You Are Wrong About Freedom

I talk to a lot of people who long to be free. They want to express themselves, travel the world, live in the moment, go with the flow, and experience life as a boundless possibility.

I get the desire for freedom because freedom seems to offer so much possibility. And a lot of other things we want have the promise of freedom wrapped up in them.

Wealth is really about the freedom to buy any experience or item you want. Attractiveness gives you greater freedom to choose partners. Confidence gives you the freedom to take risks and be yourself.

But even though freedom is compelling I found that people who seek freedom rarely achieve it. Because . . .

When it comes time to do work, they don’t feel like it. When it comes time to invest energy into a big project, their doubts arise. When a relationship is challenging, they’re looking for the exit.

But the missing piece in all of this is the freedom to commit.

If freedom is all about the ability to choose what we want, then having the ability to NOT exercise our freedom is an integral part of that ability.

I’d say it’s at least 50% of freedom and it may be the most important half.

How we relate to commitment –

Often the way we relate to commitment is that it’s a trap. It’s something we say we’re going to do, a person we promise to be with, a project we’re going to complete and then immediately we feel the restriction of that.

What a moment ago was a choice, now is a prison.

Many of us have felt the burden of the commitments to school, a partner we no longer love, or a project we don’t really care about anymore. This burden can make us feel like commitment is never a good idea and always a trap.

But this is a very basic understanding of commitment.

If you look up various definitions of commitment you’ll read words like dedication, and engagement. But you’ll also read words like obligation and restriction.

Both are parts of what a commitment is, but what makes the biggest difference is how we relate to our commitments.

If you choose to take your commitment and turn it into a parent. Into a thing that is oppressing you.

That’s how it will feel. And then freeing yourself from that will feel liberating.

I made a commitment to work. But work feels hard. I’m afraid my writing, coaching, or whatever will be bad.

So I’ll rebel. It will be like a kid when I snuck a cookie from the jar. It will feel so good.

Except when you do this over and over again, you’re not free.

The freedom you’re creating is an illusion.

You built a prison and escaped from it.

But the cycle repeats again and again.

The path out.

The pathway out of this is to make a commitment. Not as an obligation, or should, but as a choice from a part that is deeper than the part that seeks a sort of false freedom.

When you do this you may actually experience a whole new kind of freedom. The freedom of commitment.

At the monastery, I never had to decide when to wake up. That freed me up to focus on practice, to be engaged with my life. I was free from that choice because of my commitment. Some mornings I love it, others I hated it, but the freedom was there either way.

Part of why I ask for a minimum of 6 months of commitment in my coaching is the freedom that it offers.

We’re not wondering week to week if we’re doing this. We’re here. We’re in. Stuff will come up, but we’ll face it together.

For me, that offers a very deep kind of freedom. A kind of freedom that is only possible on the other side of commitment. It took me a long time to learn this and it still shows up from time to time.

I don’t want to write when I said I would. I wonder what it would be like to be with someone else when I’m in a relationship. I dream about having so much money I wouldn’t ever have to budget or plan I could just get what I wanted.

But when I look at people with a lot of wealth, or fame, or beauty. Not many of them seem really free to me. In some ways many of them seemed the most trapped of all.

I’ve learned to understand that while the first kind of freedom feels good in the moment, over time the freedom commitment offers is even better.

It’s the freedom to choose and be with my choice. It’s the freedom to be with the hard parts of life without needing it to be different. It’s the freedom to find new ways to empower what’s happening and truly live in the present moment, even when that present moment is challenging.

So for me, there’s no freedom without commitment. Not random or obligated commitment. But the kind of commitment that comes from a place deep inside of me.


Escaping From a Pit of Doubt

#Blog Pit of Doubt by Bristlebot

Escaping From a Pit of Doubt

A few days ago, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt like crap. I felt like a failure. I felt like there wasn’t much point.

There were lotS of reasons I felt like this. A big project I was working on fell through. I’ve had trouble signing up new clients. My relationship with a friend and mentor felt in doubt.

But more than anything else, my mind was the main reason I felt this way. I’d been fighting these thoughts for over a week and though I’d kept them at bay, for one day they took control, and convinced me I was a failure.

They pointed out that my business only made a couple thousand dollars last year. They pointed out the debt I had accrued. They pointed out that I’d lost a big opportunity. And they pointed out how uncertain the future was.

All of these thoughts gathered in my mind like a storm that pulled me down until I didn’t want to get up. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Defeat, failure, and loss are an inevitable part of our lives. But knowing this philosophically and feeling the ache in your heart are two very different things. When you get caught in a pit of doubt it can feel like there is no escape

But there is a way out. It’s a path I’ve walked before, but it can be hard to find in the dark. So I’d like to share it with you so you and I can follow the lighted signs to the exit.

1. Talk About It  (Without Advice)

One of the hardest things to do when you feel self doubt is to talk about it. But it’s also one of the most healing.

Thoughts of doubt only grow in silence, so bringing them into the open can create space and allow you to see and accept your doubts.

The problem is whenever I try to talk to someone about my doubt; they usually want to give me advice. And while advice can be helpful, what I really need is someone who can listen and reflect without offering a solution.

So instead of hoping I’ll get lucky, I’ve learned to just ask for what I need. I go to a good friend and say, “Hey I want to talk about something I’m feeling. Do you think you can just reflect what I’m saying without offering me any advice?”

I’ve found that when I make this simple request most people are not only happy to oblige, they’re relieved that I know what I want. I’ve also found that when people listen first, the advice they do offer is much more helpful.

Be bold and willing to talk about your doubt. But also be willing to ask for the safe space you need to do it.

2. Reconnect With Your Values

Often doubt arises when I’ve suffered a setback or have experienced failure. It’s easy for me to get caught up in lots of things that don’t matter, but I find that even in defeat my values hold great power.

What makes values powerful is that I can connect with them no matter how successful I am. Even if I’m failing, I can still work to serve others, to bring fourth truth, and to help other people discover their own deep wisdom.

In fact, in times of defeat my values become even more important, because I’m not distracted or influenced by my ego or my desire to be successful.

If you find yourself caught in a state of doubt, try to reconnect with the things that really matter to you. This small act of reconnection with your values, can keep you going even when it seems like you aren’t getting anywhere.

3. Look for the Opportunity

Every failure I’ve experienced has offered me an opportunity. Sometimes it’s been hard to see those opportunities and at other times they seemed small compared to what I’d lost. Yet each of these defeats and the opportunities they revealed have shaped my life in significant ways.

The reason for this is that even when I’ve been caught in doubt, I’ve also been willing to risk trying something new.

When my first company went out of business, I used the space it created to get a job working as a rock band roadie. When I lost my job as a venue manager, I used my free time to learn mediation and move into a monastery. When I lost my job as a pre-school teacher, I used it as a chance to start my own business.

No matter what the situation, every setback opens up space for change. If you find yourself caught in doubt and focused on what you’ve lost. Try focusing on the space that was created and seeing the possibility it contains.

Once you see it stick a toe in the water and get started. Doubt loves inaction and withers when you begin to explore.

4. Let Yourself Grieve

One of the things I always try to skip over when I’m caught in doubt are the emotions doubt reveals. Instead, I tend to focus on taking action or on distracting myself, so I can avoid the sadness and grief that often comes with doubt.

But the truth is I do feel grief. I feel grief at the lost illusion that things were perfect. I feel grief over my lost confidence and success. I feel grief over the lost opportunities and joys.

It’s easy to think that allowing myself to feel this grief is wrong, lazy, or pathetic. But accepting the grief we feel over the tiny deaths in our lives is completely normal. In fact being willing to feel this grief allows our hearts to grow stronger.

So if you feel sad or angry in your state of doubt, let yourself feel it. Don’t fuel the fire of grief, but also don’t try to squelch it. If you let it in, it will go away on it’s own.

5. Follow your heart

The final and most important thing I’ve done when caught in a pit of doubt is follow my heart. Every time I follow my heart, I’m amazed that even though it aches, it nearly always leads me to where I need to be.

Often I’m caught in doubt it’s because I’m stuck on some idea I have about myself and what should be happening in my life. And I try to battle these thoughts with other thoughts, ideas, and logical arguments. But it never works, because instead of bringing me relief, it only ties my mind in knots.

I’ve found that when I let go of my ideas and trust my heart that the storm begins to calm. I begin to see a light through the clouds. And even though that light sometime makes me cry, it leads me to an inner spaciousness and clarity I can’t find anyplace else.

Doubt is deeply connected to our hearts, because it exposes our innate vulnerability leaving us feeling raw and weak. But if instead of fighting this vulnerability we choose to embrace it, then this state of doubt can lead us to greater peace and greater faith in ourselves and the universe in which we are held.

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Dear You,

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Dear, You

I’ve been meaning to write, but I’ve struggled with what I wanted to say. 

In a way, I’ve known all along. But I wasn’t sure how to say it. And finally I decided that maybe I should just go for it.

So, here it is…

I love you.

I know you that might come as a surprise. I mean we hardly know each other. Then again, sometimes it feels like we never really know anyone. But no matter how well we know each other, it doesn’t change how I feel.

You know that feeling you had when you were young and you made a new friend. And everything about them seemed cool. And you felt this feeling of friendship and love for them. And you wanted to tell them, but you were worried it wasn’t cool or that it wasn’t the right time.

And sometimes you’d get so close, but then the moment would pass. And you regretted staying silent, but it was too late.

Well that’s how I feel and I just couldn’t hold it in any more. I couldn’t stand the idea of missing my chance to tell you I love you. So I did it, even though it may seem a little awkward.

And I know what you’re wondering.

You’re thinking, “Why do you love me?”

Well I’ll tell you. I love you because you’re beautiful. And I’m not just talking about your heart but every part of you.

Every time I see you walking down the street, or I see a picture of you, or I read the words you write, or when you stop by to read a post, I’ve thought, Wow! Sooo beautiful!

And I bet you probably don’t get it.

Maybe a lot of people have told you you’re not beautiful.

Maybe they said you were ugly, or dumb, or fat, or dorky, or had a funny looking face. Or maybe they told you your dreams are meaningless and that you don’t matter.

Well, I feel sorry for those people. Because they don’t get it. They don’t really see you. And that’s their loss.

Because I appreciate every little thing that makes up ‘you.’

Your scars, your stretch marks, your wrinkles, and even that oddly placed mole you’ve never liked. All of it just makes me love you more.

Because those little details make you real
and human
and flawed
and breath taking.

See you have to understand that when I see pictures in magazines I know they’re a lie. When I see reality TV, I know it’s just a show.

But your image, your words, and your life are different.
It isn’t some manufactured fiction. It’s special.

It’s special because it contains so much real joy and suffering.

If I could hook you up to a computer and download your experience it would make me weep, and laugh, and feel completely overwhelmed. Because I know that in just one day of your life, there is so much beauty and depth.

And it’s that beauty and depth that makes me love you.

And I wouldn’t change any of it.

Because without it, you wouldn’t be here. Without it, you wouldn’t be reading these words.

And I know that some of it was probably unfair and hard. And I know you may wish it was different. But I just appreciate it, because I appreciate you.

OK I know that was a lot to handle, but before I go I just want to tell you one more thing.

It’s something that I wish I could tell you everyday, but I know that I can’t. So I’ll settle for telling you once. And I’m afraid you won’t believe me, but despite that, I’m going to tell you anyway.

(Deep Breathe)

You are so much more powerful than you could ever imagine. When I look at you, I see so much unbelievable potential for wisdom and compassion.

I can tell that for too long people have told you what you aren’t and what you can’t be and that you should just be realistic.

But I want to tell you that they‘re WRONG. They don’t know you and they don’t love you. They’re scared of your light and humbled by your power.

They couldn’t see their own light, so they put you down to make themselves feel better.

Well I hope you won’t listen to them.
In fact, I hope you won’t listen to me either.

I hope that you won’t listen to anything except for that strong soft voice in your core.

The voice you used to hear when you were little.
The voice that told you what you were meant to be.
The voice that called you to love other people.
The voice that made you stare with wonder at spider webs, or the setting sun, or at the face of a crying friend.

I hope that you will find that voice and listen to it.
I hope that you will have faith in it and follow it.
Even if what it asks is hard.

Because I know that if you find that voice and follow it, then it will lead you somewhere amazing. And I’m not talking about wealth or fame, because those things don’t last.

No the place I’m talking about is something that lives deep inside and also right in front of your eyes. It’s been yours all along, but you didn’t realize it.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen, be still, and search with all your heart.

Because I know when you do anything is possible. I know that when you do, you’ll be a huge benefit to yourself and the world. In ways that no one can fully comprehend.

I hope you will wake up tomorrow, take out a piece of paper, close your eyes, and listen for that voice. And when you hear it, you’ll start writing and not stop until you are done.

I hope you’ll do this tomorrow and the next day
and the next
and the next.

I hope you’ll do it until that voice rings in your ear with every breath.
Because if you do this one simple thing, you will be on your way.

I can’t promise that the path will be easy, but it will be worth it. Because deep satisfaction is waiting for you. It’s there, if you only have the courage to look.

Ok that’s it. I’ve said my peace; the rest is up to you.

Thanks for everything . . . really.

My life would be so dull and empty without you.

I feel so grateful that you are here to teach me and show me what I need to know.
Without your guidance, I would be lost.

Thanks again. And I hope to see you soon.

I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do.


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Minimalist Passion – 5 Steps to Following Your Heart

Picture of a woman walking on clouds following her heart mindfully

So much of our modern culture encourages us to seek fame, glamour, and wealth, without much regard for what our purpose is. These external ways of measuring of success are much less satisfying and authentic then working to live in alignment with our deep values and life’s purpose.

Ancient Wisdom
In the ancient text of the Bhagavad Gita Krishna makes it very clear that we must follow our own path in life.

He says, “Better is one’s own dharma even if imperfect than another’s dharma followed perfectly. Better is death in following one’s own dharma, for another’s dharma brings danger.” (Schweig, Bhagavad Gita: Kindle Locations 1535-1542).

The challenge each of us faces everyday is the challenge to find and follow our own path. We must work to tune out all the voices and noises that tell us to do something else and follow the compass of our own heart.

So here are 5 Steps To Following Your Heart

1. Vanquish Fear –
Very often people know what they want to do, but they are too afraid to do it.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking what might happen if you try.

Here’s what might happen if you try. You may fail. Every great person ever has failed a ton of times. It just doesn’t make the paper.

Here’s what will happen if you don’t try. You will always wonder what could have been.

Failure lasts only moments, but regret lasts a lifetime. So, vanquish your fear and go for it.

2. Cut the BS (Blaming Stories)
We retell these stories over and over and over again until they have worn grooves in our minds. It’s hard to stop, but they almost never help.

Notice when you tell these stories, notice how they affect you, and then start telling a new story.

Everyone is writing a novelist composing his or her own lives. You write the story. Characters may act in funny ways and have a life of their own, but you are the one who gets to say what it all means.

3. Stick Things Out
This has been the hardest one for me. I’ve always had an easy time going for a new adventure, but sticking with one thing is challenging.

But it’s important to know that following your own heart isn’t always about going for it. Sometimes it’s about buckling down and staying put.

Sometimes the key is to stay with something past the point of comfort. It helps you evolve and creates trust in yourself.

4. Know Who You Are
I actually should have put this first, because everything else is dependent on this. I you want to be able to discern what your heart is calling you do to. You have to learn who you are.

This means engaging in the arduous, fun, annoying, and joyful process of self examination.

Meditation is a great activity for this as well as being part of a religious group or institution that offers a path for self examination. But it doesn’t matter what method you choose.

Anything from through hiking the PCT to starting counseling to living at a monastery to joining a men’s or women’s support group can help. The important thing is you set the intention to learn who you are.

5. Believe, Believe, Believe
This is the first and last step of this process. No one can follow your heart but you. Other people have their own agenda. If you don’t believe in yourself and your own path, they will happily co-opt you for their dreams.

This doesn’t mean that following your heart is an independent process. Cooperation and collaboration are essential on any path. But it does mean that the motivation and the nexus of choice comes from you.

Starting on this path requires believing that you can learn to follow your own heart. And the end of this path requires that you believe that your heart will not lead you astray.

The road forward isn’t always clear and it is only when we step forward with deep faith that we can face the darkness of uncertainty. But I know from my own life and experience, limited as it is, that stepping into the unknown in much more rewarding than staying stuck.

Following your heart means embodying your life fully and completely. It means making every step an adventure. And even though it’s scary as crap sometimes, it makes every moment on the path a blessing.


Do Less, Change More – 5 Minimalist Life Changers

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Changing your life can seem really complicated and challenging. The process of transformation is a life long journey, but it can begin with a few very simple steps.

5 Minimalist Life Changers

1. Keep a Journal
Try keeping a daily journal of your food, activity, sleep, and mood. This is a powerful tool to notice and change your habit patterns.

When I was preparing to take the Buddhist precepts, I started a daily reflection practice. Every night I spent a few minutes reflecting on the days events. I thought about how I had held the vows I was preparing to take.
I not only discovered some blind spots, but learned to appreciate my victories as well.

2. Go Small and Consistent
Changing your life is about building the confidence to change your habits. Start small and build from there.

When I quit smoking, I didn’t quit cold turkey like many people. I slowly cut back over time. Every time I wanted to smoke, I would delay as long as possible.

I called this practice quitting. When I stopped smoked completely, this practice helped me defeat the urge to cheat whenever it arose.

3. Get Support
Social accountability is a big component for people who are successful in transforming their lives. Having friends on the path makes the journey much easier.

When I was training for my first century ride (100 mile bike ride), I committed to riding with a training group every week. The weekly ritual kept me honest about my training and encouraged me to keep going.

4. Redefine Success
It’s helpful to think of success as measured by both internal and external improvement. Don’t just work to make your body look better also make sure you are nourishing your heart and mind.

It’s important to honor every part of yourself. The part of you that wants a treat isn’t bad or evil, it just wants you to pay attention to something you need.

When I quit smoking, someone told me I had to honor whatever need the smoking filled for me. If I did that, I’d make sure to stay quit.

One thing I loved about smoking was that it made me feel rebellious. So after I quit, I started reading under my sheets after lights out at the monastery. It was against the rules so I felt rebellious. But it was mostly harmless.

Eventually, I was able to put down the crutch, but it helped for a while.
If you feed that need without engaging in the same habit; you make better choices and honor yourself at the same time.

5. Believe In Yourself
Change is very possible, but it’s not a straight and easy road. You have to remind yourself often that you can do it.

Even though I have changed my life drastically over the past 2-3 years I still worry that I’ll slip up. I have to remind myself regularly that change is possible. And that I am manifesting that possibility with every small change I make.

I hope that you find these 5 tips helpful because they have helped me so much.

My number one goal is to help people change their lives. My dream for everyone that reads this blog is that you stay focused on your path and never give up on your ability to change your life.

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