A Celebration In Each Moment

“Freedom is not given to us by anyone; we have to cultivate it ourselves. It is a daily practice… No one can prevent you from being aware of each step you take or each breath in and breath out.”Thich Nhat Hanh

There are times when we feel inspired to behave in what is what we consider to be the right way, and other times this inspiration doesn’t come no matter how much we grasp at it. Is there a way to break out of the ebb and flow of life? There are two primary “opponents” that seem to prevent this. The imaginary one is the outside world. What people think of us, what they say about us, if a situation seems fair or unfair. The second is our inner world. The thoughts like “I am not good enough” or “I don’t deserve to be happy if others are suffering.” Let’s look at each obstacle individually.

The Outside World

The Stoic philosophers spoke a lot about knowing what you can and can’t control and not surprisingly, to not worry so much about what is outside of your control. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and follower of Stoic philosophies wrote in his journal “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” The outside world is subject to countless influences that we could not possibly control with all of the effort in the world. Friends or family may become ill, companies lose business, anything which seems convincingly predictable, can change at a moment’s notice.

In some regard that may make the world seem like a chaotic and unpredictable place which forces you to always be on the lookout for what tragedy might strike next. That’s certainly a valid way to see the world if you so choose, but it may not get you the peace of mind you so desire. There is actually no need to fight this opponent at all because there is nothing to fight. You recreate the outside world in your own psyche whenever you interpret something, and then color the experience based off your own expectations and interpretations. This outside world is a straw-man for the real culprit, which is your inner world.

Your Inner World

The good news is that since the interpretation of outside events matter more then outside events, you have far more control then you could have ever imagined to your personal state of mind and enjoyment. As the quote from Thich Nhat Hanh mentions in the opening of this article, freedom from these ebbs and flows of life can be cultivated through daily practice. Have you ever noticed when you’re terribly sick or upset, that a part of you notices that something is off balance? That a part of you is unmoved by the experience but continues to observe it as it occurs? If not, see this for yourself next time you are in such a situation. The only reason frustration gets out of hand, is because it is fully accepted and takes the driver seat of your entire being.

A simple shift of realizing this place from which you notice your frustration, allows you to much more easily return to a natural state of being. This is not done with effort, but with realizing, and allowing yourself to return to your natural state. This idea of effort is another delusion of the mind. We try to be somebody in the outside world by changing ourselves, but then you are trying to be somebody in the world that appears to be so chaotic and ever-changing. You are already somebody, you cannot not be somebody. Who are you when you aren’t somebody? How can you tell when you’ve become “somebody”? You cannot, this is a conflict with no end.

The Way Out is Through

The act of struggling and constant conscious effort to alter or control things is the very thing that prevents your success. You may believe that the moment you stop trying so hard everything will fall apart and you’ll lose whatever progress you’ve worked so hard towards. Yet too much conscious effort is exactly what prevents our natural spontaneous self from being expressed. Have you noticed how when one tries to do well at an interview or a date, they seem to have the exact opposite happen? Always trying to think of what to say or do next prevents your ability to be present and spontaneous. Have you noticed when an interview or date did go well, it came off as effortless? You weren’t concerned with the outcome, you simply enjoyed the process and kept a relaxed state.

The freedom which comes from trusting ourselves must be cultivated only because we have spent so long believing otherwise. Yet this practice is worth more then anything else, it is your ticket to be able to celebrate each moment of life, simply because you are present to it and trust you will be able to handle whatever comes up. It is to see the difficult parts of life as an obstacle to be overcome, not a tragedy which has happened to you. It is to see the world the way it really is, instead of through a filter of your personal biases based off past ineffective beliefs. Take great joy in this practice, as the more you see it through on a day to day basis, the more you can enjoy life in that way you’ve always wanted, not subject to each passing wind pulling you in every imaginable direction. It is to be still and centered even in the wildest of storms.

The way out is through daily practice. Through a daily awareness of what is actually happening and what is colored by your past experiences. It is to return to the present moment instead of fighting past or future demons in some attempt to deal with something that isn’t actually happening right now. The result is the ability to celebrate each moment of life, because each moment is worth celebration.

 

 

How To Effortlessly Lose 100 Pounds

I‘ve been working with self development advice for a large percentage of my life. I’ve come across a lot of concepts and ideas as well as invented quite a few of my own. But the following is one of the most important ideas I’ve stumbled across in my life:

“Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.” – Mark Manson

If you’re like most people, you’ve likely already given up on your new year’s resolution. Yes, it is indeed only the second Monday of the year, but that’s how these things usually go. More hype then anything else. An idea of big changes and success, which quickly fizzle when it comes time to take the first steps in the physical world.

For the sake of those who are more interested in significant changes, I will go over the exact techniques and mindsets that helped me lost 100 pounds within a year (385 lbs -> 285 lbs). Many of them have been spread out throughout very posts, but here I will do my best to encompass them all into one broader story.

To keep this exceedingly simple and practical, what I spent most of my life doing was eating as if on auto-pilot. As I would casually walk by the kitchen, I would make sure to grab a snack for the road, as frequently as every hour. A college experience filled nearly entirely of fast food certainly didn’t make the matter better. Yet, regardless of the cause or fault, or whatever else, it was still my responsibility to do something about it.

The actual trigger being a trivial bet with a co-worker, whether I could eat healthy longer, or whether he could quit smoking longer, led to a fairly lengthy journey, that still goes on until this day in one form or another. I went to gather my own information, reading other success stories and what others had done. It turned out, diet and exercise would be the answer. Using the communities of reddit’s r/loseit for inspiration and tracking calories in MyFitnessPal, I was off.

The first phase was lowering my calories by about 1000 daily, and eating the same foods as before. A light transition to prevent the body and mind from a harsh objection to what I was doing. The first few weeks relatively painful, it took conscious daily effort to not grab snacks, and to stay diligent with the calories counting. Living with my family at this time, made this a little extra difficult. Realizing that a latte and piece of loaf cake at a coffee shop could be in excess of 700 calories, be finished in 10 minutes, and not satisfy hunger at all, made me smarter in deciding how to consume my calories.

At this point, after only 3-4 weeks of very conscious effort, it became effortless. The habits were in, and I continued to introduce healthier foods, eat fewer calories, and started with 30 minutes of walking per day. For the majority of this year I was eating 1400 calories per day. The second half of the year I was doing 30 minutes of light cardio a few times a week.

After a lifetime of eating on auto-pilot, never quite sitting there and eating a whole bucket of ice-cream, but still frequent adventures into the kitchen, it was this same auto-pilot which helped make it effortless. It may be overwhelming to look at a year period and tell yourself you will do a behavior for that long, but telling yourself you’ll keep it up for one day, is much easier on the willpower.

This daily focus was a large part of the success, in addition to mid-term goals of changing my diet or exercise routine every couple of months, and the long-term goal of losing 100 pounds in a year.

Two other major factors were vital for this success. First, was planning for failure. Looking at obstacles, such as being invited out by friends, and planning for it. This would mean potentially eating some food at home before I go out, and then having a smaller appetizer, or a salad, if I was going to be going out anyways. Alcohol is a large factor in quick and empty calories, if you’re comfortable just saying no, that’s for the best. If you feel out of place, have a glass or pint of beer, and sip at it throughout the night. Either way, if your friends do judge you, get better friends.

Second, forgiveness is key. If you do have a night of a big juicy cheeseburger, three or four pints of beer and a lovely strawberry cheese cake to finish the night (guilty as charged), it’s not the end of the world. If you beat yourself up for being a failure, you’ll likely find ways to make yourself feel better, like eating poorly. If instead, you can have compassion for yourself, and say “yeah, last night wasn’t the best idea, but today is a new day”, you will still be doing your new year’s resolution six months from now, twelve months from now, or maybe even, for life.

Awareness of your poor habits (and of how many calories are in a damn PSL), short and long-term goals, planning for obstacles and self-compassion are the qualities and techniques that came to me over time in various ways throughout my year of losing 100 pounds. After roughly 15 years of poor eating habits, it’s clear I had no special talent for willpower or staying focused throughout this journey.

Whether you want to lose weight, learn a musical instrument, change careers, or anything in-between, I am certain these qualities will help you in your journey as well. And as a bonus final lesson, just start. I didn’t wait until I had all the research done on calories, or all the motivation to eat healthy. I just started eating less, and then once I was starting to go down a new path, I adjusted the direction as required. There will never be a right moment to start, you will never have all the information you need, there’s no point in waiting for flow. If you start with the smallest action you can take, you’ve already put your life in a new direction, from there, after a time, it will develop effortlessly.

Additionally, you may check out this article my story was featured in as well.