While walking through 2nd and Mission Street at 6:00 in the morning, I noticed a large flock of birds flying towards the Bay Bridge. There had to be over 200 of them and from my vantage point, they looked synchronistic.
I noticed one bird disengage from the flock. It flew the opposite direction and eventually disappeared through the skyscrapers and overcast sky.
I thought about that bird and what caused it to fly away from the others?
Suddenly, an Uber driver nearly ran me over. My response in the past would have been immediate anger that would give rise to a certain middle appendage, but instead, instant relief and gratitude took form.
Self-awareness is the ability to be in the movie theater and also watch yourself on the big screen. There are two parts to every person. It’s what makes us special but it also causes much suffering.
There is an “I” and “self” element to every human being. The “I” is the part of us that is free from thought. Thought is the pernicious asshole that is always seeking, never satisfied, and most of the time — negative.
Although thought helps us learn and remember useful things, it also comes with the baggage of excessive noise from past and future events. Far too often these events impede our ability to live with clarity and peace.
To take a step outside of the “self” and see the “I” is an extraordinary gift. When using “I,” I am referring to presence.
For the past 5 years I’ve spent time looking inward. I woke up regularly at an hour obscene to most, changed my diet, made companions with the redwoods, watched lots of stand-up comedy, made many new friends, re-kindled old ones, and fell in love with writing.
I read countless books, attended lectures, and spent hours upon hours of time in meditation.
The tips I’ll share with you today are 100% authentic. I strongly believe that experience is the best life lesson. I’m motivated to help people those that are suffering because I’ve been there and learned that to be reactive to the static noise between our ears is a hard way to live.
Check out the following tips for a healthier 2020:
End the search for happiness
When you’re searching for happiness, what you really want is others to cater to your idea of a perfect world. If your happiness is predicated upon how others treat you, then you’re living life with false expectations. Often times, it’s these expectations that lead to unhappiness.
Instead, bring joy into every moment and realize that emotions that surface in the course of our lifetime are transitory. Look at situations for what they are and not what you think they should be.
It really is possible to be sad and still remain in a state of joy. Sounds like a crazy concept, doesn’t it? Let me assure, it really isn’t.
Sadness will soon be replaced by something else.
Enjoy the laughter that comes with happiness, the heartache that comes with pain, and cry a puddle of tears when you’re sad. Feelings will come and go like the seasons. Just simply being aware of the ebbs and flows of life will help you see them for what they are.
A metaphor I like to share when explaining this concept is comparing clouds to our emotions. They come and go. Remember that self-awareness is the blue sky.
Through the cloudy fog, rain, hail, and snow, the blue sky may remain hidden, but it’s always there. Stay in this space, my friends.
Struggle and discipline equal success
Some of my daily habits include:
- Waking up 5:30 am
- Reading for an hour
- Meditating 30–60 minutes
- Cold showers
To some, these daily habits may seem extreme, but what I consider extreme, is living an unfulfilled life. Forgoing pleasure and embracing pain helps build mental and physical calluses. It allows you to navigate the storms of life easier than before.
With every hard task you complete, the mind grows stronger and tasks that seemed impossible yesterday become easier today.
I couldn’t run more than a mile to save my life but after a few months of consistently pushing my body, I run a 10k a few times a week.
Today we live in an era of digital convenience. It’s a struggle for people to sit still because smartphones are making the mind dull and frankly — stupid.
We have an endless stream of useless information that is destroying the fabric of humanity.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is amazing. It has connected the world, made breakthroughs in health and science, and has generally made life easier. But at what cost?
We don’t contemplate as much. We feel that we need to be plugged in to be connected and don’t realize we already are. Technology has become a heroine like addiction that many can’t resist.
Moments of clarity are harnessed when the mind is still. Perhaps this is why so many people enjoy walking in nature. Nature grips our eyes as well as our hearts. It helps disable the constant chatter of the self.
I attended a 10 day silent meditation retreat in 2016 to learn Vipassana, a meditation technique. I still practice it today. It’s been one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
If you’re a newbie to meditation, I strongly suggest downloading the Headspace app. It’s a struggle to look inward and that’s precisely why we should. With great power comes great responsibility. Give the smartphone some rest and be mindful of how you interact with it.
Develop a morning ritual
“We are what we repeatedly do, for excellence is not an act but a habit.’” — Aristotle
I joined a startup a few years back. I enjoy my work and the people that I’m around. It’s a fast-paced environment where every day seems like we’re preparing for the apocalypse, much like what is currently happening in the world.
It’s been an amazing learning experience thus far and I’m excited about the future. To make sure my mind is in tip-top shape for the weekday, I have a set of morning rituals that I adhere to.
Below is a rundown of what I do:
- Write down a few things I’m grateful for
- Make my bed
- Exercise (1-hour max)
- Listen to an inspiring video, interview, or podcast
- Drink a green juice (kale, banana, and apple)
Be kind and not passive
Being kind has gotten a bad reputation and can sometimes be categorized as being a pushover. Choosing to be kind doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you. Instead, it means that you’re careful and put thought into which battles you choose to fight.
Whenever confronted with a situation that might cause you to be unkind, ask yourself — will this matter in a week, month, year, or 10 years? The answer is usually no, so don’t bother.
Be assertive and non-reactive to decisions that matter in your life. Communication will flow, your tone will be balanced, and your message will be clear.
Good vs bad, hot vs cold, love vs hate, Democrat vs Republican. Life is a boiling pot of dualities. Stay in the middle of these opposites. It’s the extremes of opposites that aid in suffering. When you’ve tasted pleasure, you want more.
When you’ve tasted pain, you’ll do anything to avoid it. The more you stand up to it, the less power it will have over you.
Practice patience. Whether it’s working on a deadline or enjoying time with family. If you can have your mind balanced at both of these extremes, very little will have the power to cause you suffering.
“With every sense and every organ active, have you that tremendous peace so that nothing can disturb you? Standing on the market street waiting for the car, with all the rush…going around you, are you in meditation, calm and peaceful? In the cave are you intensely active there with all the quiet about you? If you are, you are a yogi, otherwise not.’” — Swami Vivekananda
Our oversharing culture has made quality relationships hard to come by. Make sure people earn your trust before giving them the best of you. This goes for family, friends, and lovers.
We only have a finite time on earth and how we spend our life is as important if not more important than who we spend it with.
“‘Be courteous to all and intimate with a few and let those few be well tried before giving them your confidence.’” — George Washington
Be a deer
A deer, when drinking water, may seem relaxed, but that’s far from the truth.
The deer is hyper-aware. It cannot risk being dormant or complacent because it knows its place on the food chain.
“Comfort is medicine for those that are allergic to progress”
The most successful humans on our planet have had this sense of hyper-awareness. They didn’t rest or relish in pleasure for too long.
This type of awareness will help you prosper in work, relationships, and life.
One day I was walking with a friend in the Sunset District. During our walk, I politely interrupted him and asked, “Do you hear the birds?” He waited for a minute. He listened carefully and let the noise of the traffic drown momentarily, then he started to really listen. Then it became louder.
This is hyper-awareness. When the mind is silent you can start to hear. Bring this type of awareness to every task in your life.
It’s important to set goals and make the most of life because as far as most of us know it’s the only one we have. But it’s also important to practice gratitude.
Be grateful for the air in your lungs and the ability to see another day. Be grateful that your friends and family are ok. Millions of people didn’t wake up today and millions more will mourn for someone.
Be grateful that you have a job that helps you provide for yourself and others and if you don’t have a job, be grateful that you have the strength to get up and pursue one.
Life isn’t all roses all of the time for anyone, but if we can proactively be thankful for things then the experience of living can be a bit more joyous.
Find value in the small moments
I went to Vietnam a few years back on a volunteer mission. I purposely put myself in the living situations that locals endure daily.
When I came back home, I nearly cried when I showered. It was the first time in a while that I had hot water and a clean bathroom. I realized how spoiled I was. I took so much for granted. Find pleasure in brushing your teeth, putting on your clothes, and driving to work.
It’s these little moments of profound joy that are in front of us all the time.
As difficult as it may be, I hope you make 2020 special. I hope that by bringing self-awareness into every moment., you find peace, clarity, and joy.