Contractions: Catching Up on #VOWcross, #VOWwait, & #VOWspend

It’s the last day of July, and I haven’t posted since May.

Since then, #VOWcross, #VOWwait, and #VOWspend have come and gone.

I just caught up on Sister’s posts for the past three months, and I found myself nodding in agreement. Had I posted, as often happens with us, I would have said many of the same things, so I suggest you read hers.

I did reflect on our verbs. I even put them into practice. I thought about posting. I intended to.

But the last three months…well, they were something.

I think the best way to describe them is that they involved a hell of a lot of contracting, as Madisyn Taylor phrased it in her Daily Om newsletter that we reposted on the blog. (Also, you should totally subscribe to those emails, because they are life-changing; you can do so here.)

At the end of this year, I anticipating looking back on my One Word for 2018, Narrow, and remembering these contractions. I anticipate remembering the months spent trying to cross more things off my list than I possibly could get done. The time put in waiting for it to be time. The money spent when I would have rather saved it.

But despite this tightening, I think what I will remember more about narrowing is the way these contractions, ironically, expanded me. They flexed muscles that allowed me to cross lines and boundaries in nearly every aspect of my life, inspiring me to stretch and grow more than I knew I could—physically, sexually, spiritually, mentally, professionally. They reminded me about the goodness that can come from the Universe when I just sit and, therefore, trust that some things are worth investing in, worth waiting for. They taught me that sometimes Emergency Funds should be renamed Life Funds and spent in the moments that make you life rich, even if a bit cash poor.

And speaking of things that can be gold, this month, in August, we

Treasure.

exactly this: Warren Buffett Says This 1 Simple Habit Separates Successful People From Everyone Else

By Marcel Schwantes, this Inc.com article offers a list of seven things that we might consider saying no (#VOWnarrowing) to:

Here are seven things the most successful people say no to on a regular basis. Perhaps you should too?

1. They say no to opportunities and things that don’t excite them, speak to their values, or further their mission in life.

2. They say no to superficial networking events in which people swap business cards and never hear from one another. Why? Because successful people don’t network. They build relationships.

3. They say no to spending time with uninspiring, critical, or negative people who drag them down. Time is precious — choose a small circle of people who will energize you and challenge you to be better. 

4. They say no to overworking. While it’s true some successful people and many entrepreneurs put in 60 to 80 hours per week, very successful people aren’t workaholics who neglect self-care and family. They recognize that if they can’t take care of themselves, everything else suffers. 

5. They say no to doing all the work. This comes down to one word:

D-E-L-E-G-A-T-I-O-N.

6. They say no to giving the steering wheel of life to anyone else. Another Buffett quote affirms this: “You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”

7. They say no to people-pleasing. Successful people don’t neglect their deepest wishes and desires to accommodate and yield to others’ wishes and desires. 

The whole article is definitely worth a read; click here.

Exactly this:

Repost from Leo Babauta’s amazing blog Zen Habits

This post hit me right in the #VOWplay feels. So frequently we bounce about, not savoring or enjoying what we’re doing. Oftentimes it’s work (more on that in my reflection post) but also, it seems, in play.

For instance, I recently bought a book on doodling. Which sounds kinda dumb, I know. And unnecessary. But I had a Barnes & Noble giftcard and it seemed like fun. My doodles have always felt relatively uninspired and another post about grimoires got me jonesing to build a talent for decorating pages. When I opened the book, I was in such a rush to do ALL THE DOODLES that I actually felt a bit of a failure for starting at the beginning. The rush of mastery almost ruined the fun of the learning — of the PLAYing.

 

Why I’m Always in a Hurry, & What I’m Doing About It

BY LEO BABAUTA
DATE : March 6, 2017

I’ve come to realize, more and more, that I’m always rushing.

I rush from one task to the next, rush through eating my food, impatient for meditation to be over, rushing through reading something, rushing to get somewhere, anxious to get a task or project finished.

What’s the deal? This coming from a guy who has written a lot about slowing down and savoring, about being present, about single-tasking?

As always, when I write these articles, they’re as much a reminder to myself about what I’ve found to work as they are a reminder to all of you. I’ve found them to work, but that doesn’t mean I always remember to practice them. It doesn’t mean I’m perfect, by any means.

So what is going on? Why do I hurry so much?

I’ve been reflecting on this, and the answer seems to be that my mind has a tendency towards greed. This isn’t greed in the sense that I want a lot of wealth … but my mind finds something it likes and it wants more. Always more.

Some examples of greed:

  • I like chocolate (or wine, or coffee, or cookies) and I crave it, and want more even if I just had a bite of it.
  • I am doing a task but also want to do 20 more tasks, because I want to do as much as possible. Wanting to do more and more, to do everything, is a good example of the mind’s tendency to greed.
  • When I learn, I want to learn everything about a topic. I’ll look up every book I can find, every blog post or article, every podcast or video, every forum post, and want to read all of it. Of course, I can’t possibly read all of it now, but I want to. I’ll buy 10 books but jump around from one to the next, not finishing any of them.
  • When I travel to a new city, I want to see it all — all the best sights, all the best vegan restaurants, all the best bookstores and museums and experiences. I can’t possibly, but I’ll do my best to fit all the best stuff into the small container of my trip, and research it for weeks.
  • When I’m going about my day, I try to fit as much as possible into it: not only all my tasks, but spending time with the wife, reading with the kids, working out and meditating and doing yoga and going for a walk and reading and learning online and answering all my emails, watching all the best TV shows and films, and checking all the forums and news and blogs and more and more.

I rush around, trying to fit all of that in. I’m trying to maximize every day, every trip, every event, every moment. I’m trying to get everything possible out of life.

This comes from a good heart — I appreciate the briefness of life, and I appreciate its brilliance, and I want all of it in the short time I have left here. That’s not a bad thing, wanting more of life.

But what is the result of always wanting more, always wanting to maximize? It’s rushing, grabbing onto everything, never having enough, never being satisfied, never actually stopping to enjoy, not really appreciating each moment because I’m greedy for more great moments.

Indulging in this greediness for more, this maximizing everything, doesn’t satisfy it. It just creates more wanting for more.

Indulging isn’t helpful. Staying with the feeling of wanting more, wanting to maximize, wanting to rush, wanting to do it all … that’s more helpful. Stay with the feeling, Leo, don’t indulge it.

Don’t try to do it all, but instead be here now.

Don’t rush, but appreciate the moments in between things as just as important as the next thing.

Don’t try to maximize, but instead practice letting go. Let go of greedy tendencies, let go of whatever you’re clinging to (having it all, doing it all), let go of the urge to rush.

Whenever there’s a tendency towards greed, counter it with generosity.

The Practice of Generosity

What does generosity have to do with hurrying and trying to maximize every day? In one sense, generosity might be giving money or possessions to people who need it, or giving help wherever needed, when possible. But that’s just one sense of generosity.

Generosity is any way that we turn away from our self-centered view and start turning towards others. It could be as simple as turning towards another person in our life and trying to see what they need, rather than focusing on what we want to get out of life.

Or it could be turning towards that person and giving them the gift of our full attention. Really try to be present, with an open heart, trying to understand and hear the person. This is the spirit of generosity.

When doing something alone, the spirit of generosity can be turned to each moment — giving that moment the full gift of our attention, seeing it fully and opening our heart to it. This is a salve to the usual spirit of needing more, more, more, of wanting to satisfy me, me, me.

I’m trying to practice the spirit of generosity, whenever I notice my greedy mind wanting everything, wanting more, wanting to get the most out of every day. Instead, I turn to this moment, each person, each activity, and give it the loving gift of my wholehearted attention.

Exactly This: A Letter From Elizabeth Gilbert

Dear Ones –

OK, so I don’t usually quote myself on this page, but a reader asked me today if I would take a moment to further explain this idea that ruin can sometimes be a gift in our lives.

*takes a deep breath*

Let me begin by saying that the ruin I’m talking about here is not something I would encourage anyone to ever deliberately seek. I’ve seen people who chase darkness and destruction on purpose (sometimes for the glamour of it, sometimes for the romance of it, sometimes for the sheer self-hatred of it) and this is not a path that I am capable of endorsing for anybody.

No, I’m talking about the ruin that happens to you, without you ever seeing it coming. The chaos that sneaks up on you.

Because sometimes the bottom falls out of our lives. People leave us. Precious certainties are yanked away. We lose our health, our money, our gifts, our faith, our familiar surroundings, our trust. All the truths that we thought we could believe in forever suddenly depart us with no warning. The ground that we always knew was solid under our feet turns out to have been nothing but a trap door all along. (And then there’s another trap door under that one.) We disappoint ourselves. We are disappointed by others. We get dead lost. We are no longer longer recognizable to ourselves when we look in the mirror. It all falls to ruin.

And that, my friends, is when things start to get really interesting.

This is the chapter of life that Joseph Campbell called “The Dark Night of the Soul” — and it’s a necessary step in every hero’s journey. It’s also the hardest thing in the world. Nobody ever chooses to stand in this place; it just happens to you. And you will often see later that it needed to happen to you, if you were to ever become more than a mere passenger on Earth. Because this dark place is where you must decide whether to die or live. You cannot go back to what you knew, because what you knew is a pile of smoking rubble. You cannot stay where you are, because where you are is a bleak shroud of despair. You can only move forward into the absolute unknown. And the only way to move forward is to change.

Change, to put it simply, is the suck.

Nobody wants to do it — not real change, not soul change, not the painful molecular change required to truly become who you need to be. Nobody ever does real transformation for fun. Nobody ever does it on a dare. You do it only when your back is so far against the wall that you have no choice anymore.

Or, rather, you do have a choice — you can always die. As Sartre said: “Exits are everywhere.” But you don’t want to die, so you discover that you have no choice except to find a new way to live. Which seems next to impossible, but somehow, if you fight hard enough, isn’t. Because you know what else is everywhere? ENTRANCES. The task then becomes to find your entrance — to fight your way through the tunnel, into the dim hope of your own light.

The other day, I asked my dear friend Rayya Elias (who wrote the memoir “Harley Loco” about her years of heroin addiction) if — looking back on the pain and suffering of her life — she could imagine any scenario under which she could have gotten clean and sober earlier. I was imagining that maybe if she’d been sent to the right rehab, or had found a more kindly therapist, or had been told just the right words of encouragement by a wise former junkie, or had been rescued by the right family member…maybe she could have spared herself years of addiction and pain. Rayya’s answer initially shocked me, and then made perfect sense. She said: “The only way I could’ve quit drugs sooner would have been if everyone had abandoned me sooner.”

She explained that, as long as she was protected from total ruin by everyone’s love and care and support and enabling, she never had to completely face her own darkest place. So she lingered in the murk, hovering just above rock bottom ruin for years, barely getting by on scraps and crumbs. It was only when she had destroyed every relationship, only when everyone had left, only when she had been banished from everyone’s homes and lives, only when there was nobody left who would pick up the phone anymore when she called, only when she was dead alone with no money and no good will and no second chances left…it was only then, at the loneliest bottom of her existence, that she could finally hear the question that echoes at us constantly through the universe: “Is this really how you want to live?”

Her answer, to her own surprise, was “No.” And when that answer, loud and clear, becomes NO…that’s where our transformation always begins.

The changes in your life from that point forward will not be immediate and crisp. They never will be. Transformation isn’t easy. It isn’t pretty. (Ever watch a bird hatch? It’s fucking exhausting.) You don’t ascend from that lowest place of your life in a tidy straight line, moving a few inches upward every day. No, it’s a messy and jerky and unpredictable trajectory. But it is a trajectory. And the general direction — from the moment of your decision forward — is always going to be UP. Up and out. You will shed whatever (and whomever) you need to shed. You will find whatever (and whomever) you need to find. You will crawl and bawl. Until eventually you are standing, finally, on your own two feet in your own shower of light. Until you are the person you never would have been, had you never met your own worst darkness face-to-face.

And that is the gift that ruin offers us.

Onward,
LG

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