Tag Archives: modern life

What Does It Mean To Spiritually Eliminate And Do You Need To Do It?

15 Sep

It’s a well known fact that elimination is vital to life. Without these biological processes, we would die. Our bodies discharge waste through complex physiological processes but do our bodies do this on a spiritual level too?

This question floated through my head during one of the most surreal yoga classes I’ve ever taken. Because focus was being placed on the first chakra, most of the exercises were geared toward the parts of our bodies dealing with physical elimination. “Think of this as spiritual potty training,” the teacher said. Yes, this is LA living. I’m lying on a mat reflecting on my anal sphincter…

The first chakra has to do with being grounded in physical life. It correlates to our physical health, basic survival needs, and personal safety as we navigate through day-to-day life. This particular teacher has been practicing yoga for years and also studied in India. I take her very seriously even though her comments sometimes make me laugh out loud.

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A toddler experiences potty training to learn how to effectively eliminate and to gain increased autonomy from her care-takers. How do we learn to effectively eliminate the “crap” from our lives that stores up as we digest “stuff” throughout the day, week, month and year(s)?

The spiritual correlation isn’t too different from the physical dimensions of our bodies. If we don’t have control over our elimination system, things will get impacted causing constipation and blockage and/or things will move through with no control. What is this crap and how do we discharge it efficiently?

All day we take things in – some of it is nourishing; some is the equivalent of junk food. We take in conversations and information, relationships and experiences. We take in work demands, personal crises, and personal joys. Our systems perceive all kinds of stimuli – positive and negative that needs to be processed, metabolized and released. In today’s modern world, we have the equivalent of spiritual pollution: exhaust from social media, our devices, traffic, arguments, reality t.v., US politics, etc., etc.

Increasingly, I need to gauge how well I’m digesting and eliminating what is not necessary; what is waste; what isn’t vital to my spiritual and nutritional health. It’s part of my health regime. At a certain point, I can’t take in anymore without completing maxing out my nervous system or soul.

Today I went for a hike. I’d had enough of the computer screen and to do list.

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Tonight, I will do a little more work and then power down. Enough.

If we’re wound too tight, we can’t let go.

What helps you unwind? Clear out? And get back to health?

 

Lady, You’re Gonna Get Wet!

1 Sep

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Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. This morning a woman in a water aerobics class started screeching at me for “splashing too much”as I did laps in the lane next to the class.

I didn’t understand what the problem was until the life guard approached me, embarrassed, and told me the woman was upset by my swimming. “I don’t understand,” I said. “If she wants me to switch lanes, I have no problem but how am I to swim without splashing?”

Lady, if you’re going to get into a swimming pool, chances are you’re going to get wet!

I switched lanes. The lady continued to scowl. The man in my new lane smiled. I smiled back. Because you’ve got to keep a sense of humor.

When people are that angry you almost have to feel sorry for them.

The woman didn’t understand that I’d just received a string of bad news and that I’d come to the pool to try and feel better. It didn’t matter. As I get older I just can’t be bothered anymore with bs – my own or other people’s. When I’m embroiled in my own, I have to shake myself and say, “Stop it! You’re driving even me out of my mind.” Because none of us knows how much time we have on this planet and I want to enjoy as much of it as I can.

Here is the thing. We are going to get splashed. We are going to get our hair messed up.

Why be alive, why sit by the pool, if you’re not going to get in it?

 

The Beauty of Boredom

16 Aug

Boredom isn’t really in my repertoire. Raised an only child, I learned to entertain myself at an early age and never really felt bored. I came to appreciate that there is plenty to do in life.

Yet every now and then, particularly when I’m super pooped like I am right now, I have to spend a day doing almost nothing. I always find this somewhat frustrating. I mean what could be more boring than just sitting on the couch or lying in bed when it’s sweltering hot both inside and outside? Just being is not terribly exciting, thought provoking, stimulating, or pleasurable. Nonetheless, I sometimes work myself into such a frenzy of career demands that the exhaustion comes with the territory.

I dislike these days yet I know there is beauty in boredom. Watching the hours tick away, not even reading or watching t.v., I find myself in a weird free fall. Just sitting here on the couch in the last hour I have noticed the sky change from pink to violet and now I see the moon almost full. I have painted two pictures and emptied my mind of weeks of teaching and travel. I have felt spaced out and my head has buzzed with a weird tingling vibration.

And I know this is absolutely vital to my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

The other day I was so happy to be home I bought three bouquets of flowers for different rooms in my house. Today, I noticed each arrangement yield more to its blossoms. When we’re bored, we start to pay attention.

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Tomorrow is another day. The to-do list never ending. The I-want-to-do-list even longer.

Yet today I had moments of boredom and in those pockets of empty space, I heard the still small voice that beckons me. As always, I doubt where it will lead me, yet know I must find the courage to follow it. Without the down time, I wouldn’t have paid attention to its presence.

Emotional Heroism

3 Aug

This horse and I had a couple of moments. They were only a few moments but life is comprised of moments. It is the moments that make or break us.

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Studies show that the bond between humans and animals directly impacts our evolution as a species.

Specifically, exchanges between owners and their pets release high quantities of oxytocin, which profoundly impacts mood state and biochemistry. The process is highly similar to what occurs  between infants bonding with adults. When owners and their pets observe and are observed by each other, oxytocin releases that fosters feelings of calm and increases concentration. These are the opposite impulses that tear us apart. Excessive aggression, dissension and isolation become lethal for civilized society.

Linda Kohanov, a pioneer in the field of equine therapy and its effect on interpersonal relationships speaks specifically about what animals can teach humans regarding how to interact in ways that preserve vs destroy the herd. Horses are animals who wield enormous amounts of power yet still take care of their own. Kohanov writes, “Using power well is not a soft skill. Even so, it requires a sophisticated integration of leadership and social intelligence to channel potentially explosive forces into a focused and benevolent source of energy” (from “The Five Roles of the a Master Herder, p.4).

Linda recently spoke at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. In the audience were people with vested interests in how horses enhance humanity’s humanity, including a much beloved actor from a much beloved t.v. show. Probably more than anything during Kahanov’s talk, I was struck by a term she called “emotional heroism” to describe the act of keeping one’s heart open even while knowing that the inevitable result is heartbreak. She uses the term to describe when an owner has to make the excruciating decision to euthanize an animal or when bonding with an animal may result in some other painful separation. She also mentioned this concept in conjunction with the risks entailed in various stages of relationships. For instance, within a herd, animals play different roles including nurturer, sentinel, dominant, leader and predator. All animals play the different roles at times to ensure the herd’s well-being. We humans have much to learn from what animals know about how to look out for one another. Likewise, learning to embody these roles fully is not for the faint of heart.

To be connected to others requires presence. It is a dance of interaction. Of the observed observing the observer. It also demands that we drop our social masks and be authentic. Horses can read through the bullshit we put out and so can most people. Horses are straightforward. They step away from you if they don’t like you and walk towards you when they do. What you see is what you get. They will also show deep concern for you if you are in pain and will invite you to play if you want to join them.

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We are becoming disembodied as a culture staring into our little screens and taking selfies of ourselves instead of looking out at the world around us. Increasing disparities in power and social isolation bring pressures often with little relief. So there is no shame in looking to nature for solace and sanity. It may be the thing that leads us to a higher evolution than we’re currently headed towards as a people.

 

I’m So Old School….

30 Oct

While bemoaning about my dislike of texting as a primary communication form, a friend of mine said, “I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone.” Taking the bait, the banter continued:

“I’m so old school, I actually answer the phone even when I don’t recognize the caller ID.”

“I’m so old school, I don’t text and drive.”

“I’m so old school, I actually turn off my phone in the car.”

“I’m so old school, I actually write letters.”

“I’m so old school, I actually have stamps.”

“I’m so old school, I actually read books.”

Well, here’s today’s addition to the list: “I’m so old school, I actually want to wait in line at the bank and talk to the teller while depositing a check.”

Every time I go into the bank to deposit a check, a clerk comes up to me and says, “I can help you outside at the ATM, Miss” (usually it’s the same employee). I always turn to the individual, smile and say, “Thank you, but I’d actually like to make an in-person deposit.” Then we get into a power struggle until I acquiesce and have the person show me what to do.

I know what to do. I just don’t like sending my checks off into a black hole. I also know how to deposit checks using my phone and the bank’s app. The thing is, “I’m so old school, about once a month, I like to cue up inside the bank, so I can stand at the teller’s window and deposit a check before the teller and the window are obsolete. It’s a nostalgia thing for me. I also want a few minutes to just vedge out while waiting for my turn.

You know what? I’m also so old school that I prefer to interact with a real check-out clerk at the grocery store before he or she no longer has a job. It makes no sense to me to hire someone to “assist” customers as they check themselves out. I also occasionally want to talk with a customer service rep instead of pressing 1, 2, & 3 on my phone’s keypad until I’m so frustrated I start screaming obscenities into the cell phone. (And yes, I miss my land line and preferred it to my crappy cell phone reception where everyone sounds like they’re mumbling).

I am old school. I miss human interaction. Yes, the modern way might be – and I repeat – MIGHT BE – more convenient and faster, and yes, the world is changing and I need to adapt, but gosh darnit, let me have a little bit of the old fashioned stuff before it is gone.

I actually prefer having a glass of wine with people in person vs. with strangers on the Internet or with folks far away via Skype.

I miss seeing movies in the theatre instead of streaming them.

I believe in practicing psychotherapy in person vs. on the phone.

I like children interacting with people and toys vs. I-pads and Game Boys.

I like looking out the window on an airplane instead of watching an in-flight movie.

I like sitting in front of a real fire feeling its heat and hearing the crackle of its flames vs. watching an image of a fire on screen (and I want real wood and newspapers vs. some Duraflame log).

Basically, I prefer real life intimacy in all its shapes, forms and delights vs. virtual reality.

While working with the bank clerk today, the ATM couldn’t read one of my checks because a signature was below a certain part of the check. Thus, we had to go back inside after already spending ten minutes at the machine. To finish the transaction, we had to do an old fashioned deposit. While waiting for the gentleman to finish helping me – help I hadn’t wanted in the first place – I glanced at the bank teller’s line. There was none. Had I stayed in the line, I would have finished five minutes earlier. It would have been faster and more pleasant to do it the old fashioned way.

“I’m so old school, I miss the old fashioned ways.”

I’m ready to ditch the cell phone and move to a remote village in Italy. I’m ready to eat pasta and dance and laugh morning, noon and night. No, I don’t want to be a slave to status updates or stat reports. The only selfie I want is one with loved ones printed out in a frame on my desk.

I’m so old school, I want to embrace and enjoy and squeeze every ounce of potential out of my life. I want photographs posted on my heart and soul and not necessarily on-line.

How old school are you?

 

Dating and Other Life Tips from Nancy Drew

9 Jun

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Every woman could stand to learn some things from Nancy Drew.

I have been reading Nancy Drew mysteries since I was five years old. At 46, I realize just how far ahead of her times the titian haired heroine actually was. We women have much to gain by looking at her character.

Nancy Drew is eighteen years old. She lives with her attorney father, Carson Drew and their beloved housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Nancy’s own mother died when she was three years old. The one fantasy element in the books is that Nancy doesn’t have to earn an income. Her father makes a more than generous salary and Nancy never wants for anything. There is always cash for fashionable clothing, last minute air tickets to follow up a lead on a mystery, for car repairs, and for luncheons at tea houses and hotels. (Most likely, these would be tax write offs, as Nancy often assists her father, investigating leads on his cases).

Other than that, all of Nancy’s attributes and successes can be attributed to herself. She is intelligent, determined, curious, passionate, kind, and ridiculously talented. She is exceptional at swimming, golf, tennis, dancing, figure skating, skiing, horse back riding, scuba diving, drawing, and acting. (I realize that being upper middle class, Nancy has exposure to opportunities that help refine her innate abilities). Many of her mysteries feature these very talents. She is also perceptive with an extraordinary ability to read people’s true natures. Although polite and classy, she doesn’t mince words, nor is she mousy. She is assertive and at times, ballsy and forthright. She doesn’t cower when people don’t like her for either getting close to solving a mystery and/or because she is so exceptional. Nancy has a spine of steel despite her refined, waspy exterior.

Yet what is also extremely interesting is the way she operates vis-a-vis the men in her life. Nancy is never short on dates. There is always some young man around interested in taking her to dinner or to a dance. Her regular beau, Ned Nickerson, clearly adores her and makes regular arrangements to take Nancy out to concerts, the theatre, picnics, or boating. As the reader, I get the sense that Nancy very much enjoys male company, yet on the other hand could care less about it. Nancy is not driven by romance. It’s a nice secondary gain to her life, but it is not running the show. While on a date, she doesn’t think twice about dropping the original plans to attend a function if a clue comes up. The man can accompany her as she follows up on a lead, but the message is 100% clear. Mysteries come first; dating second. A guy who dates Nancy has to deal with this, or he isn’t the right guy. Paradoxically, this makes Nancy all the more attractive and fascinating. Ned Nickerson clearly adores her, but then Ned Nickerson gets her. Not all men would put up with Nancy. Nancy takes up space. Although kind and considerate of others, she doesn’t rearrange her life for a man. The man has to rearrange his life for her.

Given that most of the books were originally written in the 1930’s, dating for Nancy is old fashioned. The men around her properly court her. They aren’t trying to get into her knickers and Nancy would have no tolerance for that if they tried. Instead they take her out because they genuinely enjoy her company and want to get to know her in a day-to-day context. Nancy doesn’t live in 2015 where most men expect you to sleep with them by the third date and if you don’t, they drop you because it’s easy to find another woman who will. After all, why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free? Nancy values herself too much for such nonsense.

Nancy would be both appalled and intrigued by our current trends, dating and otherwise. Without a doubt she would have a smart phone. She’d need it for researching clues and following leads. She’d use the GPS navigation and would text her friends about appointed meeting times. She’d use FB sparingly, partly because of her extreme humility but mostly because she wouldn’t want to leak information regarding cases or let crooks know her whereabouts. She might have a website advertising her detective services and she’d probably track her expenses in an excel spread sheet. Nancy is so modern and yet so old fashioned.

I sometimes wonder if the books continued, if Nancy would marry and have children. I imagine she would. She is too beloved and too relational to not take this fairly normal step in her evolution. Yet it’s hard to think about her married and with children because these elements would change her radically and infringe on the freedom that so defines her. She’d need to be with a man who truly assisted her in all things domestic so that she could continue to solve mysteries and be her own person. I could see Hannah Gruen dramatically assisting with the child rearing.

On the other hand, I could see Nancy perfectly fine as a single woman. I doubt she’d feel sorry for herself. I think she’d roll up her sleeves and get to work. She’d also have hobbies and friends and volunteer work.

Yes, ladies. I think we could all benefit from the example of Ms. Drew, even if she is just a character in a novel. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

 

 

Love Is A Selfie

8 May

The other day I was talking with a friend. He mentioned a photograph he’d seen in a collection entitled “The Ten Worst Selfies.” The picture he described was of a woman scantily clad in underwear and bra taking a selfie while her six year old son looked away towards the wall. If a picture says a thousand words, this one sums it up.

I didn’t even see the photograph. I can imagine it though. I know the scenario all too well.

When my parents were alive, no one took selfies. My father however was the poster child for narcissism. True to the myth, he was in love with his own image.

I might as well have been in the bedroom watching my dad take a picture of himself in his underwear with my head turned to the wall. I saw my dad in his underwear many times. I also heard him making love with the girlfriend of the day, week, month or year, as his bedroom was right above mine. I heard him call each of them “honey” as if she was the most gorgeous, wonderful and ONLY woman on the planet. In reality, she was always one of MANY. I recall a Christmas Eve when we went to two different women’s houses where my dad wooed each. Then Christmas morning we went to a third girlfriend’s house. I agued with my dad in the car that he needed to pick amongst them instead of stringing them all along. Lying to each was cruel.

My dad needed multiple women. One pussy wasn’t enough for him. His ego needed constant stroking. That he was a divorce attorney served him beautifully. He always had vulnerable, broken women before him whose husbands had broken their hearts. He would be that great guy who would treat them better.

In his mind, he loved them all and treated them well. Yet if one got upset with him, there was always someone else waiting in line next for him, so he never had to experience any kind of genuine loss, remorse, or heartache. He also never had to be accountable for his behavior.

My dad was truly evil. But I look around me and see mild versions of the same behavior happening everywhere in our society. A relationship doesn’t work out but no matter. We can just start texting and instant messaging someone else. Why not cultivate something new and improved? Heck, let’s do that while we’re in a relationship so that if things fall on rocky ground, we’re already planting the seeds for our next venture. We might be bummed initially at the time of a break up, but those endorphins from the first flush of attraction are quite the rush. That sparkle is so much better than the hum drum of a long term relationship, the bickering, and the tending to each other’s needs. Not to mention how cool we look when we can bag another babe or guy instantaneously. That’s quite the super power to have. Why not post a picture of our new situation  and see how many likes we garner, as if we’re all the prom king and queen from high school?

We justify our actions by saying we want more, we want something new, it’s not healthy or normal to practice monogamy. We say we had a right. We did nothing wrong. We didn’t hurt anybody. It’s all good. Be a little more open minded. These things just happen.

We live in a carpe diem society high on instant gratification and low on emotional maturity or self-sacrifice.

We all yearn for contentment and love and relationship and yet we’re doing very little to learn how to sustain long term care and appreciation of one another. I think we’re all guilty on some levels, myself included.

I am that young child watching her parent take a selfie in a sexual, seductive pose. I am that child who witnessed so much crap that I feel I could vomit. I am that child who vowed I’d never be treated like a disposable object or commodity. I am that child who declared no man would ever define whether I was beautiful or not. And I am that child who grieves for what I see in the modern world wondering if love is real or a mirage in the desert.

Perhaps love is a selfie. And it’s very selfish these days.

Loneliness NOS

13 Apr

There is a diagnosis yet to be added to the DSM V. It’s Loneliness NOS or Loneliness Not Otherwise Specified. There is no pharmaceutical cure for it, yet if not treated, it can destroy the well being of us all.

The illness is hitting the culture epidemically: children, teens, adults, and seniors; singles and couples. At its worse it can drive someone to take his life publicly in the US Capitol building. At least that way someone will notice another’s despair, right there on national television. In fact, noticing and showing compassion to someone in extreme psychological pain is often the panacea to despair. An act of love can resuscitate the human spirit, bringing someone back from the brink of death but for the man who died over the weekend, he missed the opportunity for support.

This epidemic hits many of us. If it takes a village, where the hell is the village?

We are far from Eden. We can be sitting next to someone watching the game while he or she texts nonstop to someone else instead of sharing it with us. Somehow our presence isn’t enough. Communication methods have intensified and yet a sense of isolation and alienation have too. Unless entwined with a lover or a pet, the sense of intimacy may end as soon as we log off from the on-line community.

Even sex habits have changed. Like in the brilliant film “Her”, it is now common to have sex over the phone or on screen. But this is certainly no substitute for the real thing – skin upon skin, sweat upon sweat. At its best, sex can be the most profoundly intimate experience of our lives. Yet we can use sex in various forms to escape, only to find ourselves even more lonely afterwards.

But is any of this really all that new? Are we more lonely than we were before?

Loneliness is the burden of humanity whether in ancient or modern times. What then does it take for connection?

Union comes with effort, luck, and vulnerability. It comes with surrendering our expectations of being fed and when we are more open to giving than receiving. It comes when we are selfless and expect nothing in return. It comes when we cry but look towards someone else who is crying and perhaps hurting even more than us. We find it in those brief moments when we are seen and witnessed. When someone lovingly holds us while we sob. When we feel the sun or wind on our face. When a group of worshippers feel the Spirt or devoted rock fans feel deep pleasure at a concert. It is a wave taking you, propelling you forward, and it’s fingers flying across a key board. It is a kitten’s purr and a child’s smile. It is an elderly person relieved to have you hold his or her hand. It is putting one’s head on the earth or holding onto the trunk of a tree while saying, “I’m here. Take me.” It is saying, “I’m sorry. I screwed it up.” It is saying, “We are all one.”

It is the perception of separation that is so painful.

In reality, we are all one.

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Drinking The Princess Kool-Aid

3 Mar

Since childhood I have loved fairy tales but as commercials for the new “Cinderella” movie air, I find myself nauseated. I anticipate a whole new generation of girls imagining their lives will someday be magically changed by a Prince. When he arrives, their dismal existences will evaporate and they’ll be destined for lives of love and luxury. Finally, the good girls will get their day in the sun. Only these days, the Prince will own an enterprise in Seattle and the Princess will be an undergrad majoring in literature, of course.

Parents around the country either fear the day their daughters drink the princess Kool-Aid or serve it to them. Regardless, if you’re female, you’ve grown up on princess folklore.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in love and happy endings, and fairy tales can serve a valuable function in children’s development. In his psychoanalytic classic, “The Many Uses of Enchantment,” Bruno Bettelheim outlines why fairy tales and folklore help children work out deep intra-psychic conflicts in a safe way their little brains can metabolize. For instance, it’s easier for children to acknowledge witches and dragons as evil than to acknowledge abusive behavior in the adults they rely on. Through fairy tales, children can process difficult feelings without having to own painful realities that they aren’t ready to fully comprehend and digest. Instead of fearing for their survival, they see that the protagonists in fairy tales overcome obstacles and that good is ultimately rewarded. Fairy tales provide hope, which is a valuable evolutionary function.

Yes, fairy tales are delivered in a simple package and with a hopeful message. They are designed that way because they were written for children, not adults. The problem lies not in fairy tales themselves but in the glamorization of them. For instance, Disney’s Barbie doll depictions of mostly white princesses fuels both the sexism and racism machine. The high marketing to girls in the form of toys and accessories leads them to believe that their lives are not complete until a prince arrives. Little boys just don’t buy into all of this hype. They don’t ask to dress up as a prince for Halloween or for their rooms to be decorated like a castle. Surprisingly, there is a big difference between the original fairy tales and Disney’s technicolor versions of them. If you read a collection of Grimm’s “Fairy Tales,” they are not so tame and not every tale ends in marriage. In fact, there are many tales I’d love to see made into a cartoon movie for the sheer drama alone.

What I love about fairy tales is that they remind us that love is wondrous, magical and transformative. Yet as an adult, I know love is far more complex and mysterious than sighting a stranger at a ball. Rather, the path to love is on-going and at times treacherous. In fairy tales, I’m more interested in how the princess holds her head up high even when given a terrible lot and how she does her chores each day with a smile. These are the real gems of fairy tales, not the riding off into the sunset moment. True nobility isn’t delivered with a glass slipper. It comes when you step into your life as the leading lady.

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Focusing….

6 Jun

In yoga there is a balance pose that entails wrapping one’s leg around the other while standing with a semi-bent leg and then placing one’s arm over the other arm and twisting them into a pretzel-like shape. The only way to hold the pose without toppling over is to stare straight ahead at a point on the wall and not dare take your gaze away – not even for a second. I am actually quite good at this for some reason. Perhaps it is because I learned a similar technique as a child in ballet where in order to turn without getting dizzy you have to “spot” somewhere on the wall as your head and body spin around in rapid succession.

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Activities like yoga help us practice more than physical actions; they help us apply some of these concepts into our lives. How do we find balance? And how can we execute and accomplish anything when so many things compete for our attention?

I am finding that in this day of cell phones, email, multiple social and work circles, personal relationships and all of the things that compete for our attention, moment by moment I have to ask myself, “Where is the spot on the wall?” There are times when I simply have to tune out everything but the one thing that needs my focus be it a person, a loved one, an animal, or a complex task. Yet more than anything I have to focus on God as my source. He is the spot that keeps me sane and when I remember that, it is easier to concentrate during the day.

Related, Stephen Covey in his very well known book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” writes about the importance of centering one’s life around key priorities vs. abstract tasks. The latter is endless and will always bleed your life force while the former will actually help you stay centered and efficient around what really matters.

I must remember that as long as I spot, I can find my balance. And I must remember that this is a spiritual practice vs. yet one more thing I am attempting to control. Here’s to focusing so intently, the paradox results in surrender.