Has your chewing gum lost it’s flavor?

“Man rising above death, reaching upward to God and toward Peace.”

Spoiler: this is a thought experiment arguing for the virtue of meditation.

This feels like an epic post that’s been brewing for a while. I think it was finally spurred by a friend turning 50; he posted some thoughts about where he’s been, where he is, and where he’s going. I could relate to much of it as we’ve both gone through a significant number of life-altering events. All of that was in the context of an “auspicious date”, as the traditional Chinese might say; an opportunity for reflection and consideration.

So, I’ve had the luxury of enjoying some amazing food in my life. I’ve been to 5-star restaurants, worked in one myself that was award-winning, and I’ve got a lot of friends who are amazing chefs. I live in a community that celebrates good food; fresh, flavorful, rich, healthy, decadent… you name it, you can probably find it. I know it gets better, especially in cosmopolitan cities like New York and San Francisco, let alone places like Paris or who knows where else.

A thought came to me, though, that there are limits to the indulgence of food. I imagine, if I had limitless resources, that I could thoroughly enjoy food for my entire lifetime, constantly seeking whatever I wanted, satisfying my every taste. If I lived long enough, I could repeat my indulgences until I got bored, tired of the same experience, ever moving onward. But setting aside the limits of time and resources, could I experience satisfaction and fulfillment forever, just from food? At some point, I think I might actually tired of the pleasures of food.

I could imagine the same for adrenaline, and I know this from personal experience. I used to be a speed junkie — ask anyone that’s known me for a while. I’ve owned more than a dozen motorcycles, tuned my own vehicles, I’ve even won trophies. To be sure, I still love going fast, but my taste of speed has become more sophisticated. I yearn to master the vehicle, to control my travel at speed. That, too, becomes an indulgence, in my self image as a skilled driver, the owner of a “cool car”, prestige, accolade, self-importance. At some point, given enough time, I might tire of that pursuit. Probably not in this lifetime, but as an experience that I seek for fulfillment, I think there’s an end, a limit.

My satisfaction as a father, oh boy… It’s a common thing to relate with other parents about, that insistence by our children to grow. They just keep getting older, more mature, more independent. As much as I beg, plead, cajole, and insist, my daughter keeps getting older. Thus, my time of fulfillment and pleasure with being a dad is limited. It will continue for as long as we both live, and my love will never end, of course. But as a source of fulfillment, parenting is limited.

I’ve gone through my mind, and tried on various other pleasures in life: toys, career, money, books, music, relations, sex… I can see them all as being fulfilling for a lifetime, but what about beyond? What would come next after all my personal wants, needs, and desires were completely fulfilled?

The answer that comes to me is to build, support, and develop; to provide for others. Yet, even that as a pursuit, as honorable as it is, could exhaust itself. So we achieve every wonder in our science-fiction universe, explore every star, colonize and build every corner of the universe… then what?

For me, it comes down to the act of meditation — achieving a sense of completeness, fulfillment, peace, bliss; nay, actually attaining the essence of being beyond all that, the Hindu Brahman, the state of Zen, a God-consciousness. This is the end that I see from this experiment.

But, I’ve got this lifetime that’s in progress. I do have a chance to enjoy every bite. I can indulge in speed, even on my feet. I am in the midst of my daughter’s childhood, and I’m loving every minute of it. I have rich, wondrous relations, a satisfying and challenging career. I even have chances to build, support, and develop; and every opportunity to do so brings deep joy and satisfaction.

I have a choice, though, to simply indulge in the physical pleasures, or to keep striving; to transcend this existence, or at least to try. Why would I do this? Mostly, because I can. It’s easy to include this as part of a lifestyle, a priority, a core value. I do it because it’s been shown to me by countless others as being a Good Thing. I do it because I’ve been in touch with it, and I can’t help but try to share it with anyone that will listen.

It’s like having a never-ending gift, and wanting to share it with everyone.

Since I’m not immortal, I strive to embody that state of Zen, and bring it into this life each day. In my experience, it adds a little something extra (actually, a lot!) to all those other pursuits. Carrying a sense of peace from all things, and a connection to all things… it helps to transform and transcend this human experience.

So, what do you value? Is it enough to simply pursue indulgences, luxuries, experiences and “stuff”? Is that enough for your lifetime? If you follow my thinking, why wouldn’t you value and honor meditation, the end-of-all pursuits? If you don’t agree, what would you strive for instead?

Language — we all have a duty to “tone it down”, until we don’t.

I do my very best to be respectful of others, and in doing so, there are times when it’s appropriate to take responsibility for a situation. I do so almost 100% of the time with my daughter, as she’s a minor child; those times I don’t are when we’re allowing her to stretch and grow into her own independence.

There are also times when people demonstrate that they are clearly not being responsible — people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people with mental instabilities, etc… Even in those cases, I do my best to respect their choices, unless they are threatening harm to myself or others.

Using that as a working context, there are times when I need to apply the same thinking to my language. Again, in the case of my daughter, it would be ineffectual and possibly harmful to her if I used language beyond her ability to describe something to her. I also need to guide her towards more sophisticated aspects of life with consideration for her developmental level — openly discussing adult sex in explicit terms with her as a child would be harmful, even traumatizing.

So, as in that case, there are times when I have a duty to “tone down my language”. In fact, as a coach, it’s in everyone’s interest to find the most appropriate and accessible way to communicate. If I don’t, then I’m thinking more for myself than for the person in front of me.

The same goes for many other concepts and ideas. As a technology consultant, I need to speak the language of my client, otherwise I lose them; they can’t keep up, they lose interest, they feel uncared for. That’s bad business.

This can be applied in any context where there’s an inequality of knowledge. Consider a husband-wife relationship. If a husband doesn’t understand the complexities of his wife’s needs, she has an obligation to bring him up to speed. By presuming that he knows her needs, or that he ought to forecast and intuit them, she’s not honoring and respecting the necessary growth in the relationship. The very same rules apply in the other direction as well — this isn’t just for one gender or the other.

At the same time, I need to keep my ears open. I need to pay attention to when they do comprehend what I’m saying, so that I can give them something progressive afterward. Continuing to talk in overly simplistic terms can hold back development, and even become an act of coddling.

If I don’t pay attention to these aspects of communication, then I’m paying less attention to my client; and they’re the one’s paying for it.

How to Change in an Instant, or “Don’t forget the milk!”

“It’s just a jump to the left.”

This may not be the greatest post I’ve ever written, but it’s one of the most important. Also, if you know me, I’m usually not one to make sweeping statements. But, I think this is one of those times.

Changing yourself — any change — takes an instant, and it’s as easy as remembering to “buy the milk!”

Imagine for a moment that you suddenly realize that you need milk. You may be on your way home, just arriving at work, hanging out somewhere, maybe already in a store. You might get the suggestion or reminder from your wife or friend, or you might remember on your own.

Are you ready? Here it comes. Here comes the change.

You decide to get the milk.

BAM! That’s it! In an instant, you’ve changed your mind. You’ve decided to do something different. There’s no argument, no resistance (necessary), no debate or committee needed.

Now, actually getting the milk into your hands may take 2 seconds if you just decided this in front of a cooler of milk. Or, it may take a bit longer to get cash, to wait for that farmer’s market on Sunday at 3p, and buy it from your friendly organic farmer. Maybe you’ll have to dress up warm, go out to the barn, and milk your cow. The quality of the milk you get, and the effort to get that quality, is up to you.

The decision to get the milk took only an instant.

The same principle applies to any other change. You may consider becoming a Project Manager, learning to program a computer, or invent a world changing product. You may be thinking of being a nicer person, forgiving a long standing anger, or wanting to be sober from drugs, alcohol, or some behavior. Maybe you want to run for President, change the financial industry in your country, or achieve Everlasting Peace. What you want to achieve or accomplish may take widely varying amounts of time and effort; all up to you.

…but the change can occur in no time at all.

p.s. Achieving most of those things is often far easier than you realize. There are excellent teachers and coaches in this world, countless “How to…” guides, and plenty of prior art.

(Thank you for this lesson, Ms. Grace.)

Seriously, where did you learn about emotions?

“Oh, yeah. I feel like a hundred dollars.” –Fletch

Did you ever go to school? Were you ever tested? Did you achieve a diploma or some recognition of excellence? And, if you did get educated, did you keep up as you grew older, while you became a much more complex person?

Perhaps you only gained a working vocabulary of emotions, from friends your own age who knew about as much as you did. Maybe you figured them out together, while you learns other subjects in school. Or did you have to struggle through them on your own, with few people to turn to?

I know, I know, it’s pretty clear when a feeling of happiness comes up, or sadness, or anger. Those feel so strong and powerful! There’s no denying that they come up, nor is there a need to explain why you feel them so strongly.

But…

I’ve found that people often confuse their feelings with their thoughts. “I feel like eating a burger.” “I feel like going to a movie.” “I ought to feel angry about this, but…”

Emotions are far more worthy of attention, and many people struggle with what they feel, why they feel those ways, and what they can do about them. There’s an incredibly wide range of feelings, and we can feel more than one at a time! They are natural, they are “honest”, and they are completely yours; no one can do anything to them without your permission.

I’ve written about “the GATE method”, a simple way to work through emotions in order to specifically understand why they come up, and what they mean to you. This isn’t the only way to process emotions, just a simple, fool-proof one. It opens the door towards understanding one’s self, and it allows a person to be responsible for themselves rather than be tossed about by their emotions. This results in a person who is fully empowered and available for themselves and others as opposed to people that are maintaining the appearance of control while bursting at the seams, ready to explode, with all their pent up feelings.

Consider the benefits of a strong education, and let’s set aside where the education comes from (college, self-taught, parochial, etc…). In a deeper sense, getting a “proper” emotional education opens the door to so much potential, and it prepares a person to create a full life. If you think your relationships are fun now, can you imagine if you both experienced life more fully, and were able to share that together? Can you imagine watching an old movie again and recognizing depths of the story that you simply couldn’t relate to? Maybe you could finally understand what is so moving and compelling in classical music, and then you might find yourself with hundreds of years of “new” music available for exploration.

It’s not difficult, but it may be unfamiliar, to study and practice the language of emotions. Just like anything else, though, it’s understandable, and when you achieve mastery of your emotional self, you open the door to a far more satisfying life, each and every day.

Onward, Mr. Jobs. Many thanks.

It’s a powerful thing we have, the ability to affect people, to affect this world. I saw how much my father touched people when so many gathered for his memorial. I can only imagine how far reaching Steve Jobs’ works are, and will be.

Thank you, Mr. Jobs. You inspire me.

Oh, no!!! It’s… MEDITATION! (Gasp! Shriek! Cower! Run away!)

“What’s so [scary] ’bout peace, love, and understanding…?” — Nick Lowe

I can make you several promises, sight unseen… if you’ve never meditated before, and you actually try it:

  • you will NOT automatically turn into a monk or nun
  • you will NOT begin smelling like patchoulli
  • you will NOT lose your sense of self
  • you will NOT start to speak Sanskrit
  • you will NOT need to practice yoga
  • you will NOT suddenly forgive your enemies
  • you will NOT lose all interest in prime-time TV
  • you will NOT stop looking Fabulous!
  • you will NOT gain (or lose) magical powers
  • you will NOT instantly love your enemies
  • you will NOT become part of a cult
  • you will NOT feel compelled to sell all your cool stuff
  • you will NOT hug the very next tree you see

You might experience some of those things over time , and if you practice really hard…:

  • you WILL feel happier
  • you WILL perform better
  • you WILL think more clearly
  • you WILL love more deeply
  • you WILL have clearer vision
  • you WILL get more value from your earnings
  • you WILL have better relationships
  • you WILL lose “weight”

These are just some of the benefits you’ll receive from meditation, and you’ll get all of these for just $1.00*.

I kid, I kid! It’s free, I tell ya!

Seriously, though, the point of this was to show how ludicrous it is to feel any fear towards meditation. The point of meditation is to quiet down.

Champions get quiet before big games, so do performers. Leaders get quiet when dealing with conflict. I’ll bet there are already times when you tend to quiet down; even sleep approaches the idea of meditation (related, but different).

If you know how to pray, there’s a saying: “Prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening.

Give it a try! It’s not as scary as you might think.

*You didn’t think you’d get all this for free, did you?!? As Guru Pitka says, “We will gladly refund your misery.”