One Thing

As I continue to read and remember about the egoic mind and the essence, I challenge myself to overcome that inner voice, my egoic voice. It is difficult, of course, we are so accustomed to the constant inner conversation, it’s almost like breaking up with a lover or close friend. Most of us have taken what our inner voice has been telling us, for our whole life, as truth, as fact. Sadly, this is not the case, our inner voice has been lying, cheating and misleading us for, well, forever. Now that we recognize this, we seek to separate ourself from this unsavory companion.

One thing our egoic selves do is compare ourselves to others in an effort to elevate that ego of ours. The ego always wants to be right, to be superior and in the criticism of others, this is ensured. You know it’s true. For example, you see someone in a public place and you “size them up”‘ am I right? Women often inwardly critique every passerby’s fashion choices, hair, body, expression, shoot, shoes, handbag, companion(s), etc., nothing and no one is immune. Men, often, literally size other men up. This boosts our ego and sends out a very negative energy that makes us less attractive, less friendly, insincere, and disingenuous, probably not the type of person we’re trying to evolve into. We tear everyone around us down, in some way or another, to boost that ego of ours. Well, our ego does it all with our implied permission. It is high time to revoke that permission! Take charge. Take control.

In an effort to evolve, in an effort to become less egoic, live more in the essence, promoting living in the present and fostering genuine happiness, I have issued myself a challenge; to say, in my mind, or out loud, if the opportunity presents itself, at least one nice thing about everyone I encounter. Whether in conversation, in association or simply passing on the street, I aim to make at least one nice remark about absolutely everyone I take notice of.

I am putting this to the test, in a really ambitious way. Today, in Napa, it is hot. For some reason ninety degrees in Napa feels like one hundred six in Sacramento, which is indeed what the temperature is in Sacramento today. I accomplished another great challenge today; I got up, ate breakfast and went running. I know, I go running almost every Saturday. The difference, today, I ran all by myself. I have never just laced up my shoes and headed out the door for a run on my own. Running is always part of an organized group event. This was a big step, actually, about six miles worth of small, fast steps, but, I did it. It’s sets a new precedent for me, I can now run, by myself, anywhere, anytime. Remember that full marathon I have coming up, how else am I going to be ready if I’m not running more than one day per week?

To say I was quite hot and sweaty after six miles on the blacktop would be an understatement. Mom’s house is not air conditioned, so it is a bit warm inside, too. To combat the heat, she shuts all the curtains and turns on about a dozen oscillating fans. Though hot, it is a beautiful day out and I simply cannot bear being holed up in a dark, windy, still too warm cave all day and night, listening to the television spewing out the news at a decibel level I’m certain is unsafe. So, after my lovely post-run shower, here I am. My favorite public market place, The Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. Full of food and wine venues and free wifi,and hordes of tourists on this busy, summer Saturday, it is cool and comfortable. And I have no shortage of folks to try out my experiment with the practice of “one thing”. You could say I’m in a “target rich environment”, especially considering the heat and the amount of bare skin/skimpy clothes. It’s all good. I’m doing quite well.

It is pretty tough to make note of one good, positive thing about everyone that passes my table which is nestled dangerously close to and right between “Three Twins Organic Ice Cream” and the “Wine Merchant” wine and cheese bar. That ego of mine is quite hasty in making judgements while my essence, out of practice, is a little slow in taking it all in and making a positive note. We really have to be quick to dismiss the horrible and allow the enlightened. If you haven’t tried this, I recommend it. It is a little alarming just how quickly we pass judgement on people. Or, perhaps, that’s just me. I hope not. i suspect not, since i read about it in two different books in a ond day span. Whether its just me, or not, I’m making the effort to change. I’m making an effort to shut my egoic voice down. I’m making the effort to evolve! By the way, you look very nice today! And I mean that!

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Shut up!

For as much excellent advice as I have, I do have my own struggles. That’s why my blog is called “an effort to evolve”. I am making an effort, I am figuring out what works, what doesn’t work, for me. I’m sharing what I think, what I figure out, what I find helpful with all of you that you can try it out in your own effort to evolve.

I read, a lot. Sometimes I have more time to read than others, and sometimes, I just have a hard time fitting reading into the whole work, work out, prepare healthy food, attend to important relationships and get enough sleep, routine. But, reading really should have as much a place in my daily routine as waking up in the morning. I find it THAT helpful.

I will admit, I have had some struggles on almost every level lately. Yes, good ideas have still been coming to me, and I have made some progress in my evolution, but there have been some struggles that have been retarding my efforts to evolve. Despite my belief that happiness is something from within, that self confidence is the catalyst for the happiness you find within, and that you, solely, are responsible for your attitude, your actions, your behavior and your evolution, my attitude has been, well, sort of sucky lately. And, on several levels. Ok, on every level.

On the home front, in many of my relationships, with work, with fitness and with my healthful eating habits. I have found myself more prone to negativity and cynicism in conversation with those close to me, and in my thoughts, more prone to anger and frustration while traveling and driving and, well, just getting through the day. This slump has touched every part of my life. So, what gives? I need to shut up.

Shutting up is the key, and I misplaced the key, there, somehow, for a while. Maybe it got lost when I made the move into my mom’s house. Perhaps I mislaid it during the holiday season. Or maybe it got lost in the shuffle in all of my travels for work and my vacations. But, I mislaid this very important key. Shut up.

I found the key yesterday. Right where I left it. Right where I found it in the first place. And since finding the key yesterday, I have discovered it in a few more places. Now, that key is everywhere, like I was meant to find it again. Now, I vow, no matter how busy life gets, no matter if there are moves, or travel, or challenges, that key will be safely in my grasp.

The key is to shut up. Just shut yourself up. Well, no, to clarify, shut your ego up.

To explain. A couple of years ago, I read an excellent and life altering book by Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now”, that’s where I first found the key. After reading his book and employing as much of his teachings as possible, life got really, really good. I had incredible optimism, I had incredible energy, I accomplished tremendous things, I grew outrageously as a person, I achieved highly at work, my relationships were all aglow. I rocked everything in my universe. Then, somehow, somewhere, I forgot about the most important lesson in the book, the key to the whole thing. To shut up.

Yesterday, sitting in one airport after another, one delayed flight after the next, frustrated as hell, I pulled out my Kindle and was accosted with an ad for Audible, an audiobook subscription service through Amazon. I’ve had Audible before and never used it though I paid the monthly fee month after month after month after month and finally ended the service. The “free trial” book they were featuring in the ad on my Kindle yesterday, though, was by Eckhart Tolle, “A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose”. The title alone made me feel good. And he is absolutely brilliant. I clicked the banner, signed up for my “free month” and my “free trial”. I downloaded the book and started to listen. His voice is as magical as what he writes. In the first chapter he recapped the relationship between us, and our ego. The ego, in a very simple, condensed version, is all the chatter that goes on in your head. All the “think speak” you hear in your mind, the voice you think is you. It isn’t, this is your ego. You are separate from that voice in your head that you listen to 24/7. Once you learn to separate yourself from your ego, all that noise, you learn to just shut up. Think about the constant dialogue in your mind, is it not mostly focused on the past or on the future? Pay attention. It is. Or it’s going on about everything that makes you mad, sad, frustrated, upset, etc. Either way, not much good is going on in that singular dialogue. Cynicism, bitterness, self-criticism. Your inner dialogue batters you, constantly, with self criticism; I’m not smart enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not strong enough, I’m unhealthy, I can’t, etc., etc., etc. So, basically, you spend every waking moment focusing on the past you can’t change, the future you can’t reach and self-talk that is self-destructive, and, coming from a “reliable” and believable source, you. So just shut up.

Interestingly enough, after listening to a few chapters and picking up that lost key, I instantly felt better. I felt in control. I felt much more positive. Happy. Even though I was still sitting in the deepest, darkest, recesses of San Francisco International Airport, at a gate in a terminal I didn’t even know existed, waiting for a delayed plane. I picked up my Kindle, again started surfing for some books on relationships and found one that piqued my interest. I downloaded it and started reading it after boarding the tiny plane bound for Sacramento. I had plenty of time to read because there was a mechanical issue that required a mountain of paperwork to be completed before we could depart. We were aboard the plane for nearly an hour before we finally took off for the nineteen-minute flight. But, I was happy. Reading. And in the relationship book, everything I’d just heard in Eckhart Tolle’s new audiobook was being echoed, almost eerily, by the author, Marie Forelo (whom I admire and follow). I hadn’t realized she authored the book until I’d read the first chapter or two. But, again, the key, which she outlined foremost in her book, is to shut up. Shut that voice off in your head, or acknowledge it as separate from you and dismiss it. This is the single, most important, vital step to creating your own happiness. By shutting up that egoic voice that focuses on the past and on the future, you can be present in the only time that you can control, influence and live. Now. The present.

This concept was the main thesis of Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now”, the book that had such a positive impact on my life a couple of years ago. To find myself haphazardly revisiting this concept in not one, but two, unrelated sources on the one day I probably needed it the most seemed more than just coincidence. A blessing, to say the least.

I am shutting up again. I am acknowledging that egoic drivel in my mind and dismissing it. I am, again, regaining control of my thoughts, working on actually living in the present, not just preaching it, and living in the present, now, with a little more clarity, with the key in hand. I am certain that in very little time, with only minimal effort, I will be back on track in every area of my life. Right where I want to be.

What I hope you’ll take away from this; explore separating yourself from that voice in your head. Learn that you are separate from all that noise. If you are interested in learning more, look up the books I referenced above and devote some time to their well-worded lessons. And, above all else, just shut up.

 

There is beauty and magic in every moment we live in the present. Shut up! And let it happen.
There is beauty and magic in every moment we live in the present. Shut up! And let it happen.

Like the Vine

Consider the grapevine of the wine-producing sort. When you drive past a vineyard in a wine region, you usually notice the neat, straight rows. The vines are sometimes trellised so they stretch out along a wire, others are not, growing unsupported, depending on the variety. Vineyards always appear neat, tidy, geometrical, pristine. Sometimes you see many people in the vineyards tending to the care of the vines. It would seem that the vines needs are looked after in every respect; the soil, water, nutrients, there are fans and heaters and sprinklers and all sorts of things to keep the vines warm when it is too cold and cool when it is too warm. Many measures are taken, depending on the practices of each vintner, against pests, from tiny bugs, to birds, to deer, to passing, hungry motorists. They actually record the temperature in the different vineyards many times throughout each and every day to calculate out necessary information for optimal care of the vines. At first blush, it seems that vines are pampered much like star athletes. Some varieties of grapes come from vines that require many years of establishment before ever producing a single piece of fruit. Consider the investment involved.

I had the good fortune to take a walking tour through a vineyard this past weekend as part of a special “Earth Day” event. As we strolled along, viewing different “blocks” of vineyards, our tour guide described many of the different practices used in growing vines that produce wine grapes. I was at Hess Winery in the Mt. Veeder district of the Napa Valley, a series of steep hills with harsher soil conditions and cooler weather conditions than other wine districts in this famous region. Because Mt. Veeder is cooler than other districts, and because the soil is composed mostly of limestone, with a thin layer of topsoil over it, the vines here are in a constant “struggle”. Only certain varieties can even endure this district’s climate. And this, it was explained to us, is good. Vines that struggle will produce better fruit than those that do not. Whether a vine has to struggle to derive nutrients from the soil or to overcome a streak of unusually warm weather, the results are usually for the better, ultimately. Struggle, to a degree, is good, if you’re a grapevine.

An Effort to Evolve

I began to contemplate this some after about my third tasting, of six, following the vineyard walk. I’m glad I decided to taste wine after the walk and not before! As I thought about the vines and their struggles, I translated that to people and their struggles. Are we not very similar to grapevines? People who struggle usually grow in ways that are both unexpected and beneficial, in the long run.

It is unreasonable to expect that every growing year, for a grapevine, will be perfect. There are likely to be conditions that will cause the vine to stress out a bit and to struggle. It could be a late season frost, or an early, warmer than usual spring, a cooler fall, a colder winter, too much rain, or too little rain. No two years are ever going to be exactly alike in any wine district, in any wine region. This explains the distinct differences in wines between regions and years, or vintages.

It is also unreasonable to expect that life is always going to be a cakewalk for us. We are all going to struggle with something at some point in time. If you haven’t, brace yourself. I know, I know, I know; I’m the “positive mental attitude” and “law of attraction” preacher. And I am here to tell you, that my life was as perfect as I could imagine and going my way, 100%, for a very long time. It was pretty easy to be positive. Occasionally, I would look over my shoulder, though, because I couldn’t believe how well things were going, for so long. Not perfect, of course, I was making compromises, but things were really, really good, overall. And, even while practicing and preaching PMA and the law of attraction and even visualization, my entire world collapsed. Talk about struggle.

For quite a while, as my world completely shattered all around me, only my immediate family and my closest, closest friends knew what was happening. For everyone else, it was business as usual. Yes, I was struggling, but because I was so positive, because I believed in the law of attraction, I knew I would grow tremendously from the struggles I endured. Only occasionally did my faith waiver, only rarely did I despair, and only in private, and only for a moment. Then I set myself straight, and just went on.

As more and more of my friends and acquaintances became aware of the turmoil that had occurred, the struggles endured, by me and my kids, teenagers at the time, the more often I heard “I don’t know how you just keep going”. I didn’t know how to NOT keep going. I was driven, my kids were driven. It was just a struggle and we were going to get through it. As more and more friends found out about our situation, and looked on in awe, I realized that we had become invincible because of our struggle. We had always been tough, stoic, strong, stubborn even, the three of us. What we endured in the past several years, to some, would be a nightmare beyond fathom. Ok, it was. We lost everything. But all the while, we went about our work, school, myriad volunteer activities, we never had an excuse, we never quit, we showed up for everything, worked hard, and we excelled at everything we endeavored, we smiled, joked, laughed, lived. And we grew; better, I think, than if everything had gone perfectly as they had all those years prior. My son became an Eagle Scout, my daughter held a state office in the California International Order of Rainbow for Girls and I took on a new job that required learning pubic speaking and also required an enormous amount of travel, two things I never considered an ability prior to this “struggle”.

Our story is not unique. I’m sure, in light of the past several years of economic turmoil, you can think of a family, perhaps displaced from their home or from their jobs, who through those struggles actually found a new lease on life. Perhaps a more suitable lifestyle, perhaps the rare chance to start over with a career, to finally do something they only ever dreamed of doing. The vine bore better fruit as a result of the struggle. Of course, there are those who just sat there in despair, being the victim, languishing and desperate. Those grapes became bitter fruit because they did not respond to the struggle in an appropriate fashion.

I guarantee that no successful person in the history of the world ever made it to success without some significant struggle along the way. It is not possible to truly succeed without having struggled. The greater the success, I promise, the greater the struggle.

Do not be afraid when you are met with a situation you must struggle against; health, money, relationships. Just remember the vines, growing on the steep, limestone hillside in the Mt. Veeder district of the Napa Valley, remember that occasionally they struggle beyond just their difficult rooting in the rocky soil, in a climate cooler than the rest of the valley, where there is far less water. As a result, the fruit becomes sweeter, and the wine is divine! You will be, too. Learn to use struggle as a catalyst for growth and you will succeed, like the vine.