If you feel the need to erase your past with physical destruction, you have yet to learn the true power of detachment: you're already free.
When I was younger, I thought that my future held my circle of friends; we seemed inseparable. When I owned a house, I put my heart and soul into its maintenance, sweating and struggling to hold onto it because I was so sure that it was in my future.
I thought the same thing about my job, that my future held a high-paying career as a computer programmer, or a security consultant. At one point I was certain that my future held a position in the military. I was sure it held my ex-girlfriend.
But I was wrong, about all of it.
I learned that by telling ourselves day in and day out that we know what the future holds, that it must hold this thing or that person just because we always thought that it would, we lock ourselves into self-limiting and self-destructive patterns.
We hold onto these expectations because it’s safer that way, because our primal instinct wants to feel secure, because it wants to know that we’ve been somewhere and that we’ve done something and that all of this must mean we’re going somewhere, with someone, or with a specific group of someones.
We want to see ourselves making tangible progress, moving laterally from one direction to another, swimming toward a specific destination and making specific, measurable progress. We don’t want to think three-dimensionally, to look down into a dark abyss and imagine sinking to a undefinable place that holds so much unknown, to a place that has no certain depth and no measurable end, a place where anything can happen.
We don’t want to imagine that, but that’s exactly what the future holds, a dark unknown. We have no light to shine on the future. We have no map to lead us through. There is no rulebook that determines what happens and what doesn’t, who lives and who dies, who comes, and who goes. Life isn’t a two-dimensional surface with birth and death clearly marked on either end. It’s dynamic. It’s unpredictable. It’s raw.
You are not who you were yesterday and tomorrow, you won’t be who you are right now. But who you are right now is real. It’s tangible, and the only thing holding you back from blossoming is what you take with you into tomorrow, and what you expect to find when you get there. Your vision of the future is flawed. It’s a mirage. It’s an island that you’re swimming toward that doesn’t even exist.
Every heartbeat is a heartbeat you’ve never experienced. Every breath is a breath you’ve never taken.
Envision a future that is so unwritten, a future that is so strange that you have trouble holding it in your imagination. Envision a future so blank, so pure and unencumbered by the past or the present, so savage and wild and deep that it remains unrestrained by preconceptions of yesterday and unchained from expectations of today.
Envision a future that is so impossibly unimaginable that it creates an abyss of nothingness, and then, allow yourself to float into that unknown, leaving behind everything to embrace a future you that is flawless and free.
I, am a writer, and this, is my manifesto.
I write to explore and I publish to share.
I write to develop an intimate relationship with my mind, to make sense of that which doesn’t, and to explore the intangible in a tangible form.
Writing creates a conduit, a channel that guides and gives focus to an otherwise chaotic spillway of thoughts. I seek to understand, but to understand I must first learn. To learn, I must first listen. To listen, I must first empty.
A mind which is not empty has no room to listen.
I respect the power of language because I am a craftsman of words. I build cathedrals of letters and paint cities with vibrations.
I am always striving to improve my craft. I treat it with care, because my craft holds magic. I do not rush, because here, there be dragons.
I honor those who have come before me, but I recognize that we all drink from the same potent river of timeless wisdom, a place from which all writers quote.
I publish to share my creations, to give life to the lifeless and wings to the wingless. I release only the most flightworthy of work because I take pride in fine craftsmanship.
I know that my perspective adds value to the life of my reader. I know that others read with anticipation because, as I’ve learned firsthand, finding someone who sees the world through our eyes gives validation to our very existence.
I share my work to set it free and to amplify its potential to change the world.
I, am a craftsman of words, and this, is my manifesto.
I write to explore and to understand the intangible.
I publish to share and inspire freedom.
When was the last time you felt compelled to do something or to change a decision or make a choice that would affect a previously envisioned outcome? When was the last time your own thoughts presented you with the option to overrule yourself?
What action did you take? Did you take any action at all, or did you just listen and then push aside those rebellious, troublemaking thoughts?
I catch myself at times ignoring my inner voice and 'sticking with what I know' because what I know offers a clear outcome, a previously fleshed out series of actions and reactions, a 'plan' that I had previously set in motion and committed to following through with until the end.
But then from nowhere a rebel appears. It starts as a whisper of a thought, easily snuffed out and put in its rightful place in one fell swoop. I return to being sure of myself, confident that my life is in order and that I know where I'm going and what I'm doing.
But then it comes back again, stronger and louder this time, more persistent and sure of itself. It seems to be trying to tell me that my vision of the future is no longer in alignment with what's real, as if it was privy to a bit of information about what lies ahead.
These inner rebels are easy to ignore. They rise up and rebel for seemingly no sensible reason at all, as if their only purpose for rebelling was for the sake of rebelling.
Self-doubt and fear are common rebels that attempt to start a revolution at the intersection of every big decision, every life-changing opportunity.
I've become accustom to the little rebels showing up when I've committed to something, but I'm also learning to cooperate with them, to hear them out and listen to what they have to say.
In doing this I've discovered that all inner rebels are not made equal. Some of them actually have valuable information and practical arguments to present.
Eight months ago I made the mental commitment to hike the Appalachian Trail for my 30th birthday. Hiking the trail is something I've wanted to do since I first learned about it as a child.
I now had the freedom in my life to undertake such an adventure and I was feeling the need for an extended period of exposure to raw nature. In every way, this decision made a lot of sense.
For the next six months I woke up every day thinking about how I would soon be waking up in a tent on the trail, looking forward to spending the entire day hiking in nature. It was an exhilarating thought and every day I felt more motivated than the previous.
However, there were two unforeseeable events that took place during those six months: My sister became pregnant with her second child and a few months after that I was offered a job doing online community support for a WordPress plugin (money has been tight since I quit my job two years ago, and this was the ultimate location-independent opportunity).
My sister never asks me for anything, so when she asked me to be there for the birth of my niece, I knew that I couldn't say no.
The inner rebels appeared shortly after each of these events, but I took care of them. I wasn't going to let their rebelliousness affect my decision to do something that I've always wanted to do.
I could still make the AT hike work out: I'd just fly back in late April when my niece is born and then return and continue the trail.
For my new job, I'd bring a solar panel, a laptop, and a mobile data card so that I could get online every evening and work for a few hours. I'd make the entire adventure a big experiment and document five months of working online and hiking the Appalachian Trail.
As the start date of March 20th grew closer, I found myself building a routine of taking daily walks in the local state forest, walking for several hours and imagining myself already on the trail.
I spent a lot of time creating the mental attitude that would be necessary to spend 8-10 hours a day for 4-5 months hiking outside.
In the process, more rebels appeared. They seemed to come from every direction, vying for my attention and getting louder and more restless with each passing day.
Amongst the chaos there was one rebel who stood out from the rest. He seemed calm and collected and spoke from a place of serenity. In the process of dealing with the inner turmoil of the other rebels, I was attracted to this rebel. I wanted to know how he was so calm and sure of himself.
We met in a place away from the rest, a quiet and peaceful meeting spot, and I listened with an open mind and an open heart.
"The world has changed since you decided to hike the AT. It no longer looks like the world you envisioned when you made that decision."
"What do you mean?"
"If you hike the Appalachian Trail now, you'll need to interrupt your hike to come back to visit your sister. You've always wanted your first hike to be a true thru-hike, a non-stop hike from start to finish. You're compromising that principal by trying to juggle your envisioned world-view with that of what the world is actually turning out to look like."
Everything was starting to make sense now.
"Your new job gives you certain responsibilities that require you to be online at least every weekday; what would happen if you can't get Internet access on the trail? The risk of being unable to fulfill your responsibilities would create inner conflict that would prevent you from enjoying the hike. In fact, not only would you not enjoy the hike, you wouldn't enjoy the job either as it would feel like the source of this conflict."
This rebel was right. In my attempt to hold onto the way I envisioned the future, I was ignoring the obvious: The time was no longer right and as a result, my heart was no longer in it.
This wasn't a rebel of self-doubt or fear; he was the rebel of my heart watching out for me, trying to save me from doing something that was no longer in alignment with my soul.
I believe our soul speaks to us when we're ready to listen. It won't speak in a loud and obnoxious tone. It won't push and shove and jump up and down until we notice it like all the other rebels. It will sit calmly and speak from a place of peace and tranquility. It knows what's real and only wants the best for us.
This why I feel meditation is so important (and why I'm working to develop a regular meditation habit): By creating inner peace and calming our mind, we can hear our heart and soul; the windshield of our intuition becomes clear and we're able to see what's ahead without all the bugs of doubt and fear splattered all over the place.
When the rebel of your heart speaks, invite it to a peaceful place, sit down, and listen.
"Where are you going next?"
"I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail. It's something I've wanted to do my whole life and I've decided that I will do it for my 30th birthday this year."
"When are you starting that? How long will it take you?"
"The trail is over two-thousand miles long, so it will probably take 4-5 months. I'm starting on the first day of spring this year, March 20th."
She put her hand on her stomach and gave me 'the eye', as only my sister knows how. "You're coming back in April for the birth of your niece, right?"
I hesitated in my response, not knowing how to express my desire to hike the AT without interruption (known as a "thru-hike") while also expressing that I loved my sister and respected whatever she considered important.
I mumbled something to blur my response. "Maybe. We'll see."
Over the next few days I thought a lot about my response. There was something about it that really bothered me and I couldn't figure out what it was.
I tried to listen carefully to what my heart was telling me. Should I go? Should I stay? Should I go and then come back for a week, letting go of the perfectionist in me that wants to complete a thru-hike?
I've always wanted to hike the AT without stopping, to complete a true thru-hike on my first attempt. (Out of the 3,000+ people who start the trail each year, only about 200-300 actually finish; it's a challenge I've dreamed of facing.)
Towards the end of 2011 I decided that 2012 would be the year I finally hiked the AT. I verbally mentioned the intention to several people, further cementing it into reality (I rarely talk verbally about doing things unless I'm serious about doing them).
I've been thinking about this adventure for nearly six months and every day now I look forward to being fully immersed in nature, waking up each day on the trail knowing that I will spend the rest of the day outside.
I've even been going on daily walks in the local state forest for the past few weeks, spending several hours each day looking up at the trees and imagining myself hiking on the AT.
While I was letting these thoughts sit with me, I received an email from a friends' paid subscription letter.
In the letter, the author shared something that happened to her recently: While in India, she received an email from her dad telling her that grandma was ill and probably wouldn't be with them much longer; he wanted her to fly back to the United States to be with them.
She wrote, "What really got me was the fact that my first thought after reading the email was, should I go or should I stay?"
I immediately realized that's what had been bothering me so much: the fact that I wondered if I should stay or go when my sister asked me to be there for her.
What made her decision difficult was that she already made plans in India: Someone she cared about was going out of their way to meet her there and suddenly leaving would affect that relationship. She felt that India was the place she should be.
But she had to decide: Should she leave India, the place where she truly felt she should be, or should she go back to the United States to be there for the emotional support of her family?
As I read my friends letter, I couldn't help but relate her situation to my own and I found myself jumping ahead and thinking, "She's definitely going to choose to go back to the United States."
To my surprise, I arrived at the end of the letter to discover that she decided to stay in India.
Was her decision the wrong decision? That's not for me to say or decide. What's important was that she made the decision that felt true to her being. As she put it, "in the end, the love I have for my grandma does not decrease just because I am not by her side".
Reading my friends decision to stay in India immediately helped me realize what I needed to do.
I was going to stay for my sister and delay the AT hike.
While I may have felt unclear about what to do initially, my subconscious knew exactly what my heart wanted. It knew it so well that it was projecting itself into my friends situation: If I was in India and my sister asked me to be there for her, I would've come back.
(Again, this doesn't mean my friends decision to stay was wrong: her life is not my life and she did what she felt was true and right for her in her life; I fully support that. The right thing to do is always that which feels undeniably true to you.)
I intended to start hiking in March because the trail, which starts in Georgia and ends in Maine, has sections that are closed during the winter. (It takes nearly six months to hike the entire trail, so you must start hiking in the early spring if you want to finish before winter.)
However, since my niece is due to be born towards the end of April, I've decided to start hiking the AT around the beginning of May. If that means I don't complete a thru-hike, or even if that means I decide to attempt the hike another year, that's fine.
This is something that's important to my sister and I care about what's important to her, even if I may not fully understand it. She never asks me for anything and what feels true and right to me is being there for her because she asked me to be.
I've built my lifestyle around the concept of freedom and I've created a life that allows for following my heart. But what's the point of all that freedom if I'm jailed by my own wants and desires, too selfish to share the fruits of my own freedom with those I love?
The Appalachian Trail will always be there but my niece is only born once.
This series of events led me to make several other decisions, including something that affects the AT hike altogether. It also affects the USA road trip that I had planned for the two months prior to starting the AT. I will share both of those decisions in my next journal entry.
The following was written by Manuel Loigeret and I'm republishing it here with his permission.
I'm not awesome at social events but I am getting better. If you are like me, you think that you might not be interesting and people might find you boring. Imagine what the other person thinks: well this guy looks like a proud jerk who is too snob to be interested in me. That's probably not true and you feel the complete opposite but this is the signal you are sending. The only remedy is to go talk to people and let them know that it is ok to come talk to you. (I know: I did reinvent the wheel here) It can be awkward but it will be ok in the end. I promise you.
At some point I closed the comments on every new blog post I published. Because I wanted people to link to my posts if they wanted to contribute to the discussion. Nobody did. The real reason was that I was scared that someone criticized what I wrote, but I hid it behind a supposedly clever idea. The message I sent was: you are too stupid to be part of the conversation. I also cancelled my facebook account because I was scared of people seeing me change and they might have made fun of me. Ridiculous. Seriously it was snob and stupid. Like going to a party and not talking to anyone.
If you are online (on facebook, on a blog, on flickr or wherever), don't try to limit your access to people. Don't hide behind smart ideas of what is right and serious. Admit it, you are online for attention, so let the doors open.
Don't be a snob, you are already part of the discussion.
I think there are so many important lessons to be learned from this one post, especially with regard to not limiting access to people online and recognizing that our perspective isn't the only perspective we need to consider.
Sui Solitaire recently released Kindness Sprouts, a collaborative ebook of kindness and self-care. (She's generously giving all proceeds directly to charity.)
Sui invited me to contribute to the project and asked me to answer the following question, How do you show yourself kindness? This was my response:
I show myself kindness by having the courage to eliminate things from my life that are causing me distress and dissatisfaction. I spent many years feeling caged by my job and caged by my lifestyle. I pushed off doing what I knew needed to be done and sacrificed my own happiness, and for what? For the satisfaction and comfort of everyone else? To conform to what others thought was the best thing for me?
I began showing myself kindness when I started listening to and caring about what my heart and soul were telling me. I began showing myself kindness when I found the courage to be brave and challenge what others expected of me.
When I gained the confidence to believe in my own dreams and stand up to the expectations of others, I discovered that I also needed to learn how to stand up to my own self-imposed expectations. I love technology and I spend many hours of the day working at the computer. When I find myself getting agitated with how much time I've spent in front of the screen, I don't let myself justify the discomfort by saying “that's just what I do.” Instead of being unkind to myself, I walk outside, put my hand on the trunk of a big tree, look up at its outstretched arms, and allow myself to reconnect with mother nature; I allow myself to really feel one with the universe. I'm immediately reminded that being kind to myself is being kind to the world.
Interestingly, ever since writing this for Sui's project I've been going out of my way each morning to spend time in the forest. I drive about twenty minutes to the local state forest and just walk, usually for at least an hour, with my phone turned off and my mind open. My day feels more complete when I start it walking in the forest.
The author who wrote the notes that were included here asked to have their name and all information about them removed from my site.
Jason Caldwell, the lead developer at WebSharks, Inc. (a company I recently started consulting for) and a Zeitgeist movie advocate, wrote this bit about how the Occupy Wall Street movement has the potential to awaken a sleeping society and get us all to begin questioning the accuracy of the information we take in.
I agree with his ending point that presidential elections will slowly become more and more meaningless as we recognize that in the age of instant global connectivity, a future system of governance will be that of the people, not a single figure who makes decisions, but a system that recognizes the collective will of those who the system affects.
Before we can really discuss possible solutions in a way that might bring about change, the public majority needs to understand what the problems are. We also need to be more responsible. We, the public, need to do their own research, in order to verify the accuracy of the information we take in, and also to understand the world around us. I believe the Occupy movement may help us accomplish this in the long term. A movement like this causes people to question their existing train of thought, to re-examine their belief system; based on the information that is currently obtainable; and also, based on what is realistically achievable once the current state of affairs is understood by the masses. It also sets a platform for discussion and artistic expression by the people, instead of by Hollywood alone.
Sadly, many people do NOT yet have a good understanding of what our problems are. In fact, many people don't even question some of the establishments we have in place today. The mainstream media puts a selective spin, or party-based opinion on everything, which keeps people quite confused about very serious issues. This leads people to gossip around the water cooler, about varying points of view among pundits, rather than having any serious discussion about change, based on our own personal knowledge and understandings.
In addition to the mainstream media, we have our current form of society, which is very much based on a motive to obtain profit, even on a personal level. Whether we realize it or not, the profit motive has corrupted us all, and we'll have to rise above this societal impulse, on some level, in order to discuss how we get rid of it completely over the long term.
Many of us today are also afraid of being wrong, and so we really don't speak our minds. Creative thinking and artistic expression need to become a larger part of society. We need to be more willing to share our ideas openly, so that others might work with us, and/or contribute to our broader understanding. Being wrong is part of a natural learning process. If we are wrong about something, and we understand that we we're wrong, we're more intelligent because of that occurrence.
I believe there is hope. People are naturally losing faith in their politicians, and in mainstream media corporations that color things to match their larger objectives. As we seek out alternative sources for information; and in our own research, we begin to understand just how complacent we've all been as a society. We also begin to see that it's not politicians or money that we need, as some may suggest. Politicians, bankers and economists are not trained to solve these types of problems. And, given the current structure of society today, it is impossible to reach a position of influence in the world, without having ties to corporate profit-seeking entities, on one level or another; making most of our existing and future leaders untrustworthy.
Our problems today have a very technical and emotional orientation. Our society today, is also too large and too diverse, to be governed by traditional figures, such as a president or a congress, which really serve as an arm of the corporate world anyway. Instead, we need a public majority of intellectuals, which takes education. We need to become the leaders through education, instead of asking others to do it for us ( i.e. an Obama, or a Herman Cain, or a Ron Paul ).
As the public begins to understand our current problems for what they are, and as we begin to accept emotionally how wrong we've been about many things in the past, I believe that a solution will manifest itself out of the will of the people; and I am hopeful that will lead to a positive change, which may improve things over time. In the short term, I think presidential elections should become more and more meaningless, taking place in the backdrop of a larger public movement that is more relevant to our needs and productivity.
Life is not an ever-growing collection of successes and failures. It's not a bag of decisions, opinions, mistakes, or mishaps, or a rucksack full of bricks that you're condemned to drag through the sludges of time.
Life is more like the stroke of a paintbrush, emptying itself of all that clings to it and refining its precision with the passage of time. It's the vessel that exists to hold water, effortlessly releasing its contents to the next destination.
It's important to remember that not every destination can be reached by a well-paved path: some destinations require taking flight. When it's time to fly you just can't fill a giant bag with everything in your life and expect that plane to soar.
If where you're going is important, decide what really matters and take responsibility for your freedom. Hold tight to everything and everyone that will support your voyage and let go of everything else. Embrace your essence and when there is doubt let love lighten your load: a life painted in love outweighs a voyage completed unprepared.
If you don't let go, you cannot receive. To receive, you must first give what you have. You must release everything you're holding onto and allow that space to be replaced with the present. All that you need is right here. Everything that feels missing is just waiting for a place to go, a space to occupy, a home to hold it. Empty yourself. Let go.