailing away in thin air. So getting away from illusion is a key concept in the “follow your bliss” idea. Getting away from illusion and actively participating in you life may be the only real step one needs to take to find bliss.

Why “bliss” and not happiness or joy? Perhaps because in bliss we lose ourselves, and in losing ourselves we reconnect with all others. Happiness and joy are good things of course but they don’t convey the ecstatic moment of being one with the universe like bliss does. In that moment, which can be called the flow state, we are more then simply ourselves, we are immersed in the sea of life and all it’s complexity is resolved in a dance.

Acknowledging that there is no perfection, that perfection is a myth, may help us move forward toward our bliss. I’m convinced that play is our ultimate secrete weapon, not only to find our bliss, but to follow it. The more that we can play in life, the easier it is to follow your bliss.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeking you

img_20161230_1704450002016 is over in about three hours. Like most people I know, I am relieved to see it go. So much s%#t has gone down that I can barely remember it all, really amazing things and really difficult things. Suffice it to say that 2016 has been a transformative year.

In the beginning a marriage ended.

Then I moved my farm, and my wonderful pup Belle came along for the journey.

Friendships became stronger. I began to sleep again. I started to enjoy life.

I walked, thought, and wrote.

I worked hard on my farming practices and built my newly formed business up.

I met an amazing woman who lit a spark in my heart.

I bought my dream farm and moved there, about 25 days ago.

That, and the million things that went on in my daily life. My old Ford Ranger died and I got a newer truck. I learned how to replace the bearings in a U-joint. I began to write a book. I made pizza dough from scratch. I fed and watered my pigs. And so on.

And now I am here at home, Full Boar Farm, eating roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy with my girlfriend and our two dogs as we contemplate the past year and look forward to the coming 365 days of possibility. The hottub is heating up and I’m not sure if we’re going to make it to the midnight mark, but probably we will.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past year, it is simply this:

Never give up and always dream.

Always keep your heart open to the possibility that you will find happiness. As Rumi says, “What you seek is seeking you.”

The magic of taking time

Is there ever a reason to rush?

I thought about this as I walked steadily down a a winter road, melting ice running off the invisible pitch into the ditch. My lower back was sore and my cheeks were cold.

When we rush to another place/time/event/goal, where do we end up?

If we rush, we create a life lived in a whirlwind. At some point we will exit the whirlwind, and soon after we will die. The whirlwind is attractive to some, but not to me.

If there is any time to do something, there is time to do it right. We should never think about spending time, we should think about taking time because in reality it is our only real possession.

All things fade away and die and all things fall apart. But so what. It is also the case that all things come back to life and all things are recreated. The more we can breathe with that, the more we can feel in possession of our own lives. And really what we all most want is control of our time. Really we want to play. If we can’t play, in a way we’re already dead.

So as I walk down the road, cheeks cold and feet numb, I think about how rich I am, with an endless hour ahead of me that I can enjoy in whatever way I want to. Instead of focusing on the negatives of the moment, I let go and see the world around me.

Really there is no rush and I can take each moment to do what needs to be done. I can remember that this moment is just as important as the next one. You are actually living your life, right now. I forget that sometimes, somehow.

 

 

 

It’s been a busy couple of months. Now that the new year is almost upon us, I’m forcing myself to take some time to reflect. Over the last two months I have found and purchased a new property which took up most of my energy. Now, I sit in my new writing room and feel a sense of peace.

newplace3

Just kidding. I actually don’t because I woke up and my storm door was more or less torn off it’s hinges by the 50 mph winds that are gusting around and blowing shit all to hell. Not only that but on Christmas, yesterday, I visited my folks up north, but had to get my butt home as it was starting to drizzle and glare ice was forecast for the evening. Now all is covered in a thin to thick layer of very slippery ice. Neither I nor my animals are happy with this weather. It’s not the weather’s fault so much, but I can still loathe it for the time being.

I’ve probably consumed more sugar in the last few days then I have in the last few years, which could also be affecting my moods, i.e. blood sugar levels. But all in all I know that I need to write as well. If a writer don’t write (or a painter don’t pain) they get ornery. So I’ll sum up my last two months for you:

  • Went through the FSA loan application processed
  • Passed through it and was approved for a loan, but it dragged on for about a month or more and meanwhile;
  • Found a property I loved and put in an offer which was accepted after some changes that were not significant
  • Began to move some stuff over to new property, as the owners and I had an agreement in which I moved stuff over early and they had a period of time after closing to move stuff out
  • Moved stuff to a friend’s place, my folk’s place, and my girlfriend’s place as well
  • Finally realized I had to call the Title Insurance company to set up closing because no one seemed able to make that happen
  • Got the property insured
  • Set up a few thousand feet of paddocks at new property
  • Moved my pigs over to new property over the course of 4 trips
  • Finally moved everything off old property and then went to live at my girlfriend’s place for 6 days before the closing date
  • In those 6 days commuted to do chores at new property and continued to set up paddocks etc…
  • Finally got to the closing date and bought my property. Moved in to the new house that night. It was great.
  • Chores

So I probably missed a few things, but overall it was killer. It’s been three weeks now, and I’m finally starting to feel a little more normal. You can catch my advice on How to Buy a Farm in the February issue of Acres USA Magazine: http://www.acresusa.com/acresusa-subscription-us

Other writing projects are in the works and I will be updating you on that as they become available. As a new property owner I have a lot to do, and I will keep you up to date on my daily trials and tribulations as well, of course.

Now the snow is falling and the winds are gusting hard. As usual, everything falls apart and we have to put it all back together. I just wish the wind would die down a little bit…

 

Breathe for me

Life happens when there is a balance between contraction and expansion. My pulse and breath are the rhythms that keep me alive each day. For the most part they are ignored, but sometimes I focus on them.

I am amazed at some of the things that have occurred in the last two months. Things that actually fill me with wonder. At the same time I can see that without the contrast between the light and the dark in my life, I could not observe this time of expansion so clearly.

Many people are filled with sadness and dismay at the recent presidential election. But I will not post about that right now. I see the darkness looming ahead of us as only a manifestation of what we have subconsciously created. The shadow self in the flesh, a nightmare made true.

But that happens. The darkness can overwhelm.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been holding my breathe for twenty years. Waiting for everything to fall apart. Holding my breathe doesn’t keep things from falling apart though. So many of my close friends have died at a young age.  They are gone. They only live on in memories and feelings. I have the chance to live again every time I take a breath. In my mind, they live on through me by what they taught me about what it is to be alive in this world, in this moment.

There is no expansion without contraction and vice versa. The excitement I feel right now could be shattered in a moment by some unforeseen event. But worrying about that, thinking about that, analyzing that – these are all contractions into myself.

Letting go is the ultimate act of expansion. Sometimes words can get under our skins, sometimes people really mean to hurt us, sometimes events happen that scar us. But the fact that we can breathe again and let go gives us the power to heal. Even if I have held my breathe for the last twenty years, I can take a breath right now.

five minutes

I have five minutes. What should I say?

The universe is full of magic. When everything is dark and nothing seems to be going my way, I can remember that my whole entire life is just a speck of dust in  our vast spilled milk galaxy. The infinite and finite hold hands, and perspective is the Great Clarifier.

Regeneration is not just a word

Regeneration is not just a word.

It is not a catchphrase or logo. It is not a commodity or pyramid scheme.

When the soil is teeming with new life, when the mist covers the field, when the biota surges forward and recedes backward, we find the wave of regeneration moving through us. When after the pain of being born a life reverberates, when our eyes are full like moons, when our thoughts echo nature, we know that every day billions of our own cells die and billions are reborn. Regeneration is the acknowledgement of the cycle of life and death, it is the acceptance of the circle, it doesn’t shy away from death and it doesn’t cling to profit.

A moment comes in our lives and we are regenerated. Skin shed like an old coat in summer. What was unclear becomes clear. Those that oppose the circle oppose regeneration – to them, fear dictates that all must stay the same. But nothing stays the same, nothing stops time, and everything is relative to where we stand in the moment.

Senses magnify, perception clears. A regenerated landscape blooms and thrives. A regenerated heart opens and heals. Rivers cycle and trees eat photons. A fox skitters like an electron.

Linear models collapse. Sinusoidal rhythms rule. We are not getting out of this thing called life alive, so we must surf.

No thing

“What I like doing best is Nothing.”

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Perhaps it is time to quit.

When I begin to practice “letting go”, when I give up clinging to an idea or feeling, I feel relief. As if my body has been a clenched fist until I let it relax. I realize that the control I have over my life is only in the moment. I can’t ban suffering, I can’t mine joy. I can only do what needs to be done and enjoy the process.

Letting go is not the same as giving up or procrastinating. Those actions give us a sense that we are off the hook, while still hanging on it. Letting go is the outbreath, the savasana, the relaxation of our muscles, the clearing of the mind. It is the truth that we can’t know everything, and we can’t control anything for long. The knowledge that the end will come, and the absence of fear.

Letting go is stepping back into the flow.

Quitting is an action. When you see that the path you are on leads over a cliff. Quitting is the positive step toward a different path. Sometimes we have to quit so that we can start walking in the right direction.

All of these things are part of living. No reason to judge ourselves constantly. Just take a walk.  What do you really want to do today?

 

The Dalai Lama says that the goal of life is to be happy.

It seems simple, but what if we forgot what makes us happy?

Life never stops, there is no time to catch our breaths. We are aware that we need to live in the present moment, and not dwell in the past or future. Otherwise we’re filled with stress or regret.  For so long we’ve been grasping at straws and losing our selves, but when we practice “letting go” we find ourselves. Freeing ourselves from the tyranny of possessions and concepts feels right, Sometimes all we need is a walking stick and a gravel road. Or a cup of tea and a friend.

Do we really think that cleaning up this room or fixing this thing or landing this project will make everything all better? Doubt it. In the short term it’s great to get the list done, but we need to look at the long term list.

What is it I want to do before I die? What really makes me happy? What do I want to do for the rest of my life to make a living? Why am I not doing it?

Our paths weave the cosmic fabric. Nobody but you can choose your way. Sometimes we have to go with the flow instead of struggling forward, sometimes we have to fight to find the new way. No matter what, though, we are here, right here, now.

Janet Echelman makes art out of strings

 

 

wild 1

I live a domestic life, but I love the wild life. There is that thing inside me that is magnetized to the wilderness, regardless if it is a thousand acres or just that little patch of wildflowers behind the shed. Nature without a human touch, the most rare thing of all.

I don’t make my living from the wild, I make it from the tame. I take chaos and turn it into form. I’m just an organizer. The wild exists outside of those efforts, but we must add wild to our lives to have perspective. Without perspective into the natural world, we miss out on the spark of life and everything is just cause and effect, law and order.

Notice the wild patches today.

Momento mori

There is stress and there is STRESS. There are moments of stress, and then there are long-term panic sessions that lodge in the gut, causing sleeplessness and an underlying sense of dread. Managing this latter type of stress is perhaps my biggest struggle, and I would go so far as to guess that many small business owners and other driven people share my predicament.

As a young man I shrugged off stress with ease. My whole motto was “Relax, we’re all going to die in the end so we might as well enjoy life now.” I don’t think I was too far off the mark, but as the years have progressed and I’ve taken on more responsibilities, especially taking on the responsibilities of raising livestock, I’ve forgotten this principle and morphed into that bulgey-eyed Mr. Stressball-type whom I used to pity.

I’m kidding. I’m not always Mr. Stressball, and I’m not always Mr. Laidback. Behind the masks we wear through our daily lives we are just who we are, doing what we need to do. We each have a different path, but we meet eachother thousands of times in between life and death.

Having perspective is when you understand that even though everything in your life seems just slightly beyond your control, everything is still probably okay. It is all out of our control to a large degree. By grasping onto some idea and identifying deeply with the idea, we essentially create our own stress. Why the hell would we do such a thing to ourselves?

Because we don’t want to let go of the idea of who we are, or how we live, or what we do. These ideas make up the narrative of our lives. Losing control of any of those ideas is somewhat akin to losing any sense of our own existence.  Stress is really our minds and bodies reacting to fear and we think “It’s all up to me to make things right, to figure things out, to protect my world.”

If we’ve lost something like our friends, family, home, we feel sadness and fear of losing again and again until there is nothing left to hold on to. The weird thing is this very fear is what will definitely happen. My breaths are limited and one day I will no longer be here. No matter what happens in my life, I am blessed to live in a wealthy country. I don’t have to worry about war destroying my life, or lack of potable water and food. I can make actual choices about what I am going to do every day and what I am going to eat and drink. I can sleep in a safe warm bed. I can see my family and friends when I want to. When I have fears about the future, when I have doubts about my path, when I regret the past, I know that these are all privileges.

And I know we are all in this together. We are all passing through the cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth in some form. Fear is like a cloud that blocks the sun. Behind that veil is the bright beating heart that fuels all life, and we all yearn to be warmed by it.

So, daily, I remind myself that this life is it for me. It isn’t a competition – history shows us that all winners eventually lose. The real work lies in compassion and cooperation.

 

 

Oscillations

I am struck by the idea that everything oscillates, and that all stasis is  an illusion.

We have an impulse to strive for stasis. Even that impulse oscillates as we grow weary of our day to day activities. We jump outside of our comfort zone and learn and live and jump back in.  Oscillations change frequency, amplitude, and form.  It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re talking about our lives, our relationships, our gardens, the migrations of butterflies, our taste in clothes, or our skill at crossword puzzles – all things oscillate.

Karma is simply the natural flow of energy.

Here’s the thing – we deny that is the natural state. We go through life thinking it should simply be a steady increase in peace and prosperity. That is a successful life. In that way we deny the reality that we will always have ups and downs, there will always be high points and low points in our lives and in our societies. Life isn’t a yellow brick road straight to Heaven or Hell. We visit both poles equally within the brief span of our lives.

Well, at least that is what I believe, and what meditation has shown me.

We seem to be at a low point, where hate speech and the proliferation of fear is becoming common and ordinary. A time when black lives are being gunned down with impunity. A time when compassion is considered blase and vapid consumption is the norm. But people are waking up, people are beginning to question the authoritarian solutions that are handed out like candy in every institution.

I say there are no simple answers – I say that in a world where debate and conversation is becoming base and crude, and ignorance and anger is shared instantly and constantly in soundbites that eat our brains alive like mad cow disease. But I do think there are simple solutions, for the parts and for the whole.

Chaos theory shows us that the initial conditions in complex systems will determine their actions,  but since we can never know all of these conditions in perfect detail then we can only create possible models of the systems future behavior. The only way forward is to address those initial conditions and stabilize the turbulence  – each act of violence or hate is like a fractal inside a fractal, showing us what the underlying problems are.

There is a lot of noise out there. Nobody really wants to hear the negative stuff – but anything internalized becomes expressed externally, as Jung posits.

Farmers, healers, artists, and all folks involved in the practice of the Regenerative Arts have the power to cure this rampant illness. We have the ability to divert the negative energies into productivity and a regenerative cycle, for we can understand the ebb and flow of life itself. All the static and linear thinkers and doers  of the past fail us now, as we plan for a new type of living, one that acknowledges that, at the heart of designing a planetary populace instantly connected via electromagnetic waves, we must cast off linear thinking and doing.