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Alan Watts on Music and Life

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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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Allow Yourself to Rise

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The Universe is like a hot air balloon, ever-yearning to carry us up towards our dreams.

Yet we negate the natural tendency to rise by going through life collecting rocks in our baskets, which serve no purpose but to weigh us down.

Reaching something you desire is more about releasing the things that don’t serve you than just stubbornly pushing. By letting go of the rocks you’ve hoarded, elevation becomes inevitable.

Clear your basket of the heavy rocks that do not benefit you. It’s the only thing standing between you and your dreams.

Let go, release and float on.

See you in the sky.

– Stevie P!

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2

The Most Invaluable Skill You Can Have

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Candid photo of me practicing what I preach

I was walking through the Delhi airport in India when, out of nowhere, this insight hit me like a lightning bolt: The most invaluable skill you can have is present moment awareness.

Immediately, I typed that sentence into my phone before it was lost in the endless slipstream of memory. As I started to metabolize this spontaneous strike of wisdom, it began to make more and more sense.

Ask yourself…

When is it not now? When was it not now? When will it not be now?

Life is always now. The present moment is all we ever have. The past and future are only projections in our minds.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” – Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)

Read more about the concept of time here:
Time is a Sailing Ship
Is the Concept of Time Stressing You Out?

The Future Trap

Living in the future is a trap. You’re always looking forward to what is coming, while missing the present moment. Today you’re thinking about what you’re going to do tomorrow, but you’re missing today! Then tomorrow, you’ll be missing the moment by thinking about what you’re going to do the next day. This fallacy of thinking that happiness lies somewhere in the future will leave you utterly unfulfilled.

All it takes is a bit of presence to put the magic back in life. You can still have nostalgia. You can still plan when you need to. But the key is to just be consciously aware that the now is all that exists.

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” – Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)

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Took this one yesterday. The White Buddha in Pai, Thailand.

6 Reasons Why Present Moment Awareness is the Most Invaluable Skill You Can Have

1. It helps you maximize experiences – Present moment awareness enables you to truly enjoy and appreciate everything. This has become so ridiculously apparent to me now that I’m traveling the world. I’m having such amazing experiences on a daily basis, so I have to constantly remind myself to be fully present and cherish the moment. When you’re wholeheartedly in the moment, life leaps to new levels of bliss and excitement.

2. You’re able to observe your thoughts and emotions – Instead of being a prisoner of your overthinking monkey mind and its neuroses, you’re able to objectively witness its activities when you’re present. The is the basis of mindfulness and meditation. Present moment awareness is a point of power from which any change stems from.

From a state of presence/mindfulness, you have a “higher perspective.” You’re able to use your mind as a tool, instead of being the tool. Think about it this way, would you rather use a hammer or be a hammer? As a present moment carpenter, you’ll be able to use your mind to build the life of your dreams.

3. You transcend all of the ego’s fear – The ego’s very existence is based upon fear and conflict. When you’re completely present, you transcend the ego. From this place, you’re MC Hammer to fear and all of its derivatives (they can’t touch you).

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and
not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms
of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
– Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)

4. You become infinitely more observant – When you’re present, not absorbed in looping thoughts, your powers of observation are remarkably heightened. Your senses are sharpened, you’re fully aware of everything around you and you notice the subtleties of the surrounding environment. This effect becomes especially apparent around other people. If you’re present and the other person is in their head, you will comment on things around you that they’ll be completely oblivious to. Being stuck in your head all of the time is like going through life wearing a blindfold and earplugs. Being present, in a state of heightened senses, is to feel fully alive.

Also, being aware and hyper-observant in the moment is the basis of survival. This is how all animals operate. They’re fully aware of their surroundings, alert and present; because if they’re not, death is always lurking around the corner. That’s just how important present moment awareness can be.

5. You actually listen – With present moment awareness, you truly listen. You wholeheartedly listen to other people while they’re speaking, instead of always thinking about what to say next. You fully listen to music, creating an experience, instead of thinking about what you have to do tomorrow while the song is playing. If you truly listen, you not only wholly experience the present moment, but you learn and understand so much more.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey

6. It allows you to flow with the fleetingness of life – Everything is temporary and fleeting. Being present is in harmony with the impermanent flux of existence. You’re able to spontaneously ride the wave of each moment as it comes.

You can immediately feel this too. If you’re stuck in your head, you feel discontentment, resistance, fear and rigidity. But if you’re present, you feel peaceful and joyous, coated with a subtle sense of oneness with everything. It just feels right.

A simple way to hone present moment awareness:
Remind yourself to “Be here now” as often as possible. Say it to yourself whenever you’re marinating in the past or future. Gently bring yourself back to the present moment. The more often you do this, the easier it becomes. Soon presence will be your default state and you will notice life being more vibrant and blissful than ever before.

Enjoy the moment.

– Stevie P!

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Are You Overlooking This Deceptively Simple Anxiety Remedy?

If you haven’t heard yet, my online course Annihilate Anxiety is launching soon! (Click here to find out more)

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The most effective solutions to anxiety are hiding in plain sight.

Among the most overlooked remedies is one that’s deceptively familiar. It’s an indispensable part of many people’s everyday life. And it surprisingly holds a potent cure for anxiety. What is it?

Writing to do lists.

When I say to do list, I specifically mean a daily list of everything you have to do for that day. It should also be updated every single day.

Writing a to do list cultivates mental clarity and a deep-seated sense of serenity. It externalizes your list of responsibilities, which therefore unburdens your mind.

Like deep breathing, to do lists are so simple, yet ridiculously effective in annihilating anxiety.

The Magic of Writing Things Down

The mere act of having things written out alleviates anxiety. Dr. Peter Attia (in this podcast) says that when he writes down everything he needs to do, he’s no longer anxious or worried. He also suggests that people become anxious, not regarding what they have to do, but by fearing that they will forget about what they need to do. So keeping a to do list eliminates that nagging fear of forgetting things.

Another benefit of writing things down is it makes them more likely to come to fruition. The very act of writing bridges the gap between the ethereal and the material realms.

Tips for Keeping a To Do List

  • Everything you have to do should be on the list. Don’t keep anything in the back of your mind. This is crucial in reducing anxiety!
  • Every task should be small enough to be accomplished that day (chunk big tasks into smaller, bite-sized tasks). For example: If you want to write a novel, your daily to do list should include something like “Write two paragraphs for my novel.”
  • Place the most important items at the top of the list.
  • No matter what, accomplish the single most important item each day. If you focus on your most important task every day, your achievements over time will be astounding.

What I Personally Do
I keep a to do list as a note on the app Evernote. When something is accomplished, that item gets removed from the list. I update my to do list on a daily (or even hourly) basis, depending on the day. Evernote is so effective because I can include links and pictures along with text. I’m always referring to external sources so this is incredibly useful for me.

Always having a to do list keeps me focused on my most important tasks each day. It gives me an actionable plan, so I’m able to achieve my goals instead of wasting time mindlessly lurking on Facebook all day.

Action Item
You guessed it! Keep a daily to do list. Create it right now. Maintain your to do list somewhere where you will refer to it every day. This could be in a notebook, a note on your phone, Evernote or whatever medium works best for you.

Externalize your responsibilities and free your mind.

Have fun and get ‘er done.

– Stevie P!

And remember to keep an eye out for Annihilate Anxiety, coming soon!
 

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2

Annihilate Anxiety With Deep Breathing

Anxiety has been a topic of great interest to me recently. I’ve pored over research, pondered extensively, talked to many people about it and brainstormed some creative solutions. That’s why I created an online course, entitled Annihilate Anxiety, which will be available very, very soon (check out the website here for more information).

When it comes to transcending anxiety, one key element is deep breathing.

Enter the breath…

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The breath is the gateway to self-mastery.

Whatever you do, do not underrate the practice of breathing. Like with most normal human functions (walking is another example), you can easily fool yourself into overlooking its profound power. Just because the act of breathing is so simple does not make it ineffective. It’s actually quite the opposite. Deep breathing is an essential everyday panacea.

What makes the breath unique is that, even though the majority of it is done unconsciously, you can override this process and breathe consciously. This “conscious override” makes it a highly effective, special tool.

As you (hopefully) already know, deep breathing relaxes your body and mind. But the key is to truly, wholeheartedly understand this and be aware of your breathing as often as possible. When you’re aware of your breath, and consciously breathe deeply, you place yourself in a power position to change your mental, emotional and physical state.

Take a second, right now, to be aware of your breath…

Is it shallow? Hurried? Erratic? Where are you breathing into? Your throat? Your chest?

Inhale deeply. Breathe into your belly. Let your stomach expand as you take in air through your nose. Exhale slowly. Do this a few times.

Do you feel the change?

Notice your breath as often as possible, and breathe deeply. Shallow breathing goes hand-in-hand with fear-based emotions (like anxiety), while deep breathing is peaceful and calming.

If you feel anxious, move your focus to your breath. Breathe deeply, and after a few seconds your mind will naturally calm down. Deep breathing doesn’t just help with acute anxiety either. Incorporating conscious, deep breathing in your day-to-day life gives your overall experience a coating of blissful, zen-like centeredness. It’s like breathing yourself into the eye of the storm. There may be utter turbulence surrounding you, but you reside in a place of smirk-inducing serenity.

A mantra that is greatly helpful while deep breathing is “All I have is my breath.” Whenever I feel anxious or too in my head, I repeat that mantra to myself while taking deep breaths. Then, after just a few moments, there is a shift. And I feel much more at peace and centered.

It seems so simple, but deep breathing really works.

One of the best specific breathing techniques for overcoming anxiety is Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breath. Here’s how to do it:
1. Inhale for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath for a count of 7
3. Exhale for a count of 8
4. Repeat this cycle 4 times

Making this a daily practice is tremendously beneficial. Plus it’s so short that anyone can incorporate it into their day.

Why is deep breathing so effective? (A short list of some benefits that are directly and indirectly related to overcoming anxiety)

  • Creates mental awareness
  • Creates physical awareness
  • Relaxes the body and releases physical tension
  • Relaxes the mind and releases mental/emotional tension
  • Fosters presence (which is indescribably life-transforming)
  • Provides a sense of empowerment
  • Creates a “sacred pause”
  • Oxygenates the body and brain (healthy body and optimized cognition)
  • Readjusts focus (ex/ If you focus on your breath, you won’t focus on what you’re getting anxious about)
  • Begets a “higher perspective” (mastering the mind as opposed to being a slave to it)

Deep breathing is an immensely powerful tool with benefits that span the spectrum of existence.

Cultivate breathing awareness.

Inhale serenity, exhale anxiety.

Find your breath.

– Stevie P!

Time is a Sailing Ship

“We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn’t explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.” – Alan Watts

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Time is a sailing ship. The past is the wake. The future is what lies in the direction the ship is headed. And all of this concurrently exists in the present moment; the eternal now.

Both the past and future are projections from within the present.

We, as human beings, have a first person point of view of this voyage. Our body is the ship which we view the world from as we sail through space-time.

If you were to draw your perception back to a third person point of view, you would be able to see both the past (the wake left behind) and the future (where you’re headed). In the brilliant documentary “The Illusion of Time,” physicist Brian Greene compares space-time to a loaf of bread. What we perceive as now is a slice in that loaf of space-time, but the whole loaf always exists. So theoretically, if you were to somehow perceive reality from a higher perspective, you would be able to observe the whole “loaf” of space-time (past/present/future). Maybe this is the perspective of those who are able to “see the future.”

While the comparison to a loaf of bread is helpful in conceptualizing the past, present and future as the dimension of space-time, it doesn’t do justice to the ever-changing, dynamic nature of the universe. We live in a quantum soup of infinite possibility. There is no predetermined path (loaf of bread). The path is always shifting according to what you do in the present moment.

That’s why the metaphor of the ship is profound. You can change the direction of your ship at any point, and this will change both the future and the past. When you change direction, the wake you leave behind changes as well as your course ahead.

Even the simple concept of forgiveness demonstrates this. If you forgive someone who has wronged you in the past, you change the meaning of the past. So instead of harboring hatred and resentment in the present moment, you let go and feel freedom, love and empathy.

You have the power to transform past failures into learning experiences; pain into a catalyst for growth; disappointment into opportunity.

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A related, mind-bending phenomenon is called the delayed choice or quantum eraser effect, pioneered by the physicist John Wheeler. Imagine a star emitting a photon billions of years ago, heading towards Earth. And there is a galaxy in between the star and Earth. Because of this, the light will have to bend around the galaxy in order to reach Earth (which is called “gravitational lensing”). The photon can take one of two paths around the galaxy, left or right. Billions of years later, if someone decides sets up a device to catch the photon, it would behave as a wave, not a particle. This demonstrates that the photon really took both ways around the galaxy.

You could also view the photon by focusing a telescope on either side of the galaxy to determine which side the photon traveled to reach Earth. The very act of measuring the photon’s behavior means it can only come from one side. It will no longer act as a wave that went both ways, but as a particle which only went in the direction from which it was observed.

This is mind-bogglingly profound. It means that how we measure the photon now actually affects the direction it traveled in billions of years ago.

Everything is a projection from the present moment. The eternal now is all that exists, and from it you have the power to change both your future and your past.

Enjoy the voyage and sail free.

– Stevie P!

Embrace the Great Mystery

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The very nature of the universe we live in is that of constant flux. Everything is ever-changing. Existence is a continuous flow.

“No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

Most people, however, live in complete discordance with this universal flux and instead operate with a fearful, neurotic, false sense of control. To want to control situations, or to even think that the future will unfold a certain way, is utterly insane. Why? Because the only constant is change. Trying to control everything in a universe defined by perpetual fluctuation is like attempting to swim upstream in a gigantic, immensely powerful river. Why resist the flow, when you can leverage it and ride with the current?

Alan Watts summarized it so well…

“There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity. But the contradiction lies a little deeper than the mere conflict between the desire for security and the fact of change. If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I,” but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid. In other words, the more security I can get, the more I shall want.

To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

The only sane way to approach life within a universe defined by flux is to have to following mentality: Embrace the mystery and enjoy the ride.

Mystery

You can’t control other people’s actions. You can’t control what life throws at you (for the most part). And you don’t know where the future will lead.

Let go and ride the current of life.

Embrace the inherent mystery of the universe, don’t neurotically try to create a vacuum. Like the old quote goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Deepak Chopra provides similar advice in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success where he presents the following affirmations:

I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is the path to my freedom.

I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic, and mystery of life.

You will change. Your relationships will change. Your desires will change. Your goals will change. Your circumstances will change. But here’s the kicker… You will be able to adjust to all of it; and thrive. You have the inherent capacity to deal with any situation that occurs in your life. There is no need to fear.

Remember, you might not be able to control what life throws at you, but you can most certainly control how you react to it.

Flow with the river of life.

Embrace the mystery.

Enjoy the ride.

– Stevie P!

 

2

8 Ways to Transmute Self-Doubt Into Faith

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Self-doubt is crippling.

What makes self-doubt so insidious is that it’s the only thing that truly stands between where we are and where we want to be.

The only limitations we have are those we place upon ourselves. And these walls of fear that we place around ourselves are what keep us imprisoned.

Doubt’s polar opposite is faith. Instead of focusing on getting rid of doubt, focus on building faith. This is the concept of mental transmutation as described by ancient Hermetic teachings.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Doubt simply cannot exist in the presence of faith. It doesn’t matter if it’s yourself, God, the Universe or having Bulbasaur as your starting Pokemon. Faith in something is absolutely crucial in leading a happy and fulfilling life.

Remember that everything that happens in your life is perfect for your personal growth. You also have the inherent capacity to deal with any situation that occurs in your life. There is no need to fear.

“Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” – Plato

I’m writing this because I noticed self-doubt creeping in recently. Being burnt out a couple weeks ago left me exhausted and made me question myself.

But by overcoming burnout and implementing a few strategies, I’ve been able to transmute that ugly self-doubt into beautiful self-faith.

8 Ways to Transmute Self-Doubt into Faith:

1. Affirmations
Affirmations are statements to program your subconscious mind a certain way. They’re immensely helpful for getting through any difficult time. You become what your dominant thoughts are. Program yourself for joy and empowerment.

Here are some sample affirmations to help transform doubt into faith:
If you’re afraid of bad experiences – “Everything is a learning experience.”
If you’re anxious about the future – “I can handle anything life throws at me.”
If you’re worried about money – “Thank you Universe for the abundance of money flowing into my life at all times.”

With whatever you want to embody, simply search for related affirmations and you’ll find an abundance of them.

Write down affirmations on a daily basis and continuously repeat them to yourself. That’s how to maximize the immense efficacy of affirmations.

2. Visualization
Visualize yourself achieving your goals. Be as specific as possible. Picture it like you’re already doing it. What does it feel like?

This is another means of programming yourself to achieve what you truly want in life.

Visualization has worked for many of the world’s top performers (especially athletes), so it will certainly work for you. Visualize the action and actualize the vision.

An effective way to leverage the power of visualization is to visualize your ideal day/lifestyle (while being as specific as possible) every morning. You can even include it in your meditation practice.

3. Take action
Don’t just sit there marinating in self-doubt. Work towards what you want. Take that first step in the direction you want to head in. Any sort of progress cultivates faith and quells doubt.

4. Build skills
Acquiring and building skills naturally increases genuine self-confidence. You become more capable, which then alleviates that insidious self-doubt.

Pick a skill to develop, and consistently work to improve it.

5. Be present
Doubt creeps in when you start projecting your mind into the past or future. Self-doubt is usually about the future; anxiety over imaginary “what if” scenarios.

What are you doing right now? Be with it totally. Be here now.

For example: If you want to write a book and you’re outlining it today, focus on that. Don’t focus on how other people have books published. Create the best outline you can today and continue to move forward. This will not only maximize your work, but keep you present and minimize any self-doubt.

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and
not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms
of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle

6. Embrace the mystery of life
A major aspect of transmuting doubt into faith is embracing the inherent mystery of life. The very nature of the Universe we live in is constant flux. So letting go of trying to control everything and simply enjoying the ride is key. Deepak Chopra discusses embracing the mystery of life in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success where he outlines the following affirmations:

“I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, out of the confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more uncertain things seem to be, the more secure I will feel, because uncertainty is the path to my freedom.”

“I will step into the field of all possibilities and anticipate the excitement that can occur when I remain open to an infinity of choices. When I step into the field of all possibilities, I will experience all the fun, adventure, magic, and mystery of life.”

7. Rest, then dive back into your work
Sometimes self-doubt comes from fatigue or burnout. In this case you need to rest in order to function at maximum capacity long-term. Life is a balance of the yin and yang. I discuss how to do this in more detail in the post “How to Avoid Burnout.”

8. Know that there are forces bigger than your rational mind at work.

Learn to trust your intuition. Be in that state of deep-seated knowing, and your doubt will be transmuted into faith.

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

– Stevie P!