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Alan Watts on Music and Life

music life

Have you ever said this to yourself before?

“I’ll be happy when [this] happens.”

“I’ll be happy once I find the right girl/guy.”

“I’ll be fulfilled when ________.”

We’ve all done this. But here’s the thing: We’ve been programmed to do so.

We’re conditioned to think that salvation lies at the end of the rainbow. It’s a malicious deception that has us chasing that “something” our whole lives, yet never finding it. We believe that happiness awaits us tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. So most people spend their whole lives waiting for their lives to start.

Even when we get what we wanted, we don’t fully appreciate it, because our minds have been conditioned to constantly search for happiness somewhere in the future.

Here’s the secret: What we’re searching for is hidden in plain sight, in the here and now. This isn’t some woo-woo metaphorical rhetoric. It’s true and applicable RIGHT NOW. There’s a reason why the core teachings of almost every spiritual or self-help book is presence and mindfulness. It’s something that is absolutely crucial to understand and PRACTICE.

Take just a few moments to be fully present. Tune into the present moment, experience all of your senses (come to your senses), hold gratitude for where you’re at right now, and you’ll realize that this is what you’ve been searching for all along.

That’s the paradox. The happiness we think happens somewhere in the future when this or that happens has actually been with us all along, in the present moment.

You don’t listen to music just to hear the last note. You don’t eat a meal just for the last bite. You don’t just read the last page of a novel. You don’t just watch the climax of a movie. The process – the ups, downs, challenges and triumphs – is what makes everything beautiful, worthwhile and fun. The same goes for life.

Alan Watts brilliantly explains this concept in a lecture called “Music and Life.” The way he expresses this concept will shift your entire paradigm on life. Here’s the transcript:

Alan Watts

In music one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord; because that’s the end!

But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our every day conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded. And what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of “come on kitty kitty kitty”, and now you go to kindergarten. And that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade, and then come on; first grade leads to second grade and so on, and then you get out of grade school. Now you’re going to go to high school, and it’s revving up – the thing is coming. Then you’ve got to go to college, and by Jove then you get into graduate school and when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the World!

And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time that thing is coming. It’s coming, it’s coming! That great thing, the success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day at about 40 years old you say “My God! I’ve arrived! I’m there”. And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.

And there’s a slight let down because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.

But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and we were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.

Alan Watts – Music and Life

 

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How Stories Shape Our Culture

story book

What stories shape your life?

Take a moment to think about that.

We all live based upon stories. Collective stories are the basis of culture and personal stories are the basis of how we view ourselves as individuals.

Stories are the underpinnings of human reality. Humanity is built upon stories. Stories shape our culture, our lives and the way we perceive the world.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true or false, if a story is believed, it becomes a blueprint of reality.

Cultural Stories

Every culture has stories that act as the very basis for how people live their lives.

In ancient times, mythology shaped the way people viewed reality, the world around them, society and themselves.

Any religious culture is dominated by the stories of that religion. People’s whole lives, down to the finest detail, are dictated by those stories.

Our modern western culture is based on a combination of science, religion and history (his-story). Science is constantly updated, disproving older theories, while failing to explain the “why” questions of our reality. Most organized religions are distortions of spiritual truths for purposes of control. And his-story is merely the story told by the winners of wars.

These cultural belief systems are attempts at explaining truth, at best. And at their worst, they’re attempts at control and manipulation. I’m not saying that all of these are false; I’m saying that regardless of being true or false, these stories shape our experience of reality and every aspect of how we live our lives.

Let’s take the scientific paradigm as an example. According to this story (again, I’m not saying it’s necessarily true or false):

  • We are our bodies, or more specifically our brains.
  • We live on Planet Earth, which revolves around the sun, in an incomprehensibly large universe.
  • This universe started with the Big Bang (the Big Bang THEORY).
  • On Earth, we evolved from apes, growing smarter and more and more sophisticated, until we’ve dominated nature and now live in the wonderful culmination of all of that evolution and “progress.”
  • You see, this is a STORY, or the background program that we run our lives by. And that’s not even getting into the stories of history, money, work, relationships, purpose, pleasure and everything else that makes up our belief systems. These things determine how we perceive and interact with reality.

    Where does this story get us? Well, take a look at the world around you. Check out the “news.” If it seems a little disharmonious (which anyone with eyes can see), we have to start reevaluating the stories we’re living by.

    grand central station

    Your Story

    What stories are you telling yourself? What is your identity based on? What labels do you identify with?

    In the midst of the trend of collective stories, we have the personal stories we tell ourselves. These are our individual stories that shape the way we view and interact with the world.

    Let’s use a man named Henry as an example, whose personal story might look like this:
    I’m Henry.
    I’m a white man.
    I’m an American.
    I’m a Christian.
    I’m not good at math (because my third grade teacher told me that and I’ve believed her ever since).
    I’m good at fixing things (because my dad said I was when I fixed his truck).
    I’m an introvert so I don’t have many friends.
    My favorite color is blue.
    My favorite food is steak.
    I’m a car mechanic, so I’m not good with computers.
    I’m a lower middle class guy.
    I go to work every day, then come home, drink a beer and turn on the tv to relax at night.
    I don’t have time to eat healthy or work out.
    I’m a fan of the Tennessee Titans.
    I wear boots and flannels because I’m manly.

    Ok, you get the point. This is all a STORY. Almost all of those things could be dropped and changed instantaneously. Our friend Henry could literally have a completely new life tomorrow, if he chose to.

    Programming and patterns are incredibly hard to break for us humans. But simple awareness of the stories we tell ourselves puts us in the position to consciously choose what our stories are.

    So what stories are you telling yourself? What identities are you carrying with you day in and day out? What patterns do you have? What are you building momentum towards?

    Gain some awareness of the stories you’re telling yourself. Only then can you choose to change your life for the better.

    individual

    Creating New Stories

    We can create new stories in each moment.

    It is a choice. But you have to first be aware to even know that you have a choice.

    We can tell new tales and shape reality in our own way.

    What do you want out of life? What is your purpose? What’s on your bucket list? Who do you want to be?

    Be open and willing to change.

    Find your vision and start working towards that. Only tell yourself stories which help to create that vision of yourself.

    The Power of Fiction

    The importance of stories is why I love fiction so much. Whether reading or writing, fiction helps to reshape our world.

    Truths which exist beyond the limits of our collective analytical mind are able to be conveyed through fiction, metaphor and myth. Paradigm-shifting truths are often expressed in this way. Just take a look at any sacred text or brilliant piece of poetry.

    Literary works can cut through and transcend cultural biases and blindness, giving the reader a taste of a completely “novel” reality (see what I did there?). It allows one to see outside of the box they’ve existed in their whole life, and presents the opportunity to step outside.

    This is why I read and write a lot of fiction. If we change the stories we tell, we change how our world is shaped.

    Want to get your hands on an example of a paradigm-shifting story?

    You can get a free copy of my new book, Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth.

    It’s on Kindle Scout right now, which is a platform that allows readers to choose what gets published by Amazon. Basically, books that a lot of people nominate and show interest in get published. So I need your help to get Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth out there. It only takes a minute of your time.

    Here’s what I need you to do:
    1. Go to this link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/WNJWEXEM3HEZ
    2. Click “Nominate me”

    That’s it.

    And if the book gets selected for publishing, you get an early, free copy!

    Let’s reshape our world.

    – Stevie P
     

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    Introduction to Meditation

    meditation

    A meditation practice is the most important habit you can have. Hands down.

    The reason why meditation is so essential is that it’s the foundation from which everything else in your life is built upon.

    If you care about your well-being, meditation should be as embedded in your daily routine as brushing your teeth, showering and getting dressed.

    This article is an introduction to meditation.

    What is Meditation?

    Let me first tell you what meditation is NOT…

    Meditation is not forceful concentration or any sort of mental effort. Meditation is more of a NON-DOING than a doing; more of a LETTING GO than holding on.

    Meditation is simply a state of awareness. It is peace and stillness, blended with profound alertness.

    Meditation is the practice of mindfulness. It is observing your thoughts without being engulfed in them. It is objectively witnessing the activity of your body and mind.

    This state can be reached in many ways; not just by sitting cross-legged under a tree.

    Meditation must be experienced to be truly understood. I can give you all of the poetic language you can read, but you won’t really know what it is until you start practicing it. That’s why I’m all about creating easy meditation routines.

    Who Is Meditation For?

    The short answer: EVERYONE

    If you’re a human being, it’s beneficial for you to meditate regularly.

    You don’t have to be some super-spiritual guru to meditate either. Anyone can do it, no matter who you are or what beliefs you have.

    In fact, meditation is the most common habit shared among successful people interviewed on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Meditation is as useful and applicable to a corporate CEO in New York City as it is to a yogi in the Himalayas.

    The Benefits of Meditation

    meditation

    Meditation comes with a seemingly endless number of benefits. When you’re aware of just how helpful it is for your overall well-being, you’ll find it hard NOT to meditate.

    Physical Benefits of Meditation

  • Improves energy levels
  • Stress relief
  • Anti-aging
  • Increases immunity
  • Improves breathing
  • Reduces inflammatory disorders
  • Reduces asthma
  • Reduces premenstrual and menopausal syndrome
  • Helps prevent arthritis, fibromyalgia and even HIV
  • Mental Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases concentration
  • Increases memory retention and recall
  • Enhances cognitive skills
  • Enhances creative thinking
  • Enhances decision-making skills
  • Enhances problem-solving skills
  • Better information processing
  • Helps ignore distractions
  • Emotional Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases self-awareness
  • Increases happiness
  • Reduces depression
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces worry
  • Less impulsive behavior
  • Enhances self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Improves resilience against pain and adversity
  • Increases optimism
  • Helps prevent emotional eating and smoking
  • Helps develop positive social connections
  • Improves mood
  • Improves emotional intelligence
  • Those are just SOME of the benefits. There’s a lot more where that came from. But that’ll give you a good idea of just HOW POWERFUL MEDITATION IS.

    If you saw a commercial for something with all of those benefits, wouldn’t you buy it in a heartbeat? Well, meditation is free and always available to you! So why not do it? What’s your excuse?

    Consistency is Key

    meditation

    With meditation, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to have a regular practice.

    Consistency is more important than finding the perfect technique. Shorter, consistent sessions are also more effective than doing long, infrequent sessions (or none at all).

    Meditation is a gradual process. Remember, it is non-doing, meaning you can’t force or expect anything. You will have sessions where you’re in tranquil stillness and you’ll have sessions where all you do is obsess over what someone said to you at work 3 months ago. It’s all a part of the process.

    Here’s How to Get Started

    Focus on a system of a short, simple, daily meditation.

    That’s key. Yet this is where most people get stuck. Sure, pretty much everyone knows that meditation is beneficial and many have dabbled in it. But few people actually meditate every day.

    This is exactly why I created the 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE.

    Through years of trial and error, I’ve come up with the easiest way to stick to a daily meditation practice. It’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning. Along with how simple and easy it is, I provide a lot of unique tips to help you get the most out of your meditation practice.

    What do you have to lose? Actually a lot: fears, anxiety, worry, self-delusions, ignorance, resentment, over-thinking, regret, overwhelm…etc. That’s what you have to lose.

    Meditation is by far the most important habit to implement.

    Inner peace awaits.

    – Stevie P!

    ACCESS THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE BY CLICKING THE IMAGE BELOW

    meditation

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    Why TLC Was Wrong About Chasing Waterfalls

    Multnomah Falls

    Hi, my name is Stevie… And I’m a waterfall chaser.

    I also don’t stick to the rivers and the lakes that I’m used to.

    Now you might be all like “But TLC said ‘DON’T go chasing waterfalls!'”

    Yes, they did. I love that song (90’s music has a special place it my heart), but I disagree with the message of the chorus…

    “Don’t go chasing waterfalls
    Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”

    I remember when it first hit me. My thought process went something like this… “Wait, so they’re telling me to stay in my comfort zone and never take risks? Fuck that.”

    I get the meaning behind the verses; avoid the destructive aspects of life like violence, drugs, addiction and precarious sex. That makes sense, obviously. But the chorus is the antithesis of what I believe to be good advice.

    If all you do is stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to, you’ll be a slave to your comfort zones and live a life of lukewarm mediocrity. Nope, not for me. I’d rather explore.

    Hiking Oregon

    Comfort Zones Are Worse Than Death

    Always sticking to what you’re used to is not living, it’s just barely existing. When you stay in your comfort zones, you basically live the same day over and over again for 75 years and call it a life.

    There is no learning in that; no exploration, adventure, mystery, fun, fulfillment, excitement or growth. Comfort zones stifle growth. Life without growth is just dying slowly.

    Build a habit of stepping out of your comfort zones. You can even start with tiny steps, such as turning your shower cold for the last 30 seconds. With a cold shower there is no risk, a ton of health benefits and you build the muscle of leaving your comfort zone.

    Show me someone who continuously leaves their comfort zones, and chances are they’re someone who finds courage, success, fulfillment, passion, excitement, personal growth and what it really means to live.

    At the end of your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do as opposed to the things you did do. Build some momentum in the direction of new experiences and continuous growth.

    Waterfall Oregon

    Act In Spite of Fear

    We all feel fear, especially when stepping into the unknown (exploring rivers and lakes we’re not used to). What separates the hero from the coward is taking action in the face of fear. Everyone feels fear, but the hero chooses to be courageous despite the fear.

    “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
    – Brene Brown

    Being courageous doesn’t mean being stupid or impulsive. It means not letting fear determine your decisions and taking calculated risks.

    How do you build courage? Again, start with small steps. You don’t have to go climb a volcano and slay a dragon right off the bat.

    Waterfall Thailand

    Courage Momentum

    One of the keys to truly living is building what I call “courage momentum.”

    Here’s how you begin to build courage momentum. Notice things in life that make you slightly uncomfortable and take action when you feel that resistance.

    Cold showers, like I mentioned before, are a great way to practice this. Another way is to say “hi” to people in public, even when you feel awkward. You can also try a new food or a new recipe. You can take a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never been. There are so many courageous micro-decisions that you can make each day.

    If you practice small acts of courage daily, you will build unyielding courage before you know it. This is what I call “courage momentum.”

    Lake Titicaca

    Follow Your Heart

    The two main motivating forces are love and fear. Choose love over fear in every situation.

    Fear is constriction and limitation. Love is expansion and growth. Fear is the essence of your ego. Love is the essence of your higher self.

    Notice when your ego tries to run the show. Be aware when it attempts to manipulate your decisions based upon fear. Simple awareness robs the ego of its power and gives you the choice.

    Don’t chase the desires of your ego. Don’t run from home out of fear. That’s how you end up like the sad stories TLC warned us about. Explore because you truly want to explore, and follow your heart.

    Trust your intuition and make decisions out of love. Be courageous, not limited by fear.

    Explore, learn and grow. Just remember to follow your heart, choosing love over fear, and you will discover beautiful new lands.

    So here’s my perspective on the situation…

    DO GO CHASING WATERFALLS.

    Much love.

    – Stevie Wander

    PS – Every picture in this post was taken by me, while chasing waterfalls.
     

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    Release Into Love

    “Repression is the hidden force behind illness.”
    – Dr. Arthur Janov

    We all hold onto so much unwanted baggage. Most of us go through life brimming with repressed emotions, desperately attempting to keep the lid on it all.

    Combine our spongelike subconsciousness (particularly in childhood) with a society heavily based in fear, sprinkled with social taboos regarding expression and you have a perfect recipe for the unhealthy repression of emotions.

    Our essence is love. We just have so much fear, trauma and baggage piled on top of it. Anyone with a regular meditation practice knows this firsthand. When we clear all of our thoughts, fears and worries we’re left with an indescribable sense of blissful, peaceful love.

    Cultivating our well-being is more about letting go of the unnecessary than about adding things. Once we give our body, mind and spirit some space, it all naturally harmonizes. It’s self-correcting, if we simply allow for it.

    primal release

    How Do We Let Go?

    How do we release? It ranges from simple daily activities to extreme forms of therapy, and everything in between.

    “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
    When did you stop dancing?
    When did you stop singing?
    When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
    When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?”

    – Gabrielle Roth

    Do you laugh every day? Do you sing every day? Do you dance every day? Do you cry when you feel sadness or grief? Do you exercise? Do you get out in nature? Do you have any creative outlets? These are all simple things we can do on a daily basis to let go of pent up emotions and lighten our spirits. Most of us “mature adults” do almost none of these things, yet continue to accumulate emotional stress throughout our lives. So no wonder why our emotional stresses just keep stacking up.

    While you can clear a whole lot of emotional baggage through the simple ways listed above, some things you’re repressing may be more stubborn and shadowy. For some of the most ingrained traumatic emotions, especially from childhood, you may have to engage in a more intensive release practice or seek the help of a professional.

    Unwanted emotions are not only held mentally, but in the body as well. This is important to remember – the most effective forms of release include the body.

    Let’s take frustration as a simple, day-to-day example. If you’re feeling frustrated, does it help to just mull over your frustrations in your head? Of course not. You only let go of frustration if you act it out physically, maybe through working out or screaming when you’re alone. And this is also where being mindful comes in, as healthy outlets are important. You don’t want to just be reactive and take out negative emotions on other people. While holding everything in is internally destructive, taking things out on others is externally destructive.

    It’s of crucial importance to find healthy outlets for release, which is why I created Primal Release. Primal Release is an in depth course that provides you with all of the tools you need to release into love. It will literally shift your entire state of being. You won’t even believe how light and free you can feel.

    CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW TO RELEASE

    Develop a practice of release. Learn to let go of the things that don’t serve your highest good.

    You don’t have to hold onto it all.

    Release into love.

    – Stevie P!
     

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    Why I Stopped Making Long-Term Goals

    mountain goals

    Almost everyone bases their lives off of a script.

    These are often cultural checkpoints of what you should be doing at certain ages. Sadly, most of us mindlessly squeeze ourselves into these one-size-fits-all, culturally conditioned life scripts.

    There are even massive disadvantages with creating your own long-term script. In doing so, you’re assuming that you know what is best for your future self based upon your limited perspective right now. That’s a dangerous assumption.

    A caterpillar cannot even imagine what it is capable of as a butterfly. (Well, that’s if caterpillars even imagine in the first place.) If you’re continuously learning and growing, your present self can hardly imagine what your perspective will be in the future.

    It’s in everyone’s best interest to have an idea of their life purpose. However, you step into your true potential when you focus on the daily process of it and allow your journey to change as you change.

    The Perspective Discrepancy

    We gain more experience and perspective as you go through life. Well, hopefully. If you’re not continuously learning and growing, what are you doing with your life?

    You will be able to see from a wider perspective as you accumulate knowledge and experience. So why make rigid long-term plans from your limited perspective right now?

    Focus on climbing the mountain in front of you, then from the panoramic view on top, choose your next mountain to climb. Don’t make self-binding decisions from the valley.

    Most people do this with their careers. Think about it; the 19 year old you made a decision (choosing a college major) that you think you’re bound to for the rest of your life. Many people find themselves unfulfilled and in a mid-life crisis saying “I majored in Accounting and I can’t change that now. So here I am.” You always have the ability to change, especially with careers in the modern western world. Give yourself permission to change or be relegated to the purgatory of self-imposed monotony. Again, career is an obvious example, but this applies to absolutely every aspect of life.

    If I set rigid life goals when I was 19, they would’ve been very different from what I would want now. I had a limited perspective then, with little real world experience, little self-awareness and I was completely possessed by my own ego and fears. Sticking to a long-term life plan I made then would be like making a fixed commitment to meet a friend for a cup of coffee at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga Springs, New York on February 4th of next year at exactly 2:00PM. Who knows if we’ll be in the same place then? Who knows if I’ll like coffee then? Who knows if we’ll even be friends then?

    Staying Open to Opportunity

    Give yourself the flexibility to recalibrate what you want to do.

    Stay open and things will unfold serendipitously in ways you never would’ve calculated. Opportunities will pop up that you never would’ve expected. Give yourself some flexibility to change as new possibilities present themselves.

    If you stubbornly hold yourself to a rigid plan or goal, you’re cutting off possibility. Move in the direction you wish to travel in, yet be aware of the doors that unexpectedly open along the way.

    “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
    – Joseph Campbell

    Create Shorter Term Goals

    Make your goals actionable and for the near-future (within a year or two).

    However, don’t focus on your goals on a daily basis… Focus on the process or system! I can’t stress this enough. Set goals but focus on the daily habits that bring you in that direction. Most people never achieve goals (even easily accomplishable ones) because they don’t implement an actionable daily practice.

    For example, let’s say you want to write a book (something a lot of people say they want to do). You don’t have to commit to being a lifelong author to do this. What most people do is say that they have a book idea and never do anything about it (like with most goals). The result is being paralyzed with inaction because they think of a goal yet have no tangible way of implementing it. There is no action to take right now, so it gets ignored indefinitely. Instead of this, focus on a system to bring you towards the goal. This could be writing for 30 minutes every day. Anyone can write a book in 6 months or less if they create a habit of writing for just 30 minutes each and every day.

    With this systems approach, each daily practice becomes a mini-step, meaning you can reassess everything continuously. Then after you achieve what you want, you can focus on the process to bring you towards another short/medium-term goal.

    After you achieve a short/medium-term goal, you’ll be a new and improved person. From this higher perspective, you can set new goals and recalibrate your direction.

    Learn to love the process of life. Be open, flexible, flowing and willing to change along the way.

    Enjoy the journey. Revel in the mysterious serendipity of it all.

    Much Love.

    – Stevie P!
     

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    The Simple Secret to a Fully Fulfilling Life

    mindfulness

    We’ve all had those truly special moments in life: being on top of a mountain looking out at an amazing landscape, at a party singing with a group of our best friends, a wedding day, getting off of the plane in a new country…etc.

    Those are all beautiful moments in which we forget about our fears, leave our problems behind and bask in the blissful infinity of the present moment. We all chase this feeling throughout our lives. We fall into the trap of thinking “I’ll be so happy when [insert desire] happens.” Some of us even squander our present well-being for the mere potential of “that feeling” in the future.

    What if I told you that this feeling is available to you in every moment?

    I’m all for those cliché amazing moments listed above, but why can’t every moment be amazing in its own way?

    Well, every moment is. Each moment is brimming with bliss, peace, joy, love and happiness. We just never stop to see it. The secret portal is right under our noses and it exists within one simple word: Mindfulness

    Most people are so lost in thought that they hardly ever actually experience the present moment in its full brilliance.

    When we live with mindfulness, even the simplest moments are infused with that feeling of blissful presence that most people only experience a handful of times in their lives. It’s like living life in high definition, a much richer experience than just going through the motions while neurotically thinking about everything other than what we’re doing right now.

    Mindfulness is like a happy drug. It’s a happy drug that comes from within us, is inexhaustible, always available and has no adverse side effects. Who wouldn’t want that?

    The great irony of humanity’s plight is that we search everywhere except for within ourselves for that sense of fulfillment. The truth is that what we’ve been searching for has been within us all along.

    Happiness, joy, bliss, peace and love are not waiting at the end of some illusory rainbow. Those feelings we deeply crave don’t reside in the future when this or that will happen. They’re always with us in every moment, if only we’d pause, dip into the present moment and look within.

    That feeling we’ve been searching for is right here, within us. It always has been. It always will be. All we have to do is be fully present.

    mind full or mindful

    6 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness

    1. Meditation – Engage in some kind of meditation practice on a daily basis. If you’re a beginner, try my 7 Day Meditation Challenge. Meditation naturally begets mindfulness. The benefits of meditation are seemingly endless and well-documented, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to have some kind of regular meditation practice.

    2. Practice Mindful Eating – When you eat, just eat. Don’t watch tv, don’t look at your phone, don’t walk, don’t drive. Just eat. Focus on the taste of the food, the subtle textures and smells. When you do this, you’ll enjoy food like you never have before.

    Also, mindful eating builds awareness regarding what you eat, helps you listen to your body and helps in overcoming unhealthy eating habits. You can even create a practice of blessing your food before you eat to create more mindfulness around eating.

    3. Try Phone Fasting – Smartphones can be weapons of mass distraction. Everyone knows that the constant notifications, social media scrolling and email checking makes focus almost impossible and sucks you right out of the present moment.

    Here’s a solution: Make a practice of taking some time to not use your phone. I personally don’t look at my phone for an hour before I go to sleep and an hour after I wake up every day. At night, this creates time to unwind, undistracted. In the morning, this creates time for me to engage in a morning routine and start the day off peaceful and centered, instead of instantly leaping into the fray of distraction. Another strategy is to not use your phone for a day (you can take a day off once a month or even once a week). Both of these practices are surprisingly freeing and cultivate focus, empowerment and mindfulness.

    Phone fasting creates a pattern interrupt. It allows you to become more aware of your phone usage and helps you transcend the habit of mindlessly looking at your phone.

    4. Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Situations – Practice being completely present in conversations, while walking outside, while listening to music, while drinking coffee or during any other day-to-day activities. So many of us live life on auto-pilot. A bit of mindfulness makes life more vibrant and exciting, as if you were a kid again.

    5. Practice the Five Sense Walking Meditation

    6. Read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

    Try out all of these and make mindfulness a part of your daily life. Like everything, mindfulness is a muscle. The more consistently you practice it, the stronger it becomes.

    Meet each moment with blissful totality.

    – Stevie P
     

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    21 Inspiring Children’s Books

    Children absorb everything, good or bad.

    As humans, we spend the first few years of our life in sponge-mode, soaking everything in, before we begin to express our own personality. For better or worse, we’re literally programmed according to what we learn and experience early in life. This is why it’s of crucial importance to instill love and empowerment within children.

    This is where children’s books come into play. Children’s books can act as imprints of love, positivity and empowerment that children take with them for the rest of their lives.

    So in the spirit of instilling love and empowerment, here’s a list of some of the most inspiring children’s books. Even if you don’t have young children, you too can benefit from a little lighthearted inspiration.

    21 Inspiring Children’s Books

    1. Oh The Places You’ll Go By Dr. Seuss

     
    2. The Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire by Dharmachari Nagaraja

     
    3. Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains by Deborah Hopkinson

     
    4. Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages by Marla Frazee

     
    5. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

     
    6. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

     
    7. Incredible You! 10 Ways To Let Your Greatness Shine Through by Wayne Dyer

     
    8. Little One Step by Simon James

     
    9. The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

     
    10. Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems

     
    11. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

     
    12. The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

     
    13. Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni

     
    14. Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

     
    15. An Awesome Book! by Dallas Clayton

     
    16. Beautiful Oops! by Barnie Saltzberg

     
    17. Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

     
    18. Fancy Nancy Poet Extraordinaire by Jane O’Connor

     
    19. I Believe in Me: A Book of Affirmations by Connie Bowen

     
    20. I Think, I Am! by Louise L. Hay

     
    21. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are by Dr. Seuss

     

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    Sagittarius in Love

    sagittarius

    Stevie P’s Note: This is a guest post by Mystic Medusa. And here’s my perspective on astrology to preface this… Space is not empty. We essentially live in a quantum soup, where everything is connected to everything else. So the movement of anything (especially that of large celestial bodies like planets) affects other things. Also, astrology is not a fixed fate. It’s more of an archetypal predisposition with room for your individual free will.


    On the surface, Sagg seems quite simple to please. They like a lover they can have fun times with, like going skiing, dancing, or on junkets to exotic destinations.

    They prefer it if their partner is not into turgidity, tiresome emotional demands, or other manifestations of the dreaded negativity. Some Sagittarian spouses come to feel that just living with Sagg is a variety of extreme sport. But Sagittarians of a certain age don’t mind being bonded as a pair like this. They just don’t like having to stay home and relate to their partner. And sometimes Sagg thinks love is having to grovel your head off just to get some personal space. Remember that Sagg thinks groveling is letting someone else finish a sentence.

    Like cousin Gemini, they are also often fairly hopeless at dealing with high emotion. They don’t realize that saying something like “chill, babe, you’re getting hysterical” is not especially helpful.

    Although Sagittarians have contributed a fountain of wisdom to the world, sage advice dealing with deeply tricky emotional situations is not usually forthcoming from them. “A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming,” actress Jane Fonda helpfully noted.

    Sagittarian seduction techniques are fairly simple. They’ll give it a go. But getting one of these folk to fall in love with you is fairly simple. Just study everything you can on the Gemini genre and behave like one of them. A Sagg with a soul mate is a vision of love and supportiveness; this is one person who will never ever stand between you and your most grandiose dreams.

    Sagittarius – Aries
    It should be obvious that Sagg and Ramzilla are absolutely fantastic together. This duo exhilarates each other. Fiery optimism dictates the Sagg conduct. And in Aries the Sagg may have found one of the few people who will not only let Sagg be Sagg, but will actually jump up and down cheering. It’s a perfect match intellectually, energetically, and physically, assuming both can stay in the same place long enough to actually mate. This could easily become one of those alpha couples, supportive of one another’s dreams and ambitions, taking turns to hog the limelight. The catch? Sagittarians do need to work on the supportive bit. This is not going to be a long haul relationship if either party declares superior status, or that they have the most demanding ego needs. Ideally, they thrash out issues of power and prestige early on in the affair. Aries may need to tone down the famed Sagg candor. Ramzilla is probably not ready for the unvarnished truth about the great Aries screenplay, or the bid to become an astronaut.

    Sagittarius – Taurus
    Sagittarians are initially stunned by the Taurean combo of physical beauty and financial stability. How can someone so attractive lead such an apparently non-turbulent life? Sagittarius raves about the Taurean strength, sexuality, and an attribute that can only be referred to as being centered. This often happens when a Fire sign (like Sagg) meets an Earth sign (such as our Cow). Sagittarians will tend to find sanity quite the novelty at first, but soon they’ll begin to long for some of the old delirium. These two drive each other to new heights of “good in bed” and Taurus feels compelled to impress with great performances. But everyday relating can send Sagg running. All Sagg lovers—of whatever gender—can wind up running around being silly while the Bull plays the role of supportive dullard. It can work so long as Sagittarius stops messing with the Cow Person’s head. Memo to Sagg: Don’t move their things. Don’t touch their things. Don’t sell their things. Don’t knock their bodies.

    Sagittarius – Gemini
    Astrologically, Gemini signifies the so-called lower mind while Saggs represent the higher mind. That’s right! The Gemini brain is chock-a-block with trivia—they tend to be way up on new music or breaking Hollywood info, but not so informed on the profound issues pondered by higher-minded Saggs. And yet these two are so compatible. The Gemini adds dash and sparkle to the Sagg wit, while Sagg contributes desperately needed depth to the Gemini riff. This duo is so mentally stimulating to one another that they could live happily for years on a conversation-only basis; in fact, they may have to. The Gemini libido, though famously kinky, is also sporadic. Note: The way for Saggs to fire it up is by constantly changing the themes of their rants. Boredom sets in quickly if the Gemini isn’t kept challenged. Saggs may also have to put up with high-level flirtation aimed elsewhere. Both crave attention; both are heartbreakers who, once they’ve lost interest, scoot off without compassion. These two deserve each other.

    Sagittarius – Kataka/Cancer
    Sagg is a swinger—the Crab Person is just a mood-swinger. By the time Kataka/Cancer has made up their mind to be vaguely human again, Sagg is out the door. No time for negativity. No patience for people who walk around like those cartoon characters with little black storm clouds over their heads. Sagg can’t possibly visualize a future with someone so unstable and clingy. Or can they? It could be time to grow up. And, if emotional maturity is the goal, the clever Crab Person could be the ideal lover for Sagg. And, of course, Crabs are also often very attractive. Sagittarians will have to get used to talking about their emotions in the candid mode Crabs say they like, but all the time making sure to lie enough so their feelings aren’t hurt. You’ll know by now that the Crab is sensitive, prone to feeling sorry for everyone even when it is their own fault. They must have their compassion, but Saggs shouldn’t let themselves feel guilty for one second. This is not because you don’t deserve it, but because it will insidiously undermine this love affair. The big bonus of this relationship? Saggs get the support; Crabs get a blast of air.

    Sagittarius – Leo
    This is one of the most desirable couplings of the zodiac. This may very well be “meant to be.” Sagg and Leo make each other look even better than they are naturally anyway. Sagg is candlelight to the Leo’s complexion—a rose-tinted mirror for the giant Leo ego. Sagg contributes fun and youthful vigor to what might otherwise be an overly ostentatious existence. In return, Leo simply adores Sagg, providing structure and a solid frame of worshipful support for the genius. These two get along in bed and out, during good times and when the crap hits the fan. Both are naturally optimistic life enhancers. They tend to agree about the important things—who is and isn’t a pain, what is or is not music, and how to while away a beautiful Sunday. But to truly cement this relationship, Saggs must tame the leonine ego. It’s a beast of a thing, demanding an endless flow of flattery in order to function. Saggs must find a balance between boosting the Leo vanity and keeping their own genius intact.

    Sagittarius – Virgo
    A relationship between Sagg and Virgo is one of the weirdest known to humankind. Both envy aspects of the other that equally repel them. Sagg admires Virgoan efficiency and their holistic togetherness, yet secretly suspects them of suffering from anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure). What Saggs don’t know is that, when the Virgo carps on about having to disinfect some cupboard or cull the book collection, that is their pleasure. A Virgo guilting over how big their bottom has become is just Virgo enjoying decadence. The Sagittarian role in this is to engage that famous Sagg candor and say, “yes, your bottom has grown kind of sideways, but it’s more low-slung than usual, and it appears to be developing cellulite.” This could be a ruthless, S&M of the mind-type relationship, especially as Virgo can apply analytical skills (of which Sagg has few) to studying Sagg fecklessness, lack of application, and scattered energies. And does Sagg want to hear such negativity? No, no, no!

    Sagittarius – Libra
    These two are blessed with soul mating potential, given a slight temperament alteration from Sagg to begin with. Libra finds Sagg ludicrously attractive—and this Libran may be the most alluring being that Sagg has ever set eyes on. One prob: Saggs are known for candor (a.k.a. bloody-minded tactlessness) and Librans prefer appealing fallacy to fact or at least a highly varnished truth. There is no room for bumbling oafs in Libra’s life, and nor can Saggs expect to get away with the rants that they claim are conversation. To win the Libran heart, Saggs must become mannered. Once you’re back from finishing school, this relationship tends to flow smoothly. Libra loves the expansive Sagittarian intellect and boundless optimism. There are endless subjects to gossip about and when all the social and intellectual life is exhausted, there’s a happy tumble in bed. Note: If Sagittarian shacks up with Libra, the bed will have to be color-coordinated, flattering, and osteopathically approved.

    Sagittarius – Scorpio
    Sagg has noticed, for someone who swoons on about being so into “seeking” the truth in everything, this Scorp friend is freaking out when actually hearing any truth. One of the good things about the Sagg–Scorp tryst is that Sagg will never have to worry whether they’re weirder than the Scorpio. It’s a given. And the Scorp will rarely bore Sagg, except when they flip out into possessiveness, which can be on several occasions a week. Unless they’re totally soul mated, the Sagittarian attitude toward love and relationships could politely be described as cavalier. Sagg certainly doesn’t enter into relationships just to be nagged and made to feel negative. Heck, no. If that’s what’s going to happen, Sagg will just go out that door, and old Scorp can hiss on about facing up to stuff on a solo basis. Shudder. When Saggs have fallen wildly in love with a Scorpio, they may have to have a few words to them about this. Constant scrutiny is not something that Saggs thrive on, especially if the Scorpio has charged the detective agency to Sagg’s credit card.

    Sagittarius – Sagittarius
    It could be hard for these two to get down off their soapboxes long enough to actually relate. Sagittarians love to get together and just rant the night away about their various issues: politics, eco-activism, education, art… whatever. Sagg and Sagg make an absolutely gorgeous couple. They roam the world inspiring each other and every person fortunate enough to socialize with them. But they may be so busy having civilised fun that they omit the harder emotional work of a relationship. And when one does finally admit to feeling something non-intellectual, the other is prone to waving it away in a fit of pique at having to deal with such negative stuff. This couple can live together in a state of blissful denial. Identifying this tendency is the first step to eradicating it and establishing intimacy. Two Sagittarians really bond by respecting one another’s need for space and not taking (too much) offense at bloody-minded Sagg candor. Few other signs can tolerate Sagittarians for too long. This is a heaven-sent match.

    Sagittarius – Capricorn
    The Sagg–Cap pair brings two disparate personalities and molds them into an unbreakable unit. First, Saggs have to respect their Capricorn mate, resisting the temptation to screech “Straight!” at them just because their Cap is trying to stop their partner from becoming one of the sad Saggs sitting in some bar, fingering their sacred crystals. Saggs have big dreams and a stunning breadth of vision. Cap can help make this all happen, but there will be a price—the Sagg nomadic spirit may be tamed by Capricorn’s sexy stability. Sex, if the Sagg can stay still long enough, is sensational. And in comparison to Sagg, Cap can be boring and prosaic. Saggs wanting to get serious with the canny Goat Person will have to play against type and learn to compromise their full-on personalities. And what does the Goat have to give up? For a start, sanity, as far as the Capricorn understands it. The Sagg is a total liver of life and is excited by the kind of risks that canny Cap spends a lifetime avoiding. Capricorns must decide early to channel this energy, not destroy it. Capricorn and Sagg can be so powerful—the Goat brings the calm ability to work the system and Sagittarians have the intellect and energy to build a money empire if only they can bring themselves to listen to Capricorn.

    Sagittarius – Aquarius
    These two could almost have been genetically created for one another, cloned and programmed to titillate one another. At first meeting they can’t believe how alike they are and how fast they can power bond. This coupling has the potential to run forever, especially once it’s agreed that trifling differences of opinion should not creep into the socio-sexual reality. It is very sad to see a Sagg–Aqua couple turn celibate just because someone bought clothes made from non-organic cotton or sweatshop labor. Saggs are more flexible and candid than their Aquarian partner. The Aqua can be a bit of a hypocrite, a raving snob, and yet an armchair anarchist. A Sagg’s opinions may be fickle, but at least they’re honest about their principles being a work in progress. The Aqua is often the kind of person dubbed a bo-bo-half-bohemian, half-bourgeois. They torment themselves with middle-class ideals of how to live, and then feel guilty for not being ethical enough. Saggs are more the genuine wilderness article.

    Sagittarius – Pisces
    This is a misalliance waiting to happen; a liaison dangereuse that has the most chance of flourishing when both parties live on separate continents, meeting up occasionally for “discreet fun times.” It could also work out if Sagg has significant planets in Water signs or the Fish person has strong Sagittarian influences. Saggs are the most active sign of all—say the word and they’re off on that snowboarding junket. Pisceans are generally creatures of the chaise longue. Too much activity stifles the flow of Fish-Person whimsy. They don’t like group sporting action and, no, they will not sit patiently at home awaiting the Sagg’s triumphant return. The Pisces will probably invite around one of their still-doting former lovers to entertain in the Sagittarian absence. Then there’s the small matter of candor. Sagittarians are candid by nature but the Fish just fibs for leisure. Fish People will drive Saggs insane through being needy, dishonest, and passive, yet they will act most devastated (not remorseful) by the breakup and, of course, it will all be the Sagittarian’s fault.

    About the Author
    Mystic Medusa is an astrologer with a website where you can find an awesome astrology blog, super on point horoscopes, an amazingly accurate online oracle, year ahead astrological scheduler and 12 Card Instant Tarot Read.

     

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    Alcohol Mindfulness Meditation

    craft beer

    Note: This is the same general practice as the Coffee Mindfulness Meditation, but with some slight variations.

    Are you living your life consciously or through unconscious patterns?

    Are you mind-full or mindful?

    If you’re mind-full (lost in thought), you’re living life on auto-pilot, unconsciously reacting to everything that comes your way. It’s essentially sleepwalking through life while being entirely possessed by your own thoughts. Mindfulness is the solution.

    Mindfulness is the practice that everything else hinges upon. It allows you to be completely present, establishes awareness regarding your thoughts/emotions and puts you in a position of empowerment to choose your actions in every moment.

    Here’s yet another fun way to practice mindfulness: with alcohol. Now before you think I’m telling you to go chug a 12-pack, let me clarify a bit.

    Alcohol and Mindfulness

    The combination of alcohol and mindfulness almost seems counterintuitive, as alcohol’s effects beget less mindfulness and less conscious awareness. But when mindfulness is applied throughout the process of consuming a single drink (yes, just one), it is one of the best and most enjoyable mindfulness practices. You get the enhanced sensory experience of drinking the alcohol with complete presence. You also provide yourself space to actually feel the light buzz slowly infuse your system.

    Alcohol is by far the most heavily abused substance in our modern Western culture. It’s a legal drug, a multi-billion dollar industry and an enhancer of many harmful acts. Also, it’s called “spirits” for a reason, but that’s another tangent. Like I said, alcohol’s effects make us less mindful, and that’s why it’s even more important to apply this mindfulness practice. We should be able to consume anything we want (freedom!). But without a foundation of self-mastery, anything we do can become extremely imbalanced and problematic.

    It can be argued that some forms of alcohol are beneficial in the range of 1-2 servings, but beyond 2 drinks alcohol is undeniably toxic and damaging (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). So remember, if you’re consuming more than 2 servings (or even one if you’re small), you’re choosing to poison yourself.

    If you’re completely mindful, you’ll have no interest in binge drinking anyway. From a state of mindfulness, you will be able to hear your body’s signals loud and clear. So instead of mindless, unconscious consumption (which is the mode most people operate in), you’re presented with the choice to mindfully enjoy what you’re drinking. Again, choice is a superpower.

    The Alcohol Mindfulness Meditation

    I recommend doing this with a good quality alcoholic beverage that you enjoy the taste of. I’m talking about a good craft beer, glass of wine or your favorite liquor on the rocks. The goal here is enjoyment and being mindful of the effects, not drinking for the sake of drinking. My preference for this is a strong, tasty IPA.

    1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to yourself to sit – Make sure there are no distractions, leave your phone alone while you do this.

    2. Mindfully drink your drink – Focus on the subtleties of the taste, the texture, the smell…etc. Deeply immerse yourself in the experience.

    3. When you’re finished drinking your drink, close your eyes and just sit for 20 minutes, observing your body (you can set an alarm for something like 25 minutes before you drink your drink if you want).

    4. Relax completely – Let go of any tension. Let go of your to do list. Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Relax into the present moment.

    5. Feel the changes in your body – Notice any tingling, flowing, rushes of energy, warm and fuzziness or any other sensations. Focusing on the body also has the benefit of getting you out of your head. Most people are lost in thought 24/7 and they don’t even know it.

    6. After 20 minutes, get up and go about your day or night with a renewed sense of mindfulness.

    Like with coffee or anything else you ingest, keep in mind that the effects really start to kick in at about the 15 minute mark.

    You can even do a loose version of this practice when with other people, just by being mindful while drinking and tuning into your body.

    Bringing a mindfulness practice to alcohol consumption is life-changing. It really is. Apply this practice and bask in your own journey of self-discovery.

    Find Your Balance

    My body usually tells me to stop after one or two drinks. Alcohol is poison after all. If you consume mindfully, you’ll enjoy it more. And you become hyper-aware of your body’s signals to stop, which makes it harder to binge drink. If you’re mindful, you’re literally forced to contemplate on why you want to continue drinking even though your body is telling you to stop. I guarantee that you won’t drink a lot if you’re completely mindful with each sip you take.

    People only get intoxicated to drop their inhibitions and forget about problems. There are thousands of other ways to do this without poisoning the body. Practice mindfulness every day and you’ll naturally learn how to troubleshoot your own fears and problems.

    For the last 3 months I’ve applied mindfulness to alcohol consumption. In doing so, I enjoy the taste much more (and only drink what I actually enjoy instead of for the purpose of getting drunk). When I go out, I’ll have 1-2 (sometimes 3) drinks, depending on how my body is feeling. I’ve also spent the last year actively stalking my shadows, releasing fears and letting go of limiting beliefs, so I don’t need alcohol to have fun or express myself. That’s freeing in and of itself.

    Live mindfully and enjoy yourself.

    – Stevie P!

    For more on meditation, check out my Introduction to Meditation.

     

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