Awake

“I am awake…..and it’s 3:00 am.”

That is what I said to myself as I sat in the living room this morning.  I actually woke up at 1:00 AM, and just couldn’t fall back asleep. There are a few reasons I couldn’t sleep; an active train of thought, sore muscles, (potty break?), or maybe I was just supposed to be awake.

Whenever this happens to me, I wonder if there is something I am supposed to do; some specific reason that I woke in the middle of the night. Perhaps my mind is in a special place to create, or maybe a prayer needs to be spoken. In those twilight hours, these are the decisions I had to make:

Meditate myself to sleep? om, om, om..not going to sleep I guess.

Get frustrated? Well that doesn’t do anybody any good, and it doesn’t help you fall asleep.

Just lay there? My body was protesting that one.

Get out of bed? Okay, let’s try that.

So many good things in our lives start with that decision to get out of bed. A decision to begin, a choice to move. 

And there it is! A tid-bit of wisdom for my day. Though it is not much more than a simple phrase, it is something I can offer; and therefore it was worth getting out of bed.

 One of my favorite quotes about getting started is from J.R.R. Tolkien:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 

 

 

Good Things

I have heard it said that “you can never have too much of a good thing”, and I believed that for a time. What I have found during the last year though is quite a different train of thought.

I discovered that too much good food can make me feel sick, and potentially pack on unnecessary and unwanted fat. Too much good coffee can keep me awake all night. Many clothes means more laundry, and it also means more closet or dresser space. Ultimately, I realized that I had been brought up in a culture of more. Seeking a good deal not to save money, but to have money left over for more stuff; and the more I bought, the more I wanted….truly a vicious cycle.

I remember being frustrated with life a couple of years ago. Some bad stuff happened, but I believe that just drew out and maximized the discontent that was already growing inside of me; and I was trying to hide it.

Life was good. Life was so good, yet I allowed comparisons, expectations, and regret to convince me that I had a right to be unhappy. I had become accustomed to instant gratification instead of long term gain. I resisted investing money, but jumped on a chance to buy another shirt, get a hotel, or go out to dinner. I needed to feel wanted and included by everyone in my life, so I laid unfair expectations on my friends and family. I wanted more…more of everything, and it was destroying who I was.

One of the events a couple years ago that brought me closer to rock bottom (figuratively) was the death of my dad. Diagnosed with lung cancer at the end of November 2015, he died January 4, 2016. He was a rock in my life, and I missed him (and still miss him) more than I thought I ever would. Later that year, I slipped off of a boulder while rock climbing, and landed face first. I lost two teeth, broke four more, and split open my chin and lip…literal rock bottom.

I had a month off of work after that accident. I couldn’t do much, talk much, or eat much; but I had plenty of time alone with my thoughts. That was not a place I wanted to be. I usually kept busy to handle sadness, anger, or disappointment; but now, I had to deal with it. I could no longer hide in a crowd, or behind a smile… literally.

Now let’s jump forward. 2016 ended much better than it started. I had sought out some counseling (at the request of my ever so patient, loving, and tolerant wife), and began to truly deal with who I was. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t pretty; but it was good. I didn’t want to run away from my emotions any more, I wanted to understand why I was feeling the way I was, and get to the root of the issues. I began to declutter my life, which inevitably led me to find minimalism.

I found that less truly was more, and I removed a lot of stuff (both physical and emotional) from my life. I began to find it easier to focus on what mattered and accept who I was. I had to learn from mistakes instead of dwelling and covering them up. I had to look at each day as a gift, as a chance to live better than the day before.

My family and I have removed A LOT of stuff from our house, and we have developed a renewed appreciation for what we already have. We have tried to consume less, and have a level of mindfulness for what we do consume. We have a long way to go, but this is a journey not a destination. Since joining the “minimalist” movement, I have found a greater sense of purpose; and a greater sense of responsibility to share our story.

Perhaps “you can’t have too much of a good thing” is intended to transcend possessions or consumables altogether. Perhaps the intangible aspects of life such as friendship, mindfulness, focus, compassion, and the like are the intent of the phrase.

Let us bring much good to this world, and may we find enjoyment along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk at Dawn: Dreams to Pursue

A walk at dawn is pretty amazing.

There is a stillness, a quietness in the air. The stars make their final plea to be seen and gazed upon, and the chill reminds you that you are alive. 

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Today is a gift; another chance to create, another day to dream. As always, focus is needed; because there is a world of opportunity out there. We need focus, because each of us has apart to play in this world.

We cannot do everything, but each of us can do something.

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of content related to dreams and goals. We need to have our goals before us daily if we wish to achieve them. Whether big or small, it takes commitment and perseverance to see your dreams come true.  Our dreams must be pursued. We cannot let them be thrown out or forgotten; though they may take a lifetime to achieve.

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. I love that movie because George Bailey is a dreamer. He had grand ideas for travel and engineering, and doing anything but run the family business; but what happens? Life circumstances placed on him the responsibility of the family business, and he stepped up to the task. What he expected from life, was a little different that what life expected of him.

When he came to his existential decision point of throwing his life away, an angel appears and takes him on a journey through a world without him. He finds that all of the everyday decisions he had made in life, actually had an impact on so many of the lives around him. Life had thrown a curve ball, and he thought that he had struck out (sports analogies). Up to the point of despair, his dreams had kept him moving forward, pursuing a better world, and impacting lives around him.

A dream is a powerful force for momentum. 

In the end he realized that he truly had a wonderful life. I love the book by Dr. Seuss Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It inspires and reminds us that things may not always go our way, but we must press on.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you….

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are…  

As we move through each day, may we seek focus to define and seek our dreams daily. No matter what may come our way, we must stay true.

Here is some of the content that has inspired me:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl

It’s a Wonderful life

Lasso the Moon –Podcast by Brian Buffini

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

At year’s end

As the year comes to a close…

It’s that time of year for reflection and action as we learn from the days behind us, and look forward to the days ahead. The here and now is a good place to be. There is much joy, and much to be thankful for during the holidays; as well as a chance to dig deep. Amidst all of this, there is a dance between joy; and at times, an unexplainable sadness.

Goodness, kindness, and community are highlighted during the Christmas season. It is embedded in the movies we watch and the songs we sing; a hope for a better world, and a hope for change. We cheer for Scrooge, who finally sees that people are the most precious commodity. We shed tears of joy as George Bailey discovers that the wonderful life he has been searching for has been right in front of him the whole time.

Now the sadness, well there must be a reason and a place for it too right?

The holidays are also a time for togetherness, which can potentially make time alone feel well… lonely. I believe that this idea of togetherness highlights those who are no longer with us, and still hold a part of our hearts. All of us have lost someone to some extent; whether it be death to the body,  the heart that has lost hope, or a relationship faded. All things that have passed need to be mourned.

This aloneness does not have to equate to loneliness; it may be necessary.

 These times may be a call to reflect, remember, accept, or take action.

Who we are and what we do matters in this life. 

We live in the space between joy and sadness, so we must seek the purpose that is within that space.

Starting Somewhere

“Well, you gotta start somewhere,” I said to myself the other morning.

I woke up with a mind full of ideas, and about an hour until I had to leave for work. There was so much that I wanted to do, and it was a little overwhelming. I was thinking about projects at work, an upcoming Christmas party, playing guitar, writing a blog, New Year’s Eve plans, writing a story, reading Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (part of the Stormlight Archive, fun read), hitting the trails, doing some push ups, and the list went on… and on. All this at 5:15am, and I had only been awake for a few minutes.

“Just breathe,” I said to myself. “Start there, and lay a foundation for success.”

So I decided to close me eyes and breathe. It was an exercise in meditation, and it was hard to get started. It takes a lot of effort to calm a mind, to de-clutter thoughts; but once you get started, it begins to make more sense. After about 5-7 minutes, the feeling of anxiety had left; and instead, a sense of peace came over me. The need to do everything was replaced with do something, which is right where we need to be.

The rest of my time that morning was spent reading, and it was good.

I felt focused and ready to take on the day at my workplace, and I was very effective.

It was a good day, all the way into the night; and throughout the day I reflected on the idea of starting somewhere. All the good we bring to this world comes from intention, and success does not come without doing the work.

So what started as a breath, is actually a foundation for success.

Tales from the Trails

I was running some trails last night up on Observatory Mesa here in Flagstaff AZ, and I found myself drifting into some deep reflection. These trails in particular are behind the neighborhood we lived in for 12 years, and I hadn’t run up there much since we moved two years ago.

The sun was setting, and dusk was here. The wind was blowing, and a slight mist began to fall. A dusky mist is a magical experience.

I have spent many hours on that Mesa on solo runs, pack runs, and family hikes. There are lots of memories, and lots of dreams. This latest solo run, in particular, spawned the idea for this blog. A series of reflections from trail runs.

Trail running has been part of my life for the past 6 years or so. I have experienced community and brotherhood, pain and suffering, adventures, fear, extreme heat, and extreme cold. I have found myself laughing out loud, talking to myself, and even singing out loud. I have also had runs full of tears, not from physical pain, but from deep emotions that were unlocked through the experience.

My goal is to write something after each run that speaks to me, and I hope this connects to anyone who enjoys experiencing life or digging deep.

Now…I think I’m going to hit the trails.

 

 

 

 

Bitter Sweet

It’s a bitter-sweet symphony, this life.

I feel this way at times during the holiday season.

Joy and sadness mingled together to make a melody that speaks deep into my core. It’s a time to embrace friends and family that are here, and lament those that are not.

The true beauty of this song, is the mental and emotional plain you can find yourself on. If you allow yourself the time to dive deep into both the joy and the sadness, we may find ourselves at a place of clarity. Personally, both aspects of this bring me to a place of action.

I’m a day dreamer, many of those dreams attainable if I put myself out there. Most require me start laying a foundation to build on. Any relationship that we want to maintain, grow, or establish; require us to do something. It can be as simple as making a phone call, or grabbing a cup of coffee (or tea if that’s your…well…cup of tea I guess).

I just watched It’s a wonderful Life last night with my youngest daughter, which in itself was great experience (I’ll take any snuggle time I can get with my kids nowadays). It was a good reminder that true wealth and fulfillment is not found through monetary means; but rather, in the relationships we have. I love the quote at the end (which I reference a lot) “No man is failure who has friends.”

So let us embrace both the song of praise, and the song of lament this season; as we remember that which has passed, and that which lies ahead.

Peace.

Take a moment

Breathe.

That’s what I tell myself as I wake up in a restless state this morning.

Just breathe.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds, because my mind is already indexing projects that should be completed; and planning out the day ahead. The only problem is that it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, I got no work today, and the plan was to enjoy a day off with the family.

Chill.

Do I have the power of mind to just chill for a while this morning? Sit back, drink some coffee, and go with the flow as the family wakes up. Perhaps see what they  would like to do today, and until they do wake up; dig until I find peace.

Just Chill.

I’m a morning person in the sense that I don’t sleep in much past 7:00 on the weekends, and I’m up at the butt crack o’ dawn during the work week. I’ve been working hard this year on utilizing my morning mind, which is the time during our fist waking hour when our mind is most free and creative. I’ve read a lot of articles this past year about the significance of our morning routines, and the power of our minds.

Create.

Well, it’s blog time again. This has helped me in so many ways this past year. Even now, as I type away; I find my heart slowing, and my mind calming. As the sun continues to rise, I have managed to stay on the couch with a cup of coffee and my computer; finding a simple joy in this moment.

Learn.

I will take away a lesson from this morning. Perhaps an initial restlessness does not signify unbalance, but rather, a signal to dig deep until a purpose is uncovered. It does not matter whether this purpose, or it’s impact, is small or large; because if it’s there, it must be brought to light.

Breathe. Chill. Create. Learn.

One Thing

What is one thing I can give up today?

Furthermore, what is one thing that I can focus on today?

What would life look like if I asked myself these two questions each day?

This could be a revolutionary idea for growth, and realization of purpose.

If a life of impact and fulfillment is what I long for, then I must ask of myself that which desires intentionality.

“Two roads diverged in the wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by; and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

 

What am I to you?

I have been thinking a lot about less lately.

Maybe this is natural as I get older, maybe it’s an overall shift in our culture (which would be a good thing); but I have been moving towards less stuff in my life, longing for more focus.

I have realized that there is direct connection (for me at least) between clutter and unrest. I am a simple man, yet I have slowly moved toward complex living in a sense. At the center,  I know that which is truly treasure: My wife, my children, my family, my friends, and my faith; these are of the utmost value to me, my top-tier treasure if you will.  Other things that bring me fulfillment are a job well done, playing guitar, writing songs, writing blogs (presently partaking in this one),  and hiking/running among other things; these would be my next tier of treasure in my life.  interesting thing is the lack of things in these lists.

If that which I value most is free of charge, and available constantly; why have I spent so much time shopping for, and accumulating stuff? I believe that this has very deep roots for me, which go back to my childhood. I have grown up telling myself that I am a “collector”. I have saved and taken care of comic books, sports cards, toys, Lord of the Rings memorabilia (nerd alert), amongst many other items. I have spent money on these, and I have wrapped a part of my identity in these. Some of the reasons for this may lie deeply rooted in my psyche, and may need professional help to diagnose; but I won’t drag you all down that rabbit hole in this blog.

I truly believe that starting as young as a child, I began to be drawn by the thrill of “the purchase.” I have accustomed myself to shopping, holding high value on that which I purchase; and worked hard to earn money to spend and these things that I would keep undamaged in their packages, holding on to some sort of hope some day that I would pass along a fortune to my kids. Well, that is not reality anymore folks! Through eBay, I realized that thousands of other people have held on to those same items I have, and are all trying to sell them. That means a flooded market, and that drives down the value of those items.

I would like to believe though, that it is more than just a market flooded by collectibles that has driven down the market. I believe that all of us are experiencing a shift in our world. Our eyes are being opened to the impact of consumerism, and the rippling effects that it has on our environment. The more we consume, the more waste there is. The more we continue to spend, the more we will be marketed to. We are hopefully realizing that it is the quality of what we have and do more than the quantity.

There is a great scene near the end of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie (Spoiler alert!) takes place between Captan Barbosa and Carina Smyth. As the story unfolds to the audience, we find that Carina is actually Barbosa’s long lost daughter. The moment at which she realizes that this Pirate is willing to sacrifice himself for her she asks:

“Tell me, what am I to you?”

Barbosa replies, “Treasure.”

Barbosa was a pirate, a life full of taking more and more, gathering and spending his “plunder”. At the end of all things, he sees what is truly valuable, and makes the greatest decision in his life based on that which he found to be true “treasure”.

Well now I’m all teary eyed, but I hope you get the point.

Let us seek that which is truly valuable in our life; and may our actions, time, and purchases reflect our true passion.