The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.

 

Forward Motion, Empathy, and Impact

If we can learn to see what we accomplish in the midst of a struggle, we can find the strength and confidence to keep moving.

We find ourselves, at times, in situations that are less than ideal; be it a momentary discomfort of completing undesirable tasks, or a stage of life that is constantly calling you to a sense of duty or obligation. Likewise, we will also be taken into dire situations outside of our choosing; with the only choice being how to proceed.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I love this excerpt, because every one of us has been here. Not literally journeying to Mordor to destroy the ring of power because the fate of the world is in our hands; but potentially left standing in disarray because life has taken a turn for the worst. We have sat across the table from friends and family struggling with death, addiction, divorce, abuse, and the list goes on; and the conversation turns to “I wish it need not happen in my lifetime”; yet here we are. We can not always change our environment, or the stage of life that we are in; but we can choose how we will move forward.

We can choose what impact we will leave in this life.

Great stories are wrought with adversity. Great stories take you through the struggles. Heroes do not arise out of a state of Utopia, they rise from necessity. We can only run away from purpose for so long. The choice between apathy and empathy is always before us, and each path shapes our heart. If I am being honest, empathy is an attribute that I need to build upon in my life. I have a tendency to avoid discomfort or the pain that comes with empathy; therefore, I lean towards apathy at times. Though, I would still say that I am more so an empathetic person than an apathetic person; at least, that is the hope.

The word apathy in itself is harsh, or it hits you in a certain way when you hear it or read it. If we label someone as apathetic, there are negative connotations that come along with it. There is danger in labeling someone, or ourselves, because labels come with a lot of extra baggage. For example, apathy comes with the following baggage: callous, cold, and emotionless. Who would associate with those words? Also, we are in danger of possibly becoming or remaining apathetic if we choose to only identify the term in those words.

I choose to break down this idea of apathy into words, because I believe that in the words we find understanding, and in the words we can begin to see a path. Another word that I believe better describes the true nature of what we are up against with apathy is the word passive. All of us can say that we have been passive at times, and associating apathy in terms of passiveness creates a smaller focused picture of what to work on. Passivity puts our choices into the hands of others. Passivity in times of struggle   can be dangerous because we are left to the flow of the situation instead of choosing to steer that ship ourselves.

To choose what impact we will have in this life, we have to do just that…choose. To find victory in struggle, we need perspective; we need to be able to take that snapshot of our situation and place it against the bigger picture.  

If we choose to care, if we are able to see our impact on others through our tough times or momentary troubles, and if we can choose to be intentional rather than passive; then perhaps we can find victory in the struggle. This shift towards forward motion may begin with something as seemingly minute as changing our mindset or perspective. We are actually meant to grow, develop, and live a life of impact; and empathy may be the key to endure. Choosing compassion, or choosing to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, may give us the perspective we need to find victories in the midst of struggles.

Hope

I love the Christmas season. I love the smell of pine, the chill in the air, the good food, the merry gatherings, and the music all around. The songs range from reindeer on the rooftops to declarations of the glory of God, and in that space, there is a story. Whether we long for Santa or God (or both), our hearts ache for someone or something greater than ourselves; a story of grandeur.

When we hope, we are longing for that which we do not have; we are reaching for something that is beyond us. We dream of a life that we want, yet sometimes that life is out of our grasps in our current state; but that dream, that hope, can fill us with such passion and drive that the life we desire will not be out of reach for long. We all have something to hope for, because we are all in need. We are in need of kindness, love, peace, and a better world.

Where there is a need, there is a need for hope.

We should always be challenging ourselves to grow, and pursue that which makes us come alive. The hope of the world, is that people will come alive and bring the healing that the world needs.

Hope is the campaign slogan that won Barak Obama his first term as president. He spoke to the very core of all of us as he laid out a vision of a country that can change the trajectory of this world. He called us to become the people that we dream we can be, and embrace our role in the future of our world.

Lou Holtz says that for someone to life a fulfilling life they need to have something to do, someone to love, something to believe in, and something to look forward to. In other words, we need a purpose, and hope is a pillar of that purpose.

Hope has always been a guiding force in my life. I have had to remind myself time and time again that we are not at the end, and that no matter how many times I fail; there is always a chance to make things right and try again. This expectation becomes even more important as I get older. If I believe that my best chance to accomplish something great is behind me, then dreams lose their power to inspire and purpose fades; the moments, days, and years ahead seem meaningless. On the other hand, when you believe that your chance for impact and accomplishment is ever before you; purpose and inspiration will abound all around.

When hope thrives, the future is bright.

While I was looking back through one of my journals today, I was reminded of my fundamentals in life. The words I saw on those pages were written over the past three years. The themes I saw were love, faith, creativity, perseverance, and hope. There were many struggles and disappointments on pages, but they were met with words of hope and strength; the words I have written in the past were speaking to me in the present.

Each day is a building block in the tower of who we are, and if the days are the structure; then our decisions are the mortar that hold the building together. We choose hopelessness or hopefulness constantly throughout our days, we can see the cup half empty or we can see the chance to fill the cup.

Hope is a fundamental of life; do not lose it, and if it is fading; seek it fiercely.

The Upside of Being Down

“You Change Your Valley Into A Peak When You Find And Use The Good That Is Hidden In The Bad Time.”

– Spencer Johnson

The following post has been written over the course of the past week, and is a journey through understanding and responding to sadness. It transforms and grows as you read through it, and my hope as always is that it connects with each person who reads it

I have felt downhearted more times in the past few years than I can recall. Some of the loneliest and saddest times have peaked as well. Be it a form of depression, feeling meaningless, or just feeling unimportant and ineffective; Today though, I find myself in a space of reflection and insight. While currently in the middle of this struggle, hope is also present.

This post is not intended to discourage, on the contrary, the intent is to encourage through transparency. Being transparent with our struggles is the only way to have a meaningful conversation about the inner workings of our heart, the feelings we experience, and the impact it has on our life. Therefore, I will be as honest as I can with the state I am in, in the hopes that it connects and empowers you the reader as I seek to connect and seek empowerment as well.

The theme of this article will be about the effects of sadness, and the power it has to teach us. At the core, sadness may be the greatest indicator of our purpose. You cannot be sad without trying to identify the source of it, because we desire joy and peace; and once you find the source, you find a choice. A response is needed: do we just lay down and accept that things just are what they are, or rise up and choose to do the work that must be done to climb out of the muck and the mire.

Sadness is necessary to move forward. In Disney’s movie Inside Out there is a scene where the character Sadness has to step in and help another character (Bing Bong) come to grips with the change that has taken place in his life.

Sadness-with-Bing-Bong

He cannot go on, and the character Joy has done everything in her power to help cheer him up. Sadness steps in, and instead of trying to cheer him up; she simply sits with him and acknowledges that his sadness is justified. In this simple act, she helps him accept that what has happened as the past, and she helps him get through the feeling of giving up in a way that the character Joy could not. He finds a new strength at this point of the movie. He finds the ability to move on, and team with Joy once again.

Sadness has it’s place in our life, and it has an important role in our growth and our purpose.

A common theme and open struggle that I’ve shared in previous blog posts, is my current inability to be comfortable being alone. I have come to understand that this longing for constant community comes from deep inside of me. I grew up as what I thought what was an introvert, and it turned out that I was actually just a shy extrovert; so the feeling of being torn when alone has been in my life since my adolescent days. I developed a habit of wanting to be involved, but being too scared to step out and join. I eventually became more comfortable with stepping out, but the habit of longing for more connection and involvement has stuck around. So there are times I find myself in a state of sadness because I feel disconnected, but I can see sadness as a teacher.

Here are five things sadness has taught me:

1. Aloneness is a part of life; so there must be a level of acceptance in those times. There are opportunities to grow in knowledge, strength, or creativity. Whether it is reading, writing, playing guitar, exercising, or being still; all of these activities are beneficial for me and ignite hope within me. I have written about loneliness and solitude in previous posts.

2. Sadness is a window into the soul. If you want to know what you desire, be attentive to your feelings. Just as energy and excitement in a station let’s you know you like what’s happening, sadness shows you what you need.

3. Take the time to grieve an unfortunate situation. There is a time for sadness, and we do need to acknowledge when a situation arises in life that brings heartache. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a personal injury, a missed opportunity, a feeling of failure, or the state of our nation; take the time to process that feeling inside.

4. Do something about it. If feeling disconnected from community, put forth the effort to connect. If grieving a death, remember that life and ask what they would have you do in this time. If you don’t like the state of our nation or environment, take baby steps toward making a difference. Do not let hopelessness take over.

5. Sadness calls us to be intentional, and that is why I choose to write about it today. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a quote that holds a lot of truth. We can blaze a path through this life, we can even choose which path to follow; but if we are unintentional about our decisions, we forfeit ownership of the direction of our life.

I have learned so much while writing this article over the past week. I started in a state of despondency, hoping for insight to move toward meaning; and today, I find myself hopeful. There is a fine line between heartache and hopelessness, and we must recognize the difference, because there is always hope. I thank you for reading this article, and that it brings hope if you are in need; or in the very least, it will challenge you give sadness it’s place when it comes to you.

 

The Movement of Meaning

There is a movement taking place.

It is growing each day, yet it has always been a part of who we are. It is a part of our human story. Each day we wake into the question of “who am I to be?“; and each day we make a choice. Longing for insight, and looking for inspiration; we breathe purpose.

Is there a greater ideal to set our minds on than our meaning in life?

The question of our meaning leads to a lifelong answer because we discover it with each new day. It’s a common theme, and it is a timeless theme. It is at the core of philosophy, and begs our attention. In some of my favorite stories, the protagonist has to decide who they are going to be, and whether or not they will rise up to their calling. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Neo, or Peter Parker;  each character had to decide whether or not they would take up the tasks laid before them. Likewise, some of our greatest tragedies and greatest villains, both in reality and fiction, have come from a purpose twisted or misunderstood.

When it seems as though there is no meaning to a life, despair takes the throne; and in that reign there is little hope to carry on. Yet a glimpse of hope, a glimpse of our purpose, can provide room to breathe again and carry on. Sometimes it takes only a spark of an idea in our mind, or a fluttering inside of our heart to wake us from our slumber, and open us up to the possibility of a big life.

“To be awake is to be alive…We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden

It is our duty to pursue purpose, not only to become alive for our own good; but to become alive and become a beacon for others.

Inspiration.

If we accomplish nothing else, may we at least find ways to inspire. Inspiration will find it’s way into our lives through books, blogs, movies, speeches, plays, songs, interviews, and so on; we must look for it, listen for it, and relay it to those around us because it is our duty to inspire. It is the movement of our time. The positive thinking/self development movement is nothing new, but is booming right now; and I believe it is because the world is rapidly changing, and opportunity is abounding. Those who have found peace or success can now reach millions with their story with an ease that did not exist before. Those who have found healing can lead others down the path of healing through sharing their own journey.

If we are willing to put in the work, if we are willing to read and listen, we can find inspiration all around; and in doing so may we catch a glimpse of our purpose in this life.

 

Blog Swap with The Last Day of Regret

Today’s post is an interview with my long time friend Matt Jo Diaz, author of The Last Day of Regret blog and soon to be book. Thoughtful, compassionate, passionate, driven, and wise are words that I would use to describe him; we have had big laughs, deep talks, and life forming experiences together. His joy is contagious, and his heart is big.

In The Last Day of Regret, Matt Jo gives insight into everything from scripture and spirituality to movie reviews, to the very art of becoming a writing itself. We wanted to promote each others blogs, as well as give insight to the person behind the keyboard. So without further ado, here is an interview with Mat Jo Diaz.

Brian: Give us your current life stage as of today?

Matt Jo: I’m in my sixth year of teaching a high school New Testament epistles class at Northwest Christian school.  I also get to teach an Intro to Graphic Design class as well. I’ve been married to my wife Katie for nine years and we have four wonderful children ranging from twelve to two.  My hobbies include endgame survival practice during the hottest months of the summer here in Phoenix. This week it has finally cooled off with the rain which is a nice break from the triple digit temperatures.  Seriously though, my hobby other than writing is traveling. The school I work at has provided me many opportunities to go to new places, one of which is Cambodia where I will lead a team of fifteen student in June of 2019, it will be my third time there.

 

Brian: What is your earliest memory of me?

Matt Jo: What can I say about Brian Grayum that has not already been said about…(Playa Hater’s Ball throw back)?  It was the summer before my freshman year in High School and we were at a Christ In Youth conference at Point Loma University in San Diego.  Brian was one of the good ol’ boys of the graduating seniors. He was among the heroes of old, Kelsey Drayton and Michael Garrison being two other people I remember cracking jokes on the beach.  My timeline could be totally off.

 

Brian: When did you start your blog?

Matt Jo:  I started and stopped a blog three times, this one being my third attempt.  My first one was right after the death of my sister in January of 2014. I put a lot of pressure on myself to create something that was way too thought out and a reflection of my broken soul that I got six weeks in and stopped writing.  I had this idea of talking about life as a journey and got caught up in this analogy that I eventually realized was super repetitive. However, I kept it and it’s still viewable through blogspot.com. It’s in the archive section on my current sight.  I didn’t write anything again until I returned from my second trip to Cambodia in July of 2017. I wanted to capture my experience there and teach about the history and culture of the Khmer people. I think I only wanted to write the five segments that are there but hoped it would spark more thoughts.  I left it there in adobe spark and placed in the same archive tab. This most current blog, the last day of regret, was set up in June of this year and I’m writing more than I ever have, still trying to find my niche, but getting there.

 

Brian: Why did you start your blog?

Matt Jo:  I started my current website, that features a blog called thelastdayofregret.com through wordpress.com on the advice from a friend.  I was at the tail end of finishing the manuscript of my first book and wanted advice about self-publishing. I was told starting a website and a blog were essential to start creating connections online to market the book.  So, my end goal, is that I will write this blog in preparation for the launch of my book which won’t happen until probably next May…fingers crossed. I have a completed manuscript that is just now being edited. It is painstakingly slow.  However, I have started to refine my writing, finding my voice and telling a story that is true, painful, but completely transparent.

 

Brian:  Has your blog changed in terms of writing style or purpose?

Matt Jo:  My first two posts were specifically about my book.  It took me a while to realize I just needed to write about whatever until I figured out what my place in the blog world is.  I still haven’t found where it should fit but, I’m just trying to write as much as possible so that people can go back and see what my style and interests have been.  As a first-time author, I want my audience to have some context to who I am as they read the book. I’ve decided I’m going to hit on movies I like, things in the Christian culture I think need to be critiqued and bible teaching snippets since that is what I do for a living.  I have a lot of former students after ten years in ministry and five years of teaching that I think I can still connect with. They might remember me as Matt Jo, or more recently Mr. Diaz and if they see me as just a guy still trying to speak truth into their life than I think that is a worthwhile endeavor.

 

Brian:  When has been the best times for you to write, either day or season of life?

Matt Jo:  The best times to write have been when I have something to write about.  Sounds obvious but if there is nothing to write about than I start forcing words that don’t really make sense.  That’s why I wanted to do this blog swap, to help me write. Process my own goals and decide if I need to rearrange them.  For now, I think I have time for two a month which isn’t a lot, but it’s something. I need to start promoting before I post, of when the next post will come.  It’s a marketing strategy that will hopefully gain interest before it happens. I hope this interview with you will accomplish that for the both of us.

 

Brian:  What do you find yourself writing about the most?

Matt Jo:  I think I had mentioned earlier that I went from talking about life as a journey, to social justice and now onto the art of writing itself.  My selected categories are culture, both secular and Christian, and theology. My most recent post that was a satire piece on the song Prodigal by Sidewalk Prophets got the most views, so I think comedy is a topic I need to include more.  As we have learned from Jon Acuff or more recently Jon Crist, there is a place in the Christian community to laugh at ourselves. Really though, it is about connections and I think that is what my book will hit on the most. Can you find your own brokeness inside the story of my brokenness?  Maybe some feelings you have can surface and you can deal with those bottled up emotions.

 

Brian:  What is your favorite post?

Matt Jo:  My favorite post is in two categories.  One is my favorite title and then the other is based on the content.  My favorite title was “Memoirs of a Guy…” (https://thelastdayofregret.com/2018/06/13/memoirs-of-a-guy-bad-movie-pun/) A play on words off the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha…a terrible dad pun.  It’s a short post asking a question, “Who is my audience?”  I’m still trying to find that answer, but the more I write I know that will be fleshed out.

My favorite post by content was on my first blog I started called “A Path Obscured.”  The title of the post is, The Spirits Path (https://thelastdayofregret.com/a-path-obscured/).  It’s a post about how I see the Holy Spirit working in my life.  I’ll share a quote that sums in all up. “More often than not, when faced with obscurity, to stop and go nowhere prevents the Spirit from taking you to a place that is somewhere.  Sometimes the point of the path being unclear is to test if you trust enough to travel only with one step in front of you” (2/20/2014). I still find this true 4 ½ years later, life is revealed one moment at a time, I think it’s all I can handle.  I know we want to know the future, but I’ve learned to trust that God has a reason for us not seeing the future. I don’t think we would be able to handle the pain of life and so God asks us to trust him in each moment.

 

Brian:  What is one thing you desire people to experience when reading your blog?

Matt Jo:  I want them to either think, “I agree it makes sense,” or “I disagree and let me leave a comment to exchange in dialogue.”  It helps my writing if someone critiques it. It is feedback that allows me to refine or restate what I intended or stand by it.  If you agree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered. If you disagree, I hope you are encouraged, inspired or empowered.  It can happen either way. Agreeing with everyone isn’t possible, but learning what other people think and believe is.

 

Brian:  What are your dreams for the future of writing?

Matt Jo:  It has been on my bucket list to write a book, but more specifically to publish a book.  The publishing part is just as long if not longer than the writing. After that, I will either be encouraged to write more or discouraged and focus on the other things I am good at (laughing face emoji here).  Seriously though, the book I’ve titled, “The Last Day of Regret,” is a very transparent story of my relationship with my sister Hannah who passed away in November of 2013. I hope that it validates people who feel imperfect in their relationships, and want to be better friends, family members, parents or spouse.  I also hope that people who have lost a loved one can find a part of themselves in my story here Jesus telling them that the best days of our life are still in the future. Whether in this life or the next, hope for a better tomorrow is what people who grieve need to remind themselves of often.

 

Every good article or story takes on a new morning once you have the context of the person writing it. I find it interesting that both of our blogs began with the death of a family member, I think that says something about the narrative that is taking place inside of all of us; and it also shows the important role that writing can play in our lives. Matt Jo has found a passion and skill in writing, and I hope this interview strikes a note of inspiration.

ThelastDayofRegret.com contains an interview with me if you would like to check that out.

 

 

Intentional Moments

It’s Saturday, and I all of a sudden found myself with two hours of uninterrupted free time as the entire family was out. Alone time is exactly what I have been needing, as well as lacking; but I found myself overwhelmed with the options of what to do with this time; as well as some resistance to being alone. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop and take a breath. Stop and take a breath… I need to do this more.

My mind started racing through the following options of what I could do:

  • Nothing (just sit in a chair and stare)
  • Purposeful nothingness, which sounds like something (meditation and/or prayer)
  • Tasks that need to be done
  • Tasks that could be done
  • Hobbies I enjoy (Reading, playing guitar, running, writing)
  • Friends I could call (which would no longer be alone time)
  • Zone out on tv (I managed to dodge this one)

As I felt my brain on the verge of shorting out, I decided to stop, take a breath, and knock out one task that needed to be done soon because I tend to be task driven; and I have a hard time slowing down some times. I took on the easiest smallest task on my mind, and that bought me just enough time to begin entering into this space of aloneness, or rather, potential solitude.

I finished the task, then took a breath, then stared out the window for a minute. Next I decided to do something I always enjoy, which was write. It is nice, it is calming, and I feel satisfied that I am still doing something productive; at least in my mind. That is literally happening…right now. I am writing this as it’s happening.

I’m reminded of that scene from the Mel Brook’s movie Spaceballs, when they are watching Spaceballs the movie during the movie and they stop the tape at the exact moment of the movie that they are in. Check out the link on You Tube here: Spaceballs Clip

I hope you are laughing at that clip as much as I am, and if not, I must be getting old.

These moments of aloneness can be quickly turned into moments of solitude if we are intentional. I have written about this idea of solitude before, inspired from the book Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen. There is so much benefit to our development, creativity, minds, hearts, and lives around us if we learn to stop, breathe, and be in the moments of solitude.

The above list that my mind raced through are all beneficial depending on where you are and what you need. We are all wired different, and perhaps zoning out to The Office or staring out the window is exactly what we need sometimes. These moments of alone time are few and far between for some of us, so we must be ready for them, tuned in to what our souls need to stay on track to be our best self.

I fully intend to maintain intentionality with my next 30 minutes, and that may include some guitar and some prayer, but whatever it is; I am thankful to have it today.

To Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The quote above is from Ralph Waldo Emerson; and I often turn to it when I need motivation or need to be reminded that there is a whole world taking place as I walk through my days.

What is it to be yourself? Is this a form of destiny combined with ambition? The truest form of who we are is somewhere in our soul, and that part of our soul speaks to our mind; and in those words, we hear whispers of what we need to do. In our soul, we can feel the rumblings of purpose.

Purpose. Our purpose can be found by asking what does life expect from me? This is a question that I have mentioned before as it comes from one of the most influential books I have read titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. This question was raised as he observed not only himself, but other men who had lost everything as prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust; and had been stripped of their very humanity, yet found the strength to rise again each day and believe that there was a reason to persevere in the face of their great suffering.

We can learn from their perseverance, and find strength from their strength. So I ask, what does life expect from you?

Another of my favorite quotes that I have shared before is from Howard Thurman about coming alive:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What moments in your life did feel truly alive?

To be truly alive is akin to being yourself. When the task at hand can be done with joy amidst struggle, or the process becomes  more enjoyable than the product; perhaps you have glimpsed your purpose. This is found in the space where your skills or talents align with what you enjoy doing. This is a sacred space when you discover that your passions and talents also align with what the world needs.

I ask you these questions as I ask them myself. Perhaps together we can find our true self, our purpose, come alive, and in turn provide the world around us with what it needs.

 

Lessons from the stars: Comfort and the Necessary

Last night was a good night for stargazing.

Piercing through the ebony background, the stars seemed to appear before my eyes. I just stood there for a while soaking in the grandness of it all, wondering how many people I was sharing that piece of sky with? How many people were at that moment looking up at those stars, and what was going through our minds?

The beauty of stargazing, is that it opens up your world. Stars broaden our perspective, expand our worldview, and open our hearts. I have looked up at the stars in sorrow, I have looked up at the stars in joy; and they will always speak to me. It’s not an audible voice, but a subtle whispering in my soul; something stirs inside me, and I receive insight.

Last night, the stars reminded me that there is a big world out there. I was reminded to stay connected to the world around me. I naturally move towards what is comfortable in life, which is natural for all of us, but I also want to be aware of the necessary.

The necessary is the part of life that requires something from us.

This will intersect with the comfortable parts of life, meaning that what is required is that which we already enjoy. This varies from person to person, but I would describe this as when the need falls in line with our passion and strengths. This may also be comfortable if the person in need is someone you already love dearly, and this love may be the key to unlocking a world of purpose.

The necessary will at times require sacrifice. Not an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom kind of sacrifice, but that which requires us to dig deep inside and summon courage, forgiveness, and the love. It takes courage to confront someone who has wronged you, and forgiveness must follow. It may require you to give money to a cause at the expense of not buying something for yourself. We may need to ask forgiveness from someone we have hurt, and in turn learn to forgive ourselves.

The necessary may also be something that you need to do for yourself. You may find inspiration to create something, from a painting to a charity. You may find direction in life, or change in the direction of your life. You may be reminded that you are loved.

The necessary requires love, because if can learn to love on a broader scale; we will become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. In love, we are eager to serve, help, and rescue. In love, we can be freed from regret and as stated above, find the key for unlocking our purpose.

The stars speak, if we are willing to listen.

 

How Minimizing has Maximized

I have been on a slow, yet constant move towards de-cluttering my life. It has taken a lot of work, time, introspection, and letting go. I have read books and blogs that have common themes of “less is more”, and it  goes beyond the material and into the spiritual. Clarity, confusion, focus, regret, joy, and heartache have all been a part of this minimalist roller coaster; but it has been worth it, and continues to be worth it.

A lot of these ideas were inspired/confirmed in the book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. Check it out if you are into the idea of less is more.

When it comes to minimalism…

You must embrace the process. There is no true end point, because it is a lifestyle in which you continually remove from your life that which is not you. Refinement, this is a term I would apply to the purpose of why anyone should look into minimalism, de-cluttering, spiritual awakening, or whatever you decide to call it. The more you remove what does not belong in your life, the “un-you” stuff, the more the “true you” will rise to the surface.

The process can be painful. As far as removing the material items from our life, we have to remove the value that we have paid for those items. This is tough, because we work hard for our money; and it is hard to feel like we have wasted it. You will end up selling items for mere fractions of what you paid for them, or straight up donating them to the Goodwill or local charities. The way to make it through is to focus on the benefit of letting go and the promise of life transformation, more than the loss of monetary value.

Realize that what you own feeds who you are. Don’t let your life trajectory be dictated by what you own. Find your identity at the deeper levels of life and the lives around you, not only the surface. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This same idea applies to the items we surround ourselves with as well. We live in a marketing culture where brands want to claim us. In other words, enjoy what you enjoy; but realize the impulse to accompany each interest with purchases to affirm your interests.

Recognize the benefits. 

Generosity will spring forth. The more you let go of your stuff, the easier it is to give it away. Your heart and mind will become more attuned to the needs of those around you more than your own needs/wants.

You will have more time. The less consumer minded we become, the less time we spend buying and shopping. An hour on the porch reading a book can replace an hour spent shopping on Amazon (this is something that I had struggled with). That hour of reading will exercise your mind. You will increase your critical thinking skills, improved memory, increase your knowledge; these are just a few of the benefits of reading.  An hour spent walking on the trails or around the neighborhood can replace an hour spent walking around the mall. Being under the open sky and breathing fresh air (or maybe not so fresh depending on where you live), is healthy and allows your mind to wander and think about what you truly value in life; as compared to walking through a marketing gauntlet that is aimed at telling you what you need in your life. (Note: I still shop on Amazon sometimes and walk around the mall sometimes, these are just examples to ignite a thought process, not intended to cast judgement.)

You will be able to appreciate what you have. When we remove the unimportant or unnecessary from our life, we are left with the important and necessary. When we remove what does not inspire, we are left with what inspires.

I share all of this as someone on the journey, as a student, not as an expert. I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned at the beginning of this blog if any of this has struck a chord inside of you. It is a book that talks about how what we surround ourselves with, impacts all other aspects of our life. There is union between the material world and the spiritual world through our belongings, and it is worth examining.

The cover photo of this blog contains my favorite coffee mug. Through the act of de-cluttering, this mug has stood the test. It brings me such joy for so many reasons; it’s Star Wars (which I love), it goes into light speed when it heats up (which is super-cool), and it was a gift from my wife and daughters (who are also super-cool). Minimizing doesn’t have to mean owing the least amount of stuff, but it does mean maximizing that which you truly love.