Contentedness – Faded Passions

A tremendous, and definitely noticeable blush appears across my face, a look of surprise, usually consisting of widened eyes with my mouth agape, and finally, a set of shivers that go up both my arms to my core – This is how I react when experiencing something new and exciting. If that something really struck a chord that day, you might even hear some sort of sound that if exposed too long, may cause permanent harm.

Okay, so I’m high-strung. Don’t you get excited over Peer Gynt’s Suite For Orchestra? How about when the amount of cereal left in the box is perfectly proportional to the amount of milk you have left in the jug? No….? Moving on….

I want you to think of a specific time in your life, a person, or an experience that makes you feel completely overjoyed. It will help me convey my thoughts to you. Was this the first time you saw that significant other? How about a moment of recognition after a duration of hard work? This could even be as simple as getting to see a friend you haven’t for awhile, or hitting all of those traffic lights green.

The combination of all of those feelings of pure elation, amusement, and jubilance is almost euphoric. I love hearing from older people on how they felt as children, or at milestone events in their life. It’s almost as if a part of those first, fresh feelings are coming back as a reminder to how wonderful, or at least impressionable the time was. That’s beautiful.

So the graduation ceremony has ended. You embraced loved ones, left the venue, and are now in bed just thinking about the day in totality. Those highs don’t last forever. It appears now, that the passion in that moment has “faded” to contentedness. Sure, you aren’t bouncing off the walls with excitement, but now a new feeling overtakes you. This is primarily what I wanted to talk about.

Humans are junkies for the good feelings. That blood-boiling pleasure. It motivates us to do great things, or make some very…interesting choices. Why are you pursuing another person? Why are you working towards that degree? Why do you wake up every morning for your job? Why did you get that salad.. ( I’m sure it was to make up for that otherwise extremely tasty, yet unhealthy lunch)? Obviously, most of us want to just go through life the best we can enjoying ourselves along the way.

No matter how intense and invigorating the feelings are in the moment, I know personally that I need the mental security net of contentedness afterwards. That best friend that you haven’t seen in years has decided to visit you every day for a week. The first time you meet, you might have my initial reaction that I described, but what about by the end of the week? Are you jumping up and down with joy? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t feel the same about a person or that it’s just not the same. In fact, I believe that your passion for that person is just changing, developing, growing.

“Our passion are the true phoenixes; when the old one is burnt out, a new one rises from its ashes.”
–  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Many people believe that if they aren’t having those initial feelings of felicity, that maybe something is wrong. Yes, this definitely could be a sign that something isn’t working out the way it should be, but on the other hand, it could be a sign that something is going the right way! Remember that the feelings of contentedness may be that phoenix taking a new form. The next day, you could have new passionate feelings that you’ve never had before. Both parts of the cycle are important, in my opinion, to fully enjoy an experience for all that it is worth.

I know I have come across these questions a million times myself: “Has this passion faded for good? Has this passion faded well enough that I probably should move onto something else?”

That’s a tough one. Everyone is different. It’s so easy to focus on the negative feelings in the here and now. Sometimes you may feel that you are investing so much energy into one thing and aren’t getting enough energy back to continue. Maybe take a step not necessarily backwards, but to the side for awhile and see if that passion will rekindle. The frustrating, yet great thing about all of this is that there is no timeline, no right or wrong, and even if you explain your feelings to someone, no one is 100% exactly like you. I think that makes life fulfilling.

The contentedness is just as important as the passion. Not to mention all of the lovely gray areas where these two mix. You’d be surprised that those feelings of peace, serenity, security, and harmony can really help balance all of those fiery feelings. Maintain an open mind.

A tremendous, and eerily calm expression appears across my face. My eyes tell you that everything in the world, at least in this exact moment is where it needs to be, my mouth morphs into a delightful little grin, an almost inaudible sound escapes, and chills run up my arms to my core – This is how I feel when I am content.

Nature is filled with plenty of cycles, dig deeper to learn more about yourself.

What goes up, doesn’t have to come down.

– Jeff

Advertisements

Stars, my old friends.

HubbleDeepFieldSouthIf you’re ever feeling alone, or beaten down, or want to get rid of that nagging feeling that there’s something more to life than what you see around you- just look to the stars.

You’re spinning on an iron rock that’s falling around a nuclear furnace at speeds we weren’t meant to comprehend. Much, much further out we can see the dancing of nearby stars that have captured the imagination of men since before they could form words. Some were grouped together and called “Hunter” who is eternally chasing his prey across the sky. Some are queens, some are lions, some are lovers, and some are tragedies. 

Even further beyond are the catastrophic kaleidoscopes of supernovas, nebulae, and interstellar gasses which mark the death and eventual rebirth of those great balls of light. They spend their days gleefully tearing through the cosmos, showing their glory for all the celestial members of the great play we call the Universe to see. Some are long lived, and some die well before their time (though far older than the ages of all the human race combined).

They dutifully create some of the heavier elements of the universe- forging atoms together like a celestial swordsmith. When they’re done, their violent death throws can be seen throughout the vastness of space at distances our minds, which evolved mostly to distinguish whether or not there’s a tiger in those bushes, simply can’t fathom.

It’s in those pangs of death that we were born. Stars long ago scattered elements that would coalesce into our very own star, the Sun. Dust clumped together, thanks to our lovely friend gravity, and earth formed. 

Aeons later, here I am- born from the womb of the Universe- looking into the night sky at nuclear reactions. My problems may be existential and seem large to me, but they keep sending their faint glow to fill the void with stories for imaginative apes like me. They care not for petty squabbles or the wars we fight over for tiny patches of dirt. 

In that moment I am small, and yet I am vast. Though I’ve created many things and have left my mark on the lives of people I love and cherish- they are nothing compared to the legacy our old, dear friends have passed on to us. 

As I step inside from an evening of marvelling at the Universe, longing to be rent from my corporealness so I can launch out amongst the stars and experience their story, I’m reminded of an eloquent quote by Carl Sagan, who says it better than I can:

Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can. Because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

Thank you, my old friends.

Random Musings: The Conversation

Random Musings is where I just ramble on about a topic. It may or may not have a point, but that’s OK. This blog is about the journey, not the destination!

There are many people who are well received as great communicators and orators, but what is a conversation, anyway? Conversations, to me, are simply taking turns at providing a monologue. Mere language can seem so limited. Sometimes, conversations are about a single subject, and sometimes the monologues meander about, skipping from one idea to another. But, for the most part, you can sum up all of human conversation in three points. You’re either:

1. Providing information.

2. Requesting information.

3. Giving a command.

And you take turns doing one of these three things for the entire time you’re talking to someone.

“How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

“That’s good. Could you take your foot off my toe?”

I know some will disagree and find more “Categories” of conversation But really, it all breaks down to an exchange of information or telling someone what to do- once you get down to the lowest common denominator. 

So why am I taking such a jaded view on conversation? Well, because I want something more. Maybe technology could help us someday, when we start hooking the internet into our heads. A simple “How are you?” “I’m fine” turns into communicating your entire “state” as a human being. You truly tell another person how you are- you show them the events of your morning- like getting your kids ready for school, getting cut off in traffic, enjoying the sun rise, finally waking up with your first cup of coffee for the day. Instead of that “I’m fine,” we can truly empathize with another human being by uploading our emotional state into their heads.

Of course, there’s times when you won’t want to share all those intimate details. But, I think the world would be filled with a lot less heartache if we could communicate in more than just words- but actually communicate those feelings directly into the heart of another being.

And then, there’s body language. It’s kind of the closest thing we have to being cyborgs and zapping our emotional data to other humans directly. As social animals, we’ve evolved to pick up on even the smallest minutiae and quirk of someone’s body. A “Come here!” spoken by a man with a furrowed brow and a snarl on his face is completely different from a “Come here!” spoken by a handsome man with a coy smile and a finger beckoning you to join him.

I’ve carried on entire conversations without using words. You can tell a lot just by staring a person in the eye and smiling. Assuming it’s someone you know and not a random person on the street- that’d just communicate that you’re creepy!

Maybe the conversation goes something like this: Sitting next to him, looking him in the eyes. Those eyes can tell you a lot. Holding hands can tell you so much under the street lights in the city on a summer night. His gaze can tell you he’s longing, or maybe he’s on top of the world. Maybe he wants a hug. Maybe his smile fills your belly with helium balloons until you may as well float away into the sky together. Maybe his kiss, his hug says he wants to be with you forever? 

Oh, and his dance. His dancing says he doesn’t have a care in the world and his entire future is ahead of him- and the only one he wants to spend that future with is you. He pulls at your hand and you rush through the crowded club to the back. There he takes you on a slow dance journey where time stops and the only thing that matters is the present, being with him and being humans together. His eyes tell you that it’s a miracle that with seven billion humans spinning wildly on an iron rock that’s continually falling around a ball of light that it’s a miracle you two would end up together at this point in time and space. His kiss tells you he’s fallen in love.

On second thought, body language does a damn good job at making up for where spoken language can be so limited.

Now look me in the eyes and let’s have a conversation.

Discover what is within your heart

The heart is the most insightful, labyrinthine, secretive, and crucially compelling mechanism in your body. It can be so focused, honing in on something of desire, or all-encompassing, capturing moments from every area of life. The heart can be reserved, attentive, and on the lookout for danger, or bustling and humming to its own cadence, without a single worry in the world. Some days, the heart may be generous and unforgettably present while other days, you may search for it, thinking that it has finally had enough and left for good.

What is happening within your heart?

I am definitely one moody individual. If you ever happen to spend a day with me, you will see my heart race the gauntlet of emotions. I usually wake up in the morning with a fresh, “I have to Go, Go, and Go!” mindset, planning my day, and trying to gather all of my thoughts in one place positively. By mid-afternoon, usually I have everything that needs to be done, done and I can enjoy an evening doing the things that aren’t always on the top of the priority list. At around dinner time, I may become bitterly sarcastic, dramatic, bossy, and frankly, outrageous. This usually has to do with being more put together during the day, so as the night progresses my heart is still teetering between “Jeff, you can finally relax now” and “Jeff, be on your toes, anything could happen.” But seriously, who doesn’t get a bit saucy when they need to eat and deflate from the day’s activities. At around 10’oclock at night, I often have a complete change once again and become very loving, tender, and extremely thoughtful. The smallest things, such as finding an old picture of a friend, a couple lines of meaningful text, or just a damn good G Major chord, may or may not cause tears to flow from my eyes. If you somehow happen to catch me past 2’oclock in the morning, that’s your fault, because anything can happen. I’m trying my best to blog at all hours of the day in order to get my full array of thoughts.

Although I may have moods as frequent as bristles on my toothbrush, I still have a competent understanding of what is happening within my heart. Yes. Differing moods may happen every day from dawn until dusk, but that may have nothing to do with what is actually occurring within the heart.

Everyone has a heart that is a little bit different. Some may be multi-layered, while others may be single layered. Some may be extremely complex, while some hearts approach life a little bit more simplistically. Not to mention, as your life progresses, the contents of your heart may change.

Quite frequently, my friends will call me up to talk when they are sad, or just feeling empty. Most of them have significant others, good jobs, great families, and plenty of things to look forward to, yet they still feel empty. Now most of the time, this is completely normal. I mean, without most of my friends combating my wild mood swings, I really don’t know where I would be today. Other times, it is a deeper, more personal internal battle where most of the time they don’t know what to do. Usually after I notice that this is a deeper issue, I tell them that I’m going to perform some one of a kind, highly successful “Open Heart Surgery.”

Too often when success comes our way, or things are externally happening the way we want them to, we forget to take the time to look within ourselves to see how this is actually reverberating within our hearts. We get so caught up in the new, the exciting, and the different, that sometimes we completely neglect what our hearts have to say.

I generally describe it like this.

Everything in your life that transpires, sits on the edges of your heart, scrambling to get a place inside. This literally encompasses everything about the human experience: job, school, friends, love, happiness, disappointment, money, trust, hope, despair, longing, family, singing, laughing, crying, eating, communicating, cars, cell phones, video games, excitement, anticipation, Fruit Loops, rye toast, long red lights, a F diminished 7th chord, clarinet, the DMV, horrid lines at Chipotle, running out of Chapstick, matching socks, war, running out of ammo for your mechanical pencil, sitting on your dog’s tail, lying in the grass humming, allergies, yellow shirts, slamming your knee on the kitchen table, writing essays, screaming, supporting, gas prices, wild turkeys, burning cookies, and dancing.

Yes I went overboard, and could have gone longer, but I need to continue to get my point across.

All of these things sit on the outskirts of your heart, affecting your individuality and well-being, ultimately playing a major role in determining your immediate emotions in the moment. What happens if one day, you don’t have any of these things? You may feel like there is a void in your life, or that something is out of balance. What I have discovered, is that when this happens, your heart begins to feel whatever is in the deepest, most sacred areas within. After all, if you don’t have anything else in the moment, you have yourself to keep you occupied, right?

If you fill your heart with addiction, insecurities, unfulfilling activities, you can’t expect to be truly satisfied when you take the time to really internally reflect. I understand. You can’t pick and choose everything that goes into the most special areas of your heart, but you do play a big role in it. When I say “Open Heart Surgery”, I’m really just helping them throw out the ugly within and watching, as they plant new seeds. I can’t personally do it, but the more support, the merrier.

Fill your heart with a combination of life that is perfect for you. Mine is usually a mixture of perseverance, caution, dedication, classical music, lying in the grass, talking on the phone, eating excessive amounts of chocolate, smiling, laughing, video games, assorted blue shirts, and of course love.

Take the time to reflect, because you might be surprised to see what is really within your heart.

 

Using the Tao Te Ching to Transform Your Life (Chapter 1: The Way)


tao (1)What is the Tao Te Ching?

The Tao Te Ching is a relatively short text on philosophy that is central in Eastern thought, particularly Taoism. While many hundreds of millions of people in the far east have read, studied, and applied that profound wisdom that is found within, many Westerners such as myself are only now beginning to discover it’s simple beauty and apply it to our daily lives.

Central to the theme of the Tao Te Ching is the Tao. The Tao isn’t viewed as a deity in the sense as many think of a god, but rather as an all permeating force as prevalent as fate itself. The idea is to learn to just be, and go with the flow, rather than being attached and controlled by things and ownership.

Its author was supposedly Lao Tsu, a royal record keeper who lived around ~500 BC during a particularly tumultuous time in China. There are many theories as to when and by whom it was really written. Since then, however, it has been translated in hundreds of different languages around the world.

Some religious texts have thousands of pages in them. But with only 81 chapters, some being as short as a few sentences, there is a lot of wisdom packed into a small amount of language.

So without further delay, here is my take on the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

Chapter 1 – The Way

The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

The opening mystery.

Here in this opening chapter of the Tao Te Ching, we find the introduction to the great mystery. It is hard to define a mystery, because by its very nature if you can fully elaborate on it, the mystery isn’t a mystery anymore. Such is the Tao, which is knowable only at a distance, and yet is prevalent in our everyday lives.

Instead of being scared by the unknown or unknowable, embrace it. Instead of worrying endlessly how to attain the next rung in the ladder on the economic scale, just be. Let it come as a natural part of your self improvement rather than stressing yourself into an early grave. Do not let things exasperate you that are beyond your immediate control.

Practice not labeling things.

To make this practical, make an effort to know things not only by names, but by what they really are. We as human beings have a notorious habit for naming and categorizing everything we ever come across. Look around your room right now and see if there isn’t one part of it that doesn’t have some sort of name or measure. Often these arbitrary names get in the way of what the object or person really is.

This comes into play especially in terms of people. Why should a person be judged as too fat, too tall, too thin, too short, too white, too black, too jewish, too british, etc, etc? Practice from this moment onward to let people just be people.

As an example, have you ever had that feeling where you look at a close friend and really see what they look like? Your familiarity built up a kind of image in your head that you use to see them rather than just seeing them for who they really are. You can get this same kind of feeling when you see a celebrity in person rather than on television or at the movies.

When you come across a particularly stressful or irritating person, acknowledge what they do by their actions, but choose to let them just be who they are. Do not see it as a bad or good thing. Instead, do as the Tao does- embrace people even in their weakest of times. Again, do not exasperate yourself over things ouside of your control.

Free yourself from desire to get what you want.

Practice not just freeing yourself from a general desire for things, but make it specific. When you desire something so greatly, sometimes you make bad judgment calls and incorrect assumptions. Make an effort to free yourself from a desire for a specific thing, and let it simply happen in its own time.

Often when we take a step back from something and view a situation from a different angle, we can come back to it with a fresh mind and are able to tackle it much better.

Eastern thought is filled with seemingly contradicting ideas such as these. In the end, though, it really does work. Free yourself from the desire for more and more money, and you will become rich. Let the desire for a relationship with a person cease, and you will gain friendship (or more).

I’m not saying don’t have goals. I’m not saying to sit back and wait for everything to fall into your lap (it wont)- simply dont let your desires rule who you are. Become a master of them and use them as motivation to get to the next level.

Killing an unbalanced desire will allow you to see things more clearly and, in the end, you will get that very thing! More than anything in this chapter, this powerful advice has effected my life. For awhile I had chased after get-rich schemes in order to get a lot of money to do the things I wanted to do. Once I let the desire free, everything turned around and I was able to arrive at a place where I could start my own business. Within a month I had landed my first client!

This is the power of the Tao. It is a wonderful mystery, and something that you can put into practice right now and see results.

 

I promise, to stay true to myself

I promise to be there for you, for the rest of your life.

Wow, that was a mighty fine promise you have just made there. If I am gathering this correctly, you are telling me, that you will know me until the second I croak, offering love and support? I… really don’t know what to say. That means a lot to me.

What does a promise mean to you?

The act of promising has been around since mankind could communicate the thought. How could it not be? When the stars have you feeling all fine, and you are around those that you love, it’s easy to promise the moon away.  Or, let’s say you leave on an airplane for a business trip and just as you step into the gate, you promise to return to your family. Promises have saved relationship, strained others, but nonetheless the word “Promise” has one hell of a connotation.

I rarely make promises, but the ones I do make, are powerful. A promise to me is the ultimate culmination of love, trust, and respect. Three pillars that I don’t take lightly. If I promise to be there for someone for the rest of their life, it translates into Jeff talk as: “For everything I’m worth, I have the full intention of being in your life for as long as I can and will continue to reserve pieces of my heart for you.” Sheesh. What an enormous commitment to make at such a young age. I mean what happens if we don’t see each other for an extended period of time? Touché. One day, I just might take myself to live in the mountains in complete isolation, in my solar paneled, geothermal, wind friendly household.

I can’t predict the future, but the beauty of promises is that there is always a level of uncertainty. Often times, I find most people throwing out promises just for the immediate emotional security. I don’t blame them honestly, but it could cause problems down the road. People change, life happens. Does this mean we have to break our promises though? Absolutely not. If you are not true to your own word, what are you true to then?

Promises do far more than benefit the other person. They are a mental safety net. Promises can help organize priorities, preserve individuality, and enhance relationships. Promises grow with you. What a promise meant to you at age eighteen, may mean something completely different down the road. A sacred connection can truly be made here. Take marriage for example, society’s “ultimate” promise. Do you think those newlyweds knew of all the ups and downs they were going to have before they tied the knot? Of course not, but they made that commitment anyways.

I admit. I like to have things in order. Sometimes I feel myself yearning for immediate promises, just to help ease the fear of something wonderful, one day not being there. Let’s stay within reality though. Something wonderful in your life may not be there after a point, but that’s okay. One of my favorite things to do is take myself back to the moment I made a promise, or told my friend something special. Although the feelings may not be as strong as they were at the moment, it is a nice constant reminder of where I currently am in my life. In fact, sometimes, the feelings are even stronger. As I mature, these memories may shift slightly, and that’s okay too.

Promises can be as big, or as small as you want them to be, but the focus is to fill them with all that you are worth. Don’t make empty promises, or at least recognize what happens when you do. These ancient seals of emotion can really revitalize your life.

The infamous question:

What happens if I make a really personal promise, and the other person either doesn’t want to reciprocate these feelings or doesn’t appreciate your efforts?

Yes, this is undeniably tough; the plague on most relationships. You may trust someone, and they just don’t trust you the same way back. In my opinion, unreciprocated love or trust is one of the worst feelings in the whole entire world.

Give yourself some credit. That fact that you are able to make such an intimate proposition speaks volumes about who you are as a person. It doesn’t matter if they don’t respect it. There are people out there that will cherish those words “I promise.” If you find people like that, you probably should keep them around.

Promising is a potent weapon, just remember, it doesn’t matter how many you make to others, just stay true to yourself.

Logic & Passion

left-brain-right-brain-403x234

Logic without passion is impotent and cynical.

Passion without logic is indignant and prejudiced.

Empirical or creative; right or left. We are all two minds in constant struggle with the other, and the compromise in the middle is us.

Is it ok for a logical man to eschew the passion in himself? Is it ok for the passionate man to never seek truth? Both of these people are half of themselves. I know, because I’ve been on both sides of the mind.

My earlier years were embroiled with passion. From my family, which would put any other dysfunctional family to shame without approaching criminality, I saw passion run amuck and permanently stunt the lives of those that it affected. Completely unrestrained, raw, and ignorant passion.

I saw passion without knowledge in my former religiosity. This is where I channeled passion for the better part of my life. Gave myself to others, to my institution. I was shown both incredible unconditional love from my deity and others who followed it. Incredible generosity, and incredible passion. In the end, the lack of knowledge created only divisiveness, controlling, and misguided attempts at being a complete person. I saw good people beat others down with an ignorant smile.

The curse of an only passionate man is to stumble in the dark, searching for an answer that he would never understand, and becoming a savage to the truth he does find.

Finally, logic took over, and after it would have been useful to me in school, it finally showed up in abundance. Pontificating over every which thing, constant planning without action. Anticipating but never participating. Predicting where my country was headed and the state of the world; discussing other worlds and dimensions; discovering new states of being- new ways of life- it was truth I found that in passion I could not discover.

The curse of a logical man is cynicism and apathy. If you aren’t careful, they creep in slowly, until by morning the thief has gotten away with your dreams; your passion.

It took me awhile to find my passion again. It was there all a long, but this time it isn’t misguided. It is powerful. Any man who wields them together is an unstoppable force, that only death can stop. And for some, not even death hinders their legacy.

My best, humble, feeble, passionately logical advice is to find both. Logic and passion; truth and the muse. Passion will carry you to where logic has told you to find truth.

Beware the half-people of the world. The passionately ignorant can hate, and the logically apathetic do nothing, care for nothing. The passionates are carried away by every wind of emotion. The logicals aren’t moved by anything, and by inaction waste away.

But the man who finds both? You become who you are, and I think that is the person who is closest to a sage. To a human. To someone who will make their mark upon the earth without regrets (even if there were things to regret about).

This isn’t a binary thing. 1 and 0, on and off. It’s a gradual process, a continual evolution.

If anyone out there is firmly stuck in one or the other, find your other half and take over the world.